Main battle tanks, or MBTs for short, are designed to take the fight to the enemy and survive the encounter. Some, like these more capable tanks, are merely heads and shoulders above the rest, and to look at them is to see the literal embodiment of war. While their designs vary depending on makes and models, they are all united in having tremendous firepower and nearly impenetrable armor.
Current MBTs are a product of the Cold War, in which the arms race led to the development of tanks with the firepower of super-heavy tanks and the armor protection of heavy tanks but the mobility of lighter tanks.
From the 1960s onwards, MBTs became practically the de facto tank for armies around the world—a role they still fulfill and are likely to fulfill for some time to come.
Challenger 2 is pure violence incarnate
Design company and country of origin: United Kingdom, Alvis plc, BAE Systems Land & Armament
When did it enter service: 1998
What makes this tank one of the best tanks: (challenger2) It has a very accurate 120mm rifled gun and perfect armor. It holds the record for the longest tank kill of any tank in the world.
The Challenger2 is one of the most powerful main battle tanks in the world. With a deadly 120mm precision pistol, this tank can cause a lot of damage.
Modern variants use the latest Chobham armor and are incredibly reliable in combat. The tank has a maximum main aiming range of just over 5 km and still holds the record for the longest tank-to-tank kill in the world.
Its gun also has one of the world’s fastest target acquisition systems of any main battle tank in the world.
The first tanks entered service in 1998 and quickly replaced their aging predecessor, Challenger 1. The Challenger 2 is currently going to remain in active service until the 2030s.
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Design company and country of origin: Germany Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Maschinenbau Kiel
When did it enter service: 2014
What makes this tank one of the best: The Leopard 2A7 is one of the few next-generation main battle tanks in the world. It has high-powered cannons and passive armor systems that provide 360-degree protection from a variety of weapons.
Building on its highly capable predecessor, the Leopard 2A6, this tank is a force to be reckoned with. It was first unveiled by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) in 2010 and was quickly accepted by the German military.
It has with a 120mm L55 smoothbore gun and can fire both standard NATO ammunition and programmable 120mm HE rounds. Its passive armor systems protect against anti-tank missiles, mines, explosive devices, and RPGs.
Like other main battle tanks, it can use additional accessories depending on the combat area. They can range from mine plows, mine rollers, or dozer blades to clear obstacles.
It is also one of the fastest tanks out there, with a top speed of 72 km/h and a range of 450 km before running out of fuel.
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Black Panther K2, or the invincible Black Panther
Design company and country of origin: South Korea, Hyundai Rotem
When did it enter service: 2016
What makes this tank one of the best: The K2 is one of the most advanced main battle tanks in the world.
The South Korean K2 “Black Panther” is a killer main battle tank that also happens to be one of the most expensive per unit produced.
Deliveries to the South Korean army began in 2016, and to date, about 100 orders have been fulfilled. It is expected that another 200 will be delivered in the not-too-distant future.
It is equipped with the same attack capability as the 2A7 Leopard.
Defensively, it uses standard composite armor (no other rated details), explosive reactive armor (ERA), and an advanced passive protection system much like the Leopard 2A7.
It also has an advanced automatic target acquisition, aiming, and firing system. The tank is also fast and has a modern hydropneumatic suspension system.
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Russian T-14 Armata
Design company and country of origin: Russia (Uralvagonzavod)
When it did enter service: 2015
What makes this tank one of the best: The standout feature of this next-generation tank is its unmanned turret.
The T-14 Armata is Russia’s most advanced main battle tank. They plan to build about 130 of them, somewhere in the range of 20 currently delivered.
This tank has many innovative features (most of them classified), but its unmanned turret is ahead of its competitors. The tank requires only three human crew members, in an armored capsule at the front of the hull.
It has a 125-mm smoothbore, the 2A82-1M, a gun that has a higher muzzle energy than the German Leopard 2A7. Its turret and hull are dressed in malachite double explosive reaction armor (ERA).
It is also protected by an active protection system that detects, monitors, and intercepts anti-tank munitions.
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M1A2 SEP Abrams
Design company and country of origin: USA, General Dynamics Land Systems
When it did enter service: 1999
What makes this tank one of the best: This tank has high performance in battle, joins real war operations, and has a multi-fuel turbocharged engine.
The M1A2 System Enhanced Package (SEP) is the successor to the M1A2. This tank has improved armor protection and many other systems from the older Abrams variants.
It first entered service in 1999 with 240 new tanks and 300 M1A2s updated to the new standard. Upgrading 400 M1A1s to M1A2 SEP specifications took place as well.
It is one of the best main battle tanks available. It has excellent defensive and offensive capabilities with advanced armor that is reinforced with depleted uranium in some places.
Its firepower is slightly inferior to that of other tanks, such as the Leopard 2A7, due to its shorter 120 mm L44 smoothbore gun. However, it is still a very dangerous war machine.
Its multi-fuel turbo engine delivers good performance but requires a lot of maintenance. The US Army plans to keep the tank in service until 2050.
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Merkava Mark 4 is one of the most powerful tanks in the world
Design company and country of origin: Israel Defense Forces
When it did enter service: 2004
What makes this tank one of the best: This tank can take real hits and still fight. It is truly one of the best tanks in the world. The Israeli-made Merkava Mark4 is the latest iteration of the highly capable Merkava tank series. Its name means “chariot” in Hebrew, and the MK is a symbol of the tank armor. Entered service in 1979.
Mark 4 armor is modular and is on all sides of the tank, including the top and V-shaped belly. This allows tanks to be repaired more easily in combat.
Like other modern tanks, it comes complete with an active protection system to intercept incoming projectiles. It differs from other armored vehicles by having its engine in the front.
Offensively, the Merkava has an Israeli-made 120 mm smoothbore gun. To date, about 360 have been built, with another 300 on order.
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Japanese Type 90
Design company and country of origin: Japan, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
When it did enter service: 1990
What makes this tank one of the best: The purpose of the Type 90 tank is to match Western tanks of the time.
The Japanese Kyū-maru-shiki-Type 90 is their main battle tank. A Mitsubishi Heavy Industries production in cooperation with German tank manufacturers Krauss-Maffei and MaK.
Full production of the tank began in 1992, and at the time, it was one of the most advanced tanks in the world. Japan had originally planned to build 600 or so of them, but their huge cost per tank meant that production was cut to around 340.
It is armed with a German-designed Rheinmetall 120 mm smoothbore gun built under license in Japan. The rifle can fire standard NATO rounds that can be loaded using the bustle-mounted automatic ammunition loading system.
It has ceramic/steel composite armor as well as hydropneumatic suspension. This provides the tank with the ability to “kneel” or “lean”, providing some interesting options in combat.
Design company and country of origin: France, GIAT Industries (now Nexter)
When it did enter service: 1992
What makes this tank one of the best: The Leclerc has a highly accurate 120mm main gun and modular composite armor. It was named in honor of General Philippe Leclerc d’Houtcloc, who commanded the French forces that participated in the liberation of Paris in World War II.
The French-made Leclerc main tank is one of the deadliest battle tanks in the world. Designed and built by the former GIAT Industries, this tank has seen service in various theaters of war around the world.
They are in use by the French and Emirati armies and cost €9.3 million per piece. It replaced the older AMX30 MBT of the French Army and about 400, or so, in active service of the French.
The tank is armed with a powerful 120-mm main gun and is protected by modular armor. Most Leclercs in the French Army have recently been upgraded and improved with something called the AZUR kit.
This provides them with additional armor, such as side skirts, to improve their durability against unconventional warfare.
Oplot-M will definitely ruin your day
Design company and country of origin: Ukraine, Kharkiv Morozov Machine-Building Design Bureau
When did you enter service: 2009
What makes this tank one of the best: Oplot-M is an upgraded version of the Russian T-84. It is very capable of destroying ground targets and low-speed targets.
Oplot-M is an upgraded version of the older Ukrainian T-84 main battle tank. It is the most modern and advanced tank in the Ukrainian army and comes complete with advanced armor, new electronic countermeasures, and other upgrades.
Ukraine first entered the Ukrainian Army in 2009, and Ukraine has since received orders from the Royal Thai Army for the tank. It has a conventional internal design and is armed with a KBA-3 125 mm smoothbore main gun.
This main gun can also fire a laser-guided missile against other tanks, armored vehicles, and hovering helicopters up to a range of about 5,000 meters.
The Russian T-90 is the embodiment of fierce war
Design company and country of origin: Russia (Kartsev-Venediktov/Uralvagonzavod)
When it did enter service: 1992
What makes this tank one of the best: The latest variants of the T-90 are that it is one of the most advanced tanks in Russia. Its main gun can fire a mixture of weapons, including laser-guided anti-tank missiles.
The Russian T-90 is another of the world’s most feared and terrifying tanks, but it’s not invulnerable. It is a third-generation tank and entered service for the first time in the early nineties.
The newest T-90, the T-90S, is an effectively updated and upgraded version of the T-72B and is widely considered one of the most advanced and formidable tanks in the world. It comes with a powerful 125mm 2A46 smoothbore main gun and is protected by composite and reactive armor, smoke grenade launchers, reactive armor, and infrared jamming systems.
Like the T-84 Oplot-M and the other tanks on this list, its main gun can also fire laser-guided anti-tank missiles out to about 4,000 meters. The pistol can also fire a variety of ammunition, including APDS (armor-piercing armor-piercing), HEAT (high-explosive anti-tank), and HE-FRAG (high-explosive fragmentation), as well as time-fuse fragmentation projectiles.