Main Battle Tank

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Main Battle Tanks (MBT) are tracked Armored Fighting Vehicles providing great mobility, firepower and protection for offensive warfare. Also called Modern Armor, they are a further development of tanks. Specifically, the MBT is the combination of two previously distinct tank types—infantry support and anti-tank—into one unit that fulfills both roles.


The first generation of MBTs entered military service during the early 1960s. These MBT designs were mostly upgraded versions of contemporary infantry support tanks, fitted with bigger main guns that could be used effectively against other tanks.

MBTs have now reached the maximum practical weight limit for a combat vehicle, and engineers are looking for lightweight methods of improving protection. Explosive reactive armor provides greater protection against shaped charges while the Russians have developed an active armor system which uses radar to detect incoming projectiles and launch an interceptor. Research into exotic armors such as all-plastic and electrical armor is also ongoing.


Mobility is one of the three primary strengths of the Main Battle Tank and MBTs can usually sustain speeds of 45+mph (72+km/h) on-road or 30+mph (48+ km/h) off-road depending on terrain and other factors, with some modern tanks able to exceed 55 mph(88 km/h)on-road. To achieve this superb level of mobility, most MBTs designs use diesel engines making 1000-1500 hp. However, some modern designs such as the US Military's M1 series Abrams MBTs use gas turbine engines.

Mobility is also rated by a MBT's capability to fire accurately while moving. This capability is highly advantageous on the modern battlefield as it allows the tank to remain a difficult to hit, moving target while still providing accurate firepower. The tank's suspension plays a critical role in achieving this capability and to that end, those MBTs who have it, often have carefully designed suspension systems that make them ride as smooth as some luxury cars While not all MBT designs have the "fire and move" capability, nearly all current generation MBTs have this and some older generation ones have been refitted to provide some—albeit limited—fire and move ability.


The traditional large caliber gun remains the main armament, but is now an extremely high velocity weapon optimized for the anti-vehicle role. Anti-tank ammunition is by fin-stabilized sabot rounds of tungsten or depleted uranium. Shaped charge rounds are general carried for use against lighter vehicles and are moderately effective against fortifications and buildings. Some MBTs enhance their long-range anti-tank firepower by launching ATGMs from their main gun. Fire control is extremely sophisticated, and MBTs can fire accurately while moving and achieve first-shot kills. This feat would have been impossible with traditional tanks, which could only fire effectively while stationery.


MBTs have also replaced the earlier monobloc steel armor with composite protection. Traditional rolled homogeneous armor is combined with air gaps and materials made from synthetic fibers to form an armor sandwich often referred to as Chobham. The use of such composites arises from the huge advances in non-metallic materials science, particularly plastics and recycling. Chobham armor is significantly more effective than RHA of the same weight.

See also