Thursday, December 30, 2004

Baddest Tank In the World (2005)

From The Strategy Page:

December 29, 2004: Who has the most effective tank in the world continues. The most likely candidates are western tank designs (the M1 Abrams, the Challenger, the LeClerc, and the Leopard 2), which are much better on a tank-for-tank basis than Russian designs like the T-64 and its descendants (the T-72, T-80 and T-90).

Which of these four Western tanks is the best? Websites like or recognition guides from Jane’s can give basic specifications. Added to combat records, one can see that the French LeClerc drops back on one major issue: It has an autoloader – which is much slower and maintenance-intensive than a 19-year-old private.

That leaves the Big Three of Western tanks. The Challenger is slow, but heavily armored. It also has a gun with a longer range (in Desert Storm, a Challenger killed an Iraqi tank five kilometers away) than either the M1A2 or the Leopard 2. That said, it is much slower than the other two (56 kilometers an hour vs. 72 for the Leopard 2 and 67.6 for the Abrams), and it is arguably at its best on defense.

The Leopard 2 and Abrams are very similar tanks. The major difference is in the type of engine used. The Leopard 2 uses a diesel engine, while the Abrams used a gas turbine. Each engine has its advantages and disadvantages. The Leopard 2’s diesel is more efficient, giving the German tank more range (550 kilometers to 426 kilometers for the Abrams). That said, the gas turbine on the Abrams is quieter, meaning that opponents without infrared systems will have a harder time detecting the Abrams at night, which can mean their only warning an Abrams is around could be when the Abrams sends a 120mm candygram their way – most of the time, the result will be a direct hit.

There are smaller differences. The Leopard 2 has two 7.62mm machine guns – one anti-aircraft gun, the other a coaxial machine gun. The Abrams has three: One 12.7mm machine gun for anti-aircraft work (also very useful against infantry and unarmored vehicles), a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, and a second machine gun mounted near the loader’s hatch. The Abrams has an edge here, since the loader can cover a sector in addition to the coaxial machine gun and the commander’s machine gun. This means it is that much harder for infantry to sneak up on the Abrams than it would be to sneak up on a Leopard.

The matter of auxiliary power is another thing not always mentioned in the specs. The Leopard 2 has none. The Abrams features an auxiliary power unit, which allows it to shut off the turbine in some instances, allowing it to conserve fuel. In situations where the Abrams is on defense, this is a huge advantage – not only because the Abrams saves fuel, but because infrared sensors have a harder time picking it up. Again, the first indication the Abrams is there will be when it fires – and well-trained Abrams crews are very accurate. If you see an Abrams firing at you, it is probably the last thing you will see.

Finally, there is another item that doesn’t show up in the specs: Internal arrangement. The Leopard stores some of its main gun ammunition in the crew compartment, and uses steel as its liner. While the steel can keep something out, it also creates nasty spall fragments when a sabot or HESH (high-explosive squash head) round strikes the tank. The Abrams keeps its main gun ammo in a separate compartment and has a spall liner while using aluminum, reducing casualties when an Abrams is hit. This is important – an uninjured crew can fight back even if the tank is damaged. This was proven In Desert Storm, when an Abrams stuck in the mud continued fighting despite taking three hits from the main guns of Iraqi T-72 tanks – and promptly dispatched the offending T-72s. The tank defied American efforts to destroy it in place, and after being recovered had the turret replaced and was back with its unit in 24 hours. The damaged turret was sent back to the United States for analysis.

In short, the Abrams still takes the title overall, despite arguable deficiencies in range (which careful logistics planning can overcome), as its combat record proves. The Leopard 2 is a close second, and the Challenger 2 isn’t far behind the Leopard. – Harold C. Hutchison (

I think I agree with Harold, but I'd hasten to add that there is very little material diference (in FFT terms anyone) between these tanks. It will all boil down to troop quality, in my opinion.


Anonymous Senor Freebie said...

Just wanted to say that I thought your decisions on the best tank in the world were largely biased towards the Abrams. You ignored Russian tanks advancements as if it didn't matter and were very narrow minded when it came to what makes a balanced package.
The Abrams is a great tank, no doubt, but you neglected to mention the series of upgrades it has been through. The M1 and M1A1 are widely regarded as inferior to most T80's and T90's and the M1A2 is considered inferior to the Leo2 for a number of reasons you didn't even mention.
Take active and passive defence systems into account and a heavily upgraded T-90 like the ones in the recent shipments to India take the cake as the best protected tanks in the world. However their intended role is different to the Abrams which again is something you neglected to mention.

May I request that instead of quickly passing over subjects as if they were unimportant, that you compared all fields and labelled tanks as best within individual fields rather then claiming one particular tank was the best of them all when this clearly is not the case.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Ty said...


I really can't respond to your post because it is largely composed of *conclusions* rather than arguments and facts. For instance, you assert that I ignored Russian tank advances, yet you fail to tell us which advances I ignored.

You accuse me of being narrow minded, but fail to explain *why* you conclude that I am narrow minded..

You also assert that the M1 and M1A1 are "widely regarded" as being inferior to the T-80 and T-90. Widely regarded by whom?

You claim that I ignored reasons that the M1 is inferior to the Leopard II. *Which* reasons?

You assert that the T-90 series is the "best protected" tank in the world, yet you have not told us how you came to this conclusion.

Finally, you allude to an "intended role" for Russian MBTs that differs from the M1 series. Yet again, you fail to tell us *what* that intended role is.

As an aside, I must admit to a certain weariness at being accused Yet Again of Being Biased Against the Russians. Gee, I guess that's why I generally prefer to play the Russians, eh?


6:08 PM  
Anonymous Jon said...


While I agree with your results I was surprised that you did not include the Merkava Mk4 in your list. It may not be at the level of the M1A2, but it is the best tank for the intendend battlefield, the Golan.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The three tanks mentioned were designed for a specific task based around the tactics to be used by that army in the event of a full attack by Warsaw PACT countries.
The M1 was designed to attack and carry out a flanking maneouvre where there were gaps in the enemy front line.
The Leopard was intended to carry out a similar task and also be able to maneouvre to where the main attack was to happen blocking the main thrust.
The British had a specific sector to look after in Germany that was quite narrowcompared to teh Americans
British tanks are well designed and very adept at this job. The Israelis proved this with the Centurian.
The Challenger is of the same ilk, it is not meant to advance quickly but retire to a pre set location so that the enemy would be drawn into a bottle neck and this is where the Challenger would be able to take out the Russian tanks at long range. As said the Challenger took out a T72 at 5K. This proves that it can support other units at long range without puting it self in danger and avoid getting hit.
When looked at this way the Challenger is a very able tank and could be considered the best in the world.
The Challenger proved it could also advance across vast tracts of desert when they were used in the Desert Storm offensive.
Taking into consideration the Merkava 4 as a candidate for the best tank you again need to look at the environment it is intended to operate in which the Merkava has proved on several occassions it is very able in the Golan and I would imagine the Sinai. Again you have to look at the added advantage of the Merkava which is able to carry its own Infantry support which no other Main Battle Tank can.
Taking into consideration the Russian factor these tanks are intended to be mass produced and in comparison not as sophisticated as the NATO counterparts. Even so they are very able but as has been proven by the Isralis and the Challenger they are not overlly protected in structure i.e. armour thickness but when the reactive armour is added they can pose a challenge, excuse the pun.
What should be considered is how a tank stands up to the latest ammunition. The depleted uranium round has proved it is able to penetrate armour at very long ranges which was claimed when it was introduced.
this round was used as the standard ammunition in the Gulf War and Russian designed tanks failed here. Unlike the M1 and Challenger. Until the Leopard is put into an environnment where it can prove itself it should remain a unknown entity

7:41 AM  
Blogger MaksimSmelchak said...

Hi Guys,

Two factors left out of the considerations as far as I can tell are:

- Fire Control electronics

- Command electronics

Computers have done amazing things for fire control and the integrated caommand nets that the US is pioneering are exponentially better than older systems based upon radios and paper intellgence.

I think these capabilities give the Abrams a distinct edge over the other tanks in the competition.

As far as the Merkhava goes, it wasn't included although I would rank it right up there with the Abrams. It certainly has some features that are innovative that the Abrams does not.

A future capability to look for will be:

- Defensive electronics / systems

ECM is coming to the MBT world. the Russians already have systems in place and the West is also working on them.

Thanks for the great post / article, Ty.


12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, based on the M1's combat records (against other tanks) they seem to be regarded as superior to Russian models. Though the newer Russian units sport improved armament and protection - they're continually used by forces with inferior training and combat support to Western units.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not totaly agree with your results. I admit the abrams tank is great, but only because they have taken things from the two other tanks. The abrams uses the challegers amazing Chobham armor, and the same great gun from the leopod 2. So i belive help if they had not use our develpments and made their own stuff, i belive the abrams wouldn't be half the tank it is to day. I would rank your top 3: Leo2 , challenger 2, abrams

2:17 AM  
Blogger golden said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:04 PM  
Blogger golden said...

I thought chobum was secret Brit tech?

I won't say my reasons as I wouldn't be able to present my argument for them so well; but personally my order is Challenger 2, Abrams and Leapord.

But the difference even between st and third is so slim, it's down to the crews. If you want my opnion on that though I'd say it's the Brits as I think theres a bit more focus to repair and maintenance.

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


look at this:

9:52 AM  
Blogger James said...

The LeClerc may be lighter, but I'd wager it high in the same grouping. Their autoloader for the main cannon has solid engineering behind it and I have yet to hear a detriment factor about the tank. Frankly, the trade-offs amongst these tanks are arguable and will likely stay in the conjectural realm until someone fights someone else. Highly unlikely, I'd say.

I'm not sure I'd bother equating Iraqi tanks as example - they were poorly maintained and outdated facing the some of the best (for the time) money could buy and the training wasn't even a contest. At best, they might have enjoyed a tenuous numerical superiority on paper, which amounts to little.

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Viagra Online Without Prescription said...

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1:22 PM  
Anonymous Viagra Online said...

Well, I've to said it, it's what I think, I do not totally agree with your results. I admit the problem, but only because they have taken things from the two other tanks.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Barney said...

One think I'd like to mention is a US tanker I met said he saw British Challengers going at full tilt and shooting moving targets at 90 degrees to their direction of travel. These perpendicular targets were at over 1km and the Challenger had "a kill ratio on 'em we just couldn't match". Based on this first hand account, I'd be interested if anyone had heard anything about the sights on the Challenger, or if it just down to very good crew training.

8:54 AM  

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