Dean Lockwood, weapons systems analyst at Forecast International, notes that "in 2008, U.S. Department of Defense contract awards for the maintenance, RESET, and upgrade of the existing M1 Abrams inventories carried a total value in excess of $1.46 billion. That was equivalent to more than 46 percent of the total value of all new-production main battle tanks entering the international market in 2008 (nearly $3.17 billion). Last year, the Chinese Type 98 program maintained its position as the single largest new-production program. Yet, with a total value of $395.79 million (for 116 new-production tanks), the Type 98 program was worth only about 27.11 percent what the U.S. DoD spent on the M1 Abrams in 2008."
The expense associated with the modernization and retrofit of high-end main battle tanks pales in comparison with the prospect of new tank procurement. Thus, FI expects new production of high-end tanks to remain relatively low, accounting for 14.9 percent of all production and 24.22 percent of the value of the market during the forecast period.
In terms of sheer numbers, Forecast International expects Pakistan’s Al Khalid, the Type 98 of the People’s Republic of China, and the Russian Federation’s T-90 (including India’s licensed T-90S production program) to continue to dominate the market, representing 60.57 percent of all new tanks rolling out worldwide, and accounting for 52.28 percent of the value of the market, through 2018.
In the international market for main battle tanks, the days of U.S. and European domination over new production are long gone. Nevertheless, the established U.S. and European players continue to make their presence felt. The 120mm Rh 120 smoothbore ordnance, the state-of-the-art Leopard 2, and the combat-proven M1 Abrams continue to set the standard for main battle tank design worldwide.
Second only to the infantryman in terms of combat effectiveness, the "mailed fist" of heavy armor remains the arm of decision on the modern battlefield. Further, as Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-present) evolved from a war of movement into a security operation, the main battle tank has proven surprisingly adaptable. According to Lockwood, "In the congested streets of Iraqi cities, the Abrams serves as a significant force multiplier, fully up to meeting the challenges of an asymmetric warfare environment."