Which is the best battle tank?
Now is the time to decide what your favourite tank is. There are a series of MBTs in use by armies around the world – some older than others, some undergoing extensive upgrade programmes.
Here we have outlined the eight main operational MBTs and some of their characteristics. While it is difficult to make definitive comparisons due to the number of variables, all the same, take a look. What do you think? Which is the best?
An obvious contender for the top spot is the American M1 Abrams, built by General Dynamics Land Systems. The tank has been widely exported, upgraded regularly by the US Army and has been proven on operations and in combat.
Germany’s Leopard 2 is also up there – it has also been successful in the export market but is more expensive to upgrade because the overall fleet is smaller and will need company and German government funding. They have been deployed but combat experience is more limited.
Israel’s Merkava is often touted as one of the most effective tanks, but it has been designed for a specific theatre of operations – homeland defence and security – and has never been deployed on expeditionary operations or seen combat against other tanks.
In Europe there is the British Challenger II, French Leclerc – both about to receive upgrades – and Italy’s C1 Ariete, due to be replaced from this year with a C2 variant. All have been deployed overseas.
Russia’s tanks are starting to see some operational experience and they have been widely exported, which is why the T-90S and T-72M1 are included but, like Chinese tanks, it is more difficult to get data about their performance and they have not taken part in any significant battles.
Russian and Chinese tanks that have been exported and used by other armies have usually been hammered by Western MBTs, such as Iraq in the First and Second Gulf Wars.
The two main Asian tanks, South Korea’s K2 and the Japanese Type 10, have also been left out as they have not been deployed out of the homeland or seen much combat experience – although they would be worth including in a more extensive list.
There are a lot of technical statistics and whilst technology plays a role, so does troop morale and training. A great tank is only as good as its operators, much the same as any piece of kit.
In Europe, Turkey is building the Altay and this will be the first new European MBT in some time. Germany has been planning a new Leopard III MBT, but this could be put into a new European tank developed by the Nexter-KMW joint venture KANT. The plan is to replace the German Leopard 2 and French Leclerc, and Germany needs a partner on this as building just 300 tanks solely for its own army is not cost effective enough.
Meanwhile, India is trying to get along with the Arjun, but has recently proposed a Future Ready Combat Vehicle programme to replace its T-72s. Elsewhere, Russia is developing the Armata, Poland has the PL-01 DSV on the cards and in Asia China is developing the MBT-3000 tank and Korea the Medium Tank.
So what do we think – which is the best on our list and why?