The development of tanks changed the way wars would be fought forever, and these formidable machines continue to be an integral part of militaries around the world, used during both war and times of peace.
From the birth of the modern tank to the World Wars and beyond, here are five tanks that demonstrate the evolution of the weapon, and its influence on history.
Created in 1917 in the United Kingdom, the Mark IV was used in the first effective massed tank attack in the Battle of Cambrai during World War I. The Mark IV was an improved version of the earlier Mark I tank, but unlike the earlier model, the sponsons holding guns on the tank could be pushed inside the tank to allow transportation by train.
At the 1917 Battle of Cambrai, the Mark IVs were the first to break through the German line. More Mark IVs were made than any other British tank during World War I, and though Germany had a small supply of their own tanks (A7Vs), they instead relied more on capturing British Mark IVs to use.
Between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II, J. Walter Christie’s inventions had an incredible impact on tank development. He displayed a radical new tank chassis to the US military in October 1928, which he wanted to call the Model 1940 because he considered it a dozen years ahead of its time. It was instead designated Model 1928.
The vehicle had large road wheels, which it could run on with the tracks removed. Uniquely, each wheel had its own independent suspension, allowing the vehicle to travel much faster than conventional tanks. Despite these strengths, the US Army Infantry Tank Board was unimpressed by the tank’s thin armour, and they refused to pay the development costs Christie has incurred. He decided to sell his designs to the highest bidder, leading him to have dealings with a number of foreign countries, including Poland, the Soviet Union, and Russia. These exported vehicles were influential in leading to the Russian BT series of fast tanks and the British A13 Cruiser tank.
In May 1941, Hitler ordered the production of a heavy tank. This machine was the Tiger, a vehicle that – despite its issues – remains the most mythologised tank of World War II. Weighing 63.8 tons, the tank had a huge psychological effect on the enemy and inspired a fearsome reputation, also used in German propaganda during the war. The first complete Tiger was captured in 1943 and taken to Britain for analysis.
Unlike other tanks that used V- or boat-shaped hulls to deflect mine blasts, the Buffel was the first tank to have the survivability of the driver and mounted infantry as the priority in the design brief. The South African tank, named after the Afrikaans word for “buffalo,” was created in 1978 during a series of conflicts that took place in South West Africa (now Namibia), Angola, and Zambia from 1966 to 1990. The Buffel’s design was later replicated in MRAP vehicles.
Created in 1992, the American-made M1A2 Abrams currently equips seven national armies. It is one the heaviest main battle tanks in the world and its interior is lined with Kevlar, protecting the crew against splinters caused by the explosion of enemy projectiles. Having proven itself in battle time and again, the M1A2 Abrams will likely continue to be an influential weapon for years to come.
Showcasing the most famous military fighting machines, The Tank Book combines comprehensive photographic spreads with in-depth histories of key manufacturers and specially commissioned visual tours of the most iconic examples of their groundbreaking firepower.