Armor: The End Of The American Tank Battalion


April 1, 2014:   Although the United States Army still owns 7,000 M1 tanks, less than 20 percent of them are actually in service. That’s the 1,288 M1 tanks in 92 M1 companies with 14 tanks per company. There are no more tank battalions. Instead there are Combined Arms battalions in Heavy Brigades. Each of these battalions have two tank companies (and two infantry companies). Meanwhile the army is continuing its downsizing, going from 16 armored brigades (64 M1 companies) to ten (60 companies because brigades have one additional Combined Arms battalion). The Army National Guard still has seven armored brigades (28 M1 companies). The reduction will remove four M1 companies leaving 1,232 M1 tanks in service.

Each crew has four men, giving the U.S. 3,808 M1 tank crewmen. The army is hustling to retrain all these tank crews for conventional combat. During the last decade many tank companies were used as infantry or to operate MRAP vehicles. The army is using lots of simulators to retrain the tank crews and this cuts costs a lot. These simulators have become more common since the 1990s and have proved to be very effective in quickly and cheaply teaching useful skills to tank crews. After lots of simulator time, the crews perform very effectively when they take the tanks out and do all the moving and firing under realistic (or even combat) conditions.

All those additional M1 tanks are there if there is a major war. With all the simulators it is easier and quicker to train more crews than it is to build more M1 tanks.