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American Abrams vs. Japanese Type 10 – which tank would win on a drag strip?

Posted September 6, 2019

Type 10 is a next generation main battle tank (MBT) of Japan Self-Defense Forces. It is relatively new – Type 10 has been in service since 2012. It is fast, reliable and technologically advanced. It’s been specially designed to be effective in Japan. Meanwhile American M1 Abrams is much bigger and more powerful, but what would happen if we put them on a drag strip?

Ok ok, (sadly) no one is going to start racing tanks. The situation is poorly hypothetical, but it does show something important. Modern MBTs have to be very fast and maneuverable in order to be effective in battle fields. Speed is not an unimportant characteristic for a tank. And so these two are relatively quick – top speed of Type 10 is 70 km/h and M1A2 Abrams reaches 67 km/h. Of course, these are not true maximum speeds of these machines – they are governed in order to maintain reliability of tracks and safety of the crews.

Type 10 has a continuously variable transmission, while American Abrams tanks has a more conventional heavy-duty automatic. Image credit: T.Goto via Wikimedia

So it seems to be clear – Abrams is faster and would defeat the Type 10 in drag racing, right? Well, maybe. But older and lighter version of Abrams were actually able to reach a governed top speed of 72 km/h. Furthermore, that governor is not impossible to remove. Abrams has a  Honeywell AGT1500 multi-fuel turbine engine, pushing 1500 hp at the shaft. Without the governor Abrams can accelerate to 100 km/h or even more. Some soldiers claim that they took Abrams to 120 or 130 km/h. However, these claims are not really substantiated with real data – Abrams’ speedometer only goes till 60 mph or 97 km/h.

Type 10 has a more traditional diesel V8. It is no slouch at 1200 hp and the tank itself is lighter. Fully equipped Type 10, weighs only 48 tonnes, while Abrams has no issue pushing scales to 65 tonnes or more. So both have advantages, but let’s go back to the speed, because there is a way for the Type 10 to win.

Type 10 has a top speed of 70km/h both going forward and reversing. Image credit: Rikujojieitai Boueisho via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Going in a straight line would benefit Abrams tank (with governor removed). But the story would be completely different if these tanks were competing going in reverse. Abrams is powerful enough to reach top speed of 40 km/h or so going in reverse. But Type 10 can go 70 km/h going forward or reversing. It would smoke Abrams if they were racing going backwards.

How is it possible? Well, it has everything to do with the transmission. Type 10 has a Continuously variable transmission (Hydraulic Mechanical). It doesn’t have gears and it is easy to make it so that the same ratios would apply going forward or backwards. Meanwhile Abrams tank has a more traditional setup with an Allison X-1100-3B Hydro-Kinetic automatic transmission. It has four forward and two reverse gears and so it would soon run out of revs to catch up with reversing Type 10.

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