Tanks (vehicle)

How come military tanks do not have wheels?

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2013-02-28 05:06:07

"Military_Tanks" id="Military_Tanks">Military Tanks

Here are opinions and answers from FAQ Farmers:

  • To improve traction and hence mobilty. Tracks also allow Tanks

    to cross gaps such as ditches.

  • A tank weighs between 40 and 70 tons, depending on what model

    it is. If you built a tank with wheels, it would concentrate all

    that weight on a few small points, and the vehicle would sink into

    the ground. Tracks spread that weight out.

Following on from as said above, the key reasons why Military

Tanks don't have wheels is because:

  • Tracks on Tanks helps improve Traction and Mobility on all

    kinds of surface

  • Reduce Chances of getting Stuck
  • get rid of possibility of tyres can be blown (tyres can't be

    made bullet proof unless made of full bulletproof material.

  • Tracks displace to weight of a tank on all parts of the track

    instead off on a single wheel.

The rule that "tanks have tracks, armored cars have wheels" is a

very arbitrary one, and one which is increasingly wrong. In the

current 4th generation of armored vehicles, the distinction between

a "true" tank with tracks and an uprated wheeled fighting vehicle

is very little, particularly in concept. In particular, current

mobile armored warfare doctrine has three major roles for armored

vehicles (not including things like artillery, vehicle recovery,


  1. High mobility, Heavy Firepower vehicles able to quickly

    blast holes through enemy lines and then rush into the rear to

    wreck havoc with logistical and other support functions. Today,

    this is the task for the MBT (Main Battle Tank)

  2. High mobility, Scouting and Screening vehicles are

    intended to search out the position of the enemy, and gather

    intelligence about strength, condition, and other tactical

    information. A wide variety of vehicles are used in this role by

    different armies.

  3. Infantry Support vehicles are the infantry's best

    friend. Some of them are simply battle taxis, while others provide

    significant fire support and protection all on their own. APCs,

    IFVs, and a host of other vehicles now fill this role.

In the first category, mobility across a huge variety of terrain

tends to be at a premium, as the ability to go anywhere quickly is

key to mobile armored warfare. Tracks provide the best mobility

across the widest terrain features of any vehicle propulsion

system, due to both a huge traction advantage, and an extremely low

ground pressure (a 70-ton Abrams M1A2 has less ground pressure per

area than a soldier standing still). Thus, tracked vehicles are

virtually the entire category.

In the scouting role, however, tracked vehicles are hardly the

only option, and make up a slim majority of all such vehicles. The

high mobility requirements are a large advantage over their wheeled

counterpart, but there are significant disabilities that often

result in wheeled tanks. Wheels are far faster over smooth, hard

surfaces. They are also significantly quieter, and stealth is a

major consideration for scouts. Additionally, wheeled vehicles have

a higher reliability than tracked ones, and scouting missions often

require long periods of time outside the logistical supply chain.

Thus, this category is fairly evenly split between tracked and

wheeled tanks, which otherwise have very similar characteristics.

This is where you typically see something classified as a "light"

tank. In fact, many armies have both a wheeled and tracked light

tank available for use; they use the one most appropriate to the


In the last category, most "tanks" actually carry infantry

(though this is not exclusively true). The APC and IFV are the

classic category vehicles, but newer ones such as the US's Armored

Gun System also fit here. The prime design requirements for this

category are moderate mobility (enough to keep up with the MBTs on

many, but not all, terrain) and enough firepower to defeat common

opponents of the infantry. Once again, wheeled and tracked vehicles

are mixed here, and they are often use together.

Overall, tracks have the following advantages:

  • Very low ground pressure, making movement over soft terrain

    easy. Ironically, modern tanks have so little ground pressure that

    they will not set off anti-tank mines.

  • Extremely high traction, enabling them to climb very steep

    inclines and traverse extremely uneven terrain

  • Long drive path, enabling the crossing of wide barriers and


  • Relative immunity to small arms fire
  • Very high maneuverability, able to turn in extremely tight


They have the following disadvantages:

  • High cost
  • High complexity, and resulting higher maintenance (and lower


  • Vulnerability to mid-range weaponry (autocannons and light AT

    rockets), which can quickly result in a "mobility kill"

  • Loud sound signature
  • High abuse of the surfaces they traverse, radically degrading

    it for further use.

Wheels on the other hand, have these advantages:

  • Very high speed on hard surfaces, and correspondingly high fuel


  • Relative simplicity of suspension, and relative ease of both

    maintenance and repair

  • Multi-axle designs provide significant cross-country and

    extreme terrain performance, though not through very soft


  • Advanced designs are mostly resistant to small arms fire, and,

    while easier to damage than tracks, are more able to operate when


  • Significantly cheaper overall than tracked designs
  • Quiet

Wheeled designs have these disadvantages:

  • Poor performance over soft terrain
  • High ground pressure, and vulnerable to mines
  • Requires significant space for multi-axel designs
  • Less maneuverable than tracks

Nowdays, tank designers take all of the above into

consideration, and balance them again the design criteria to chose

which to use. Thus, a "tank" (as defined as: "an armored vehicle

armed with a large caliber main gun and significant armor

protection") doesn't have to, and often doesn't, have tracks.

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