We got an up-close look at an M1 Abrams tank — the king of the battlefield

M1 Abrams

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M1 Abrams
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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

FORT BLISS, Texas – I was riding in a government SUV down the dirt roads of the large training ground at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

My guides were two Army public affairs officers. A large military exercise called Bulldog Focus, which involved the entire 3rd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, was underway.

The wind was sharp, the sun was bright – and I could see for miles, all the way to the surrounding mountains.

The sandy training grounds covered so many square miles that you would have never guessed tanks and troops were scattered around. Only the dust signatures kicking up in the distance from small convoys maneuvering here and there may have given it away.

We then came across two Abrams tanks and its crews – a total of eight soldiers.

They had been out in the desert for several days, sleeping in or outside of the tank, and eating only MREs. But they were nevertheless upbeat, and gladly showed me around their two war vehicles.

Here’s what I saw:


We found the M1A2 Abrams in the middle of the desert, surrounded by mountains.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

Here’s what the Abrams looked like as I got closer.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

Approved for production in 1990, the M1A2 weighs 71.2 tons. Its main gun is the 120mm XM256 smooth bore cannon, but it’s also equipped with an M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun and two M240 7.62mm machine guns.

The tank, however, was not fitted with its typical reactive armor tiles along the side.


Check out a side shot of the cannon.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

After showing me around the dusty inside, which I was not allowed to photograph, the crew rotated the turret, which was incredibly quiet, seen and heard in the short video below.


I then jumped on top of the tank, straddling the gun to get a barrel view.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

The tankers weren’t firing the guns that day, but this is what it would look like if they did.

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US European Command Photo

Here’s a close-up of the 120mm cannon.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

Although they wouldn’t let me take pictures, the crew let me sit inside the tank. But this is what it looks like inside.

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DVIDS

I got on top of the tank for this shot of the cannon and .50 Caliber machine gun from the back.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

And got to experience a gunner’s view of the 7.62 mm gun.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

I then jumped down and got a shot of the 7.62mm gun from below.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

As well as a shot of the .50 Caliber.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

The soldiers told me that, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, they aren’t allowed to fire the .50 at enemy soldiers – only vehicles.

But the 7.62mm gun is fair game.


Here’s the L8A1 six-barrel smoke grenade discharger, which they can use to create defensive smoke screens.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

Here’s a close-up of the tracks.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

Check out what they do to the sand.

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The Abrams 1500 HP gas turbine engine can bring the tank up to 42 mph, and 30 mph over rough terrain.


Abrams tanks each have four people in their crew.

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From left to right: Private Jesus Gonzalez, Spc. Johnathan Leyba, Spc. Christian Pena, and Sgt. T. Wilder.
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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

They let look me take a look at the helmets they wear, equipped with built-in radios.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

Here’s Spc. Leyba sitting in the tank commander’s position behind the .50 caliber machine gun.

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It’s a pretty awesome machine.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

Other Abrams and Bradley convoys drove down the road from time to time, allowing me to see the dust signatures firsthand.

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

We then jumped back in the SUV and drove around looking for more vehicles and soldiers.