A military tank is an armored warfare vehicle that is an important part of front line combat. They can drive on all terrains and include excellent advanced weaponry and defense systems. They changed the way that wars were fought in 1916 when British Army broke through the trench fighting deadlock with main battle tanks against the Germans in the Battle of the Somme (WWI). The goal of this tank was to be a mobile weapon that could overcome barbed wire to get to the enemy while protecting those inside from machine gun fire and shrapnel from enemy forces.
The first time that tanks battled against other tanks was in 1918, also between the British and Germans, in WWI. These tanks were powered by tractor engines and had half an inch of armor in addition to cannons and machine guns. Although the first tanks were slow and occasionally dangerous to the crew, they completely changed the battlefield approach of armies throughout the world.
The tank was part of an arms race between various nations trying to outdo each other, much like other weapons of war when first introduced. The features of a military tank that are most important include weaponry, maneuverability, and defense. For this reason, guns on tanks got larger, engines got more powerful, and armor got thicker. The more countries that wanted military tanks, the more those tanks improved and the more expensive they became. Last year alone, Russia and the US sold a total of $56 billion in military equipment, and the tanks of today are far more advanced than those introduced a century ago. Today’s tanks are some of the most advanced and sophisticated pieces of military equipment in the world with modern technology in communications, sensors, defensive armor, powerful engines, and the most advanced weaponry.
The 10 tanks on this list are here because they stand out from the crowd in their maneuverability, electronic components, and offense/defense systems. Some military tank designs are much older than others, though these have been upgraded and modified over time to easily compete with more modern military tank designs. All of them are powerful in combat.
1 Leopard 2A7 – Germany
The Leopard 2A7 is a German military tank which is an updated version of the successful Leopard 2. This tank has more armor than previous models and includes more advanced electronic systems. It is successful in urban warfare threats and more conventional warfare threats. It is also more accurate with a longer range when it comes to hitting targets. Most other tanks are not as powerful or advanced. The engine on the Leopard 2A7 is 1500 horsepower and is more maneuverable than tanks of similar size thanks to effective suspension. The first of these military tanks (20) were ordered by the German Army in 2014. They were also ordered by Saudi Arabia (200+) and Qatar (62).
2 K2 Black Panther – South Korea
The Blank Panther in South Korea is more advanced than any tanks in China or North Korea. It is among the most highly evolved military tanks on Earth and is the most expensive to manufacture. The armor type is unknown and the tank is lighter than tanks with similar protective systems. The weaponry is similar to the Leopard 2 tanks, but a more advanced fire control system is able to track and fire at targets, including low flying helicopters without human input. Maneuverability is improved by the light weight and excellent hydropneumatic suspension system. The K2 Black Panther may soon be used by the South Korean Army.
3 M1A2 SEP – USA
The M1A2 SEP in the United States is a highly technologically advanced military tank with state-of-the art armor and successful battle experience. This is a tank that can easily stand up to anti-tank weaponry with armor that is reinforced with depleted uranium and powerful, accurate weaponry. The M1A2 SEP is not as accurate as the Leopard 2A7, but is still one of the most feared tanks in the military. It does require a lot of maintenance because of the complex (though well performing) gas turbine engine. This is one of the models that has also evolved from other designs as they update older M!, M1A1 and M1A2 tanks to match this design. This is also a tank that can easily be modified to survive in urban environments with what is known as a Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK). The United States is working with at least 900 M1A2 military tanks, and expects to continue to use them well past the year 2050.
4 Challenger 2 – United Kingdom
The Challenger 2 in the United Kingdom is an incredible military tank with the latest in Chobham armor, making it one of the best tanks for defense in the world. It can stand up easily to direct fire weaponry and also has its own accurate weaponry with a 120 mm rifled gun that has a 5+ kilometer range. This tank has set a record for the longest tank-to-tank kill and is best known for being mechanically reliable. It is not quite as fast or powerful as many of the other tanks on this list, but it serves the United Kingdom (with 386) and Oman (with 38) quite well.
5 Armata – Russia
The Armata in Russia is one of the newer generation main battle tanks, revealed to the public in 2015, with full scale production expected in 2017 to 2018. This military tank is much larger than its predecessors, and has classified specifications. The armor is made of steel, ceramics, and other composite materials, making it one of the best protected tanks, with optional add-on explosive reactive armor. The Armata is resistant to enemy fire with a system that counters enemy ATGW with semi-automatic guidance. It holds a three man crew and will continue to operate when the armor is penetrated, as long as the crew cell remains protected. In addition to these advanced features, the Armata also has an unmanned 125 mm smoothbore gun. It automatically loads and launches anti-tank guided missiles to take down other tanks. The engine is diesel with 1200 horsepower.
6 Merkava Mk.4 – Israel
The Merkava Mk.4 is Israel’s latest military tank and is also among the most protected tanks on Earth. However, the design of the Merkava Mk.4 is unique. The engine is front mounted to allow the crew more protection and more opportunities to survive should the tank succumb to enemy fire. There is also a rear compartment for cargo and troops to travel protected by armor. With unloaded ammo, the tank can carry as many as ten troops. When loaded, the tank is formidable with 120 mm smoothbore gun and a fire control system that improves accuracy and hit probability, including accuracy with low flying helicopters. This is a very heavy tank, and it is not the most easily maneuverable of the bunch. It takes a powerful engine to keep it moving, and it is only used by Israel (with a total of 360) without export.
7 TK-X – Japan
The TK-X in Japan, also known as Type 10 is the latest in Japanese military tank technology. It was introduced in 2012 and is also among the most capable and advanced of the world’s military battle tanks. It is very lightweight and maneuverable, though it is not as protected by advanced armor. It does have an accurate and powerful 120 mm smoothbore gun, much like the M1A2 and the Leopard 2A5, with an effective modern fire control system. When it comes to power and weight, the TK-X is an excellent battle tank, and it is made more maneuverable with the modern hydropneumatic suspension system and the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). There are currently 12 TK-X tanks in service.
8 Leclerc – France
The Leclerc started serving France in 1992, and the features that it introduced to the world of tank manufacturing were applied in other Western tank designs. It has a highly advanced composite armor and an add on modular armor. It is fitted with an autoloader and high hit probability gun which has excellent accuracy with moving targets. It holds a crew of three and moves easily with a 500 horsepower engine and advanced hydropneumatic suspension. France has 406 of these tanks in service and the United Arab Emirates are using 388.
9 T-90 – Russia
The T-90 is produced in large quantities in Russia, and is quite unique for this, though it is not as sophisticated as many of the other entries on this list. It does function on cost-effective modern technology and is the most commercially successful option when it comes to military tanks. It is one of the cheapest to produce and operate and benefits from a small and difficult to hit profile. The primary downside of the T-90 is that the autoloader is designed with a carrousel style and the ammunition must be stored in the main compartment for this reason. If the tank is hit, the crew and tank are destroyed by the detonation of this ammunition. This not an uncommon complication with tanks from Russia, Ukraine and China. Western tanks typically don’t have this problem because they incorporate separate compartments for ammunition along with blow out panels. This is also not the most accurate of tanks when it comes to long range targets, but it does have the benefit of launching anti tank guided missiles. While the first of the T-90’s had an underpowered engine, this issue has been resolved in later models. There are also T-90MS models that are more recent with better armor, engines, guns, turrets, and systems of observation and aiming. Russia has roughly 700 of these tanks in service, and plenty of other countries are using them too. Algeria has 305, Azerbaijan has 20, India has 620, Turkmenistan has 40 and Venezuela has somewhere between 50 and 100 of the T-90 military tanks.
10 Oplot-M – Ukraine
Ukraine worked on the development of the T-80UD even after the Soviet Union collapsed, and their efforts eventually brought about the Oplot-M military tank. It has the newest generation of explosive reactive armor and an automatic loading ammunition system. Much like other military tanks of the Ukraine, Russia, China, etc., this tank does not have a separate compartment or blow out panels for that ammunition. This means that the ammunition can detonate and take out the crew and tank with well placed hit, which is not something Western tanks typically allow for. This is also not as accurate of a military tank as the Western models, but it does have the ability to laundh anti tank guided missiles. This tank is in service in the Ukrainian Army and in Thailand. It is similar to the latest Russian T-90 military tank, but is not produced in large quantities.