Update: 8:53PM PST: Guys and Gals! I'm about done for tonight, but if you come up with more questions please ask away and I will answer tomorrow.

I was a Tank crewman for 6 years in the Marine corps Reserves. During that time I Drove (1 Year), Loaded (1 Year), Gunned (1 Year), and TCed (3 years) The tank commander is the main source of information on the Tank so feel free to ask me anything about the M1A1 Abrams, USMC, or military reserve life! I provided some pictures to spark some conversation or in case you have never seen the inside of a Tank before.


Proof: http://i.imgur.com/i6XsDHs.jpg

Video of a tank going from the defilade to the enfilade (defensive) and firing at a target. http://youtu.be/2vb4Hy4frEk

Video of the FEP thermal sight on the tank, with another tank shooting at targets on the range: http://youtu.be/V-gYBxHPO_Y

Comments: 314 • Responses: 91  • Date: 

Vito112718 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. I have always wondered this, if you drove an abrams straight into a home do you think it would go right through it?

jhigg27 karma

This was a highly debated topic! (Mostly because we were so incredibly bored most the time and would talk about everything until we were blue in the face)

The common consensus was that as long as they had enough speed you would make it through an average house. Although, depending on what the house was made of and what sort of stuff was in the walls, probably not much farther. The tank's tracks are actually quite easily caught up on stuff. Like a little bit of barbed wire would stop a tank dead in its tracks! It gets tangled and twisted over and over until the poor little guy can't tank it anymore. (Like that pun?!)

Vito11273 karma

hahaha, yea sounds about right I saw a video of a tank crush a car completely flat it was amazing im sure a house would get messed up to

jhigg7 karma

I love that your's is the top comment!

alekzander012 karma

LEOPARD 2 or M1 Abrams?

jhigg3 karma

M1 of course! Why would I root for Germany's tank!? But seriously they are actually pretty close, they even use the same main gun.

savemejebus08 karma

What is the most mind blowing fact about the tank that you can tell us.

jhigg20 karma

Well two come to mind.

The tank eats JP8 (a type of fuel) It has a 1500 HP turbine engine that gets about 2 gallons per mile. We had about a range of about 300 miles because of that. The engine itself could fit on your desk, although the transmission was about the size of a small car!

The second being that we could be driving down the road, and hit a moving target at 2500 meters! That's about 1.5 Miles. It blew my mind every time we would do it on the range.

RexMundi0004 karma

Also JP8 is a jet fuel.

jhigg2 karma

Yep! And it goes in Humvee's and 7tons(big trucks) all alike! In fact the Tank use to run on just plain diesel but they changed to jp8 many years ago. This did cause problems with the tank's smoke generator though. They used to just dump diesel on the tank's exhaust to generate tons and tons of thick smoke, now if you try to dump jp8 on the exhaust it just combusts! So they disabled that feature.

RexMundi0003 karma

My brother is a platoon commander out of 2nd div out in NC. Apparently that job in a armor platoon just consists of ordering parts and then figuring out why they did not arrive.

jhigg2 karma

Sounds awful! Glad I was enlisted.

DenverStud4 karma

That's un-fucking believable. Obviously I believe you, but the figure of speech still remains

jhigg4 karma

I agree, when I was a gunner I told my TC that I didn't think that this was possible. Lo and behold we hit it.

NoctyrneSAGA1 karma

If the M1A1 uses a turbine engine, would it be possible for heat-seeking anti-air missiles to use that as a heat source for a lock-on? Thanks.

jhigg2 karma

I'm not sure about this, I guess it would be possible. Although all that would happen is the engine would be blown up. It is in a separate area than the crew. A tank is still able to fire with out it's engine since there are manual controls.

woot991 karma

When you talk about hitting a moving target, how is it determined where you need to aim in order for the target to be hit in time? Is it all computerized within the tank, even the aiming?

jhigg2 karma

Great question. All that we have to do is track the target with the reticle, then you lase the target and the computer automatically applies lead based on the distance to the target, then you just pull the trigger!

Daveandrew8 karma

So what is the outcome of a sabot hitting a tank?

jhigg9 karma

I've never seen it, but supposedly they will penetrate 25 inches of steel armor and there are story's of Sabot rounds from Friendly fire actually sticking out of the front of the turret of M1A1's like push pins.

airitout1 karma

What do you mean? I'm having trouble picturing this.

jhigg6 karma

The armor on the m1a1 is still classified, so when friendly fire would happen(which is did more often than it should of) The sabot wouldn't penetrate all the way into the turret. Think of how an arrow gets stuck in a target. The same thing would happen.

Ron_Jeremy1 karma

You'd think the round would deform so much as to be unrecognizable, even if it didn't penetrate. Aren't the insides.of those rounds supposed to melt and spew molten metal all over the inside of the target?

jhigg3 karma

DU has the characteristic of self sharpening. Meaning that as it hits a target, it doesn't deform, instead sheers off maintaining a pointy end.

yoda1331136 karma

Let me preface with IANA Tank Commander.

But from what I understand, if all goes as hoped, (which clearly given jhigg's statement it doesn't always), the dart (the sabot itself hits nothing, it's discarded, the dart is the actual projectile) penetrates the armor and in the process the projectile disintegrates (depleted uranium (DU) doesn't deform like lead bullets do, it shears off and stays sharp). This releases DU dust into the interior of the target, which then self-ignites (it's a characteristic of DU), and hopefully burns everything on the inside.

jhigg7 karma

This is a very good answer and accurate. Thank you!

Release_the_KRAKEN7 karma

How many rounds of ammunition for the main cannon could you fit in the tank?

jhigg10 karma

The M1A1 Abrams holds a total of 42 rounds, 36 in the ready or semi ready rack, and six in hull storage

Release_the_KRAKEN5 karma

Are these the rounds that you have to manually loud into the slot? I'm not sure about the terminology but I used to remember seeing the tank crews manually load rounds into the slot and I used to think how retarded it was that it wasn't automated.

jhigg11 karma

Yes! The crew has a loader that all he does is load main gun ammo. I don't recall the reason for this, but it does give us one more man for maintance and to shoot machine guns with. (He has a 240 machine gun on top of the tank that he can shoot)

The russian tank do have auto-loaders and our loaders were required to load rounds faster than what the russian auto-loaders could do. (part of testing)

Release_the_KRAKEN5 karma

Wait so how fast does the loader need to load main gun ammo? How heavy is each round? When the shell is expended..where does it go? Does it pop out like a gun? From where to the slot does the loader work? Like how much room does he have to move this presumably heavy as fuck shell?

How many people fit inside the tank? Are there any..I guess..conveniences that tank crews have? Kinda like how british tanks have tea kettles in them.

jhigg10 karma

Depending on the type of round the loader should be able to load a round in less than 7 seconds from the time the ammo door opens to the time it is sealed in the chamber and he is out of the way. If you look at picture 5 from above you that is the chamber for the main gun with a round loaded. Each round weigh's between 50-75lbs depending on which round it is. The rounds casing is actually paper, so that when it fire all that is left is with what we call an "af cap". When the round is shot, the gun recoils inside the turret and it pulls the af cap out of the chamber and shoots it into the turret by the loaders feet.

It is a 4 man crew and we have no conveniences! The best we can do is jimmy rig our radios so that we can play music on our headsets. I never deployed but there are stories of guys that came back from Iraq that would spend weeks in a tank without ever leaving. Not to shit or piss. So you can imagine the creative ways you would have to work on pooping in a tank. Sorry if this was scattered but let me know if I missed anything.

Release_the_KRAKEN8 karma

So..7 seconds to dump a 75lb shell and gtfo of the way...Do you ever have to fire a shot one after the other repeatedly? Aside from external variables, do you ever give the loader a break or would his job be the most physically exerting one in the tank? Are the af caps really hot? Or do they cool down quickly?

spend weeks in a tank without ever leaving. Not to shit or piss.

Wat. I"m going to need stories from these poor souls too! How can they access their equipment? Isn't it usually stored outside on the racks?

jhigg6 karma

yep! It really isn't that difficult. Takes a little practice but not a ton. And yes his is the most physically exerting job on the tank. Although I never remember getting tired from it.

The af caps are hot but they have guards to protect our feet from them while they cool. Once they stack up enough you are supposed to just toss them over the edge of the tank.

So the tank motto is Death before dismount! You stay with your tank until the bitter end. (most of the time) So you wouldn't get off the tank, there stuff is stored in racks on the tank yes, but you don't need to get down to get to it. I suppose you could shit outside on top, but would you really want to silhouette yourself and risk getting shot at all for a dump? Most of the time they would just shit in MRE bags and throw them over the edge. (While in country)

Release_the_KRAKEN4 karma

If they stack up enough and you have to throw them over the edge of the tank, are there any other ways to throws things out of the tank? Because I only know of the top hatch. Are there other I guess..holes? leading outside?

I guess not! But wouldn't the stench be unbearable? You mentioned earlier that guys spend weeks in the tanks without ever leaving. Were you being literal about that? Or as in deployed weeks at a time in a tank? As in, how long can a person stay in tiny ass quarters before physical worries start to kick in like deep vein thrombosis and what not?

jhigg5 karma

There are three hatches on a tank. One for the loader, one for the Tank Commander and one for the driver. The driver actually sits in the hull of the tank. and the other 3 crewman sit in the turret. Here is a good picture where you can see all three hatches easily. The drivers is closed up toward the front of the tank. You can also see the loader m240 machine gun and the .50cal. And the little black spot to the left of the main gun is where the gunner coax machine gun sits:


Yes it is unbearable!! I had my gunner poop on the move once and even with my head outside the tank it stank. The longest anyone stayed in a tank while they were deployed from our unit was 30 days. Now I don't know that they never left during that period, but they would definitely do a week with out getting completely off the tank. The tank really isn't that uncomfortable. I spent a good day with out too many problems. You can stand on the inside (with either your head hunched over, or sticking out the turret) I am a tall guy so I struggled a bit more than others. 6' 4"

talaar9 karma

One simple explanation is that automated systems can develop malfunctions. A jammed autoloader renders the main gun inoperable.

Naturally an injured or dead loader won't work that well either, but at least the commander can take over so that at least some fighting capability is left.

jhigg3 karma

I think this is probably the closest true answer. I agree with you.

jhigg3 karma

We also can carry 8880 rounds of 7.62 ammo for the 2 240 machines guns and 800 rounds of .50 cal for the Tank Commander's M2 .50 Machine gun.

IWHAFML6 karma

How realistic would you say is the Battlefield 3 portrayal of the M1A1?

Here's a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=kXDLLvJcgeM#t=95s

jhigg9 karma

Take a look at the videos I posted above. It is actually pretty close. The gunner even has a switch to change from Main gun ammo to 7.62mm machine gun ammo.

cuzzard5 karma

so you have a "F Key"?

jhigg8 karma

Sort of, it is more of a up and down switch.

cuzzard4 karma

i bet you kick ass at Tanks in BF3

jhigg6 karma

Probably no better than you!

spcwarmachine1 karma

hahaah ill confirm this one for him.. Being a tanker does give you an edge.. I drove an ASV (not nearly as cool as an M1) but still knowing how the rounds gona go and when to fire at a moving tank across the map and hitting it is amazing.

kz_3 karma

Firing at the moving tanks isn't nearly as hard as firing at the moving helicopters.

jhigg3 karma

Honestly I would never shoot at a helicopter. If they didn't see me, I sure as hell not going to show them where we are!

donutsalad5 karma

Question 1: Can you pick up chicks with a tank?

Question 2: My dad's a master gunner and used to be a mechanic for the Abrams. His knees are fucked. How are your knees?

jhigg3 karma

Well I am married so maybe it worked! I don't know.

My knees are ok so far. Although all the jumping up and down from the tank is definitely hard on them. I have a feeling I am going to have problems later in life.

startin-over5 karma

Hmmm so you you ain't been in long nuff to remember the days when the army had the flashy new M1's and the jars were still stuck in M60A1's?

jhigg10 karma

No but I've been in long enough to watch the M1A2's get AC and us with our poor little M1A1's roasting alive on the inside!

HandstheMan10 karma

British Tanks have tea kettles.

jhigg13 karma

I've heard that before! Crazy, I wish we could at least get an ac outlet!

savemejebus03 karma

Wow took that long to get AC. Nuts. I know war is not about comfort but AC also serves a function of efficiency from the operators.

jhigg8 karma

The marine corps tanks still don't have it. The army ones do because they have more advanced electronics in them that need to stay cool. Has nothing to do with crew comfort.

Saffs154 karma

Heres the key point to this. As an former Army tanker, the AC sounds way better then it is. It did just enough to keep the electronics from messing up, but the crew still roasted. We still used the NBC hose (and as a driver, the heater fan) primarily to keep cool.

jhigg5 karma

Well that makes me feel better. At least now I knew we were suffering together!

pt6062 karma

I, too, am a former M1A1 crewman, but I was tanking back in '97.

We used to just take the hoses from the NBC system and zip them into our Nomexes. That "cooling vest" didn't work for shit, but if you just trapped the hose into the bottom end of your front zipper, it was balloon man time, yo!

jhigg5 karma

Yep, but during training they warned us that if we burned out our nbc system to stay cool there would be hell to pay. So we wouldn't only turn it on briefly to cool down for a couple minutes.

pt6062 karma

I wonder if some knucklehead just told you guys that as some sort of anecdotal nonsense? We ran our NBC systems nonstop during field problems in the middle of the Ft. Hood summers. Besides, what's the point of having an NBC overpressure system if you can't run it continuously?

jhigg2 karma

This was my thought, but where we were had tons and tons and tons of dust. Could be that they just didn't want to replace the filters.

REA73R1 karma

then how would you cool yourself off?

jhigg4 karma

Well, there were times in the tank when it was 120degrees+ and you are wearing long sleeve gear, gloves, helmet, and a flak jacket! The best we could do is drink tons and tons of water. Sometimes we could turn on the NBC system and stuff the hoses down our shirts to at least get some air flowing for a couple minutes but if you left that on too long it would over heat, so we were limited.

startin-over1 karma

That sucks ass. I guess they figure you guys are the ones man enough to take it. Upgrade the marines last. They can take it.

jhigg7 karma

Hah, you can't imagine the amount of bitching that my crew would spew. I don't know about that statement. =P

startin-over7 karma

Bitching is what marines do.

jhigg10 karma

Hah yes it is! And we do it well.

mundzy15 karma

have you ever looked for weak spots in the armor

jhigg7 karma

The weak spots are well know as the top and the bottom of the tank. That is where the armor is the thinnest. Which is why the Javelin missile goes up and then down onto the target.

mundzy14 karma

by weak spots I meant that you tell a private to take a piece of chalk and go to the csm's tank and hit the armor with a hammer mark the location. our is this prank just in the cav world?

jhigg6 karma

LOL! No that is a joke they play on the new guys. there is no weak spot in the armor. Another good one is trying to get them to get an exhaust sample with a plastic garbage bag. The tank's exhaust is so hot that it will melt the bag if they get too close. I've watched guys try for a good couple hours before admitting they didn't know how to do it. That and asking the new guy to get the humvee key's is always funny.

mundzy16 karma

don't forget a box of grid squares, a quart of break light fluid, chem light batteries :-)

jhigg3 karma

haha grid squares, I haven't heard that one before.

kidkosher4 karma

What is your favorite type of shark?

jhigg3 karma

Hammerhead! I don't know what it is about them, but I love the look.

casval_cehack4 karma

What will actually happen when the M1A1 gets detracked? Some shows and online tank games impossibly repair tracks in seconds if not minutes.

jhigg8 karma

It's a huge deal. If we break track, most the time it will be hours until we are up and going again. In a combat situation we are taught how to use tow bars to help pull another tank to safety if it gets damaged. Now that only should take a couple minutes to hook and and gtfo.

Big_Li3 karma

Did you guys carry small arms in the tank, like was each tank equipped with M-4s or something?

jhigg8 karma

Yes! Each crewman gets an M4, a couple grenades, some flashbangs, and some plasma grenades. And ton's of flares. The flares and flash bang were meant to warn people or help get civilians away from the tank if they got too close. Just in case we had to dismount or completely ran out of other ammo. I never deployed but when the unit got back from Iraq the guys where telling us how because they never used the grenades they would just duck tape it all together so it wouldn't go off accidentally and then throw them on the floor. So they would have grenades rolling around as they were driving around.

Qasaur3 karma

Plasma grenades? I didn't know they existed.

jhigg3 karma

I guess they are also called Incendiary. Basically just a bunch of magnesium that burns at a super high temp.

jride133 karma

What was your reaction the first time you heard the gun?

KarnickelEater11 karma

Former German Army Leopard weapons systems mechanic here (mandatory 12 months of service).

I got to shoot once too(*), took the loader station (because of best sight and most space, the gunner only has his sights and sees nothing else). We had the hatches open and I knew the gun was VERY loud, so I was a little bit afraid of the bang. However, it was MUCH more quiet inside the tank just a few feet from the muzzle than it was 100 yards away for those outside - with the hatch open no less. I think that one shot cost the taxpayer around 1000 DM (that was before the Euro).

Most impressive shooting I witnessed was a night shooting maneuver of 12 battle tanks, what a fireworks.

By the way, what really surprised me was how much different it felt to drive this behemoth right over rough terrain. It felt like being on a ship riding steep but gentle waves, very different from the rough ride I would have expected from experience in normal (off road) vehicles.

Now some IMHO: Even if I say "impressive" and while liked that job, I was always aware that it was all a huge waste of taxpayer money for show. And to all who regret not having been deployed: 99% of the time on deployment is utter and total boredom - and when you DO get into a fight much of the time it will be a complete surprise, so you probably won't be prepared and will take losses, and by the time you get your act and cool together the enemy will already have withdrawn, if they have any sense (because your weapons are indeed much better than theirs - but they know that too). Kids play way too much Battlefield 3 these days, with constant action and respawn after the virtual death. Best place in a real battle is at least 1000 miles away from it.


(*) We said we needed to "test" the main weapon. Everyone knew we were lying, but they played along, probably thought it was fun to let the "Inst" ("Instandhaltung" = maintenance, the mechanics) have a shot. It was great to be a mechanic - we had the generators and the coffee machine, so a grunt mechanic was on the same level as a battle tank commanding officer since they wanted our coffee. MUCH better than having to fight in those big, heavy metal coffins - in a real war (not just against under-armed semi 3rd world armies) tank crews are totally expendable.

jhigg5 karma

Did you ever get to sit in an Abrams? I am just curious how different they are. I know we use the same main gun, but that's about it!

KarnickelEater1 karma

Gosh, I just thought of another thing I think may interest readers: The armor plates!

We once tried to drill a hole into an about 0.3 inches thick plate of the exact same steel as was used for the real armor. Of course we used a steel drill, and could go through regular kinds of steel quite easily. However, however we tried, after 10m we gave up on the idea. We had just barely scratched the surface of the steel. So that armor is indeed some really tough steel and not comparable with what normal people think when saying "steel"!

I'm sure one can read all about it on the Internet today, but to get a feeling this little experiment did more for me than reading lots of literature (2years of "material science" with 1-2hrs/week was part of my education and had left MUCH less of an impression than those 10 minutes).

I don't reminisce a lot, or at all, about the past, but thank you for starting this thread, it WAS a nice exercise to see what I remembered - and to see if any of the things I did where useful (to me) on any level (they were, but then I had always thought so).

jhigg3 karma

So there are variants of the tank that have depleted uranium armor on them. So hopefully you weren't trying to drill into that! On the other side of things, the steel armor is even still classified and there are procedures in the tank manuals on what to do if it ever becomes exposed. (Rub mud on it so photos cannot be taken)

jhigg1 karma

Thanks for the story.

jhigg4 karma

Jesus H Christ! It was mind blowing. I have never experiencing anything like it in my entire life, and nothing can explain it.

Justwanttosayhi3 karma

What features do you think are absolutely critical for a true 21rst century main battle tank?

jhigg11 karma

That is a hard question. I honestly believe that the days of the main battle tank are numbered. With all the advances in helicopters and airplanes, I have a hard time believing that they would put tons of money into a new tank. We were always told that "If you are shooting at helicopters, you're wrong". How can a tank even compete with a heli? I'm not a war expert though and I am always amazed at the ways they used tanks in Iraq and Afghanistan (When they finally got them there)

If they are going to make a true 21st century mbt. It has to have a way to combat helicopters. How they would do that I don't know but it would need it. Also, the tank would need something like the TUSK add-on for the current M1A1's and M1A2's. A majority of how they are using tanks currently is not how they were designed to be used. They were never meant to roll into a town and help grunts displace enemies. Also, a huge limiting factor in our current tanks is the sight and computer controlled fire system. Honestly, our daylight sights as so awful, that we use our thermal's during the day. What do you think would be required?

Justwanttosayhi5 karma

I'm no expert by any means, but I think there is truth to the saying "an sent is always prepared for the last war it fought ”. The MBT seems to be a holdover from the days of symmetrical warfare and lack of proper air support. But things like automation, cooling (really, what the hell) and greater manuverabilty would be important. But out seems like an almost obsolete technology, so it kinda makes sense economically to not update it.

jhigg5 karma

I agree, I guess only time will tell!

Misaniovent2 karma

"Honestly, our daylight sights as so awful, that we use our thermal's during the day."

Ever play Mechwarrior Online? Everyone used the thermal vision at all times so they nerfed it. Good thing the military can't nerf your thermal.

jhigg6 karma

Nope I haven't, but I agree no nerfing the thermals =P Did you watch the video of the thermals above? It's pretty awesome. That video was shot in the middle of the night with cloud cover.

alekzander011 karma

Why haven't we replaced Tank Crews with Tank-drones? Controlling a tank like a Drone shouldn't be that hard.


jhigg1 karma

The TUSK improvement actually allows for the 50 cal and loaders 240 to be used from inside the tank! This is a big improvement and we are slowly making our way to drones, although I would bet it may never happen.

desu1112 karma

Is this the latest version of abrams? sorry, I am not a military buff. It must suck to work in such heat

jhigg7 karma

So the Marine Corps is poor. They always claim to do more with less. So we have the M1A1FEP Abrams. The most current version are M1A2SEP. The army has all those fancy tanks. All I know is that they have way more electronics in them, which require cooling. The M1A1FEP has an upgraded thermal sight on it and a couple other modifications. (Including an eye safe laser)

jesusofsuburbia1332 karma

what would be the best way to start training your mind and body for the marine corps?

jhigg4 karma

I read "The Crucible" and "Boot". It at least helped me get an idea what I was in for. There may be better books, but those are the two that I borrowed from my recruiter. Although, nothing will prepare you mentally for boot camp. That is it's whole design. To break you down and help build you back up. Just be prepared for it to suck and know that it is all a game. When the DI's go back into there little house they are laughing and joking about the stuff they just did to you. It won't make sense, but it doesn't need to. Another although, somethings the things that don't make sense are for a reason. It's all confusing, but mostly keep your head down and learn as much as you can. The physical is easy, just run, do pull ups, and sit ups and you'll be fine. Remember you will be require to run 3 mile pfts and 700 yard cft's (in boots and uts)

iBradderz2 karma

How did you go about becoming a tank driver?

jhigg6 karma

A tank driver? Or Tank crewman? I joined the Marine Corps reserves so I got to choose what station I served at. It was either grunt or crewman. I naturally chose Tanks! If you are asking how I actually became a driver, the driver is the lowest guy on the totem pole. That is where everyone starts. Once you do well with that, they promote you to loader, then gunner, then Tank Commander!

iBradderz2 karma

Thanks for the response. If you couldn't have chosen tanks, what would you have chosen and why?

jhigg6 karma

After being in tanks I don't know. They are 100% awesome. But maybe a crew chief for a Helicopter?

Japanimekid2 karma

ever been fired at by anything bigger than small arms? (RPG's, etc) if so, what was it like? Did you trust that you'd be protected?

jhigg6 karma

I was never deployed, but when our company did go over there biggest risk was IEDs designed for tanks.

sickb2 karma

  • In your opinion, how good of a simulation is the game World Of Tanks, with respect to tactics, shot placement, etc.?

Had to ask. If you've never played disregard.

jhigg1 karma

Never played sorry =/

SIR_Sergeant2 karma

Are there any other tanks you wish you could use? German Leopard, British Challenger, Russian T-95, etc...

jhigg2 karma

I really want to get into a Israeli Merkava! I don't know what it is about them, but they have always interested me. they look cool, plus they can hold a handful of grunts also!


Mammouthor802 karma

Do you have a lot of room in there ? Is it possible for tall / bulky people to become a tank crew ? Do you sometimes play loud music while the tank is running ? I would probably if I was in a tank, even though it would look douchy as hell.

jhigg6 karma

I am 6' 4" and had enough room. It isn't spacey by any means. The two most comfortable positions are the TC's and the Loaders. The gunners and Drivers are very cramped.

YA! We would totally rock out while driving around. We found a way to get a mp3 player hooked up the the headsets so we could all listen and still talk to each other.

Mammouthor802 karma

Thank you for you answer. What is your most common tank driving playlist ?

jhigg4 karma

I once made my crew listen to Miley Cyrus every morning as we were driving out to the range! Made me laugh. But seriously we listen to everything. The loader generally had control of the mp3 player because I was too busy making sure we were not going to run over stuff!

RiseAgainst8262 karma

No real question, just stay safe, brother!

Actually, what's the craziest 'anti-tank' attempt have you seen?

jhigg4 karma

I was never deployed but our unit had just got back from Iraq when I joined up. They had a couple tanks get seriously damaged by IED's specially designed for tanks. There were 2 pressure plates just far enough appart that a tank could set it off, but other vehicles couldn't. Then they would stack artillery shells in the middle. So that when it would go off it would shoot up into the crew compartment from the belly of the tank. We had a couple people get seriously injured this way.

free_tobuscus1 karma

Dude, that is so badass. What did it feel like the first time you were moving and shot it? How loud is it inside?

jhigg3 karma

It's really not that loud from the inside, lots of metal clanking though as it pulls the af-cap out and ejects it in the inside. (we wear headsets that block out a lot of the noise.) I honestly don't recall the first time we were moving and shot, but I can let you know that every time we were shooting I had a ton of adrenaline going and that it was a ton of fun.

Chairsniffa1 karma

Do you forsee drone choppers supporting drone tanks in a patrol convoy type situation one day?

jhigg2 karma

I think the day of the main battle tank is numbered. Everything is going to be drone flying, or just flying someday.

MegaMadPenguin1 karma

how many rpg shots from the front to destroy it?

jhigg5 karma

That was never disclosed to us. But the front is the strongest area of the the tank. So I would imagine a lot.

WhiteMamba11 karma

So would you say being in a tank during a firefight is the "safest" place to be?

jhigg3 karma

I would think so! The only thing that would make me nervous was helicopters or airplanes! Although our unit had stories of IED's specially made for tanks. The pressure plates would be wide enough for a tank to trigger, but everything else would drive right though. The belly of a tank is a very very weak area.

raufaser1 karma

How good is the cell phone reception with everything closed?

jhigg3 karma

Haha, not too bad, most of the time I had one or two bars while on the range.

spcwarmachine1 karma

How much Damage would an EFP do to an A1? I know in our ASV's they would eat us alive.

jhigg1 karma

I honestly don't know what that is?

spcwarmachine1 karma

ahh sorry EFP

jhigg3 karma

I don't think they would be very effective. The sabot round is supposed to have the most penetrating power and there are stories of friendly fire occurring and the sabot never making it into the turret. I could be wrong on this one though.

WhiteMamba11 karma

What do you do in your free time?

jhigg2 karma

Everything! I'm out of the military now and work as a System Administrator. I love photography, video games, and backpacking!

BooYeah04841 karma

Whats tge advantage of using smooth bore over a rifled tank gun? Also does your tank use the shortened or longer muzzle? What is the advantage of using either of those?

jhigg2 karma

I know that the orginal M1's had rifled guns but they switched to smooth bore with the M1A1's. Maybe someone else can chime in why. I am actually unsure.

daisy0552 karma

The smoothbore gun can fire a greater variety of round, while the rifled can only fire certain types. I cant remember which go with which however.

jhigg3 karma

Yes! This is correct. Now I recall. It allows us to shoot things like the can round with out damaging the rifling in the tube.

niggahippie1 karma

Is the M1A1 Abrams the Jagdtiger of modern times?

jhigg1 karma

To be honest I don't know much about tank history. Sorry.

Fandorin1 karma

Tactics question. We're seeing all these videos from Syria of tanks moving into an urban environment and getting lit up by guys in concealed positions. I know tanks were used by our military in Iraq, even in cities. Were the tactics different (supported by infantry or something else) or are M1A1 so much more advanced that a standard anti-tank weapon is useless? How, if at all, should tanks be used in close quarters?

jhigg2 karma

Also, they will put some grunt on either side of the tank (behind it though, in case it needs to fire) as it rolls down the street. That way the grunts can watch the windows and protect the tanks top and rear.

jhigg2 karma

Here is a great site about the add-ons that they are bolting onto the tanks for urban environments: http://defense-update.com/products/t/tusk.htm

jhigg2 karma

The tank has to have Infantry with it in an urban setting. There are way too many windows and buildings for a guy with an rpg to pop out of with this. Generally, they will station a tank down at the end of a road, and the infantry will clear the buildings as the tank provides support and cover fire. But there are tons and tons of ways to use tanks in urban, you just have to have other people there to watch your sides and back.

Fandorin1 karma

Not sure how long you've been in, but I'm curious if this evolved due to the experiences in Iraq or was doctrine prior to it and just developed more. I know in the First Chechen War the Russians lots a whole tank column in the Battle of Grozny because they got trapped in the main street and were unable to get out while taking RPG fire from the rooftops.

jhigg2 karma

This was already in place when I get in, so I'm actually unsure.

Fandorin1 karma

Thanks for all the answers. This is really cool stuff. You have the coolest hardware in the world to play with (fuck the fighter pilots)!

jhigg2 karma

NP! I had some apache helicopter pilots ride with us one time, and I couldn't believe how amazed they were with our stuff. I was seriously confused, then I realized tank are completely bad ass, even apache pilots want to be us =P

Pacoquinha101 karma

What is the best thing to do when you are being attacked by a tank?

jhigg1 karma

Depending on how far you are, either run or drop straight to the ground. It is actually very hard to hit something that is moving back and forth.

Pacoquinha101 karma

And what about m1a1 it always has the thermal attaches?

jhigg1 karma

It does =/ All of the current models have 50x thermal optics on them.

FOHmixer1 karma

You said you moved up the ladder to Tank Commander. I thought you had to be an officer to be a TC, or are you one?

jhigg1 karma

Nope you don't have to be an officer. We even had a lance corporal Tank commander because we were so short on people. Per tank platoon there only 1 Officer.

tophat_jones1 karma

What does the inside of a USMC tank smell like after being crammed in there all day?

jhigg2 karma

Haha, well most of the time it is very hot but honestly I don't recall a smell. I would always come home smelling of exhaust though because depending on which way the wind blows it will end up blowing back toward us. And turbine exhaust smells like nothing i've ever smelt before. My wife always told me I stank when I got home though.

TruBlue1 karma

True story - I live in an apartment tower Melbourne city Australia. One morning I was driving out of the car park to find the driveway was blocked by two operating Australian M1A1's tanks. Not something you see everyday in the middle of a city. I thought the zombie apocalypse had happened over night. I had to get them to both back up to let me out of the driveway. Three things struck me. 1. They are lower than you think. 2. They are quieter than you think. 3. The smell of burnt jet fuel. Awesome chunk of metal.

jhigg4 karma

That is actually one of the reasons they use a turbine engine in the tank, it is very quiet. You could be one hill over and have no idea that a full tank platoon is just sitting there waiting. In fact while driving toward you, you will really only hear the noise the track makes. Pretty dang neat!

TruBlue1 karma

In a war, from the seat of a M1A1, what weapon would you most fear on the battlefield?

jhigg1 karma

A friendly-fire hell fire missile. =P

dubdubdubdot1 karma

Ever worry about DU rounds making you sick? Let alone the civ pop.

jhigg3 karma

I never did because our training tanks didn't have DU armor and the rounds we shot with were only aluminum. But if I had to worry about it, I would be worried yes. But there are things in place to help make sure that the crew doesn't get sick. Like a .5 inch steel door that the ammo stays behind.

T1mac1 karma

I'm curious as to the repeat commands used in operating a tank. There was a really great movie called "The Beast" or "The Beast of War" about a Russian tank crew lost in Afghanistan.

When they turned the turret, I believe the operator would shout "transiting". When they would fire on a target the commander would shout "fire" and the gunner would reply "on the way".

What sort of commands are used in your tank?

jhigg8 karma

There are 5 parts of a crewman fire command. They are Alert, Weapon,ammo, Description, direction, and execution. For instance from a defensive position in the defilade. (See video at the top) The gunner and tank commander would be looking at their screens or through there sights to try to identify targets. When 1 or more targets are identified you have to decide which target to shoot first. In the defensive this always equates to which target is the most deadly. A tank driving toward you? Probably going to shoot that first, but if there is a flanked PC (personal carrier) and an rpg team, you would shoot the rpg team first because the PC probably doesn't even see you.

So lets say we are scanning and see 1 tank facing us out on the horizon. (Like the thermal video from above) The first command would look like this. TC: "Gunner, Sabot, tank." Loader would then annouce "UP!!!" This tells the TC that the main gun is armed and that the loader is out of the path of recoil of the main gun. If the gunner didn't see the tank the TC would use his override to put the gunner on target. Once the gunner sees the tank, lays the reticle center mass of the target, lases the target, and ensures that he has a good range he annouces "Identified 2000 meters" At this time the TC verifies the range and gives the command "Driver move out, gunner take over" The driver will then drive up the berm and the gunner while looking through the AUX sight will let the driver know when he has cleared the berm and gives the command "Driver Stop" The TC then checks for the ready to fire box on the bottom of his screen and ensures that the range is still correct. (The ready to fire box only pops up when all the safes are off and a correct range is in the computer) The TC will then give the command "Fire!" The gunner will then announce "On the way" and squeeze the trigger on the Y of way. BOOOOM! At this point you can't see anything. Dust from the ground has kicked up and smoke from the round has obscured everything. Generally regardless of if he hit or not he will Announce "Target! Cease Fire, driver back down!" He then waits for a sensing from his wing tank weather he hit or not, and whether his wing tank sees any other targets up. And then the process starts all over again.

There are 100's of different scenarios and combinations of a fire command that could be used. For instance, when on the assault (driving toward an enemy) If an enemy is detected the fire command could look like this to save time. TC: "TANK Direct Front!" Loader"UP!!!!" Gunner: "Identified 1600 Meters" TC: "FIRE!" Gunner: "On the way" BOOOM! TC: "Target, cease fire, pick up another scan"

T1mac1 karma

Thanks, that was really interesting. There must be nothing like the feeling of a crew working as a well oiled machine in taking out a target.

jhigg3 karma

Yeah it is really nice once it finally clicks. Not to mention the adrenaline rush. It's awesome!

jhigg3 karma

yes I'm finally glad this got asked! I will answer this but it might take a bit as I'm still at work.

jhigg1 karma

Also, We generally don't announce when we are traversing unless we are in a spot that we might hit someone or something with the gun tube. (On the tank ramp, where the tanks are stored)

Bossfan19901 karma

Thanks for doing this what you are doing is what I dream of doing but since I'm in the Coast Guard, that's not possible.

Anyway, in training, do you guys study WW2 tank tactics, specifically Rommel, Patton and Monty?

jhigg6 karma

Not a problem at all! No but that would make a lot of sense. A lot of the training we did was based on Russian doctrine that is slowly being updated for the times. For instance, when in the defense we used to pop up and shoot as many targets as we could while on top. (see the video I posted above) Instead now what we do is come up on top, shoot, and immediately come back into the defilade. Search for another target and repeat.

Bossfan19905 karma

Gotcha, I got another one, how many tanks are in a platoon/company/regiment etc.? I guess what I'm asking is how is the chain of command/structure organized? Edit. Have you gotten to train with German tankers and if so what is your opinion with the Leopoard tank?

jhigg10 karma

A platoon is 4 Tanks. You have a Officer running the number 1 tank, and generally an enlisted Sgt or above running the 4 tank. (Platoon SGT and Platoon Commander. The 2 and 3 tanks are the lead and follow tanks in the platoon. So when driving down the road, the order of tanks would be 2, 1(platoon commander, 4 (Platoon SGT), 3. There are also 2 sections a platoon. Alpha and Bravo section. Alpha is the 1 and 2 tank, and bravo is the 3 and 4 tank. This allows tanks in a defensive position to move up and down together and allows for smaller groups for the command to control. Then there are 3 tank platoons in a company. and 2 executive tanks. (Company Commander (CO) and Executive Commander (XO). So an entire company of U.S. Tanks is 14 strong.

BroisterousGentleman1 karma

How did you end I up in the tank division

jhigg1 karma

As a reservist you get to choose which unit you go to. I chose a tank unit.

glazed_donuts1 karma


jhigg2 karma

I have not, but now you have me curious. I'll have to wait until it hits blu -ray