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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Argentine Army TAM


The Tanque Argentino Mediano ("Argentine Medium Tank"), or TAM, is the main battle tank in service with the Argentine Army. Lacking the experience and resources to design a tank, The Argentine Ministry of Defense contracted German company Thyssen-Henschel. The vehicle was developed by a German and Argentine team of engineers, and was based on the chassis of the German Marder infantry fighting vehicle. The TAM met the Argentine Army's requirement for a modern light-weight and fast tank with a low silhouette and sufficient firepower to defeat contemporary armored threats. Development began in 1974 and resulted in the construction of three prototypes by early 1977 and full-scale production by 1979. Assembly took place at the local 9,600 meters squared (103,333 ft²) TAMSE plant, founded for the purpose by the Argentine government. Economic difficulties halted to production in 1983, but manufacturing began anew in 1994 until the army's order of 200 tanks was fulfilled. The TAM series includes seven different variants, such as a 155 millimeter (6.1 in) self-propelled howitzer and a self-propelled mortar vehicle. In total, over 280 such vehicles were built, including armored personnel carriers, artillery and mortar pieces. The TAM and VCTP were manufactured for the Peruvian Army, only to be integrated into the Argentine Army when Peru canceled the contract. The TAM also competed for other export orders, but the TAM was ultimately not exported. The TAM has never seen combat, although 17 armored personnel carriers based on the TAM chassis were deployed to the former Yugoslavia for a United Nations peacekeeping mission. (more)

Featured battle

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-021-2081-31A, General Friedrich Paulus.jpg

Operation Uranus was the operational codename of the Soviet encirclement of the German Sixth Army, Third and Fourth Romanian armies, and portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army. The operation formed part of the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad, and was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced as early as September 1942, and was developed simultaneously with plans to envelop and destroy German Army Group Center and German forces in the Caucasus. The Red Army took advantage of the fact that German forces in the southern Soviet Union were overstretched, using weaker Romanian and Italian armies to guard their flanks; the offensives' starting points were established along the section of the front directly opposite Romanian forces. These allied Axis armies lacked heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor, and their weapons were mostly obsolete. Given the length of front created by the German summer offensive, aimed at taking the Caucasus oil fields and the city of Stalingrad, German and allied forces were forced to guard sectors beyond the length they were meant to occupy. The situation was not improved by the decision to reorient several mechanized divisions from the Soviet Union to Western Europe. Furthermore, units in the area were depleted after months of fighting, especially those which took part in the fighting in Stalingrad. The Germans could only count on the 48th Panzer Corps, which had the strength of a single panzer division, and the 29th Panzergrenadier Division as reserves to bolster their Romanian allies on the German Sixth Army's flanks. In comparison, the Red Army deployed over one million personnel for the purpose of beginning the offensive in and around Stalingrad. Soviet troop movements were not without problems, as they found it difficult to masquerade the build up to avoid startling the Germans and provide a sense of surprise. Commonly, Soviet units arrived late due to transportation issues. Operation Uranus was originally postponed from 8 to 17 November, and later moved back to 19 November. At 07:20 (Moscow time) on 19 November Soviet forces on the northern flank of the Axis forces at Stalingrad began their offensive; forces in the south began on 20 November. Although Romanian units were able to repel the first attacks, by the end of 20 November the Third and Fourth Romanian armies were in headlong retreat, as the Red Army bypassed several German infantry divisions. German mobile reserves were not strong enough to parry the Soviet mechanized spearheads, while the Sixth Army did not react quickly enough to disengage German armored forces in Stalingrad and reorient them to defeat the impending threat. By late 22 November Soviet forces linked up at the town of Kalach, encircling over 200,000 men east of the Don River. Instead of attempting a breakout operation, German dictator Adolf Hitler instead decided to keep Axis forces in Stalingrad and resupply them by air. In the meantime, Soviet and German commanders began to plan their next movements... (more)

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"We had nothing comparable."Friedrich von Mellenthin, on the T-34

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U.S. Soldiers at Bougainville (Solomon Islands) March 1944.jpg

U.S. Army soldiers on Bougainville (one of the Solomon Islands) in World War II. Japanese forces tried infiltrating the U.S. lines at night; at dawn, the U.S. soldiers would clear them out. In this picture, infantrymen are advancing in the cover of an M4 Sherman tank.
Photo credit: U.S. Army

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