Portal:Tank

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Introduction

The first tank to engage in battle, the British Mark I tank (pictured in 1916) with the Solomon camouflage scheme

A tank is an armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat, with heavy firepower, strong armour, tracks and a powerful engine providing good battlefield maneuverability. The first tanks were designed to overcome the deadlock of trench warfare in the 1910s; they are a mainstay of modern ground forces and a key part of combined arms combat. Modern tanks are versatile mobile land weapon system platforms, mounting a large-calibre cannon in a rotating gun turret, supplemented by mounted machine guns or other weapons. They combine this with heavy vehicle armour which provides protection for the crew, the vehicle's weapons, and its propulsion systems, and operational mobility, due to its use of tracks rather than wheels, which allows the tank to move over rugged terrain and adverse conditions such as mud, and be positioned on the battlefield in advantageous locations. These features enable the tank to perform well in a variety of intense combat situations, simultaneously both offensively with fire from their powerful tank gun, and defensively due to their near invulnerability from common firearms and good resistance from heavier weapons, all while maintaining the mobility needed to exploit changing tactical situations. Fully integrating tanks into modern military forces spawned a new era of combat, armoured warfare.

The modern tank was the result of a century of development from the first primitive armoured vehicles, due to improvements in technology such as the internal combustion engine, which allowed the rapid movement of heavy armoured vehicles. As a result of these advances, tanks underwent tremendous shifts in capability in the years since their first appearance. Tanks in World War I were developed separately and simultaneously by Great Britain and France as a means to break the deadlock of trench warfare on the Western Front. The first British prototype, nicknamed Little Willie, was constructed at William Foster & Co. in Lincoln, England in 1915, with leading roles played by Major Walter Gordon Wilson who designed the gearbox and hull, and by William Tritton of William Foster and Co., who designed the track plates. This was a prototype of a new design that would become the British Army's Mark I tank, the first tank used in combat in September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. The name "tank" was adopted by the British during the early stages of their development, as a security measure to conceal their purpose (see etymology). While the British and French built thousands of tanks in World War I, Germany was unconvinced of the tank's potential, and built only twenty.

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Spanish Leopard 2E in Madrid, October 2006

The Leopard 2E is a variant of the German-made Leopard 2 main battle tank, tailored to the requirements of the Spanish Army, which acquired it as part of an armament modernization program named Programa Coraza, or Program Armor. The acquisition program for the Leopard 2E began in 1994, five years after the cancellation of the Lince tank program that culminated in an agreement to transfer 108 Leopard 2A4s to the Spanish Army in 1998 and started the local production of the Leopard 2E in December 2003. Despite postponement of production due to the 2003 merger between Santa Bárbara Sistemas and General Dynamics and continued fabrication issues between 2006 and 2007, 219 Leopard 2Es have been delivered to the Spanish Army. The Leopard 2E is a major improvement over the M60 Patton tank, which it replaced in Spain's mechanized and armored units. Its development represented a total of 2.6 million hours worth of work, 9,600 of them in Germany, at a total cost of 1.9 billion euros. This makes it one of the most expensive Leopard 2s built. Indigenous production amounted to 60% and the vehicles were assembled locally at Sevilla by Santa Bárbara Sistemas. It has thicker armor on the turret and glacis plate than the German Leopard 2A6, and uses a Spanish-designed tank command and control system, similar to the one fitted in German Leopard 2s. The Leopard 2E is expected to remain in service until 2025... (more)

Featured battle

Battle of Khafji 1991.svg

The Battle of Khafji was the first major ground engagement of the Gulf War. It took place in and around the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji, from 29 January to 1 February 1991 and marked the culmination of the Coalition's air campaign over Kuwait and Iraq, which had begun on 17 January 1991. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who had already tried and failed to draw Coalition troops into costly ground engagements by shelling Saudi positions and oil storage tanks and firing Scud surface-to-surface missiles at Israel, ordered the invasion of Saudi Arabia from southern Kuwait. He ordered the 1st and 5th Mechanized Divisions and 3rd Armored Division to conduct a multi-pronged invasion toward Khafji, engaging American, Saudi and Qatari forces along the coastline. These three divisions, which had been heavily damaged by Coalition aircraft in the preceding days, attacked on 29 January. Most of their attacks were fought off by U.S. Marines and Coalition aircraft, but one of the Iraqi columns occupied Khafji on the night of 29–30 January. Between 30 January and 1 February, two Saudi Arabian National Guard battalions and two Qatari tank companies attempted to retake control of the city, aided by Coalition aircraft and American artillery. By 1 February, the city had been recaptured at the cost of 43 Coalition soldiers dead and 52 wounded. The Iraqi Army lost between 60 and 300 dead, while an estimated 400 were captured as prisoners of war. The battle serves as a modern demonstration that air power can halt and defeat a major ground operation. It was also a major test of the Saudi and Qatari armies. Although the capture of Khafji was a propaganda victory for Saddam Hussein's regime, its subsequent recapture by Saudi and Qatari ground forces provided a major morale boost for the Coalition...(more)

Selected quote

"Out-gunned, out-manouevred, and hard-pressed, the Spanish had no effective answer to the tank..." —John Weeks, on anti-tank tactics during the Spanish Civil War

Featured picture

Diagram of a tank based on the M1 Abrams

Diagram of a tank based on the M1 Abrams. Diagram showing the major parts of a modern main battle tank, including the turret, glacis plate and main gun.
Photo credit: Dhatfield

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