Armoured fighting vehicles


Perhaps the best known fighters of World War II were Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs), or tanks.  Each superpower had dozens, often hundreds of tank types.  The purpose of AFVs is to provide support to infantry and act as a vehicle for large-scale artillery and armoured protection.


World War II was the first time that tanks were seriously incorporated into warfare.  The first German tank was designed in 1912 and built in 1916.  Though AFVs  were developed by most countries in the 1920s and 1930s, they were not used seriously until WWII, and considered largely ineffective.  However, when Germany instituted its “Blitzkrieg” tactics, tanks became crucial.  They were they key to Hitler’s devastating 5 week sweep through Poland.  Many new advancements were quickly generated.  In response, the Allied forces upped their AFV development.


A tank’s performance depends on three key factors: firepower, armour, and mobility.  These factors are dependant on one another.  For instance, a tank with a great deal of firepower likely has a decreased mobility.  In this way, different types of tanks were suited for different purposes.  In general, though, tanks can be classified into three types:

            -Light Tanks: These are tanks whose purposes are to assist the cavalry by providing infantry support, reconnaissance work, and first enemy engagement.  These tanks tend to be smaller and have more mobility and less firepower and armour.

            Examples: M5 A1 “Stuart” (USA), M 24 “Chaffee” (US), T-60 (USSR), Panzer II (Germany), Typ 95 “HA-GO” (Japan), Hotchkiss 39 (France)

            -Medium Tanks: These tanks provide infantry support and antitank power against enemy light tanks.  They represent the majority of total tanks, and are considered the core of tank strength.  Firepower, armour, and mobility are given equal footing.

            Examples: M4 “Sherman” (USA), M3 “Lee/Grant” (USA), Panzer III and IV (Germany), T 34/85 (USSR), Somua 35 (France), Mk VIII “Cromwell” (Great Britain)

-Heavy Tanks: These tanks generally watch over the medium and light tanks, and undertake antitank measures on medium tanks.  They also are at the front of a defending line, and are the first to break through an enemy line.  They are few in number, and tend to have powerful firepower and armour, but poor mobility.

Examples: M.26 “Pershing” (USA), Panzer VI Tiger (Germany), Inf. Mk. II “Matilda” (Great Britain), Inf. Mk VIII “Churchill” (Great Britain), KV-1 “Voroschilov” (USSR), JS 2 “Stalin” (USSR)

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           Allied Tank Development                     Axis Tank Development














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