The world’s top 10 main battle tanks

27 June 2019 (Last Updated June 3rd, 2020 13:26)

Since the Cold War main battle tanks (MBTs) have evolved from being simple and light to heavy, modernised and highly mobile, with advancements in weaponry and countermeasures. Army-technology.com lists the top 10 main battle tanks in the world based on weaponry, mobility and protection.

The world’s top 10 main battle tanks

Leopard 2A7+, Germany

The Leopard 2A7+ is a next-generation main battle tank (MBT) revealed by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) in 2010. The new version leverages the technology of the Leopard 2 MBT and has been adopted by the Bundeswehr (German Army) to conduct warfare in urban areas, as well as traditional military missions. The 2A7+ is also presently deployed in Afghanistan by Canada under Nato command.

The Leopard 2A7+ is armed with 120mm L55 smoothbore gun capable of firing standard Nato ammunition and new programmable 120mm HE-rounds. The tank integrates an FLW 200 remotely controlled light weapon station mounting a 7.62mm/ 12.7mm machine gun or a 40mm grenade launcher.

Attached passive armour modules offer all-round protection from anti-tank missiles, mines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and RPG fire. The smoke grenade launchers on either side of turret conceal the tank from enemy observation. The MBT can be fitted with additional attachments such as a mine plough, mine roller or a dozer blade for clearing mines and obstacles. This highly mobile tank has a maximum speed of 72km/h and cruising range of 450km.

Abrams M1A2, United States of America

The Abrams M1A2 is a combat proven main battle tank developed by General Dynamics Land Systems, primarily for the US Army. The tank was designed based on the experience gained from the performance of M1A1 and incorporates new technologies to deliver superior firepower and mobility, making it one of the best battle tanks in the world.

The main gun of the tank is a manually loaded 120mm XM256 smoothbore cannon, which can fire a range of Nato ammunition against armoured vehicles, infantry and low-flying aircraft. The tank is also armed with two 7.62mm M240 machine guns and a .50 cal M2 machine gun and can store 42 rounds of 120mm, 11,400 rounds of 7.62mm, 900 rounds of 50 calibre ammunition, 32 screening grenades and 210 rounds of 5.56mm ammo.

The Abrams M1A2 integrates heavy exterior composite armour and steel-encased depleted uranium armour at the forward hull and turret to offer a high level of protection to its crew. The tank has a cruising range of 426km and can travel at a maximum speed of 67.5km/h.

T-14 Armata, Russia

T-14 Armata is a new-generation Russian MBT being manufactured by Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) for the Russian Army. The tank is currently under production with deliveries scheduled for 2020.

The main gun fitted to the tank is a 125mm 2A82-1M smoothbore gun fed by an automatic loader. The secondary armament includes a Kord 12.7mm machine gun and a PKTM 7.62mm machine gun. The tank can carry 45 rounds of ammunition and fire laser-guided missiles.

The T-14 Armata MBT is anticipated to provide up to STANAG 4569 Level 5 protection. The Afghanit active protection system (APS) aboard the tank can detect, track, and engage incoming anti-tank munitions. Powered by an A-85-3A turbocharged diesel engine, the tank offers a maximum speed of 90km/h and range of 500km.

Challenger 2, United Kingdom

The Challenger 2 (CR2) is the main battle tank of the British Army and the Royal Army of Oman. The MBT was designed and manufactured by British Vickers Defence Systems (now BAE Systems) based on the Challenger 1 tank. Promoted as the world’s most reliable main battle tank by its producers, the capabilities of Challenger 2 were proven during combat missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.

The 120mm L30 CHARM (CHallenger main ARMament) gun of the Challenger 2 provides primary firepower while a C-axial 7.62mm chain gun and a turret-mounted 7.62mm machine gun serve as secondary weapons. The tank can carry 50 Armour Piercing, Fin Stabilised, Discarding Sabot (APFSDS), high-explosive squash heads (HESH) and Soke rounds, as well as 4,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition.

The second-generation Chobham armour of the Challenger 2 offers a high-level of protection against direct fire weapons. The Perkins-Condor CV12 engine of the tank ensures a maximum on-road speed of 59km/h and off-road speed of 40km/h.

K2 Black Panther, South Korea

The K2 Black Panther (Korean New Main Battle Tank) is a modern MBT developed by Hyundai Rotem for the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA). The MBT is intended to offer high mobility, firepower and self-protection. The Black Panther entered service with RoKA in 2014.

The K2 Black Panther’s primary weapon is a 120mm smoothbore gun, which can fire advanced kinetic energy ammunition and is equipped with autoloader for on-the-go ammunition loading, even in rough terrain. The secondary armament includes 7.62mm and 12.7mm machine guns.

The maximum speed of 70km/h and range of 450km make the K2 highly mobile on the battlefield. The tank incorporates composite armour and explosive reactive armour (ERA) for all-round protection against direct fire. The ammunition rack also employs blow-off panels to protect against explosions.

Merkava Mk.4, Israel

The Merkava Mark IV is the latest version of the Merkava range of main battle tanks built by MANTAK (Merkava Tank Office). The tank entered service with the Israel Defence Forces in 2004 and is regarded as one of the best-protected tanks in the world.

The Mk.4 is armed with a 120mm MG253 smoothbore gun capable of firing high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) and sabot rounds, as well as LAHAT anti-tank guided missiles. The 7.62mm coaxial and 12.7mm swivel-mounted machine guns and 60mm grenade launcher complement the fire power of the tank.

The Merkava Mk.4 is fitted with special spaced armour, sprung armour side skirts, an Elbit laser warning system and IMI in-built smoke-screen grenades. The Trophy active protection system aboard the tank protects the crew against advanced anti-tank missiles. The tank moves at a maximum speed of 64km/h.

Type 10 (TK-X), Japan

The Type 10 (TK-X) is an advanced fourth-generation main battle tank built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the Japan Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF). The tank entered service with the JGSDF in 2012 and claims outstanding mobility.

The Type 10 MBT’s firepower is complemented by a 120mm smooth-bore gun, a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and Type 74 7.62mm cannon. The sophisticated C4I system ensures interoperability with the infantry troops during integrated combat missions.

The tank’s hull is attached with modular ceramic composite armour offering protection against rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) rounds, HEAT projectiles and anti-tank missiles. The add-on modules can be easily removed and installed to alter the protection levels. The 1,200hp water-cooled diesel engine provides a maximum speed of 70km/h.

Leclerc, France

The Leclerc is a French main battle tank developed by GIAT Industries (now Nexter Systems) for the French Army and is also currently in service with the UAE Army. The first Leclerc tank was handed over to the DGA (French Procurement Agency) in January 1992.

Leclerc is a third-generation tank armed with a Nato standard CN120-26 120mm smoothbore gun, a coaxial 12.7mm machine gun and a roof-mounted 7.62mm machine gun. The tank can carry 40 rounds of 120mm ammunition and more than 950 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition.

The advanced modular armour made of steel, ceramics and Kevlar offers all-round crew protection, which can be raised to protect against IEDs, mines and RPGs. The Galix self-protection system fitted to the tank further increases its survivability. The tank has a maximum speed of 72km/h and can strike targets at a speed of 50km/h on any terrain.

T-90MS, Russia

The T-90MS, a modernised version of the T-90 main battle tank built by Uralvagonzavod, was unveiled for the first time at Russian Expo Arms in September 2011. The T-90MS has been extensively modernised to deliver enhance combat performance in present warfare scenarios.

The 125mm 2A46M-5 gun of the tank fires different types of ammunition with high accuracy. The tank is also armed with a 6P7K 7.62mm antiaircraft machine gun on a remotely controlled weapon station.

The modular ERA panels mounted on rear and side of the tank offer protection against small weapons and shell splinters. The forward hull and turret can be fitted with RELIKT reactive armour for protection against anti-tank missiles. The T-90MS also features an optoelectronic screening system and electromagnetic protection system. A V-92S2F engine with a rated power of 1,130hp provides a maximum speed of 60km/h to the tank.

VT4 (MBT-3000), China

The VT4 (formerly MBT-3000) MBT is a third-generation tank designed and manufactured by China North Industries Corporation (Norinco) primarily for export markets. The tank entered service with the Royal Thai Army in 2017.

The main battle tank is armed with a 125mm smoothbore cannon capable of firing APFSDS rounds, HEAT warheads, artillery, and guided missiles. The secondary armament includes a remotely operated 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun.

The tank is fitted with composite and explosive reactive armour. The GL5 active protection system (APS) aboard the vehicle defends tanks, armoured vehicles, anti-tank guided missiles, and anti-tank weapons. The maximum road speed of the VT4 MBT is 70km/h while its maximum range is 500km.

Defence Technology

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