Although primitive designs for horse-powered, armored combat vehicles date back to the fifteenth century, it was not until the nineteenth century that they actually took a cohesive shape.
Although primitive designs for horse-powered, armored combat vehicles date back to the fifteenth century, it was not until the nineteenth century that they actually took a cohesive shape. As early as 1898 the U.S. Army had designed and built a motorized gun carriage, which, although fitted with only an armor shield, is considered to be one of the world’s first armored cars. This steam-propelled vehicle, equipped with a .30-caliber Colt machine gun, continued to be built on a small scale into the twentieth century. During the Second Boer
In July, 1915, Swinton was sent back to London from his post in France to become secretary of the Dardanelles Committee of the Cabinet. He stood at the center of the group of politicians, officials, soldiers, and technicians whose aim was to create what became known as the tank. Perhaps more important than Swinton’s contribution to production of the tank was his original document outlining tank tactics that were used for years to come. His memorandum described the characteristics, capabilities, and limitations of tanks and defined their basic use, in conjunction with infantry and artillery, to crush enemy wire, to cross trenches, to destroy machine guns, and finally to advance so deeply into enemy defenses that their guns could also be tackled. Swinton also envisaged the need for tanks to communicate by telephone or wireless both with each other and with their supporting arms. In Swinton’s opinion, tanks were merely an auxilliary to infantry, and their independent operation was, in his mind, inconceivable.
The first tanks ran trials in January, 1916; they first entered battle in September of the same year, at
The first tank prototype was called
The first tanks had crews of eight. In these vehicles, steering and gear changing were cumbersome and tiring operations that placed considerable strain on the vehicle’s transmission. By the time the Mark
When the United States entered World War I, it jointly produced the Mark
In the post-World War I era, the development and organization of mechanization was viewed as a possible decisive factor in warfare. Military mechanized vehicles could be divided into the following types: armored fighting vehicles, armored carriers, and armored tractors. The tracks themselves were still of a very primitive type, no more than a series of plates joined together by hinge pins. These tracks were laterally rigid, so that steering was accomplished by skidding the tracks in contact with the ground. The pins and plate wore out very rapidly. However, the tracks were effectively sprung in 1922, increasing the life, as well as the expense and difficulty of manufacture, of the track. Despite these innovations, by the 1930’s the British army had returned to traditional dogma and entered World War II with a defensive doctrine.
A tank of the type the British used successfully against the Germans at Cambrai in 1917.
The British military thinkers J. F. C.
By the late 1920’s the British government had become increasingly concerned about the dilapidated condition of its army, resulting in experimental trials with mechanized and mixed units, held between 1927 and 1931. On the Salisbury Plain in August, 1927, exercises were conducted with an incongruous force of armored cars, various-sized tanks, and cavalry and infantry units. Although problems such as constant congestion at bottlenecks were ubiquitous, the trials demonstrated the mobility advantages inherent in mechanized strategy. In 1931 an exercise was conducted by the First Brigade Royal Tank Regiment. The force was composed entirely of tracked vehicles, and, using a combination of radios and colored flags for communication between the tanks, they functioned in unity and precision. This period of experimentation and development soon lost impetus, however, as the army’s leadership became increasingly conservative. This fear of change discouraged further innovation and experiment in armor. Even after the rise of Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) and British recognition of the German continental threat, little was done to improve land forces, as such action was politically unpopular and financially difficult to reconcile with expenditure on the British navy.
Germany had always believed war to be a useful instrument to ensure national security and to foster Germany’s higher status in Europe. Therefore, although antiarmor elements existed in Germany, it was on the whole a more conducive environment for armored warfare. Mechanization of the army was part of a more encompassing program, and the creation of tank formations was initially a subordinate element in improving overall mobility. Tank warfare became increasingly important and by 1929 formed the main thrust of army modernization. The turning point had come in 1927, when
With the rise of National Socialism in the 1930’s, the party’s leader,
The Spanish Civil War
The Israeli-Arab October War
M-1A1 Abrams tanks in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.
There have traditionally been two methods of defeating the thick, rolled homogeneous armored steel that has generally protected
In the mid-1970’s and early 1980’s, three new developments in armor technology appeared to counter traditional antitank weapons. It had been known for some time that some materials, such as ceramic or glass, severely degraded shaped charge jets. The Soviets thus developed simple laminate armor for protection against both KE and CE attack; the T-72, for example, was fitted with this armor as well as with ceramic inserts in cavities within the cast turret armor. Another development was explosive reactive
Armored vehicles are towed into the former Yugoslavia by British Chinook helecopters during the 1999 Kosovo crisis.
Soviet revisions in operational doctrine at this time saw the evolution of Operational Maneuver
The Gulf War
With the growing emphasis on airpower in the 1990’s, particularly in Bosnia and Kosovo, the true potential for armored warfare remained unrealized. As in the first tank battles, it remains clear that there must also be an armed force to hold any ground that is gained. Tanks and armor, therefore, will always have their place in the waging of war.
Alexander, Arthur J. Armor Development in the Soviet Union and the United States. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1976. Chamberlain, Peter, and Chris Ellis. Tanks of the World: 1915-1945. London: Cassell, 2002. Citino, Robert. Armored Forces. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Estes, Kenneth W. Marines Under Armor: The Marine Corps and the Armored Fighting Vehicle, 1916-2000. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2000. Foss, Christopher F., ed. The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles: The Comprehensive Guide to Over Nine Hundred Armored Fighting Vehicles from 1915 to the Present Day. San Diego, Calif.: Thunder Bay Press, 2002. Fuller, J. F. C. Machine Warfare: An Enquiry into the Influences of Mechanics on the Art of War. London: Hutchinson, 1941. Guderian, Heinz. Achtung-Panzer! The Development of Armoured Forces, Their Tactics, and Operational Potential. Translated by Christopher Duffy. London: Brockhampton Press, 1999. Gudmundsson, Bruce I. On Armor. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2004. Hogg, Ian V. The Greenhill Armoured Fighting Vehicles Data Book. London: Greenhill Books, 2000. Koch, Fred. Russian Tanks and Armored Vehicles, 1946 to the Present: An Illustrated Reference. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer, 1999. Macksey, Kenneth. Tank Warfare: A History of Tanks in Battle. London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1971. Pugh, Stevenson. Armour in Profile. Surrey, England: Profile, 1968. Spielberger, Walter J. Panzer II and Its Variants. Vol. 3 in The Spielberger German Armor and Military Vehicles. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer, 1993. Stone, John. The Tank Debate: Armour and the Anglo-American Military Tradition. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, 2000. Wright, Patrick. Tank: The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine. London: Faber, 2000. Hell on Wheels. Documentary. History Channel, 1998. The Tanks Are Coming. Short film. Warner Bros., 1941.
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