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Main battle tanks are often classified as belonging to a particular generation, although the actual definition and membership in these generations is not clearly defined. Soviet and Russian military planners organize tanks into a generation of tanks up to 1945, and four generations of main battle tanks,[1] while Canadian strategists organize main battle tanks into three generations.[2] The military of the People's Republic of China also recognizes three generations of its own tanks.

In 1983 Rolf Hilmes saw three tank generations and three "intermediate generations", which consisted mainly of upgraded vehicles.[3] The first generation of main battle tanks were based on or influenced by designs of World War II, most notably the T-34 and the Panther tank.[4] The second generation was equipped with NBC protection (only sometimes), IR night vision devices, a stabilized main gun and at least a mechanical fire control system.[4] The third generation is determined by the usage of thermal imagers, digital fire control systems and special (composite) armour.[4]

First generation[edit | edit source]

The first generation consists of the medium tanks designed and produced directly after World War II that were later redefined as main battle tanks.

Name Entered service in Origin Notes
Centurion[3][5] 1945  United Kingdom Culmination of the WWII cruiser tanks
T-54[3][5] 1947  Soviet Union
M48 Patton 1953  United States
T-55[3][5] 1958  Soviet Union Improved T-54
Type 59[3] 1959  China Licensed copy of the T-54A
Type 61[3] 1961  Japan

Second generation[edit | edit source]

The second generation had enhanced night-fighting capabilities and in most cases NBC protection. Most western tanks of this generation were armed with the 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 tank gun.

Name Entered service in Origin Notes
T-62[3][5] 1961  Soviet Union Based on the T-55, featured world's first smooth bore tank cannon
M60 Patton 1961  United States
Leopard 1[3][5] 1965  West Germany
Panzer 61[3] 1965   Switzerland
T-64[3] 1966  Soviet Union World's first composite armored tank
AMX 30[3][5] 1966  France
FV 4201 Chieftain[3][5] 1966  United Kingdom Armed with the British 120 mm Royal Ordnance L11A5 gun
Vickers MBT[3] 1967  United Kingdom British private venture design, license built as the Vijayanta for India
Stridsvagn 103[3][5] 1968  Sweden Turretless design developed and employed solely by Sweden
T-72[citation needed] 1973  Soviet Union Sometimes seen as 2.5th generation tank. Hilmes puts the T-72 in the first intermediate generation.[3]
Olifant[citation needed] 1974  South Africa Improved on the centurion tank.
Type 74[citation needed] 1975  Japan
Merkava Mark I/II[citation needed] 1978  Israel
OF-40 1981  Italy
Tanque Argentino Mediano[citation needed] 1983  Argentina
Type 69/79 1983  China Based on the Type 59
M-84 1984  Yugoslavia Based on the T-72
Ch'onma-ho 1980s  Soviet Union /  North Korea Licensed copy of the T-62; later versions include upgrades.
Type 88 1980s  China Variants include the Type 80 and Type 85

Third generation[edit | edit source]

The third generation of main battle tanks is characterized by composite amour, smooth bore main cannons and computerized stabilized fire control systems, which allow firing on the move as well as very high first hit probability on targets up to 2000m.

Exported Main Battle Tanks:


Name In service from Origin Notes
T-80[3][6] 1976  Soviet Union World's first turbine engine equipped tank
Leopard 2[3][6] 1979  West Germany
M1 Abrams[3][6] 1980 United States
FV4030/4 Challenger 1[3][6] 1983  United Kingdom
EE-T1 Osório 1985  Brazil Prototype, never acquired by the Brazilian Army.
K1 1987  South Korea
Merkava III[6] 1989  Israel
Type 90 Kyū-maru[6] 1990  Japan
Zulfiqar MBT 1993  Iran Iranian tank derived from T-72 and M60 Patton. Zulfiqar 3 is the most advanced variant
AMX-56 Leclerc[6] 1993  France
PT-91 Twardy[citation needed] 1995  Poland
C1 Ariete[6] 1995  Italy
T-90[6] 1996  Russia Upgraded Russian version of the T-72 tank
Type 96 1997  China
FV4034 Challenger 2[6] 1998  United Kingdom
T-84 1999  Ukraine Upgraded Ukrainian version of the T-80 tank
Type 98/99 2001  China
Al-Khalid MBT/MBT 2000 2001/Bangladesh- 2012  Pakistan /  China/ Bangladesh Joint development between China and Pakistan
Arjun MBT 2004  India
Merkava IV[6] 2004  Israel
Type 10[7] 2012  Japan

Under development[edit | edit source]

Tanks that are currently under development and not yet in service.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. “The Soviets saw tank generations in this manner: 1920-1945, first generation; 1946-1960, second generation; 1961-1980, third generation; and 1981-present, fourth generation. Since the last really new tank design, the T-80, came out in 1976, they feel that they have not produced a true Fourth Generation Tank Design. In comparison, they count the M1, Challenger, and Leopard 2 as Fourth Generation and the LeClerc as Fifth Generation.” —Sewell 1988, note 1.
  2. “The Canadian Directorate of Land Strategic Concept defines three generations of Main Battle Tanks. The first generation of post World War II Main Battle Tanks includes the U.S. M48/M60, the German Leopard 1 and the British Centurion and Chieftain. The second generation includes most of the 120 mm Main Battle Tanks such as the American M1A1, the German Leopard 2 and the British Challenger. As for the third generation Main Battle Tank, they include the latest ‘digital’ tank such as the French Leclerc and perhaps the American M1A2 and the German Leopard 2A5.” —Lamontagne 2003, pp 7–8.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 Hilmes, p. 7
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hilmes, p. 8
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Pancerni.net 1[unreliable source?]
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 Pancerni.net 2[unreliable source?]
  7. "Competition Tank Asian countries: China Satellite Compass may be supported 99A2". Military of China, force comment. August 31, 2011. Archived from the original on February 23, 2012. http://www.webcitation.org/65exLOALY. 
  8. http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=4046009
  9. http://www.janes.com/articles/Janes-Armour-and-Artillery/Chinese-CSU-152-MBT-China.html
  10. http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2012/04/116_108229.html
  11. http://www.ssm.gov.tr/anasayfa/projeler/Sayfalar/proje.aspx?projeID=177
  12. "Milli Tank Altay In Test Surusleri Basladi". http://www.zaman.com.tr/ekonomi/milli-tank-altay-in-test-surusleri-basladi/2005015.html. 
  13. http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/government-gives-nod-to-next-generation-arjun-tanks_100363361.html
  • Note to the Pancerni website source - Translation of most important parts of 1st, 2nd, 2.5 and 3rd generation MBTs characteristics: "The first generation MBTs are tanks made immediately after WWII. The second generation MBTs have better sights in comparison to the first generation MBTs. Also second generation MBTs were the first ones to use laser sights and APFSDS rounds. The third generation consists of tanks armed with high caliber and velocity guns like M1A1 Abrams. Third generation tanks also use composite armour as well as armour made out of highly resistant sintered ceramic materials. Third generation tanks also have full stabilization system for the main gun. There tanks between second and third generations, like Soviet T-72 which has powerful gun which would classify it as a third generation MBT but at the same time the stabilization system is much too primitive for it to a third generation MBT. It also lacks engine power to be a third generation MBT and has ammunition with less quality."

References[edit | edit source]

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