Crain’s Detroit Business recently posted an article about the past and future of the M1 Abrams tank. As can be expected, the article focuses primarily on the business end of things, giving a brief history of M1 production and discussing challenges faced by the Lima Army Tank Plant in the era of sequestration. Also mentioned are the M1 tanks sold or given as aid to foreign countries.
The former Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant in Warren, which had produced the M1 Abrams since its early days, discontinued new tank assembly in late 1991 and closed down completely in late 1996. Since then, General Dynamics Land Systems has housed all Abrams production and equipment upgrades for the Abrams at the government-owned Lima Army Tank Plant.
That plant, which was refurbishing about 2 1/2 tanks per day in early 2009, is handling a small fraction of that volume today. At issue at least since sequestration began affecting defense budgets in 2012 is whether the Lima plant can remain operational on a mix of foreign military sales and some limited production orders until M1A3 production begins in two years.
“The Army’s notion was they could mothball the plant and reopen in three years, but as GDLS can attest, you can mothball equipment but not people,” said Loren Thompson, a defense industry analyst and COO of the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute.