So Here’s a Question: M1 Tank Sales

Why are we selling more tanks to Egypt? I mean, I get that the export variants of the M1 Abrams have hobbled armor options compared to what our boys get to drive, but it’s still a better tank than anything they could buy from the Russians. I don’t see the logic in selling guns to the guy next door who has vowed to shoot you. I mean, not unless you’re suicidal.

It was one thing to sell one of the most advanced tanks in the world to Egypt back when we had a deal with their government for military and humanitarian aid, as long as they acted all nice with the Israelis. But now that the Muslim Brotherhood has taken over the country? Are we really going to keep doing this? Is this that “smart diplomacy” we keep hearing so much about? This is going to either come back to bite us in the ass, or bite the Israelis in the ass. The Administration should have to answer some questions about this, don’t you think?

26 thoughts on “So Here’s a Question: M1 Tank Sales”

  1. No reason at all to sell any M1’s. We still have M60’s, I understand, in mothballs. They can have those. I suppose this is part of “leading out of our behinds” and apologizing that Hillary, Susan Rice and Samantha Power find so enjoyable.

    Smaht? Not so much.

    1. Problem is if we tried to sell them M60s, they’d probably say “That’s nice, but the T-72 is far superior so we don’t want them”…

      Me, I don’t think there’s a US Security problem with selling them crippled M1s – we’re not going to fight a ground war against Egypt, ever, and they blow up real nice when you shoot them with a missile.

      There might, however, be a “stop undermining out ally, Israel” problem with selling Egypt M1s.

      On the other hand, an M1 without support and training is a nice monument on a pedestal, not a battlefield dominating device…

      (Same problem with, say, Syria or Iran getting Mig 29s – sure, it is or was a world class fighter, but without support and immense training it’s also worthless.)

  2. It makes perfect sense. The people who build those tanks are not going to get shot — just richer.

  3. Because to the government, it makes more sense to sell a “weapon of war” to your neighbor who hates you and wants to see you destroyed than it does to sell it to your citizens who want to collect them just to collect them. (Note that “weapon of war” applies to more than just tanks.)

    It’s not that I want one. It just bugs me that I CAN’T get one while the people violently protesting and attacking U.S. embassies can buy all they want.

    Am I alone in that thinking?

  4. I think you may have it, in that last line. Unfortunately, it appears to have come to pass that our international perception is more highly valued than our actual security. On the off-side, however, I dont doubt that we have the capability to negate those same tanks anywhere in Egypt from range- Im not talking will or intent, but pure capability. Thus, they become weapons of limited usefulness against us, but are still very useful locally. Not to say it wont happen, but it would be irresponsible to field ground troops in Egypt without accounting for them prior. A protracted naval assault would then neccessarily precede ground troops. I’ll worry more when we start giving them ACs and LRBMs that would impact our Naval edge. Or have we, already?

  5. The Administration should have to answer some questions about this, don’t you think?

    Questions? No, no, no… questions are for Romney, not Obama. Silly mistakes like this are why you are a mere blogger and will never become a Legitimate Journalist.

  6. Weren’t the Egyptian revolutions “supposed” be for democracy, whiskey, sexy? Oh, well, I guess we can still sell them war gear, no-one important will care.
    (Keep this up and I’m going to wear out my shocked face)

  7. Actually, I wonder if this is entering “crazy like a fox” territory. The M1 is notoriously maintenance-intensive, and Arab armies are well-known for their aversion to rigorous maintenance. How many of the Egyptian tanks are mission-capable at any one time. For that matter, how big are their ammo depots? The M1 is a really big machine-gun car if they can’t feed the main gun, and I guarantee they aren’t making 120mm smoothbore ammo along the Nile.
    Not that I expect the current administration of coming up with such a plan over even conceiving of the logistical shortcomings of a tank designed for an army that groks “professionals study logistics.”

    1. This.

      I would say that the M1 Abrams is one of the LAST tanks suitable for an Arab army — only behind the LeClerc (which has different, but parallel finicky bits) or the turbine powered variants of Ivan’s T80/T90 family. There is a serious CULTURAL issue as to why Arabs suck at PMCS, and that turbine engine don’t just maintain itself.

      The electronics are also another shortcoming — and without the “tankonics” and turbine, an Abrams isn’t even a half-assed pillbox.

      M60A3 tanks would actually be BETTER for the Egyptians — their availablity, especially after a support embargo by us, would be an order of magnitude higher. Diesel engines and 30-year old electronics are WAY more forgiving of “Insh’Allah maintenance”, and compatible parts are available on the international market quite openly.

  8. @ IanArgent- What you are saying is that this is sort of a reverse Eldest Son operation? Give them lots of things that work really well, but they can’t feed? I can see that. Not that I think that would have played into the administration, but this is an extension of a long standing order. While another aspect of it borders of Fast and Furious level thinking, it does mean that Egypt will be looking for a steady supply of ammo, from a very limited supplier. It could, actually, open up some more information on their supply chain, especially if we arrange for delivery. It also binds them to us to continue supplying their forces. Relying on gratitude is not really a foreign policy, though, and neither are generalizations about being averse to maintenance. Either one could bite us pretty hard if we lose the upper hand.

    1. More of a company store operation. After all, even if they have a world-class maintenance and logistical base, they still have to get spares and ammo from Uncle Sam. They rattle sabres, we turn around the supply ships.

      There is no reliance on gratitude, but self-interest. Egypt can use their tanks once against our interests, and it had better be for a very short period of time; before they start going Tango Uniform due to lack of spares and shots. There’s a saying about “sorry, victorious wars.”
      All this works even if the Egyptian Army is made up of troops dedicated to maintenance and logistics. How many of the ammo dumps are properly environmentally stabilized? The spare depots? How large is Egypt’s combat-rated fuel truck fleet? How many tank transporters?

    2. Two ideas:

      1) A backdoor in their electronics that allows us to turn them off remotely any time we want to, and/or,

      2. A GPS device that shuts them down anytime they go someplace we’d rather they not.

      1. Gimmicks. Not that there haven’t been similar shenanigans pulled by various US intel agencies, see StuxNet and the supposed pipeline hack. Still, a bit too obvious

        1. I second the ‘Gimmicks’ response. While it works well in the movies, there is very little likelihood we would actively support backdoor access in our own security, even if we thought we could keep it quashed. Its just too risky, and on the scale we are talking, it would require far too many people read into the program. I find it far more likely that we would rely on the ability to destroy them in the short term. What remains to be seen, however, is the ability to reverse engineer our projectiles, allowing local production. It certainly isn’t unheard of, and these represent the pinnacle (even in slightly downgraded form) of armored vehicles. That’s quite a platform to provide to a dubious ally, who I’m sure has ‘promised’ they won’t show our enemies. We cannot always depend on being able to out-produce any new concepts that take the field. I still mark this under ‘Dangerous.’

          1. Iraq, which is MUCH closer to “Western” standards of production than Egypt (cultural reasons + the whole “the secret police will feed your daughter into a logchipper while you watch if this doesn’t work” aspect of Ba’athist government), couldn’t make acceptable APFSDS ammo for their 125mm Soviet guns that was worth a damn.

            120mm Rheinmetall ADFSDS and APFSDSDU is MUCH more difficult to get right.

  9. Causing potential trouble for Israel is part of the plan, I assume. Combined with the supply chain issue it gives the US the ability to make indirect “not-threats” to Israel, in the same way as the sea-based missile defense.
    And if there’s anything more important than leverage over your enemies, it’s leverage over your allies…

    1. I’d be cautious about ascribing any of this to the current administration; the Egyptians have been buying these tracks since 2007 or so.

      1. As much as I distrust the current Administration, I second this as well. Considering that the top brass has considerable longer span than the President, I must attribute this decision to a long term strategic vision, not a short term tactical advantage. That being said, all suppositions still apply- somebody thinks this is a good idea, when it increasingly appears it is not. Even a sea change in leadership will probably not change this program.

        1. I’d say the jury is still out on whether Egypt having export-grade M1A1 tanks is a good idea or not. As they decommission their older AFVs in favor of the new hawtness, they tie themselves to the US as a strategical logistical supplier, they increase the load on their operational logistics train, and they reduce their capability to fight actions outside of their own territory. They’re also forced to spend more on fuel; the M1’s engine being a notorious fuel hog. Sure, they’re better-protected against crew casualties, but the primary reason that the M1 has such a lopsided combat record is due to highly-trained personnel operating the tanks, against forces with little to no tacair and limited artillery support, and being able to engage outside the range of the opposing tanks.

          Finally, it’s unlikely in the extreme that the US is going to get involved in a major land war with Egypt. The Israelis have some more worries, but they have the military traditions to make the M1 excel; and as I’ve said, the Egyptian military doesn’t.

          1. Not just “more” fuel.

            EXPONENTIALLY _more_ fuel, especially whenever LT Mohammed doesn’t ensure his TCs are running the AUXGEN instead of idling the turbine when sitting still. (Batteries will not support the electrical load in an Abrams for very long, even sitting still.)

            While Egypt does have oil, and AFAIK, the refining capacity to make jet fuel, they are a net IMPORTER of petroleum (consumption exceeds production by almost 30%)– and their few refineries are easy targets.

            Likewise, even in intact refineries, the fuel doesn’t do any good until it makes it to the fuel tanks of the tanks. . . and fuel tankers are easy targets. Which is why my Cold War training to face the Soviets for WWIII was, “WHEN (not if) you get overrun, go to ground and pull teh hole in with you until the 3rd and 4th echelon loggies are pushing through — then hit the fuel, ammo, and food convoys.” USAF, USN, USMC, IAF — doesn’t matter; ANY of those organizations working _alone_ can turn off the fuel spigot to Egyptian Abrams fast and hard enough that they’ll end up as undertrained, underequipped, light infantry organized in 16-man platoons.

      2. I don’t ascribe it to the current administration at all, because it’s excellent long term strategic planning!
        There’s no such thing as “friends” in global politics, and making Israel a US client state requires us to keep them insecure and dependent on our help. We certainly don’t want them feeling safe as the region’s permanent top dog.

        Of course, the other side of it is making sure the future leaders of the Egyptian army are trained by US instead of the Russians or (God help us) the French or Chinese. Because next time the Egyptian top brass runs a coup, it’ll be by our playbook.

  10. I think we should sell ’em the tanks, but with a Stuxnet variant stuck in the operations console, and a basement full of C4 so we can terminate the contract at will…

  11. “Is this that “smart diplomacy” we keep hearing so much about?”

    Seems to me “blatant stupidity” would be a more accurate description…

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