Tanks were first manufactured during World War I in an effort to break the deadlock of trench warfare. The British Army realised that they required a vehicle that had the mobility to reach the enemy trenches over barbed wire and rough terrain, the armour to withstand small arms fire and shrapnel from artillery and the weaponry to suppress or destroy enemy infantry, machine gun nests and pillboxes.

In World War I, army tanks were not equipped with turrets until the French light tank known as the FT-17 was developed. Though the French tank only had a machine gun as its primary weapon, it set the path for the designs of modern army tanks.

Compared to tanks used in the early days of World War II, tanks that were used in World War I were relatively large. By the time World War II started, a number of army tanks were equipped with a 37mm cannon. World War II was the time when army tanks increased in size; there were even the 50 ton Tiger tanks. This meant that larger sized tanks could carry larger weapons.

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If the scale of German commitment on the Eastern Front was large in June 1944, it was even larger in July 1943, the month of Operation 'Zitadelle' (or Citadel), as the German attack on the Soviet-held salient of Kursk was codenamed. On 1 July 1943, 194 German divisions were occupied on the Eastern Front (including the seven in Finland), while only 83 were based in the occupied countries and on all of the other fronts in which Germany was involved.

Although many of the divisions based in the east were under strength, so were many of those that were based on these 'other fronts' and, again, many German units on those fronts were low grade garrison units to boot. About 72% of Germany's armour was also based in the Soviet Union at this time and a higher proportion of these were modern types than those on the other fronts.

The Luftwaffe was another story and was certainly being strained by the Western Allies. In June 1943, only about 42% of the German Air Force was in the east. The Kursk offensive was to involve over two-thirds of the armour (representing almost half of the total number of tanks available to Nazi Germany), almost a third of the troops and most of the aircraft that were available on the Eastern Front at this time.

The number of German troops that were to be committed at Kursk was much greater than all of those that could be found in the whole of Western Europe at this time.

Furthermore, in regard to both personnel and equipment, the Germans forces at Kursk were of far superior quality when compared with those in Europe. The German attack on the Kursk salient was to be their last offensive of such huge proportion and such striking power on the Eastern Front, or indeed on any front.

Modern armoured tactics involve the combined use of infantry and military tanks for ample manoeuvres on the battle field, with the elements in the system being included in a mutual support circuit. The first military tanks were used during the world wars and ever since the history of military tactics has changed completely.

Each country relies on certain types of military tanks, and though the models and the manufacturers are facts of public knowledge, national security prevents the disclosure of too complex information about the military tanks whereabouts.

They were the invention of the British army during World War I and have been imported afterwards at the international scale. The great advantage military tanks brought is the ability to cross very rough terrain areas at high speeds while also firing.

The level of heavy armour that is part of the design ensures a high degree of survivability for the soldiers that operate military tanks in the conditions of breakthroughs in the enemy areas. It is highly uncommon that such special units be used individually; most of the time military tanks are part of armoured divisions or combined forces that work together in combat.

One main reason for the inadequacy of individual use is the existence of anti-tank artillery, and anti-tank bombs that were created as the main defences against combat breach creation. In a top of the most versatile weapons, military tanks occupy a top place due to the ability to cause damage to low ground targets on the battlefield.

The current tendency in our society is to invest in less conventional warfare; yet, all countries keep military tanks high in their preferences for defence and offence weaponry. Throughout a century of changes and technological development, military tanks have been improved with every more advanced armoured systems, and maintenance costs are anything but low.

Owing to the high protection technologies used in the design of military tanks, such war machines are able to remain undetected on the battlefield; furthermore, they are also pretty difficult to engage and destroy a target given their strategic mobility.

However, defence properties cannot be increased at all levels: for instance, higher mobility is achieved by adding less heavy armour. Or on the other hand, advanced armours are used when mobility is not considered a crucial element for the operation. Consequently, thanks to the overwhelming presence on any battlefield, military tanks will continue to be used as long as there are wars to fight.

Muna wa Wanjiru

ww1 tank

As far as Russian cities go, Kursk can perhaps only be regarded as remarkable for something called the 'Kursk Magnetic Anomaly'. Here, deposits of magnetite cause compasses to swing uncontrollably. No doubt, some Russians and Germans will remember this city, one of the oldest in Russia, for reasons other than this unusual phenomena.

Fifty-one years ago, on the morning of 5 July 1943, the German Army in the Soviet Union opened a great offensive against the Soviet-held salient at Kursk. There, many Soviet and German youths were to be killed or maimed. Masses of burnt and destroyed tanks and other equipments were to be left on the battlefield as the battle flowed westward to Germany. To many Soviet writers and historians, the battle for Kursk was the decisive battle of the Second World War.

In the West, interest in the battle has certainly increased in recent years and it now appears in most popular histories of the Second World War written in English and many documentary films now mention it. Still, most people in the West and, for that matter, in South Africa, have still not even heard of the battle of Kursk. But should they have?

Just how important was this great armoured clash that is widely considered to have been the greatest tank battle in history? Was it the decisive battle of the Second World War as held by, amongst others, revisionist historian A J P Taylor, Soviet Field Marshal Georgi Zhukov and German writer Paul Carell, or was it no more important than many other battles that were fought on many other fronts, as implied by a writer like Albert Seaton?

Battle of Kusk

It is certainly difficult to establish with any precision the damage inflicted on the German Army during their attack at Kursk. The Germans did not release any casualty figures for the period during which they were on the offensive and it would be idle to speculate such losses without the benefit of reliable evidence. It is clear that the defeat of the German offensive at Kursk and the subsequent - more than two month - Soviet counter-offensive (for which there has not unfortunately been the space to explore in any detail here) amounted to an appalling defeat for Nazi-Germany.

Considering that the personnel strength of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front decreased from 3 100 000 on 1 July to 2 564 000 on 1 October, and that half of these losses were replaced, it would be fair to assume that German Army losses (not including Luftwaffe and Waffen SS units) between the period 1 July and 1 October 1943, from all causes, were in the order of one million. 

The Wehrmacht, not including SS or air force divisions, would have approximately 100 000 troops less than that with which to defend France in June 1944! On the other hand, German losses (not including those of their allies) during the Stalingrad 'period' (November 1942 to February 1943) are considered to have been about 540 000. The German equipment losses are, for the most part, impossible to establish.

According to one historian, the Germans lost more equipment at Kursk than at Stalingrad. Whether this refers to the period of the German offensive or the entire three month period is unclear, but certainly the three month 'Kursk period' must have cost the Germans more equipment than the equivalent Stalingrad period.

We do know that, between them, 19th, 17th and the 3rd Panzer divisions began their offensive with 450 tanks and assault guns. Within two weeks they could deploy a mere 100. Of the eighty-nine Ferdinands committed to the offensive, thirty-nine were lost.

The number of Tigers that were destroyed is not known, but perhaps as many as half - about fifty - as many as the Germans would later be able to deploy at Normandy, were lost. The Soviets claimed that they destroyed a total of 2 900 German tanks during the battle, obviously a gross exaggeration as the Germans did not even deploy that many.

More reasonable estimates have put Germany's July losses in tanks and assault guns at 1 000 and, by October, they must have been staggering. The losses in other equipments cannot be estimated and - whatever they may have been - the Germans could not afford or replace them. Neither could they replace the many trained tank crews, artillery, air and infantrymen that had become casualties at Kursk. Von Kluge, in a letter to Hitler sent in the middle of October 1943, felt compelled to complain about the poor quality of replacements that the Reich was now hastily sending to his army group.

The Soviets certainly lost many more troops and equipment than did the Germans, but they could replace the losses they had sustained, apparently with comparative ease. As a bonus, the battlefield was left to them and they were able to recover and repair much equipment. Soviet industry was also in a position to quickly replace equipment losses and Soviet manpower appeared inexhaustible.

German ww1 tanks

On 2 February 1943, the last elements of the German 6th Army, which had been encircled by the Red Army at Stalingrad, surrendered. The collapse of the German Army in the east appeared total. By early February, the Red Army offensive was a mere forty kilometres from the Dnieper river. However, a remarkable Wehrmacht counter-offensive unleashed on 19 February by the master of counter-offence, Field-Marshal Erich von Manstein, succeeded in rocking back the over- extended Soviet attack and stabilising what had appeared an utterly disastrous situation for Germany.

Manstein's victory was small compared to the defeat that had been suffered by the Axis at Stalingrad, but it did demonstrate that they were still a force with which to be reckoned. By the end of March, the mud of the spring thaw had brought operations to a halt.

The Germans had regained the city of Kharkov, but, however much he may have liked to, Manstein did not have the strength to slice off the large Soviet-held salient that now jutted out around Kursk. Some 125 km deep and 230 km across, this huge salient, or bulge, would become almost an obsession with Hitler.

It appears safe to say that the STAVKA, the Soviet High Command, viewed the coming spring with at least a certain amount of dread.(17) The Red Army had yet to beat the German Army in summer and, although the Wehrmacht had been savaged during the winter, it remained a potent force with a competence that the Red Army could apparently still never hope to match. Many German commanders believed that they could fight the Red Army to a standstill and in July 1943 they could still call on over three million German soldiers, not including allies, to achieve this.

Although Stalingrad had destroyed German hopes of creating anything like an adequate strategic reserve, the majority of frontline units in the east had been brought back up to acceptable strengths and the expanding use of slave labour was releasing further German men (the Wehrmacht used exceedingly few women) for service in the army. In 1943, under the direction of Albert Speer (who had taken over as the Reich Minister of War Production and Armaments in 1942), the German war economy began to recover from its relative lethargy. By July, much of the equipment that had been lost the previous winter had been made up.

After the Stalingrad disaster of January 1943, the German Army had a mere 495 tanks available for service on the entire Eastern Front. By July, this figure had increased to some 3 800. While some of these tanks were drawn from units on other fronts, production had begun to pick up considerably. Although many existing units were not brought up to their original strength, all of the divisions lost at Stalingrad had been reformed under the orders of the number-obsessed Hitler.

For the Panzer divisions, one consequence of this policy was that the armour content of such a division was reduced, so that the average Panzer division could only be expected to contain between seventy and one hundred tanks. Tank content was watered down with the more cheaply made assault guns in some divisions and, formidable though some models of these weapons were, they were considered inferior offensive weapons when compared with the tank.

This said, it should be noted that, when compared with the earlier German armoured divisions, the overall firepower of most of the Panzer divisions had greatly increased, many German weapons being more efficient than they had been in 1941 or even 1942.

The loss of experienced and trained personnel was more difficult to replace. Relatively few of the German troops that waited to attack at Kursk were the crack and confident troops that had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, or who had unleashed another lightning offensive toward the Caucasus Mountains in the summer of 1942, and some of them were now of more doubtful quality.

For example, many of the replacements for the elite Waffen SS division, the Leibstandarte, were of air force groundcrew origin who had received but a few days infantry training prior to being railed to the division.

However, there was a core of veterans from which such replacements could learn and most of the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS replacements were still well trained, especially in comparison to many of those that the Red Army threw into battle, and those who did not perish during the first few weeks of battle would probably make efficient soldiers.

In terms of sheer numbers, in July 1943 the Wehrmacht was almost back at the strength that it enjoyed when it invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. All-in-all it was, considering the drubbing of the previous winter, in relatively good shape in July 1943. It was at least, as a number of writers have pointed out, an army 'far from beaten'.

It could still be considered the tactical master of the Eastern Front and, though the Soviets had improved considerably since 1941, the Red Army, during the February battles, still responded rather like a clumsy heavyweight against the astutely handled Wehrmacht. Cruel discipline ensured that relatively few in the Red Army, from the ordinary soldiers to many of the generals, acted with much initiative. What had changed very markedly by July 1943 was the numerical strength of the Red Army. On 22 June 1941, the Red Army had nearly five million men under arms.

In December its strength had fallen to the lowest point of the war; some two and a half million. By July 1943 it had grown back to over five million. Not only were the Soviets building a powerful numerical superiority in manpower, but their war production also continued to outstrip that of the Reich. At this time the Red Army could field a total of some 9 900 tanks, 8 300 aircraft and 60 000 artillery pieces and mortars.

Citadel was the last great German offensive

Citadel was the last great German offensive in the east and the Germans would never regain the initiative from a growing and increasingly proficient Red Army. In the air too, the Soviet air force was asserting an ever increasing dominance over the German. Kursk brought Soviet air superiority for the first time - with all the implications that would have for the German ground forces.

The Soviets had absorbed the best that the Germans had and began their own irresistible offensive along most of the front. It was an offensive that would hardly stop until the Red Army had taken Berlin. The collapse of the German Army during the months following Kursk was not total, but it was a collapse of unprecedented scale and the German Army would never be quite the same again. Kursk was not the decisive battle of Hitler's war.

No single battle of the war can claim such a place. Nazi Germany was ground into submission over a long period of, essentially, four years. However, in the annuals of decisive Second World War struggles, the Kursk period ranks, or should rank, as more important than nearly all.

The 800 mm Krupp cannon

In 1942 Hitler approved the design and construction of an extremely large tank, but the project was cancelled in 1943 before any actual construction had begun. The tank was supposed to be more than fifteen times as big as a normal tank and it should have been armed with a 800 mm Krupp cannon (the main cannon on a normal tank like the M1 Abrams is 105 mm).

The 800 mm Krupp cannon is the largest artillery weapon ever built. Each projectile weighted 7 tons and it could be fired up to 37 km (23 miles). I haven’t seen any pictures of the Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster, so you must make do with a picture of the Krupp cannon.

The M4A3E2 tank

The M4A3E2 or Sherman Jumbo was designated an assault tank and not a tank destroyer as commonly reported in other sources. It provided applique armor to front and sides of the hull, a standard 75mm main gun and HE (High Explosive) ammunition. Other features included a single-unit differential and drive housing and removed headlights.

The turret system was also completely re-engineered to include a commander's cupola and a loader hatch. Original armament was to be the 76mm main gun but the shell of the 75mm armament proved to be more powerful. Some Sherman Jumbos did see the 76mm main gun mounted to their turrets however. About 250 of these Sherman versions were produced.

Please see the M4 Sherman base entry for more details regarding the Sherman line of tanks and chassis and their impact in the Second World War.

The first proposal for a tank was by the Austrian Oberleutenant Günther Burstyn who, in 1911, proposed a design for "motor artillery" (Motorengeschütz) with a turret, but his design never progressed beyond a German patent in 1912. Tank or "landship" development, originally conducted by the British Navy under the auspices of the Landships Committee was sponsored by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill and proceeded through a number of prototypes culminating in the Mark I tank prototype 'Mother'.

The first tank to engage in battle was named "D1", a British Mark I, during the Battle of Flers-Courcellette on 15 September 1916. For further information on British World War I tank actions, see Tanks in World War I. In contrast to World War II, Germany fielded very few tanks during WWI, with only 15 of the A7V type being produced in Germany during the war.

The first tank versus tank action took place on 24 April 1918 at Villers-Bretonneux, France, when three British Mark IVs met three German A7Vs. Mechanical problems, poor mobility and piecemeal tactical deployment limited the military significance of the tank in World War I and the tank did not fulfil its promise of rendering trench warfare obsolete.

None the less, it was clear to military thinkers on both sides that tanks would play a significant role in future conflicts. In the inter-war period tanks underwent further mechanical development and, in terms of tactics, J.F.C. Fuller's doctrine of spearhead attacks with massed tank formations was the basis for work by Heinz Guderian in Germany, Percy Hobart in Britain, Adna R. Chaffee, Jr. in the U.S., Charles de Gaulle in France, and Mikhail Tukhachevsky in the USSR.

All came to similar conclusions, but in the Second World War only Germany would 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.

French tank  FT-17

The first tanks didn't have turrets in World War I until the development of the French light tank called the FT-17. This French tank set the design of tanks to modern day even thou it only had a machine gun for is main weapon. Many World War I tanks were huge compared to the early days of tank in World War II. At the Start of WW2 most tanks had a 37mm cannon. Also before World War II the development of mobile radio sets that could be used inside tanks meant that tanks to work together as groups with out a person hanging outside of the tank with flags.

During World War 2 tanks got larger up to the point of the 50 ton Tiger tanks. With larger size meant larger weapons. The Soviets with the IS-2 tank had the largest production tank gun of WW 2 with a 122mm cannon. The IS-2 was the Soviet answer to the German Tiger and King Tiger tanks which had an 88MM cannon. The US built the M-26 Perishing with a 90mm Cannon.

Armor during WW2 was mainly steel but Post WW2 the developed of guided missiles and SABOT rounds meant the development of new types of armor. With new armor and larger main guns tanks also got shorter. The closer to the ground a tank was the harder to hit. Vietnam was not a big tank war.

The US mainly used tanks as mobile artillery since they would sink in many of the rice paddies of Vietnam. The North Vietnamese did use T-34 and T-55. During the 1972 invasion the US used helicopters armed with guided missiles to destroy large numbers of North Vietnam's Soviet built tanks.

In the 1960 and 1970s tanks started to receive laser sights, night vision and other enhancements to increase their ability to fight. The Israelis developed explosive armor to defeat shaped charge rounds and missiles. British and American researches came up with armor based on depleted uranium.

One big modern change is the development of smooth bore guns. Older tanks had rifled tubes which helped spin the shell as it fired. This helped stabile the shell in flight. Smooth bore guns last longer than rifled tubes and for about the same weight can fire a large shell. The Original M-1 had a 105mm main gun. The M1A3 uses a 120mm main gun as does the German Leopard 2.

Other new weapons are the use of missiles instead of shells. Some tanks carry missiles that fire out of the main gun. Some are laser guided or infrared guided. Modern tanks now use wireless networking to talk to helicopters, other tanks, artillery, command posts and even local close air support aircraft.

This networking will speed how fast a tank works on the modern battlefield. Working together with other battlefield weapons will make the tank more deadly and useful for years to come. The Tank was a culmination of technology developed before World War 1.

The first tank is believed to have been designed by Leonardo Da Vinci in the late 15th century. It was never built. The Army of Great Britain in World War I needed a device that could break through  the line of trenches that the Germans were building in World War I. Using Gasoline engines, naval steel plates and tracks the British built the first working tanks.

They were called tanks in the hope that Germans would think they were water tanks. In the summer of 1915 the British tested their tanks in England. The tanks were rushed into production and were on the battlefields of France in Sept 1916. The first tanks were slow but they were invulnerable to machine guns and rifles. Only artillery or mechanical breakdown could stop most tanks.

British L7 105 mm

During the Cold War, the two opposing forces in Europe were the Warsaw Pact countries on the one side, and the NATO countries on the other side. The Warsaw Pact was seen by the West as having an aggressive force outnumbering the NATO forces and tank development proceeded largely as it had during WWII to maintain the balance of power.

The essence of tank designs during the Cold War had been hammered out in the closing months of World War II. Large turrets, capable suspension systems, greatly improved engines, sloped armour and large caliber (100mm+) guns were all introduced to tanks during WWII. Tank design during the Cold War built on this foundation and included improvements to fire control, gun stabilisation, communications and crew comfort.

Armour technology progressed in an ongoing race against improvements in anti-tank weapons, especially antitank guided missiles like the TOW. Medium tanks of WWII gradually evolved into the Main Battle Tank of the Cold War and took over all tank roles on the battlefield. This transition happened gradually in the 1950s, as it was realized that medium tanks could carry guns (such as the US 90 mm, Soviet 100 mm, and the excellent British L7 105 mm) that could penetrate any practical thickness of armour plate at long range.

The WWII concept of heavy tanks, armed with the most powerful guns and heaviest armour became obsolete, since they were just as vulnerable as other vehicles to the new medium tank guns. Likewise, WWII had shown that lightly-armed, lightly-armoured tanks were of little value in most roles; speed was not a substitute for armour and fire power threat.

camouflage tank

A tank's protection is the combination of its ability to avoid detection, to avoid being hit by enemy fire, its armour to resist the effects of enemy fire, and to sustain damage and complete its mission, or at least protect 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 fire-power and mobility, limit the crew's detection capabilities and can restrict turret traverse.

Despite these disadvantages, tanks retain high survivability against previous generation RPGs in all combat environments by virtue of their armour. By contrast, tank survivability against newer generation tandem-warhead anti-tank missiles is a concern for military planners.

A tank avoids detection using the doctrine of CCD: camouflage (looks the same as the surroundings), concealment (cannot be seen) and deception (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 that emits copious heat and noise when mobile. Consequently, it's difficult to effectively camouflage a hull-up tank in the absence of some form of cover or concealment (eg. woods).

The tank becomes easier to detect when mobile due to the large, distinctive auditory, vibration and thermal signatures of a power plant with an output comparable to that of a diesel locomotive. Tank tracks and dust clouds also betray past or present tank movement.

Powered down tanks are vulnerable to infra-red detection due to differences between the thermal conductivity 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.

There are at least three possible explanations of the origin of the name "tank". One is it first 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 containers or tanks for the British Army, hence keeping the production of a fighting vehicle secret.

Another is the term was first used in a secret report on the new motorized weapon presented to Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, by British Army Lt.-Col. Ernest Swinton. From this report, three possible terms emerged: "cistern", "motor-war car", and "tank". Apparently "tank" was chosen due to its linguistic simplicity.

Perhaps the most compelling story comes from Churchill's authoritative biography. 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 changed to "water tanks for Russia." Eventually the weapon was just called a tank.

The cruiser tank

The cruiser tank (also called cavalry tank or fast tank) was a British tank design concept of the inter-war period. This concept was the driving force behind several tank designs which saw action during the Second World War. Like the ships of the same name, cruiser tanks were fast and mobile, and were designed to operate independently of the slow-moving infantry and their heavier Infantry tanks.

Once gaps had been punched in the enemy front by the infantry tanks, the cruisers were intended to penetrate to the rear, attacking lines of supply and communication in accordance with the theories of Hobart and Liddell-Hart. Speed was therefore a critical factor, and to achieve this the early cruiser designs were lightly armoured and armed. This emphasis on speed unbalanced the British designs; insufficient attention was paid to armour protection.

At the time it was not well understood that lightly-armoured vehicles would not survive on the modern battlefield. An even bigger problem for most cruiser tanks was the small calibre of their main gun. Most cruisers were armed with the QF two-pounder (40 mm) gun. This gun had good armour penetration (the best at the time), but was never issued high explosive ammunition. This made the cruisers vulnerable to towed Anti-tank guns.

However, as fighting enemy tanks was part of the projected role of the Cruiser tanks they were the first to be upgraded to the heavier 6 pounder (57 mm) gun when it became available, and a great deal of effort was put into developing (admittedly unsuccessful) Cruiser tanks armed with the 17 pounder QF (76 mm) gun. Ironically, given the emphasis on high mobility, most cruisers were plagued by mechanical unreliability.

This problem was usually caused by insufficient development as most of the early Cruiser tank designs were ordered "off the drawing board" and was not fully solved until the debut of the Cromwell in 1944, with its powerful, reliable Rolls-Royce Meteor engine.

The tale of the Cruiser tanks produced by Great Britain has by now been often told but it still bears re-examination, showing as it does, how a doctrine accepted without proper investigation can affect the course of battles, even well past the point when the doctrine has been found wanting.

British and Allied tank crews had to drive their charges into battle knowing that their main guns were too weak, their armoured protection too thin and their mechanical reliability all too suspect at a critical moment. But they went into battle all the same and often managed to defeat a betterarmed and prepared enemy.


The British and French tanks were are among some of the least successful of the WW2 period. Some of them (such as the British Valentine, Matilda and Churchill) were eventually turned into good fighting machines, but - working in a rush and without a proper development base from which to work up their designs - many British tank designers produced tanks that were no match for their counterparts in the German Panzer units. The reasons for this are described herein, but it is not all a sorry tale: despite their drawbacks, these tanks (both Infantry and Cruiser types) were at times all there was to hand and with them their crews and commanders learned the important lessons that were to produce the eventual Allied victory.

The great advantage military tanks brought is the ability to cross very rough terrain areas at high speeds while also firing.

The level of heavy armour that is part of the design ensures a high degree of survivability for the soldiers that operate military tanks in the conditions of breakthroughs in the enemy areas. It is highly uncommon that such special units be used individually; most of the time military tanks are part of armoured divisions or combined forces that work together in combat.

One main reason for the inadequacy of individual use is the existence of anti-tank artillery, and anti-tank bombs that were created as the main defences against combat breach creation.

Panzer tank ww2

World War II was the first conflict where armoured vehicles were critical to success on the battlefield. During the German Invasion of Poland (1939) the Germans used a combination of Panzer I (a training tank), Panzer II light tanks, and captured Czechoslovakian tanks (Panzer 35 and Panzer 38. Early war German tanks sacrificed fire-power and protection for mobility and reliability.

In contrast, the French had good tanks like the Somua S35 and Char B1 but employed a defensive doctrine and had poor tank command and control systems, lacking radios in many of their tanks and headquarters. The French and British used a range of tank designs with different roles (see British tank classification).

One of the more successful British tanks of the war was the Matilda tank. The German doctrine of blitzkrieg or "Lightning War" made use of radios in all of the tanks to provide command and control, which made them more effective tank for tank than their Allied opponents in the Battle of France, despite the Allied machines being more than a match for the panzers one-on-one.

German tanks bypassed enemy strong-points and could radio for close air support to destroy them, or leave them to the infantry on foot. A related development, mechanized infantry, allowed some of the troops to keep up with the tanks and create (for the period) highly mobile combined arms forces.

By 1941, the Germans had the newer Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks with which to invade the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. In an echo of the Battle of France the Soviets had several good tanks and one superb tank design, the T-34. German crews were initially shocked by the excellent all-round performance of the T-34 and the protection and firepower of the KV-1.

As before, the rigid Soviet command structure and poor leadership allowed their machines to be surrounded and destroyed in detail, but the Germans could not precipitate the same tactical and strategic panic as they had in France; instead they found an enemy that doggedly kept fighting without food, water and communications.

Despite early successes against the Soviets, the Germans began up-gunning their Panzer IVs, and eventually built larger Panther and Tiger tanks to (ultimately unsuccessfully) deal with the Soviet tank. The three traditional factors determining a tank's effectiveness in battle are its firepower, protection, and mobility. In practical terms, the cost to manufacture and maintain a given tank design is also important in that it determines how many tanks a nation can afford to field. Firepower is the ability of a tank to identify, engage, and destroy a target.

Protection is the tank's ability to resist being detected, engaged, and disabled or destroyed by enemy fire. Mobility includes tactical (short range) movement over the battlefield including over rough terrain and obstacles, as well as strategic (long range) mobility, the ability of the tank to be transported by road, rail, sea, and/or air, to the battlefield.

Tank design is a compromise; it is not possible to maximize firepower, protection and mobility simultaneously. For example, increasing protection by adding armour will result in an increase in weight and therefore decrease mobility; increasing firepower by installing a larger gun will force the designer to sacrifice speed or armour to compensate for the added weight and cost.

Since WWII tank development has shifted focus from experimenting with large scale mechanical changes to the tank design to focussing on technological advances in the tank's subsystems to improve its performance.

The main weapon of all modern tanks is a single, large calibre (105 to 125mm) gun mounted in a fully traversing turret. The typical tank gun is a smoothbore weapon capable of firing armour-piercing kinetic energy penetrators (KEP), also known as armour-piercing discarding sabot (APDS), and high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) shells and/or anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) to destroy armoured targets, as well as high explosive (HE) shells for engaging soft targets or fortifications.

A modern type of tank ordnance arising from the close range urban combat in Iraq is a 120mm caliber "shotgun" round for the M1 Abramswhich will fire 1100 tungsten pellets.

A gyroscope is used to stabilise the main gun, reducing the effect of manoeuvring on accuracy. Modern tank guns are also commonly fitted with insulating thermal jackets to reduce gun-barrel warping caused by uneven thermal expansion, bore evaluators to minimise fumes entering the crew compartment and (less often) muzzle brakes to minimise the effect of recoil on accuracy and rate of fire.

Modern target detection relies on telescopic periscopes and 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 computerized fire control systems. The fire control system uses a laser range-finder to detect the range to the target, a thermocouple, anemometer 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 to calculate the elevation and aim point that maximises the probability of destroying the target.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ernest Swinton

The idea of the tank came from a development of farming vehicles that could cross difficult land with ease by using caterpillar tracks. However, the British army’s hierarchy was dominated by officers from the various cavalry regiments that existed. At the start of World War One, the first engagement between the British and Germans had involved cavalry near Mons.

This seemed to emphasise the importance of such regiments. However, trench warfare had made the use of cavalry null and void. Cavalry engagements fought in mud proved very costly and from a military point of view, hopeless. Despite this seemingly obvious fact, senior military commanders were hostile to the use of armoured vehicles, as they would have challenged the use of cavalry in the field. The leading light in support of the tank was Lieutenant-Colonel Ernest Swinton.

In 1914, he had proposed the development of a new type of fighting vehicle. In fact, it is a common misconception that no fighting vehicles existed in August 1914. The Germans, British, Austrians, Russians and French all had armoured fighting vehicles that could fight on ‘normal’ terrain. But these vehicles could not cope with trenches that were soon to dominate the Western Front.

Caterpillar tracked vehicles were already in France as the British used them as heavy gun tractors. Swinton had received some support from those in authority but many in the army’s General Staff were deeply suspicious. Swinton needed an example of the machine that he believed would alter warfare on the Western Front. By June 9th 1915, agreement was made regarding what the new weapon should be.

It should: Have a top speed of 4 mph on flat land The ability to turn sharply at top speed The ability to climb a 5-feet parapet The ability to cross an eight feet gap A working radius of 20 miles A crew of ten men with two machine guns on board and one light artillery gun. One supporter of the prospective new weapon was Winston Churchill. However, by the end of 1915, his name was not held in high esteem because of the Gallipoli fiasco.

Big Willie Tank

As the stalemate on the Western Front continued, so the drive to find a weapon that could break this lack of mobility became more intense. Most of the original designs were based on designs from the Holt tractor company. However, their vehicles were designed to operate on muddy land but not the churned up landscape of the Western Front.

The first 'tank' to have any form of caterpillar track was a vehicle designed by Lieutenant W Wilson and William Tritton called "Little Willie". "Little Willie" was never designed to fight but to serve as a template for development. "Little Willie" developed in to "Big Willie" which started to bear a resemblance to the first Mark 1 seen in the photo. "Big Willie" was rhomboid in shape and had guns mounted in blisters on the sides of the hull.

The military failure in Gallipoli had pushed the emphasis of the war back to the Western Front - to the trenches and the lack of movement. Therefore, any new weapon that might seem capable of ending this stalemate was likely to be better received than in the past.

The start of life for the tank did not bode well. The first model came off the factory floor on September 8th 1915. On September 10th, its track came off. The same happened on September 19th when government officials were watching.

However, these officials were impressed as they knew that any new weapon was bound to have teething problems and their recognised the potential that the new weapon had. Its main weakness was the track system. Tritton and Wilson designed a new and more reliable version and on September 29th a meeting took place in London that recommended the new weapon should have 10-mm frontal armour and 8-mm side armour. There would be a crew of eight and the large guns would be 57-mm naval guns mounted on the sides.

The vehicle would have a speed of 4 mph. "Big Willie" ran with these specifications for the first time on January 16th 1916. Churchill had directly contacted Haig to convince him about the usefulness of the new weapon. Haig sent a major, Hugh Elles, to find out more about the machine and he reported favourably to Haig. On January 29th 1916, "Big Willie" went through it first major demonstration - under the tightest of secrecy.

On February 2nd, Kitchener, Lloyd George and McKenna, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, attended another demonstration. It was at this meeting that Kitchener described "Big Willie" as a "pretty mechanical toy". However, those close to Kitchener said that he said this as a way to provoke the 'tank team' into defending their creation, i.e. that he was deliberately provocative to see what response he got. Whatever the case, by February 12th, 100 "Big Willies" had been ordered by the Ministry of Munitions.

The development of the tank when compared to other weapons was remarkably swift - a testament to the team surrounding the weapon and the drive of Wilson and Tritton. After February 12th, Ernest Swinton went into overdrive to develop a fighting technique for these new weapons. Swinton was very keen that both tanks and infantry worked in co-operation.

However, in the early days, it remains clear that even Swinton saw the tank as supporting the infantry in their efforts to break the German front lines as opposed to the tank being a weapon that could do this by itself. "It seems, as the tanks are an auxiliary to the infantry, that they must be counted as infantry and in an operation be under the same command." In April, Haig informed Swinton that he wanted tanks and crews ready for June 1st - the start date for the Battle of the Somme.

This was an impossible request as there were no tanks in production and if there were no tanks, how could crews train on them? Finding crews was also a potential problem as very few people outside of the rich had had experience of mechanised vehicles by 1916.

Those who did join the Armoured Car Section of the Motor Machine Gun Service (an attempt to disguise the new weapon) came from the Motor Machine Gun Service or from the motor trade - these people had mechanical skills but no military knowledge! The abject failure of artillery at Verdun and the Somme meant that General Headquarters ordered the new weapon into use by September 15th 1916.

The first tanks arrived in Europe on August 30th but the crews were faced with major problems. One tank commander wrote: "I and my crew did not have a tank of our own the whole time we were in England. Ours went wrong the day it arrived. We had no reconnaissance or map reading....no practices or lectures on the compass....we had no signaling....and no practice in considering orders.

We had no knowledge of where to look for information that would be necessary for us as tank commanders, nor did we know what information we should be likely to require." On September 15th, 36 tanks made an en mass attack at the Somme. Originally there had been fifty of these machines but these thirty ton machines could not cope with the harsh lunar landscape of the churned up ground and fourteen had broken down or got bogged down. Regardless of this a new era in warfare had started.


To effectively protect the tank and its crew, tank armour must counter a wide variety of anti-tank threats. Protection against kinetic energy penetrators and high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) shells fired by other tanks is of primary importance, but tank armour must also aim to protect against infantry anti-tank missiles, anti-tank mines, bombs, direct artillery hits, and (less often) nuclear, bacterial and chemical threats, any of which could disable or destroy a tank and/or its crew.

Steel armour plate was the earliest type of armour. The Germans pioneered the use of face hardened steel during WWII and the Soviets also achieved improved protection with sloped armour technology.

WWII developments also spelled the eventual doom of homogeneous steel armour with the development of shaped charge warheads, exemplified by the Panzerfaust and bazooka infantry weapons which were lethally effective, despite some early success with spaced armour.

British tank researchers took the next step with the development of Chobham armour, or more generally composite armour, incorporating ceramics and plastics in a resin matrix between steel plates, which provided good protection against early HEAT weapons.

Magnetic mines led to the development of anti-magnetic paste and paint, squash head warheads led to Kevlar (or equivalent) anti-spall armour linings, and KEPs led to the inclusion of exotic materials like depleted uranium in the composite matrix. Reactive armour consists of small explosive "bricks" that detonate when damaged by HEAT fire, bending or disrupting the incoming molten metallic jet.

Tandem warheads defeat reactive armour by causing the armour to detonate prematurely. Grenade launchers which can rapidly deploy a smoke screen and the modern Shtora soft-kill countermeasure system provide additional protection by disrupting enemy targeting and fire control systems.

Mk IVA's Tank

The tank was a British invention and made its appearance during the First World War (1914-18).The construction of a tank is basically a large long range gun mounted on the chassis of a caterpillar and encased with Over the years the tank or the panzer as christened by the Germans has been refined to a great extant. Its durability, speed and efficacy are greatly increased. The Tank in the Second World War The Germans under Hitler laid great stress on the panzer regiments and their generals perfected the strategy of 'blitzkrieg' or lightening war.

The tanks were the main stay of these assaults and the battles of France (1940) and the Russian war from 1941 brought out the potential of the tank as a major weapon of war. The fall of France and Western Europe as well the advance deep into Russia was spearheaded by the Panzer regiments. In fact the tanks took the place of the armored elephant of the ancient armies and served as platform to shock and awe the enemy.

The Second World War (1939-45) brought out versatility of the tank. In plains and deserts like in North Africa the tank played a decisive role. In fact Rommel's halt and subsequent defeat at El Alamein some 60 miles from Alexandria was in main to the paucity of his panzer reserves.

In Russia perhaps the greatest of tank battles were fought. And in 1943 the famous battle at Kursk remains a water shed in the development of the tank as a weapon of offense. Limitations of the Tank But the efficacy of the tank in jungle warfare and mountainous regions was suspect. Thus the offensives of Imperial Japanese Army did not rely solely on the tank. Also in the conquest of the islands and their subsequent capture by the US army in the Pacific the role of the tank was minimal.

Even in the 1962 Sino- Indian conflict the tank was hardly used and only in Ladakh the Chinese brought in some light tanks for the assault on Chusal airfield, when the Indian defenders put up a stiff fight. Even now when the US army is battling the Islamic extremists in Afghanistan where mountain chains abound the role of the tank is minimal. Tanks in Wars after World War II and Air Power The efficacy of the tank in desert warfare stands out

.Thus in the two assaults on Iraq the US and allies made good use of the tanks and they had a major role to play in spearheading theground troops after air superiority had been obtained by the Air forces of the allied powers led by the USA. Thus a limiting factor on the efficacy of the tank emerged in the form of air power. Another limiting factor is the morale and training of the crew plying the tanks. The low morale and poor training of the Pakistan tank crew during the 1965 war with India led to their biggest defeat at Khemkaran. .

Last Word The success of any tank operations now is not possible without gaining tactical air control over the battle area. The tank to succeed in any campaign must have adequate support from the air. This is now days one of the cardinal principles of offensive operations. Not withstanding these limitations, the armored regiments of any army form the elite strike force and with adequate air support can wrest the initiative from the enemy.

The M-26 Pershing

In World War I, army tanks were not equipped with turrets until the French light tank known as the FT-17 was developed. Though the French tank only had a machine gun as its primary weapon, it set the path for the designs of modern army tanks. Compared to tanks used in the early days of World War II, tanks that were used in World War I were relatively large.

By the time World War II started, a number of army tanks were equipped with a 37mm cannon. World War II was the time when army tanks increased in size; there were even the 50 ton Tiger tanks. This meant that larger sized tanks could carry larger weapons. During the time of World War II, the Soviets' army tanks had the biggest production tank gun; this was the IS-2 tank with a 122mm cannon.

The IS-2 tank was the Soviets way of responding to the Germans Tiger and King Tiger army tanks, which were equipped with an 88mm cannon. The M-26 Pershing was built by the United States, and it has a 90mm cannon. During World War II, armour was primarily made from steel; however, after World War II when SABOT rounds and guided missiles were developed, new types of armour were also made.

Because of the development of new armour, bigger main guns army tanks got smaller. A tank was harder to hit the closer to the ground it was. Since they would sink in Vietnam's rice paddies, the United States primarily used their army tanks as mobile artillery. North Vietnam made use of the T-55 and the T-34 tanks. When the U.S. invaded Vietnam in 1972, many of North Vietnam's Soviet built army tanks were destroyed by U.S. helicopters that were armed with guided missiles.

In the 1960s and 1970s, in order to enhance their fighting abilities, army tanks were equipped with night vision, laser sights and other improvements. In order to decimate missiles and shaped charge rounds, explosive armour was developed by the Israelis. Researches done by the Americans and the British revealed that the armour was based on exhausted uranium. Smooth bore guns have now been added to modern army tanks.

For about the same weight, smooth bore guns can fire a large shell just like the rifled tubes of older army tanks, and they also last longer. The Original M-1 used a 105mm main gun, while the German Leopard 2 and the M1A3 uses a 120mm main gun. Army tanks that are used in modern times are now equipped with wireless networking that can be used to communicate with air support aircrafts, command posts, artillery, other army tanks and helicopters. As the years go by and as there are more technological advancements, army tanks will be more useful and more deadly.

There were many tank designs during World War II. Germany was at the fore front in tank design during the war and the Tiger tank was one of their most innovative designs that ultimately proved itself in battle. Germany produced two models of the Tiger panzer tanks, the Tiger I and the Tiger II or King Tiger. The materials and the labour intensive production process made them the mostly costly tanks to produce during the war.

They were designed with the purpose of being an offensive breakthrough weapon which due to the tactical situation when the Tiger was first deployed changed to defensive posture or mobile gun battery. You maybe wondering what "Panzer" means since you'll see it throughout this article. The German translation means armour. You'll see notations during World War II of German "Panzer" divisions, regiments or battalions which mean armoured formations usually containing tanks. There were some flaws in the Tiger the designers did not anticipate.

The Tiger tank was very heavy because of its thick armour and the power plant, transmission system, road wheels and tracks had mechanical problems because of this extreme weight. Designers did make changes to some of these problems with either updates to the Tiger or the introduction of a new model such as the Tiger II which took care of some issues. Of course with the introduction of a new model the Tiger II tank had more problems that would need to be addressed since it was even heavier than the Tiger I. The heavier design created issues when travelling over terrain.

Crews had to plan their routes very carefully taking into account soft terrain, hills and bridges. The tanks in many cases were too heavy for bridges in rural Europe and Tiger tank units had to be deviated from the road march to bridges that would support them or fordable areas of a river. The Tiger tank was equipped with a snorkel to ford rivers.

Tiger tanks were feared by most Allied troops and tankers during the war. The Tiger had superior armour, weapons and optics and could kill tanks from a greater range than their enemy. It required extreme tactics that would include several tanks and troops to take out one Tiger. The combat records of the Tiger tanks were simply amazing once some of the bugs were worked out of them. In most cases, they were out numbered and would still inflict heavy losses sometimes even turning the tide of the current battle. There were many commanders who claimed over 100 vehicle kills during the war.

Tank battles

For many years, humanity has looked for new ways that we could combine our engineering genius with improved combat capabilities. It may be horrible, but wars are always going to happen – and therefore it's important to have the best equipment in your corner possible. The military tank has been one of the stalwarts of the army for many years, offering support from long-range and protection for lesser armoured troops.

Although today most of our wars are fought with things like drones and airships, in the Second World War and the like, the tank was the epitome of what we had. The tank was first seen during the First World War, but it was not until the Second World War that the potential of the tank had been fully developed. From the metal carriers of the First to the destruction machines of the Second, the tank has played a huge part in the strengthening of militarise of years.

All tanks have three identical characteristics – the can move, they can fire, and they take a lot of hits to bring down. As the years have gone by, a balance has been made between the three rather than the extremely quick but weak tanks of the early days, or the cumbersome war machines that made perfect ambush traps. Whether the tanks used modular, composite or explosive reactive armour has come down to the temperament the war is fought on, and also depends on the quality of anti-tank weaponry in the opposition forces.

While the tank has developed on the outside, it has gone through a metamorphosis within, too. The tank crew used to be extremely easily to take out, rendering the tank useless, but the Israeli Merkava battle tank has the cockpit at the front of the tank. Because most tanks are hit at the back – due to the lack of armour on most models here – this created an extra layer of protection for the crew inside.

This innovation has been taken on and used in many other tanks. As tanks became more agile and were able to cross more difficult terrains with ease as technology advanced, the fire power has obviously increased alongside. Tanks have always had a reputation for moving up in the gears in every possible way, and in the 21st Century we have produced some truly breathtaking battle weapons.

While the tank has long been written off as a relic of the past, it still stands as the first port of call for any type of skirmish or battle taking place worldwide. Say what you like about drones and such, there is nothing quite as intimidating as the rolling thunder of a military tank!

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