Portal:Tanks

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The Tanks Portal

German Tiger tank.

A tank is a tracked, armored fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat and combines strong strategic and tactical offensive and defensive capabilities. Firepower is normally provided by a large-caliber main gun in a rotating turret and secondary machine guns, while heavy armor and all-terrain mobility provide protection for the tank and its crew, allowing it to perform all primary tasks of the armored troops on the battlefield.

Tanks were first manufactured during World War I in an effort to break the bloody deadlock of trench warfare; the British Army was the first to field a vehicle that combined three key characteristics: mobility over barbed wire and rough terrain, armor to withstand small arms fire and shrapnel and the firepower required to suppress or destroy machine gun nests and pillboxes. Despite some success and a significant psychological effect on the German infantry, "the tank in 1918 was not a war-winning weapon."

Interwar developments culminated in the blitzkrieg employed by the German Wehrmacht during World War II and the contribution of the panzers to this doctrine. Hard lessons learned by the Allies during WWII cemented the reputation of the tank, appropriately employed in combined arms forces, as "indispensable to success in both tactical and strategic terms." Today, tanks seldom operate alone, being organized into armored units and operating in combined-arms formations. Despite their apparent invulnerability, without support, tanks are vulnerable to anti-tank artillery, helicopters and aircraft, enemy tanks, anti-tank and improvised mines, and (at close range or in urban environments) infantry.

Due to its formidable capabilities and versatility the battle tank is generally considered a key component of modern armies, but recent thinking has challenged the need for such powerful and expensive weaponry in a period characterized by unconventional and asymmetric warfare. Ongoing research and development attempts to equip the tank to meet the challenges of the 21st century... (more)

Selected article

T-34-85 at Musée des Blindés

The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1941 to 1958. It is widely regarded to have been the world's best tank when the Soviet Union entered World War II, and although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it is credited as the war's most effective, efficient and influential design. First produced at the KhPZ factory in Kharkov (Kharkiv, Ukraine), it was the mainstay of Soviet armoured forces throughout World War II, and widely exported afterwards, it was the most-produced tank of the war, and the second most-produced tank of all time, after its successor, the T-54/55 series. A 1996 publication showed that the T-34 was still in service with twenty-seven countries; the T-34 was developed from the BT series of fast tanks, and was intended to replace both the BT-5 and BT-7 tanks and the T-26 infantry tank in service. At its introduction, it was the tank with the best balanced attributes of firepower, mobility, and protection in existence, although initially its battlefield effectiveness suffered from the unsatisfactory ergonomic layout of its crew compartment, lack of radios and poor tactical employment; the two-man turret crew arrangement required the commander to also serve as the gunner, an arrangement common to most Soviet tanks of the day; this proved to be inferior to the German arrangement of three men (commander, gunner and loader). The design and construction of the tank were continuously refined during the war to improve effectiveness and decrease costs, allowing steadily greater numbers of tanks to be fielded. In early 1944, the improved T-34-85 was introduced, with a more powerful 85 mm gun and a three-man turret design. By the war's end in 1945, the versatile and cost-effective T-34 had replaced many light and heavy tanks in service, and accounted for the majority of Soviet tank production, its evolutionary development would lead directly to the T-54/55 series of tanks, built until 1981 and still operated today... (more)

Selected battle

Verrieres-under-fire.jpg

The Battle of Verrières Ridge was a series of engagements fought as part of the Battle of Normandy, in western France, during the Second World War. The main combatants were two Canadian infantry divisions, with additional support from the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, against elements of three German SS Panzer divisions; the battle was part of the British and Canadian attempts to break out of Caen, and took place from July 19 – July 25, 1944, being part of both Operation Atlantic (July 18 – July 21) and Operation Spring (July 25 – July 27). The immediate Allied objective was Verrières Ridge, a belt of high ground which dominates the route from Caen to Falaise; the ridge was invested by battle-hardened German veterans, who had fallen back from Caen and entrenched to form a strong defensive position. Over the course of six days, substantial Canadian and British forces made repeated attempts to capture the ridge. Strict German adherence to defensive doctrine, as well as strong and effective counterattacks by Panzer formations, resulted in heavy Allied casualties for little strategic gain. From the perspective of the First Canadian Army, the battle is remembered for its tactical and strategic miscalculations—the most notable being a highly controversial attack by the Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch) of Canada on July 25; this attack, the costliest single day for a Canadian battalion since the 1942 Dieppe Raid, has become one of the most contentious and critically analysed events in Canadian military history...(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

Selected biography

Otto Moritz Walter Model ([ˈmoːdəl]) (24 January 1891 – 21 April 1945) was a German general and later field marshal during World War II. He is noted for his defensive battles in the latter half of the war, mostly on the Eastern Front but also in the west, and for his close association with Adolf Hitler and Nazism, he has been called the Wehrmacht's best defensive tactician. Although he was a hard-driving, aggressive panzer commander early in the war, Model became best known as a practitioner of attrition warfare—his associate, General Erhard Raus, called it "zone defence", it emphasised strong fortifications, a reluctance to give ground (although not an absolute refusal to withdraw), and the importance of not allowing major enemy breakthroughs. This approach brought him much success, but his death in 1945 meant he would later be overshadowed by his rivals who advocated manoeuvre warfare. Model first came to Hitler's attention before World War II, but their relationship did not become especially close until 1942, his tenacious style of fighting and aggressive personality won him plaudits from Hitler, who considered him his best commander and repeatedly tasked him with retrieving desperate situations. However, the relationship had broken down by the end of the war, after Model was defeated at the Battle of the Bulge. In personal terms, Model was considered a thorough and competent leader, but was known to "demand too much, and that too quickly", accepting no excuses for failure from both his own men and those who outranked him, his troops were said to have "suffered under his too-frequent absences and erratic, inconsistent demands", and that he frequently lost sight of what was or wasn't practically possible. On the other hand, his dislike of bureaucracy and his crude speech often made him well-liked by some under his command... (more)

Selected 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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