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?

The top eight main battle tanks and their characteristics - click to enlarge

The top eight main battle tanks and their characteristics – click to enlarge

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.

Other contenders that did not make it this time are the PT-91 from Poland and the Ukrainian Oplot, but feel free to highlight them if you think they deserve mention.

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?

4 comments

  • why not include PLA Land Forces tanks?

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  • Space constraints, plus the need to focus on those that have been deployed. Which ones would you recommend?

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  • This infographic is terrible. The entire point of an infographic is to convey the information in an easy to understand and appealing fashion. This actually makes it harder to get the information. The tank pictures sit on the dividing line between stat blocks, the numbers require referencing a legend over and over and you insist on using various shades of gray, grayish green, and grayish brown. Never mind that you’re trying to answer an incredibly complex question and yet there is zero mention of armor, sensors, active defenses, secondary armaments, etc. I don’t think you could utterly fail any harder unless you added a category about which one looks cooler.

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    • Sorry you don’t like it!
      I think you misunderstand what we were trying to do here. Infographics are not suppose to show every single detail, if you want that you can get a reference manual, this is supposed to be something eye-catching with some basic specs provided to generate a discussion.
      That is why it is in a blog, so people can comment on the other vehicle attributes that are not there and make their case for a particular vehicle.

      We wanted to avoid huge chunks of text with long lists of systems that are harder to compare, again because it stops being a blog that is easy to read and starts becoming a complex reference manual that is too complex for the uninitiated. We had to keep it simple.
      As I said in the text, there are many other variations and factors that come into consideration when making a comparison, too many for an infographic, especially when things like armour, sensors and armaments can be fitted or taken off depending on the operation.

      Therefore the best we could do in the time available was to compare a few permanent attributes that could fit on the infographic such as main armament with some hull and mechanical attributes.
      I get that maybe some nicer colours could be used and maybe the circle is not the best way to display information, but we want to avoid standard rows and columns. As we all know, people’s attention span online is rather short so it was just one way to try and make it a bit different.
      I appreciate it is a complex question but we wanted to address it in a light-hearted way using a blog. I did forget to ask which one people thought was cooler. It does matter to the troops if their kit looks Gucci or not! Haha.

      It seems that what you are looking for is some kind of in-depth analytical feature article/white paper/study. A blog of this nature will not meet those expectations, but I shall endeavour to gather this sort of information for the future!
      Best Regards

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