War is often considered a necessary evil. It's not wished upon by anyone, but it can also lead to social and democratic change and allow developing countries a second chance at flourishing, even if it means the loss of many people's lives.
To achieve such change armies- the good ones at least- consist of everything from state of the art fighter jets to fleets of battleships and a well-drilled frontline. But the one mode of war machinery that has always captivated us is the tank. A sheer force capable of wiping out entire locations, various militaries from around the world own an impressive array of these automotive beasts.
Here are 30 of the best tanks in military history.
1. Challenger 2 Battle Tank
The British released this game-changing behemoth in 1998, but ever since the middle of World War I, the Royal Army has manufactured some of the greatest combat vehicles known to man.
On the topic of the Challenger 2, one of its defining features is its L30A1 120 mm rifled gun which has one of the fastest target acquisition systems of any tank in the world. It's also powerful, with its Perkins CV-12 engine capable of delivering more than 1,200 horsepower thanks to an incredible 8 gear transmission. Notable combats the Challenger 2 has been in include the wars in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Iraq during The War on Terror era post-9-11.
2. K2 Black Panther Battle Tank
South Korea is a country that shares a border with one of the most feared nations in the world in North Korea, so a robust national defense system is vital. Just take this K2 Black Panther tank. An upgrade on the M48 Patton and K1 tanks, the K2 rolled up production in 2013, making it one of the newest models on our list. For these reasons, it has some of the most modern features of any military vehicle.
And with both “soft kill” and “hard kill” anti-missile defense systems, this German-made, 1,5000 horsepower diesel tank isn't a sight you'd want to see if you were fighting on the opposing team.
3. Merkava Battle Tank
Israel’s military is known for being one of the most respected in the world for its ability to make the most of a limited population. Of course, it helps that the military is back by the biggest army of the world: The U.S. military. Yes, this small nation has adapted to a fragile political environment with neighbours Palestine by protecting itself on an almost daily basis from attacks and their Merkava series of tanks is just one example of this.
Hebrew for “chariot”, these remarkable machines are capable of reaching top speeds of well over 40 miles per hour. The main weapon attached to the Merkava is a 120mm smooth bore MG253, but its most effective feature is argubally its computerized fire control system.
4. Type 10 Battle Tank
Japan’s military is quite the achievement when you consider that it had strict limitations imposed on its national defense budget following its loss in the Second World War but they adapted and followed the age-old mantra, less is more.
With a string of automotive success stories in Japan, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries decided to use their automotive prowess for military usage and produced the Type 10 Battle Tank. The exterior alone is made of nano-crystal steel and ceramic composite elements, making it one of the safest in the world. The main point of attack, the 120mm cannon, has an automatic loading system, perfect for combat when its V8 diesel engine is driving it at a top speed of 40mph.
5. AMX Char Leclerc Battle Tank
Ever since the First World War, France has always fared well in combat and The AMX Char Leclerc is almost a homage to their military might. It is named after General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, the man responsible for leading the French armored division through Paris during its liberation at the end of the Second World War.
The AMX Char Leclerc first came into service in 1993 and is run by an 8-cylinder diesel SACM engine with a 1,500 horsepower engine allowing it to notch up a top speed of 45mph.
6. C1 Ariete Battle Tank
The C1 Ariete is Italy’s foremost battle tank and has served their military well since it was introduced in 1995. It should have come into battle much earlier, but a string of development issues halted production for some time before it was eventually introduced in 1995.
The engine is powered by a Fiat MTCA 12V, giving it a remarkable top speed of 43 miles per hour. Capable of shooting out a variety of ammunition loads, this tank also has an insane fire control systems designed by Galileo Avionica.
7. Arjun Main Battle Tank
One of the world's fastest developing economies may not be known for their military prowess, but don't be fooled, India has an army you wouldn't want to mess with. In 1974, for instance, they produced a multifaceted tank capable of fighting in a multitude of environments and these tanks remain a pivotal part of their army.
While most information on the Arjuns is classified, the Indian-designed 120mm rifled gun can shoot a host of rounds while possessing impressive kinetic energy penetrator ammunition. Some are also equipped with a LAHAT anti-tank missile system designed by the Israelis.
India has long been engaged in a diplomatic feud with neighbors Pakistan so it's little sursprise they also got in on the act and created an immense tank of their own in thetform of The Al-Khalid tank. Developed by both Pakistan and China, it is a three-person tanker with a modified 125mm rifled cannon that has a first-round ammo reach of more than 2,000 meters.
The Al-Khalid is also used by the Royal Moroccan Army.
9. Type 99 Battle Tank
China’s Type 99 tank is a sight to behold and an example of how keen they are to flex their military muscle on an international stage. Yes, the People’s Republic of China isn't only on course to have the world's largest economy; it will most likely have the strongest military in the coming years as well.
This impressive tank debuted at the 1999 National Day Parade in Beijing but not much is known about it other than that its range can extend to over 2,000 meters and that its fire control systems are computerized.
It was produced by China Northern Industries Group Corporation and is currently the most advanced combat tank owned by the Chinese Army (PLA). It has been in use since 2001 and is a significant upgrade on past Chinese tanks that were often pastiches of Soviet ones.
10. Altay Battle Tank
The Turkish military has a long and varied combat history most famously because of the Ottoman Empire but its military might today is often overlooked despite its renowned military culture. The Altay, their contemporary battle tank, has found global success with the model being exported around the world.
The name comes from a famous general who fought in the Turkish War of Independence as is thus a significant source of pride. The new model is expected to include an electric engine to help deal with thermal imaging and targeting systems.
11. T-80 Battle Tank
The T-80 is a blockbuster, third-generation battle tank that has an epic six-gear transmission allowing for 1000 horsepower. It's sturdy design also provides for comfort, speed and movement over most battlefields.
Equipped with a 125mm smoothbore gun, the T-80 can take out pretty much anything that comes into its sight. And with exceptional armor and unique weaponry, the T-80 really does have it all and has been going strong since 1976.
12. Pokpung-Ho Battle Tank
Not much is known about the North Korean army other than that they appear to mean business. Just take their main battle tank. It seems to be equally as formidable as their brainwashed troops.
Yes, the Pokpung-Ho has been around since 1992 and came about following the fall of the Soviet Union. This led to many Soviet tanks being sold for a fraction of their value. The DPRK military has upgraded the Pokpung-ho tank over the years and kitted it with a number of different features.
13. T-90 Battle Tank (Russian)
An updated version of the T-80 and the T-72B, the T-90 is not to be confused with the other on this list. It's a different tanker used by the Russian military, and it's pretty epic.
Coming equipped with a ruthless 125mm smoothbore gun with an autoloader capable of carrying 43 rounds, the 2A46M has an astonishing 12,000-meter range. This makes it one of the most powerful tanks on the list in terms of long-distance combat and is a shrine in the Russian army.
14. T-84 Battle Tank
Ukraine has cemented itself over the years as one of the fiercest military powers in Europe with tanks like the T-84 helping them with this feared reputation.
An upgrade on the Soviet T-80, this tank was built in the Malyshev Factory, a manufacturing hub which has become the center of Ukraine’s military operations. The model has since undergone a host of upgrades from the Soviet-era model and now boasts an impressive electronic countermeasures system.
15. PT-91 Twardy Battle Tank
For those unversed in the Polish language, “Twardy” translates in English to “resilient”, an apt name indeed for such a tanker. This model is based on the Soviet T-72M1. However, the PT-91 is significantly improved.
The amphibious and ultra-spacious war machine is powered by a PZL-Wola diesel engine which can generate a top speed of 40 miles per hour.
16. Zulfiqar Battle Tank
This tank experienced a lot of warfare during the 20th century, two of which saw them do battle with neighbors Iraq. Indeed the Iranian military has always been aware of the vulnerable geopolitical climate surrounding their borders, a reality which helped spawn the Zulfiqar.
It underwent various tests between 1993 to 1996 before it even went into service. But since its release in 1997, it's been a stable and reliable tank for the Iranian army, and more than 100 of them have been used in combat. One of its defining features is its electronic countermeasures such as its active protection system.
17. M60-2000 Main Battle Tank
This powerful M60-20 is a new and improved upgrade of the M60 Patton tank. Designed by a company called General Dynamics, this tank is often exported to countries with less investment in their militaries. But that doesn't mean the M60-2000 isn't any good. It's actually a competitive beast that can do severe damage in almost any environment.
And with its GDLS (General Dynamics Land Systems) and twin-turbo diesel engine, the tank is capable of reaching an impressive top speed of 33mph.
18. Armata Universal Combat Platform
The Armata Universal Combat Platform is a prototype designed to help the Russian army discover what is needed to surpass NATO technology.
The Armata's armor is pretty remarkable, with a steel 44S-sv-Sh Active protection system in place. It is powered by a ChTZ 12H360 diesel that allows for a respectable 1,500 horsepower and a top speed of 50 miles per hour. Bes of all? A remote-controlled turret operates the T-15 cannon.
19. M1A2 Abrams
The most famous and successful tank that is still in active military service is none other than the M1A2 Abrams, a force of nature that has been kicking butt in the US military since 1980.
Weapons company General Dynamics fitted the Abrams with spectacular armor comprised of depleted uranium mesh-reinforced composite. But its the engine that steals the show. Its Honeywell AGT1500C turbine can run on almost anything... even alcohol!
The gun is the M256A1, smooth-bore and has a reach of 4,000 meters. It can travel up to 265 miles on a full tank with a top speed of more than 45mph.
20. Leopard 2 Battle Tank
One of the principle battle tanks in the German Army, the Leopard 2 is an upgrade from the Leopard 1. The bodacious tactical behemoth is one of the most versatile tanks in the world and is the epitome of German efficiency
Its many features include an automatic fire and explosion suppression system and a computerized fire control system. It also boasts a weight of just sixty tons, allowing for a top speed of 45mph.
21. The Challenger 2 Black Night
An upgrade from the British Army's Challenger 2, this new and improved BAE Systems bad boy has been the British Army's main battle tank since 1994.
The Challenger 2, their most recent model, comes equipped with a range of cool gizmos from a Safran Paseo commander’s independent sight to a Leonardo thermal imager for the gunner. There's also Leonardo night sight DNVS 4.
The Karrar is another Iranian defense vehicle to make out list having debuted in August 2016. Video footage from the Iranian television "Telewebion" showed it in all its glory and left everyone in attendance impressed. Just go on YouTube and you'll see a Karrar tank tearing through the desert looking every inch the part.
The model is thought to have been influenced by the Soviet Union's T-72.
23. TAM 2IP
The Argentinian powerhouse Tanque Argentino Mediano translates into English as Argentine Medium Tank. Not particulalry known for their military muscle, the Argentinian Ministry of Defense sought out the help of the Germans to help them bolster their military operations so contracted the design out to the German company Thyssen-Henschel.
The awesome tank was apparentley inspired by the German Marder infantry fighting vehicle.
24. T-14 Armata
This tactical 11-foot Russian tank is the T-14 Armata, a next-generation tank currentley in production. However, it isn't likely to be issued to Russian military personnel until at least 2025.
According to sources, the tank will be capable of reaching speeds of up to 56mph thanks to a 2,000 horsepower diesel engine and have a unit cost of $3.7m.
25. EMBT – European/Enhanced Main Battle Tank
A joint effort between French and German armies keen to show that European forces can come together and still compete with the ever-growing armies of China and Russia, this Franco-German collaboration is just one of many examples of next-generation tanks currently in production.
Achieving much acclaim when it was first showcased at the Eurosatory military trade fair last year in Paris, France, the "European Main Battle Tank" (EMBT) merges the famous German Leopard 2A7 tank with the more nimble, two-person turret of the French Leclerc.
26. Carden-Loyd Tankette
These historical beauties are Carden Loyd tankettes. They are some of the oldest in the world and were intially released as a series of British pre-World War II tankettes which played a pivotal role in the Great War.
The best of the bunch was the Mark VI, the only kind that was produced in mass numbers.
27. Renault FT-17
The Renault FT is often referred to by modern historians as the world's first modern tank. Light in weight, the Renault FT was a revolutionary design that set a precedent for future tank production with the famous French model being the first to install a rotating turret.
This model influenced the layout of most tanks, such as the crew compartment at the front and the engine compartment at the rear.
Another famous British tank, the Centurion was rolled out as the chief battle tank in the post-Second World War period in 1945. Because of its immense success in combat, military buffs owax lyrical of her and she is widely considered the most successful post-war tank of all time.
So successful was the Centurion that it was kept in production until the 1960s and used on front line combat until the 1980s.
29. SdKfz 171 Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (PzKpfW V) / Panzer 5
This German monster tank was the D model version of the V Panther, a medium-sized tank used during World War II. It mainly appeared in combats situated in the Eastern and Western Fronts in Europe from mid-1943 to the war's end in 1945.
The unusually long title comes from its ordnance inventory designation number Sd.Kfz. 171.
These 30mph tankers are yet another illustration of the past might of the Soviet Era. The T-54 and T-55 models were introduced after the Second World War and remained favorite tanks for some time among Soviet nations.
The T-54 would become the primary tank of most Soviet units and featured in some of the most significant post-WWII conflicts of the 20th century.