So with the T90M and the introduction of modeled spall liners, there have been a lot of talk about which tanks has it. The Abrams is one of the those tanks that gets talked about a lot.
General consensus by the community implies that the Abrams does have a spall liner however from my research, this conclusion is based on assumptions not actual evidence. So in this kinda long first post, In this post, I’ll use multiple types of evidence and do a deep dive into spall liners.
My only request is to be charitable so lets start shall we.
What is a spall liner and what is it made of?
Spall liners are what they say they are. They are liners that serve to minimize the amount of fragments that could potentially injure or kill crew.
Liners could be made of various materials, most common is aramids however other options would be fiberglass, sprayed polyurethane, and the most modern option includes materials like UHMWPE.
There are also soviet “Podboi” simply meaning lining in english, these serve as dual purpose anti radiation lining and spall lining (most likely not as effective as a proper single purpose spall liner)
made of some type of polymer with lead, in game this material only exists on the T90 hull and provides 1mm of protection. :)
Type of spall liner used depends on what the user wants, the two most common forms are:
- hard bolted on panels (used the most)
Why bolted on panels? Panels bolted into the base hull are securely held in place, they wont get in the way of any moving things or get caught onto things like turret drives and people. They can also be made thicker offering better spalling reduction. Downside is they tend to be heavy and application can be limited due to pre existing equipment taking up the space.
Spall liner on the Bradley
Spall liner on the door of an Mrap
Standoff spall liner on M113A3
Spall liner on the roof of Leopard 2 visible
Spall liner on M109A6
- soft drapes "sheets" are malleable, often hooked or fastened into place.
These are much lighter, can be installed in cramper spots, downside is they are less durable and can be less effective. Most notable user of this type of spall liner is the T90M
Challenger 2’s may use this type of spall liner, I’m not actually sure if its a spall liner.
Another form of spall protection more popular on personal body armor is polyethylene liners, can be molded as drop ins or sprayed on. A company known for using the material in military applications is Line-X (https://www.linex.com/security-and-defense). The Abrams doesn’t use this since it’s sprayed on thick, at least 7mm(and the color is black and the surface is rough), the photos I show later will show the interior in detail.
Now actually onto the Abrams, these are the points I’ll look at after covering the elephant in the room
- photographic evidence
- circumstantial evidence
- that one DTIC study
Before I go into the three points, I’ll cover the biggest thing.
When it comes to sourcing, it’s really important to not take things for granted and assume something , please check the citation. I’m talking about Wikipedia, tank encyclopedia, etc. So lets take a look at these. To make it clear, I’m not trashing on these cites or saying that I know more, I’m saying to take care when researching. No one is an expert at anything.
All these sites have something in common in that they are written by individuals as volunteers or written by individuals as a blogpost . And while I appreciate their work, people are still prone to mistakes and making assumptions. This isn’t even a case of “The woozle effect” a citation just does not exist.
Overt Defense blog
Wikipedia do make citations easy to access however no citation is provided for this claim
Now onto books, while books can be good and reveal useful information like exclusive photos, it’s important to note they’re not always 100% correct even when its a reputable author.
Tank museum book
The issue is that photographic evidence and the lack of primary sources don’t support this claim so this is unreliable evidence of a spall liner and can most likely be concluded as another case of assuming
Remember the examples of spall liners above and what they look like, now lets take a look at the Abrams.
Unpainted M1 Abrams turret, remember what the position of the weld line on the roof is.
This is a modern painted M1 turret without the equipment attached.
A common claim I hear is that the kevlar backs the composite and kevlar can be used as a spall liner and thus the Abrams must have a spall liner.
What I assume is the source of that claim
“backing for ceramics/composite” is not what a spall liner is, what a kevlar backing of ceramics can do is hold the ceramic together since ceramic is brittle and cracks, the kevlar would help keep it together to increase armor durability. Not reduce spall. A spall liner has the be the last layer of a tanks armor, pretty much always following behind the backplate. The M1 Abrams uses a regular metal backplate just like any other tank, the backplate is not ceramic with kevlar
And you know what the kicker is? The photos above show weld marks. You cant weld kevlar.
When it comes to circumstantial evidence, we have to analyze how the US treats spall liners. All AFVs that receive spall liners are disclosed to have spall liners. All AFVs that have a spall liner use bolted on plates. The Abrams is the exception where no disclosure has been made.
Live fire test on M113A3 spall liner
That’s it, kind of long but I was already researching this prior to this whole WT thing.