Top Military Tanks of All Time (and the best U.S. Army tanks)

In today’s post, I’d like to share what I believe are the 10 top military tanks of all time.

The use of tanks can be traced back to the 15th century. A Hussite leader by the name of Jan Žižka used wagons tied together with cannons inside. While not anywhere near the tanks we know of today, they were a start.

It was not until World War I when we first witnessed actual tanks. It was the British who took the lead by using a Mark I tank in trench warfare. Since that time, the majority of military forces worldwide have designed and used tanks.

top military tanks

10 Top Military Tanks of All Time

In the paragraphs below, using many different factors, I will share my list of the top 10 tanks in military history. The many factors will include:

  • Power
  • Maneuverability
  • Maintenance
  • Armament
  • Effectiveness
  • and more

You may or may not agree with my findings. That’s cool. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comment section at the end of this post. I will start with #10 and work my way to the #1 tank in military history.

# 10: German Panzer IV

The Panzer IV was designed and manufactured in the 1930’s. It was one of the primary German tanks during World War II. It was fast and could travel up to 26 MPH. It was originally supposed to be a support tank for the Panzer III’s, but the maneuverability and speed made it a top tank for the Germans.

The Panzer IV could well be described as the workhorse of the German Panzer arm.

Classed originally as a close-support tank for panzer regiments its short, stubby 75mm gun fired high explosive and smoke rounds as required. At around 18 tons it was the heaviest front line tank in German service at the outbreak of war but, apart from the suspension, bore a strong family likeness to the Panzer III. Various improvements were introduced over the years but the most significant, dating from the winter of 1941/1942, was the fitting of the much longer 75mm KwK 40 which, at a stroke, made the Panzer IV one of the most powerful tanks on the battlefield. ~ Tank Museum

# 9: United Kingdom Centurion

This great tank was first made in the mid to late 1940’s. Some are still in use even today. While it is not the best at maneuvering, it makes up for it with firepower. There have been multiple designs, and it has been used by many U.K. allies. One test Centurion actually survived an atomic test.

The Centurion was the primary British Army main battle tank of the post-World War II period. Introduced in 1945, it is widely considered to be one of the most successful post-war tank designs, remaining in production into the 1960s, and seeing combat in the front lines into the 1980s. The chassis was also adapted for several other roles, and these have remained in service to this day. It was a very popular tank with good armour, maneuverability, and gun. ~ Wiki Mili

# 8: German Leopard 2

These German tanks have been manufactured since the mid 1970’s. Such a great design, they have been adapted to various conditions. The newest design, the Leopard 2A7 is considered a magnificent tank design. It has heavy armor, but is fast traveling at a top speed of 45 MPH. The upgrades including thermal imaging give operators a state of art piece of machinery.

The Leopard 2A7+ battle tank is built based on the Leopard 2 MBT and employs digitised technology and multifunctional user concept for improved sustainability. The turret and chassis of the Leopard 2A7+ are fitted with a cooling system. 

The modular design of the tank allows high-intensity operations in urban environments. The battle tank has a length of around 10.97m, width up to 4m and a turret roof height of 2.64m. The vehicle weighs 67,500kg and can be controlled by a crew of four. Its exterior is incorporated with a communication interface to enable interaction between the dismounted soldiers.

The modernised Leopard battle tank features enhanced protection, a high-performance power supply system, new nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) and air-conditioning systems, and C4I systems. ~ Army Technology

# 7: Russian T-54/55

Just after World War II, the Soviets began production of these tanks. These are well balanced tanks that travel upwards of 30 MPH. They have had tests that the T-54 withstood a nuclear detonation. Many were manufactured and they are still in use. This tank hits the list because there are so many of them in the world.

The T-54 and T-55 tanks are a series of Soviet main battle tanks introduced in the years following the Second World War. The first T-54 prototype was completed at Nizhny Tagil by the end of 1945. From the late 1950s, the T-54 eventually became the main tank for armoured units of the Soviet Army, armies of the Warsaw Pact countries, and many others. ~ Wikipedia

# 6: American M1 Abrams

These great American tanks made light work of the Iraqi tanks in the Gulf War. They have been in service since 1980 and are the primary battle tank of both the U.S. Army and Marines. It is also used by several U.S. allies. The M1 Abrams has had modifications for better protection of personnel, but for the most part, it is the same design.

Approved for production in 1990, the M1A2 represents the U.S. Army’s technological improvement of the basic M1A1 design and the most modern battle tank in the world. Outwardly similar in appearance to the M1A1, the most notable exterior changes on the M1A2 are the redesigned Commander’s Weapon Station (CWS) and the addition of a Commander’s Independent Thermal Viewer) on the left side of the turret forward of the loader’s hatch. Internally, however, the M1A2 has been radically redesigned to take advantage of newer technology. ~

# 5: Israel Merkava

While it is heavy and not one of the faster tanks, the Israeli Merkava gains this spot for being the best protected tank of all. The armor is magnificent, and that is why it is so heavy. The Merkava also is made that personnel can repair it quickly when problems occur. It has a front mounted engine that provides better protection and more area to transport troops or carry ammo.

The tank’s main gun was the 105-millimeter M68 main gun, the same gun that appeared on the IDF’s Centurion, Patton and M60 tanks. The tank carried sixty-two rounds for the main gun, slightly above average, to ensure the tank could fight through ammunition supply shortages. The tank had three machine guns, including one coaxial 7.62-millimeter machine gun paired with the main gun and additional 12.7- and 7.62-millimeter machine guns up top for the commander and loader. These were useful for engaging enemy infantry, soft-skinned vehicles and antitank-missile teams, such as the AT-3 Sagger crews that took a heavy toll in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. A burst of machine-gun fire over the heads of a missile operator could throw a command-operated antitank missile off course, saving a tank and its crew. ~

# 4: German Tiger

There were very few of the German Tigers built because of the cost. If the Germans would have had more of these roaming the country sides during World War II, the outcome may had been different. These tanks were a nearly indestructible machine. The design gave ample protection to the operators, and while it was slow and heavy, the firepower was enormous. There were numerous issues with oil leaks though which made maintenance costly.

The Tiger (II) was the heaviest tank used during World War Two, weighing 57 tons, and its engine was so powerful that it could keep pace with tanks less than half its weight, at 40 kph. However, this weight posed a problem when crossing bridges. Early Tigers were fitted with a snorkel allowing them to cross rivers up to a 13 feet depth, though this was later abandoned, reducing the depth to 4 feet. ~

# 3: Russian T-34

I believe the Germans were attempting to copy the Russian T-34 with the German Tiger. The T-34 was also heavy, but it was somewhat faster than the Tiger. It also repelled enemy fire easily. The best part of this tank was the sheer number that rolled off production lines. The Germans could not keep up with the amount of T-34 tanks the Russians were sending into the War. It was the biggest produced tank in World War II, and the 2nd most produced tank in world history.

The T-34 had a profound effect on the conflict on the Eastern Front in the Second World War, and had a lasting impact on tank design. After the Germans encountered the tank in 1941, German general Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist called it “the finest tank in the world” and Heinz Guderian affirmed the T-34’s “vast superiority” over German tanks. Alfred Jodl, chief of operations staff of the German armed forces noted in his war diary “the surprise at this new and thus unknown wunder-armament being unleashed against the German assault divisions,” although its armour and armament were surpassed later in the war. ~ Wikipedia

# 2: American M4 Sherman

While many of today’s tanks would probably destroy the M4 Shermans, I put it in second place on this list because of the great use they had during World War II. They were inexpensive to manufacture. They were dependable and because of there great mobility, they are still in use today. They were easy to maintain, and any ex Sherman operator I have ever spoke with loved their tank.

The main gun was a 75 mm (2.95 in) M3 L/40 model, provided with 90 rounds, at first protected by a Combination Gun Mount M34 and coupled with a fixed secondary cal.30 (7.62 mm) Browning M1919A4 machine gun. Both machine-guns (coaxial and hull) received a total of 4750 rounds in cartridge bands, with some tracers. Later models received the new M34A full mantlet, which also protected the machine-gun port. Anti-air and anti-personal defense was provided by the turret roof cal.50 (12.7 mm) Browning heavy machine gun, provided with 400 rounds. The main gun had elevation and azimuth control and FM radio liaison with an artillery center for stationary gunnery support. The M4 was rugged and could endure a 2500 miles (4000 km) run before requiring any form of maintenance. This was particularly appreciated in many emergency situations, notably Patton’s famous “wild rides”, reminiscent of the Blitzkrieg throughout Europe. ~ Tanks Encyclopedia

# 1: United Kingdom Challenger 2

It is considered one of the best protected tanks in service. The Challenger 2 has been produced since the early 1990’s. It has the record for tank to tank battles. Personally, I would put this British marvel against any tank in the world. While it is not the fastest, it is armed to the gills, and the crew is protected to the best measures. I believe at this point in time, the Challenger 2 is the best military tank in the world.

Challenger 2 is an extensive redesign of the Challenger 1. Although the hull and automotive components seem similar, they are of a newer design and build than those of the Challenger 1, and fewer than 5% of components are interchangeable. Challenger 2 replaced Challenger 1 in service with the British Army and is also used by the Royal Army of Oman. It has seen operational service in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq. ~ Wargame Fandom

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, this is my opinion of the 10 top military tanks ever made, along with the top 10 U.S. Army tanks of all time. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my list? Why or why not? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.

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chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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