The Military tank’s history started with world war I when these vehicles were introduced to trench warfare problems. It created a new mechanized warfare era. Initially, it was pretty unreliable and rudimentary. Later, these became an essential part of ground armies. Tank designs became advanced by world war II and were used in land threats. The rise in general-purpose battle tanks and modern doctrine tanks was seen by Cold War, which still serves as land combat operation’s backbone even in the 21st century.
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How were military tanks developed?
The demand for self-propelled weapons was arisen in the 1st world war, which led to military tanks development that can run on any terrain. The predecessor of military tanks used to require a plain terrain to move, due to which new development in this field was much needed.
- Previously it was developed to deal with uncommon tactical situations.
- However, during world war I, few armed personnel noted that the vehicle effectively returned mobility and shock action, which led to a revolution in ground warfare.
- The internal combustion engine made the entire military tank development possible.
- Within 20 years, the vehicle became armor in World War II, with improved protection and firepower.
- Since then, plenty of armored all-terrain has been imagined and developed.
The earlier history of military tanks
Leonardo da Vinci is known as the creator of a military tank that resembled a machine.
- However, in the 15th century, Jan Žižka various battles with wagons containing cannon to fire from their side holes. But this technology was never used after the 20th century.
- In 1903, a French captain presented the idea of self-propelled cannon moved with a caterpillar system and an armored system for safety. It had storage, cross-country ability, and up to 3 crew members. Later, Artillery Technical Committee disputed this project and was abandoned in 1908 formally.
- H. G. Wells described in his story about the vehicles equipped with unique wheels that can break through fortified trenches system to clear the path for infantry advance and disrupt defense.
Later on, various similar projects were rejected by different governments.
Military Tanks Development in different regions
- In 1907, Benjamin Holt filed the first patent for a crawler type tractor. He paid $60,000 for the right of vehicles.
- After world war I end, the difficulty in the transportation of supplies put crawler-type tractors in limelight.
- Jean Baptiste Estienne articulated cross-country armored vehicle vision in 1914.
- Boirault machine was used for an early experiment in 1914-15. Later in 1915, attempts to develop powerful armor vehicles were also made.
- In 1915, a French arms manufacturer also sent its chief designer to investigate tracked tractors by the American Holt manufacturing company. On his return, he asked to take an initiate regarding armed tractor development.
- Experiments were started on Baby Holt of 75-hp wheel-directed model as well as a 45-hp integral caterpillar, which shows the superiority of the latter option.
- In 1916, the Commander-in-chief ordered 400 tanks’ production of the type that was designed by Brillié and Estienne. Within few months, another order to produce 400 Saint-Chamond tanks was placed as well.
- Since 1902, Lincolnshire firm had been developing caterpillar tractors. They also developed a crawler powered with an oil engine in 1908 to move lifeboats.
- In 1914, a Holt tractor was ordered by a military officer. Even though it was not much robust but suitable to haul heavy loads.
- After broke out of world war I, Col. Swinton was sent to France as a correspondent of the army, and the need for a machine-gun destroyer was identified. However, Swinton decides to make the Holt tractor a base of an Armored vehicle.
- Later British govt decides to involve an agricultural machinery firm in the project instead of using Holt Tractor. However, these projects were failed by 1915.
- After different experiments, the committee chose to build experimental land. This machine was developed on August 11, 1915. However, trials of this came up with unsatisfactory tract.
- The actual tanks’ first Big Willie was developed, and after its successful trials, an order was placed on developing 100 units.
The name “tank” for these military vehicles was introduced in December 1915 and used in various languages.
The German military tank, aka A7V, was the only one to be used in world war I.
- In early 1917, its prototype was developed for trials. And these military tanks were used in approx. 6 occasions.
- However, various other prototype projects are under development in Germany.
3 major warfare events in military tanks history
Below are the major 3 events to know about.
Operational use of military tanks in World War I
The first use of military tanks took place on September 15, 1916, during the Somme battle. Mark I types’ 40 military tanks were committed, from which 32 were fit to take part in different small achievements.
However, later British development took place, and parallel to this, France started designing its tanks. While, American military tanks entered combat for the very first time on September 12, 1918. Even though various factors led different military tanks to stall in German trenches, the attack was later succeeded and led to the value gain.
Military tanks in World War II
This world war forced armies to integrate their entire forces at every level. In 1939, more armies thought about an armored division as tanks’ mass and limited armed support from others.
However, during this war, the German military tank went through 3 generations. They turned their battalions to medium tanks majority after the French campaign in 1940. Simultaneously, the appearance of various new generations come up with a superior gun and armor power.
During 1940-41, the emphasis on using lightweight tanks was enhanced, but till 1943, the demand for more powerful military tanks was increased. Due to which the light and medium military tanks fell behind.
The Cold War
NATO countries and Warsaw Pact countries were two opposing forces in the Cold war. Warsaw Pact domination led to a fantastic standardization of various military tank designs. The major contributing nations in this developed their own military tanks designs. Many of these design changes were aimed for refinements regarding ranging and targeting, crew comfort, communications, and gun stabilization.
Post-cold war, countries once again started sprouting regarding their traditional tank’s relevance. Even various countries cut back their total number of military tanks or replaced them with more effective yet lightweight armored vehicles.