Usually tanks are supposed to avoid mines and buried bombs, but somebody, and something, has to roll forward first on the battlefield regardless of what lies beneath. Enter the M1 Assault Breach Vehicle, otherwise known as "The Shredder."
This derivative of the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank was developed after the cancellation of the grossly elaborate Grizzly in 2001. Its job is specifically to clear routes for vehicles and infantry directly through minefields, obstacles, or areas where buried or roadside bombs are thought to exist.
The Assault Breacher Vehicle utilizes a refurbished M1 chassis and weighs in at 144,000lbs. It is powered by the M1 Abrams 1,500hp/2,750lb-ft of torque AGT1500 gas-turbine engine, which is basically a ground-pounding version of the same engine that competed to be in Blackhawks and Apache choppers, but lost to the General Electric's T700 engine.
Fitted in front of the Shredder is a giant, 15 foot wide, three ton plow that is supported by a trio of steel skis. These skis are meant to glide on the the dirt during mine-plowing operations. Combat dozer blades, rapid ordinance removal devices and lane marking systems can also be rapidly interchanged on the Shredder. Additionally, this beast is armed with a remotely operated 50 cal machine gun and a pair of M58 Mine Clearing Line Charges (MICLIC) launchers.
Basically, the MICLIC is a rocket that carries a long rope with five pounds of C4 high-explosives per foot embedded in it. It flies out to over 100 meters and detonates, creating a clearing of 100 meters by eight meters for vehicles and infantry to pass through.
The M58 MICLIC can also be detonated manually via activating time-delayed fuses every half dozen feet. Due to the danger of this operation, and considering that it has to be accomplished in an active minefield, and possibly under fire, this operation is called a 'Medal of Honor Run' by those that are tasked to perform it.
Because the Shredder, also called the Breacher by some, operates at the leading edge of an armored column, she is outfitted with more advanced protective armor than the already vault-like Abrams. Reactive armor bricks are placed all along its turret to take direct hits from high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) equipped RPGs and missiles, and additional armor has been added to the standard M1 hull as well.
The vehicle is operated by just two crew, a commander and a driver. As if this ground gobbling beast was not cool enough, it can also be remotely controlled for operations in the most high-threat mine-laden environments.
The Shredder's first use in combat was during Operation Cobra Anger, that took place in December of 2009 in Afghanistan, as Marines punched their way into the Taliban stronghold of Helmand Province. Throughout the next few months, Shredders would be used to blast their way through minefields and obstacles as the Marines continued their assault into the heart of the Taliban country.
In total, 52 Shredders are on order for the USMC and the US Army has ordered 187. Shredders have also been deployed to South Korea, where they would play a central role in breaching the Demilitarized Zone so that forces from the South can pass into North Korea without being blown up by what lies under the DMZ's soil.
The Shredder is seen as an essential asset to modern operations in denied areas and it is also a reminder of just how crucial the Army and Marine Engineering teams are when it comes with fighting to win on the modern battlefield.
Photos via Department of Defense.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who edits the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com