9/19/02

Janet L. McCoy, 334/844-9999

M-1A1 TANK FIRES IN GULF WAR

AUBURN ALUM - FATHER OF M-1 TANK TO SPEAK AT AU

AUBURN -- Philip W. Lett, an Auburn University alumnus known as the father of the Army's powerful M-1 Tank, will speak on campus on Friday (Oct. 11).

Lett will speak at 10 a.m. in the Special Collections & Archives Department, ground floor, of the Ralph Brown Draughon Library.

Lett donated his papers, which chronicle his life and career, to the Special Collections and Archives Department earlier this year. The papers will be open to researchers this fall.

Throughout his career, Lett has been responsible for research and development of a variety of combat and tactical systems built for the U.S. military, including the T-51 Heavy Recovery Vehicle, the Heavy Equipment Transporter HET-70 and the Mobile Assault Bridge-Ferry Vehicle.

His greatest accomplishment, however, was his work on the M-1 Tank, which first rolled off a General Dynamics assembly line in 1978.

The M1 is the Army's principal Main Battle Tank. Designed during the 1970s, it combines new armor, a high powered engine and a computerized firing system that allows it to hit stationary and moving targets while driving at top speed. Experts say the tank is possibly the best combination of firepower, mobility and protection in the western tank arsenal.

Since its creation, the M-1 tank has undergone many changes and improvements instituted by Lett's engineering team. By 1990, the M1-A1 Abrams tank was the most advanced tank in the world.

Lett, who now lives in Bloomingfield Hills, Mich., began his civilian career as an engineer in 1950 when he went to work for the Chrysler Corporation. He quickly climbed the corporate ladder at Chrysler and became a member of the Board of Directors of Chrysler Defense, Inc. as well as general manager of the Chrysler Sterling Defense Division.

In 1982, General Dynamics Land Systems Division purchased Chrysler's defense business and Lett served as vice president and assistant to the general manager at General Dynamics until his retirement in 1987. He then founded PWL, Inc., a defense-consulting firm.

Lett's work at Chrysler, and later General Dynamics, directly contributed to a swift American victory in the Gulf war. The tanks that he helped create, which focused not only on defeating the enemy but also on the safety of soldiers, saved countless American lives during the war.

The M-1A1's better targeting optics and advanced computer gave it greater accuracy at longer range over the Soviet-built main battle tank during the Gulf war. The Abrams has the additional advantage of being able to fire accurately at night and on the move.

Born in Newton, Ala., in 1922, Lett entered what was then Alabama Polytechnic Institute in the fall of 1941 as a mechanical engineering student. Following graduation, he was commissioned in the Army and served until 1946.

He resumed his education and received his master's degree in engineering from the University of Alabama in 1947. He earned a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1951.

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oct02: AU-lett

CONTACT: Dwayne Cox, head of Special Collections & Archives Department at Draughon Library, 334/844-1707.