Canadian Tanks in Action in Afghanistan

Canadian Army Leopard 2A6M main battle tanks during military operations in Afghanistan. The Leopard 2A6 is an advanced German tank. In 2007, Canada bought 20 of them from Dutch Army and borrowed another 20 2A6M. This model, which was deployed in Afghanistan, has additional armour that reinforces the chassis under the tank, protecting the crew members against mines. These German-made main battle tanks are armed with one 120mm, smooth bore, L55 gun.

T-14 Armata

The T-14 Armata is the latest main battle tank to enter service with the Russian Army. It was officially introduced on May 9, 2015, in the Victory Day Parade, which is the celebration of the end of WWII. It is the first modern Russian tank entirely designed and developed after the fall of the Soviet Union, with the first batch of 100 Armatas having been delivered in early April. The Russian government plans to acquire 2,400 units. The chassis of the Armata will also serve as a platform for other armoured combat vehicles. Compared to the Callenger 2 or the Leopard 2, this Russian tank does not really have any new features, except for the speed. Propelled by a powerful, 1,800-hp, A-85, diesel engine, the T-14 is the fastest tank in the world as it can reach the top speed of 90 km per hour.


Like the T-90 main battle tank, the T-14 is armed with a 125mm, smooth-bored gun, but it is a newer, more powerful version; the 2A82-1M 125mm gun, replacing the 2A46M. The new gun is equipped with an autoloader, being capable of destroying an enemy tank from a distance of 4,000 m. A computerized fire control system and a laser rangefinder render it extremely accurate, being able to hit the target even when the tank is moving over rough terrain. With an angular design, the turret of the Armata is not really low, like the Merkava IV’s, but it is fitted with a millimeter band radar which detects incoming anti-tank missiles. However, the turret’s angular design suggests stealth features. Like most NATO’s nations’ modern, main battle tank, it also has thermal image and infrared sensors, which allow it to operate night and day and under any weather conditions. And, just like the Leopard 2, it can wade a 4-m-deep river and run up a 45º gradient.


Type: main battle tank

Weight: 48 tons

Chassis length: 7.9 m

Width: 3.7 m

Height: 2.5 m

Crew: 3

Armour: Composite (classified)


Panzer I

The Panzer I was a German light tank which was manufactured in the 1930s and used in the Spanish Civil War and during the first years of World War II. Since it was lightly armoured and armed only with machine guns, it could not engage enemy tanks in combat; so, it was employed to provide fire support to infantry. The German Army’s official designation was Panzerkampfwagen I (armored fighting vehicle I), abbreviated PzKpfw I. Among the German tanks of WWII, it was one of the most widely produced armoured vehicles.


Designed in 1932, Panzer I was developed from the Landswirtschaftlicher Schlepper (La S) armored fighting vehicle. The design was influenced by the British Carden Loyd tankette; the German government had secretly bought two British Carden Loyd Mk.IV tankette chassis in 1932 from the Soviet Union. The Panzer I was manufactured by Henschel, MAN, Krupp, Daimler, from 1934 to 1937. The tank was armed with two 7.92mm-caliber, MG-13 Dreyse machine guns, mounted in a small rotating turret. Machine guns were largely useless against even the lightest tank armor of the time, restricting the Panzer I to a training and anti-infantry role by design.

Panzer I was mass produced in two main similar variants, Ausf A and Ausf B. These variants had different suspensions and engines. Ausf A was manufactured from July, 1934 to June, 1936 , while Ausf B was produced from August, 1935 to June, 1937. Panzer I Ausf A was powered by 59hp, four-cylinder Krupp engine and Ausf B with a 100hp Maybach engine, which was an improved version of Ausf A. Both models shared identical turret and superstructure.


Type: light tank
Weight: 6 tons
Length: 4,42 m
Width: 2 m
Height: 1.7 m
Armour: 13mm-thick steel on glacis plate; 7mm on the flanks
Crew: two (commander + driver)
Maximum speed: 40 km/h

Panzer II

The Panzerkampfwagen II, or Panzer II, was a World War II German light tank, which was produced from 1935 to 1943. It was a kind of a stopgap design while better tanks were being developed. However, the Panzer II was the most massively produced tank when the war broke out on September 1, 1939; thus, it was a very important tank from a numerical point of view. Its official designation was the PanzerKampfWagen II, which was shortened to PzKpfw II. It first saw combat action in 1937, in the Spanish Civil War.


Panzer II had been designed in 1934 by MAN, which was a German engineering company. The design was based on the Panzer I, but it was bigger. Production of the tank started in 1935 and took eighteen months for the first combat-ready tanks to be delivered to the German Army. This light tank was powered by a 140 hp, six-cylinder Maybach HL62 TRM engine which run on gasoline, and used a 6-gear ZF transmission plus reverse. It weighed 7.2 tonnes, measured 4.8 m in length, 2.2 m in width, and 2 m in height, and had a crew of three. It was manufactured in different variants from Ausf.A to Ausf.J models.

Panzer II Ausf F had 35mm-thick steel armor on the front, 20mm on the sides, and 14mm on back, and 10mm on top. It was fitted out with a 20mm KwK 30 L/55 gun as a main armament, and a 7.92mm MG34 machine gun. It first saw action during the invasion of Poland and played an important role in the Battle of France.


Type: light tank
Weight: 10 tons
Length: 4.64 m
Width: 2.3 m
Height: 2 m
Maximum speed: 55 km/h
Range: 200 km


Panzer III

The Panzerkampfwagen III was a medium tank massively deployed by the Wehrmacht during World War II. Fast and mechanically reliable, it was the workhorse of the German armoured divisions in the Polish campaign and Battle of France in the first two years of the war. Until the introduction of the Panzer IV Ausf F2 in March 1942, the Panzer III had been the only German tank fitted out with a gun designed to perforate enemy armour. The German, official designation was Sd Kfz 141. Although it had become obsolete by 1943, the Panzer III continued to be used as an infantry support armoured vehicle until 1945.


In 1934, the Army Weapons Department began to draw up plans for a medium tank with a maximum weight of 24 tons and a top speed of 21.75 mph. According to Heinz Guderian directives, it had to be capable of engaging and destroying enemy tanks, for it was to be the main tank of the German Panzer divisions. Work on the Panzer III began in 1936, when Rheinmetall, Daimler-Benz, Krupp, and MAN produced prototypes for a tank in the 15-25 ton category. The Panzer III would be the main anti-tank weapon, firing armor-piercing projectiles from its 37mm gun. Daimler-Benz design was chosen for production.

Production of the Panzer III, the Ausf. A, began in May 1937, with a total of ten that year, two of which were unarmed. But the mass production of the Panzer III, the Ausf. F version, started in 1939. The Panzer III had a 12-cylinder Maybach HL 120 TRM 296 hp engine at the rear and the gearbox at the front, and could drive at a top speed of 25 miles per hour. The Panzer III Ausf. A, B, and C had 15mm steel armor on all sides with 10mm on the top. Soon, in the Ausf. D, E, F, and G models, the armor was upgraded to 30mm on the front, sides and rear , with the H model having a second 30mm-layer of hardened steel plate added to the front and rear hull. The Ausf. J model had a solid 50mm plate on the front and rear, while the Ausf. J¹, L, and the M models had an additional layer of 20mm of armor on the front hull and turret. The additional frontal armor, which had been added after the first two years of combat experience, gave the Panzer III frontal protection from most British and Soviet anti-tank guns.

The Panzer III was the best tank of the time during the first one and half year of the war. Nevertheless, when it met the Soviet KV and T-34 tank designs in combat on Eastern Front, it proved to be inferior. To counter the new Soviet threats, the Panzer III was upgraded with a more powerful and longer 50mm cannon, and received more armor. In 1942, the last version of the Panzer III, the Ausf. N, was built with a 75mm KwK 37 L/24 cannon, which was a low-velocity gun designed for infantry-support task. For defensive purposes, the Ausf. N was equipped with rounds of hollow charge ammunition which could pierce 70mm of armor.


Type: medium tank
Length: 5.56 m
Width: 2.9 m
Height: 2.5 m
Weight: 23 tons
Maximum speed: 40 km/h
Range: 155 km
Crew: 5


Depending on the variant, it was armed with one 3.7 cm Kwk 36 or one 5 cm Kwk 38 (Ausf F-J) or one 7.5 cm Kwk 37 (Ausf N); two 7.92mm machine guns.


WW1 British Tank Crew Helmet

In September 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, the British Army fielded their first armoured vehicle in its military history, the Mark I tank, which would enable their frontline troops to overcome the no-man’s obstacles and the enemy trenches. However, the British High Command would soon realize that the tank’s armour provided inadequate protection against spalling to its crew inside.

When big-caliber fire arm projectiles struck the armour, steel splinters came off the inner armour walls at high speed, seriously wounding the men inside. This fact led the British Generals to issue the tank crew with helmets and visors to protect their heads and faces, such as the one in the picture below, which became the standard British tank crew helmet. It was made of steel and reinforced with riveted plates. The upper part of the face was protected with a steel mask, while the jaws were protected by a chainmail.