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    The Evolution of Main Battle Tanks: Modern Warfare’s Chess Pieces on Land

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    Armata T-14” by Dmitriy Fomin is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    The Main Battle Tank (MBT) has long been a dominant force on the battlefield, embodying the strategic and tactical might of ground forces. However, the rapid evolution of warfare has raised questions about the future role of these steel behemoths. Despite the rise of anti-tank weapons and sophisticated countermeasures, MBTs remain integral to modern military strategies.

    Russian T-72 MBT” by Madbuster75 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    During the First and Second World Wars, tanks were the crux of breakthrough tactics, and the notion of the “land battleship” was born.

    Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2018” by 7th Army Training Command is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The Germans were heralded for their engineering prowess, yet their tanks, while formidable, were complex and costly to mass-produce. In contrast, American tanks of the era, although perceived as inferior, could be produced en masse, overwhelming the enemy.

    T14-armata” by Vitaly V. Kuzmin is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

    Today, the landscape has shifted immensely, with advanced technology like artificial intelligence and remote sensing redefining the battlefield. As Elizabeth Owens, writing over at Warrior Maven, notes, these new metrics determine the best MBTs.

    Armata T-14” by Dmitriy Fomin is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Weapons such as Javelin antitank systems, explosive-laden aerial drones, advanced improvised explosive devices (IED), and other nontraditional technologies provide defenders with notable advantages. Additionally, it appears that the destruction of a modern tank, like the Russian T-14 Armata, inflicts greater harm on attacking forces.

    T-14 Armata armored tank” by Dmitriy Fomin is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Yet, the very sophistication that defines modern MBTs can be a double-edged sword, as seen with Russia’s T-14 Armata. Heralded as one of the most advanced, it was notably absent from the conflict due to high costs and maintenance complexities.

    Challenger 2 Tank on Salisbury Plain” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    While sophistication may define the excellence of a modern MBT, there are other factors beyond just advanced features that should be considered when evaluating greatness. Survivability, affordability, reliability, and maintainability should also play a crucial role in defining the greatness of a tank.

    Challenger 2 MBT (51573149204)” by Airwolfhound from Hertfordshire, UK is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    The top tanks in the world today reveal this blend of legacy and innovation. The British Challenger 3, for example, while an upgrade rather than a complete overhaul, boasts network-enabled computer systems and powerful main cannons.

    Challenger 2 MBT” by Airwolfhound is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    The British Challenger 2 is one of the most overhyped MBTs imaginable. A third-generation tank, it is used by the British Army and Oman. While these MBTs had successful deployments in Bosnia and Iraq, the reality is that they did not face a near-peer competitor, like the Russians.

    Polish Leopard II moving towards defence line” by U.S. Army Europe is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Similarly, the German Leopard II and the South Korean K2 Black Panther stand out for their advanced systems and firepower, though their production is limited by high costs.

    K2 Black Panther with integrated Korean Active Protection System” by Ohus is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    Since the Cold War, main battle tanks (MBTs) have evolved from being simple and light to heavy, modernized, and highly mobile, with advancements in weaponry and countermeasures.

    Merkava Mark IV main battle tank used by the Israel Defense Forces – 2008” by Dmitri1999 (Dmitri Markine), http://www.dmitrimarkine.com. is licensed under CC BY 3.0

    The Merkava Mark IV is the most recent iteration of the Merkava series of main battle tanks developed by MANTAK (Merkava Tank Office). It was introduced into the Israel Defence Forces in 2004 and is considered one of the most well-armored tanks globally.

    AMX Leclerc French Army” by .H0oT. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    French Leclerc XLis lighter than many of its third-generation MBT counterparts, such as the M1 Abrams.it is nowhere near as well armored as the other tanks it competes against are. The Leclerc does possess reactive armor, though, just like the Leopard-IIs do.

    German Army Leopard II” by U.S. Army Europe is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Despite these technological marvels, the role of the MBT has been questioned in the ongoing conflict. The effectiveness of Western-supplied anti-tank weapons and artillery has raised doubts about the tank’s survivability in modern combat.

    M1A2 Abrams SEPv3” by Thiện Ân is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Nevertheless, the United States, observing the conflict, is taking steps to further upgrade its M1 Abrams MBTs, which played a pivotal role in the Desert Storm victory over Saddam Hussein’s forces.

    Relevant articles:
    Ranked: The Top 10 Main Battle Tanks in the World, The National Interest
    Defense Industry, Army Recognition
    Army Technology, Army Technology
    Visualized: Top 15 Global Tank Fleets, Visual Capitalist

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