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German Tiger tank.

A tank is a tracked, armored fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat and combines strong strategic and tactical offensive and defensive capabilities. Firepower is normally provided by a large-caliber main gun in a rotating turret and secondary machine guns, while heavy armor and all-terrain mobility provide protection for the tank and its crew, allowing it to perform all primary tasks of the armored troops on the battlefield.

Tanks were first manufactured during World War I in an effort to break the bloody deadlock of trench warfare. The British Army was the first to field a vehicle that combined three key characteristics: mobility over barbed wire and rough terrain, armor to withstand small arms fire and shrapnel and the firepower required to suppress or destroy machine gun nests and pillboxes. Despite some success and a significant psychological effect on the German infantry, "the tank in 1918 was not a war-winning weapon."

Interwar developments culminated in the blitzkrieg employed by the German Wehrmacht during World War II and the contribution of the panzers to this doctrine. Hard lessons learned by the Allies during WWII cemented the reputation of the tank, appropriately employed in combined arms forces, as "indispensable to success in both tactical and strategic terms." Today, tanks seldom operate alone, being organized into armored units and operating in combined-arms formations. Despite their apparent invulnerability, without support, tanks are vulnerable to anti-tank artillery, helicopters and aircraft, enemy tanks, anti-tank and improvised mines, and (at close range or in urban environments) infantry.

Due to its formidable capabilities and versatility the battle tank is generally considered a key component of modern armies, but recent thinking has challenged the need for such powerful and expensive weaponry in a period characterized by unconventional and asymmetric warfare. Ongoing research and development attempts to equip the tank to meet the challenges of the 21st century... (more)

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Spanish M47 side corner.jpg


Tanks in the Spanish Army have over 80 years of history, from the French FT-17s first delivered in 1919 to the Leopard 2 and B1 Centauro models of the early 21st century. The FT-17 took part in combat during the Rif War and performing in the first amphibious landing with tanks in history, at Alhucemas. In 1925, the Spanish Army began to undertake a program to develop and produce a Spanish tank, heavily based on the French FT-17, called the Trubia A4. Although the prototype performed well during testing, the tank was never put into mass production. Spain also experimented with the Italian Fiat 3000, acquiring one tank in 1925, and with another indigenous tank program called the Landesa. However, none of these evolved into a major armor program, and as a result the FT-17 remained the most important tank, in numbers, in the Spanish Army until the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Between July 1936 and April 1939, during the Spanish Civil War, the two opposing armies received large quantities of tanks from foreign powers. Spain's Second Republic received tanks from the Soviet Union, many of which were captured by the Nationalists and pressed into service against their former masters, while the Nationalists were aided by the Germans and Italians. The Spanish Civil War, although the testing grounds for the nations which would ultimately take part in World War II, proved inconclusive in regards to the proof of mechanized warfare. Despite attempts by Soviet, German and Italian advisers and soldiers to use newly devised mechanized theories, the lack of quality crews and the tanks, and the insufficient amount of tanks provided bad impressions on the usefulness of tanks on their own. The Spanish Army ended the Spanish Civil War with a fleet of light tanks. Looking to field more modern and capable tanks, the Spanish government and army approved a venture to design and manufacture a better light tank, known as the Verdeja. Although the tank proved extremely capable, a lack of raw materials and incentives proved enough to doom the program to failure. Furthermore, the army's requirements were temporarily satiated by the procurement of Panzer IVs in late 1943. However, the failure to acquire more Panzer IVs led Spain to field a largely antiquated tank park of light tanks and an insufficient amount of medium tanks. In 1953, the United States and Spain signed a military aid program agreement which led to the supply of M47 Patton and M48 Patton tanks. The American decision to not allow Spain to deploy the new equipment during the war with Morocco caused Spain to look elsewhere for a supplement to their fleet of Patton tanks, ending with the procurement of the AMX-30E, based on the French AMX-30. Almost immediately after, the Spanish Army and the Spanish Ministry of Defense began to look for a future Spanish tank. This turned into the Lince tank program. Despite numerous bids the Lince program failed due to financial problems and the decision to instead modernize the existing fleet of AMX-30Es, and to procure a large number of American M60 Patton tanks to replace the fleet of the then upgraded older Patton tanks. Over half of the AMX-30Es were upgraded to a standard known as the AMX-30EM2, while the rest suffered a more finite modification known as the AMX-30EM1. However, the M60s and modernized AMX-30Es did not provide Spain with a sufficiently modern tank for the next century. In 1994, the Spanish Ministry of Defense began to negotiate with the German government over the purchase of the Leopard 2. Ultimately, 108 Leopard 2A4s were procured and integrated into the Spanish Army, while 219 Leopard 2Es were built in Spain, based on the German Leopard 2A6. The Leopard 2E and Leopard 2A4 replaced the fleet of M60 Patton tanks, while Spain's AMX-30EM2s were replaced by Italian B1 Centauro anti-tank cavalry vehicles. Presently, the Spanish Army possesses 108 Leopard 2A4s and 219 Leopard 2Es... (more)

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Verrieres-under-fire.jpg

The Battle of Verrières Ridge was a series of engagements fought as part of the Battle of Normandy, in western France, during the Second World War. The main combatants were two Canadian infantry divisions, with additional support from the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, against elements of three German SS Panzer divisions. The battle was part of the British and Canadian attempts to break out of Caen, and took place from July 19 – July 25, 1944, being part of both Operation Atlantic (July 18 – July 21) and Operation Spring (July 25 – July 27). The immediate Allied objective was Verrières Ridge, a belt of high ground which dominates the route from Caen to Falaise. The ridge was invested by battle-hardened German veterans, who had fallen back from Caen and entrenched to form a strong defensive position. Over the course of six days, substantial Canadian and British forces made repeated attempts to capture the ridge. Strict German adherence to defensive doctrine, as well as strong and effective counterattacks by Panzer formations, resulted in heavy Allied casualties for little strategic gain. From the perspective of the First Canadian Army, the battle is remembered for its tactical and strategic miscalculations—the most notable being a highly controversial attack by the Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch) of Canada on July 25. This attack, the costliest single day for a Canadian battalion since the 1942 Dieppe Raid, has become one of the most contentious and critically analysed events in Canadian military history...(more)

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"Out-gunned, out-manouevred, and hard-pressed, the Spanish had no effective answer to the tank..." —John Weeks, on anti-tank tactics during the Spanish Civil War

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Otto Moritz Walter Model ([ˈmoːdəl]) (24 January 1891 – 21 April 1945) was a German general and later field marshal during World War II. He is noted for his defensive battles in the latter half of the war, mostly on the Eastern Front but also in the west, and for his close association with Adolf Hitler and Nazism. He has been called the Wehrmacht's best defensive tactician. Although he was a hard-driving, aggressive panzer commander early in the war, Model became best known as a practitioner of attrition warfare—his associate, General Erhard Raus, called it "zone defence". It emphasised strong fortifications, a reluctance to give ground (although not an absolute refusal to withdraw), and the importance of not allowing major enemy breakthroughs. This approach brought him much success, but his death in 1945 meant he would later be overshadowed by his rivals who advocated manoeuvre warfare. Model first came to Hitler's attention before World War II, but their relationship did not become especially close until 1942. His tenacious style of fighting and aggressive personality won him plaudits from Hitler, who considered him his best commander and repeatedly tasked him with retrieving desperate situations. However, the relationship had broken down by the end of the war, after Model was defeated at the Battle of the Bulge. In personal terms, Model was considered a thorough and competent leader, but was known to "demand too much, and that too quickly", accepting no excuses for failure from both his own men and those who outranked him. His troops were said to have "suffered under his too-frequent absences and erratic, inconsistent demands", and that he frequently lost sight of what was or wasn't practically possible. On the other hand, his dislike of bureaucracy and his crude speech often made him well-liked by some under his command... (more)

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French Renault FTs and assorted British tanks aid the Allied advance near Langres, France, in 1918.
Photo credit: United States Federal Government

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