A story of what a Main Battle Tank is and how it came to be.
Tanks evolved considerably over the course of over 100 years of service. The first tanks were built to break through enemy fortifications, but still ended up being much smaller than the landships that H.G. Wells dreamed of. Nevertheless, the effect they had was considerable. All armies of the world wanted to have their own tanks, but not all managed to create one. A tank only seems simple, but in reality is quite a complicated fighting machine that requires a powerful industry to produce. Far fewer nations managed to build their own tanks than their own aircraft. In addition, like any weapon individual tanks quickly became obsolete. It is only in the last few decades that tank development slowed down from its breakneck pace. Tanks remain one of the key types of vehicles on the battlefield. There have been many attempts to write them off as a relic of the past, but practice shows that this time has not yet come.
|T-72, the most numerous Main Battle Tank. These tanks were developed in the late 1960s but continue to serve and will do so for decades to come.
|The first tanks were just tanks. Classification by weight only came around later.
|An attempt at creating a main tank was made in the 1920s. Medium tanks were not as slow and expensive as heavies, but also more effective than lights. It is no accident that British Medium Tanks Mk.I, Mk.II and Mk.III were their most numerous tanks of the 1920s, but they were ill-suited for the role of a main tank.
|Char B, the first attempt to create something close to a Main Battle Tank. General Estienne saw the Char B as the main tank on the battlefield, with the armour and armament of a heavy tank but mobility close to a contemporary medium tank.
|The result of the "battle tank" program. Instead of a medium tank with the armour of a heavy, France ended up with a heavy tank with the armour and armament of a medium. The biggest problem was that the Char B1 bis was astronomically expensive and produced in tiny numbers, unable to replace medium tanks.
|Despite conspiracy theories, the KV-13 tank that appeared in 1942 was developed as a heavy tank. No one was trying to replace the T-34.
|The Panther is sometimes classified as a heavy tank due to its weight, but it was a medium. The Panther was never a Main Battle Tank, since production of the Tiger continued in parallel.
|The Centurion is often classified as an MBT, but that is incorrect. It was intended to be a heavy cruiser tank, with its mass quickly growing from 40 to 50 tons. Its development did not stop work on heavy tanks.
|Attempts to make a heavy tank from the Pershing ended badly every time. This was a medium tank that was pushed to its weight limit.
|This was the status of IS-7 trials in 1948. The tank was 3 tons heavier than expected and the cost of a pilot tank exceeded 3 million rubles.
|FV4201 or Chieftain, the first tank called a Main Battle Tank. It fully meets this classification: its armament and front armour matched that of contemporary heavy tanks, but mobility and weight matched those of medium tanks.
|MBT 70, the German-American approach.
|T-64A, the first Soviet MBT.