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Russian soldiers learn to hunt Ukrainian M1A1 Abrams with ATGMs

On September 25, 2023, information shared on Russian social media revealed that Russians had initiated the dissemination of guidelines and strategies for exploiting potential vulnerabilities in American-made Abrams Tanks. These guidelines include specific instructions on where to target the tank and which weapons to employ, such as the Kornet anti-tank guided missile (ATGM). This development came just after the anonymous confirmation of the presence of US-supplied M1A1 Abrams tanks in Ukraine, which were likely to participate in Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.
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The Russians are starting to share guidelines for destroying M1A1 Abrams tanks with ATGMs as in Iraq. (Picture source Wikimedia and Russian social media)

Earlier, on January 25, 2023, the US administration had announced the planned delivery of 31 M1A1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. In response, Russia expressed concerns and reservations, suggesting that if the transfer of M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv was completed, they might be treated similarly to other NATO military equipment, with an implied risk of being targeted in combat.

Retired Russian Colonel Sergey Suvorov provided insights during an interview with TASS on January 26, 2023. Suvorov discussed perceived vulnerabilities in Abrams tanks based on past combat experiences, citing instances where Abrams tanks were destroyed in engagements with Soviet T-72 tanks and RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launchers. He also pointed out a potential vulnerability in later American tank modifications, an exposed power plant located in the rear part of the turret, which was susceptible to 12.7 mm DShK machinegun fire.

Suvorov noted that the Abrams faced challenges when encountering the latest Russian tank models, particularly in long-distance engagements using anti-tank missiles. However, he acknowledged that the overall effectiveness of the Abrams depended on factors such as crew training and operational circumstances. Subsequent to these warnings, it appeared that guidelines for countering Abrams tanks were recently shared on Russian social media.

The Russian guidelines emphasized several key tactics. One tactic involved targeting the Abrams tank's guidance systems and its main gun. Attackers were advised to use small arms or machine guns to disrupt the tank's targeting capabilities, potentially reducing its accuracy.

When engaging the tank head-on, the guidelines recommended targeting the gap between the tank's hull and turret, located beneath the cannon. This area was considered less protected compared to other parts of the turret. For frontal attacks, the guidelines suggested using Kornet ATGMs, which had recently been employed to destroy a UK-supplied Challenger 2 tank in Ukraine. The guidelines discouraged targeting the lower frontal part of the tank, as it was noted to be well-protected. 

Another tactic involved targeting the fuel tank, located in the front section of the tank on both sides of the driver's compartment, with the goal of igniting the fuel and causing an engine fire and potential explosion. However, it was mentioned that the M1A1 Abrams is equipped with a fire extinguisher system for the engine compartment.

When attacking from the side, the guidelines recommended avoiding the heavily armored turret and instead targeting the less protected side of the hull. It was noted that this side armor could be penetrated, even by older RPG-7 grenade launcher grenades.

For rear attacks, the author of the guidelines suggested targeting the engine bay or the isolated ammunition rack at the rear of the turret. Disabling the ammunition was considered a means to render the tank ineffective. The author noted that "the tank will not fight much without ammunition."

The guidelines also offered tactics for ambushing columns of M1A1 Abrams tanks, including targeting the roof of the turret using drones and using anti-tank mines to hinder their progress.

Additionally, the guidelines recommended the formation of specialized teams referred to as 'armor-piercers,' typically consisting of a machine gunner and a sniper, to counter infantry accompanying an enemy tank. The machine gunner would provide suppressing fire, while the sniper would target exposed crew members.

Furthermore, the guidelines emphasized the importance of carefully selecting ambush locations to cut off escape routes for armored columns. In urban settings, it was suggested to deploy multiple teams at various levels, including basements and upper floors of buildings, to coordinate actions and fire RPGs from different directions.

While these guidelines and tactics provided insights into potential vulnerabilities of the M1 Abrams tanks, it's essential to acknowledge that the tank's overall effectiveness depends on various factors, including crew training, terrain, and operational circumstances.

It's also important to note that Russian sources may not always provide a complete picture. For instance, even if an Abrams tank is destroyed, the crew is likely to survive thanks to safety features such as blowout panels, unlike Russian tanks. Additionally, images of destroyed Abrams tanks may not always clarify that many of them are export variants without depleted uranium armor, a notable difference from American Abrams tanks. One incident in Karbala in 2004 demonstrated the tank's resilience, with a crew surviving multiple RPG hits, according to a testimony shared by Glenn Girona in 2021.


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