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An armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) is a military vehicle, protected by armour and armed with weapons. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked.

Armoured fighting vehicles are classified according to their intended role on the battlefield and characteristics. This classification is not absolute; at different times different countries will classify the same vehicle in different roles. For example, armoured personnel carriers were generally replaced by infantry fighting vehicles in a very similar role, but the latter has some capabilities lacking in the former.

Successful general-purpose armoured fighting vehicles often also serve as the base of a whole family of specialised vehicles, for example, the M113 and MT-LB tracked carriers, and the Mowag Piranha wheeled AFV.

Contents

Tank

The tank is an all terrain AFV designed primarily to engage enemy forces by the use of direct fire in the frontal assault role. Though several configurations have been tried, particularly in the early experimental days of tank development, a standard, mature design configuration has since emerged to a generally accepted pattern. This features a main artillery gun, mounted in a fully rotating turret atop a tracked automotive hull, with various additional machine guns throughout.

Philosophically, the tank is, by its very nature, a purely offensive weapon. Being a protective encasement with at least one gun position, it is essentially a pillbox or small fortress (though these are static fortifications of a purely defensive nature) that can move toward the enemy - hence its offensive utility.

Historically, tanks are divided into 3 categories: Light Tanks (small, thinly armoured, weakly gunned, but highly mobile tanks intended for the armoured reconnaissance role), Medium Tanks (mid-sized, adequately armoured, respectably gunned, fairly mobile tanks intended to provide an optimum balance of characteristics for manoeuvre combat, primarily against other tanks), and Heavy Tanks (large, thickly armoured, powerfully gunned, but barely mobile tanks intended for the breakthrough role against fortified lines, particularly in support of infantry formations). Other designations (such as Cavalry Tank, Cruiser Tank, and Infantry Tank) have been used by various countries to denote similar roles.

A modern main battle tank incorporates advances in automotive, artillery, and armour technology to combine the best characteristics of all three historic types into a single, all around type. It is distinguished by its high level of firepower, mobility and armour protection relative to other vehicles of its era. It can cross comparatively rough terrain at high speeds, but is fuel, maintenance, and ammunition-hungry which makes it logistically demanding. It has the heaviest armour of any vehicle on the battlefield, and carries a powerful weapon that may be able to engage a wide variety of ground targets. It is among the most versatile and fearsome weapons on the battlefield, valued for its shock action against other troops and high survivability.

Armoured car

HMMWV in Afghanistan

The military's armoured car is a wheeled armoured vehicle, lighter than other armoured fighting vehicles, primarily being armoured and/or armed for self-defence of the occupants. Other multi-axled wheeled military vehicles can be quite large, and actually be superior to some smaller tracked vehicles in terms of armour and armament.

Armoured personnel carrier

Priest Kangaroo of 209th Self-Propelled Battery, Royal Artillery, transports infantry of 78th Division near Conselice, Italy, 13 April 1945

Armoured personnel carriers are intended to carry infantry quickly and relatively safely to point where they are deployed. In 1918, the British Mk V tank was capable of carrying a small number of troops and in 1944, the Canadian general Guy Simonds ordered the conversion of redundant armoured vehicles to carry troops (generically named "Kangaroos"). This proved highly successful, even without training, and the concept was widely used in the 21st Army Group. Post-war, specialised designs were built, culminating in the Soviet BTR-60 and US M113.

Infantry fighting vehicle

An American M2 Bradley Infantry fighting vehicle.

An infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) is an armoured personnel carrier which allows the infantry to fight from inside, and can provide significant fire support. The first IFV was the Soviet BMP-1, which surprised western intelligence analysts when it appeared in a military parade in 1967.

Modern IFVs are well-armed infantry carriers that allow the infantry inside to fight from within the vehicle. They are different from earlier APCs by their heavier armament allowing them to give direct-fire support during an assault, firing ports allowing the infantry to fire personal weapons while mounted, and improved armour. They are typically armed with a twenty millimetre or larger autocannon, and possibly with ATGMs. IFVs are usually tracked, but some wheeled vehicles fall into this category, too.

Specially-equipped IFVs have taken on some of the roles of light tanks; they are used by reconnaissance organizations, and light IFVs are used by airborne units which must be able to fight without the heavy firepower of tanks.

Tank destroyer

Norwegian NM142, a modern tank destroyer armed with antitank missiles.

Self-propelled anti-tank guns, or tank destroyers, are used primarily to provide antitank support for infantry or tank units, in defensive or withdrawal operations. They may mount a high-velocity anti-tank gun or sometimes an antitank guided missile launcher, or ATGM.

Tank destroyers cannot fulfil the many roles of tanks; they are much less flexible, and usually lacking in anti-infantry capability, but they are much less expensive to manufacture, maintain, and resupply than tanks.

Gun-armed tank destroyers have been largely supplanted by the more general-purpose tanks and ATGM launchers since World War II, with lightly-armoured ATGM carriers used for supplementary long-range antitank capabilities, and to replace tanks in light or airborne forces.

Self-propelled gun

A self-propelled gun (SPG) is a gun, whether it be an artillery piece, anti-tank gun, or anti-aircraft gun, mounted on a motorized wheeled or tracked chassis. As such the gun can be maneuvered under its own power as opposed to a towed gun that relies upon a vehicle or other means to be moved on the battlefield. Self-propelled guns are combat support weapons; they are employed by combat support units fighting in support of, or attached to, the main combat units: infantry and armour.

Some self-propelled guns are used as artillery pieces in a similar manner to traditional towed howitzers and as such also fall under the umbrella description of self-propelled artillery, but the two terms are not the same and the one is not a sub group or specialization of the other.

The greatest tactical advantage in the case of artillery guns is clearly the greater degree of mobility they have compared to towed artillery. Not only is it important in offering military forces greater flexibility, but it is critical in avoiding attack from the enemy (counter-battery fire) by allowing the guns to change position immediately after firing one or more salvos and before their position can be located ("shoot-and-scoot" tactics). A secondary advantage in the case of armoured guns is the increased protection offered to the gun crews.

Tankette

A tankette in a Polish museum.

A tankette is a small armoured fighting vehicle with a crew of one or two, similar to a tank, intended for infantry support or reconnaissance. Most had no turret and were armed with one or two machine guns, or rarely with a heavier gun or grenade launcher. Tankettes were produced between about 1930 and 1941, but the concept was abandoned because of its limited utility and vulnerability to anti-tank weapons. Their role was largely taken over by armoured cars.

The British Carden Loyd tankette and Bren Carrier. It was one of the 1st designs—many others were modelled after it.

Other classic designs were the Italian L3/35 ,Polish TKS ,Japan was among the most prolific users of tankettes, producing a number of designs, which they found useful for jungle warfare.

See also

References

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