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NATO main battle tanks comparison

Posted by Picard578 on September 21, 2015

Intruduction

Article purpose

This article will compare NATO tanks according to characteristics actually required of battle tanks. These are likely to be different from typical focus on armor and firepower above all else. Consequently, first thing that has to be established is actual usage of tanks; all necessary characteristics stem from that.

Historical overview

“The tank’s purpose is to bring machine-guns to bear on the enemy’s unprotected rear, using speed and surprise.”

– General George S. Patton

“Logistics is the ball and chain of armored warfare.”

– Heinz Guderian

George Patton also wrote that it would have been impossible for him to achieve the successes of the Third army if he had been forced to use German tanks. He was entirely correct, as will be seen from the following.

In 1940 Battle of France, Germans were outnumbered and outgunned in most aspects. In terms of tank forces, they were outnumbered 1,5:1, and most British and French tanks were, on paper, superior to their German counterparts; unlike Allies, Germans heavily relied on horse-drawn transport. But better leadership, tactics, morale and organization meant that Germany achieved easy victory. While Allies dispersed tanks among infantry units, Germans made their tanks centerpieces of armored divisions. Unlike Allied armored divisions, German armored divisions were combined-arms units, consisting of tanks, light armored vehicles, mechanized infantry and artillery, as well as “borrowed” Luftwaffe units. While Allies did have combined-arms units and approach, these were centered around foot infantry. They squandered tanks’ operational mobility advantage by not having mechanized infantry units, and being forced to operate alongside foot infantry and at foot infantry’s movement pace. German command and control were decentralized, with all operational decisions made on low levels, as low as platoon and squad; higher-ups only provided overall objectives, how to achieve them was left to devices of low-level commanders. In contrast, Allies had cumbersome, centralized system that was fit only for World War I Western Front static warfare but fell apart in face of German mobile warfare (and does not speak well of NATOs C&C network, AWACS and other high-tech-driven C&C centralization). This minimized command chain, and consequently quick decision-making, allowed German troops to use their operational speed advantage to get inside the Allied OODA loop. Best example of this is Rommel’s “Ghost Division”. Leading from the front, Rommel minimized his own loop and was thus able to immediately respond and adapt to any change in situation; this was also enabled by communications system which allowed leadership from any point in division. Unlike early-war Allied and Soviet tanks, where only every fifth tank had a radio (typically, radio was exclusive to “command” tanks), every single German tank had a radio, and “command” tanks sacrificed ammunition load for far more extensive radio equipment. This system also made the best use of individual initiative, with important decisions being made by even platoon leaders. Support was at division, as opposed to corps, level. German tanks were also far more mobile than their Allied counterparts. British tanks had 140-230 km range, with 130 km being norm among French tanks. 200 km was the norm among German tanks, one exception being Panzer III. Still, German tanks often had to pause due to outrunning their supply train, and they could cover the distance more quickly than British and French counterparts. Importance of tanks’ mobility and fuel consumption was also later acknowledged by General Patton: “My men can eat their belts, but my tanks gotta have gas.”. Using their mobility, German units were able to bypass and cut off comparably immobile Allied tank forces, destroying crucial soft-skinned targets such as fuel trucks and thus cutting off resupply, as well as eliminating headquarters, communication centres and other crucial components. This completely negated advantages of Allied tanks in armor and firepower, broke Allied OODA loop, and consequently their ability to fight – Rommel’s 7th Armored Division alone advanced 160 kilometers in a single day, capturing 10.000 enemy soldiers and destroying 450 tanks while losing only 42 tanks of their own. Note that this mobility advantage does *not* apply to general Wehrmacht: majority of German army was foot-slogging through the entire war, relying heavily on horse-drawn transport. Main reason why Anglo-French forces failed to counter German advance was that they failed to do their homework. More precisely, they assumed that trench warfare is the future of war due to experience of World War I Western front, while neglecting to study mobile warfare prevalent on WWIs Eastern front, during American Civil War and even earlier during Napoleonic wars. Consequently, they ignored and squandered mobility advantages of tanks, while Germans exploited them by keeping tanks in specialized highly-mobile formations combining tanks, self-propelled artillery and mechanized infantry – truck, not tank, was the main German advantage. Once Patton, with his understanding of mobile warfare along with far greater number of trucks, more fuel and more mobile tanks, showed up, Germans had no real answer for him. Western countries are making the exact same mistake now, relying on Gulf Wars to draw lessons while ignoring all earlier wars.

Some of the largest tank battles happened on the Eastern Front during World War II. Main tanks there were Soviet T-34 and German Panzer III and IV. However, early-model Panzers were so finely fabricated that their gear often froze solid. T-34s could keep rolling even during harshest winter, due to wider tracks and relatively sloppy tolerances. Unlike German tanks, T-34 was also mechanically reliable (except few early models) and easy to maintain. Early-model Panzer IV and all Panzer IIIs used short 7.5 cm and 5.0 cm guns, respectively, which were easily defeated by T-34s armor. Only late-model Panzer IVs got long-barreled 7.5 cm guns capable of defeating T-34s armor, and even later major effort was made to simplify its design (including removal of hydraulic turret drives), though it never achieved T-34 levels of simplicity. Soviets produced three T-34s for each Panzer IV. German answers to T-34 (Panther and Tiger) were utterly inadequate not only due to logistical and mobility issues (high fuel consumption and inability to cross many bridges due to weight issues), but also huge complexity: for each Tiger, two Panthers or four Panzer IVs could have been produced (despite prices indicating 1:1,5:2 relationship, Panzer IV could be produced with far less complex machinery and less skilled workforce).

During Battle of Brody, heavily outnumbered German tank forces, despite fighting with severe technological disadvantage as well, won the battle, destroying up to 800 Soviet tanks while losing no more than 200 tanks of their own. Out of 728 German tanks, only 355 had 50 mm or larger guns; out of 3.429 Soviet tanks, 443 were T-34 and KV-1, which were technologically superior to any German tank. Resons for this success were superior training and organization, as well as unreliability of Soviet tanks – hundreds at least were lost to mechanical failure before the battle even began. As in France, Germans had a major advantage that every tank had a radio, compared to only one tank in five in Soviet armies. At Battle of Prokhorovka, said (incorrectly) to be the largest tank battle in history, Germans had 109 AFVs against 393 Soviet AFVs. Only four German tanks were Tigers; there were no Panthers, and there were 42 Panzer IVs, 20 Marder III and 20 StuG III, which is to say, 86 vehicles capable of standing toe-to-toe with T-34. Out of 393 Soviet AFVs avaliable on the first day, there were 207 T-34, 11 Su-122 and 16 Su-76. In total, Soviets had 234 advanced AFVs against 86 German ones, all of them equal or superior to any German AFV present with sole exception of Tiger I. Despite that, Germans permanently lost 7 AFVs (4 of these being Panzer IV) with further 25 out of action due to damage (out of these, 12 Panzer IV and 1 Tiger I). Soviets permanently lost 134 AFVs with further 125 out of action due to damage. Operation Citadel was lost due to massive Soviet advantage in infantry and overall troop numbers which enabled them to stalemate German attack against Kursk sailent while at the same time launching their own attack to the south, which necessitated redeployment of German forces (and even with that redeployment, Germans were still pushed out of the Ukraine), as well as Soviet flexible in-depth defence which precluded strategic breakthrough.

German tanks produced after Panzer IV – Panther and Tiger – while powerful, were highly unreliable. Even late-model Panthers had drivetrain which lasted 150 kilometers. Their weight also meant excessive fuel consumption and lacking both operational and strategic mobility, as they could not cross most bridges. This was a problem, since main use of tanks in Blitzkrieg doctrine, as well as in Patton’s application of same, was not to seek direct confrontation with enemy forces. Rather, it was to use tanks’ superior mobility in order to bypass enemy defenses and cut off or destroy supply lines, depots, command and control facilities and so on. This, heavy tanks were unable to do. Panthers and Tigers squandered away the very characteristics which made German Panzer divisions so successful, returning German military to near-World War I levels of mobility. Their long-range guns were also not much of an advantage, as typical engagement distance in Europe was no greater than several hundred meters. Tiger II was likely the worst tank of the war, having no mobility – tactical, operational or strategic – worth mentioning. It was less of a tank and more of a barely mobile pill box with a huge gun, being even less mobile than most early-war tanks.

Due to these issues, Germans basically squandered their mobility advantages. On the other side, Allies improved. Allied generals of late war – Patton, Zhukov – were highly competent in mobile warfare (one major exception was “primadonna” Montgomery), and used decentralized command and control. At the same time, best German mobile generals were either murdered (Rommel) or forced into retirement (Guderian, Manstein). Hitler centralized command under himself, thus vastly increasing response times and extending OODA loop; that he was incompetent and insane did not help matters either. In 1944, during Operation Bagration, Soviets cut into German rear and destroyed three armies, pushing the front line 1.000 kilometers to the West, as well as killing or capturing 450.000 German troops. It was far from the only such example, with the Red Army having become highly competent at mobile and combined-arms warfare, fully exploiting mobility advantages of T-34 (Josef Stalin II tanks were there simply to break through the defensive lines and allow T-34s freedom of maneuver behind German lines, similar to intended usage of Tiger I tanks). On the Western Front, Alles achieved 3:2 kill/loss ratio against German tanks, despite latter’s advantages in armor and firepower, and on numerous instances encircled and destroyed German formations, repeating German successes of 1940. Unlike Germans, Allies primarily left tank hunting to specialized tank destroyers, CAS aircraft and infantry; main usage of tanks was summed up in Patton’s quote provided at beginning of the article. Other important usage was direct fire support for the infantry. For this reason, Sherman crews typically opted for a 75 mm gun which had superior HE shell when compared to anti-tank 76 mm gun.

That being said, there were occasions where heavy tanks were highly useful – defensive and breakthrough operations, as well as urban combat. In first months of fighting in Normandy, with terrain and constricted battlefield removing possibility of effective maneuver, Allies sharply felt lack of heavy tank in Tiger I class, which could survive enemy defences and enable breakthrough. German heavy tanks saw heavy usage in urban warfare, where they exacted high toll from Allied units, and were highly useful in defensive operations. Pattern has not changed, as today tanks are also often used to support infantry during urban operations. Similarly, heavy Tiger I tanks saw usage as breakthrough tanks against static defenses in Operation Citadel, but this failed due to lack of infantry and limited number of avaliable tanks, particularly heavy tanks (only 89 Tigers were avaliable at start of the operation, plus 119 Panthers. By the second day, most of these were out of action due to technical failures).

It should be noted here that first usage of (mechanized) Blitzkrieg was in 1920 by Poles. When Russians drove into Poland while Polish army was busy invading Ukraine, Poles comandeered every truck they could get their hands on, and drove into Russian flank, attacking HQ unit and supply convoys. Earlier usage of Blietzkrieg-like tactics go as early as Alexander the Great.

During War of Israeli independence, Egypt fielded British Mark VI and Matilda tanks, initially a single battallion. Israelis had a grand total of four tanks and no more than 500 armored cars. But Egyptian armor, despite initially meeting only weak resistance, failed to support infantry in attacks on Israeli stronghold, running away as soon as Israeli deployed any anti-armor tools (primarily Molotov cocktails and bazookas). At Yad Mordechai, Egyptians fielded two infantry and one armor battallion against an Israeli infantry company defending the village. Israelis repulsed five attacks, in which it became obvious that there was no coordination between Egyptian armor, infantry, artillery and air force – each service acted on its own. Only after five days Egyptians took the settlement, sustaining 300 casualties in the process. Later, at Negba, Egyptian tanks and armored cars went far ahead of infantry, allowing Israelis to stop them with Molotov cocktails. A UN-instituted truce was declared soon afterwards, but Egyptians attacked 36 hours before it was set to end, achieveing complete surprise. But that was all they achieved, as Israelis beat back the attack (and failed in their own attack to the south). On 12 July, Egyptians tried to carry out a double envelopment of Negba. However, infantry and armor attacks were completely unsynchronized, there was no tank-infantry cooperation, and air and artillery support had no effect at all. Egyptians inflicted 21 Israeli casualty while suffering 200 of their own. While at other places Egyptians were able to defeat Israeli frontal charges, they proved completely inept at responding to subterfuge or maneuver warfare (luckily for them, Israelis only rarely employed either). Egyptian artillery after the second truce was effective for the first time, as Egyptians used the truce to target artillery at predetermined key terrain features. But when Israelis breached through defences, Egyptians did not react, a pattern that continued to repeat – Egyptian garrisons typically acted as if troubles of their neighbouring garrisons are irrelevant and never assisted each other when Israelis attacked them. War ended when Britain threatened to intervene in order to prevent Israel from taking Sinai. Overall, Egyptian troops were of good morale and fought bravely. However, Egyptians were only able to conduct set-piece preplanned attacks. They displayed no ability to innovate; there was no initiative among junior officers, and as a result Egyptian troops were unable to adapt to any unforeseen circumstances. Any Egyptian moves were slow and predictable. Thus it does not surprise that Egyptian armor was seriously misemployed. In fact, Egyptian tanks were used as mobile artillery pieces, charging straight at the enemy when attacking, and sitting completely immobile in tank ditches when defending (this same behavior will be displayed by Iraqi military in both Gulf Wars). Combined arms operations were nonexistent, and artillery was only effective in context of WWI-esque static warfare. Egyptian troops and commanders in the field typically lied to higher-ups in order to cover up their own faillings. They were completely incapable of quickly transferring from march to attack. General Mwawi was the only somewhat competent Egyptian commander, and only in attacks he personnally planned and supervised did Egyptians manage to effectively coordinate their armor, infantry and artillery. But even he required several days of preparation to execute a proper attack, and other Egyptian forces proved completely incapable of combined-arms operations no matter the preparation time. He was the only Egyptian commander capable of conducting simple flanking maneuvers; all other commanders did nothing but attack frontally. At all times, even during final Israeli offensives, Egyptians had advantage in number and quality of avaliable weapons, including tanks.

Before the 1956 war, Egypt set about reconstructing their forces. This primarily consisted of appointing officers that had friendship or other close ties to Nasser, or his new Commander in Chief ‘Amr. Unlike previous such cases however, both Nasser and ‘Amr also considered officer’s competence in addition to his loyalty. As a consequence of that, and greater focus on conventional warfare, quality of officer corps improved significantly, especially when Nasser brought in eighty former Wehrmacht officers as help. By 1956, Egypt had 230 tanks, mostly of excellent T-34/85 model. This gave them 430 tanks against Israel’s 200, and T-34 was superior to any Israeli tank (mostly scrapped M-4 Shermans). Israel thus decided to launch a preemtive strike before Egyptians fully assimilated their weapons. Due to threat of British invasion, German plan of defense could not be executed, as Egyptian troops defending the border were few and having no armored reserve. But on few occasions, such as attack on Umm Quatef, Israelis proved inept, failling to coordinate attacks, having no combined arms cooperation, moving slowly and simply repeating frontal attack after frontal attack. But Egyptians were similarly inept in their attacks on some Israeli units in ther rear, relying solely on firepower as opposed to numbers and maneuver. Once British and French air raids started, Egypt moved major military forces to defend from the follow-up amphibious invasion. This cleared the route for Israelis, who launched attack on Sinai. Egyptian resistance was spotty and uncoordinated, and during withdraval Egyptians never maneuvered to engage the pursuing Israeli units. When British and French landed troops at Port Sa’id and Port Fuad at mouth of the Suez Canal, Egyptians failed to either beat back the attacks or to block the invading force. As a result, British armor reached al-Kalp before being stopped by US political pressure. Egyptians lost 11.000 troops against 1.100 Israeli and 155 British and French losses. Again, Egyptian troops were tenacious at defense in most places, but there were quite a few cases where their troops fled at very sight of the enemy. Egyptian forces were passive and sluggish, and their attacks were typically conducted long after the opportunity for attack was gone. Egyptian mechanized formation in one case required two days for 90 kilometer march – compare to Israeli’s 150 km advance in one day. Egyptians proved inept at mobile warfare, with junior officers showing no initiative and ability to improvise. Egyptian tanks were used like movable pillboxes, always remaining on defensive positions regardless of the course of battle. When they did attack, they relied exclusively on firepower, forfeiting shock value and maneuver (two greatest advantages of tanks). There was no coordination between arms, and Egyptian troops and low-level commanders deliberately misinformed high command. For example, all six Egyptian Ilyushin pilots reported having caused serious damage to their targets, despite only one managing to find Israel itself. After the war, Egypt again went to modernizing its army, but Soviets were frustrated at long time required to teach Arab troops to use their equipment.

In 1967 war, Egypt had advantage in equipment. However, they opted for forward defense and were surprised by Israel attack. They were also completely unprepared by Israeli focus on maneuver warfare, speed and constant forward movement. When Israeli Air Force attacked Egyptian air bases, EAF commander general Mahmud was in a civilian aircraft. Egyptian pilots refused to take off without his authorization even when Soviet advisors told them to fly aircraft that were left undamaged to safety. Israeli ground commanders, as was their custom and in keeping with German Blitzkrieg doctrine, had only vague guidelines for their drive in order to allow for improvisation. On the other hand, Egyptian commanders were completely incompetent at maneuver warfare.

In the Bekaa Valley, 60% of Syrian tank losses were caused by Israeli tank fire, mostly 105 mm. Israeli M60s proved survivable due to add-on armor and fire extinguishers. However, there was no tank-infantry cooperation, and Israeli fixed-wing close air support, done by fast jets, proved far more dangerous to Israeli troops than to their opponents. Fortunately for Israelis, there wasn’t much of it. During 1973 war, Syria actually achieved same level of surprise as Soviets did in Bagration, as well as huge numerical advantage. But their tank columns were stopped within 20 kilometers by tiny Israeli forces, and Israeli counterattack expulsed them from Golan. This happened despite the fact that Syrians had more troops, more tanks, more artillery and achieved complete surprise.

In Iran-Iraq war of 1980, Iraqis had an army of 2.750 tanks, 1.040 artillery pieces, 2.500 APCs and 330 fighter aircraft. These were opposed to Iranian forces which could muster 500 tanks, 300 artillery pieces, and less than 100 aircraft. By the end of the war, Iraq fielded 5.000 tanks against 1.000 Iranian tanks. Most of Iraqi tanks were T-62 and T-72 models, while Iran had mostly crappy Chinese Type 59. Iraq also had 700 combat aircraft, including Mirage F-1s and MiG-29s; Iran had less than 100 aircraft, most of them F-5s (most F-14s and F-4s were unable to fly due to embargo). Yet Iraq achieved Phyrric victory only by resorting to spamming chemical weapons and creating 20-1 to 30-1 local numerical advantage. This clearly shows something that has been true for all wars, but especially so for those involving Arab combatants: wars are principally decided by the quality of troops, and not by numbers, weapons quality, industry or technology.

During Gulf Wars, US tanks have proven themselves superior in combat to Iraqi tanks. But there were many factors in this: first and foremost was incompetence of Iraqi troops. Management in general was highly centralized, and Iraqi unit commanders preferred to sit waiting for orders rather than to respond to situation so as to avoid possible punishment, leading to most units not acting, or reacting, when they should, leading in turn to their piecemeal destruction. Higher levels of command tended to hoard information for themselves, leaving low-level commanders and troops completely uninformed and thus unprepared. Training that tank crews received was both inappropriate and inadequate. Many tanks were dug in and used as static artillery positions, but these defensive positions were incompetently prepared. Unit cohesion was weak, leading to units often dissolving under heavy pressure, and Iraqis were heavily outnumbered, which helped destroy their OODA loop. There was no cooperation between Iraqi armor and other elements of the army. Iraqi units carried out no reconnaissance, and covering forces systematically failed to provide any warning to main forces of Coalition movement, approach or presence. Lastly, there were technical characteristics of tanks, with Abrams having effective engagement range of 3.000 meters compared to 1.800 m at best for T-72. Iraqi T-54s and T-72s also had no ERA and no composite armor, while suffering from highly unsafe ammunition storage. They also had inadequate sensors, and used steel rod penetrators (for comparison, tanks in WWII already used tungsten penetrators). T-72 itself was a downgrade of T-64 which entered service in 1964, T-72M was an export downgrade of T-72, and Asad Babil was a downgrade of that. Due to threat from air attacks combined with general Iraqi incompetence at least some were unmanned for most of the time while in defensive positions. At 73 Easting, US tanks literally caught Iraqi tankers while latter were in shelters – most Iraqi tanks were either unmanned, or were going through startup, when they were destroyed. As a result of this, during First Gulf War, only 7 M1s were hit at all by T-72 fire. That being said, technological disparity actually had little to no impact on the final outcome. Two US Marine divisions were equipped mostly with 1960-s era M60A1, which had no thermal sights, no 120 mm guns, no DU rounds and no composite-DU armor of US Army’s heavy tanks. Despite that, said M60 units suffered loss rate comparable to, if not better than, US Army’s M1 units. Thin-skinned Bradleys, LAVs and Warriors used by US and UK suffered very few losses despite extensive close-combat experience (in multiple instances, Bradleys used their 25 mm guns to destroy Iraqi T-55s and T-72s, by attacking from the rear). And despite using T-72 tanks, US Army OPFOR regularly won against M1A1 units in training scenarios (which may or may not be relevant, depending on assumptions). It should be pointed out that these successes had nothing to do with air power: Iraqi units’ will to fight was unaffected by aerial bombardment. In essence, Iraqi incompetence and Coalition’s personnel, organizational and technological advantages had mutually reinforcing effect (maybe even mutually multiplying); no factor taken alone would not have produced as great disparity. That is to say, technological advantage yields exponential results against incompetent opponents, yet has little impact on outcome of a war between skilled opponents. Note that most Iraqi “T-72s” mentioned above were Assad Babil tanks, some of worst in the world at the time.

As it can be clearly seen, warfare in the Middle East cannot be understood through traditional material measures – Arab armies tended to loose battles even when enjoying advantages in one, several, or all “material” measures (these measures being: surprise, numbers, firepower, weapons quality, air support, foreign intervention). Therefore, using Middle East wars to assess performance of weapons is completely useless, as Arab armies always performed far worse than would be expected from using traditional measures of comparison. In fact, it is entirely possible that United States would have fared far better against Iraq in Desert Storm had they used T-72 or M-84 over M1, due to said tanks’ superior combat range, lower fuel consumption and more reliable diesel engine.

During almost all wars, tanks have proven extremely valuable in urban warfare. This requires good elevation and view from roof machine gun in order to counter threats from the top, which are typically too high up for main gun or coaxial machine gun to be used. But most important aspect is coordination with infantry. Whenever that coordination was lacking, tanks have suffered heavy losses; good example of that is Battle of Vukovar, where undermanned and underequipped defenders destroyed many tanks with light AT weapons due to lack of infantry support. JNA (by that time Serb Army in all but name) lost 80 tanks in just seven days, and many more during the entire 87-day siege. One of major problems for Serb tanks was their inability to depress gun barrels low enough to fire into basements. In ambush on September 18, Vukovar defenders made use precisely of that shortcoming, firing RPGs from basements; almost entire JNA column of 30 tanks and 30 APCs was wiped out in an area known thencefore as “Tank Graveyard”. In total, around 100 armored vehicles were destroyed in that area. Much like Egyptians, JNA relied almost exclusively on excessive firepower, with little in way of maneuver or shock value.

One important lesson is that main armament of tank is not its gun, but rather its machine guns, which are used to attack soft targets such as resupply vehicles. Operational mobility is necessary in order to avoid confrontations with anti-tank units and other tanks, and strategic mobility is necessary to allow for quick deployment. After the Yom Kippur war, Israelis immediately added heavier machine guns to their tanks.

Factors used in comparison

Personnel factors required are unit tactics, cohesion and training.

Main technical characteristics of tanks are numbers, surprise, mobility, firepower, protection, infantry support mechanisms and crew comfort.

Numbers relevant are total numbers avaliable and numbers avaliable at the point of engagement. Latter number is measured by using number of combat-ready tanks in formation (readiness percentage times total number of tanks in formation) and number of tanks at the point of engagement (number of tanks that remain combat-ready after 200 mile forced march). Major factor is also time needed to repair combat damage.

In order to surprise the enemy, tank should have a low profile, small presented area as well as low infrared and acoustic signatures. Low profile is self-explanatory. Small presented area means primarily small turret area, as turret is higher up than the hull and so easier target, especially if tank is in hull-down position. Another factor is situational awareness, both “buttoned up” and with commander looking out.

Mobility can be operational, tactical and strategic. Strategic mobility means ability to deploy over large distances, typically with ship, railroad or airplane. It requires low combat weight and acceptable dimensions. Since tanks are transpored by trucks, rail or aircraft over large distances, number of tanks per flatcar or transport aircraft is also important. Operational mobility means ability of tanks to move to the objective under their own power. It requires low fuel usage over large distance as well as mechanical reliability, good average road speed (including stops for repairs and refueling), good road range, ability to wade rivers (wading/fording depth with and without snorkel) and to cross low capacity brudges (combat weight). Tactical mobility is ability to maneuver in a tactical engagement. Most important measures of tactical mobility are “dash” speed (acceleration), speed over rough ground, trench-crossing distance, ability to cross vertical obstacles, power-to-weight ratio, ground clearance and ground pressure.

Firepower has two main considerations: main gun and machine gun effectiveness. Main gun is typically used against hard targets but can, with proper ammo, be used against soft targets as well. Relevant measures are avaliable ammo types and their performance, as well as rate of kill against multiple units. Rate of kill is determined by speed of turret traverse, aiming/ranging and reloading. Also important is number of rounds carried. Machine guns are used exclusively against soft targets, with counter-infantry application being the most important one. Measures for estimating machine gun effectiveness are field of view, mechanical reliability, speed of response, field of fire and number of rounds carried.

Protection has multiple areas. Against antitank weapons (guns, mines, missiles), two main factors are ability to prevent penetrating hits, and to avoid critical damage and casualties if armor is penetrated. Latter in particular requires ammunition to be separated from crew compartment, with blow-out panels installed, as well as unflammable or low-flammability hydraulics. There is also an issue of NBC protection. Further, smaller tank is harder to hit; consequently, height and presented area (especially turret side area) are of great importance.

In order to cooperate with infantry, infantry has to be able to either ride on tank or follow closely behind. Just as important factor is the ability of tank crew (commander) to communicate with escorting infantry without using radio.

Last but not least, there is an issue of crew comfort, which can easily determine actual tank combat performance, especially over longer missions. There were repeated cases of tank crews having to fight for days, up to a week, on end, without much in terms of sleep or rest – stress of such sustained combat operations is extreme, and very hard to handle by a 3-man crew, especially if tank is uncomfortable by design.

Comparison

Force presence

Unit price is as follows:

Abrams: 8,58 million USD

Challenger 2: 6,9 million USD

Leopard 2: 5,74 million USD

Leclerc: 12,9 million USD

Ariete: 7 million USD

M-84D: 2,5 million USD (?)

However, Leclerc and M-84D are disadvantaged by additional maintenance requirements of having an autoloader while Leclerc and Abrams are disadvantaged by maintenance- and fuel- -hungry power plant. Consequently, all three will likely fare worse in actual combat presence than indicated by simple price comparison.

Surprise

While turbine engine is very quiet, it has huge IR signature which makes M1 easy to spot with IR sensors, especially from the air. Against other tanks however, acoustic signature is more important as sound is not blocked by line-of-sight obstacles, and in that area M1 has advantage. Leclerc has a cooling unit, used to cool its exhaust and reduce engine signature, while Swiss Leopard II has an engine muffler which reduces noise levels (though its sound signature will still be considerable).

M1 is 2,44 m high, Challenger 2 is 2,49 m high, Leopard 2 is 2,79 m high, Leclerc is 2,53 m high, Ariete is 2,45 m high and M-84D is 2,20 meters high.

In terms of turret profile, M-84 is likely the best, followed by Leclerc, Challenger II and Ariete. M1 Abrams and Leopard II are rather bad in that area, with large turret profile. Overall, M-84D is best at surprising the opponent in ambush, followed by M1 and Ariete, though M1s advantage over other tanks (Leopard II excepted) is reduced or eliminated by its large turret profile. In overall profile surface, M1 Abrams is 2,5 square meters larger than M-84. As it can be seen in the next section, M-84D has smallest frontal dimensions.

All tanks being compared have advanced thermal imaging sensors, allowing them to fight at night and in low-visibility (fog, rain) conditions, as well as laser warning systems.

Mobility

M1 is disadvantaged against other tanks in short-ranged acceleration due to several second lag inherent in turbine engine (despite having 7 second acceleration from 0 to 32 kph once it starts accelerating). Over long-term acceleration, horsepower as opposed to engine type is the deciding factor, but this acceleration is only relevant on open plains; when there is cover avaliable, sprint performance is far more important. M1 Abrams has 1.120 kW engine power, 57 metric tons in M1A1 and 63 metric ton weight in M1A2SEP variant. This gives it power-to-weight ratio of 19,65 kW/t for M1A1 and 17,78 kW/t for M1A2SEP. Maximum speed is 67 kph on road for M1A1, 68 kph for M1A2SEP (basic M1 coould achieve 72 kph but is no longer in service) and 48 kph cross-country, but poor suspension means that average speed over the rough ground is slower than that of Challenger II, and slower than most other tanks. Ungoverned maximum speed over the road is 112+ kph. Power pack can be replaced within 30 minutes.

M1 Abrams does not have good operational mobility primarily due to its turbine engine, which uses huge amounts of fuel when idle or at slow speeds when compared to diesel engine. Average fuel consumption, even with high percentage of travel on secondary roads, is 3,86 US gallons per mile when idling is included (turbine burns 10 US gallons per hour when idling). With 504 gallon fuel tank, this translates into 130 mile (209 km) range. Without idling and travelling on road at economic speed fuel consumption is 1,67 US gallons per mile, giving 302 mile (486 km) range. In combat operations consumption can be as high as 8,6 gallons per mile, for range of no more than 58,6 miles (94,3 km). It can take up to 60 seconds to start, compared to no more than 5 seconds for diesel, which means that in combat environment it has to be kept at idle – in which case it will consume entire fuel in <15 hours. Its turbine also has high maintenance requirements. M1 requires 1 hour of refuelling every 3 hours and one hour of filter cleaning every 2 hours; consequently, it is immobile for 14 hours every day. Its gas turbine breaks down every 250 km, unlike more reliable diesel engines. During Desert Storm, it had to stop every three to five hours in order to undergo engine maintenance and repairs, and could not travel for more than 30 kilometers without undergoing emergency maintenance due to sand clogging up engine filters, which necessitated filters to be replaced. This lack of mobility allowed key Iraqi armored units to escape destruction during the Desert Storm, causing 12-18 hour delays due to fuel shortcomings alone. Neither are these issues exclusive to desert areas: falling leaves and snow can also be sucked up into air intake during operations, requiring organizational maintenance. Crew is typically not allowed to try and clean intake by themselves for fear of damage. Overall, 3/4 of the fuel used on Iraq and Afghanistan wars was used to get the fuel there in the first place. But supply train is very vulnerable, being composed of thin-skinned vehicles, and thus can be easily destroyed, stranding tanks. Larger supply train requires more troops to protect, which reduces number of troops deployed against the enemy. While turbine is often stated to have advantage of multifuel capability, most if not all diesel-engined tanks in this comparison are multifuel capable, and using any fuel other than JP-8 will damage the engine. Listed maximum range (without idling) is 463 km for M1A1 and 411 km for M1A2SEP. Ground clearance is 483 mm. It can ford 1,2 m deep water obstacles without preparation and 2 m with preparation. It can climb 1,2 m obstacles and pass 2,7 m trench. Specific ground pressure is 1,05 kg/cm2 for M1A1 and 1,09 kg/cm2 for M1A2. It can traverse 60% gradient and 40% side slope. It is 9,77 m long, 3,66 m wide and 2,44 m tall.

Challenger 2 is said to be one of faster tanks over the rough ground due to its excellent suspension – while its top speed over rough ground is not as high as some other tanks, it can fire accurately at higher speeds due to suspension ensuring stability. It has weight of 62,5 metric tons in basic variant and 74,95 metric tons in Streetfighter variant. With 890 kW engine, this gives it a power-to-weight ratio of 14,2 kW/t in basic variant and 11,9 kW/t in Streetfighter variant. Maximum speed is 59 kph on road and 40 kph off road. Acceleration from 0 to 32 kph is 12 seconds. It has 421 gallon (1.592 l) tank. Range is 450 km on road and 250 km off road. Combat fuel consumption is 6,4 liters per km, giving a range of 249 km. Ground clearance is 510 mm. It can ford 1,1 m deep water obstacles without preparation. It can also climb 0,9 m vertical obstacles and pass 2,34 m trench. Specific ground pressure is 0,9 kg/cm2 for basic variant and 1,08 kg/m2 in Streetfighter variant. It can traverse 60% gradient and 30% side slope. It is 11,55 m long, 3,52 m wide and 2,49 m tall.

Leopard 2 has top speed of 72 kph on road and 45 kph off road; it achieved maximum speed of 120 kph during tests in Switzerland. Leopard 2A6 weights 62,4 metric tons and has 1.103 kW engine, giving it power-to-weight ratio of 17,7 kW/t. Acceleration from 0 to 32 kph is 6 seconds. It has 314 gallon (1.200 l) tank. Range is 550 km on road and 219 km over terrain. Combat fuel consumption is 5 liters per km, giving range of <240 km, and fuel allows for 60 hours of idling. Ground clearance is 487 mm on rear and 537 mm front. It can ford 1,2 m deep water obstacles without preparation and 4 m with preparation. It can also climb 1,1 m obstacles and pass 3 m trench. Specific ground pressure is 0,92 kg/cm2. It can traverse 60% gradient and 30% side slope. It is 10,97 m long, 3,7 m wide and 2,79 m high.

Leclerc has top speed of 72 kph on road and 55 kph off road, and has hydro-gas suspension (same type as used on Challenger II). In tests, it achieved top speed well above 80 kph. Leclerc Series XXI weights 57,4 metric tons and has 1.100 kW engine, giving it power-to-weight ratio of 19,2 kW/t. Acceleration from 0 to 32 kph is 5,5 seconds. It has 1.300 l (343 gallon) fuel tank, with 1.700 l possible if external drum is used. Range on road is 550 km on internal fuel and 650 km with external fuel. In combat operations however fuel consumption can get as high as 13,8 l/km, giving combat range of 94 -123 km. Ground clearance is 500 mm. It can ford 1,1 m deep water obstacles without preparation, and 4 m deep obstacles with preparation. It can climb 1,1 m obstacles and pass 3 m trench. Specific ground pressure is 0,9 kg/cm2. It can traverse 60% gradient and 30% side slope. It is 9,87 m long, 3,71 m wide and 2,92 m high. Power pack can be replaced within 30 minutes in field conditions.

Ariete has top speed of 68 kph on road and 55 kph cross-country. It weights 54 metric tons and has 956 kW engine, giving it power-to-weight ratio of 17,7 kW/t. Acceleration from 0 to 32 kph is 6 seconds. It has 1.100 l fuel tank. Range on road is 550 km. Ground clearance is 440 mm. It can ford 1,25 m deep water obstacles without preparation and 5 m with preparation. It can climb 1,1 m vertical obstacles and pass 3 m trench. Specific ground pressure is 0,85 kg/cm2. It can traverse 60% gradient and 30% side slope. It is 9,67 m long, 3,6 m wide and 2,5 m high.

M-84D has top speed of 70 kph on road and 35 (?) kph cross-country. It weights 48,5 tonnes with reactive armor and has 895 kW engine, giving it power-to-weight ratio of 18,5 kW/t. Without reactive armor, it weights 45 tonnes and has power-to-weight ratio of 19,9 kW/t, but this is not a standard configuration. Acceleration from 0 to 32 kph is 7 seconds. It has fuel capacity of 1.450 l. Range is 700 km on road. In combat operations fuel consumption can be up to 4,5 l/km, giving it combat range of 322 km. Ground clearance is 428 mm, and it can ford 1,8 m deep water obstacles without preparation, or up to 5 m deep obstacles with preparation. It can climb 0,85 m vertical obstacles and pass 2,8 m trench. Specific ground pressure is 0,813 bars or 0,83 kg/cm2. It can traverse 58% gradient and 47% side slope. It is 9,53 m long, 3,57 m wide and 2,19 m high.

Weapons effectiveness

M1 uses 120 mm L44 smoothbore gun and also has one 12,7 mm and two 7,62 mm machine guns. During the Desert Storm it could acquire targets at 4.000 meters with thermal sights and engage them at 3.000 meters by using DU ammunition. Turret can rotate 360* in 8 seconds. Gun elevation is -9 to +20 degrees. It has no generalized HE round for use against soft targets (it has sub-caliber AT DU round (3,5% of mass is titanium), HEAT round, canister round and HE-ORT round, a HE round used for destroying obstacles). Muzzle velocity with DU round is 1.680 m/s.

M1 has a disadvantage in machine gun effectiveness due to very wide and flat turret roof, which creates significant blind spots. It carries 42 120 mm and 11.300 mm machine gun rounds (900 * 12,7 mm, 10.400 * 7,62 mm).

Challenger II uses three-part ammunition, though British tankists can load it just as quickly as US ones can load single-piece ammo through “laploading”. It uses 120 mm L55 rifled gun, which provides superior accuracy at range compared to smoothbore guns, at the expense of smaller selection of rounds and decreased lethality. It also has two 7,62 mm machine guns. It carries 52 120 mm and 4.200 machine gun rounds. Main gun has effective range of 3.000 meters; it should be noted that Challenger II holds the record for longest-ranged tank kill in history, having destroyed Iraqi tank at distance of 5,1 kilometers. Turret can rotate 360* in 9 seconds. Gun elevation is -10 to +20 degrees. It has no dedicated HE round for use against soft targets. However, its rifled barrel allows it to use HESH round, which is capable against both light armor and soft targets. Muzzle velocity with DU rounds is 1.550 m/s.

Leopard 2A6 and later models use 120 mm L55 gun, which gives greater precision and muzzle velocity, thus allowing superior penetration for equal ammunition. Unlike M1 and Challie, it uses tungsten carbide ammunition for anti-tank work. Pure tungsten is denser than DU and much harder, but lacks depleted uranium’s thermal and self-sharpening properties. Modern tungsten carbide penetrators have same self-sharpening properties as DU rounds; this was first seen in German DM53 round introduced in 1993. However, tungsten carbide also has lower density of 15,63 g/cm3 compared to DU-Tis 17,12 g/cm3. It also has two 7,62 mm machine guns. It carries 42 120 mm and 4.750 machine gun rounds. Main gun is stated to have maximum effective range of 4.000 m with tungsten penetrator and 6.000-8.000 m with LAHAT. Muzzle velocity with tungsten round is 1.800 m/s which, assuming same penetrator size, would give it 4,8% advantage in KE energy compared to M1’s DU sabot. Turret can rotate 360* in 9 seconds. Gun elevation is -9 to +20 degrees. However, wide and flat turret roof may limit machine gun effectiveness. It can fire programmable HE munitions.

Leclerc utilizes 120 mm L52 smootbore gun, superior to US L44 but likely inferior to Challenger’s and Leopard’s L55 guns at least in terms of precision. It utilizes tungsten ammunition. Leclerc is capable of firing at a target 4.000 m away while travelling at speed of 50 kph, and has 2,5 km identification range. It also has one 12,7 mm and one 7,62 mm machine gun. It carries 40 120 mm and 4.100 machine gun rounds, and main gun’s autoloader allows 12 rounds per minute rate of fire (6 rpm (?) when on the move?), which is still lower than human loader’s maximum of 15 rpm. Gun can also be loaded manually, from either inside or outside the tank. Muzzle velocity with tungsten round is 1.790 m/s. Turret can rotate 360* in 9 seconds. Gun elevation is -8 to +15 degrees. It has HE round avaliable.

Ariete utilizes 120 mm L44 smoothbore gun. Loadout is 42 120 mm and 2.500 machine gun rounds. Muzzle velocity with tungsten rounds is likely cca 1.500-1.600 m/s. It also has two 7,62 mm machine guns. Gun elevation is -9 to +20 degrees. It has HE round avaliable.

M-84D uses 125 mm L50 gun, however it has short effective range when compared to other tanks used in comparison (2.000-2.500 m vs 3.000-4.000 m), and due to operating at lower pressure, its larger caliber provides it with no meaningful advantage. It also has roof-mounted 12,7 mm and coaxial 7,62 mm machine guns. Loadout is 40 125 mm and 2.360 machine gun rounds. Autoloader allows rate of fire of 9 rounds per minute, and turret can rotate 360* in 22 (?) seconds. Muzzle velocity with tungsten rounds is likely cca 1.700 m/s. It is also capable of firing LAHAT missiles from the gun, which are laser-guided anti-tank missiles with 6.000-8.000 m effective range and penetration of 800 mm RHA against tanks with ERA. They can also be used against helicopters, but are expensive and so there is a high chance of running out of the stock during a serious war. Gun elevation is -6 to +13,5 degrees, which limits its ability to engage targets in urban or mountain areas, as well as ability to fire from hull-down position. Machine guns utilize remote weapons stations, reducing crew exposure but also significantly reducing situational awareness when utilizing machine gun. It can fire HE round.

Survivability

M1 uses DU modules at front of the turret, but rest of the tank is armored with standard Burlington (Chobham) armor package. Front of its turret and hull are angled, while roof, sides and rear are flat (horizontal and vertical, respectively). Main gun ammunition is stowed in turret’s “bustle”, providing safety from cookoff in case of a penetrating hit, and bustle itself is better protected than in other models mentioned here. It has 10 smoke grenade launchers on the turret, as well as onboard smoke generator. It has no escape hatch but some versions have V-shaped hull to improve mine protection. Turret controls are electro-hydraulic. Hydraulic liquid itself is very flammable and may explode when hit by fragments; in fact, hydraulic turret drives are the leading cause of crew losses, at least in tanks with proper ammunition storage. M1s turbine engine is also extremely hot, which increases possibility of oil leaks causing fires; turbine engine is also more prone to oil leaks than diesel engine is.

Challenger II utilizes tungsten layer(s) in its Dorchester armor (more advanced version of Burlington / Chobham composite, which itself was also British design); DU modules mentioned above for M1 Abrams were actually an attempt by US military to bring M1 up to par with Challenger in terms of protection. However, due to British Cold War shoot-and-scoot tactics Challenger was designed around, there was no composite armor at all at bottom and lower glacis of the tank (presumably rear as well). This led to some tanks getting penetrated by IEDs during counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; one such incident involved RPG-29 set up like an IED, hitting tank’s unarmored bottom. Answer to this issue was Challenger II Streetfighter, which added external Dorchester modules to bottom, lower glacis and sides of the tank, as well as ERA to the sides and cage armor on the rear. No Streetfighter has ever been penetrated by any weapon; it has even proven itself immune to “Daisy Chain” IEDs – 155 mm shells grouped together and placed under the road. These have shown themselves lethal to even M1 Abrams tanks. It has advantage over most other tanks in that its roof is not a completely flat armor plate, making it difficult to score a 90* hit even with roof-attack ammunition. Challenger 2s highly angled turret front increases probability of enemy sabot fire being deflected (redirected) when tank is firing from the hull-down position. It uses cast steel turret, with composite armor being mounted on it by using rails on the outside of the tank. This allows for easier maintenance as damaged armor can simply be replaced. Its armor piercing ammo is stored in turret bustle, but charges and HESH rounds are stored in fighting compartments. It can lay down its own smoke cover without requiring smoke grenades by injecting diesel fuel into exhaust manifolds, and also has 10 smoke grenade launchers. Challenger II Streetfighter also has V-shaped hull to improve mine protection. Both versions have escape hatch. Turret controls are completely electric, removing vulnerability of flammable hydraulic liquids.

Leopard 2 has better top armor than Abrams; basic armor composition is identical, as both utilize Chobham armor, but it may (?) also utilize tungsten layer(s). While its front, side and rear turret armor is completely vertical, front and sides of its turret are mounted with NERA wedge add-on from Leopard 2A5 onwards. This add-on shatters sub-caliber penetrators – when outer plate is hit, rubber layer behind the plate compresses; it decompresses once plate is penetrated, redirecting energy back into the penetrator and forcing additional material into its path. It also helps diffuse penetrating jet from shaped charges, further improving on spaced armor effect present. However, only 15 rounds are stored in turret’s bustle while remaining rounds utilize hull stowage next to the driver. It is equipped with escape hatch underneath the tank. Turret controls are all electric, eliminating hazardous hydraulic liquid. While it does have 16 smoke grenade launchers, it has no exhaust smoke generator.

Leclerc, like Challenger II, utilizes tungsten layers in its armor. Armor is modular, allowing it to be tailored to the threat as well as in-field repairs and easy upgradeability, and provides better all-around performance than sabot-specialized Chobham. Weight saving was achieved by using ERA packages for added protection, allowing reduced thickness of base armor, as well as by having small profile (among other things, by using autoloader), which allows better protection for given weight (Leclerc’s turret frontal area is 0,5 m2 smaller than that of Leopard 2). It has 22 rounds stowed in autoloader and 18 in front hull, next to the driver. It has escape hatch. It also has 18 smoke grenade launchers, but no onboard smoke generator. Turret controls are all electric.

Ariete has composite armor on front and sides and two four-tube grenade launchers. It has no V-shaped hull. Unlike M1, it does have escape hatch. It has 15 rounds stowed in turret bustle and 27 in the hull. It has eight smoke grenade launchers but no onboard smoke generator. Turret controls are electro-hydraulic, significantly hampering survivability.

M-84D, unlike prototype M-95, has no bustle stowage; 22 rounds are in autoloader and 20 in hull and the turret. Autoloader itself is located low in the hull, with little in way of extra armored protection or separation from rest of the tank; ammunition is colocated with charges, latter being right on top of the former. Consequently, hits that penetrate its thin side armor will often result in tank’s destruction. Thick frontal armor and low position of ammunition in the hull provide adequate protection from the front; however, latter feature leads to vulnerability to mines/IEDs. Effective armor thickness from front is 550-650 mm for glacis and 560-700 mm for turret (maybe more), but as noted before, side armor is thin. Situation is made worse by the fact that (again, unlike M-95) it has no proper composite armor. Compared to basic variant, it has chains at the back of the tank to protect the engine and SLAT armor around the ammunition to reduce possibility of it being hit. Like Leclerc, thinner basic armor is compensated for by extensive use of ERA. It is however 15-20% smaller target when compared to most other Western tanks. It has 12 smoke launchers as well as smoke generator and escape hatch. Turret controls are electro-hydraulic, leading to even worse survivability than unsafe ammo storage would suggest.

It should be noted that smoke rounds fired by at least Leclerc and Leopard II are “multiband”, blocking both visual and IR sensors. Further, Challenger II has smaller profile than Leopard II, Abrams, similar to if not slightly smaller than Leclerc, almost identical to Ariete and larger than M-84; drawings can be seen here. As mentioned before, M1A1 weights 57 metric tons, M1A2SEP weights 63 metric tons, Challenger II weights 62,5 metric tons in basic variant and 74,95 metric tons in Streetfighter variant, Leopard 2A6 weights 62,3 metric tons, Leclerc weights 57,4 metric tons, Ariete weights 54 metric tons and M-84D weights 45 metric tons. From this it can be concluded that Challenger II Streetfighter is the best protected tank, followed by M1A2SEP, Challenger II basic, Leopard 2A6, Leclerc/M1A1, Ariete and M-84D (in that order). However, M1A1 may be better armored than Leclerc (different armor compositon notwithstanding) due to lighter powerplant. Difference is not likely to be significant as M1A1 has to carry more fuel, and despite lighter engine, propulsion system weight is not likely to be much lower. Some info also states that M1 and Leopard 2 use composite armor only on frontal arc, which may make Leclerc overall better protected.

Tank-infantry cooperation

M1 Abrams is again screwed over by its turbine engine, as infantry cannot follow the tank closely for the fear of getting extra crispy. This is a major problem in urban combat, as infantry cannot use the tank for cover. That being said, in most situations using tank for direct cover is not very advisable as tanks are high-value targets.

M1, Leopard 2, Leclerc and Challenger 2 all have tank-infantry telephones. Thus, M-84D and Ariete (?), are seriously disadvantaged in tank-infantry cooperation.

Crew comfort and sustained operations

Challenger II has an inbuilt kettle for making tea (and heating meals), which has proven itself such a huge plus that during exercises other tank crews have been known to come over for a hot meal. Leopard 2 may also have a heating surface for meals.

M-84D is likely to be uncomfortable, as are most other tanks based on Russian designs. All tanks have air conditioning, with possible (?) exception of M-84D; at the very least, its air conditioning is likely to be unsuitable for desert conditions. M-84D likely also has standard issue of Russian T-72 tanks (which was also a problem on T-64) – namely, autoloader trying to feed parts of the gunner into the breech along with the ammunition. M-84D and Leclerc both have 3-man crews, which is a disadvantage in sustained operations due to both combat survivability and sustained operations issues. Latter are crucial, as tank with autoloader not only has less crew to perform maintenance, but also has an additional highly complex piece of technology which requires maintenance; end result is that tank readiness goes down and maintenance downtime goes up, all other things being equal.

Combat engineering

Tanks often have to dig their own tank ditches. This requires appropriate equipment (bulldozer blade) and strong drive train. M1 Abrams, Challenger 2, Leopard 2 can all include dozer blades even on tanks that are not dedicated engineering / recovery vehicles. Dozer blade can also help clear obstacles. However, to my knowledge, M1’s dozer blade capability is limited to USMC tanks, and other M1 tanks only have mine-clearing blades.

Best tanks per category

Force presence

M-84D

Surprise

Acoustic signature: Abrams
Profile: M-84D
IR signature: M-84D
Overall: M-84D

Mobility

Tactical
Acceleration: Leclerc
Terrain speed: Leclerc, Ariete
Ground clearance: Challenger 2
Ground pressure: Leopard 2, M-84D
Climbing: Abrams
Trench: Leopard 2, Leclerc, Ariete
Gradient: Abrams, Challenger 2, Leclerc, Ariete
Side slope: M-84D
Unprepared fording: M-84D
Overall: Leclerc

Operational
Cruise range: M-84D
Combat range: M-84D
Fuel consumption: M-84D
Road speed: Leopard 2, Leclerc
Prepared fording: Ariete, M-84D
Combat weight: M-84D
Overall: M-84D

Strategic:
Combat weight: M-84D
Dimensions: M-84D
Overall: M-84D

Weapons

Main gun
Effective range: Leopard 2, Leclerc
Tank destruction: Leopard 2
Soft target destruction: Leopard 2, Leclerc, Ariete, M-84D
Combat load: Challenger 2
Rate of fire: Abrams, Leopard 2, Ariete, Challenger 2 (?)
Positive elevation: Abrams, Challenger 2, Leopard 2, Ariete
Negative elevation: Challenger 2
Rotation: Abrams
Reliability: Abrams, Challenger 2, Leopard 2
Overall: Leopard 2

Machine guns
Number: Abrams
Coverage: Challenger 2, Ariete (?)
Firepower: Abrams
Combat load: Abrams
Overall: Abrams

Survivability

Armor protection: Challenger 2
Mine protection: Abrams, Challenger 2
Ammunition storage: Abrams
Turret drive: Challenger 2, Leopard 2, Leclerc
Smoke launchers: Abrams, Challenger 2, Leopard 2, Leclerc, Ariete, M-84D
Smoke generators: Abrams, Challenger 2, M-84D
Escape hatch: Leopard 2, Challenger 2, Leclerc, M-84D
Overall: Challenger 2

Other:

Tank-infantry cooperation: Challenger 2, Leopard 2, Leclerc
Crew comfort: Challenger 2, Leopard 2
Crew complement: Abrams, Challenger 2, Leopard 2, Ariete
Combat engineering: Challenger 2, Leopard 2
Overall: Challenger 2, Leopard 2

Conclusion

Most Western tanks were designed with goal of tank-to-tank combat, to destroy Soviet tanks coming through the Fulda Gap. Consequently, little importance was given to strategic and operational mobility, and this shows, with only tank with adequate mobility being M-84D, which follows Eastern design practices. M1 Abrams in particular suffers from crippling overspecialization, having so little operational mobility that it is of extremely limited use outside that particular situation. This single-minded focus on one scenario and ignorance of actual usage of tanks through history of warfare has caused some major failures in combat, such as Iraqi Republican Guard escaping during the Gulf War I due to US M1s running out of fuel, which allowed the Saddam regime to survive until 2003. Leclerc is not much better, having only slightly if at all higher operational range; its only major advantage over Abrams in operational mobility is its lower weight (which is also advantage in strategic mobility). Both tanks have clearly inadequate operational range, and should be either reengined or replaced with more adequate models.

Overall, tanks can still be divided into three groups, according to their roles more than their weight (though weight is relevant as well). Heavy tanks are designed with focus on tank-to-tank combat, relatively static ambushes against enemy columns and penetrating enemy static defenses, plus direct fire support of infantry. Medium tanks are used for enveloping maneuvers, as well as deep penetration into enemy territory in order to destroy fuel depots etc. Role of light tanks (scouting) is nowadays mostly taken over by other vehicles, primarily IFVs and APCs. Consequently, heavy tanks have priorities of firepower <> armor > mobility, while medium tanks should go mobility > firepower > armor. Within this comparison, best Western heavy tank is Challenger 2 and best medium tank is M-84D, albeit latter is significantly disadvantaged by lack of fourth crewmember and cramped conditions in the tank, winning mostly because of lack of competition in the category (Ariete may be considered a contender, but has serious mobility disadvantages). If only one tank type is used to fill both roles, best choice is Leopard 2. In a direct fight, the winner would most likely be a tank with the best crew, albeit M-84D is seriously disadvantaged in technical characteristics against other tanks compared here. However, taking price into account, a combination of Challenger 2 and M-84D would be optimal. While Gulf Wars are used to point to M1 Abrams’ performance, they are useless for any such purpose. Far from proving M1s superiority, Coalition tankers have done nothing more than defeat a bunch of incompetents in monkey-model garbage; in the first Gulf War, old M-60 tanks have performed just as well as newer Coalition tanks. As explained before, M1 Abrams failed in its intended role due to gas turbine engine. Drawbacks of turbine engine on tank’s actual combat performance (as opposed to History Channell / Discovery Channell / forum statistics measurement contest) are so large that M1 Abrams and Leclerc are the worst Western tanks simply due to inadequate fuel efficiency and excessive maintenance requirements.

Notes – Greek tank evaluation

  • Leopard 2A5 was judged the overall best with 78,65%, followed by M1 Abrams (72,21%), AMX-56 Leclerc (72,03%) and Challenger 2E (69,19%)
  • Only Leopard 2A5 demonstrated deep fording ability.
  • Main gun firing results (10 rounds static, 10 rounds on the move) were as follows:
    • 2000 m distance daytime: M1A2 17; Leclerc 20; Leopard 2A5 19; T-84 11; T-80U 11
    • 1500 m distance nightime: M1A2 20; Leclerc 20; Leopard 2A5 19; T-80 13
    • Hunter-kill: Leclerc 13; Leopard 2A5 17; Challenger 2E 8; T-84 9
    • Note that Challenger 2 did not have proper ammo for the gun. T-80UE and T-84 used practice rounds which behave unpredictably past 2.000 m and do not correspond to BM15 past 1.500 m.
  • Main gun rate of fire: M1A2 8 rpm; Leclerc 9 rpm; Leopard 2A5 9 rpm; Challenger 2E 9 rpm; T-84 6-7 rpm; T-80U 6 rpm
  • Range: M1A2 365 km; Leclerc 500 km; Leopard 2A5 375 km; Challenger 2E 440 km; T-84 450 km; T-80U 412 km
    • Both Leclerc and Challenger 2E were fitted with German 1.500 HP MTU EuroPowerPack instead of their indigenous engines.
  • Only Leopard 2A5 demonstrated deep fording capability.
  • Neither Leopard 2A5 or Challenger 2E could pass 30 grad slope.
  • T-80U had the best mobility and reliability.

Further reading and links of interest

Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness 1948-1991
https://books.google.hr/books?id=sSHYdGR_xvoC&pg=PA1&hl=hr&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

Victory Misunderstood: What Gulf War Tells Us About The Future Conflict
http://www.comw.org/rma/fulltext/victory.html

The Battle of Kursk: Myths and Reality
https://web.archive.org/web/20140912164146/http://www.uni.edu/~licari/citadel.htm

There is also a good explanation about tanks and Blitzkrieg here:
http://forum.worldoftanks.com/index.php?/topic/198175-mythbusters-blitzkrieg-decoded/

How M1 Abrams repeats Tiger IIs failures
http://blacktailfa.deviantart.com/art/M1-Tank-Debacle-Ch-13-The-Tiger-II-Pt-1-of-2-332627089
http://blacktailfa.deviantart.com/art/M1-Tank-Debacle-Ch-13-The-Tiger-II-Pt-2-of-2-332817327

The Half-Crewed Tank Scam
http://blacktailfa.deviantart.com/art/The-Half-Crewed-Tank-Scam-210497447

Future Battletank Hoax
http://blacktailfa.deviantart.com/art/Future-Battletank-Hoax-Part-1-126159555
http://blacktailfa.deviantart.com/art/Future-Battletank-Hoax-Part-2-126333102

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78 Responses to “NATO main battle tanks comparison”

  1. Kurt G said

    “Challenger 2s highly angled turret front increases probability of enemy sabot fire being deflected when tank is firing from the hull-down position.”

    No it doesn’t. For modern rounds, for deflection to occur the angle of incidence has to be lower than is possible when the tank is in hull-down position (less than 7 degrees relative to the angle of the armor). In the newest rounds it’s probably less than 5 degrees. Deflection of KE rounds is today an antiquated concept in armour. The benefit of angling is increased effective thickness.

    • picard578 said

      I don’t think it is antiquated concept. Effectiveness of angling may have been reduced, but it is still there – round is unlikely to get deflected away from armor, that is true, but angling is still likely to at least somewhat change round’s path. As a matter of fact, point behind Leopard 2s wedge add-on is to deflect rounds so as to increase effective thickness of base armor.

      • M.M. said

        No, it doesn’t deflect the rounds, but the sloping is required to increase the contact area between rod and armor, which is relevant for any sort of (non-explosive/explosive) reactive armor. More contact area = more mass is moved into the penetrator.

  2. In my understanding the main factor in the defeat suffered by France, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands during the Battle Of France of May-June 1940 was the commitment of the seven armored divisions of the French mobile central reserve, the Seventh Army under general Giraud, to the defense of the Netherlands. General George, right arm of Gamelin, pointed out the danger. However, he was over-ruled, because it was thought impossible for the German army to go massively through the Ardennes mountains. Besides, the Spitfire pilot who saw the German columns was not believed.

    Once French armor had rushed to the Netherlands, in two days, it could not turn back. Only then did it transpire that the main Nazi thrust was through the Ardennes. Even then, the army under Guderian got extremely lucky several times, while it was busy hiding from its own high command.

    France had three times as many tanks as Germany in 1940, and better ones. Germany had ten Panzer (armored) divisions, France had also ten (three of them very heavily armored). The main cause of the loss was plain old, however immensely risky generalship, and extremely surprising, crazy tactics. Another point was the better training of the Nazi aircrews, who had trained for several years in the Spanish civil war, where Hitler’s intervention had been massive, and crucial.

    • picard578 said

      Actually, Gamelin was at least somewhat aware of the situation and Germans were significantly slowed (two weeks’ delay) due to congestion. Had French had sufficient, and sufficiently mobile, reserves, they might have been able to close the Ardennes gap. But what I mostly focused on in the article were causes for Allied inability to counter German advance once border defenses were penetrated.

      • Gamelin was aware of what he called a “torrent” of German tanks… After the Nazi breakthrough. Had he kept the mobile reserve in reserve, he could have changed the crazy thrust of Manstein and Guderian into an overwhelming defeat.

        When Winston Churchill flew to Paris, after the Panzer breakthrough, he asked Gamelin, point blank, in his excellent French: “Ou est la masse de reserve?” Gamelin answered: “Il n’y en a pas.” [“Where is the massive reserve? -there is none.”] . On the face of it, the insane sending of the fast, armored, mobile reserve to the Netherlands was the immediate, direct and proximal cause of the French defeat.

        Had a reserve been kept in reserve, as it was supposed to, it could have easily cut the Panzer thrust. The French had more armored and motorized divisions than the Nazis, by a very significant amount.

        The seven armored DLM divisions were equipped with hundreds of powerful and fast SOMUA tanks. Two DLMs bested two Panzer divisions at the first tank battle ever (the French lost 105 tanks, the Germans 165). The three French heavily armored divisions were superior to the Panzers. The French had also plenty of partly motorized divisions.

        Meanwhile, had the Panzer thrust been cut (and thus encircled and immobilized), the entire French Air Force could have been called back (only half of it was in metropolitan France in May 1940). In June, the French Air Force thought it could re-establish air superiority over France, and gave up, only because the French (land) army could not protect the airfields (the aviators said).

        Thus the defeat of May 1940 could have easily been turned into a triumph, had a conventional, prudent strategy been followed by the French High Command. It is the rush into Belgium and the Netherlands to find no fortifications to stand behind, and Dutch and Belgians fully defeated, which caused the French defeat.

      • Duviel said

        What Patrice is trying to say is that if the French commanders would not have been so completely dumb and stubborn and, if the French forces would have had better communication and ability to react to tactical environment then, the French forces would have probably defeated Nazi advance.

        France had what I believe was on paper the most powerful land army in the world in 1940. But,

        1) They were wholly complacent in their superiority
        2) Led by Generals more worried about politics and status than leading an army
        3) Where stuck in old ways and unwilling to adjust to changing military environment.
        4) Etc, Etc.

        France should have never lost in 1940 if they had competent leadership both tactically in 1940 and strategically in pre-war years.

        Makes you think of where US military is today. Do you see some similarities?

  3. pyrignis said

    One thing that surprise me there is the combat fuel consumption. You made your points about the drawback of the turbine engine (High idle consumption and long start time requiring the engine to be kept turned on).
    The other tank however all have diesel engines and thus have similar fuel consumption per tons on road. The outlier seems to be the combat fuel consumption of the leclerc (all data taken from the article).

    On road:
    Challenger 2: 3,53 l/km for 62,5 tons. ====> 0,056 l/km/tons
    Leopard 2: 2,18 l/km for 62,3 tons ====> 0,034 l/km/tons
    Ariette: 2,00 l/km for 54,0 tons ====> 0,037 l/km/tons
    M-84: 2,07 l/km for 48,5 tons ====> 0,036 l/km/tons
    Leclerc: 2,34 l/km for 56,0 tons ====> 0,041 l/km/tons

    In combat operations:
    Challenger 2: 6,4 l/km for 62,5 tons. ====> 0,102 l/km/tons
    Leopard 2: 5,0 l/km for 62,3 tons ====> 0,080 l/km/tons
    Ariette: not given, for 54 tons ====> ?
    M-84: 4,5 l/km for 48,5 tons ====> 0,093 l/km/tons
    Leclerc: 13,8 l/km for 56,0 tons ====> 0,246 l/km/tons

    Is there any explanation for why the leclerc tank would have a fuel consumption more than twice as high in combat operation as the other tanks? To me it looks like the “operational situations” compared don’t have much in common. However if there is an explanation for this very high difference in fuel consumption I would love to hear it.

    • picard578 said

      Leclerc technically doesn’t use diesel engine, it combines diesel engine with gas turbine “supercharger” to provide additional horsepower. What this means, basically, is that Leclerc will be able to sit at idle for longer time than Abrams, comparable to diesel tanks maybe, but once it gets moving its fuel economy is similar to that of M1 Abrams as it uses gas turbine to provide a lot of its horsepower. However, that assumes that gas turbine is shut down for idling, which does not seem to be the case. Abrams achieves 0,068 l/km/t on road and 0,355 l/km/t cross-country, so Leclerc still has some 50% advantage in fuel efficiency, which is far greater difference than found among diesel-engined tanks, but Leclerc also has far lower fuel fraction giving lower range despite better fuel efficiency.

      • nexterience said

        Leclerc s engineering has much more torque than mtu. It’s explains best acceleration and very sweet driving.

        Leclerc is designed to challenge t72 with 1:6 ratio and t80 with 1:3 ratio. (See yt Leclerc video) thanks to its unique ability to fire while travelling at speed of 50 kp. It’s doesn’t t appeared in the evaluation.
        Front surface Turret is 0.50m2 lower than Leopard 2. It permits to save tons of armor.
        You can find more details of Greek evaluation on Marc Chassillian specialist reports.

        • picard578 said

          “It’s doesn’t t appeared in the evaluation.”

          Which part? If it is about firing while on the move, I did include it:
          “Leclerc is capable of firing at a target 4.000 m away while travelling at speed of 50 kph, and has 2,5 km identification range.”

          As for being designed X at X ratio, I don’t see how it is relevant for this evaluation.

          Thanks for the comment.

      • nexterience said

        French abc far prefered indigenous engine than mtu.
        MTU engine was selected by Emirates because they are shareholders of the engine company.
        Overbroad consumption is suspicious: engine is only a turbine supercharged diesel, not a hungry 1500hp turbine. Leclerc s turbine is used as auxiliary power supply during stops.
        Why didn’t you do a software evaluation? See Greek evaluation on Marc Chassilian reports.

        • picard578 said

          As I have noted in the comments, Leclerc’s fuel efficiency is in between Abrams and diesel-engined tanks (Abrams achieves 0,068 l/km/t on road and 0,355 l/km/t in combat, compared to Leclerc’s 0,041 l/km/t on road and 0,246 l/km/t in combat).

          Leclerc uses gas turbine as both APU during stops and to increase engine power output when driving. End result is vastly increased fuel consumption in both regimes compared to traditional diesel engine, albeit still far lower than what would it be if tank used turbine for the main engine.

          I’m not exactly an expert on tank software, and in any case it is far more prone to change than hardware.

    • Kjell said

      As a comment of the fuel consumption I can add that when Sweden tested the Leopard 2 Imp, M1A2 and Leclerc back in 1990 they got these figures Leopard 7.2 l/km (3730 km distance, 25874 l used), Leclerc 13.8 l/km (3000 km distance, 41400 l used) and M1A2 14.8 l/km (3800 km distance, 56488 l used).

      The tests were performed in Sweden with Swedish crews to get Swedish terrain, Swedish climate, Swedish control and Swedish crews (conscripts at that time).

      At the test the Leclerc was seen as immature as it was not fully developed at the time.

  4. jwkusko said

    One thing I want to say before I even read the article. Do you REALLY need that many tags?

    • picard578 said

      Probably not, LOL. I wanted to cover all bases – not sure about others, but first two things I look at before reading the article are title and tags – but I got too carried away.

      EDIT: Fixed.

  5. Chris said

    It makes you wonder what a “good” tank might look like.

    The heavy/medium/light still applies and it looks like we only have “heavy” tanks these days. Not saying there is no role for them, but 100% heavy is not right either.

    • picard578 said

      There is no good tank, it all depends on intended usage. Best all-rounder is something in the “medium” tank category (around 45-50 tonnes with emphasis on mobility and firepower), but that automatically means sacrifices.

    • Chris said

      Nah, what I meant was, 3 good designs

      – Heavy tank for “breakthrough”
      – Medium tank “mainstream”
      – Light tank for maneuver warfare

      I guess the immediate comparison here would be what makes a good heavy tank.

    • M.M. said

      There are no heavy and medium tanks and these classification was even flawed in WW2. Just because a tank is heavier than another, it does not need to be designed to fullfill a different role.

      • picard578 said

        There is still a difference of focus. I simply used that designation to separate tanks that focus on mobility over protection from those that prioritize protection.

      • M.M. said

        Just because a tank is lighter than another, it does not focus on mobility over protection. The M1 Abrams and Leopard 2 are both heavier than the T-72 in all versions including the M-84D. Still they will be a lot better thanks to their more powerful engines, better running gear and mostly their much better suspension. Just like this the T-72 was better protected than any other tank when it was first introduced in 1973, but it was a lot lighter than most other tanks including the then-current production model of the Leopard 1, Chieftain and M60.

        The difference between the tanks is not the focus on mobility or protection, but the focus on internal volume (on tanks like the Abrams, Leopard 2, CR1 and CR2) vs focus on smaller frontal profile (mostly Soviet tanks).

  6. […] NATO main battle tanks comparison […]

  7. Duviel said

    Just FYI:

    During Gulf War I only 18 Abrams tanks were taken out of service due to battle damage:
    Nine were permanent losses, and another nine suffered repairable damage, mostly from mines.

    Not a single Abrams crewman was lost in the conflict.

    Although hot and dusty desert terrain was expected to be a problem for Abrams, there were few reports of mechanical failure. US armor commanders maintained an unprecedented 90% operational readiness for their Abrams Main Battle Tanks.

    • picard578 said

      – As I have noted in the article, only 7 M1s were hit by enemy tank fire, and Iraqi tanks used steel rod penetrators.
      – M60 suffered loss rate comparable to M1 Abrams.
      – Readiness you cite was achieved at the expense of extreme maintenance downtime. This downtime, combined with fuel shortages, allowed Iraqi army to escape before being encircled.

      • Duviel said

        Yes I know. I do want to add that M-60’s took on front lines manned by draftees that did not wish to fight. M1 mostly took on rear Republican Guard units that were trained and experienced and had reason to fight.

        The result (if you Monday morning quarterback this) is that Republican guard fought very incompetently too but maybe that had something to do with lack of air-support, communications being taken out, and the unexpected speed of the Abrahms attack through what was thought to be un-navigable desert.

        Using ODS as an example for anything is probably not too smart I agree.

        Iraqis had no chance in any aspect. Difference in technology and capabilities was just too great. And, they fought us in our type of war.

        Only chance they had would have been to be extremely tactically efficient and even than it would just have led to more bloody war but no victory.

        They should have prepared for guerrilla style campaign using mobile infantry (like Iranians are now prepared for). Iraqis learned nothing from the past American campaigns. When you fight US conventionally you lose. Only success has been in using Guerrilla type tactics.

        • picard578 said

          “maybe that had something to do with lack of air-support, communications being taken out, and the unexpected speed of the Abrahms attack through what was thought to be un-navigable desert.”

          Actually, it had to do with lack of training and overt centralization for the most part, though I do agree that factors you listed had impact as well.

          “They should have prepared for guerrilla style campaign using mobile infantry (like Iranians are now prepared for). Iraqis learned nothing from the past American campaigns. When you fight US conventionally you lose. Only success has been in using Guerrilla type tactics.”

          Agreed. There are countries which can stalemate US in conventional warfare (remember, US are very far from any potential battlefields, and larger distance means less combat power avaliable), but US are too economically and politically interdependant with those countries to actually fight any of them.

    • Chris said

      The other issue is that it was a desert. That favored longer range engagements. Temperate climates and mountain climates mean shorter engagement ranges.

  8. Who needs bad tanks to lose a war with, when one has the F35, this flying Maginot line?

    • picard578 said

      I’d say that impact of airpower is often overstated. I don’t think the F-35 can loose the war all on its own. Except by taking away funding.

      • Duviel said

        I agree with you in a WWII type war of survival air power will have smallish effect on outcomes on the ground. And, outcomes on the ground will decide any war. You cant operate an air-force if your country is occupied.

        But, in most likely wars today it will not be a ground based onslaught. Who can put enough damage on the enemies internal operations/economy will probably force the other side to give in. Not surrender, give in the the demands that led to war anyways.

        Most likely wars for West/China/Russia (in foreseeable future) are about economic/business interests. No nation will actually attack their homeland.

        Having a conventional military that can defeat conventional peer level nation state is more of an insurance policy right now. Just in case but likely to go unused.

        Nuclear arsenal also impacts this equation.

        Example: NATO could somewhat easily (Militarily speaking. Human and economic costs would be great) defeat Russian armed forces right now (anywhere outside of Russian homeland) but the threat of a possible nuclear escalation makes it prohibitive.

        • picard578 said

          “Who can put enough damage on the enemies internal operations/economy will probably force the other side to give in. Not surrender, give in the the demands that led to war anyways.”

          That has never worked, and there is no reason to think it will work today. Serbia did not give in to NATOs demands – in fact, NATO basically accepted Serbian terms – despite 78 day bombing campaign which completely destroyed Serb economy.

          “Having a conventional military that can defeat conventional peer level nation state is more of an insurance policy right now. Just in case but likely to go unused.”

          Agreed.

      • Chris said

        Airpower I’d argue is the luxury of wealthier nations.

        In some ways, as I’ve said in the past it’s like artillery. Nobody says, victory through artillery power alone, but for some reason air power alone seems credible.

        I mean look at the similarities:
        – Cost and logistically intensive
        – Enemy is hard pressed to kill aircraft and artillery fire (counterbattery fire, destroying behind closed lines, and perhaps interrupting supplies)
        – Inflicts very heavy casualties on the enemy

        But at the same time
        – Cannot win war alone

        Curious isn’t it?

        • picard578 said

          “Nobody says, victory through artillery power alone, but for some reason air power alone seems credible. ”

          Some reason: bureocratic warfare. Unlike land or sea, air has little strategic importance other than as another transportation dimension, and even that is extremely limited, what with aircraft being earth/ship bound vehicles capable of brief aerial “hops” (with sole exception of Zeppelins, dirigibles and the like).

          “Curious isn’t it?”

          Human psychology.

        • Duviel said

          I think we are going a bit far here. Air power can be very effective in doing many things that will greatly aid in the defeat of any enemy. Especially if the sides dont share land borders and need air or sea re-supply.

          Long range artillery or missiles can maybe do the same with some development.

          And then we have CAS.

          CAS is a great enhancer of ground force direct fire capabilities. Especially in attacking deep behind enemy and disturbing supply lines.

          Again use of satellite recon and UAV’s combined with long range precision artillery/missiles might be able to accomplish the same.

          The one thing that air power offers to political leaders that nothing else (currently) can is ability to put firepower on targets anywhere in the world at a moments notice and without risking high number of personnel. I do want to add that UAV’s will probably do this in near future without risking any of your personnel. And also, long-range precision, air re-programmable missiles could probably provide same really soon.

          Airpower is just one tool that can help an armed forces win a war.

          I do agree that in a real war ground force abilities are much more important.

        • picard578 said

          “I think we are going a bit far here. Air power can be very effective in doing many things that will greatly aid in the defeat of any enemy.”

          That is correct. But air power is only effective when used to support ground or naval force. Anything that does not go in that direction is a waste of money, time and personnel. Basically, primary tasks of air force are fire support of ground troops (close air support, battlefield interdiction) or naval forces (maritime attack), reconnaissance, air control, in-theatre transport and resupply of ground and naval troops. All other missions (air superiority, SEAD, DEAD etc.) are only useful insomuch as they enable air force to carry out missions required by other services. Strategic bombing aimed at winning a war by itself is a waste of time, money and lives.

          “The one thing that air power offers to political leaders that nothing else (currently) can is ability to put firepower on targets anywhere in the world at a moments notice and without risking high number of personnel.”

          That capability is useful only in extremely limited circumstances – as in, supporting someone’s else ground troops (e.g. Libya, Sirya – where NATO supported Islamic terrorists against governmental forces; Iraq – where NATO supported Iraqi government troops and Kurdish Pershmerga against terrorist Islamic State army).

          “I do want to add that UAV’s will probably do this in near future without risking any of your personnel.”

          Until terrorists start hijacking them or shooting them down with SAMs. Neither is very hard.

        • Duviel said

          A UAV could soon be any plane.

          F-22, EF-2000, Rafale, B-2, Etc. Soon any of these can and probably will become un-manned for many missions.

          CAS and air superiority are probably the ones most requiring a pilot on the seat.

        • picard578 said

          Add SEAD/DEAD and air control to that.

        • Duviel said

          I see forward air control but, not sure why UAV can’t do SEAD/DEAD?

        • picard578 said

          Because of the response times. In order to get SAMs to reveal themselves, you have to have a bat and a shooter. Shooter has to survive for long enough to get the shot off, and UAV, with its slow response times and typically limited situational awareness, can only be the bait.

      • Chris said

        Even CAS cannot win a war alone, although it is a much more effective use of money than strategic bombing.

        I suppose the other common factor is that if you were to use artillery indiscriminately in a heavily populated area like the way bombers carpet bomb, civilian casualties could be very high, which could anger the locals. That could create an insurgency.

        The problem is UAVs as Picard notes can be jammed, hacked, or currently relatively easily hacked. Their best use is for gathering intelligence (use small, cheap expendable drones for that).

  9. Duviel Rodriguez said

    I am not as expert in Balkan affairs as you are so I defer to you on that.

    Maybe you are right. Bombing many times just angers citizens and gives the governing entity stronger political support and therefore the ability to withstand air assault.

    War is not a solution that yields a net gain 99% of the time. Even when it does resolve issue at hand it probably creates other worse issues.

    Especially war among military powers.

    I think that most world leaders understand that. Unfortunately war is very profitable to some and that is enough to push governments into wars they feel they can keep manageable and if they can fool the public into supporting them.

    Which is not too difficult since the public is generally small brained and easy to control.

  10. Myths of American Armor. TankFest Northwest 2015

    http://thesovietarmourblog.blogspot.sg/2015/05/t-72-soviet-progeny.html

    Interesting site about the T72.

    http://thesovietarmourblog.blogspot.sg/2014/10/bmp-3-underappreciated-prodigy.html

    • Daniel said

      What is hilarious, but kinda cool, is that I have learned more factual tidbits about Allied and Axis armor during WW2 by reading the WOT forums than any other place. Good stuff. Gems that are actually cited, referenced, and authored which have been largely forgotten about or neglected by the insane flood of disinformation/generalizations when it comes to the AFV subject matter.

      Moran has done good work.

      And the “sovietarmourblog”. Holy Crap! is all i can say. So rich in so much information that I have only had access to by being inside antiquated T55s and BMP1s overseas, which are hardly “russian-standard”. For AFV-whores like myself, that site is a goldmine.

  11. David Archibald said

    Picard, thanks for your enlightening efforts. Tanks have been used in three places in the last couple of years: Ukraine, Syria and the 2014 Israeli incursion into Gaza (operation Protective Edge). Can any conclusions on survivability and tactic be drawn from them? In particular the Israeli Trophy system countered the ATGMs in Gaza.

    • picard578 said

      It could. I didn’t really study it, but from what little I know about these, it seems that they more or less confirm Western lessons: going into cities without infantry support is a suicide, but tanks are still invaluable as a direct fire support for infantry. Roof mounted MGs with high elevation range and large field of fire are essential; remotely controlled weapons stations are idiocy due to need for good visibility.

  12. Duviel said

    I think maybe the most important conclusion we have reached is that armies need more than one type of tank.

    Maybe its a money thing but everyone seems to be going to the one size fits all tank and that tank seems to always be heavy tank.

  13. Duviel said

    US Army is currently beginning developing the next generation replacement for Humvee.

    I wonder what folks here suggest it should look like?

    I think Humvee (if done right) might be more important than a MBT in most forms of combat.

    I would say:

    1) mobility/transportability. Strategic transportability, tactical mobility in various terrain/conditions, low fuel use, etc.

    2) Ability to carry various types of vehicle mounted weapons.

    3) Protection against fragmentation and direct (.50 cal and below) fire.

    4) Ease of maintenance.

    5) Tactical communications and wide field of view for driver.

    6) Small profile and rounded edges.

    7) Adaptability. Track and wheeled. Add on or off armor. Ability to use various fuels, a good towing capacity, etc.

    • picard578 said

      “I think Humvee (if done right) might be more important than a MBT in most forms of combat.”

      Yes, most important things are always the least flashy… most important characteristics of a weapons system (tank, aircraft or ship) are its supportability and maintainability; most important weapon is an assault rifle, not a stealth fighter or a nuke; most important vehicle is truck, not tank. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about military trucks to do a comparison, and I guess there would be too many types to compare anyway.

      Your requirements list for Humvee is more or less precisely what I’d want from it as well. Though I’d add protection against mines as well. Only problem is, it may end up too heavy…

      Not related to this, but I don’t see why NATO countries don’t have cavalry for Afghanistan-type wars… I think somebody here may have mentioned it already.

      • Duviel said

        Ok, thanks for feed-back.

        Do you mean modern cavalry or traditional mounted cavalry?

        Afghans do use horse mounted cavalry and effectively I have heard.

        I would say use of horses and mules might be more effective in some terrain than use of vehicles.

        Training in such would be needed.

        It wont happen (maybe for clandestine or special forces it might) because of industries veto on it.

        • picard578 said

          “Do you mean modern cavalry or traditional mounted cavalry?”

          Horse cavalry, or rather, mounted infantry (horseback).

          “Afghans do use horse mounted cavalry and effectively I have heard.

          I would say use of horses and mules might be more effective in some terrain than use of vehicles.

          Training in such would be needed.

          It wont happen (maybe for clandestine or special forces it might) because of industries veto on it.”

          Precisely, though it might have more to it. Yugoslav military trained with horses – for purposes such as carrying light artillery pieces over the mountains, for example – for much of the Cold War, but IIRC they discontinued it few decades before it fell apart. I’d say it is just one of the cases where people overestimate the impact of new technologies for various reasons. So while industry interests are definetly there, military procurement merits a look from psychological standpoint as well. I’ve written an article detailling one part of the issue; due for publishing tomorrow.

  14. Andrei said

    I think you place to much importance on the LeClerc’s combat fuel consumption. First off all from what I understand this consumption comes from a turbocharger that helps bring the LeClerc V8 power-plant to 1500HP. So the “combat fuel consumption” for the LeClerc is probably an worst case estimate that assumes the highest output of the power-pack thru the entire duration, unlike the combat fuel consumption of the LeClerc which is based on actual wartime performance during Fist Gulf War and includes all kind of regimes for the power plant. However in actual combat it’s highly unlikely that the power-pack will be run at maximum power for the whole duration. Maximum power is needed only for sprints or chargers and I don’t imagine that such a regime last for very long,in combat unless something has gone very wrong. 😀

    • picard578 said

      Mostly true, but 1500 HP diesel engine would still be a far superior choice. Leclerc with EPP is the best or second best tank in the West, but indigenous engine wih gas turbine supercharger is inefficient, even if maybe not as much as Abrams’ engine. Not to mention turbine’s maintenance requirements, which will likely be significant even for a “mere” supercharger.

  15. […] NATO main battle tanks comparison […]

  16. M.M. said

    You might think that someone who wrote a 10,400+ words long article would have done some proper research about the tanks he wants to talk about. Apparently that was not the case here, there are so many completely wrong values and conclusions made in this article, that it serves nothing more than trying to create bias towards certain tanks. No offense, but this is mostly a joke.

    A few examples:

    – The prices are based on different configurations and are apparently based on contract values, which usually also factor in additional services such as spare parts, simulators and maintenance contracts. The M-84D is not a newly built vehicle, but just an upgrade for the already existing M-84 – is this factored into the price? Also, what is with deflation and inflation, these seem to be ignored given

    Regarding “surprise” factors:
    – The Leopard 2 height is listed as 2.79 m, which is the height to the top of the commander’s indepentent sight (of the Leopard 2A4, the sight placement was adjusted in the Leopard 2A5). All other height values are based on the height of the roof
    – Leopard 2 has a smaller frontal profile than the Challenger 2 and a comparable one to the Leclerc (excluding the commander’s sight).
    – Leclerc has no smaller frontal profile than the other tanks, it has however a smaller armored surface (thanks to the turret design and putting most crew equipment into external storage bins, which are located at the turret sides)
    – whoever put “noise” as a factor for tank’s stealth characteristics never has been closer to a tank in excercise. The noise of the engine is not as loud as many people pretend, given that tanks generally generate lots of noise (for example with their tracks)
    – The Leclerc has a cooling unit for it’s engine? Wow, just like any other tank in existence… That’s certainly not a benefit to the Leclerc ‘s stealth characteristics.

    Regarding mobility:
    – Suspension performance is ignored, despite being pretty much the most important factor for a tank (-> cross-country mobility)
    – M1 Abrams suspension is better than CR2 suspension.
    – The AGT-1500 does not break down every 250 km; it’s not the most reliable engine, but it’s not such a burden as pretended here. The AGT-1500 TIGER program increases average engine lifetime to 1400 hours.
    – The ground pressure values are based on different models
    – Fuel consumption is based on different sources using different test conditions (e.g. different terrain, different tank models and different speed)
    – The CR2 with “Streetfighter” armor does not weigh 74.95 metric tons. The CR2 with TES(H) armor [Theater Entry Standard – Herrick, originally developed for OP Herrick in Afghanistan but never used there] weighs 74.95 tons, the Streetfighter is an earlier version with less armor and less weight penalty. However mentioning this armor set does not make sense without mentioning the armor sets developed and adopted for the other tanks (such as the AZUR of the Leclerc, the TUSK of the M1A1/M1A2, the PSO/UrbOp armor of the Leopard 2 and the armor set used with the Ariete in Iraq).
    – The fact that the M-84D has the worst suspension of all these tanks, which is considerably worse than that of Abrams, Leopard 2 and Leclerc needs to be mentioned.

    About firepower:
    – Fire control system, optics and stabilizers are ignored, despite being the most important factor for firepower
    – The M1’s turret roof does not create a blind spot compared to any other of these tanks
    – Lap-loading is not done in the CR2. It was a common practice with the L7 gun in the Centurion and Leopard 1 (and the M68 gun of the M60 and M1 Abrams), but the Chieftain, Challenger 1 & 2, Leopard 2 and M1A1 all use combustle propellant charge cases, which can lead to accidents when loaden too fast in hot breeches. This is why (after several accidents happened) it is forbidden with the Abrams and afaik with the CR1/2 too.
    – The longest range tank kill was made with a CR1 – not with a CR2 – during the Gulf War. The gunner disabled the FCS and manually did the fine-laying, after lasering the target. The target was a stationary Type 59/T-54 tank and according to the gunner himself, it was not known if the tank was still manned and intact before he opened fire.
    – The generations (and thus the quality) of the thermal imagers aswell as the amount (e.g. commander of CR2 and M-84D do not have their own thermal imagers!) is not taken into account.
    – Tungsten carbide is not used for any modern tank round. It was replaced during the 1960s already, the XM578 APFSDS for the MBT-70 used a tungsten heavy alloy (WHA).
    – WHA’s density is anywhere from 17.0 g/ccm to 19 g/ccm depending on alloy. The DENAL alloys for use on APFSDS from the French company plansee range from 17.0 to 18.8 g/ccm.
    – The 120 mm DM53 ammunition was first introduced in German service in 2001.
    – The DU-Ti alloy used on the M829 and M829A1 APFSDS has a density of 18.5 g/ccm. It consists of 3/4 weight percent of titanium and uranium.
    – The M829A2 uses a DU-Vn alloy, supposedly the same is used for the M829A3.
    – The DM53 uses a shorter penetrator than the M829A3, but of a different construction.
    – The Leclerc’s L52 gun is better than the L30 (with 55 caliber long barrel) of the CR2.
    – There are two types of anti-armor rounds in French inventory: OFL F1 – a version of the German DM43 APFSDS ammunition with locally developed propellant (from GIAT, which has been renamed NEXTER a few years ago) – and the OFL F2 APFSDS with DU penetrator. However it is not publicy known how much F2 APFSDS are used in France. There are videos from the past years showing the tanks still loading OFL F1.
    – The Ariete used German DM33 ammunition (muzzle velocity 1650 m/s) a few years ago, but I read that they have tested Israeli-made ammunition some time ago, so they might have switched.
    – The M-84D’s main gun has a caliber length of 48 by common definition.
    – The autoloader of the M-84D (essentially the T-72 autoloader) has a rate of fire between 4 and 9 rounds per minute, depending on how much the carousel has to rotate to load the ammunition selected by the gunner.
    – Any tank can fire HE round, that’s nothing special for the M-84D.

    Regarding armor:
    – This section is mostly speculation and is not based in any means on documents and proper sources.
    – The armor layout and armor thickness are ignored for most tanks.
    – The M1 Abrams does not use “standard Burlington” at all. The original Abrams used a version spefically developed by the US Ballistic Research Laboratory in cooperation with the Chobham facility. This armor package was designated BRL-1. The M1A1 (even early versions without DU armor) uses an upgraded armor package designated BRL-2.
    – The smoke generating feature of the Abrams (which is done via turbine and does not require an extra smoke generator) has been abandoned with the introduction of JP-8 fuel instead of diesel fuel. JP-8 does not generate enough smoke.
    – No version of the Abrams has a v-shaped hull, but the TUSK includes an additional mine protection plate made of composite armor.
    – There is no sound source suggesting that the CR2 uses tungsten layers, this is just internet speculation without proof.
    – The addition of DU to the M1 Abrams has nothing to do with the Challenger 1, but the new weapons developed in then Soviet Union during the mid-1980s.
    – No CR2 with TES(H) and/or Streetfighter was ever penetrated by daisy-chained 155 mm HE shells used as IEDs? This does not say anything, as long as it’s not a common thing about tanks being hit by such IEDs. How many CR2s were hit by such large IEDs? How many Abrams were hit and penetrated buy such IEDs? Single incidents tell nothing about protection.
    – No APFSDS would be deflected by the sloping of the CR2’s frontal armor.
    – The CR2’s construction does not allow easier maintenance, as the armor modules are hidden behind thick steel plates, which have to be cut open before accessing the rail mounted modules.
    – CR2 has the worst and most unsafe ammo storage of all tanks mentioned bar the M-84D.
    – Like the Abrams, the CR2 does not really have a v-shaped hull, but rather a composite armor mine protection kit.
    – The Leopard 2’s armor composition is not identical to the M1 Abrams, it does not utilize Chobham armor. In fact the Germans rejected Chobham armor and developed their own version based on the same/similar mechanisms, because Chobham did not meet their requirements.
    – Any info regarding tungsten layers in the Leclerc’s and Leopard 2’s armor is pure speculation from the internet.
    – Leopard 2 and Leclerc can also be fitted with mine protection kits just like the CR2 and Abrams. In fact the Leopard 2 was the first tank to receive such a kit.
    – Chobham is not specialized against sabots, it’s rather the other way round: Chobham was originally specialized for defeating shaped charges and did not provide much benefits against sabot ammunitions over normal steel armor.
    – The Leclerc does not utilize ERA in it’s base configuration without add-on armor kit.
    – The Leclerc’s frontal profile is not smaller than the Leopard 2, but it’s armored volume has been reduced and is smaller. That is a difference.
    – Leclerc has 12 smoke grenade launchers when not fitted with AZUR kit.
    – Both armor thickness and effective thickness/protection of the M-84D are behind the other tanks in their latest configurations.
    – Unlike M-84D, the Leclerc does not have thinner base armor.
    – M-84D has proper, but outdated composite armor, based on the T-72A from 1979,
    – The word “multiband” should be “multi-spectral”.
    – CR2 does not have a smaller profile, the drawings are wrong if they suggest so.
    – M1 Abrams and Leopard 2 use their armor not only at the front, but it is covering the same portion of the tank as on CR2 and Leclerc. The tanks have however different turret designs, with the Leopard 2 and CR2 having thinner bustle armor, while M1 Abrams (where all but 6 rounds are stored in the bustle) and Leclerc (with a bustle-mounted autoloader) have thicker armor at the bustle – thus the M1 and Leclerc invest a bigger part of the weight for protecting other parts than the crew.
    – Armor of Leclerc and M1A2 (using an export armor package without DU, which was claimed to provide similar protection) was considered worse than Leopard 2’s armor in the Swedish trials.

    – You did either intentionally or unintentionally copy wrong results from the Greek tank trials. The Leclerc did miss more often than the Leopard 2, the CR2 did have proper ammo (but Vickers wanted to blame something for it’s failure). Also the French were accused of cheating at different occasions, e.g. when it comes to the low fuel consumption (the tank used for mobility trials was claimed to be lighter than it should). T-80U was not the most mobile tank.

    – BlackTail Defense has abosultely no clue about tanks and never should be considered a source or a reference.

    The addition of the M-84D makes this whole article also very odd, there is nothing special about it (given that there are actually better T-72 upgrades in NATO such as the T-72M4Cz and the PT-91) and it is in terms of technology not comparable with any other tank mentioned in this article.

    • picard578 said

      “– The prices are based on different configurations and are apparently based on contract values, which usually also factor in additional services such as spare parts, simulators and maintenance contracts. The M-84D is not a newly built vehicle, but just an upgrade for the already existing M-84 – is this factored into the price? Also, what is with deflation and inflation, these seem to be ignored given”

      Prices used were for vehicles only, not for total contracts. And I don’t see what you mean as a “upgrade”, M-84D new build costs 2,5 million USD as I listed, upgrade from M-84A4 to M-84D is expected to cost 700.000 USD IIRC.

      “Regarding “surprise” factors:
      – The Leopard 2 height is listed as 2.79 m, which is the height to the top of the commander’s indepentent sight (of the Leopard 2A4, the sight placement was adjusted in the Leopard 2A5). All other height values are based on the height of the roof”

      Leopard 2 total height is 3,0 meters, only other roof height I found is for Leopard 2A7 as 2,64 m. Value of 2,48 m also appears, but is non-variant specific.

      “– whoever put “noise” as a factor for tank’s stealth characteristics never has been closer to a tank in excercise. The noise of the engine is not as loud as many people pretend, given that tanks generally generate lots of noise (for example with their tracks)”

      Both tracks and engine create considerable noise, but track noise is high-pitch, engine noise is low-pitch and will carry further.

      “Regarding mobility:
      – Suspension performance is ignored, despite being pretty much the most important factor for a tank (-> cross-country mobility)”

      I did forget to include it in conclusions, though it is present in the article itself.

      “– The AGT-1500 does not break down every 250 km; it’s not the most reliable engine, but it’s not such a burden as pretended here. The AGT-1500 TIGER program increases average engine lifetime to 1400 hours.”

      That’s how often it broke down in combat conditions. Granted, sand ingestion might have had something to do with it.

      “– Fuel consumption is based on different sources using different test conditions (e.g. different terrain, different tank models and different speed)”

      Not ones in the addition.

      “About firepower:
      – Fire control system, optics and stabilizers are ignored, despite being the most important factor for firepower”

      There simply isn’t enough information avaliable for them.

      “– The Leclerc’s L52 gun is better than the L30 (with 55 caliber long barrel) of the CR2.”

      Depends on what do you mean as “better”. It definetly has superior penetration.

      “– Any tank can fire HE round, that’s nothing special for the M-84D.”

      Some of these tanks do not have dedicated HE round avaliable, however. M1 Abrams for example has HEAT, but not general-purpose HE round.

      “– No APFSDS would be deflected by the sloping of the CR2’s frontal armor.”

      Assuming that tanks is level, no. However, a hull-down position in some cases can significantly increase effective slope.

      “– Like the Abrams, the CR2 does not really have a v-shaped hull, but rather a composite armor mine protection kit.”

      Wrong, as far as upgraded variant is concerned:

      You can see tip of the V-shaped addition just below the line of ERA addons.

      “– The Leclerc does not utilize ERA in it’s base configuration without add-on armor kit.”

      ERA is by definition add-on, so I don’t see what you mean.

      “– Both armor thickness and effective thickness/protection of the M-84D are behind the other tanks in their latest configurations.”

      Which I have mentioned.

      “– CR2 does not have a smaller profile, the drawings are wrong if they suggest so.”

      Smaller turret side profile.

      “– You did either intentionally or unintentionally copy wrong results from the Greek tank trials. The Leclerc did miss more often than the Leopard 2, the CR2 did have proper ammo (but Vickers wanted to blame something for it’s failure). Also the French were accused of cheating at different occasions, e.g. when it comes to the low fuel consumption (the tank used for mobility trials was claimed to be lighter than it should). T-80U was not the most mobile tank.”

      Any official data about it?

      • M.M. said

        “Prices used were for vehicles only, not for total contracts.”
        – Okay, then please tell me your source for the values. They same to be based on contract data from different years/decades divided by the total amount of tanks ordered. This will not result in consistent and coherent values and be hard for use in a comparision.

        “Leopard 2 total height is 3,0 meters, only other roof height I found is for Leopard 2A7 as 2,64 m. Value of 2,48 m also appears, but is non-variant specific.”
        – For the original Leopard 2 as ordered in Novembre 1978 the height values given by W. Spielberger are 2,480 mm (2.48 m) from bottom to the top of the roof; 2,794 mm (2.79 m) from bottom to the top of the commander’s sight and 2,884 mm (2.88 m) from the bottom to the top of the roof-mounted machine gun.
        Beginning with the Leopard 2A1 in 1982 the commander’s sight was raised by 5 centimeters. When the Leopard 2A5 was created, the gunner’s primary sight was moved on top of the tank (instead of it being integrated into the turret front), which meant that the commander’s sight was relocated to a place behind the commander’s hatch. To allow an unblocked vision/field of view, the commander’s sight was again raised – this time to a total of 3,030 mm (3.03 m).
        For the sake of comparision, the M1A2 Abrams’ roof height is 2,375 mm (2.37 m) and the height to the top of the roof-mounted machine gun is 2,885 mm (2.88 m). While one might argue that the Leopard 2 is easier to spot (given that it’s 10 cm higher), it has overall a smaller frontal profile (thanks to being less wide and having a more narrow turret) and has a lower effective height on heavy terrain (the Leopard 2 has greater suspension travel and 510 to 550 mm ground clearance (depending on which place of the hull), whereas the M1A2 has 432 to 483 mm ground clearance (depending on which place of the hull).

        “I did forget to include it in conclusions, though it is present in the article itself.”
        – It’s only there in a very indirect way, not mentioning any values for bump and rebound, which would show how bad the M-84 suspension is (and also the CR2).

        “Not ones in the addition.”
        – And what is the source then? I cannot remember any trial or excersive where the M-84D competed alongside the CR2 or the Leopard 2.

        “There simply isn’t enough information avaliable for them.”
        – Is there not? Finding the amount of thermal imagers (e.g. the M-84D’s and CR2’s commander don’tn have any), the generation of the thermal imagers, the magnifcation of the main sights (day and night channel), the magnifcation of the commander’s sight and even the field of view is not that hard, when you know where to look.

        “Depends on what do you mean as “better”. It definetly has superior penetration.”
        – The GIAT CN 120-26 definetly has superior anti-armor performance with it’s faster and longer penetrators. So that’s why the article shouldn’t pretend that the CR2 has more penetration.

        “Some of these tanks do not have dedicated HE round avaliable, however. M1 Abrams for example has HEAT, but not general-purpose HE round.”
        – This is not correct. In 2008 the USMC selected the German DM11 HE round (made by Rheinmetall) for use with their M1A1 HC tanks. The order for 10,000 rounds was placed in 2009. Only the US Army does not have an HE round yet, simply because they wanted an US-manufacturer (General Dynamics or ATK) and made a longer competition. Currently the US-made HE round is being tested/qualified in the US.

        “Assuming that tanks is level, no. However, a hull-down position in some cases can significantly increase effective slope.”
        – In order to deflect modern APFSDS, the angle has to be in the area of 10° (from the vertical) or lower. If the CR2 would be in such a placement, that it’s frontal armor has such an slope angle, it’s gun couldn’t aim at the enemy thanks to the limited gun depression. Moreso the gunner’s and commander’s sight wouldn’t be able to spot other tanks.

        “Wrong, as far as upgraded variant is concerned:
        […]
        You can see tip of the V-shaped addition just below the line of ERA addons.”
        -This is a misconception. It’s only the frontal edge of the LFP which has the v-shape (as seen on this photo of a CR1 here: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7280/13611861094_114157e13d.jpg ). It doesn’t even extend to the first roadwheel, where any pressure-triggered mine would detonate. This design has already been the used in the Chieftain. The floor plate behind this edge is completely flat from the first roadwheel to the back of the tank. Here is the flat floor partially visible on a CR2 with mine protection kit: http://image.noelshack.com/fichiers/2013/46/1384208506-1384205625687.jpg

        “ERA is by definition add-on, so I don’t see what you mean.”
        – Could you please post a photograph of a Leclerc with ERA? I think you might be talking about the Leclerc with the Action en Zone Urbaine (AZUR) armor kit, which does increase size and weight of the tank compared to the values used in other sections of this article.

        “Any official data about it?”
        – Most about the Greek tank trials that can be found on the internet is based on an article written in Russian by Ю. Мищенко, who was head of the team of OZTM, which marketed the T-80U to Greece. He was there in Greece and he doesn’t write much positive things about the T-80U (so it’s not some sort of propaganda article), which is why it has been considered to be the truth, even though there is no official confirmation of it. This article has been posted in translated versions to forums like Tank-Net.com, the forum of the SteelBeasts military simulator/game and the now-dead military-photos.net.
        According to his article, the Leclerc did hit 20 targets out of 20 in the firing-on-the-move test at day, but missed once at night (so it should be 39/40), whereas the Leopard 2 missed once at day, but hit all at night (39/40) and not 40/40 for the Leclerc and 38/40 for the Leopard 2 as written here. There was a number of further firing tests (shooting from static positions, shooting at targets further away) but no official results are noted there. However during the shooting test at maximum range, the Leclerc’s autoloader broke down three times, while the Leopard 2’s tracks needed to be replaced.
        During the long-endurance driving test (1,000 km over paved and unpaved roads) the Leclerc needed considerable less fuel. According to Мищенко, the German commander accused the Leclerc of being not fitted with armor/being fitted with lighter armor, so he demanded that the tank was weighed. The Greek officials denied this, because they didn’t have the required equipment. The French delegation was also accused (afaik by the British delegation) during radio trials to utilize jammers while the other tanks were tested. In most categories the tanks were very similar I’d say, aside from emergency braking – here only three values are noted by Мищенко – Leclerc 25 m after the point when the brakes were engaged, M1A2 24 m and Leopard 2A5 only 5 m.
        I’d recommend to read the translation of the article on the SteelBeasts forum, it’s quite a bit better than the google translated version.

        • picard578 said

          “– Okay, then please tell me your source for the values. They same to be based on contract data from different years/decades divided by the total amount of tanks ordered. This will not result in consistent and coherent values and be hard for use in a comparision.”

          True.

          “– And what is the source then? I cannot remember any trial or excersive where the M-84D competed alongside the CR2 or the Leopard 2.”

          M-84D is not in the addition (post-scriptum), which is what I was referring to.

          “– Is there not? Finding the amount of thermal imagers (e.g. the M-84D’s and CR2’s commander don’tn have any), the generation of the thermal imagers, the magnifcation of the main sights (day and night channel), the magnifcation of the commander’s sight and even the field of view is not that hard, when you know where to look. ”

          Which is kinda the problem. Up until this article, I only wrote about air force, and to a lesser extent, naval side of things – and the latter was doctrinal only, never technical comparisons. Consequently, I have issues with precisely “where to look” side of things, and I do not have a large stash of combat histories, technical reports, R&D reports and other official (and semi-offical) sources that I have on air combat (plus, there seems to be too much useless crap on internet where tanks are concerned). But the best way to discover what I need to find out / improve is to make the article avaliable for reading/review and follow the comments (so, thanks).

          “– The GIAT CN 120-26 definetly has superior anti-armor performance with it’s faster and longer penetrators. So that’s why the article shouldn’t pretend that the CR2 has more penetration.”

          I do not recall pretending that CR2 has superior armor penetration compared to either Leclerc or Leopard 2. In fact, what I wrote is this:
          >>Challenger II uses three-part ammunition, though British tankists can load it just as quickly as US ones can load single-piece ammo through “laploading”. It uses 120 mm L55 rifled gun, which provides superior accuracy at range compared to smoothbore guns, at the expense of smaller selection of rounds and decreased lethality.<>Muzzle velocity with DU rounds is 1.550 m/s.<>Leclerc utilizes 120 mm L52 smootbore gun, superior to US L44 but likely inferior to Challenger’s and Leopard’s L55 guns at least in terms of precision.<>Muzzle velocity with tungsten round is 1.790 m/s.<>Main gun Tank destruction: Leopard 2<<
          Conclusion would be that, compared to Leclerc, Challenger 2 has inferior penetration but superior accuracy due to rifling (I don't think that sabot round would tumble, which can be a problem with normal rounds fired from rifled guns; but I only recall hearing of it in land-based artillery).

          "– Could you please post a photograph of a Leclerc with ERA? I think you might be talking about the Leclerc with the Action en Zone Urbaine (AZUR) armor kit, which does increase size and weight of the tank compared to the values used in other sections of this article."

          Batch 3 Leclerc has ERA on sides of the turret as a standard. However, I was wrong about it being standard for all variants.

    • picard578 said

      PS. Suspension factores into speed over rough ground, which is why I didn’t mention it.

  17. NicJon said

    Another excellent article Picard! –

    I’d love to see more Tanks compared though. ie. Israel’s Merkava (+ older Tanks too ie. M60 etc)

    Kind regards!

  18. ldutra said

    Reblogged this on Mon Blog and commented:
    A dose of reality.

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