account of the Reforger 1982 exercise in which M1 Abrams (participating for the first time) wiped the floor with Red-force armored forces while being outnumbered!!!.
The annual NATO 'Reforger' exercises held across the breadth of Germany each autumn are the main tactical exercises of the NATO tank forces. Fictitious Orange and Blue armies, composed of units from different NATO countries, fight mock battles to test their tactical skills, and the ability of their logistics units to repair and maintain them. 'Reforger '82' was the first time the M I Abrams was involved in such a demanding series of tactical exercises. The battalions of the 64th Armor were committed mainly to the 'Blue' Army.
At dawn on the morning of 13 September 1982 a Canadian 'Orange' task force, consisting of a mechanized infantry company backed by several Leopard I tank companies, began 'attacks' against opposing Blue forces. The main defense line of the Blue 3rd Inf. Div. (US) was met, and 'battle' was joined with elements of the 2/30 Infantry outside Dingolhausen, FRG. About noon a Canadian infantry platoon deep in the rear of the friendly Orange forces began moving forward to assist in clearing out stubborn American resistance at Dingolhausen. While passing through a wooded area far outside the battle area, it stumbled on to a tank battalion hidden in the woods. The tanks were slab-sided, like the later-model Canadian Leopard Is; but more ominously, they carried on the turret fronts the bright blue marker squares that characterized them as 'enemy' Blue Army tanks. The Canadian platoon was quickly 'wiped out'.
The commander of the hidden Blue tanks informed division that his concealed position had been discovered. Although forced to launch its counter-attack prematurely, his ruse had worked. Most of the 'enemy task force' had flowed by without noticing his tanks. Now it was time to take advantage of the Canadian Orange troops' mistake. Lt.Col.John Kelsey ordered his tanks to prepare for action. To the delight of the tankers, their M1s could hardly be heard by the dismounted guards' at the wood's edge due to the quiet turbine engine. More appealing was the tanks' response as the battalion charged out into the open.
One of the M1 companies charged into a
Canadian mechanized infantry company which
was riding into action on M113 APCs. The
Canadians were 'wiped out' before they could react.
The second Abrams company was ordered to swing
further out from the woods to attack the Leopard
company supporting the infantry. The Leopards
were caught with their pants down as they were
refueling at a POL point. Nine Leopards lined up
in a neat row suddenly became victims, with the IR
rotating amber maneuver beacons signaling wiped out. With two of the M1 companies engaged, the third Abrams company homed in on another Leopard company attacking 2/30 Infantry at Dingolhausen. They struck unexpectedly from the rear; and there were suddenly a lot more static Leopards littering the German plains. For the coup de grace the second M1 company, after bypassing its victims at the POL point, swung behind another Canadian Leopard company attacking towards the Blue force lines. The company commander radioed to supporting AH-1S TOW Cobra attack helicopters lurking in hover behind the tree line of the Steigerwald on the Canadians' right flank. The Cobras popped up and began missile attacks on the Leopards, while the M1s simultaneously attacked them from the rear. The result: Orange Task Force wiped out. One of the Canadian officers later recalled: 'One minute it's quiet, with no contact; the next minute you are overwhelmed - swamped with quick, whispering death.'
The commander of the 3rd Inf. Div. , Maj.Gen. F. K. Mahaffey, summarized his feelings about the M1's performance in 'Reforger '82': 'Operationally the M1 exceeded our expectations during "Reforger". The fighting capability of the system proved to be so much more than previously assumed that it required a new perspective on mounted combat. During the exercise, there was an initial tendency to treat it as "just another improved tank". But all this changed as the exercise evolved and the full potential of the M I became apparent to all. The umpire adjudication process served to highlight a mindset existing among too many that the tactics and employment of the M1 units should conform to the doctrine developed for the much slower, less survivable M60 tanks. In this regard it is important for all to understand that what makes the M I units truly different - by an order of magnitude - is the tank's extraordinary capability to fire while moving at high speeds [30-40 mph] with an accuracy and effectiveness, by day or night, at least equal to that of an M60 firing from a stationary position.
These views were shared by the tankers as well. SFC J. Fields, a platoon leader with 2/64th Armor: 'As we swung and faced the enemy you could see the mass confusion they were in, with the tracks [M113S] and tanks nearly bumping into each other trying to get out of there. They were totally caught by surprise . . . It's just remarkable that you could have four tanks running in pattern with the gun tubes oriented in the right direction and moving at 40 mph.' The commander of I/64th Armor, Lt.Col. J. Quinn: 'The second day was the most devastating. We had two of my companies and the 3/64th Armor attacking on line in Bowling Alley West. That was a magnificent sight. We just completely overwhelmed the Orange forces. There was nothing they could have thrown up there to keep our two battalions from rolling right on through. They absolutely could not react to the speed of that tank no matter how hard they tried. And I know that they tried harder and harder every day to plug their holes, but once we found the hole we were through it and in their rear so fast they just could not react. We kept them disrupted, confused and just generally frustrated for three days.' One tank loader added: 'It seemed like the enemy didn't have a chance, even though they had us outnumbered.
Source: The M1 Abrams Battle Tank (Osprey Publications)