What would stop a tank?

I was thinking about the time that guy in San Diego stole that tank and went on a spree rolling over people’s cars and such. The guy actually did a lot less damage than he could have done, the tank got stuck with some kind of barrier between the treads and police were able to open the hatch and kill him. Now obviously if the tank runs out of fuel it’s gonna stop and I’m not sure how long it can go with maximum fuel levels, though I do know tanks can drive pretty fast despite their size at least 40mph.

Anyway let’s assume some crazy guy hijacks a tank with maximum fuel and also has ammo for the main gun to make it interesting, maybe even a couple of missiles and the tank also has the active protection system. So if someone managed to get a weapon like this and the only resources the city police had were those of relatively small metropolitan area police force what would be the best way to defeat the tank? In the hypothetical no other tanks are available from a military base or anything. With full armament is anyone going to be able to get close enough to get in the hatch or would it have to be some other way?

A shovel would be the cheapest way for a common person to stop a tank, but that is under different circumstances.

Construction equipment comes to mind in the way of moving earth piles to box in/bury the tank however police commonly do not possess such skills to be able to do this. Plus the tanks are a lot faster, it would take a coordinated effort.

Practically it would most likely be a tactic where you just clear the area while making a call to the local military base to see if they are missing something and if they wouldn’t mind coming over to get it.

I had an M113 APC stolen from my local Army based and it was used to demolish my local Police Station - amongst others.

They stopped it by sneaking up behind and jumping onto the roof and dropping tear-gas grenades in through one of the hatches.

No fatalities - which is highly unusual for the local Police who like to thoroughly kill any hostiles.

If you are driving a modern tank you will not have access to the main gun/coax etc from the drivers seat. The turret has to be turned to have access between hull and drivers seat.

As for stopping an Abrams with a crazy driver I threw a few tracks in my day, so I imagine the best one can hope for is the driver loses a track. They are beasts, but they are not designed as demolition derby vehicles. If he leaves any of the hatches open a brave soul could hop on maybe and turn the turret and grab him by his head…

I know there are guys far more qualified than me to answer but I don’t think one person would be able to operate all the driving, firing and detecting systems of a tank- even if he was trained.

I would imagine though if the situation did happen there would be an aerial response.

Other dopers will be along shortly with much more detailed and specific answers. I’ll answer as a Guy Who’s Read About Tanks On The Internet, which is plausible enough for your hypothetical police chief who has to deal with this.

First, one guy can’t effectively crew every position in a tank. He can either drive OR fire the main gun (slowly, without a loader) OR maintain good situational awareness while using hatch or coaxial machine guns. The latter option is the most dangerous to anyone trying to stop him, but least dangerous to far-away bystanders.

So I think it would be reasonable to simply evacuate the city and wait for the crazy tanker to run out of fuel or go to sleep. But if there was a need to act to save lives: if he’s driving just evacuate the highways. If he’s operating the main gun there should be a decent chance to sneak up and open up a hatch.

A Main Battle Tank like the M1 Abrams is crewed by 4 people, a commander, gunner, loader and driver, so with just 1 man as presumably the driver it’s going to be less of a threat than normal.

His visibility is going to be minimal so it would be easier to sneak up on him. Previous thread on the subject. Cheapest way might be the Finnish option; throw a load of molotov cocktails to the engine compartment. Either the engine damage forces him to stop or the heat eventually cooks him.

Or drop something down the barrel when the breach is open, a tear gas canister maybe.

The incident mentioned in the OP was a M60 tank. On the M60 part of the hatch could be opened from the outside unless the operator took the time to lash it down from the inside.

On a M1 the normal closing of the hatch will make it impossible to open from the outside.

On the M1 the driver’s compartment is separate and in the hull. The gunner, tank commander and loader are in the turret. The only way to access the turret from the driver’s hole and vice versa is if the turret is turned with the gun pointing to the rear.

Except in combat, ammunition is stored in very separate locations.

One guy isn’t going to steal a tank and be able to work the guns and wouldn’t be able to get ammo anyway.

If you have the balls you can run up to the tank and pull the handle for the fire suppression system. It is on the side of the tank towards the rear. It will kill the engine.

Missiles? Active protection system?

Ok just to make this more interesting lets pretend the tank has a full crew of crazies that all colluded and somehow managed to magically acquire all the ammo and shells, I used the wrong term earlier instead of Active Protection System I meant to say Reactive Armour, not sure if that is standard on all Abrams now. I realize this is not a plausible real-world scenario, don’t fight the hypothetical lol.


Reactive armour is easily defeated by tandem warhead missiles. There is even an RPG-7 tandem warhead.

Irrespective of the armour the tracks are very vulnerable, so the tank can be stopped by relatively simple means such as commercial explosives - either as a manual control landmine or delivered by a bomb disposal robot.

jezzaOZ, I’m assuming a police department doesn’t have access to warheads, I don’t think you’re going to be able to direct the tank to the path of a land mine which I don’t think cops have either though I’m sure they could improvise an explosive. It would be interesting if you could use construction equipment to maybe goad the tank in the direction you want it to go or at least blockade certain areas around the tank but unlikely that they can get very close if the tank has all this weaponry and the personnel to use it. How long would it take a tank with a full tank of diesel to run out I wonder of course it depends how fast they’re driving.

Where I live your assumption is not quite accurate. There are military bases all over the place and they have plenty of ammunition for normal training purposes and access to large local armories for the heavy duty stuff.

In particular, the Australian elite special services SASR is just down the road. From experience they can deploy LAW & Carl Gustaf immediately, and Javelin in about 60-90 minutes - their base is heavily protected as it’s expected it will be a target in any terrorist attack - probably by VBIED

They also have the full permission to use lethal force as “Aid to the Civil Power” though it may require a quick phone call to Canberra to make that happen.

That seems like a bit of a vulnerability. Especially considering how much urban combat the Abrams sees nowadays.

It could be a vulnerability for a single tank in urban combat without infantry support like in the OP’s scenario. With multiple tanks acting in tandem with ground troops, I imagine it wouldn’t be feasible for an enemy to get that close.

Reactive armor isn’t very effective against kinetic energy rounds either. DU perpetrator sabot rounds will go right through. Reactive armor is to protect against shaped charges. It is cheaper to just put a cage around the vehicle.

I was going to say the same thing. An urban fight is an infantry fight. Tanks can be used in support. It is madness to use a tank alone in urban combat.

Sure, but there’s nothing special about US forces that would make that the case every time.

And historically, tanks do sometimes get in positions where the enemy infantry does get that close.

Construction equipment? Hmm, How would the average wrecking yard crane and electromagnet stack up? remote turret removal? or, possibly reaching even further, what damage would a wrecking ball do? assuming opportunity, location, timing etc all fell into place nicely?

As for the aerial response suggestion, If the helicopter was able to pick up the tank, what could happen then? shoot out a cable and bring them both down?

Sure, occasionally an enemy combatant could get within arms reach of the tank, but even then I doubt the fire suppression switch is his goal. If he can get close enough to pull the switch he’s close enough to attach some kind of explosive.

Even in the unlikely event he can get that close, it’s even less likely that he would survive the encounter. So even if he makes a martyr of himself and pulls that switch, then what happens? The tank shuts down and (I’m guessing) some anti fire chemical sprays inside the tank? I doubt he would give his life in order to cause a major inconvenience to the tank crew.

I’m guessing the number of soldiers saved from a burning tank is higher than the number killed by enemy abuse of the system so it has been deemed a net positive by the powers that be.

The police would need to suspend two really huge logs from ropes in such a way that, when they are released, the logs swing down and the ends slam together…