TechUkrainian Abrams tank survives dramatic explosion, demonstrating exceptional design safety

Ukrainian Abrams tank survives dramatic explosion, demonstrating exceptional design safety

Photo of a burning Abrams
Photo of a burning Abrams
Images source: © Telegram, rusich_army
2:54 PM EST, February 26, 2024

A video appearing to show a moving Abrams followed by a burning one was most likely captured on cameras from Russian ZALA Lancet ammunition. The initial footage shows an Abrams tank in motion. The subsequent one displays a tank of this type on fire.

A relatively clear still shot provides the most information, displaying the dashboard of the Lancet pilot with a screen that shows a close-up view of the burning tank.

The Ukrainian M1A1SA (Eng. Situational Awareness) Abrams was probably hit in the ammunition storage. This resulted in a large and dramatic explosion, which, most likely, did not cause irreversible destruction to the tank.

Evidence for this includes open hatches, implying that the Abrams crew was able to evacuate. This demonstrates the effectiveness of completely separating the ammunition from the crew.

Advantages of Keeping Ammunition Separate

Shells for the 120-mm cannon are stored in a magazine hidden in a niche at the back of the turret, separated from the combat compartment by a movable armored partition. The partition is only momentarily opened by the loader during shell retrieval.

In case of an ammunition explosion, the impact is directed outside the tank through blowout panels. These specially designed armor elements are blown off during an ammunition storage explosion, allowing for safe energy dispersion.

Unlike Russian tanks (and many Western ones), where an ammunition explosion causes the turret to detach from the hull and often results in the death of the crew, Abrams tanks keep soldiers safe even after the ammo storage is hit. Furthermore, despite the dramatic explosion, the tank mainly suffered minor damage and usually remained repairable.

The absence of ammunition in the crew compartment also means that even if the crew abandons a vehicle, it cannot be wholly destroyed – for instance, by a grenade thrown from a drone through an open hatch. A grenade explosion might wreck the interior but not ignite the ammunition, thus avoiding damage that would render the tank irreparable.

Therefore, if Ukrainians can successfully tow the damaged machine, it is conceivable that - after undergoing repairs, possibly in Poland, where an Abrams tanks repair base is being established - the tank could return to service in no time.

Ukraine's M1A1SA Abrams Tanks

Ukraine received 31 M1A1SA (Eng. Situational Awareness) tanks from the United States. The SA is an upgrade package developed a few years ago for an older version of the Abrams, designed to use these tanks under the conditions at the start of an armed conflict.

Upgrades include advanced thermal imaging, a Blue Force Tracking situational awareness system, a new FCEU fire control system, a remotely controlled gunner's station, and stabilization for the commander's observation turret.

Tanks used by the American military also feature improved armor. However, this element was removed from the tanks supplied to Ukraine and replaced with armor modules without depleted uranium.

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