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Ohio Tank Factory Flourishes: Facility Supplies The U.S. Army

Armies are only as effective as the equipment they carry and vehicles they use on the battlefield – much of this is produced at the Ohio Tank Factory for the US military. Yet defense spending is often the target of budget cuts, as governments cite other priorities, particularly during peace time.

But when wars break out, suddenly equipping the Armed Forces become a major priority for governments everywhere.

There is just one facility in America that builds tanks for the U.S. Army, and it very nearly was shut down about a decade ago. However, elected officials put a stop to the closure.

Today, this plant in Ohio builds almost a dozen army vehicles each month.

M1 Abrams during maintenance.
Building an Abrams is no easy feat, and the tank plant in Ohio is the only place that currently does it.

The Ohio Tank Factory

The Ohio Tank Factory first opened in 1942, while World War II was raging in Europe and the Pacific. Its original mandate was to build and test tanks for the U.S. Army, and that mandate is unchanged. 

The company is owned by the U.S. Army, but operates as the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio. It is notable for its production of the M1A2 Abrams tank (which was named after a general who served in World War II and Vietnam.)

An Abrams built at the Ohio Tank Factory.
The Abrams is the most famous piece of equipment made at the Ohio Tank Factory.

Another item in the company’s inventory is the eight-wheel Stryker infantry combat vehicle.

Approximately 580 people work at the plant, but it is still growing. Operations today are a far cry from the bare bones operations that existed in Lima in 2012. During those lean times, and continuing right up until 2017, the company produced only one tank each month. By 2019, that figure mushroomed to where it is today.

Renewed Activity

According to media reports, two factors were largely responsible for the factory’s restored financial health and increased productivity. Former president Donald Trump boosted defense spending, which was a major boost to the Ohio plant.

And China and Russia have always made American governments feel edgy, no matter which party is in charge, Republicans or Democrats. And recent events in Europe have shown that the U.S. was right to be nervous about Russia and its hostile attitude toward the West.

Trump at the Ohio Tank Factory.
Former president Donald Trump at the Lima tank factory in 2019.

The United States and its allies are pouring money and weapons into Ukraine to aid in the war effort. So far, tanks have not been part of the American shipments, but every passing day sees more weapons sent. The time may come when America has to replenish the tanks of its NATO partners like Poland, which is sending them across the border to Ukraine.

It is only logical that a defense manufacturer’s fortunes ebb and flow depending on how big, and where, conflicts break out. The center in Lima boomed in 1950 when the Korean War broke out. But prosperity was elusive in the decades that followed.

When the plant opened, its mandate was to help equip Armed Forces fighting in Europe and the Pacific. The tanks it supplied were part of what president Roosevelt called, “the arsenal of democracy.”

An M1A1 at the entrance of the Ohio Tank Factory.
An M1A1 Abrams is displayed near the the factory’s entrance.

The sprawling Ohio Tank Factory serves another purpose too. It makes for good publicity for government officials who visit and pose for photos. Trump did it when he announced the increased defense budget, and George Bush visited during his administration as well. At the main entrance a massive American seal is inlaid in the floor, reminding everyone who owns the place – the U.S. Army.

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So far, the equipment made here is not earmarked for the war in Ukraine. However, each day brings new announcements and new revelations. It may be one day soon that the Join Systems locale will be building tanks not just for America’s army, but a NATO ally as well.