As we approach the grim milestone of the one-year anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, the West has renewed efforts to help with the fight. The UK, Germany, and the US have now all pledged to send battle tanks to help Kyiv’s forces win back territory taken by the Russians. After days of pressure from Ukraine and Western officials, Wednesday, January 25, saw President Joe Biden announce that Washington will be sending 31 Abrams tanks. That same day, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin would supply Kyiv with 14 Leopard 2 units. Prior to this, the UK announced it would be sending 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks.
Since the creation of the first prototype tank in England in 1915, defence has been at the forefront of technological advancement. “Little Willie”, as it was known, could travel at a speed of 3.5mph. Today, the world’s fastest tank record stands at more than 50mph. While keeping soldiers safe from missiles, bullets, and shrapnel, tanks can carry machine guns, missiles, and in some cases, rockets.
The tanks that are due to be sent to Ukraine are some of the best in the world. However, those at the Kremlin turned their nose up with the Russian Federation’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov saying they would all “burn like the rest”. How do these tanks rank against others from around the world?
Tanks can be compared by three categories: firepower, mobility, and strength. But nowadays, technological advances such as artificial intelligence and whether the tank can be operated remotely sees some rank a cut above the rest.
The seven most powerful tanks on earth
7. British Challenger 2
The Challenger 2 is the main battle tank in service with the British Army as well as the Royal Army of Oman. Soon, they will also be used by Volodymyr Zelensky’s army in Ukraine. While the Challenger 2 might not be as technologically advanced as others, it is powerful.
It boasts an L30A1 120mm rifled gun which is unusual as most tanks now use a smoothbore gun. It also has an L94A1 EX-34 7.62mm chain gun and a machine gun. It can also be fitted with a grenade launcher.
6. German Leopard 2A7
Not only does it have panoramic sight, but the Leopard 2 also has thermal imaging and can fire high-explosive incendiary.
Historically, the Leopard 2 is one of the most successful battle tanks, having been used by the Germans for more than four decades. Thousands of these vehicles have been exported to the likes of Turkey and Australia in the past and now units will be heading to Ukraine along with the British Challenger 2.
5. Chinese Type 99
Under the influence of both Russia and the West, China’s Type 99 was created. It has front deflectors with composite ERA armour (details of which are classified) and can travel at a speed of 40mph thanks to its turbocharged 1,500-horsepower diesel engine.
In terms of weapons, it has smoke grenades at its disposal as well as a laser defence weapon that can disable enemy missiles.
4. Korean K2 Black Panther
The Republic of Korea Army’s K2 Black Panther is the world’s most expensive tank, according to the Guiness World Records, costing a staggering $8.5million [£6.86million] per unit.
Its hydropneumatic suspension means it can be raised for cross-country performance and lowered to improve speed. In order to tackle the swampy terrain of the Korean Peninsula, it can cross water that is almost twice its height and can hold up to 500 gallons of water to ensure it constantly touches the ground when travelling underwater.
3. Russian T-14 Armata
First seen during Moscow’s 2015 Victory Day Parade, the T-14 Armata has a remote-controlled turret and a 125mm 2A82-1M smoothbore cannon.
It can fire laser-guided missiles up to seven miles. Its active protection system uses a radar to detect and intercept attacks. It even has a toilet onboard for its three-man crew.
2. American M1A1 Abrams
Powered by jet fuel, the £5million tank has an armour-resistant shell and a 120mm smoothbore cannon which has a range of more than 2.5miles. It has a target acquisition system, hunter-killer capability, and two 7.62 machine guns as well as a 12.7mm machine gun.
Although 31 of these tanks are now being sent to Ukraine, they have been described by the Pentagon’s top policy advisor Colin Kahl as a “very complicated piece of equipment”.
1. German KF51 Panther
This tank, the most advanced in its category, is under development but was unveiled in June last year.
It has drone-integration technology that will allow for the use of remote-controlled weapon systems. It features active, reactive, passive, and top assault protection. Its panoramic sight technology can work both during the day and at night.