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Assault guns are armored fighting vehicles that could combine the roles of infantry tanks and tank destroyers. Some tanks were converted to flame tanks , specializing on close-in attacks on enemy strongholds with flamethrowers. As the war went on, tanks tended to become larger and more powerful, shifting some tank classifications and leading to super-heavy tanks. Experience and technology advances during the Cold War continued to consolidate tank roles.

With the worldwide adoption of the modern main battle tank designs, which favour a modular universal design, most other classifications are dropped from modern terminology. All main battle tanks tend to have a good balance of speed, armour, and firepower, even while technology continues to improve all three. Being fairly large, main battle tanks can be complemented with light tanks, armoured personnel carriers , infantry fighting vehicles or similar relatively lighter armoured fighting vehicles, typically in the roles of armoured reconnaissance , amphibious or air assault operations, or against enemies lacking main battle tanks.

The main weapon of modern tanks is typically a single, large- calibre cannon mounted in a fully traversing rotating gun turret. Canister shot 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 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 jackets to reduce gun-barrel warping caused by uneven thermal expansion , bore evacuators to minimise gun firing fumes entering the crew compartment and sometimes muzzle brakes to minimise the effect of recoil on accuracy and rate of fire.

Traditionally, target detection relied on visual identification. This was accomplished from within the tank through telescopic periscopes ; often, 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.

Though several developments in target detection have taken place, these methods are still common practice. In the s, more electronic target detection methods are available. In some cases spotting rifles were used to confirm proper trajectory and range to a target. These spotting rifles were mounted co-axially to the main gun, and fired tracer ammunition 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 this slow method has 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 systems. A fire-control system uses a laser rangefinder to determine 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 hitting the target. Usually, tanks carry smaller calibre armament for short-range defence where fire from the main weapon would be ineffective or wasteful, for example when engaging infantry , light vehicles or close air support aircraft.

A typical complement of secondary weapons is a general-purpose machine gun mounted coaxially with the main gun, and a heavier anti-aircraft -capable machine gun on the turret roof. Some tanks also have a hull-mounted machine gun. These weapons are often modified variants of those used by infantry, and so utilise the same kinds of ammunition. The measure of a tank's protection is the combination of its ability to avoid detection due to having a low profile and through the use of camouflage , 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.

This is done by a variety of countermeasures, such as armour plating and reactive defences, as well as more complex ones such as heat-emissions reduction. In common with most unit types, tanks are subject to additional hazards in dense 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 against previous-generation rocket-propelled grenades aimed at the most-armoured sections. However, as effective and advanced as armour plating has become, tank survivability against newer-generation tandem-warhead anti-tank missiles is a concern for military planners.

Despite all of the advances in armour plating, a tank with its hatches open remains vulnerable to Molotov cocktail gasoline bombs and grenades. Even a "buttoned up" tank may have components which are vulnerable to Molotov cocktails, such as optics, extra gas cans and extra ammunition stored on the outside of the tank. A tank avoids detection using the doctrine of countermeasures known as CCD: Camouflage can include disruptive painted shapes on the tank to break up the distinctive appearance and silhouette of a tank.

Netting or actual branches from the surrounding landscape are also used. Prior to development of infrared technology, tanks were often given a coating of camouflage paint that, depending on environmental region or season, would allow it to blend in with the rest of its environment. A tank operating in wooded areas would typically get a green and brown paintjob; a tank in a winter environment would get white paint often mixed with some darker colours ; tanks in the desert often get khaki paintjobs.

The Russian Nakidka camouflage kit was designed to reduce the optical , thermal , infrared , and radar signatures of a tank, so that acquisition of the tank would be difficult. Concealment can include hiding the tank among trees or digging in the tank by having a combat bulldozer dig out part of a hill, so that much of the tank will be hidden. A tank commander can conceal the tank by using "hull down" approaches to going over upward-sloping hills, so that she or he can look out the commander's cupola without the distinctive-looking main cannon cresting over the hill. Adopting a turret-down or hull-down position reduces the visible silhouette of a tank as well as providing the added protection of a position in defilade.

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 engine noise. A tank that is operating in cold weather or which needs to use its radio or other communications or target-detecting electronics will need to start its engine regularly to maintain its battery power, which will create engine noise. Consequently, it is difficult to effectively camouflage a tank in the absence of some form of cover or concealment e.

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 engine and 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 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 or gasoline. Thermal blankets slow the rate of heat emission and some thermal camouflage nets use a mix of materials with differing thermal properties to operate in the infra-red as well as the visible spectrum. Grenade launchers can rapidly deploy a smoke screen that is opaque to infrared light, to hide it from the thermal viewer of another tank. In addition to using its own grenade launchers, a tank commander could call in an artillery unit to provide smoke cover.

Some tanks can produce a smoke screen. Sometimes camouflage and concealment are used at the same time. For example, a camouflage-painted and branch-covered tank camouflage may be hidden in a behind a hill or in a dug-in-emplacement concealment. Some armoured recovery vehicles often tracked, tank chassis-based "tow trucks" for tanks have dummy turrets and cannons.

This makes it less likely that enemy tanks will fire on these vehicles. Some armies have fake "dummy" tanks made of wood which troops can carry into position and hide behind obstacles. These "dummy" tanks may cause the enemy to think that there are more tanks than are actually possessed. 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 HEAT shells fired by other tanks is of primary importance, but tank armour also aims to protect against infantry mortars , grenades , rocket-propelled grenades , anti-tank guided missiles , anti-tank mines , anti-tank rifles , bombs , direct artillery hits, and less often nuclear, biological and chemical threats, any of which could disable or destroy a tank or its crew. Steel armour plate 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 technology.

World War II developments led to the obsolescence of homogeneous steel armour with the development of shaped-charge warheads, exemplified by the Panzerfaust and bazooka infantry-carried weapons which were effective, despite some early success with spaced armour. Magnetic mines led to the development of anti-magnetic paste and paint. From WWII to the modern era, troops have added improvised armour to tanks while in combat settings, such as sandbags or pieces of old armour plating.

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 HEAT weapons. High explosive squash head warheads led to anti-spall armour linings, and kinetic energy penetrators led to the inclusion of exotic materials like a matrix of depleted uranium into a composite armour configuration. Reactive armour 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.

The latest generation of protective measures for tanks are active protection systems. The term "active" is used to contrast these approaches with the armour used as the primary protective approach in earlier tanks. The mobility of a tank is described by its battlefield or tactical mobility, its operational mobility, and its strategic mobility. Tank agility is a function of the weight of the tank due to its inertia while manoeuvring and its ground pressure , the power output of the installed power plant and the tank transmission 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 or later torsion-bar suspension developed by Ferdinand Porsche 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 less ground pressure. 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.

The tank's power plant supplies kinetic energy to move the tank, and electric power via a generator to components such as the turret rotation motors 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 engines to advanced multi-fuel diesel engines , and powerful per unit weight but fuel-hungry gas turbines in the T and M1 Abrams. 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.


Tank Strength by Country

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. In the absence of combat engineers , most tanks are limited to fording small rivers. 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, such as by including snorkels and skirts, but they are rare in modern armies, being replaced by purpose-built amphibious assault vehicles or armoured personnel carriers in amphibious assaults.

Advances such as the EFA mobile bridge and armoured vehicle-launched scissors bridges have also reduced the impediment to tank advance that rivers posed in World War II. Most modern tanks most often have four crew members, or three if an auto-loader is installed. Historically, crews have varied from just two members to a dozen.

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For example, pre-World War II French tanks were noted for having a two-man crew, in which the overworked commander had to load and fire the gun in addition to commanding the tank. First World War tanks were developed with immature technologies; in addition to the crew needed to man the multiple guns and machine guns, up to four crewmen were needed to drive the tank: With World War II the multi-turreted tanks proved impracticable, and as the single turret on a low hull design became standard, crews became standardized around a crew of four or five.

In those tanks with a fifth crew member, usually three were located in the turret as described above while the fifth was most often seated in the hull next to the driver, and operated the hull machine gun in addition to acting as a co-driver or radio operator. Well-designed crew stations, giving proper considerations to comfort and ergonomics, are an important factor in the combat effectiveness of a tank, as it limits fatigue and speeds up individual actions. A noted author on the subject of tank design engineering, Richard M Ogorkiewicz, [70] outlined the following basic engineering sub-systems that are commonly incorporated into tank's technological development:.

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. Few tank designs have survived their entire service lives without some upgrading or modernisation, particularly during wartime, including some that have 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. 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 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 and the M4 Sherman , 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 many subsystems to improve its performance. However, a number of novel designs have appeared throughout this period with mixed success, including the Soviet IT-1 and T in firepower, and the Israeli Merkava and Swedish S-tank in protection, while for decades the USA's M remained the only light tank deployable by parachute.

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Commanding and coordinating 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 , integrated systems that enable communications and contribute to enhanced situational awareness. Armoured bulkheads , engine noise, intervening terrain, dust and smoke, and the need to operate "buttoned up" with hatches closed are severe detriments to communication and lead to a sense of isolation for small tank units, individual vehicles, and tank crew.

Radios were not then portable or robust enough to be mounted in a tank, although Morse code transmitters were installed in some Mark IVs at Cambrai as messaging vehicles. From the beginning, the German military stressed wireless communications, equipping their combat vehicles with radios, and drilled all units to rely on disciplined radio use as a basic element of tactics. This allowed them to respond to developing threats and opportunities during battles, giving the Germans a notable tactical advantage early in the war; even where Allied tanks initially had better firepower and armour, they generally lacked individual radios.

On the modern battlefield an intercom 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 to minimize confusion and "chatter". A recent [ when?

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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.

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  • Advanced battle tanks, including the K-2 Black Panther , have taken up the first major step forward in adopting a fully radar integrated Fire Control System which allows it to detect tanks from a further distance and identify it as a friend-or-foe as well as increasing the tank's accuracy as well as its capability to lock onto tanks. Further advancements in tank defence systems has led to the development of active protection systems. These involve either one of two options: Soft-kill or Hard-kill protection systems. The Soft-kill protection system uses an integrated onboard radar warning receiver s which can detect incoming anti-tank missiles and projectiles.

    Once detected, soft-kill measures will be deployed which involves deploying smoke screens or smoke grenades which interfere with the incoming missile's infra-red tracking system. This will cause the incoming missile to miss the tank or to deactivate entirely. The more advanced approach involves the Hard-kill measures. These involve directly destroying the incoming enemy missile or projectile by deploying the tank's own anti-missile projectile.

    This is seen as a more reliable approach due to its direct intervention measures rather than interference measures of the soft-kill measures. Both these active protection systems can be found on several main battle tanks including the K-2 Black Panther , the Merkerva and the Leopard 2A7. The word tank was first applied to the British "landships" in , before they entered service, to keep their nature secret.

    Its purpose was to discuss the progress of the plans for what were described as "Caterpillar Machine Gun Destroyers or Land Cruisers. In Government offices, committees and departments are always known by their initials. For this reason I, as Secretary, considered the proposed title totally unsuitable. That is how these weapons came to be called Tanks," and incorrectly added, "and the name has now been adopted by all countries in the world.

    Unfortunately, later in the War, a number of Mk IV Tanks were fitted with grapnels to remove barbed wire.

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    They were designated "Wire Cutters" and had the large letters "W. Colonel Ernest Swinton, who was secretary to the meeting, says that he was instructed to find a non-committal word when writing his report of the proceedings. In the evening he discussed it with a fellow officer, Lt-Col Walter Dally Jones , and they chose the word "tank". Because a fellow of the Royal Historical Society 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.

    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. So tanks they became, and tanks they have remained. This appears to be an imperfect recollection. He says that the name problem arose "when we shipped the first two vehicles to France the following year" August, , but by that time the name "tank" had been in use for eight months.

    The tanks were labelled "With Care to Petrograd," but the belief was encouraged that they were a type of snowplough. In saying that the word tank was adopted worldwide, Stern was wrong. In France, the second country to use tanks in battle, the word tank or tanque was adopted initially, but was then, largely at the insistence of Colonel J. Estienne , rejected in favour of char d'assaut "assault vehicle" or simply char "vehicle". In Italian , a tank is a " carro armato " lit. Norway uses the term stridsvogn and Sweden the similar stridsvagn lit.

    Finland uses panssarivaunu armoured wagon , although tankki is also used colloquially. In Hungarian the tank is called harckocsi combat wagon , albeit tank is also common. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the armoured fighting vehicles. For other uses, see Tank disambiguation. History of the tank. Light tank Medium tank Heavy tank Super-heavy tank Cruiser tank Infantry tank Main battle tank Tank destroyer Tankette Assault gun Self-propelled gun Self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon Self-propelled artillery Self-propelled mortar Multiple rocket launcher.

    Tanks in World War I.

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    Tanks of the interwar period. Tanks in World War II. Tanks in the Cold War. Tanks of the post—Cold War era. This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. October Learn how and when to remove this template message. August Learn how and when to remove this template message. January Learn how and when to remove this template message. This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.

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    • For other uses, see Tank commander disambiguation. Army units and organization. The tank's secret Lincoln origins". Archived from the original on 13 September Do you pick the American forces with the old faithful M1 Abrams, Soviet forces and their numerous T, the mighty British Chieftain with its heavy armour, the popular German Leopard 2 and its powerful mm gun, or French AMX that has speed to burn.

      Or maybe you have a desire to spread your wings and take to the air? The Modern Age wouldn't be complete without Helicopters! These fast and nimble machines trade the armour that that their ground pounding friends have for the ability to zip around the battlefield delivering anti-tank missiles from all quarters. Following on their last preview of US and Soviet Forces, this time they are looking at the British and West German forces you can field such as the mighty Cheiftain and Leopard 2 tanks, and the smaller and nimbler Marder and Scimitar.

      Get a sneak peak at the cards and stats over on the Beasts Of War website. Soviet Guards - Soviet Tanks Preview Soviet Steel - Soviet Tanks Preview Of course they had plenty of their own designs including the fearsome KV, the bane of many a Panzer commander as well as an earlier version of the T that was being manufactured in Stalingrad whilst the fighting drew ever closer. Check out these sneak peeks before they release in August and September. T Early Tank Expansion Lend Lease Valentine Expansion Lend Lease Churchill Tank Expansion The website has been updated with the last of our desert tank spotlights.

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