Invention Of Tanks

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Invention Of Tanks

Like they say, 'necessity is the mother of all inventions', the adage applies to the birth of tanks quite as much as to any other invention. Tanks were developed by the British, as the Western Front was not a friendly battlefield for them. The British Army was, thus, in urgent need of a self-propelled vehicle that could glide over the trenches, crush barbed wire, and was an impervious machine-gun fire. The only thing even remotely similar to what they had in mind was a Rolls-Royce Armoured Car used by Royal Naval Air Service in 1914. Inspired by it, the Landships Committee, sponsored by the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, created the first successful prototype tank, and called it Little Willie. It was tested by the British Army on September 6, 1915.

However, the term 'tank' was not how this enormously powerful machine was supposed to be called. It was originally called the Landship. But, in order to prevent the word from getting out, it was referred to as water-carriers so that the workers building it could get the impression that they were working on water containers for the British army in Mesopotamia. The word 'tank' came thus and stuck to it forever.

The first tank was operated when a Mark I was put into action at Delville Wood during the Battle of the Somme. In World War I allied forces could break an entrenched German position with this armored support with ease, making trench warfare obsolete. The tanks made a significant contribution to allied victory in World War I.

Its not that the tanks were a hit, right away. In fact, there were several problems with its reliability. The German forces did suffer, as they had no counter weapons to defend themselves against the tanks and the shock value of the tanks took its own toll. But, eventually the Germans did discover an anti-tank shot rather accidentally and started using wider trenches to arrest the mobility of the British tanks. They used medium weight guns such as the German 88-millimeter antiaircraft gun for tank busting. The Allied tanks continued evolving throughout the war, producing models such as the very long Mark V.

In the meanwhile the Germans caught up with them and produced the Tiger tank- a behemoth, with armor that Allied tank guns couldn't penetrate from the front even at point-blank range. In fact, the Allies won the war despite having inferior weaponry. But, world war hostility that ensued after the World War I ensured that the future of tanks was bright.

The British designed the most advanced tanks between the World Wars, due largely to their interest in an armored force during the 1920s. France and Germany did not engage in much development during this period. Light tanks and medium tanks were also developed. Medium tanks were built for long range high-speed travel while the heavy or infantry tanks were heavily armored but were generally very slow. Vulnerability to tank and anti-tank fire led to a rapid up-armoring and up-gunning of almost all tank designs. Tank shape, previously guided purely by considerations of obstacle clearance, now became a trade-off, with a low profile desirable for stealth and stability.

World War II saw a series of advances in tank design. Germany, for example, initially fielded lightly armored tanks, such as the Panzer I. These fast-moving tanks and other armored vehicles were a critical element of the Blitzkrieg. However, they fared poorly in direct combat with the British tanks and suffered severely against the Soviet T-34, which was superior in armor and weaponry. By the end of the war all forces had dramatically increased their tanks' firepower and armor. For instance, the Panzer I had only two machine guns, and the Panzer IV carried a low-velocity 75mm gun and weighed under twenty tonnes.

Most tanks were equipped with radios during this time, vastly improving the direction of units. Tank chassis were adapted to a wide range of military jobs including mine-clearing and combat engineering tasks. All major combatant powers also developed specialized self-propelled guns- artillery, tank destroyers, and assault guns (armored vehicles carrying large-caliber guns). Turrets, not a universal feature on tanks earlier, were recognized as the way forward. However, multiple-turreted tank designs like the Soviet T-35 were abandoned by World War II. After World War II, most of the tanks retained at least one hull machine gun.

Tanks need constant infantry support, without which they cannot survive. Now infantry can carry weapons which, when properly used and with a bit of luck, can destroy enemy tanks. Although tanks have macabre firepower, they generally can't use it in all directions at once. The crew of a tank also has notorious limitations on what they can see outside. Therefore, infantry are typically deployed to protect the tank from enemy infantry, and the tank, in reciprocation, protects the retreating or advancing infantry from other tanks and armored vehicles.

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