Tanks, but no tanks - abandoning a modern MBT

Spoilers for the game Battlefield 3! In the single-player campaign, you play part of it as a tank commander who takes his M1A2 Abrams into the middle of a hostile Iraq city to help evac some infantry. However, just as they reach the building one of their treads gets knocked out.

They ask the chopper if they can evac the tank crew too, but the heli is already overloaded. Instead he pokes his head out of the hatch to use the machine gun and gets his ass captured and executed.

What happens if a modern tank crew does need to abandon their tank in the middle of enemy territory? Is there a self-destruct to stop it getting in to enemy hands or do they just lob a grenade in there or something? Could they have held out without opening the hatch? I’m assuming it’s gonna be fairly resistant against anyone trying to open it from the outside. Thanks for replies.

There’s no way a crew would ever abandon a functioning Abrams. They’d just sit tight until the whole thing could be recovered.

They’ve been abandoned in Iraq before. There’s no self destruct button but you can always call in an air strike or point whatever big thing that goes boom in it’s direction and pull the trigger.

Here is a forum with a photo of an abandoned tank and someone saying they think the story was that the tankers threw grenades in it but that didn’t do much so they had another tank shoot it up but that didn’t destroy it so they had an A-10 hit it with a missile.

Are not Armoured Recovery Vehicals designed for this exact task?

There’s a reason tanks don’t go into cities, alone, without infantry support.

There is no self destruct. But there are ways.

True, but the game seems to be basing their tank scenario on a real event in Baghdad that they ended up calling a “thunder run”. The Iraqis at that point didn’t have much that could take out an Abrams, but they were shooting enough to take out the thinner skinned support vehicles and damage a lot of infantry. The U.S. commanders made a somewhat controversial decision to send the tanks on a run through Baghdad, partly to see exactly what kind of resistance they would encounter and partly for psychological reasons, as Saddam Hussein was telling his people that the Americans were bogged down outside of the city and were dying by the thousands and the U.S. wanted to show that they were really able to access the city at that point. So they made an exploratory run with just tanks, no support vehicles, and no infantry support. They found that once they punched through the defense lines that the Iraqis had difficulty regrouping and repositioning. The “thunder run” was so successful that they planned a second one, but then changed their minds and instead planned on moving into the city and staying there, which is what they ended up doing.

More info here:

Battlefield 3’s version of a thunder run:

Well, for one thing, the tank is carrying the ammo for the 120mm smoothbore, those would probably be of some use if you removed them from the magazine and scattered them about inside the tank. Of course, if the tank’s engine is still running, they could just use the tank as an ad hoc bunker until help could arrive. Aside from the commander’s machine gun, the tank still has that 120mm gun and a coaxial machine gun that the gunner can use from inside the tank.

Yeah, as long as the main gun and the secondary armaments are working, militants would find the tankna still dangerous prospect.

Leading with tanks down city streets is a mistake every army seems determined to make at least once. The Germans tried forcing Warsaw losing 81 tanks in the process, the NVA lost a lot of T-54s at An Loc due to inexperience coordinating with armor, and the Russian assault on Grozny on January 3, 1995 was a complete disaster:

Even outside city fighting, the Israeli concept of totality of the tank had mixed results from what I have read in 1973.

Built-up urban areas remove the tank’s biggest strength, its total control over a long range. If people can get to the vehicle, the tank & its crew still need to breathe, so a simple molotov cocktail or six would make the outcome inevitable for a lone bunkered tank. If it’s multiple tanks in a large open plaza or the like, they conceivably could hold out until the coax MG ammo ran out, which would take a while and rack up a huge body count.

As for abandon procedures, I’ve heard it was just thermite grenade in the breech, wipe the computers, and go. If you’ve got time for more, then you’ve got time to recover the tank anyway. If you really wanted to be thorough, and possibly blow yourself up in the process, the maingun ammo has a fragile combustible casing, so you could destroy the tank in spectacular fashion by MacGyvering up a propellant detonation in the main compartment.

It’s called ‘recon in force’. It’s a standard military tactic. It was even done by the right wing of the Confederate forces at ‘Little Round Top’, during the Battle of Gettysburg. In that battle, it didn’t work. At the the Battle of 73 Easting, during the first Gulf War, it did work. You don’t abandon a tactic, just because it didn’t work, when you have historical examples of it really working.

I wrote a Twilight: 2000scenario once, where the players had to go into Russian territory (in Poland) to recover two Abrams left behind, hidden in an underground garage in a more or less abandonded village. With them they got Russian uniforms, vehicles and thermite grenades to destroy the object(s) if the alternative was to leave it in Russian hands. It was a great scenario, very exciting, and in fact they had to destroy one of the Abrams after it was hit by a T72 (engine or tracks perhaps, can’t remember exactly what it was), with the thermites but got back with the other. Was the thermite thing stupid by yours truly or realistic?

Within the context of Battlefield 3, the tank would have lasted about ten seconds after it stopped moving within range of somebody with an anti-tank kit.

Just sayin’.

The Abrams is only heavily armored on the front. If you’re immobile in a city, you’re vulnerable to enemy forces firing RPGs at your flank, rear, or turret roof. This page has a nice analysis of where Chechen rebels aimed their RPGs at Russian tanks and APCs – they’re aiming for the sides and top. Even the Abrams would be in trouble here.

Harold Coyle had a crew destroy their M1 Abrams after it was disabled in Team Yankee. The commander and loaded placed several main gun rounds on the turret floor, left the ammo compartment doors open, and tossed in a grenade. That oughtta do it.

Thermite grenades are good. [del]Some idiot[/del] A 3-star general ordered destruction of two of his own M1s that got bogged down in the mud during Desert Storm I using the grenades. There was no enemy in miles to possibly capture the tanks. US troops and equipment were streaming by the tanks. The M88 recovery vehicles were only a couple of miles behind the main formation. [The M88s are an older design chassis and couldn’t keep up with the M1A1s and Bradleys.] [del]Of course the general was later given all kinds of awards - I’d have prosecuted him for this incident and when he ordered some withdrawing Iraqi units shot up after the ceasefire.[/del]