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A heavy tank was a class of tank that generally provided better armour protection as well as equal or greater firepower than tanks of lighter classes, often at the cost of mobility and manoeuvrability and, particularly, expense. The origins of the class date to World War I
World War I
and the very first tanks; designed to operate in close concert with the infantry and facing both artillery and the first dedicated anti-tank guns, early tanks had to have enough armour to allow them to survive in no man's land. As lighter tanks were introduced, the larger designs became known as heavies. A similar 'breakthrough' role remained into World War II. As tank-v-tank combat became more common, heavy tanks mounted very powerful anti-tank guns. By the end of the war they were used both for dealing with heavy fortifications as well as antitank work. They were also known as breakthrough tanks, indicating their purpose of spearheading the attack. They were usually organised into specialised heavy tank units. The emergence of the main battle tank spelled the end of the heavy tank as a separate class, although a number of post-war examples were produced. These were generally gone by the 1960s.

Contents

1 Role 2 Design 3 History

3.1 World Wars 3.2 Cold War

4 See also 5 Notes 6 References

Role[edit] Heavy tanks achieved their greatest successes both fighting other, lighter tanks, and destroying fortifications with their very large guns. Although it is often assumed that heavy tanks suffered inferior mobility to mediums, this was not always the case, as many of the more sophisticated heavy tank designs featured advanced suspension and transmission precisely to counteract this drawback. But the greatest drawback is cost which translates into production quantities and/or design. The German Tiger I, for example, had similar speed and better terrain-handling characteristics when compared to the significantly lighter Panzer IV
Panzer IV
medium tank, albeit at the cost of low reliability and only 1,355 were produced compared to 8,800 Panzer IV
Panzer IV
and over 59,000 Soviet T-34
T-34
and over 45,000 American M4 Sherman
M4 Sherman
medium tanks. This case repeated itself in the operational use of the Tiger II
Tiger II
of which only 492 were produced. Design[edit] Heavy tanks feature very heavy armour and weapons relative to lighter tanks. Many heavy tanks shared components from lighter tanks. For example, the US M103 shared many components with the lighter Patton tanks including its transmission and engine. As a result, they tend to be either underpowered and comparatively slow, or have engine and drive train reliability problems. In case of an entirely new design development, which was the case with the German Tiger I, the design became needlessly complex and costly, resulting in low production numbers. History[edit] The heavy tank concept originated in World War I
World War I
and coexisted with light and medium tanks until the end of the Cold War
Cold War
with the introduction of the main battle tank. World Wars[edit]

The German Tiger I
Tiger I
heavy tank

The first British tank, the Mark I of World War I, was introduced to break through German defensive lines of trenches and barbed wire. When lighter, faster tanks were introduced, the larger tanks were classified as heavy. The Char 2C
Char 2C
was one of the largest tanks ever produced. At the start of World War II, France and the Soviet Union were the only countries to have inventories of heavy tanks, such as the Char B1, T-35, and KV-1. The Matilda II
Matilda II
was designed under the British infantry tank concept which is similar to the heavy tank having thick armor and weighing more than their other tanks. It’s usually separate because they have less firepower with their cruiser tanks (comparable to mediums) at the time having the same main armament but more machine guns. Later war examples were the German Tiger I
Tiger I
and II, as well as the Soviet IS series. Note that "heavy" versus "medium" is more a question of tactical roles than weight; the Panther, for example, was a "medium" tank that outweighed most Allied "heavy" tanks. American forces rarely fielded heavy tanks, as they still held on to the infantry-support doctrine like the British; in addition, the Americans recognized the logistical and mobility issues that came with possessing a heavy tank force and did not want to compromise its 3,000 mile supply line to Europe. As a result, the US instead preferred to use tank destroyers for anti-tank combat, and prior to 1944 there were few indication that the M4 Sherman
M4 Sherman
was outclassed in terms of armor and weapons by German heavy tanks. Near the end of World War II, the M26 Pershing
M26 Pershing
was sent to Europe in limited numbers, being the closest the Americans had to a heavy tank. Cold War[edit]

A Soviet IS-3 heavy tank

The immediate post-war period saw the final fielding of heavy tanks, including the US M103 heavy tank, the British FV214 Conqueror, and the French ARL 44
ARL 44
(in very limited numbers for the ARL 44), all in response to the Soviet heavy tanks of the period. The largest tank guns were approaching maximum calibre whose shell could still be handled by the crew, even using awkward two-part ammunition (separate projectile and propellant case, similar to battleship guns), which greatly slowed their rate of fire. Thanks to improved shell designs and fire control technology improving accuracy, postwar medium tanks were catching up to heavy tanks in firepower. The tactical value of heavy tanks thus declined to the point that no new designs were fielded; the heavily armed mediums came to be known as the main battle tank (MBT). Doctrine held that less expensive self-propelled artillery could serve in the infantry support role. The weight of MBTs quickly increased during the Cold War, and most third generation MBTs including the M1 Abrams, Challenger 2, Leopard 2, Merkava, Arjun MBT, and Type 99 have weights similar to those of 1950s heavy tanks. Older heavy tanks with steel armour were rendered obsolete by anti-tank guided missiles and high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) ammunition. The much more flexible missiles are effective at ranges beyond a tank gun's range, and sheer armour mass was no longer a guarantee of survivability against the largest HEAT warheads of tank guns or missiles. See also[edit]

Light tank Medium tank Super-heavy tank Main battle tank

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

v t e

World War I
World War I
armoured fighting vehicles

List Category

British

Little Willie "Female" tank "Male" tank Mks I, II, III Mk IV Mk V Mk VI Mark VII Mk VIII Mk IX Medium Mk A "Whippet" Medium Mk B Medium Mk C Flying Elephant Killen-Strait Armoured Tractor Lancelot de Mole's proposal* (1912)

French

Schneider CA1 Saint-Chamond Renault FT Breton-Prétot machine Boirault machine Frot-Laffly landship Souain prototype Levavasseur* (1903)

German

A7V K-Wagen LK I LK II Oberschlesien

Armoured Cars:

Büssing A5P Ehrhardt E-V/4

Austro-Hungarian

Günther Burstyn's Motorgeschütz* (1911) Austro Daimler
Austro Daimler
armoured car (1905)

Italian

Fiat 2000 Fiat 3000

American

M1917 light tank Ford 3-Ton M1918 Holt Gas-Electric Skeleton tank Steam tank Steam Wheel Tank

Russian

Tsar Tank Vezdekhod Mendeleev Tank* Rybinsk tank*

Belgian

Minerva Armoured Car

Italics—experimental prototypes; * concept only

Tank

history classification

WWI Interwar WWII Cold War Post–Cold War

v t e

Interwar tanks

List Category

Tankettes

L3/33 L3/35 Carden Loyd Morris-Martel T-27 TKS Type 92 tankette Type 94 tankette Type 97 Te-Ke Tančík vz. 33 AH-IV

Light

H35 R35 Fiat 3000 Leichttraktor Light Tanks Mk I–V Light Tank
Tank
Mk VI Light Tank
Tank
Mk VII M1 Combat Car M2 Light Tank Panzer I Panzer II LT vz. 34 LT vz. 35 LT vz. 38 T1 Light Tank T7 Combat Car T-18 T-13 T-15 T-19 T-26 T-37 T-38 7TP Type 95 Ha-Go Vickers 6-Ton Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tank

Medium

Char D1 Char D2 Grosstraktor Medium Mk I Medium Mk II Medium Mk III Panzer III T-24 T-28 Type 89 I-Go Type 97 Chi-Ni Type 97 Chi-Ha Type 98 Chi-Ho

Cavalry, Cruiser and Fast

AMC 34 AMC 35 AMR 33 AMR 35 BT tank Cruiser Mk I Cruiser Mk II Cruiser Mk III SOMUA S35

Infantry

FCM 36 Infantry
Infantry
Mk I, Matilda Renault R35 T-26 Type 89 I-Go

Heavy

Char B1 Neubaufahrzeug SMK T-35 T-100 Type 95 Heavy Tank Vickers A1E1 Independent

Super-heavy

FCM F1 Char 2C T-42

Armoured carriers

UE Chenillette Bren Gun Carrier

Tank

history classification

WWI Interwar WWII Cold War Post–Cold War

v t e

World War II
World War II
tanks

List Category

Light

7TP Fiat L6/40 M3/M5 Stuart M22 Locust M24 Chaffee Marmon-Herrington CTLS Renault R40 Schofield T-26 T-40 T-60 T-70 Tetrarch Toldi Type 98 Ke-Ni Type 2 Ke-To Type 2 Ka-Mi Type 4 Ke-Nu Type 5 Ke-Ho

Medium

Carro Armato P 40 40 M Turan I Fiat M11/39 Fiat M13/40 Fiat M14/41 Fiat M15/42 M2 Medium M3 Lee/Grant M4 Sherman Panzer III Panzer IV Panzer V Panther T-34 T-43 Type 97 ShinHoTo Chi-Ha Type 1 Chi-He Type 3 Ka-Chi Type 3 Chi-Nu Type 4 Chi-To Type 5 Chi-Ri Type 5 To-Ku Sherman Firefly

Cruiser

AMC 35 AMR 33 AMR 35 BT-2/BT-5/BT-7/BT-7M Cruiser Mk III Cruiser Mk IV Covenanter Crusader Cavalier Cromwell Mk VIII Challenger Comet Grizzly Ram Sentinel

Infantry

Black Prince Churchill Matilda I Matilda II T-26 T-50 Valentine Valiant Type 2 Ho-I

Heavy

IS tank KV tank M26 Pershing Tiger I Tiger II T-35

Assault

Excelsior T14 Sherman Jumbo Tortoise

Super-heavy

T28 TOG1 TOG2 O-I Panzer VII Löwe Panzer VIII Maus Panzerkampfwagen E-100 Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster

Tank

history classification

WWI Interwar WWII Cold War Post–Cold War

v t e

Cold War
Cold War
tanks

List Category

MBTs

AMX-30 AMX-40 Centurion Challenger 1 Chieftain Chonma-ho EE-T1 Osório K1 88 Leopard 1 Leopard 2 M1 Abrams M60 Patton M-84 Magach MBT-70 MBT-80 Merkava Object 187 Object 292 Object 785 OF-40 Panzer 68 Stridsvagn 103 T-62 T-64 T-72 T-80 TAM TR-85 Type 59 Type 61 Type 69/79 Type 74 Nana-yon Type 88 Vijayanta Vickers MBT WZ-122

Light

AMX-13 ELC Expeditionary tank M8 Armored Gun System M41 Walker Bulldog M551 Sheridan PT-76 Scorpion SK-105 Kürassier Spähpanzer SP I.C. Stingray Stridsvagn 74 T71 Light Tank T92 Light Tank Type 62 Type 63 Type 64 WZ-132

Medium

Charioteer M26 Pershing M46 Patton M47 Patton M48 Patton Panzer 58 Panzer 61 T-44 T-54/55 T95 Type 58

Heavy

AMX-50 Conqueror IS-3 Object 279 M103 T-10 T30 Stridsvagn KRV WZ-111

Tank
Tank
destroyers

Infanterikanonvagn 73 Infanterikanonvagn 91 Kanonenjagdpanzer M56 Scorpion M50 Ontos

Tank

history classification

WWI Interwar WWII Cold War Post–Cold War

v t e

Post– Cold War
Cold War
tanks

List Category

Under 120 mm gun

Ch'ŏnma-ho Ramses II

Under 50 tonnes

Al-Zarrar Al-Khalid P'okpoong-Ho PL-01 PT-91 Twardy T-84 T-90 Type 10 Type 59G Type 96 Zulfiqar

Over 50 tonnes

Ariete Arjun BM Oplot Challenger 2 K1 88-Tank K2 Black Panther Leclerc Leopard 2 M1 Abrams M60-2000 Merkava Sabra Type 90 Type 99 tank T-14 Armata VT-4 Main Battle Tank

Not in service

Altay Black Eagle EE-T1 Osório M-95 Degman M-84AS Black Tiger T-95 Tank
Tank
EX Type 99KM

Tank

History Class

WWI Interwar WWII Cold War Pos

.