Book Review: M1 Abrams vs T-72 Ural
Direct conflict during the Cold War never took place, but Operation Desert Storm came as close as any conflict in matching up Soviet equipment and doctrine against the west. This book examines the two primary tanks and how they lined up.
Author: Steven J. Zaloga
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
Reviewing Author: Jim Zabek
Osprey Publishing does its readers a service by classifying its books by series. The number of series slowly expands, and by my count there are over 20 at present. The idea behind each series is to define an overall theme under which military history can be explored. The New Vanguard series is aimed at exploring some of the equipment used in various conflicts. The Fortress series examines military architecture.
One of the most recent additions is the Duel series. Here the machines of war are compared and contrasted in a very specific way. Classic debates over which side had the best equipment are examined in detail, but the examination goes beyond just reviewing the equipment; training and doctrine are also included in order to give a context.
In M1 Abrams vs T-75 Ural Steven J. Zaloga takes an in-depth look at the two primary tanks that faced off in Operation Desert Storm. I have heard veterans of that conflict claim that the sides could have switched equipment and the US and its allies would have still beaten the Iraqis due to their level of training. Zaloga cites his own sources who echo that sentiment, and then places both sides’ equipment under scrutiny. He may not answer that question definitively, but the thorough investigation of both the M1 and the T-72 leave few stones unturned.
Naturally many of the specifications of the M1 remain military secrets. Zaloga admits he doesn’t have access to certain aspects of the M1, but he does the next best thing by examining the information available from the Soviet Union’s best estimates of its capabilities.
The discussion ranges from the historical evolution of these tanks, construction, armor composition, comparative analysis of the armor’s defensive value as well as each tank’s estimated offensive ability to defeat the other’s armor.
During the discussion of the book the ghosts of the Cold War linger. The unanswered questions that wargamers love to ask, “what if?” hover over the discussion of Operation Desert Strom. No open conflict ever arose between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, but Zaloga does his best to not only examine the circumstances and equipment surrounding these two Cold War mainstays in Iraq, but he also attempts to share as much information as he can about how a conflict between the Pact and NATO might have seen these two tanks perform.
The primary focus of the book is on the clash between US and Iraqi tankers, and Zaloga does a superb job in highlighting where the Iraqi army melted like butter (and why) and where, in a few instances, it stood bravely as the M1s and their crews shredded them regardless.
Readers interested in a comparison of these two tanks will find M1 Abrams vs T-72 Ural a compact and handy reference for quickly determining the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. Readers interested in a concise account of US versus Iraqi armor during Operation Desert Storm will also enjoy the account. Lastly, Zaloga provides a solid bibliography from which readers can explore more detail. The Duel series is a great way to quickly size up competing equipment, and M1 Abrams vs T-72 Ural is the fastest way to dig up the facts on these two classic beasts.