Beasts of the battlefield: 21 fascinating facts about tanks

Tanks were used for the first time in September 1915 by the British Army during World War I at the Battle of the Somme. A century later, tanks continue to play a pivotal role during conflict.

Learn more interesting facts about the beasts of the battlefield.

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The first tank, the Mark I, was developed by the British at the start of WWI via a program initiated by E.D. Swinton and Maurice Hankey. The Mark I weighed 26 tons and was armed with 57 mm guns and could travel at the speed of 3.7 mph. (Pictured) Mark I tank bridging a trench in about 1917.

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Tanks were categorized according to their gender in World War I. Male tanks had cannons, female tanks had machine guns and prototype tanks were called “Little Willie.”(Pictured) Soldiers pass by a tank on their way to support French troops in Juvigny, France, during World War I.

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During WWI, Germany devised effective tactics to tackle tanks and destroyed 72 percent of Allied tanks in a mere four days at the Battle of Amiens in 1918. The British Tank Corps that consisted of over 500 tanks was left with only 6 tanks by the end of the fourth day of the battle. (Pictured) An illustration by Achille Beltrame depicts the advance of cavalry and light tanks of the allied forces on the front of Amiens in 1918.

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Britain and France were at the forefront of battle tank manufacturing industry with a total of 6,506 tanks. Meanwhile, Germany added a mere 20 tanks to its arsenal between 1916 and 1918. (Pictured) A 1917 image of a tank from World War I.

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Produced by France from 1932 to 1940, the French Renault UE Chenillete is considered to be the smallest tank ever made. It was just under six feet long and a little taller than four feet. (Pictured) German soldiers inside a captured French UE during the Battle of France in June 1940.

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The Battle of Kursk is considered to be the largest tank battle in history. The battle involved an estimated 23,000 tanks and over four million men. At the end of the battle, the Germans had lost 350 tanks, while Russian forces suffered a tank casualties of over 800 vehicles. (Pictured) Soviet soldiers walk past a burning T-34 tank during the Battle of Kursk, Russia, July 1943.

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The French Army's main battle tank, the AMX-56 Leclerc, is reported to be the world's most expensive tank at an estimated cost of $12.5 million. (Pictured) Leclerc, drive down the Champs Elysees during the Bastille Day parade in Paris.

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Russia, with 22,710 main battle tanks, commands the largest battle tank force in the world. The United States, with over 9,000 battle tanks is a distant second. (Pictured) Russian T-90A main battle tanks during the Victory Day Parade on May 9, 2015, in Moscow, Russia.


The tank biathlon is a military sporting event organized by the Russian military that tests tank crews’ rough terrain passing skills as well as their abilities to provide accurate and rapid fire. (Pictured) Belarus, Russian, Kazakh and Armenian teams during the 2013 competition.

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In 2015, crews from seventeen nations, including Angola, Kuwait, Nicaragua, China, India, Kuwait, and Venezuela took part in the competition along with the Russia. The hosts claimed the 2015 title by winning all 13 categories of the tournament. All of the participating countries, with the exception of China, competed using the T-72B3. China opted to brought its own Type 96A tanks for the event.

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The battle between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights is hailed as the greatest tank battle ever fought. The Israeli Defense Force, consisting of 3,000 troops, 180 tanks and 60 artillery pieces, successfully thwarted an attack by a heavily armed Syrian Army that boasted 28,000 troops, 800 tanks and 600 artillery pieces. (Pictured) Destroyed Syrian T-62 tanks lie abandoned by retreating Syrian troops on October 13, 1973, in the Golan Heights.


Russia's T-54/55 series of tanks are the most widely produced. The tanks debuted in 1943, and, so far, 100,000 have been built. Their most recent use came during the Libyan Civil War in 2011. (Pictured) Libyan Army's T-54 and T-55 tanks.

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The U.S. M1A2 "Abrams," equipped with a vast suite of electronic defensive systems and countermeasures, a 120-mm gun and laser-guided missiles, have some of the most advanced electronics on board a tank. (Pictured) U.S. 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment's M1A2 "Abrams" tank takes part in an exercise at Adazi military base in Latvia on May 7, 2015.

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Currently, Russia's T-90 tank is armed with the largest cannon (125 mm). However, Russia’s T-14 Armata tank that is in production has a 125 mm cannon can be upgraded to 152 mm cannon. (Pictured) Russian T-90A main battle tanks drive during the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2015.

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The U.S. 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment used superior equipment and training to overcome a blinding sandstorm and subdued hundreds of tanks manned by Iraqi Revolutionary Guards. It is one of the most studied tank battles in modern times and is considered to be the last great tank battle of the 20th century. (Pictured) U.S. troops lean on an M1A1 Abrams main battle tank at an assembly point on Jan. 21, 1991, in Saudi Arabia.

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Currently under development, Russia's fifth generation main battle tank (MBT), the T-14 Armata, has been hailed as the world's most advanced and deadliest tank. (Pictured) Russian T-14 tanks with the Armata Universal Combat Platform drive during the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2015.

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Poland is in the process of designing "The Tank of the Future," called the PL-01. The tank is coated with a chameleon-like skin that helps it replicate the infrared signature of its surroundings and appear invisible to infrared cameras. The tank can appear to be a car when viewed via an infrared camera. (Pictured) The PL-01 concept vehicle at the International Defense Industry Exhibition in Poland in 2013.

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Britain's Challenger 2 is considered to be the most armored and best protected tank in the world. The details of the state-of-the-art composite Chobham armor are classified. (Pictured) The Royal Tank Regiment's Challenger II on patrol in Zubayr, south of Basra, southern Iraq.


Britain's FV101 Scorpion is the fastest tank in the world and can reach speeds in excess of 51 mph on a test surface. (Pictured) Scorpion advancing across the desert during the first Gulf War.

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In the ongoing Syrian Civil War, rebels have developed their own tank, Sham II. The tank is fitted with five video cameras and uses a PlayStation controller to operate the machine gun. (Pictured) Sham II of the Al-Ansar brigade in action in Bishqatin, Syria.