Abrams tank proves itself in war, faces fight for future

When the Abrams main battle tank entered a new era of production in 1985, it was still untested by enemy fire and had weathered some doubts in Washington about its effectiveness as a Cold War weapon.

Thirty years, nearly 10,000 tanks and more than $20 billion later, Abrams is a proven asset in several wars and an economic engine for Southeast Michigan’s defense contracting community — but another battle for its future lies ahead.

The former Chrysler Defense Inc. XM1 Tank Program delivered its first two production vehicles to the U.S. Army in 1980. Virginia-based General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE:GD) acquired the automaker’s tank-making division in 1982 for $348.5 million and renamed it General Dynamics Land Systems.

The Sterling Heights defense contractor wrapped original M1 tank production in early 1985 and, 30 years ago this month, announced it had delivered the first units of an upgraded M1A1 Abrams tank series.

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