People in different countries are very competitive when it comes to deciding the best tank in the world. However a poll which we have surveyed since 2008 has shown that the Leopard 2A6 is the peoples most favourite tank out of nearly 600 people who voted; they voted 160 times for the Leopard 2A6 in a poll which included the M1A2, Challenger 2, T-90 and Leclerc. Mainly the people who voted in the poll came from the United States; so there can’t be any claims of bias since the Leopard 2A6 is a European/German tank.
Though this doesn’t in any way suggest the best tank in the world, just users who believe their favourite tank is the Leopard 2A6. (As the poll suggests when voting: Which is your favourite Main Battle Tank?) So what tank really is the best in the world? Well first you need to look at multiple variables and factors which play into a situation. i.e. What tank would be better suited for this situation as opposed to this situation then come to a conclusion. That is just the way warfare works, as there are no certain battle situations, but we can define the best tank, by evaluating and working out which tank would perform best for multiple situations.
How well does the tank perform in certain situations? Which tank has the best armor?
Take for example the Mervaka, it would be suggested that the vehicle is a heavily armored transport tank which can go into urban areas since it can take a lot of punishment. Since it can carry a full squad of infantry, unlike no other tank, the purpose of this tank is suited for urban combat among being able to engage other tanks as well. Sure other tanks can go into urban environments, but they’d need support in the likes of lighter armored personnel carriers, carrying the infantry up with them. At least with the Merkava you can transport them and the tanks can work independently.
Though the disadvantages of moving a 120 mm gun into an urban area will also mean a lot of civilian casualties but then again if enemy fighters are fighting in buildings, the 120 mm will blow a hole straight into the building, minimising any casualties for friendly troops on the ground. So of course it depends on how you’d deploy such a tank and you’d have to of course like in most situations consider the environment they’ll be operating in. – Just an example.
Most modern tanks today are built for engaging other tanks, hard targets and from firing far away at targets which other vehicles cannot penetrate or see. To determine the best tank, you really need to ask what you will be using the tank for. Are you going to be engaging other tanks, armored vehicles, infantry or targets which most modern day ammunition or guns cannot target?
For example the K2 Black Panther has an ammunition piece called the Korean Smart Top-Attack Munition (KSTAM) which essentially targets the top of a tanks turret (Where it is most vulnerable in most modern tanks and older generation tanks), essentially it is a projectile which falls onto the top-side of the tank which deploys a parachute to guide it on top.
As you can see or the get the idea that this type of ammunition would be rather useful in certain situations where no other tanks have this capability. This is a unique capability only seen in the South Korean K2 Black Panther.
Individually, which tank is the best based on specification?
The top three best tanks in the world.
Number one spot (1):
The South Korean made K2 Black Panther. The South Koreans have built a beautiful tank which has unique features unlike no other tank in the world. It also one of the most expensive tanks in the world costing an estimated $8.8 million per vehicle; however, this is not without reason. The tank earns the top ranking since is is a very modern tank armed with the latest generation of guns from Rheinmetall, the L/55 120 mm smooth bore gun. With this said as stated before in this article the K2 main battle tank (MBT) can fire Korean Smart Top-Attack Munition (KSTAM) which gives this vehicle the ability to kill the latest in generation of tanks where top-side armor is not that well protected. Given to this fact it has the ability to “kill” most modern tanks especially with its high velocity L/55 which is said to be able to penetrate all types of armor currently out there. The K2 also doesn’t require a fourth crewman like the M1A2 or Challenger 2, as it has an auto loader which automatically loads the main gun. There is debate whether to which is more efficient at pumping out the ammunition the fastest. However, the advantages are that there is more room inside the tank as there is one less crewman taking up space.
The vehicles armor has layers of soft and hard anti-missile system. It includes explosive reactive armor (ERA) and Non-explosive and non-energetic reactive armor (NERA). It also has modular armor which can be added onto the vehicle for extra enhanced protection while also having composite armor.
The vehicles engine is powered by a MTU MB-883 Ka500 diesel, which provides 1,500 horse power (HP), an additional 400 horse power is gained through a gas turbine power unit. The vehicle in its generic state has a power to weight ratio of 27.3 hp/tonne. – This is further increased with the optional use of the gas turbine power unit. It is one of the fastest tanks in the world, being able to travel 44 mph over roads in comparison to the M1A2’s 42 mph. The Leopard, however, does out perform it as it can travel 45 mph over road in generic state. The K2 Black Panther also features an advanced hydro-pneumatic suspension system like no other tank in the world. What this means is that it can go to difference stances, depress, elevate in different directions which if in a hull-down position is very useful for aiming the gun in directions which otherwise would not be achievable with standard torsion bar suspension. Other features not found on many tanks are deep wading abilities, the vehicle is semi-amphibious and can be fully submerged into water as deep as 4 meters with the help of a snorkel system which is attached to the turrets opening. – The snorkel system gives the tank optics above to see where it is going and also feeds in air in the modern armored vehicle. The vehicle maybe one of the most expensive; however, the specification of this vehicle is what ranks it top. Previous lessons were learned from the K1 and K1A1 which has led to an even more advanced tank with lessons learned. Having large amounts of advanced electronic systems and advanced weaponry, we can say for sure that the K2 Black Panther is the best tank in the world.
Second spot (2):
Leopard 2. Undoubtedly the Leopard versions and variants are very modern and the German’s have always been able to create technically very good tanks. As it started as a series of tanks from the Leopard 1 to the Leopard 2 then extended onto improved versions to which it is currently at the Leopard 2A6 from the 2A5; the tank has only got better. With improved digital awareness systems which allow the tank to communicate with other friendly vehicles in the area the tank is ranked second since it has the latest gun from Rheinmetall, just like the K2 Black Panther; the L/55 120 mm high velocity smooth bore gun. The fire control system (FCS) is also very advanced while also utilizing other digital systems such as thermal imaging, a laser range finder and fully stabilised gun armed with a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. However these features can be found in most tanks.
What makes the Leopard 2A6 unique and gives it its standing in second place is that it has a new generation of composite armor and external modular armor. It can also be fitted with additional add on armor to further protect the vehicle from heavy weaponry; which include explosive reactive armor (ERA) blocks. The vehicle also has a system which prevents spalling or breaking essentially if it is hit in certain hard points. Its heavy protection along with advanced digital systems is what gives the Leopard 2A6 its standing in second place. With a cost of only $5.5 million ($USD) per tank the vehicle is undoubtedly very cheap in comparison to other tanks which make this vehicle very attractive to the export market.
The Leopard 2 is very modular in design being able to incorporate significant design upgrades as it has graduated into 6 steps of different upgraded variants which are in use around the world today. The 7th update or the Leopard 2A7 incorporates new armor package updates to protect the vehicle from anti-tank mines and explosives. The 2A7 heavily involves new surveillance systems which incredibly improves the tanks situational awareness. However it is not in service yet and is only readily available in low numbers. Though the Leopard 2A6 ranks very closely next to the K2 Black Panther in terms of technical specification.
Third spot (3):
Challenger 2. Having served in the first and second gulf war the Challenger tank has combat experience to which most other modern tanks do not have. Which is why it makes it in the third spot on this list. The tank is armed with a 120 mm rifled (L30A1) main gun. Combat experience include a range of experiences where for example the Challenger 2 was said to have been hit 70 times by rocket propelled-grenades (RPG) including a MILAN anti-tank missile (According to sources from the BBC) to which it survived and returned to base for repairs in Basra, Iraq. It is said that the vehicles highly classified Chobham armor to which it uses the Dorchester variant is the reasoning behind its successes in wars involving its engagements overseas. The Challenger 1, the previous to the Challenger 2 tank is an older version of a near complete redesign and improvement of which came the Challenger 2. However it is the Challenger 1 which is credited for the longest tank-on-tank kill in history with the now older L11A5 rifled 120 mm gun which was then superseded in the Challenger 2 by the L30A1 120 mm rifled gun.
The Challenger 2 has seen successes in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. However in March 2003 the first Challenger 2 tank was destroyed in a blue-on-blue incident where another Challenger 2 had shot another. It was not the vehicle that was penetrated,as sources cite that the HESH round had hit the commanders hatch and had poured hot metal into the tank igniting the stowed ammunition then destroying the tank killing two crew members. Though there have been penetrations where in August 2006 an RPG-29 penetrated the frontal lower hull of a Challenger 2 and a driver lost three of his toes in an engagement which took place in Al-Amarah, Iraq.
In April 2007 a shaped charge had penetrated the underside of the Challenger 2 which blew off one of the drivers legs and caused minor injury to other crewman in the tank. The British response to this was the Theatre Entry Standard (TES) which improved enhancements to the tanks armor. Even though problems have occurred during battle, it is the fact the Challenger 2 is fully battle tested whereas tanks such as the Leopard 2A6 and especially the K2 Black Panther score low on being battle tested. It is based on theory and specification that these tanks are ranked in this order.
In comparison to other tanks the Challenger 2 doesn’t particularly have a high power to weight ratio as it is powered by Perkins CV-12 Diesel 1,200 hp (890 kW) and due to the fact that it weighs considerably more than most other tanks. It has a power to weight ratio of 19.2 hp/tonne, most other tanks have 1500 hp (Horse Power) engines and since it only has a 1200 hp (Horse Power) engine while also weighing in at 62.5 tonnes the vehicles weight doesn’t help in this regard. Which is why the tank on-road is only able to go at 35 mph on road and 25 mph off-road. However it is on this list, since it is the most battle tested tank in the list. We could have mentioned the M1A1-2 however we fill that the Challenger 2 in theaters such as Iraq overall did better in urban environments and suffered the least casualties. – While only one Challenger 2 tank has been destroyed and that was by friendly fire from another tank to whereby in incidents casualties were made as a result.
The important thing to note
We have chosen these tanks based on specification and how effectively they would be vs other tanks in a one on one situation. However in most situations it would account to who shot first or who sighted the first person since tank guns can almost penetrate any type of armor; no matter how thick, or cause a mobility kill. Which essentially means it comes also down to crew training and experience. This can be accounted to several countries such as the US and UK however technology also comes down when considering things and the Germans and South Koreans currently have the latest and most technologically advanced tanks in the world. We have came to the conclusion based on the specification of these tanks especially with further research done extensively on their sensors, optics and the power penetration of the tanks gun.
Though the best tank for a country also has to be mentioned. Not all tanks are suited for all types of combat. Like originally started in the first three paragraphs of this article, the Merkava (MBT) is suited mostly for urban environments where other tanks are only set to kill other tanks or take out hard targets. However this is not a list for the best tank for a particular country, but more over the attitude or sentiment toward being, what is the best tank in the world, which could counter other modern tanks in head-to-head hunting type combat.
The M1A2 (MBT) derived from the United States is a tank which has been fully battle tested in wars in theaters such as Iraq in the First and Second Gulf Wars. The M1 Abram series continues to provide support for troops around the world and very recently in Afghanistan where 16 M1 Abrams were sent to support marines on the ground.