A retired 4-star Army general whose family name is synonymous with U.S. armor formations may have put to bed the debate on whether the service’s newest armored combat vehicle, the M10 Booker, is — or is not — a tank.

The verdict?

“This is a tank,” wrote retired general Robert B. Abrams in a post on social media Tuesday after getting his first look at the Booker in Washington D.C.

And yes, that’s “Abrams” as in that Abrams. Gen. Robert Abrams’ father was four-star general and career tanker Creighton ‘Abe’ Abrams, the namesake of the Army’s M1 Abrams main battle tank.

Robert Abrams, who retired in 2021, made his decision on the tank-ness of the M10 Booker at the Association of the US Army tradeshow in Washington D.C. Tuesday, where its maker, General Dynamics, had one of the vehicles — err, tanks — on display.

And he made it clear in a post on X that the ‘tank’ status was not a close call. 

“This may seem like a BFO” or Blinding Flash of Obvious, wrote Abrams, ”but now that I have seen one up close….this is a tank.”

Army photo

The debate over the M10 Booker’s tank-or-not-a-tank status has raged for nearly as long as the tracked, armored, cannon-equipped, and turreted vehicle has been in development.

As it moved from prototype to operational form, Army officials called the M10 the Mobile Protected Firepower program, an Armored Combat Vehicle and, finally, the Booker, a name chosen to honor two tanker soldiers who shared the name and were killed in World War II and Iraq.

In 2019, an Army press release actually did refer to the M10 as a tank — albeit a “light tank” and in quotes throughout.

The question has driven various senior army officials to insist that the tank debate is not important just prior to adding their own opinion to the fray.

Doug Bush, the Army’s acquisition chief, stuck with calling the M10 a “combat vehicle” earlier this year when pressed by Army Times on the matter. He then called the entire tank-or-not-a-tank question an “esoteric and borderline religious debate among the armored community about what [the word tank] means,” Army Times reported.

And Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, the officer in charge of Army Ground Combat Systems, told that the M10 “isn’t a mission match, even though [it] sort of looks like, smells like, feels like [a light tank].”

Got it.

Though Abrams’ post is unlikely to sway the gatekeepers of Army nomenclature, it shows that the good-natured ‘tank-or-not-a-tank’ debate goes to the very top of the Armor community. 

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A career-long armor officer, Abrams held several major tank-centric commands including Army Forces Command, U.S. forces in Korea, and the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. He was also an instructor at the Army’s armor school.

His father and the M1’s namesake, Creighton ‘Abe’ Abrams, was the Army Chief of Staff in 1974 when he passed away. He was the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam from 1968 until 1972 but made his name as a legendary tank officer in World War II, commanding armor units that led the way for Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army across Europe.

As a 30-year-old Colonel at the Battle of the Bulge, Abrams is said to have coined the famous phrase, “They’ve got us surrounded, the poor bastards.”

Abrams is famous in military circles for more than just his tank exploits. During his tenure as Army chief of staff, Abrams directed the formation of a Ranger battalion to “be an elite, light and the most proficient infantry battalion in the world. A battalion that can do things with its hands and weapons better than anyone.” This charter resulted in what is now the modern 75th Ranger Regiment.

A rollicking profile of the elder Abrams in Time Magazine, published as he took command in Vietnam, called him “the ruggedest combat commander in the U.S. Army.” As a cadet at West Point, Time said, Abe Abrams was known as the “fight’est man” on the football team.

The magazine also quoted Patton saying of Abrams, “I’m supposed to be the best tank commander in the Army, but I have one peer — Abe Abrams. He’s the world champion.”

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