Critical Considerations in the Acquisition of a New Main Battle Tank

PSAD-76-113: Published: Jun 24, 1976. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 1976.

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GAO reported on the Army's third attempt to develop a successor to its main battle tank, the M60A1.

GAO noted that: (1) earlier efforts to develop a new main battle tank have been aborted mainly because of cost; (2) improvements in anti-tank weapons have made tanks more vulnerable than in the past; (3) even so, most military strategists maintain that the tank is still an effective assault weapon, the best anti-tank weapon, and a critical instrument in conventional land warfare; (4) more pertinent considerations are: (a) the numbers, operational capabilities, and costs of tanks to be procured; (b) their effective mix with other weapons; and (c) and the need for standardization of weapons systems among North Atlantic Treaty Organization members; (5) in July 1976, the Secretary of Defense is scheduled to decide whether the new tank, the XM-1, should advance into the next phase of development; (6) GAO recognizes the desirability of maintaining a development program at a reasonable rate of progress; (7) although the performance of the XM-1 against the stated requirements is known from recent prototype testing, GAO believes the Army is permitting the XM-1 program to proceed on the basis of incomplete and inconclusive information concerning broader issues; (8) two factors determine the effectiveness of a tank--firepower and survivability; (9) there are no clear-cut measures that define which of these features are most critical to the survivability of a tank in all situations--only varying judgments among military experts; and (10) the Army, in designing the XM-1, is mainly banking on better armor protection to enhance its survivability.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should: (1) accelerate ongoing studies which would consider the cost-effectiveness of an alternative armored force not wholly dependent on the use of costly heavy tanks; and (2) inform Congress of the results of these comparisons and analyses at the next budget hearings.

    Agency Affected:


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