The M1A1 Abrams is a main battle tank developed by America after the failure of the joint German-American MBT-70. It was designed to engage the most advanced Warsaw Pact forces in open combat and come out on top, featuring advanced laminates and electronics to enhance crew survivability and target acquisition.
Improvements to the basic M1 Abrams were planned from the very beginning of its development to keep pace with the new Soviet tank designs. Thus, five models were produced. The original model, the basic M1, was produced from 1984 to January 1985.
After production of the second model, the IPM1 in 1984 to 1986, the third model, the M1A1, or M1 with Block 1 Product Improvement, started in August 1985. In addition to the improvements fitted to the IPM1 tank, the M1A1's major asset was to be the German Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore cannon. US studies on the gun concluded it was overly complex and expensive by American engineering standards, so a version using fewer parts was developed (such as a new coilspring recoil system, instead of an hydraulic one, like on the Rheinmetall 120mm L44), and designated the 120mm M256 gun. Along with the new gun came a number of associated changes to the fire control system.
Since the Korean War, the US Army found that the main tactical advantage in tank combat was the ability of seeing and engaging the enemy first - consequently, great emphasis was placed on getting the best acquisition technology possible, and as it turned out, the US pioneered all technologic improvements in this area, since the first image intensification night sights in the sixties, the thermal imaging during the seventies, and finally the millimeter wave multi-sensor of the nineties. The thermal sight had a dramatic effect during the Gulf War, since it enabled US tankers to see not only at night, but also through the "fog-of-war" and dismal weather conditions, like sand storms.Currently 1000 M1A1s are kept in storage.The M1A1 is also operated by Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as well as Australia.
The M1A1 is an extremely powerful tank at first glance, with very good stats across the board. Its armed with a powerful gun, very well armored and quite fast. However, this is offset by the extreme points cost per tank, and to a limited degree, fuel consumption. The cheapest type of Abrams, the M1, is 100 points, while an AMX-30B is 40. Simply put, for every one Abrams you have on the field, you could be fielding 2.5 cheaper tanks with good levels of firepower and speed, at a cost of armored protection.
Also of note is the M1 Abrams lack of range. It burns through fuel very quickly, so there will be lots of micro managing supply lines to keep your M1s engines roaring. This can be a massive hindrance that can really bog down an assault at a critical moment.
Every tank in the M1 family has a stabilizer, which is very useful while engaging targets on the move, preventing your M1 from turning into sitting ducks while engaging enemy tanks. The Abrams notably has very powerful armor, even on the sides, making it fairly effective at engaging or picking off small numbers of enemy tanks in small fights, especially over wide open areas.