Tanks are amongst the most intimidating war machines ever conceived. They have evolved from fairly simple machines into heavy, sophisticated and capable weapons designed for the rigours of modern warfare. Here’s a selection of some of the biggest tanks in the world.
Army: Japan | Cost: $15 million | Weight: 44 tonnes | Crew: 3
The Type 10 is a lightweight main battle tank that entered service in 2012. Its main role is to support ground troops with its firepower, rather than to go up against enemy tanks. As such, it was designed with ceramic armour which can be replaced easily on the battlefield. The 1,200hp V8 diesel is capable of 70 km/h and is armed with a 120mm smoothbore gun, a remote controlled 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a coaxially mounted 7.62mm machine gun.
Army: China | Weight: 55 tonnes | Crew: 3 | Number built: 1,200
An upgraded version of the Type 99, the 99G entered service in 2015 and is a main battle tank produced in huge numbers for the People’s Liberation Army. One of the world’s biggest tanks, it is equipped with a highly sophisticated active laser protection system and powered by a 1,500hp engine with a 600km range. Similar in design and technology to the Soviet T-72, it is armed with a 125mm smoothbore gun with anti-tank guided missile capability, a roof-mounted 12.7mm machine gun and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun.
K2 Black Panther
Army: South Korea | Weight: 55 tonnes | Cost: $8.5 million | Crew: 3
One of the world’s most sophisticated main battle tanks and the biggest tank in South Korea’s arsenal, the K2 entered service in 2016. It uses technology from all over the world and has been described as ‘the ultimate war machine.’ It provides protection against anti-tank rockets and missiles, it has a range of 450km and can ford over four metres. Armaments include a 55 calibre smoothbore gun and a Browning .50 calibre machine gun.
Army: USA | Cost: Approx: $6 million | Weight: 62.5 tonnes | Crew: 4
One of the biggest tanks in the world, the famous M1A2 Abrams is one of the most powerful and reliable main battle tanks ever made. It is powered by an exceptionally quiet 1,500hp engine nicknamed ‘Whispering Death’ and – with a top speed of almost 70 km/h and an effective firing range in excess of 2,500 metres – it is a worthy adversary on the battlefield. It is armed with a Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore gun, an M2 .50 calibre machine gun and a 7.62mm machine gun.
Army: UK | Cost: £4.2 million | Weight: 64 tonnes | Crew: 4
The main battle tank of the British Army, the Challenger 2 is nicknamed the ‘Megatron’ and is one of the world’s best protected tanks. It entered service in 1998. It is powered by a 26.1-litre twin-turbocharged diesel engine with a road range of 550km. While it may be a contender for the world’s biggest tank, it’s not the fastest, with a maximum speed of just 60km/h. Uniquely amongst NATO main battle tank guns, its main 120mm gun is rifled and it also carries the Hughes L94A1 chain gun and a 7.62mm general purpose machine gun.
Army: Germany | Cost: Approx. $6 million | Weight: 67.5 tonnes | Crew: 4
The 2A7 is one of the world’s most sophisticated main battle tanks. It is equipped with nuclear, biological and chemical systems, 360° nano-ceramic protection from anti-tank missiles, IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades and is fitted with a plough for clearing mines. The Leopard can fire standard NATO ammunition as well as programmable high-explosive rounds from its 120mm smoothbore gun, and it has a maximum road speed of 72 km/h.
Big, Bigger, Biggest… History’s Biggest Tanks
The world’s biggest tank used operationally was the Char 2C. It was a French ‘super-heavy’ tank developed during the First World War and was believed to tip the scales at an astounding 75 tonnes. At the time, it was virtually impenetrable thanks to its riveted steel armour, which was two inches thick in places, and it was armed with a 75mm ‘Canon de 75’ field cannon, as well as four Hotchkiss Mle 1914 machine guns.
The Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus was the largest tank ever built and the heaviest armoured fighting vehicle in the history of warfare. Before it could see action in the Second World War, the testing grounds were overrun by advancing Soviet forces. The tank weighed a staggering 188 tonnes and it was 10.2 metres long, almost four metres wide and 3.5 metres high. It was crewed by six soldiers but it was so heavy, it only reached 22 km/h during tests. Despite its monumental size, it was never deployed on the field of battle.