List of main battle tanks by generation
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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 with first generation of tanks up to 1945, and four generations of main battle tanks[Note 1] while Canadian strategists organize main battle tanks into three generations.[Note 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. 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. 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. The third generation is determined by the usage of thermal imagers, digital fire control systems and special (composite) armour.
However, Hilmes acknowledged that tanks cannot be definitively grouped by generations, as each tank-producing country develops and introduces its tanks in tune with its own ideas and needs. He also states that breakdown of postwar tanks by generations is based on timeframe and technical factors, as a basis for further discussion.
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||1946||United Kingdom||First "Universal Tank" (MBT) Culmination of the WWII cruiser tanks|
|T-54||1946||Soviet Union||Russia's First Generation of MBT|
|M47 Patton||1952||United States||A development of the M46 Patton tank|
|M48 Patton||1953||United States||A further development of the M47 Patton tank.|
|T-55||1958||Soviet Union||Improved T-54|
|Panzer 58||1958||Switzerland||Swiss First Generation of MBT|
|Type 61||1961||Japan||Developed and used by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force|
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 or derivatives of it.
|Name||Entered service in||Origin||Notes|
|T-62||1961||Soviet Union||A further development of the T-55.|
|M60 Patton||1961||United States||A further development of the M48 Patton tank. Later models(M60A2 and M60A3) are considered as the first intermediate generation.|
|Leopard 1||1965||West Germany||A main battle tank designed and produced in West Germany that first entered service in 1965.|
|Panzer 61||1965||Switzerland||A further development of the Panzer 58 tank.|
|T-64||1966||Soviet Union||World's first composite armored tank, later versions of the T-64 may be considered as third generation.|
|AMX 30||1966||France||The AMX 30 served as the principal Main Battle Tank (MBT) for the French Army.|
|FV 4201 Chieftain||1966||United Kingdom||Armed with the British 120 mm Royal Ordnance L11A5 gun.|
|Vickers MBT||1967||United Kingdom||British private venture design for export, licence built as the Vijayanta for India.|
|Stridsvagn 103||1968||Sweden||Turretless design developed and employed solely by Sweden. Double engine feature; both diesel and gas turbine.|
|Panzer 68||1971||Switzerland||Swiss Main Battle Tank (MBT) based on the Panzer 61.|
|T-72||1973||Soviet Union||Hilmes puts the T-72 in the first intermediate generation.|
|Olifant Mk 1||1974||South Africa||Improvements to the Centurion tank.|
|Type 74||1975||Japan||Hilmes puts the Type 74 in the first intermediate generation.|
|Merkava Mark I/II||1978||Israel|
|Ch'onma-ho||1980||Soviet Union / North Korea||Copy of the T-62; later versions include upgrades.|
|Tanque Argentino Mediano||1983||Argentina||"Argentine Medium Tank" developed from Marder IFV by Argentina and Thyssen-Henschel|
|AMX-40||1983||France||Prototype, never acquired by the French Army.|
|Lion of Babylon||1985||Iraq||Licensed copy of the T-72.|
|Type 88||1988||China||Variants include the Type 80, Type 88C, and Type 85|
|CM-11(M48H)||1990||Taiwan||Variant from M48 Patton|
|Al-Zarrar||2003||Pakistan||An upgraded variant of the Chinese Type 59 tank|
The third generation of main battle tanks is characterized by composite armour and computerized stabilized fire control systems, which allow firing on the move as well as very high first hit probability on targets up to 2,000 meters away.
|Name||In service from||Origin||Notes|
|T-80||1976||Soviet Union||World's first turbine engine equipped tank. Though the Swedish Stridsvagn 103 that entered service in 1960s used a turbine engine alongside a diesel. However, T-80 in Hilmes's book is very different to a T-80 in real world, and early models of the T-80 offer no big differences compared to T-64A in overall performance. So models prior to the T-80B should be regarded as Second generation intermediate.|
|Leopard 2||1979||West Germany|
|MBT-80||1979||United Kingdom||Prototype, never entered service.|
|M1 Abrams||1980||United States|
|FV4030/4 Challenger 1||1983||United Kingdom||Replaced Chieftain.|
|EE-T1/EE-T2 Osório||1985||Brazil||Prototype, never acquired by the Brazilian Army.|
|K1 88-Tank||1988||United States / South Korea|
|Merkava Mark III||1989||Israel|
|Type 90 Kyū-maru||1990||Japan|
|Zulfiqar I/II/III||1993||Iran||Iranian tank derived from T-72 and M60 Patton. Zulfiqar 3 is the most advanced variant.|
|T-90||1993||Russia||Updated version of the T-72; originally named the T-72BU, it was renamed the T-90 after the poor performance of the Iraqi T-72 crews against American armoured crews during the Persian Gulf War.|
|TR-85||1996||Romania||First built in 1985, the modernised TR-85M1 "Bizonul" (the bison) variant was built in 1996, as an effort to bring it up to date with NATO countries. The project was a cooperative effort between Aerospatiale-Matra, Sagem, Kolmorgen-Artus, Racal and Romanian factories, such as ROMARM, METRA, I.O.R. and Aerostar|
|Stridsvagn 122||1997||Sweden||Based on the German Leopard 2.|
|FV4034 Challenger 2||1998||United Kingdom||A future life upgrade is the planning phase.|
|T-84||1999||Ukraine||Upgraded Ukrainian version of the T-80 tank.|
|K1A1||2001||South Korea||Upgrade version of the K1 88-Tank.|
|Al-Khalid||2001||China / Pakistan ||Design based on T-72. Variants exported by China as VT-1A/MBT-2000|
|T-72B3||2013||Russia||Upgraded Russian version of the T-72. T-72B3M is the most advanced variant.|
|T-72M4 CZ||2003||Czech Republic||Upgraded Czech version of the T-72 tank.|
|Centurion Olifant Mk 2||2003||South Africa||Upgrade version of the Olifant Mk 1 Tank|
|M-95 Degman||1997||Croatia||Croatian development of the prototype Yugoslav M-91 Vihor|
|M-84AS||2004||Serbia||Upgraded Yugoslav version of the M-84 tank.M-84AS is sometimes referred to as M-84AB1 and M-2001.|
|Type 96A/B||2005||China||Upgrade version of the Type 96.|
|Type 99A2||2009||China||"Enhanced Third Generation Main Battle Tank"|
Next Generation/Third generation advanced
Next Generation or Third Generation Advanced are still under development or at early stages of their generation. While the term '(Fourth) Next generation' and 'Third generation advanced' have no formal basis, these main battle tanks are using the latest technology and designs to compete with the current advanced warfare environment. "Third Generation Advanced" been stated, rather than "Next Generation" in many premieres for these tanks. Those described as "Third Generation Advanced" are normally upgraded variants using the same framework of the standard third generation tank. They have their advancements built into existing or newly designed frames than being an add-on technology. Those described as "Next Generation" have had their tanks and their advanced features designed and built from scratch and are not considered upgrades of previous existing tanks.
Next Generation/Third Generation Advanced
|Name||In service from||Origin||Notes|
|Merkava 4 (Merkava Mk IVm Windbreaker)||2011||Israel||3rd Generation Advanced|
|T-90MS||2011||Russia||3rd Generation Advanced|
|Type 10||2012||Japan||Next Generation|
|K2 Black Panther||2014||South Korea||Next Generation|
|Leopard 2A7+||2014||Germany||3rd Generation Advanced|
|VT-4||2014||China||3rd Generation Advanced|
|T-14 Armata||2015||Russia||Next Generation|
|T-Rex||2016||Ukraine||T-64 concept with unmanned turret |
|Karrar||2017||Iran||3rd Generation Advanced|
- Future Combat Systems
- Future Combat Systems Manned Ground Vehicles
- ASM Program (Cancelled due to the end of the Cold War)
- Future Force Unit of Action
- List of U.S. military vehicles by model number
- List of main battle tanks by country
- List of armoured fighting vehicles
- List of modern armoured fighting vehicles
- Armoured fighting vehicle classification
- List of armoured trains
- Improvised fighting vehicle
- Infantry fighting vehicle (IFV)
- Armoured fighting vehicle (AFV)
- Armored personal carrier (APC)
- Reconnaissance vehicle
- Military engineering vehicle
- Armoured recovery vehicle
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- Armored bulldozer
- Infantry mobility vehicle
- Medium Mine Protected Vehicle
- Armoured car
- Tank destroyer
- Super-heavy tank
- Heavy tank
- Medium Tank
- Light tank
- Infantry tank
- Cruiser tank
- “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.”
- “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.”
- 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."
- —Sewell 1988, note 1.
- —Lamontagne 2003, pp 7–8.
- Hilmes, Rolf (1983). Kampfpanzer der Die Entwickelungen der Nachkriegszeit (in German). Verlag Soldat und Technik. ISBN 3-524-89001-6, p. 7.
- Hilmes 1983, p. 8.
- Hilmes 1983, p. 10.
- Czołgi (in Polish), Pancerni.net, p. 2[unreliable source?]
- option=com_content&task=view&id=5&Itemid=6&limit=1&limitstart=2 Czołgi Check
|url=value (help) (in Polish), Pancerni.net, p. 3[unreliable source?]
- Hilmes 1983, p. 27.
- "Tank T-72M4 CZ" (in Czech). Army of the Czech Republic official website. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
- "Type 99A2", China military, Global security.
- APA PLA AFV, Aus air power.
- Keller, John (4 February 2014). "General Dynamics gets contract to build 12 advanced main battle tanks with digital vetronics". Military & Aerospace Electronics. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
- Baglole, Joel (1 January 2014). "The Abrams Tank - Next Generation". US military. About. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
- "Aware" (PDF). SMDC. USASMDC/ARSTRAT Public Affairs Office. 16 August 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
- "T-90MS Tagil Main battle tank". Military-Today.com. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
- "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.
- "The world's top 10 main battle tanks". Army technology. 28 November 2013. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
- "K2 Black Panther Main Battle Tank, South Korea". Army technology. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
- "Turkey launches tank test center - BUSINESS". Hürriyet Daily News | LEADING NEWS SOURCE FOR TURKEY AND THE REGION. Retrieved 2016-12-25.
- "ALTAY". Retrieved 2016-12-25.
- Lamontagne, J.G. Pierre (2003). "Are the Days of the Main Battle Tank Over?" (PDF). Toronto, Ontario, Canadian Forces College.
- Sewell, Stephen ‘Cookie’ (1998). "Why Three tanks? in Armor vol 108, no 4, p 21" (PDF). Fort Knox, KY US Army Armor Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-28.
- Hunnicutt, R. P. Patton: A History of the American Main Battle Tank. ISBN 0-89141-230-1.
- Hilmes, Rolf (1983). Kampfpanzer der Die Entwickelungen der Nachkriegszeit (in German). ISBN 3-524-89001-6.