By Staff Sgt. Edward Daileg, 305th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentSeptember 6, 2011
BAGHDAD, Sept. 6, 2011 -- The final shipment of M1A1 Abrams tanks, purchased by the Iraqi government, arrived at Besmaya Combat Training Center mid-August. The delivery included the last five of the 140 tanks ordered by the Iraqi government through a Foreign Military Sales agreement with the U.S.
"The M1A1 Abrams Tank Program was initiated to modernize the Iraqi Army's tank capabilities with 140 tanks and eight heavy-tracked recovery vehicles," said John Hutchings, a desk officer with the Army Modernization Program, United States Forces -- Iraq.
"The tanks are the latest digital tanks coming out of the United States," he added. "They are the most modern M1A1s in the Middle East."
Upon arrival the tanks are secured at the BCTC where they are unpackaged and tested before their transition to the Iraqi army.
"When the tanks get there they get de-processed," said Hutchings. "The de-processing team undoes all the strapping and takes all the packing out of the tank barrel, cleans them up, and tests them for quality assurance. If they should find anything wrong due to the shipment process, they will fix the issue before turning them over to the Iraqi army."
Currently, 85 tanks have been fielded to the Iraqi army and more than 40 are ready for transfer in the near future.
With the FMS package, the Iraqi army also receives training for their M1A1 operators and maintenance personnel.
"Maintenance training consists of basic-unit maintainer training and advanced-maintenance training for the turret and hull, and fire-systems training," said Hutchings.
Recently, 180 Iraqi army troops completed Operator-New Equipment Training and more than 40 of them completed OPNET Train-the-Trainer Program.
Also, 46 soldiers completed the Unit-Maintenance New Equipment Training and 14 more completed the UMNET Train-the-Trainer Program.
"We are training the Iraqi army so they can train, maintain and sustain all the tanks they have received," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mark Bliese, senior training advisor for BCTC, Iraq Training and Advisory Mission -- Army, USF-I.
The tanks will be distributed evenly within the four Iraqi Army tank regiments of the 9th Iraqi Army Mechanized Division. Each regiment will receive 35 M1A1s and two M-88A2 heavy-tracked recovery vehicles.
"Each battalion has three companies. Each company will receive 11 tanks which will be divided within the platoons and company headquarters," said Hutchings.
The delivery of the M1A1 main battle tanks and the training received provides the Iraqi army an increased capability to defend their country with one of the most modern tanks in the world.
"The M1A1 tanks provides the Iraqi army with the capability of defending its borders to protect the sovereignty of Iraq," said Bliese.
"The tanks provide a foundation for Iraq's mechanized infantry capability, said Hutchings. "It gives them a modern weapon platform capable of maneuvering on the battle field to provide a strong defense across Iraq."