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Tue 06 Nov 2012 08:04:21 | 0 comments

tank is a trackedarmoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combinesoperational mobility and tactical offensive and defensive capabilities. Firepower is normally provided by a large-calibre main gun in a rotating turret and secondary machine guns, while heavy armour and all-terrain mobility provide protection for the tank and its crew, allowing it to perform all primary tasks of the armoured troops on the battlefield.

Tanks in World War I were developed separately and simultaneously by Great Britain and France as a means to break the deadlock of trench warfare on the Western Front. Their first use in combat was by the British Army on September 15, 1916 at Flers-Courcelette, during theBattle of the Somme. The name "tank" was adopted by the British during the early stages of their development, as a security measure to conceal their purpose (see Etymology). While the French and British built thousands of tanks between them, Germany developed and brought into service only a single design the A7V producing 20 vehicles due to lack of capacities or resources.

Tanks of the interwar period evolved into the designs of World War II. Important concepts ofarmoured warfare were developed; the Soviet Union launched the first mass tank/air attack at Khalkhin Gol (Nomonhan) in August 1939, which later resulted in the T-34, a predecessor of the main battle tank; this was quickly followed up by Germanyon a larger scale when they introduced blitzkrieg ('lightning war') less than two weeks later; a technique which made use of massed concentrations of tanks supported by artillery and air power to break through the enemy front and cause a complete collapse in enemy resistance and morale.

Tanks in the Cold War advanced to counter greater battlefield threats. Tanks became larger and their armour became thicker and much more effective. Advances in manufacturing late in the war allowed the mass production of composite armor. Aspects of gun technology changed significantly as well, with advances in shell design.

During the 20th century, main battle tanks were considered a key component of modern armies. In the 21st century, with the increasing role of asymetrical warfare and the end of the Cold War, that also contributed to the increase of cost-effective Russian anti-tank weapons worldwide, the importance of tanks has waned. Modern tanks seldom operate alone, as they are organized into armoured units which involve the support of infantry, who may accompany the tanks in infantry fighting vehicles. They are also usually supported by reconnaissance or ground-attack aircraft.

The tank is the 20th century realization of an ancient concept: that of providing troops with mobile protection and firepower. The internal combustion enginearmour plate, and the continuous track were key innovations leading to the invention of the modern tank.

Armoured trains appeared in the mid-19th century, and various armoured steam- and petrol-engined vehicles were also proposed. The first armoured car was produced in Austria in 1904. However, all were restricted to rails or reasonably passable terrain. It was the development of a practical caterpillar track that provided the necessary independent, all-terrain mobility.

Many sources imply that Leonardo da Vinci and H.G. Wells in some way foresaw or "invented" the tank. Da Vinci's late 15th century drawings of what some describe as a "tank" show a man-powered, wheeled vehicle with cannons all around it.[5] The machines described in Wells's 1903 short story The Land Ironclads are a step closer, in being armour-plated, having an internal power plant, and being able to cross trenches. Some aspects of the story foresee the tactical use and impact of the tanks that later came into being. However, Wells's vehicles were driven by steam and moved on Pedrail wheels, technologies that were already outdated at the time of writing. After seeing British tanks in 1916, Wells denied having "invented" them, writing, "Yet let me state at once that I was not their prime originator. I took up an idea, manipulated it slightly, and handed it on." It is, though, possible that one of the British tank pioneers, Ernest Swinton, was subconsciously or otherwise influenced by Wells's tale.

The "caterpillar" track arose from attempts to improve the mobility of wheeled vehicles by spreading their weight, reducing ground pressure, and increasing their adhesive friction. Experiments can be traced back as far as the 17th century, and by the late nineteenth they existed in various recognizable and practical forms in several countries.

It is frequently claimed that Richard Lovell Edgeworth created a caterpillar track. It is true that in 1770 he patented a "machine, that should carry and lay down its own road", but this was Edgeworth's choice of words. His own account in his autobiography is of a horse-drawn wooden carriage on eight retractable legs, capable of lifting itself over high walls. The description bears no similarity to a caterpillar track.

The first combinations of the three principal components of the Tank appeared in the decade before World War One. In 1903, a Captain Levavasseur of the French Artillery proposed mounting a field gun in an armoured box on tracks. A Major in the British Army's Mechanical Transport Service suggested fixing a gun and armoured shield on a British type of track-driven vehicle.[10] In 1911, a Lieutenant Engineer in the Austrian Army, Günther Burstyn, presented to the Austrian and Prussian War Ministries plans for a two-man tank with a gun in a revolving turret.[11] In the same year an Australian civil engineer namedLancelot de Mole submitted a basic design for a tracked, armoured vehicle to the British War Office. In Russia, Vasiliy Mendeleev designed a tracked vehicle containing a large naval gun.

All of these ideas were rejected and, by 1914, forgotten, although it was officially acknowledged after the War that de Mole's design was at least the equal of the tanks that were later produced by Great Britain, and he was voted a cash payment for his contribution. Various individuals continued to contemplate the use of tracked vehicles for military applications, but by the outbreak of the War no one in a position of responsibility in any army had any thoughts about tanks.The tank is the 20th century realization of an ancient concept: that of providing troops with mobile protection and firepower. The internal combustion engine, armour plate, and the continuous track were key innovations leading to the invention of the modern tank.

Armoured trains appeared in the mid-19th century, and various armoured steam- and petrol-engined vehicles were also proposed. The first armoured car was produced in Austria in 1904. However, all were restricted to rails or reasonably passable terrain. It was the development of a practical caterpillar track that provided the necessary independent, all-terrain mobility.

Many sources imply that Leonardo da Vinci and H.G. Wells in some way foresaw or "invented" the tank. Da Vinci's late 15th century drawings of what some describe as a "tank" show a man-powered, wheeled vehicle with cannons all around it.[5] The machines described in Wells's 1903 short story The Land Ironclads are a step closer, in being armour-plated, having an internal power plant, and being able to cross trenches. Some aspects of the story foresee the tactical use and impact of the tanks that later came into being. However, Wells's vehicles were driven by steam and moved on Pedrail wheels, technologies that were already outdated at the time of writing. After seeing British tanks in 1916, Wells denied having "invented" them, writing, "Yet let me state at once that I was not their prime originator. I took up an idea, manipulated it slightly, and handed it on." It is, though, possible that one of the British tank pioneers, Ernest Swinton, was subconsciously or otherwise influenced by Wells's tale.

The "caterpillar" track arose from attempts to improve the mobility of wheeled vehicles by spreading their weight, reducing ground pressure, and increasing their adhesive friction. Experiments can be traced back as far as the 17th century, and by the late nineteenth they existed in various recognizable and practical forms in several countries.

It is frequently claimed that Richard Lovell Edgeworth created a caterpillar track. It is true that in 1770 he patented a "machine, that should carry and lay down its own road", but this was Edgeworth's choice of words. His own account in his autobiography is of a horse-drawn wooden carriage on eight retractable legs, capable of lifting itself over high walls. The description bears no similarity to a caterpillar track.

The first combinations of the three principal components of the Tank appeared in the decade before World War One. In 1903, a Captain Levavasseur of the French Artillery proposed mounting a field gun in an armoured box on tracks. A Major in the British Army's Mechanical Transport Service suggested fixing a gun and armoured shield on a British type of track-driven vehicle. In 1911, a Lieutenant Engineer in the Austrian Army, Günther Burstyn, presented to the Austrian and Prussian War Ministries plans for a two-man tank with a gun in a revolving turret.[11] In the same year an Australian civil engineer namedLancelot de Mole submitted a basic design for a tracked, armoured vehicle to the British War Office. In Russia, Vasiliy Mendeleev designed a tracked vehicle containing a large naval gun.

All of these ideas were rejected and, by 1914, forgotten, although it was officially acknowledged after the War that de Mole's design was at least the equal of the tanks that were later produced by Great Britain, and he was voted a cash payment for his contribution. Various individuals continued to contemplate the use of tracked vehicles for military applications, but by the outbreak of the War no one in a position of responsibility in any army had any thoughts about tanks.

From late 1914 a small number of middle-ranking British Army officers tried to persuade the War Office and the Government to consider the creation of armoured vehicles. Amongst their suggestions was the use of caterpillar tractors, but although the Army used many such vehicles for towing heavy guns, it could not be persuaded that they could be adapted as armoured vehicles. The consequence was that early tank development in Great Britain was carried out by the Royal Navy.

As the result of an approach by Royal Naval Air Service officers who had been operating armoured cars on the Western Front, the First Lord of the AdmiraltyWinston Churchill. formed the Landships Committee, on 20 February 1915. The Director of Naval Construction for the Royal Navy, Eustace Tennyson d'Eyncourt, was appointed to head the Committee in view of his experience with the engineering methods it was felt might be required; the two other members were naval officers, and a number of industrialists were engaged as consultants. So many played a part in its long and complicated development that it is not possible to name any individual as the sole inventor of the tank, though the British Government later made proportionate cash awards to those it considered to have contributed. Their first design, Little Willie, ran for the first time in September 1915 and served to develop the form of the track but an improved design, better able to cross trenches, swiftly followed and in January 1916 the prototype, nicknamed "Mother", was adopted as the design for future tanks. Production models of "Male" tanks (armed with naval cannon and machine guns) and "Females" (carrying only machine-guns) would go on to fight in history's first tank action at the Somme in September 1916. Great Britain produced about 2,600 tanks of various types during the War.

The first tank to engage in battle was designated D1, a British Mark I Male, during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (part of the wider Somme offensive) on 15 September 1916.[18]

Renault FT tanks, here operated by the US army, pioneered the use of a fully traversable turret and served as pattern for most modern tanks.

France

Whilst several experimental machines were investigated in France, it was a colonel of artillery, J.B.E. Estienne, who directly approached the Commander-in-Chief with detailed plans for a tank on caterpillar tracks, in late 1915. The result was two largely unsatisfactory types of tank, 400 each of the Schneider andSaint-Chamond, both based on the Holt Tractor.

The following year, the French pioneered the use of a full 360° rotation turret in a tank for the first time, with the creation of the Renault FT light tank, with the turret containing the tank's main armament. Aside of the traversable turret another innovative feature of the FT was its engine located at the rear. This pattern, with the gun located in a mounted turret and the engine at the back, became the standard for most succeeding tanks across the world even to this day. The FT was the most numerous tank of the War; over 3,000 were made by late 1918.

Germany

In contrast to World War II, Germany fielded very few tanks during World War I, with only 20 of the A7V type being produced during the war. The first tank versus tank action took place on 24 April 1918 at the Second Battle of Villers-BretonneuxFrance, when three British Mark IVs met three German A7Vs. Captured British Mk IVs formed the bulk of Germany's tank forces during WWI; about 35 were in service at any one time. Plans to expanded the tank programme were under way when the War ended.

Other Nations

The United States used tanks supplied by France and Great Britain during WWI. Production of American-built tanks had just begun when the War came to an end. Italy also manufactured two Fiat 2000s towards the end of the War, too late to see service. Russia independently built and trialled two prototypes early in the War; the tracked, two-man Vezdekhod and the huge Lebedenko, but neither went into production. A tracked self-propelled gun was also designed but not produced.

Although tank tactics developed rapidly during the war, piecemeal deployments, mechanical problems, and poor mobility limited the military significance of the tank in World War I, and the tank did not fulfil its promise of rendering trench warfare obsolete. Nonetheless, it was clear to military thinkers on both sides that tanks would play a significant role in future conflicts.

In the interwar period tanks underwent further mechanical development. In terms of tactics, J.F.C. Fuller's doctrine of spearhead attacks with massed tank formations was the basis for work by Heinz Guderian in Germany, Percy Hobart in Britain, Adna R. Chaffee, Jr., in the U.S., Charles de Gaulle in France, and Mikhail Tukhachevsky in the USSR. All came to similar conclusions, but in the Second World War only Germany would initially put the theory into practice on a large scale, and it was their superior tactics and French blunders, not superior weapons, that made blitzkrieg so successful in May 1940. For information regarding tank development in this period, see tank development between the wars.

GermanyItaly and the Soviet Union all experimented heavily with tank warfare during their clandestine and “volunteer” involvement in the Spanish Civil War, which saw some of the earliest examples of successful mechanised combined arms — such as when Republican troops, equipped with Soviet-supplied medium tanks and supported by aircraft, eventually routed Italian troops fighting for the Nationalists in the seven-dayBattle of Guadalajara in 1937. However, of the nearly 700 tanks deployed during this conflict, only about 64 tanks representing the Franco faction and 331 from the Republican side were equipped with cannon, and of those 64 nearly all were WWI vintage Renault FT tanks, while the 331 Soviet supplied machines had 45mm main guns and were of 1930s manufacture. With the balance of Nationalist tanks being machine gun armed tanks. The primary lesson learned from this war was that machine gun armed tanks had to be equipped with cannon, with the associated armor inherent to modern tanks.

The five month long war between the Soviet Union and the Japanese 6th Army at Khalkhin Gol (Nomonhan) in 1939 brought home some better lessons. In this conflict, and although the Japanese only deployed about 73 cannon armed tanks, the Soviets fielded over two thousand, with the major difference being that Japanese armor were equipped with diesel engines and the Russian tanks petrol ones. Even after General Georgy Zhukov sounded a bitter defeat on the Japanese 6th Army with his massed combined tank and air attack, the Soviets had learned a bitter lesson on the use of gasoline engines, and quickly incorporated those newly found experiences into their new T-34 medium tank during WWII.

World War II was the first conflict where armoured vehicles were critical to success on the battlefield and in this period the tank developed rapidly as a weapon system. It showed how an armoured force was capable of achieving a tactical victory in an unprecedentedly short amount of time. At the same time, however, the development of effective anti-tankweaponry demonstrated that the tank was not invulnerable.

Prior to World War II the tactics and strategy of deploying tank forces underwent a revolution. In August 1939 Soviet General Georgy Zhukov utilized the combined force of tanks and airpower at Nomonhan against the Japanese 6th Army; Heinz Guderian, a tactical theoretician who was heavily involved in the formation of the first independent German tank force, said "Where tanks are, the front is", and this concept became a reality in World War II. Following the Invasion of Poland where tanks performed in a more traditional role in close cooperation with infantry units, in theBattle of France deep independent armoured penetrations were executed by the Germans, a technique later called blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg made use of innovative combined arms tactics and radios in all of the tanks to provide a level of tactical flexibility and power that surpassed that of the Allied armour. The French Army, with tanks equal or superior to the German tanks in both quality and quantity, employed a linear defensive strategy in which the armoured cavalry units were made subservient to infantry as "support weapons". In addition, they lacked radios in many of their tanks and headquarters,which limited their ability to respond to German attacks.

In accordance with blitzkrieg methods, German tanks bypassed enemy strongpoints and could radio for close air support to destroy them, or leave them to the infantry. A related development, motorized infantry, allowed some of the troops to keep up with the tanks and create highly mobile combined arms forces. The defeat of a major military power within weeks shocked the rest of the world, resulting in an increased focus on tank and anti-tank weapon development.

Rommel in North Africa, June 1942

The North African Campaign also provided an important battleground for tanks, as the flat, desolate terrain with relatively few obstacles or urban environments was ideal for conducting mobile armoured warfare. However, this battlefield also showed the importance of logistics, especially in an armoured force, as the principal warring armies, the German Afrika Korps and the British Eighth Army, often outpaced their supply trains in repeated attacks and counter-attacks on each other, resulting in complete stalemate. This situation would not be resolved until 1942, when during the Second Battle of El Alamein, the Afrika Korps, crippled by disruptions in their supply lines, was forced to retreat by a massively reinforced Eighth Army, the first in a series of defeats that would eventually lead to the surrender of the remaining Axis forces in Tunisia.

Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle ever fought — with each side employing nearly 3000 tanks.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, started with the Soviets having a superior tank design, the T-34. A lack of preparations for the Axis surprise attack, mechanical problems, poor training of the crews and incompetent leadership caused the Soviet machines to be surrounded and destroyed in large numbers. However, interference from Adolf Hitler, the geographic scale of the conflict, the dogged resistance of the Soviet combat troops, and Soviet manpower and production capability prevented a repeat of the Blitzkrieg of 1940. Despite early successes against the Soviets, the Germans were forced to up-gun their Panzer IVs, and to design and build larger and more expensive Panther and Tiger tanks. In doing so, theWehrmacht denied the infantry and other support arms the production priorities that they needed to remain equal partners with the increasingly sophisticated tanks, in turn violating the principle of combined arms they had pioneered. Soviet developments following the invasion included upgunning the T-34, development of self-propelled anti-tank guns such as the SU-152, and deployment of the IS-2 in the closing stages of the war.

Sherman tanks joining the U.S. Fifth Army forces in the beachhead at Anzioduring the Italian Campaign, 1944

When entering World War II, America's mass production capacity enabled her to rapidly construct thousands of relatively cheap M4 Sherman medium tanks. A compromise all round, the Sherman was reliable and formed a large part of the Anglo-American ground forces, but in a tank-versus-tank battle was no match for the Panther or Tiger. Numerical and logistical superiority and the successful use of combined arms allowed the Allies to overrun the German forces during the Battle of Normandy. Upgunned versions with the 76 mm gun M1and the 17 pounder were introduced to improve the M4's firepower, but concerns about protection remained.

Tank hulls were modified to produce flame tanks, mobile rocket artillery, and combat engineering vehicles for tasks including mine-clearing and bridging. Specialised self-propelled guns were also developed: tank destroyers and assault guns were cheap, stripped down tanks carrying heavy guns, often in a fixed hull mounting. The firepower and low cost of these vehicles made them attractive but as manufacturing techniques improved and larger turret rings made larger tank guns feasible, the gun turret was recognised as the most effective mounting for the main gun to allow movement in a different direction from firing, enhancing tactical flexibility.

Reference : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tank

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