armoured fighting vehicle intended as a primary offensive weapon in front-line ground combat

A tank is an armored fighting vehicle, typically armed with a lethal gun mounted on a turret and a few machine guns.

T-34 used in World War II

A tank is covered in thick armour to protect it from enemy weapons. Tanks have tracks that wrap around its wheels to spread out its weight and let it cross rough terrain. Most tanks have a powerful gun and one or more machine guns.

A tank normally has 3-5 crew members with at least a driver, commander and gunner. There may also be a loader, who handles the ammunition for the main gun (so the gunner doesn't have to take eyes off the target). Some WWII tanks also had a separate soldier responsible for the radio. Since then, tank crews have evolved to have each person do one of these things, but in their early stages, the commander was often the loader and radio operator, and in a few tanks was also the driver.

Early French tank, 1915
A Leopard 2A7 tank in Germany.
The A7V tank was the German response to the British and French tanks, and was used in WW1

The first tanks were made by the British Royal Navy and French car manufacturers during World War I as a way of attacking enemy trenches. They were called tanks to trick the Germans into thinking they were water carriers for the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I. Their use in a surprise attack in the Battle of the Somme caused fear among the German soldiers but their small numbers and poor reliability prevented them from making much difference.

Tanks became a main weapon during World War II, when the German Army introduced a way of using them called Blitzkrieg. Battles between great numbers of tanks were fought, especially between the Germans and the Soviet Union. The Battle of Kursk was the biggest. Well-known World War II tanks were the German Panzer IV, Panther and Tiger I, Soviet T-34 (made in the largest numbers of any tank of the war and second most ever), the British Matilda, Churchill and Cromwell, and the American M4 sherman (second most produced tank of the war) and Stuart tanks. There were plans for much larger and more heavily armoured tanks such as the Maus but they were determined to be of little use. Their huge weight would have made moving them very difficult, and their huge size would have made them easy targets for heavy artillery.

Old tanks are often modified for other uses like carrying soldiers or equipment. Combat engineers use special tank-based vehicles, for example minesweeper tanks or bridge-layer tanks.

The tank is a major part of all large armies today. Tanks have replaced the cavalry everywhere and do the things that soldiers on horseback did in the past. Most modern tanks are of the heavy or Main Battle Tank type, able to fight other tanks. Compared to older types MBTs are very heavy (Russian MBTS being about 40 tons and Western around 60 tons) with a 120 mm (Western) and 125 mm (Russian) calibre cannon and 2-3 machine guns. Marines and other specialized forces also use some light tanks.

Anti-tank warfare


Armies have invented many ways to fight against enemy tanks and to defend their own tanks. Artillery was found to be effective when tanks were first introduced, and special anti-tank guns were made. Elephant guns, large versions of ordinary rifles, were tried. They worked against the earliest tanks but later tanks have tougher armor. Obstacles such as tank traps and anti-tank trenches can catch tanks so artillery can hit them. Anti-tank land mines can also catch or even destroy them.

The main weapons infantry uses for fighting against tanks are anti tank missiles and rocket propelled grenades. Often a tank force has its own infantry troops for protection against those weapons. Tanks are much used to fight tanks, and some tanks are specially made to be good at destroying other tanks. Heavy artillery and bombs can destroy tanks with a blast wave. Starting in the early 21st century, combat drones have sometimes destroyed tanks. Ground attack aircraft can destroy them with guns, bombs, and guided missiles.


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  Media related to Tank at Wikimedia Commons