Tank
Overview
 
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle
Armoured fighting vehicle
An armoured fighting vehicle is a combat vehicle, protected by strong armour and armed with weapons. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked....

 designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 offensive
Offensive (military)
An offensive is a military operation that seeks through aggressive projection of armed force to occupy territory, gain an objective or achieve some larger strategic, operational or tactical goal...

, and defensive
Defense (military)
Defense has several uses in the sphere of military application.Personal defense implies measures taken by individual soldiers in protecting themselves whether by use of protective materials such as armor, or field construction of trenches or a bunker, or by using weapons that prevent the enemy...

 capabilities. Firepower is normally provided by a large-calibre main gun
Tank gun
A tank gun is the main armament of a tank. Modern tank guns are large-caliber high-velocity guns, capable of firing kinetic energy penetrators, high explosive anti-tank rounds, and in some cases guided missiles. Anti-aircraft guns can also be mounted to tanks.-Overview:Tank guns are a specific...

 in a rotating turret
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

 and secondary machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s, while heavy armour
Vehicle armour
Military vehicles are commonly armoured to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missiles, or shells, protecting the personnel inside from enemy fire. Such vehicles include tanks, aircraft, and ships....

 and all-terrain mobility provide protection for the tank and its crew, allowing it to perform all primary tasks of the armoured troops on the battle
Battle
Generally, a battle is a conceptual component in the hierarchy of combat in warfare between two or more armed forces, or combatants. In a battle, each combatant will seek to defeat the others, with defeat determined by the conditions of a military campaign...

field.

Tanks in World War I
Tanks in World War I
The development of tanks in World War I began as a solution to the stalemate which trench warfare had brought to the western front. The first prototype of the Mark I tank was tested for the British Army on September 8th 1915...

 were developed separately and simultaneously by Great Britain and France as a means to break the deadlock of trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

.
Quotations

"The finest tank in the world" - Field-Marshal Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist|Ewald von Kleist

All you saw in your imagination was the muzzle of an 88 behind each leaf.

British Tank Commander Andrew Wilson

You need five of your tanks to destroy a single German one, but you always have six.

A captured German tanker said to Allied soldiers

The Tiger was the best tank and was particularly successful in heavy fighting.

German Tank Commander Oberst Franz Bäke|Franz Bäke

"If the tanks succeed, then victory follows."

Heinz Guderian. Category:Weapons

Encyclopedia
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle
Armoured fighting vehicle
An armoured fighting vehicle is a combat vehicle, protected by strong armour and armed with weapons. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked....

 designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 offensive
Offensive (military)
An offensive is a military operation that seeks through aggressive projection of armed force to occupy territory, gain an objective or achieve some larger strategic, operational or tactical goal...

, and defensive
Defense (military)
Defense has several uses in the sphere of military application.Personal defense implies measures taken by individual soldiers in protecting themselves whether by use of protective materials such as armor, or field construction of trenches or a bunker, or by using weapons that prevent the enemy...

 capabilities. Firepower is normally provided by a large-calibre main gun
Tank gun
A tank gun is the main armament of a tank. Modern tank guns are large-caliber high-velocity guns, capable of firing kinetic energy penetrators, high explosive anti-tank rounds, and in some cases guided missiles. Anti-aircraft guns can also be mounted to tanks.-Overview:Tank guns are a specific...

 in a rotating turret
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

 and secondary machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s, while heavy armour
Vehicle armour
Military vehicles are commonly armoured to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missiles, or shells, protecting the personnel inside from enemy fire. Such vehicles include tanks, aircraft, and ships....

 and all-terrain mobility provide protection for the tank and its crew, allowing it to perform all primary tasks of the armoured troops on the battle
Battle
Generally, a battle is a conceptual component in the hierarchy of combat in warfare between two or more armed forces, or combatants. In a battle, each combatant will seek to defeat the others, with defeat determined by the conditions of a military campaign...

field.

Tanks in World War I
Tanks in World War I
The development of tanks in World War I began as a solution to the stalemate which trench warfare had brought to the western front. The first prototype of the Mark I tank was tested for the British Army on September 8th 1915...

 were developed separately and simultaneously by Great Britain and France as a means to break the deadlock of trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

. Their first use in combat was by the British Army on September 15, 1916 at Flers-Courcelette, during the Battle of the Somme. The name "tank" was adopted in Great Britain during the early stages of their development, as a security measure to conceal their purpose (see Etymology).

Tanks of the interwar period evolved into the designs of World War II
Tanks in World War II
Tanks played a great role in World War II. Invented by the British in World War I, the tank gradually improved in the inter-war period and also saw rapid changes in the Second World War...

. Important concepts of armoured warfare
Armoured warfare
Armoured warfare or tank warfare is the use of armoured fighting vehicles in modern warfare. It is a major component of modern methods of war....

 were developed; the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 introduced the T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

, a predecessor of the main battle tank
Main battle tank
A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

; Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 introduced blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

 ('lightning war'), a technique which made use of massed concentrations of tanks supported by artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 and air power to break through the enemy front
Front (military)
A military front or battlefront is a contested armed frontier between opposing forces. This can be a local or tactical front, or it can range to a theater...

 and cause a complete collapse in enemy resistance and morale.

Tanks in the Cold War
Tanks in the Cold War
During the Cold War , the two opposing forces in Europe were the Warsaw Pact countries on the one side, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries on the other side. The Warsaw Pact was seen by the West as having an aggressive force outnumbering the NATO forces.Soviet domination of the...

 advanced to counter greater battlefield threats. Tanks became larger and their armour became thicker and much more effective. Advances in manufacturing late in the war allowed the mass production of composite armor. Aspects of gun technology changed significantly as well, with advances in shell design.

During the 20th century, main battle tank
Main battle tank
A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

s were considered a key component of modern armies. In the 21st century, with the increasing role of asymetrical warfare and the end of the cold war, that also contributed to the increase of cost-effective Russian anti-tank weapons worldwide, the importance of tanks has waned. Modern tanks seldom operate alone, as they are organized into armoured units which involve the support of infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

, who may accompany the tanks in infantry fighting vehicle
Infantry fighting vehicle
An infantry fighting vehicle , also known as a mechanized infantry combat vehicle , is a type of armoured fighting vehicle used to carry infantry into battle and provide fire support for them...

s. They are also usually supported by reconnaissance
Surveillance aircraft
A surveillance aircraft is an aircraft used for surveillance — collecting information over time. They are operated by military forces and other government agencies in roles such as intelligence gathering, battlefield surveillance, airspace surveillance, observation , border patrol and fishery...

 or ground-attack aircraft.

Conception

The tank is the 20th century realization of an ancient concept: that of providing troops with mobile protection and firepower. Since biblical times men had constructed or imagined such vehicles propelled by human or animal muscle-power, by sail, or more recently, by steam power. Only when comparatively recent technologies were combined did the tank became a practical possibility; those were the internal combustion engine
Internal combustion engine
The internal combustion engine is an engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer in a combustion chamber. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high -pressure gases produced by combustion apply direct force to some component of the engine...

, armour plate, and the continuous track.

Armoured trains appeared in the mid-19th century and various armoured steam- and petrol-engined vehicles were also proposed. The first armoured car was produced in Austria in 1904. However, all were restricted to rails or reasonably passable terrain. It was the development of a practical caterpillar track that provided the necessary independent, all-terrain mobility.

Many sources imply Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 and H.G. Wells in some way foresaw or "invented" the Tank. Da Vinci's 15th and 16th century drawings of what some describe as a "tank" show a man-powered vehicle travelling on wheels, by no means an innovation. The machines described in Wells's 1903 short story The Land Ironclads
The Land Ironclads
Written by H. G. Wells, "The Land Ironclads" is a short story that originally appeared in the December 1903 issue of the Strand Magazine and set in a war similar to the First World War...

are a step closer, in being armour-plated, having an internal power plant, and being able to cross trenches. Some aspects of the story foresee the tactical use and impact of the tanks that later came into being. Wells's vehicles were steam-driven and moved on Pedrail Wheels. After seeing British tanks in 1916, Wells denied having "invented" them, writing, "Yet let me state at once that I was not their prime originator. I took up an idea, manipulated it slightly, and handed it on." It is, though, possible that one of the British tank pioneers, Ernest Swinton, was subconsciously or otherwise influenced by Wells' tale.

The "caterpillar" track arose from attempts to improve the mobility of wheeled vehicles by spreading their weight and increasing their adhesive friction. Experiments can be traced back as far as the 17th century, and by the late nineteenth they existed in various recognizable and practical forms in several countries.

It is frequently claimed Richard Lovell Edgeworth created a caterpillar track. It is true he patented a "machine, that should carry and lay down its own road" in 1770, but this was Edgeworth's choice of words. His own account in his autobiography is of a horse-drawn wooden carriage on eight retractable legs, capable of lifting itself over high walls. The description bears no similarity to a caterpillar track.

The first combinations of the three principal components of the Tank appeared in the decade before World War One. In 1903, a Captain Levavasseur
Levavasseur project
The Levavasseur project was an early project for a tank designed in 1903 by the French Captain Levavasseur of the 6th Artillery Battalion, described as a "automobile canon project" . It is considered as the first description, made by a soldier, of what was going to become the tank...

 of the French Artillery proposed mounting a field gun in an armoured box on tracks. A Major in the British Army's Mechanical Transport Service suggested fixing a gun and armoured shield on a British type of track-driven vehicle. In 1911, a Lieutenant Engineer in the Austrian Amy, Gunther Burstyn, presented to the Austrian and Prussian War Ministries plans for a two-man tank with a gun in a revolving turret. In the same year an Australian civil engineer named Lancelot de Mole submitted a basic design for a tracked, armoured vehicle to the British War Office. In Russia Vasiliy Mendeleev designed a tracked vehicle containing a large naval gun.

All of these ideas were rejected and, by 1914, forgotten, although it was officially acknowledged after the War that de Mole's design was at least the equal of the tanks that were later produced by Great Britain, and he was voted a cash payment for his contribution. Various individuals continued to contemplate the use of tracked vehicles for military applications, but by the outbreak of the War no one in a position of responsibility in any army had any thoughts about Tanks.

World War I

On 20 February 1915, the Landships Committee
Landships Committee
The Landships Committee was a small British war cabinet committee established in February 1915 to deal with the design and construction of what would turn out to be tanks during the First World War...

 was formed on the orders of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

. The Royal Navy was involved through the activities of Royal Naval Air Service officers who had been operating armoured cars on the Western Front and as the envisaged "landships" were similar to naval construction. The Director of Naval Construction
Director of Naval Construction
The Director of Naval Construction was a senior British civil servant post in the Admiralty, that part of the British Civil Service that oversaw the Royal Navy. The post existed from 1860 to 1966....

 for the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, Eustace Tennyson d'Eyncourt
Eustace Tennyson d'Eyncourt
Sir Eustace Henry William Tennyson-d'Eyncourt, 1st Baronet, KCB, FRS was a British naval architect and engineer. As Director of Naval Construction for the Royal Navy, 1912-24, he was responsible for the design and construction of some of the most famous British warships...

, headed the mixed group of Naval officers, engineers that formed the Landships Committee. So many played a part in its long and complicated development that it is not possible to name any individual as the sole inventor of the tank. though the British made awards to those they considered responsible. Their first design, Little Willie
Little Willie
Little Willie was a prototype in the development of the British Mark I tank. Constructed in the summer of 1915 through a close cooperation of the military and industry of the United Kingdom, it was the first completed tank prototype in history...

, ran for the first time in September 1915 and served to develop the form of the track but an improved design, better able to cross trenches, swiftly followed and in January 1916 the prototype, nicknamed "Mother", was adopted as the design for future tanks. Production models of "Male" (carrying naval cannon and machine guns) and "Female"
Female tank
The "Female" tank was a category of tank prevalent in World War I, which featured multiple machine guns instead of the heavier armament seen on the much more common "male" tanks. As such, female tanks were normally cast in an anti-infantry role...

 (carrying only machine-guns) tanks would go on to fight in history's first tank action at the Somme in September 1916.

The first tank to engage in battle was designated D1, a British Mark I
Mark I tank
The British Mark I was a tracked vehicle developed by the British Army during the First World War and the world's first combat tank. The Mark I entered service in August 1916, and was first used in action on the morning of 15 September 1916 during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, of the Somme...

 Male, during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette
Battle of Flers-Courcelette
The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, was a battle within the Franco-British Somme Offensive which took place in the summer and autumn of 1916. Launched on the 15th of September 1916 the battle went on for one week. Flers-Courcelette began with the overall objective of cutting a hole in the German...

 (part of the wider Somme offensive) on 15 September 1916.

In contrast to World War II, Germany fielded very few tanks during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, with only 20 of the A7V
A7V
The A7V was a tank introduced by Germany in 1918, near the end of World War I. One hundred vehicles were ordered during the spring of 1918, but only 21 were delivered. It was nicknamed "The Moving Fortress" by the British because of the shape of the hull...

 type being produced in Germany during the war. The first tank versus tank action took place on 24 April 1918 at the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux
Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux
The Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux came during the period of the battle of Lys, 24–27 April 1918, but was launched against the British lines in front of Amiens.The Germans developed a small number of tanks, and used them in this offensive...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, when three British Mark IVs
Mark IV tank
The British Mark IV tank was a British tank of the First World War. Introduced in 1917, it benefitted from significant developments on the first British tank the intervening designs being small batches used for training...

 met three German A7V
A7V
The A7V was a tank introduced by Germany in 1918, near the end of World War I. One hundred vehicles were ordered during the spring of 1918, but only 21 were delivered. It was nicknamed "The Moving Fortress" by the British because of the shape of the hull...

s.

Under the influence of Colonel Jean Baptiste Eugène Estienne the French pioneered the use of a full 360º rotation, fully traversable, turret
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

 in a tank for the first time in 1917, with the creation and deployment of the Renault FT light tank, with the turret containing the tank's main armament. Aside of the traversable turret another innovative feature of the FT was its engine located at the rear. This pattern, with the gun located in a mounted turret and the engine at the back, became the standard for most succeeding tanks across the world even to this day.

Although tank tactics developed rapidly during the war, piecemeal deployments, mechanical problems, and poor mobility limited the military significance of the tank in World War I, and the tank did not fulfill its promise of rendering trench warfare obsolete. Nonetheless, it was clear to military thinkers on both sides that tanks would play a significant role in future conflicts.

Interwar period

In the interwar period tanks underwent further mechanical development. In terms of tactics, J.F.C. Fuller
J.F.C. Fuller
Major-General John Frederick Charles Fuller, CB, CBE, DSO was a British Army officer, military historian and strategist, notable as an early theorist of modern armoured warfare, including categorising principles of warfare...

's doctrine of spearhead attacks with massed tank formations was the basis for work by Heinz Guderian
Heinz Guderian
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

 in Germany, Percy Hobart
Percy Hobart
Major-General Sir Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart KBE CB DSO MC , also known as "Hobo", was a British military engineer, noted for his command of the 79th Armoured Division during World War II...

 in Britain, Adna R. Chaffee, Jr.
Adna R. Chaffee, Jr.
Adna Romanza Chaffee, Jr. was a major general in the United States Army, called the "Father of the Armored Force" for his role in developing the U.S. Army's tank forces.-Early years:...

, in the U.S., Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 in France, and Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky was a Marshal of the Soviet Union, commander in chief of the Red Army , and one of the most prominent victims of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge.-Early life:...

 in the USSR. All came to similar conclusions, but in the Second World War only Germany would initially put the theory into practice on a large scale, and it was their superior tactics and French blunders, not superior weapons, that made blitzkrieg so successful in May 1940. For information regarding tank development in this period, see tank development between the wars.

Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 all experimented heavily with tank warfare during their clandestine and “volunteer” involvement in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

, which saw some of the earliest examples of successful mechanised combined arms — such as when Republican
Second Spanish Republic
The Second Spanish Republic was the government of Spain between April 14 1931, and its destruction by a military rebellion, led by General Francisco Franco....

 troops, equipped with Soviet-supplied medium tanks and supported by aircraft, eventually routed Italian troops fighting for the Nationalists in the seven-day Battle of Guadalajara
Battle of Guadalajara
The Battle of Guadalajara saw the Republican People's Army defeat Italian and Nationalist forces attempting to encircle Madrid during the Spanish Civil War...

 in 1937.

World War II

World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 was the first conflict where armoured vehicles were critical to success on the battlefield and in this period the tank developed rapidly as a weapon system
Weapon system
Weapon System is a United States military term that designated, along with a weapon system number , military experimental systems prior to official naming Weapon System is a United States military term that designated, along with a weapon system number (e.g., WS-110), military experimental (MX)...

. It showed how an armoured force was capable of achieving a tactical victory in an unprecedentedly short amount of time. At the same time, however, the development of effective anti-tank weaponry demonstrated that the tank was not invulnerable.

Prior to World War II the tactics and strategy of deploying tank forces underwent a revolution. Heinz Guderian
Heinz Guderian
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

, a tactical theoretician who was heavily involved in the formation of the first independent German tank force, said "Where tanks are, the front is", and this concept became a reality in World War II. Following the Invasion of Poland where tanks performed in a more traditional role in close cooperation with infantry units, in the Battle of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

 deep independent armoured penetrations were executed by the Germans, a technique later called blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg made use of innovative combined arms
Combined arms
Combined arms is an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different branches of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects...

 tactics and radios in all of the tanks to provide a level of tactical flexibility and power that surpassed that of the Allied armour. The French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

, with tanks equal or superior to the German tanks in both quality and quantity, employed a linear defensive strategy in which the armoured cavalry units were made subservient to infantry as "support weapons". In addition, they lacked radios in many of their tanks and headquarters, which limited their ability to respond to German attacks.

In accordance with blitzkrieg methods, German tanks bypassed enemy strongpoints and could radio for close air support
Close air support
In military tactics, close air support is defined as air action by fixed or rotary winged aircraft against hostile targets that are close to friendly forces, and which requires detailed integration of each air mission with fire and movement of these forces.The determining factor for CAS is...

 to destroy them, or leave them to the infantry. A related development, motorized infantry, allowed some of the troops to keep up with the tanks and create highly mobile combined arms forces. The defeat of a major military power within weeks shocked the rest of the world, resulting in an increased focus on tank and anti-tank weapon development.

The North African Campaign
North African campaign
During the Second World War, the North African Campaign took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943. It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts and in Morocco and Algeria and Tunisia .The campaign was fought between the Allies and Axis powers, many of whom had...

 also provided an important battleground for tanks, as the flat, desolate terrain with relatively few obstacles or urban environments was ideal for conducting mobile armoured warfare. However, this battlefield also showed the importance of logistics
Logistics
Logistics is the management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of destination in order to meet the requirements of customers or corporations. Logistics involves the integration of information, transportation, inventory, warehousing, material handling, and packaging, and...

, especially in an armoured force, as the principal warring armies, the German Afrika Korps
Afrika Korps
The German Africa Corps , or the Afrika Korps as it was popularly called, was the German expeditionary force in Libya and Tunisia during the North African Campaign of World War II...

 and the British Eighth Army, often outpaced their supply trains in repeated attacks and counter-attacks on each other, resulting in complete stalemate. This situation would not be resolved until 1942, when during the Second Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The battle took place over 20 days from 23 October – 11 November 1942. The First Battle of El Alamein had stalled the Axis advance. Thereafter, Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery...

, the Afrika Korps, crippled by disruptions in their supply lines, was forced to retreat by a massively reinforced Eighth Army
Eighth Army (United Kingdom)
The Eighth Army was one of the best-known formations of the British Army during World War II, fighting in the North African and Italian campaigns....

, the first in a series of defeats that would eventually lead to the surrender of the remaining Axis forces in Tunisia.
The German invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, started with the Soviets having a superior tank design, the T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

. A lack of preparations for the Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 surprise attack, mechanical problems, poor training of the crews and incompetent leadership caused the Soviet machines to be surrounded and destroyed in large numbers. However, interference from Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, the geographic scale of the conflict, the dogged resistance of the Soviet combat troops, and Soviet manpower and production capability prevented a repeat of the Blitzkrieg of 1940. Despite early successes against the Soviets, the Germans were forced to up-gun their Panzer IVs, and to design and build larger and more expensive Panther
Panther tank
Panther is the common name of a medium tank fielded by Nazi Germany in World War II that served from mid-1943 to the end of the European war in 1945. It was intended as a counter to the T-34, and to replace the Panzer III and Panzer IV; while never replacing the latter, it served alongside it as...

 and Tiger
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

 tanks. In doing so, the Wehrmacht denied the infantry and other support arms the production priorities that they needed to remain equal partners with the increasingly sophisticated tanks, in turn violating the principle of combined arms they had pioneered. Soviet developments following the invasion included upgunning the T-34, development of self-propelled anti-tank guns such as the SU-152
SU-152
The SU-152 was a Soviet heavy self-propelled heavy howitzer used during World War II.It mounted a 152 mm gun-howitzer on the chassis of a KV-1S heavy tank. Later production used IS tank chassis and was re-designated as ISU-152...

, and deployment of the IS-2 in the closing stages of the war.

When entering World War II, America's mass production
Mass production
Mass production is the production of large amounts of standardized products, including and especially on assembly lines...

 capacity enabled her to rapidly construct thousands of relatively cheap M4 Sherman
M4 Sherman
The M4 Sherman, formally Medium Tank, M4, was the primary tank used by the United States during World War II. Thousands were also distributed to the Allies, including the British Commonwealth and Soviet armies, via lend-lease...

 medium tanks. A compromise all round, the Sherman was reliable and formed a large part of the Anglo-American ground forces, but in a tank-versus-tank battle was no match for the Panther or Tiger. Numerical and logistical superiority and the successful use of combined arms allowed the Allies to overrun the German forces during the Battle of Normandy. Upgunned versions with the 76 mm gun M1
76 mm gun M1
The 76 mm Gun M1 was an American Forces World War II-era tank gun, which replaced the 75 mm gun on late Medium tank M4s, and was used for all 76 mm Gun Motor Carriage M18 tank destroyers. The previous 75 mm M3 L/40 gun on the early M4 Sherman variants was designed more as an infantry support...

 and the 17 pounder
Sherman Firefly
The Sherman Firefly was a World War II British variant of the American Sherman tank, fitted with the powerful British 17 pounder anti-tank gun as its main weapon...

 were introduced to improve the M4's firepower, but concerns about protection remained.

Tank chassis
Chassis
A chassis consists of an internal framework that supports a man-made object. It is analogous to an animal's skeleton. An example of a chassis is the underpart of a motor vehicle, consisting of the frame with the wheels and machinery.- Vehicles :In the case of vehicles, the term chassis means the...

 were modified to produce flame tank
Flame tank
A flame tank is a type of tank equipped with a flamethrower, most commonly used to supplement combined arms attacks against fortifications, confined spaces, or other obstacles...

s, mobile rocket artillery
Rocket artillery
Rocket artillery is a type of artillery equipped with rocket launchers instead of conventional guns or mortars.Types of rocket artillery pieces include multiple rocket launchers.-History:...

, and combat engineering
Combat engineering
A combat engineer, also called pioneer or sapper in many armies, is a soldier who performs a variety of construction and demolition tasks under combat conditions...

 vehicles for tasks including mine-clearing
Demining
Demining or mine clearance is the process of removing either land mines, or naval mines, from an area, while minesweeping describes the act of detecting of mines. There are two distinct types of mine detection and removal: military and humanitarian.Minesweepers use many tools in order to accomplish...

 and bridging
Bridge
A bridge is a structure built to span physical obstacles such as a body of water, valley, or road, for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle...

. Specialised self-propelled guns were also developed: tank destroyer
Tank destroyer
A tank destroyer is a type of armored fighting vehicle armed with a gun or missile launcher, and is designed specifically to engage enemy armored vehicles...

s and assault gun
Assault gun
An assault gun is a gun or howitzer mounted on a motor vehicle or armored chassis, designed for use in the direct fire role in support of infantry when attacking other infantry or fortified positions....

s were cheap, stripped down tanks carrying heavy guns, often in a fixed hull mounting. The firepower and low cost of these vehicles made them attractive but as manufacturing techniques improved and larger turret rings made larger tank guns feasible, the gun turret
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

 was recognised as the most effective mounting for the main gun to allow movement in a different direction from firing, enhancing tactical flexibility.

The Cold War arms race

During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, tension between the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 countries and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) countries created an arms race
Arms race
The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation...

 that ensured that tank development proceeded largely as it had during World War II. The essence of tank designs during the Cold War had been hammered out in the closing stages of World War II. Large turrets, capable suspension systems, greatly improved engines, sloped armour
Sloped armour
Sloped armour is armour that is neither in a vertical nor a horizontal position. Such "angled" armour is often mounted on tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles...

 and large-calibre (90 mm and larger) guns were standard. Tank design during the Cold War built on this foundation and included improvements to fire control
Fire-control system
A fire-control system is a number of components working together, usually a gun data computer, a director, and radar, which is designed to assist a weapon system in hitting its target. It performs the same task as a human gunner firing a weapon, but attempts to do so faster and more...

, gyroscopic gun stabilisation, communications (primarily radio) and crew comfort and saw the introduction of laser
Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

 rangefinders and infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 night vision equipment. Armour technology
Composite armour
Composite armour is a type of vehicle armour consisting of layers of different material such as metals, plastics, ceramics or air. Most composite armour are lighter than their all-metal equivalent, but instead occupy a larger volume for the same resistance to penetration...

 progressed in an ongoing race against improvements in anti-tank weapons, especially antitank guided missiles like the TOW
BGM-71 TOW
The BGM-71 TOW is an anti-tank missile. "BGM" is a weapon classification that stands for "Multiple Environment , Surface-Attack , Missile ". "TOW" is an acronym that stands for "Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire command data link, guided missile"...

.

Medium tanks of World War II, evolved into the main battle tank
Main battle tank
A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

(MBT) of the Cold War and took over the majority of tank roles on the battlefield. This gradual transition occurred in the 1950s and 1960s due to anti-tank guided missiles, sabot
Armour-piercing discarding sabot
Armour-piercing discarding sabot is a type of kinetic energy projectile fired from a gun to attack armoured targets. APDS rounds are sabot rounds and were commonly used in large calibre tank guns, but have now been superseded by armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot projectiles in such...

 ammunition and high explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank warheads are made of an explosive shaped charge that uses the Munroe effect to create a very high-velocity partial stream of metal in a state of superplasticity that can punch through solid armor....

 warheads. World War II had shown that the speed of a light tank was no substitute for armour and firepower and heavy tanks were as vulnerable as medium tanks to newer weapon technology, rendering them obsolete.

In a trend started in World War II, economies of scale
Economies of scale
Economies of scale, in microeconomics, refers to the cost advantages that an enterprise obtains due to expansion. There are factors that cause a producer’s average cost per unit to fall as the scale of output is increased. "Economies of scale" is a long run concept and refers to reductions in unit...

 led to serial production of progressively upgraded models of all major tanks during the Cold War. For the same reason many upgraded post-World War II tanks and their derivatives (for example, the T-55
T-55
The T-54 and T-55 tanks were a series of main battle tanks designed in the Soviet Union. The first T-54 prototype appeared in March 1945, just before the end of the Second World War. The T-54 entered full production in 1947 and became the main tank for armored units of the Soviet Army, armies of...

 and T-72
T-72
The T-72 is a Soviet-designed main battle tank that entered production in 1970. It is developed directly from Obyekt-172, and shares parallel features with the T-64A...

) remain in active service around the world, and even an obsolete tank may be the most formidable weapon on battlefields in many parts of the world. Among the tanks of the 1950s were the British Centurion
Centurion tank
The Centurion, introduced in 1945, was the primary British main battle tank of the post-World War II period. It was a successful tank design, with upgrades, for many decades...

 and Soviet T-54/55 in service from 1946, and the US M48
M48 Patton
The M48 Patton is a medium tank that was designed in the United States. It was the third and final tank to be officially named after General George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. Third Army during World War II and one of the earliest American advocates for the use of tanks in battle It was a...

 from 1951. These three vehicles formed the bulk of the armoured forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact throughout much of the Cold War. Lessons learned from tanks such as the Leopard 1, M48 Patton series
M48 Patton
The M48 Patton is a medium tank that was designed in the United States. It was the third and final tank to be officially named after General George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. Third Army during World War II and one of the earliest American advocates for the use of tanks in battle It was a...

, Chieftain
Chieftain tank
The FV 4201 Chieftain was the main battle tank of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s. It was one of the most advanced tanks of its era, and at the time of its introduction in 1966 had the most powerful main gun and heaviest armour of any tank in the world...

, and T-72 led to the contemporary Leopard 2
Leopard 2
The Leopard 2 is a main battle tank developed by Krauss-Maffei in the early 1970s for the West German Army. The tank first entered service in 1979 and succeeded the earlier Leopard 1 as the main battle tank of the German Army. Various versions have served in the armed forces of Germany and twelve...

, M1 Abrams
M1 Abrams
The M1 Abrams is a third-generation main battle tank produced in the United States. It is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. The M1 is a well armed, heavily armored, and highly mobile tank designed for...

, Challenger 2
Challenger 2 tank
FV4034 Challenger 2 is a British main battle tank currently in service with the armies of the United Kingdom and Oman. It was designed and built by the British company Vickers Defence Systems . The manufacturer advertises it as the world's most reliable main battle tank...

, C1 Ariete, T-90
T-90
The T-90 is a Russian third-generation main battle tank that is a modernisation of the T-72 . It is currently the most modern tank in service with the Russian Ground Forces and Naval Infantry...

 and Merkava IV
Merkava
The Merkava is a main battle tank used by the Israel Defense Forces. The tank began development in 1974 and was first introduced in 1978. Four main versions of the tank have been deployed. It was first used extensively in the 1982 Lebanon War...

.

Tanks and anti-tank weapons of the Cold War era saw action in a number of proxy wars like the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was a military conflict between India and Pakistan. Indian, Bangladeshi and international sources consider the beginning of the war to be Operation Chengiz Khan, Pakistan's December 3, 1971 pre-emptive strike on 11 Indian airbases...

, Soviet war in Afghanistan
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

 and Arab-Israeli conflicts, culminating with the Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War
The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War , also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria...

. The T-55, for example, has seen action in no fewer than 32 conflicts. In these wars the USA or NATO countries and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 or China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 consistently backed opposing forces. Proxy wars were studied by Western and Soviet military analysts
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

 and provided a grim contribution to the Cold War tank development process.

Present

The role of tank vs. tank combat is becoming diminished. Tanks work in concert with infantry in urban warfare by deploying them ahead of the platoon. When the infantry are engaged, tanks employ covering fire on the enemy while the infantry take cover. Contrastedly, tanks spearhead attacks when infantry are employed in personnel carriers.

Tanks were used to spearhead the initial invasion of Iraq. As of 2005, there were 1,100 M1 Abrams
M1 Abrams
The M1 Abrams is a third-generation main battle tank produced in the United States. It is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. The M1 is a well armed, heavily armored, and highly mobile tank designed for...

 used by the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 in the course of the Iraq War, and they have proven to have an unexpectedly high level of vulnerability to roadside bombs. A relatively new type of remotely detonated mine, the explosively formed penetrator
Explosively Formed Penetrator
An explosively formed penetrator , also known as an explosively formed projectile, a self-forging warhead, or a self-forging fragment, is a special type of shaped charge designed to penetrate armour effectively at standoff distances...

 has been used with some success against American armoured vehicles (particularly the Bradley fighting vehicle). However, with upgrades to their armour in the rear, M1s have proven invaluable in fighting insurgents in urban combat, particularly at the Battle of Fallujah, where the Marines brought in two extra brigades. Britain deployed its Challenger 2 tanks to support its operations in southern Iraq.

Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i Merkava
Merkava
The Merkava is a main battle tank used by the Israel Defense Forces. The tank began development in 1974 and was first introduced in 1978. Four main versions of the tank have been deployed. It was first used extensively in the 1982 Lebanon War...

 tanks contain features that enable them to support infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 in low intensity conflict
Low intensity conflict
Low intensity conflict is the use of military forces applied selectively and with restraint to enforce compliance with the policies or objectives of the political body controlling the military force...

s (LIC) and counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism is the practices, tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, militaries, police departments and corporations adopt to prevent or in response to terrorist threats and/or acts, both real and imputed.The tactic of terrorism is available to insurgents and governments...

 operations. Such features are the rear door and rear corridor, enabling the tank to carry infantry and embark safely; the IMI APAM-MP-T multi-purpose ammunition round, advanced C4IS systems and recently: TROPHY active protection system which protects the tank from shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons. During the Second Intifada further modification were made, designated as "Merkava Mk. 3d Baz LIC".

Research and development

In terms of firepower, the focus of current R&D is on increased detection capability such as thermal imagers
Thermography
Infrared thermography, thermal imaging, and thermal video are examples of infrared imaging science. Thermal imaging cameras detect radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum and produce images of that radiation, called thermograms...

, automated fire control systems and increased muzzle energy
Muzzle energy
Muzzle energy is the kinetic energy of a bullet as it is expelled from the muzzle of a firearm. It is often used as a rough indication of the destructive potential of a given firearm or load...

 from the gun to improve range, accuracy and armour penetration. The most mature future gun technology is the electrothermal-chemical
Electrothermal-chemical technology
Electrothermal-chemical technology is an attempt to increase accuracy and muzzle energy of future tank, artillery, and close-in weapon system guns by improving the predictability and rate of expansion of propellants inside the barrel....

 gun. The XM291 electrothermal-chemical tank gun has gone through successful multiple firing sequences on a modified M8 Armored Gun System chassis.

To improve tank protection, one field of research involves making the tank invisible to radar by adapting stealth
Stealth technology
Stealth technology also termed LO technology is a sub-discipline of military tactics and passive electronic countermeasures, which cover a range of techniques used with personnel, aircraft, ships, submarines, and missiles, to make them less visible to radar, infrared, sonar and other detection...

 technologies originally designed for aircraft. Improvements to camouflage
Camouflage
Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...

 or and attempts to render it invisible through active camouflage
Active camouflage
Active camouflage or adaptive camouflage, is a group of camouflage technologies which allow an object to blend into its surroundings by use of panels or coatings capable of altering their appearance, color, luminance and reflective properties...

 is being pursued. Research is also ongoing in electromagnetic
Electromagnetism
Electromagnetism is one of the four fundamental interactions in nature. The other three are the strong interaction, the weak interaction and gravitation...

 armour systems to disperse or deflect incoming shaped charge jets, as well as various forms of active protection system
Active protection system
An active protection system is a system designed to prevent sensor-based weapons from acquiring and/or destroying a target....

s to prevent incoming projectiles from striking the tank at all.

Mobility may be enhanced in future tanks by the use of diesel-electric or turbine-electric series hybrid drives improving fuel efficiency while reducing the size and weight of the power plant. Furthermore, advances in gas turbine technology, including the use of advanced recuperator
Recuperator
A recuperator is a special purpose counter-flow energy recovery heat exchanger positioned within the supply and exhaust air streams of an air handling system, or in the exhaust gases of an industrial process, in order to recover the waste heat...

s, have allowed for reduction in engine volume and mass to less than 1 m3 and 1 metric ton, respectively, while maintaining fuel efficiency similar to that of a diesel engine.

In line with the new doctrine of network-centric warfare
Network-centric warfare
Network-centric warfare, also called network-centric operations, is a military doctrine or theory of war pioneered by the United States Department of Defense in the 1990's....

, the modern battle tank shows increasing sophistication in its electronics and communication systems.

Design

The three traditional factors determining a tank's capability effectiveness are its firepower, protection, and mobility.
Firepower is the ability of a tank's crew to identify, engage, and destroy the enemy.
Protection is the tank crew's ability to evade detection, preserve themselves from enemy fire, and retain full vehicle functionality after combat.
Mobility includes the ability of the tank to be transported by rail, sea, or air to the operational staging area; from the staging area by road towards the enemy; and tactical movement over the battlefield during combat, including traversing of obstacles and rough terrain
Terrain
Terrain, or land relief, is the vertical and horizontal dimension of land surface. When relief is described underwater, the term bathymetry is used...

.

Tank design is a compromise between its technological and budgetary constraints and its tactical capability requirements. It is not possible to maximise firepower, protection and mobility simultaneously while incorporating the latest technology and retain affordability for sufficient procurement quantity to enter production.
For example, in the case of tactical capability requirements, increasing protection by adding armour will result in an increase in weight and therefore decrease in mobility; increasing firepower by installing a larger gun will force the designer team to increase armour, the therefore weight of the tank by retaining same internal volume to ensure crew efficiency during combat. In the case of the Abrams MBT which has good firepower, speed and armour, these advantages are counterbalanced by its engine's notably high fuel consumption, which ultimately reduces its range, and in a larger sense its mobility.

Since the Second World War, the economics of tank production governed by the complexity of manufacture and cost, and the impact of a given tank design on logistics and field maintenance capabilities, have also been accepted as important in determining how many tanks a nation can afford to field in its force structure.

Some tank designs that were fielded in significant numbers, such as Tiger I
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

 and M60A2 proved to be too complex or expensive to manufacture, and made unsustainable demands on the logistics services support of the armed forces. The affordability of the design therefore takes precedence over the combat capability requirements.
Nowhere was this principle illustrated better than during the Second World War when two Allied designs, the T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

 and the M4 Sherman
M4 Sherman
The M4 Sherman, formally Medium Tank, M4, was the primary tank used by the United States during World War II. Thousands were also distributed to the Allies, including the British Commonwealth and Soviet armies, via lend-lease...

, although both simple designs which accepted engineering compromises, were used successfully against more sophisticated designs by Germany that were more complex and expensive to produce, and more demanding on overstretched logistics of the Wehrmacht. Given that a tank crew will spend most of its time occupied with maintenance of the vehicle, engineering simplicity has become the primary constraint on tank design since the Second World War despite advances in mechanical, electrical and electronics technologies.

Since the Second World War, tank development has incorporated experimenting with significant mechanical changes to the tank design while focusing on technological advances in the tank's ubiquitous subsystems to improve its performance. However, a number of novel designs have appeared throughout this period with mixed success, including the Soviet IT-1
IT-1
The IT-1 was a Soviet cold war missile tank based around the hull of the T-62. The tank fired specially designed 3M7 Drakon missiles from a pop-up launcher. It saw a very limited service between 1968 and 1970. The large deadzone around the tank created by the missiles' minimum range combined with...

 and T-64
T-64
The T-64 is a Soviet main battle tank, introduced in the early 1960s. It was used solely by the Soviet Army in its front-line divisions and was a more advanced counterpart to the T-62...

 in firepower, and the Israeli Merkava
Merkava
The Merkava is a main battle tank used by the Israel Defense Forces. The tank began development in 1974 and was first introduced in 1978. Four main versions of the tank have been deployed. It was first used extensively in the 1982 Lebanon War...

 and Swedish S-tank in protection, while for decades the USA's M551 remained the only light tank deployable by parachute.

Tank design engineering

A noted author on the subject of tank design engineering Richard M Ogorkiewicz outlined the following basic engineering sub-systems that are commonly incorporated into tank's technological development:
  • Mobility of tanks (through chassis design)
  • Tank Engines
  • Tank Transmissions
    Transmission (mechanics)
    A machine consists of a power source and a power transmission system, which provides controlled application of the power. Merriam-Webster defines transmission as: an assembly of parts including the speed-changing gears and the propeller shaft by which the power is transmitted from an engine to a...

  • Suspensions
    Suspension (vehicle)
    Suspension is the term given to the system of springs, shock absorbers and linkages that connects a vehicle to its wheels. Suspension systems serve a dual purpose — contributing to the car's roadholding/handling and braking for good active safety and driving pleasure, and keeping vehicle occupants...

     and Running gear
    Running gear
    The term running gear is used to describe the wheels, suspension, steering, powertrain & chassis/bodyshell of a motor-car or automobile, or the tracks and road wheels of a tank or similar tracked vehicle....

  • Soil-Vehicle Mechanics
  • Tank gun
    Tank gun
    A tank gun is the main armament of a tank. Modern tank guns are large-caliber high-velocity guns, capable of firing kinetic energy penetrators, high explosive anti-tank rounds, and in some cases guided missiles. Anti-aircraft guns can also be mounted to tanks.-Overview:Tank guns are a specific...

    s and Ammunition
  • Ballistics
    Ballistics
    Ballistics is the science of mechanics that deals with the flight, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like; the science or art of designing and accelerating projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.A ballistic body is a body which is...

     and Mechanics of Tank Guns
  • Vision and Sighting Systems
  • Illuminating and Night Vision Systems
  • Fire Control Systems
    Fire-control system
    A fire-control system is a number of components working together, usually a gun data computer, a director, and radar, which is designed to assist a weapon system in hitting its target. It performs the same task as a human gunner firing a weapon, but attempts to do so faster and more...

     for main and auxiliary weapons
  • Gun Control Systems
    Gun Data Computer
    The gun data computer is a series of artillery computers used by the U.S. Army, for coastal artillery, field artillery, and antiaircraft artillery applications...

  • Guided Weapons
    Precision-guided munition
    A precision-guided munition is a guided munition intended to precisely hit a specific target, and to minimize damage to things other than the target....

  • Armour Protection
  • Configuration of Tanks

To the above can be added unit communication systems and electronic anti-tank countermeasures, crew ergonomic and survival systems (including flame suppression), and provision for technological upgrading.
Most tank designs have rarely survived their entire service life without some upgrading or modernisation, particularly during wartime, including some that changed almost beyond recognition, such as the latest Israeli Magach versions.

The characteristics of a tank are determined by the performance criteria required for the tank. The obstacles that must be traversed affect the vehicles front and rear profiles. The terrain that is expected to be traversed determines the track ground pressure that may be allowed to be exerted for that particular terrain.

Offensive capabilities

The main weapon
Tank gun
A tank gun is the main armament of a tank. Modern tank guns are large-caliber high-velocity guns, capable of firing kinetic energy penetrators, high explosive anti-tank rounds, and in some cases guided missiles. Anti-aircraft guns can also be mounted to tanks.-Overview:Tank guns are a specific...

 of all modern tanks is a single, large-calibre gun mounted in a fully traversing
Gun laying
Gun laying is the process of aiming an artillery piece, such as a gun, howitzer or mortar on land or at sea against surface or air targets. It may be laying for direct fire, where the gun is aimed similarly to a rifle, or indirect fire, where firing data is calculated and applied to the sights...

 turret
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

 weapon mount
Weapon mount
A weapon mount is a weapon component used to secure an armament. Weapon mounts can be broken down into two categories: static mounts and non-static mounts.-Static mount:...

. The typical tank gun is a smoothbore
Smoothbore
A smoothbore weapon is one which has a barrel without rifling. Smoothbores range from handheld firearms to powerful tank guns and large artillery mortars.-History of firearms and rifling:...

 weapon capable of firing armor-piercing kinetic energy penetrator
Kinetic energy penetrator
A kinetic energy penetrator is a type of ammunition which, like a bullet, does not contain explosives and uses kinetic energy to penetrate the target....

s (KEP), also known as armour-piercing discarding sabot
Armour-piercing discarding sabot
Armour-piercing discarding sabot is a type of kinetic energy projectile fired from a gun to attack armoured targets. APDS rounds are sabot rounds and were commonly used in large calibre tank guns, but have now been superseded by armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot projectiles in such...

 (APDS), and/or armour piercing fin stabilised discarding sabot (APFSDS) and high explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank warheads are made of an explosive shaped charge that uses the Munroe effect to create a very high-velocity partial stream of metal in a state of superplasticity that can punch through solid armor....

 (HEAT) shells
Shell (projectile)
A shell is a payload-carrying projectile, which, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage sometimes includes large solid projectiles properly termed shot . Solid shot may contain a pyrotechnic compound if a tracer or spotting charge is used...

, and/or high explosive squash head
High explosive squash head
High explosive squash head is a type of explosive ammunition that is effective against buildings and is also used against tank armour. It was fielded chiefly by the British Army as the main explosive round of its main battle tanks during the Cold War...

 (HESH) and/or anti-tank guided missile
Anti-tank guided missile
An anti-tank missile , anti-tank guided missile , anti-tank guided weapon or anti-armor guided weapon is a guided missile primarily designed to hit and destroy heavily-armored military vehicles....

s (ATGM) to destroy armoured targets, as well as high explosive (HE) shells for engaging soft targets or fortifications. Canister shot
Canister shot
Canister shot is a kind of anti-personnel ammunition used in cannons. It was similar to the naval grapeshot, but fired smaller and more numerous balls, which did not have to punch through the wooden hull of a ship...

 may be used in close or urban combat situations where the risk of hitting friendly forces with shrapnel from HE rounds is unacceptably high.

A gyroscope
Gyroscope
A gyroscope is a device for measuring or maintaining orientation, based on the principles of angular momentum. In essence, a mechanical gyroscope is a spinning wheel or disk whose axle is free to take any orientation...

 is used to stabilise the main gun, allowing it to be effectively aimed and fired at the "short halt" or on the move. Modern tank guns are also commonly fitted with insulating
Thermal insulation
Thermal insulation is the reduction of the effects of the various processes of heat transfer between objects in thermal contact or in range of radiative influence. Heat transfer is the transfer of thermal energy between objects of differing temperature...

 thermal jackets to reduce gun-barrel warping caused by uneven thermal expansion
Thermal expansion
Thermal expansion is the tendency of matter to change in volume in response to a change in temperature.When a substance is heated, its particles begin moving more and thus usually maintain a greater average separation. Materials which contract with increasing temperature are rare; this effect is...

, bore evacuator
Bore evacuator
A bore evacuator is a device on the gun barrel of an armoured fighting vehicle which helps prevent poisonous propellant gases from venting back into the vehicle's fighting compartment when the gun breech is opened to load another round. Bore evacuators are most often used on large-calibre tank...

s to minimise fumes entering the crew compartment and sometimes muzzle brake
Muzzle brake
Muzzle brakes and recoil compensators are devices that are fitted to the muzzle of a firearm or cannon to redirect propellant gases with the effect of countering both recoil of the gun and unwanted rising of the barrel during rapid fire...

s to minimise the effect of recoil
Recoil
Recoil is the backward momentum of a gun when it is discharged. In technical terms, the recoil caused by the gun exactly balances the forward momentum of the projectile and exhaust gasses, according to Newton's third law...

 on accuracy and rate of fire
Rate of fire
Rate of fire is the frequency at which a specific weapon can fire or launch its projectiles. It is usually measured in rounds per minute , or per second .-Overview:...

.

Traditionally, target detection relied on visual identification. This was accomplished from within the tank through telescopic
Telescope
A telescope is an instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation . The first known practical telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 1600s , using glass lenses...

 periscope
Periscope
A periscope is an instrument for observation from a concealed position. In its simplest form it consists of a tube with mirrors at each end set parallel to each other at a 45-degree angle....

s; occasionally however, tank commanders would open up the hatch to view the outside surroundings, which improved situational awareness but incurred the penalty of vulnerability to sniper fire, especially in jungle and urban conditions. Though several developments in target detection have taken place especially recently, these methods are still common practice.

In some cases spotting rifle
Spotting rifle
A spotting rifle is a small-calibre rifle used as a sighting device for artillery. The ballistics of the spotting rifle are matched to those of the artillery piece, so that if a shot from the spotting rifle lands on the target, it may be assumed that the main weapon will also do so.- Anti-tank...

s were used confirm proper trajectory and range to a target. These spotting rifles were mounted co-axially to the main gun, and fired tracer ammunition
Tracer ammunition
Tracer ammunition are bullets that are built with a small pyrotechnic charge in their base. Ignited by the burning powder, the phosphorus tail burns very brightly, making the projectile visible to the naked eye...

 ballistically matched to the gun itself. The gunner would track the movement of the tracer round in flight, and upon impact with a hard surface, it would give off a flash and a puff of smoke, after which the main gun was immediately fired. However these have been mostly superseded by laser rangefinding equipment.

Modern tanks also use sophisticated light intensification and thermal imaging equipment to improve fighting capability at night, in poor weather and in smoke. The accuracy of modern tank guns is pushed to the mechanical limit by computerised fire-control system
Fire-control system
A fire-control system is a number of components working together, usually a gun data computer, a director, and radar, which is designed to assist a weapon system in hitting its target. It performs the same task as a human gunner firing a weapon, but attempts to do so faster and more...

s. A fire-control system uses a laser rangefinder to determine the range to the target, a thermocouple
Thermocouple
A thermocouple is a device consisting of two different conductors that produce a voltage proportional to a temperature difference between either end of the pair of conductors. Thermocouples are a widely used type of temperature sensor for measurement and control and can also be used to convert a...

, anemometer
Anemometer
An anemometer is a device for measuring wind speed, and is a common weather station instrument. The term is derived from the Greek word anemos, meaning wind, and is used to describe any airspeed measurement instrument used in meteorology or aerodynamics...

 and wind vane to correct for weather effects and a muzzle referencing system to correct for gun-barrel temperature, warping and wear. Two sightings of a target with the range-finder enable calculation of the target movement vector. This information is combined with the known movement of the tank and the principles of ballistics
External ballistics
External ballistics is the part of the science of ballistics that deals with the behaviour of a non-powered projectile in flight. External ballistics is frequently associated with firearms, and deals with the behaviour of the bullet after it exits the barrel and before it hits the target.-Forces...

 to calculate the elevation
Elevation (ballistics)
In ballistics, the elevation is the angle between the horizontal plane and the direction of the barrel of a gun, mortar or heavy artillery. Originally, elevation was a linear measure of how high the gunners had to physically lift the muzzle of a gun up from the gun carriage to hit targets at a...

 and aim point
Aiming point
In field artillery, the accuracy of indirect fire depends on the use of aiming points. In air force terminology the aiming point refers to holding the intersection of the cross hairs on a bombsight when fixed at a specific target....

 that maximises the probability of hitting the target.

Usually, tanks carry smaller calibre armament for short-range defence where fire from the main weapon would be ineffective, for example when engaging infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

, light vehicles or aircraft
Close air support
In military tactics, close air support is defined as air action by fixed or rotary winged aircraft against hostile targets that are close to friendly forces, and which requires detailed integration of each air mission with fire and movement of these forces.The determining factor for CAS is...

. A typical complement of secondary weapons is a general-purpose machine gun mounted coaxially with the main gun, and a heavier anti-aircraft machine gun on the turret roof. These weapons are often modified variants of those used by infantry, and so utilise the same kinds of ammunition.

At the Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

 a Tiger I
Tiger tank
Tiger tank may refer to:*Tiger I, or Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, a German heavy tank produced from 1942-1944*Tiger II, or Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B, a German heavy tank produced from 1943-1945, also known as Königstiger, King Tiger or Royal Tiger...

 commanded by Michael Wittmann
Michael Wittmann
Michael Wittmann was a German Waffen-SS tank commander during the Second World War. Wittmann would rise to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer and was a Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross holder....

 survived a ramming by a T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

. Whittmann's driver was able to back away from the T-34 which was destroyed when its ammunition exploded.

Countermeasures

The measure of a tank's protection is the combination of its ability to avoid detection, to avoid being hit by enemy fire, its resistance to the effects of enemy fire, and its capacity to sustain damage whilst still completing its objective, or at least protecting its crew. In common with most unit types, tanks are subject to additional hazards in wooded and urban combat environments which largely negate the advantages of the tank's long-range firepower and mobility, limit the crew's detection capabilities and can restrict turret traverse. Despite these disadvantages, tanks retain high survivability
Survivability
Survivability is the ability to remain alive or continue to exist. The term has more specific meaning in certain contexts.-Engineering:In engineering, survivability is the quantified ability of a system, subsystem, equipment, process, or procedure to continue to function during and after a natural...

 against previous-generation rocket-propelled grenades in all combat environments by virtue of their armour.

However, as effective and advanced as armour plating has become, tank survivability against newer-generation (1980s) tandem-warhead anti-tank missiles is a concern for military planners. For example, the RPG-29
RPG-29
The RPG-29 is a Russian rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Adopted by the Soviet Army in 1989, it was the most recent weapon of its type to be adopted by the Russian military before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The RPG-29 has since been supplemented by other rocket-propelled systems, such...

 is able to penetrate the thickest frontal hull armour of the Challenger II and also managed to damage a M1 Abrams.

Avoiding detection

A tank avoids detection using the doctrine of CCD
Countermeasure
A countermeasure is a measure or action taken to counter or offset another one. As a general concept it implies precision, and is any technological or tactical solution or system designed to prevent an undesirable outcome in the process...

: camouflage
Military camouflage
Military camouflage is one of many means of deceiving an enemy. In practice, it is the application of colour and materials to battledress and military equipment to conceal them from visual observation. The French slang word camouflage came into common English usage during World War I when the...

 (looks the same as the surroundings), concealment
Concealment
Hiding is obscuring something from view or rendering it inconspicuous.Concealment is obscuring something from view or rendering it inconspicuous, the opposite of exposure...

 (cannot be seen) and deception
Deception
Deception, beguilement, deceit, bluff, mystification, bad faith, and subterfuge are acts to propagate beliefs that are not true, or not the whole truth . Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand. It can employ distraction, camouflage or concealment...

 (looks like something else).

Working against efforts to avoid detection is the fact that a tank is a large metallic object with a distinctive, angular silhouette
Silhouette
A silhouette is the image of a person, an object or scene consisting of the outline and a basically featureless interior, with the silhouetted object usually being black. Although the art form has been popular since the mid-18th century, the term “silhouette” was seldom used until the early decades...

 that emits copious heat and noise. Consequently, it is difficult to effectively camouflage a hull-up
Hull-down
The term hull-down describes the situation where the upper part of a vessel or vehicle is visible, but the main, lower body is not; the opposite term hull-up describes the situation where all of the body is visible....

 tank in the absence of some form of cover or concealment (e.g., woods). The tank becomes easier to detect when moving (typically, whenever it is in use) due to the large, distinctive auditory, vibration and thermal signature of its power plant. Tank tracks and dust clouds also betray past or present tank movement. Switched-off tanks are vulnerable to infra-red detection due to differences between the thermal conductivity
Thermal conductivity
In physics, thermal conductivity, k, is the property of a material's ability to conduct heat. It appears primarily in Fourier's Law for heat conduction....

 and therefore heat dissipation of the metallic tank and its surroundings. At close range the tank can be detected even when powered down and fully concealed due to the column of warmer air above the tank and the smell of diesel.

Thermal blankets slow the rate of heat emission and camouflage nets use a mix of materials with differing thermal properties to operate in the infra-red as well as the visible spectrum
Visible spectrum
The visible spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Electromagnetic radiation in this range of wavelengths is called visible light or simply light. A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 390 to 750 nm. In terms of...

. Camouflage attempts to break up the distinctive appearance and silhouette of a tank. Adopting a turret-down
Hull-down
The term hull-down describes the situation where the upper part of a vessel or vehicle is visible, but the main, lower body is not; the opposite term hull-up describes the situation where all of the body is visible....

 or hull-down position reduces the visible silhouette of a tank as well as providing the added protection of a position in defilade

The Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n Nakidka
Nakidka
Nakidka is a Russian Radar-absorbent material camouflage that "eliminates the use of precision-guided weapons" Nakidka reduces the Infrared, Thermal, and Radar band signatures of an object...

 camouflage kit was designed to reduce the Optical, Thermal
Thermal
A thermal column is a column of rising air in the lower altitudes of the Earth's atmosphere. Thermals are created by the uneven heating of the Earth's surface from solar radiation, and are an example of convection. The sun warms the ground, which in turn warms the air directly above it...

, Infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

, and Radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 signatures of a tank, so that acquisition of the tank would be difficult. According to Nii Stali, the designers of Nakidka, Nakidka would reduce the probabilities of detection via "visual and near-IR bands by 30%, the thermal band by 2-3 fold, radar band by 6 fold, and radar-thermal band to near-background levels."

Armour

To effectively protect the tank and its crew, tank armour must counter a wide variety of antitank threats. Protection against kinetic energy penetrators and high explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank warheads are made of an explosive shaped charge that uses the Munroe effect to create a very high-velocity partial stream of metal in a state of superplasticity that can punch through solid armor....

 (HEAT) shells fired by other tanks is of primary importance, but tank armour also aims to protect against infantry antitank missiles, ATGMs
Anti-tank guided missile
An anti-tank missile , anti-tank guided missile , anti-tank guided weapon or anti-armor guided weapon is a guided missile primarily designed to hit and destroy heavily-armored military vehicles....

, antitank mines
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

, bomb
Bomb
A bomb is any of a range of explosive weapons that only rely on the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy...

s, direct artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 hits, and (less often) nuclear, biological and chemical
Weapons of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures , natural structures , or the biosphere in general...

 threats, any of which could disable or destroy a tank or its crew.

Steel armour plate
Rolled homogeneous armour
Rolled homogeneous armour is a type of steel which is used to armour vehicles.-Composition:Armoured steel must be hard yet impervious to shock in order to resist high velocity metal projectiles. Steel with these characteristics is produced by processing cast steel billets of appropriate size and...

 was the earliest type of armour. The Germans pioneered the use of face hardened steel during World War II and the Soviets also achieved improved protection with sloped armour
Sloped armour
Sloped armour is armour that is neither in a vertical nor a horizontal position. Such "angled" armour is often mounted on tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles...

 technology. World War II developments also spelled the eventual doom of homogeneous steel armour with the development of shaped-charge warheads, exemplified by the Panzerfaust
Panzerfaust
The Panzerfaust was an inexpensive, recoilless German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consisted of a small, disposable preloaded launch tube firing a high explosive anti-tank warhead, operated by a single soldier...

 and bazooka
Bazooka
Bazooka is the common name for a man-portable recoilless rocket antitank weapon, widely fielded by the U.S. Army. Also referred to as the "Stovepipe", the innovative bazooka was amongst the first-generation of rocket propelled anti-tank weapons used in infantry combat...

 infantry weapons which were lethally effective, despite some early success with spaced armour
Spaced armour
Armour with two or more plates spaced a distance apart is called spaced armour. When sloped it reduces the penetrating power of bullets and solid shot as after penetrating each plate they tend to tumble, deflect, deform, or disintegrate; when not sloped it increases the protection offered by the...

. Magnetic mines led to the development of anti-magnetic
Diamagnetism
Diamagnetism is the property of an object which causes it to create a magnetic field in opposition to an externally applied magnetic field, thus causing a repulsive effect. Specifically, an external magnetic field alters the orbital velocity of electrons around their nuclei, thus changing the...

 paste and paint.

British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 tank researchers took the next step with the development of Chobham armour
Chobham armour
Chobham armour is the name informally given to a composite armour developed in the 1960s at the British tank research centre on Chobham Common, Surrey, England...

, or more generally composite armour
Composite armour
Composite armour is a type of vehicle armour consisting of layers of different material such as metals, plastics, ceramics or air. Most composite armour are lighter than their all-metal equivalent, but instead occupy a larger volume for the same resistance to penetration...

, incorporating ceramic
Ceramic
A ceramic is an inorganic, nonmetallic solid prepared by the action of heat and subsequent cooling. Ceramic materials may have a crystalline or partly crystalline structure, or may be amorphous...

s and plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

s in a resin
Resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

 matrix between steel plates, which provided good protection against HEAT
High explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank warheads are made of an explosive shaped charge that uses the Munroe effect to create a very high-velocity partial stream of metal in a state of superplasticity that can punch through solid armor....

 weapons. Squash head
High explosive squash head
High explosive squash head is a type of explosive ammunition that is effective against buildings and is also used against tank armour. It was fielded chiefly by the British Army as the main explosive round of its main battle tanks during the Cold War...

 warheads led to anti-spall
Spall
Spall are flakes of a material that are broken off a larger solid body and can be produced by a variety of mechanisms, including as a result of projectile impact, corrosion, weathering, cavitation, or excessive rolling pressure...

 armour linings, and KEPs
Kinetic energy penetrator
A kinetic energy penetrator is a type of ammunition which, like a bullet, does not contain explosives and uses kinetic energy to penetrate the target....

 led to the inclusion of exotic materials like a matrix of depleted uranium
Depleted uranium
Depleted uranium is uranium with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium . Uses of DU take advantage of its very high density of 19.1 g/cm3...

 into a composite armour configuration.

Reactive armour
Reactive armour
Reactive armour is a type of vehicle armour that reacts in some way to the impact of a weapon to reduce the damage done to the vehicle being protected. It is most effective in protecting against shaped charges and specially hardened long rod penetrators...

 consists of small explosive-filled metal boxes that detonate when hit by the metallic jet projected by an exploding HEAT warhead, causing their metal plates to disrupt it. Tandem warheads defeat reactive armour by causing the armour to detonate prematurely. Modern Reactive armour protects itself from Tandem warheads by having a thicker front metal plate to prevent the precursor charge from detonating the explosive in the reactive armour. Reactive armours can also reduce the penetrative abilities of kinetic energy penetrators by deforming the penetrator with the metal plates on the Reactive armour, thereby reducing its effectiveness against the main armour of the tank.

Grenade launcher
Grenade launcher
A grenade launcher or grenade discharger is a weapon that launches a grenade with more accuracy, higher velocity, and to greater distances than a soldier could throw it by hand....

s which can rapidly deploy a smoke screen, which are opaque to Infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 light, to hide it from the thermal viewer of another tank. The modern Shtora
Shtora
Shtora is an electro-optical active protection system or suite for tanks, designed to disrupt the laser target designation and rangefinders of incoming anti-tank guided missiles...

 "soft-kill" countermeasure system provides additional protection by interfering with enemy targeting and fire-control systems and jamming of SACLOS
SACLOS
SACLOS is an acronym for Semi-Automatic Command to Line of Sight, a second-generation method of missile guidance. In SACLOS, the operator has to continually point a sighting device at the target while the missile is in flight...

 guided ATGMs
Anti-tank guided missile
An anti-tank missile , anti-tank guided missile , anti-tank guided weapon or anti-armor guided weapon is a guided missile primarily designed to hit and destroy heavily-armored military vehicles....

.

Active protection system

The latest generation of protective measures for tanks are active protection systems, particularly "hard-kill". The Soviet Drozd
Drozd
Drozd is an active protection system developed in the Soviet Union, designed for increasing tanks' protection against anti-tank missiles and RPGs. It is considered the world's first operational active protection system, created in 1977–78 by A...

, the Russian Arena
Arena Active Protection System
The Arena is an active protection system developed at Russia's Kolomna-based Engineering Design Bureau for the purpose of protecting armoured fighting vehicles from destruction by light anti-tank weapons, anti-tank guided missiles , and missiles with top attack warheads. It uses a Doppler radar...

, the Israeli TROPHY
TROPHY Active Protection System
Trophy is an active protection system , designed to supplement the armor of both light and heavy armored fighting vehicles. It intercepts and destroys incoming missiles and rockets with a shotgun-like blast...

 and Iron Fist
Iron Fist Active Protection System
Iron Fist is a hard-kill active protection system designed by Israel Military Industries , with a modular design allowing adaptation to a range of platforms ranging from light utility vehicles to heavy armoured fighting vehicles. The concept was revealed by IMI in 2006 and was expected to enter...

, Polish ERAWA (on PT-91
PT-91
The PT-91 Twardy is a Polish main battle tank. It is a development of the T-72M1 and first entered service in 1995...

), and the American Quick Kill systems show the potential to dramatically improve protection for tanks against missiles, RPGs and potentially KEP
Kinetic energy penetrator
A kinetic energy penetrator is a type of ammunition which, like a bullet, does not contain explosives and uses kinetic energy to penetrate the target....

 attacks, but concerns regarding a danger zone
Friendly fire
Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, particularly where this results in injury or death. A death resulting from a negligent discharge is not considered friendly fire...

 for nearby dismounted troops remain. As for 2011, only the Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i Trophy active protection system
TROPHY Active Protection System
Trophy is an active protection system , designed to supplement the armor of both light and heavy armored fighting vehicles. It intercepts and destroys incoming missiles and rockets with a shotgun-like blast...

, installed on the Merkava
Merkava
The Merkava is a main battle tank used by the Israel Defense Forces. The tank began development in 1974 and was first introduced in 1978. Four main versions of the tank have been deployed. It was first used extensively in the 1982 Lebanon War...

 Mk4, has been combat-proven, as it successfully intercepted RPG rocket
Rocket propelled grenade
A rocket-propelled grenade is a shoulder-fired, anti-tank weapon system which fires rockets equipped with an explosive warhead. These warheads are affixed to a rocket motor and stabilized in flight with fins. Some types of RPG are reloadable while others are single-use. RPGs, with the exception of...

 and various anti-tank missiles during operational missions on the Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip
thumb|Gaza city skylineThe Gaza Strip lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres wide, with a total area of...

 border.

Mobility

The mobility of a tank is described by its battlefield or tactical mobility, its operational mobility, and its strategic mobility. Tactical mobility can be broken down firstly into agility, describing the tank's acceleration, braking, speed and rate of turn on various terrain, and secondly obstacle clearance: the tank's ability to travel over vertical obstacles like low walls or trenches or through water. Operational mobility is a function of manoeuvre range; but also of size and weight, and the resulting limitations on options for manoeuvre.

Strategic mobility

Strategic mobility is the ability of the tanks of an armed force to arrive in a timely, cost effective, and synchronized fashion. For good strategic mobility transportability by air is important, which means that weight and volume must be kept within the designated transport aircraft capabilities.

Nations often stockpile enough tanks to respond to any threat without having to make more tanks as many sophisticated designs can only be produced at a relatively low rate. The US Military for instance keeps 6000 MBTs in storage.

Tactical mobility

Tank agility is a function of the weight of the tank due to its inertia while manoeuvring and its ground pressure
Ground pressure
Ground pressure is the pressure exerted on the ground by the tires or tracks of a motorized vehicle, and is one measure of its potential mobility, especially over soft ground. Ground pressure is measured in pascals which corresponds to the EES unit of pounds per square inch...

, the power output of the installed power plant and the tank transmission
Transmission (mechanics)
A machine consists of a power source and a power transmission system, which provides controlled application of the power. Merriam-Webster defines transmission as: an assembly of parts including the speed-changing gears and the propeller shaft by which the power is transmitted from an engine to a...

 and track design. In addition, rough terrain effectively limits the tank's speed through the stress it puts on the suspension and the crew. A breakthrough in this area was achieved during World War II when improved suspension systems were developed that allowed better cross-country performance and limited firing on the move. Systems like the earlier Christie
Christie suspension
The Christie suspension is a suspension system developed by American engineer Walter Christie for his tank designs. It allowed considerably longer movement than conventional leaf spring systems then in common use, which allowed his tanks to have considerably greater cross-country speed and a lower...

 or later torsion-bar suspension developed by Ferdinand Porsche
Ferdinand Porsche
Ferdinand Porsche was an Austrian automotive engineer and honorary Doctor of Engineering. He is best known for creating the first hybrid vehicle , the Volkswagen Beetle, and the Mercedes-Benz SS/SSK, as well as the first of many Porsche automobiles...

 dramatically improved the tank's cross-country performance and overall mobility.

Tanks are highly mobile and able to travel over most types of terrain due to their continuous tracks and advanced suspension. The tracks disperse the weight of the vehicle over a large area, resulting in a less ground pressure
Ground pressure
Ground pressure is the pressure exerted on the ground by the tires or tracks of a motorized vehicle, and is one measure of its potential mobility, especially over soft ground. Ground pressure is measured in pascals which corresponds to the EES unit of pounds per square inch...

. A tank can travel at approximately 40 kilometres per hour (24.9 mph) across flat terrain and up to 70 kilometres per hour (43.5 mph) on roads, but due to the mechanical strain this places on the vehicle and the logistical strain on fuel delivery and tank maintenance, these must be considered "burst" speeds that invite mechanical failure of engine and transmission systems. Consequently, wheeled tank transporters and rail infrastructure is used wherever possible for long-distance tank transport. The limitations of long-range tank mobility can be viewed in sharp contrast to that of wheeled armoured fighting vehicles. The majority of blitzkrieg operations were conducted at the pedestrian pace of 5 kilometres per hour (3.1 mph), and that was only achieved on the roads of France.

In the absence of combat engineers, most tanks are limited to fording
Ford (crossing)
A ford is a shallow place with good footing where a river or stream may be crossed by wading or in a vehicle. A ford is mostly a natural phenomenon, in contrast to a low water crossing, which is an artificial bridge that allows crossing a river or stream when water is low.The names of many towns...

 rivers. The typical fording depth for MBTs is approximately 1 metres (3.3 ft), being limited by the height of the engine air intake and driver's position. Modern tanks such as the Russian T-90
T-90
The T-90 is a Russian third-generation main battle tank that is a modernisation of the T-72 . It is currently the most modern tank in service with the Russian Ground Forces and Naval Infantry...

 and the German Leopard I and Leopard II tanks can ford to a depth of 3 to 4 meters when properly prepared and equipped with a snorkel
Vehicle snorkel
A vehicle snorkel is the land-based equivalent of the submarine snorkel which allowed submarines to use diesel engines while submerged. Snorkels, when used by vehicles with air-breathing internal combustion engines, allow limited deep fording capability for river crossing or amphibious landing...

 to supply air for the crew and engine. Tank crews usually have a negative reaction towards deep fording but it adds considerable scope for surprise and tactical flexibility in water crossing operations by opening new and unexpected avenues of attack.

Amphibious tanks are specially designed or adapted for water operations, but they are rare in modern armies, being replaced by purpose-built amphibious assault vehicle
Amphibious Assault Vehicle
The Assault Amphibious Vehicle —official designation AAV-7A1 is a fully tracked amphibious landing vehicle manufactured by U.S. Combat Systems .The AAV-7A1 is the current amphibious troop transport of the United States Marine Corps...

s or armoured personnel carriers in amphibious assaults. Advances such as the EFA
EFA (mobile bridge)
The EFA or Engin de Franchissement de l'Avant is a field-deployable river crossing apparatus, used by combat engineers in the French Army...

 mobile bridge and MT-55
MT-55
The MT-55A is an armoured vehicle-launched bridge tank, manufactured by TS Martin in Slovakia. The AVLB is based on a T-55A medium tank chassis, with the turret detached and replaced by a special bridge launching equipment....

 scissors bridge have also reduced the impediment to tank advance that rivers posed in World War II.
The tank's power plant supplies kinetic energy
Kinetic energy
The kinetic energy of an object is the energy which it possesses due to its motion.It is defined as the work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its stated velocity. Having gained this energy during its acceleration, the body maintains this kinetic energy unless its speed changes...

 to move the tank, and electric
Electric current
Electric current is a flow of electric charge through a medium.This charge is typically carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire...

 power via a generator to components such as the turret
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

 rotation motors
Electric motor
An electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.Most electric motors operate through the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors to generate force...

 and the tank's electronic systems. The tank power plant has evolved from predominantly petrol and adapted large-displacement aeronautical or automotive engines during World Wars I and II, through diesel engine
Diesel engine
A diesel engine is an internal combustion engine that uses the heat of compression to initiate ignition to burn the fuel, which is injected into the combustion chamber...

s to advanced multi-fuel diesel engines, and powerful (per unit weight) but fuel-hungry gas turbines in the T-80
T-80
The T-80 is a main battle tank designed and manufactured in the former Soviet Union. A development of the T-64, it entered service in 1976 and was the first production tank to be equipped with a gas turbine engine for main propulsion.the Swedish Stridsvagn 103 of 1971 used a gas turbine alongside...

 and M1 Abrams
M1 Abrams
The M1 Abrams is a third-generation main battle tank produced in the United States. It is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. The M1 is a well armed, heavily armored, and highly mobile tank designed for...

.

Tank power output in context:
Vehicle Power output Power/weight
Mid-sized car: Toyota Camry
Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry is a series of mid-size automobiles manufactured by Toyota since 1982, and sold in the majority of automotive markets throughout the world...

 2.4L
158 hp 106 hp/tonne
Sports car: Lamborghini Murciélago
Lamborghini Murciélago
The Lamborghini Murciélago is a two-door, two-seat sports car produced by Italian automaker Lamborghini between 2001 and 2010. Successor to the Diablo and flagship of the automaker's lineup, the Murciélago was introduced as a coupé in 2001. The automaker's first new design in eleven years, the car...

 6.5L
632 hp 383 hp/tonne
Racing car: Formula One car
Formula One car
A modern Formula One car is a single-seat, open cockpit, open wheel racing car with substantial front and rear wings, and an engine positioned behind the driver. The regulations governing the cars are unique to the championship...

 3.0L
950 hp 2100 hp/tonne
Main battle tank: Leopard 2
Leopard 2
The Leopard 2 is a main battle tank developed by Krauss-Maffei in the early 1970s for the West German Army. The tank first entered service in 1979 and succeeded the earlier Leopard 1 as the main battle tank of the German Army. Various versions have served in the armed forces of Germany and twelve...

, M1 Abrams
M1 Abrams
The M1 Abrams is a third-generation main battle tank produced in the United States. It is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. The M1 is a well armed, heavily armored, and highly mobile tank designed for...

1500 hp 24.2, 24.5 hp/tonne
Locomotive: SNCF Class T 2000
SNCF Class T 2000
SNCF Class T 2000 trainsets, also known under their French acronym RTG , were the second generation of turbine-powered trains in France and saw commercial service from 1972 to 2004....

2581 hp 11.5 hp/tonne

Command, control and communications

Commanding and coordinating
C4ISTAR
In military usage, a number of abbreviations in the format C followed by additional letters are used, based on expanded versions of the abbreviation C2 - command and control.C2I stands for command, control, and intelligence....

 tanks in the field has always been subject to particular problems, particularly in the area of communications, but in modern armies these problems have been partially alleviated by networked
Computer network
A computer network, often simply referred to as a network, is a collection of hardware components and computers interconnected by communication channels that allow sharing of resources and information....

, integrated
System integration
In engineering, system integration is the bringing together of the component subsystems into one system and ensuring that the subsystems function together as a system...

 system
System
System is a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole....

s that enable communications and contribute to enhanced situational awareness.

Early

Armoured bulkheads
Bulkhead (partition)
A bulkhead is an upright wall within the hull of a ship or within the fuselage of an airplane. Other kinds of partition elements within a ship are decks and deckheads.-Etymology:...

, engine noise, intervening terrain, dust and smoke, and the need to operate "buttoned up" are severe detriments to communication and lead to a sense of isolation for small tank units, individual vehicles, and tank crewmen. Radios were not then portable or robust enough to be mounted in a tank, although Morse Code
Morse code
Morse code is a method of transmitting textual information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment...

 transmitters were installed in some Mark IVs at Cambrai as messaging vehicles,. Attaching a field telephone to the rear would became a practice only during the next war. During World War I when these failed or were unavailable, situation reports were sent back to headquarters by some crews releasing carrier pigeons through top hatches and communications between vehicles was accomplished using hand signals, handheld semaphore flags
Flag semaphore
Semaphore Flags is the system for conveying information at a distance by means of visual signals with hand-held flags, rods, disks, paddles, or occasionally bare or gloved hands. Information is encoded by the position of the flags; it is read when the flag is in a fixed position...

 which continued in use in the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

/Soviet Army
Soviet Army
The Soviet Army is the name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992. Previously, it had been known as the Red Army. Informally, Армия referred to all the MOD armed forces, except, in some cases, the Soviet Navy.This article covers the Soviet Ground...

 through the Second and Cold wars, or by foot or horse mounted messengers.

Modern

On the modern battlefield an intercom
Intercom
An intercom , talkback or doorphone is a stand-alone voice communications system for use within a building or small collection of buildings, functioning independently of the public telephone network. Intercoms are generally mounted permanently in buildings and vehicles...

 mounted in the crew helmet provides internal communications and a link to the radio network, and on some tanks an external intercom on the rear of the tank provides communication with co-operating infantry. Radio networks employ radio voice procedure
Voice procedure
Voice procedure includes various techniques used to clarify, simplify and standardize spoken communications over two-way radios, in use by the military, in civil aviation, police and fire dispatching systems, citizens' band radio , etc....

 to minimise confusion and "chatter".

A recent development in AFV equipment and doctrine is the increased integration of information from the fire control system, laser rangefinder, Global Positioning System
Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites...

 and terrain
Terrain
Terrain, or land relief, is the vertical and horizontal dimension of land surface. When relief is described underwater, the term bathymetry is used...

 information via hardened
Electromagnetic pulse
An electromagnetic pulse is a burst of electromagnetic radiation. The abrupt pulse of electromagnetic radiation usually results from certain types of high energy explosions, especially a nuclear explosion, or from a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field...

 military specification electronics
Electronics
Electronics is the branch of science, engineering and technology that deals with electrical circuits involving active electrical components such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes and integrated circuits, and associated passive interconnection technologies...

 and a battlefield network to display all known information on enemy targets and friendly units on a monitor in the tank. The sensor data can be sourced from nearby tanks, planes, UAVs or, in the future infantry (such as the US Future Force Warrior
Future Force Warrior
Future Force Warrior is a United States military advanced technology demonstration project that is part of the Future Combat Systems project. The FFW project seeks to create a lightweight, fully integrated infantryman combat system. It is one technology demonstration project in a series of...

 project). This improves the tank commander's situational awareness and ability to navigate the battlefield and select and engage targets. In addition to easing the reporting burden by automatically logging all orders and actions, orders are sent via the network with text and graphical overlays. This is known as Network-centric warfare
Network-centric warfare
Network-centric warfare, also called network-centric operations, is a military doctrine or theory of war pioneered by the United States Department of Defense in the 1990's....

 by the US, Network Enabled Capability
Network Enabled Capability
Network-enabled capability, or NEC, is the name given to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence intent to achieve enhanced military effect through the better use of information systems towards the goal of "right information, right place, right time – and not too much".NEC is envisaged as the...

 (UK) or Digital Army Battle Management System צי"ד (Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

).

Etymology

The word tank was first applied to the British "landships" in 1915, before they entered service, to keep their nature secret. Several explanations of the precise origin of the term have been suggested, including:
  1. It arose in British factories making the hulls of the first battle tanks: workmen and possible spies were to be given the impression they were constructing mobile water tank
    Water tank
    A Water tank is a container for storing water. The need for a water tank is as old as civilized man, providing storage of water for drinking water, irrigation agriculture, fire suppression, agricultural farming, both for plants and livestock, chemical manufacturing, food preparation as well as many...

    s for the British Army
    British Army
    The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

    , thus keeping the production of a fighting vehicle secret.
  2. The term was first used in a secret report on the new motorised weapon presented to Winston Churchill
    Winston Churchill
    Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

    , then First Lord of the Admiralty, by British Army Lt.-Col. Ernest Swinton.
  3. Winston Churchill's biography states, "To disguise the device, drawings were marked "water carriers for Russia." When it was pointed out this might be shortened to "WCs for Russia," the drawings were relabeled "water tanks for Russia." Eventually the weapon was just called a tank. (In fact, the prototype was referred to as a water-carrier for Mesopotamia [see below]. The Russian connection is that some of the first production Tanks were labelled in Russian "With Care to Petrograd," as a further security measure.)


In his autobiography, Albert Stern (founder member of the Landships Committee, later head of the Mechanical Warfare Supply Department) says that on or shortly after October 20, 1915, "Mr. Macnamara then suggested, for secrecy's sake, to change the title of the Landships Committee. Mr. d'Eyncourt agreed that it was very desirable to retain secrecy by all means, and proposed to refer to the vessel as a "Water Carrier." In Government offices, committees and departments are always known by their initials. For this reason I, as Secretary, considered the proposed title totally unsuitable.* In our search for a synonymous term, we changed the word "Water Carrier" to "Tank," and became the "Tank Supply" or "T.S." Committee. That is how these weapons came to be called "Tanks," and the name has now been adopted by all countries in the world." Swinton states, "Since the 24th December, 1915, the Tank has always been known as such; and there has been no confusion as to its nomenclature." His Notes on the Employment of Tanks, in which he uses the word throughout, was published in January 1916.

(* The initials W.C. are a British abbreviation for a water closet; in other words, a toilet. Unfortunately, later in the War a number of Mk IV Tanks were fitted with grapnels to remove barbed wire. They were designated "Wire Cutters" and had the large letters "W.C." painted on their rear armour.)

Stern says, "we changed the word." Lt.-Col. Swinton also claims that it was his suggestion at that meeting. However, in July 1918 the following explanation was published in Popular Science Monthly: "Because a fellow of the Royal Historical Society
Royal Historical Society
The Royal Historical Society was founded in 1868. The premier society in the United Kingdom which promotes and defends the scholarly study of the past, it is based at University College London...

 has unintentionally misled the British public as to the origin of the famous "tanks," Sir William Tritton, who designed and built them, has published the real story of their name ... Since it was obviously inadvisable to herald "Little Willie's" reason for existence to the world he was known as the "Instructional Demonstration Unit." "Little Willie's" hull was called in the shop orders a "water carrier for Mesopotamia;" no one knew that the hull was intended to be mounted on a truck. Naturally, the water carrier began to be called a "tank." So the name came to be used by managers and foremen of the shop, until now it has a place in the army vocabulary and will probably be so known in history for all time." It may be that d'Eyncourt was aware of this practice and therefore suggested the name to the Landships Committee. In any event, the word was in use by members of the Committee several months before production orders had been placed.

By "all countries in the world," Stern is not entirely correct. The word "tank" was adopted in most languages, including Russian. Some countries, however, use different names. In France, in 1917 the second nation to employ tanks, the use of an English term was rejected and they are known as chars d'assaut ("assault vehicles") or simply chars. In Germany, tanks are usually referred to as "Panzer" (lit. "armour"), a shortened form of the full term "Panzerkampfwagen", literally "armoured fighting vehicle". In the Arab world
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

, tanks are called Dabbāba (after a type of siege engine
Siege engine
A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare. Some have been operated close to the fortifications, while others have been used to attack from a distance. From antiquity, siege engines were constructed largely of wood and...

). In Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, a tank is a "carro armato" (lit. "armed wagon"), without reference to its armour. The Scandinavian countries use the term stridsvogn (Norway) or stridsvagn (Sweden) ("chariot", lit. "battle wagon").

See also

  • Armored car (military)
  • Armoured warfare
    Armoured warfare
    Armoured warfare or tank warfare is the use of armoured fighting vehicles in modern warfare. It is a major component of modern methods of war....

  • Hobart's Funnies
    Hobart's Funnies
    Hobart's Funnies were a number of unusually modified tanks operated during World War II by the United Kingdom's 79th Armoured Division or by specialists from the Royal Engineers. They were designed in light of problems that more standard tanks experienced during the Dieppe Raid, so that the new...

  • Hull-down
    Hull-down
    The term hull-down describes the situation where the upper part of a vessel or vehicle is visible, but the main, lower body is not; the opposite term hull-up describes the situation where all of the body is visible....

  • Infantry fighting vehicle
    Infantry fighting vehicle
    An infantry fighting vehicle , also known as a mechanized infantry combat vehicle , is a type of armoured fighting vehicle used to carry infantry into battle and provide fire support for them...


  • Lists of armoured fighting vehicles
  • Main battle tank
    Main battle tank
    A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

  • Military engineering vehicle
  • Skid steer
  • Tank classification
    Tank classification
    Tank classification is a taxonomy of identifying either the intended role or weight class of tanks. The classification by role was used primarily during the developmental stage of the national armoured forces, and referred to the doctrinal and force structure utility of the tanks based on design...



  • Tank desant
    Tank desant
    Tank desant is a military combined arms tactic, where infantry soldiers ride into an attack on tanks, then dismount to fight on foot in the final phase of the assault...

  • Tankette
    Tankette
    A tankette is a tracked combat vehicle resembling a small tank roughly the size of a car, mainly intended for light infantry support or reconnaissance. Colloquially it may also simply mean a "small tank"....

  • The first tank battle
  • Unmanned ground vehicle
    Unmanned ground vehicle
    An unmanned ground vehicle is a military robot used to augment the soldiers capability. This type of robot is generally capable of operating outdoors and over a wide variety of terrain, functioning in place of humans....



External links

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