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Fastest Tanks in the World

Updated on July 12, 2018
Savio Dawson profile image

Savio is a resident of Mumbai, India. Cars, bikes and everything fast are his passion and he writes about them on numerous reputable sites.

Introduction

In the article on the fastest submarine, we had pointed out that it is not really important for an attack submarine to be fast as much as remain silent. Here is another class of vehicles which need not be too fast rather should focus on being nimble. We are talking about the Tanks and surprisingly, they are fast indeed.

In a conflict scenario, tanks can be easily air dropped or air transported to the conflict zone, so it need not be necessarily fast to reach the spot. So then why talk about speed at all? There are many reasons for that, for example, to pursue and catch-up with retreating enemy tanks, to reach another point of conflict from where the tank was originally deployed or simply to retreat in haste, should such a scenario arise. Makes sense? So, now that we know the possible reasons let’s look at the speed hulks of the military world.

For the sake of standardization, I am assuming a couple of points. We will be taking all tracked vehicles or the ones replacing tracked vehicles. Otherwise, we will have to look across categories like tanks, tank destroyer, armored tracked vehicle, etc. Second we will be talking about top speed in standard road conditions and wherever this information is not available, the available speed details will be considered and the same will be specifically mentioned.

1. Iveco SuperAV

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The numero uno armored vehicle on the list is an amphibious one and it is an 8 by 8 personnel carrier. The Super AV is also the newest entrant to the armored vehicle category expected to be operational by 2018 end. The Super AV is expected to replace another amphibious vehicle belonging to the American Navy - the AAV7. The SuperAV, though not a tracked vehicle itself, it replaces another tracked vehicle which is the AAV7. The AAV7 will be covered on this list and as readers will soon know it is one workhorse.

  • Tank: Iveco SuperAV
  • Country: Italy
  • Speed on road: 105 kmph [65 mph]
  • Speed off road: 60 kmph [37.3 mph]
  • Speed in water: 10 kmph [6.2 mph]
  • Weight: 52,872 lb (24 tons)
  • Numbers built: 500+ [Expected]
  • Produced from: 2018 onwards
  • Current Status: Active

2. American M18 Hellcat

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The Hellcat has two distinctions for a tank destroyer out there. It is one of the fastest and second, it was built by Buick. Yes, you heard me right; the car maker Buick was the manufacturer of this tank. Buick, under General Motors, was not particularly known for the production of the fastest cars but when it came to tanks, it ended up building the fastest one. Only one model of a tank was ever built by Buick but the thing was so fast that its record for fastest road run stood until the SuperAV came by; that's a neat seven decades at the top. The speed was possible by making the tank lighter and lighter means less of armor. Well, that’s the secret of its speed.

  • Tank: M18 Hellcat
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed on road: 96.6 kmph [60 mph]
  • Speed off road: 29 kmph [18 mph]
  • Weight: 39,000 lb (17.7 metric tons)
  • Numbers built: 2,500+
  • Produced from: 1943 – 1944
  • Current Status: Retired by the U.S. but still used in various variants by other countries

The MI8, in a crude way to state, was supposed to be a cost-effective project. The cost of each unit was about USD 60,000 and it served the purpose. What was not envisaged at that point was how nimble the destroyer would be and it did quite well on the battlefield. It had the best ratio of kill to loss as compared to any other tank fielded by the U.S. in the Second World War. The nimbleness came to much use against the German tanks, allowing the M18 to flank the German ones and fire through the light armored back.

3. Russian T-14 Armata

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This main battle tank is as recent as recent can be. It is the fourth generation Russian battle tank and in production since 2015. It trumps all other speed records of the main battle tank of any country that existed before 2015. T-14 was envisaged as a counter to the M1 Abrams of the United States (which we will learn about shortly). It appears that Russia has built something which is way better than the Abrams and therefore elicited a response from America to develop their own next-generation tank. We will cover an additional segment about this new American tank at the end.

  • Tank: T-14 Armata
  • Country: Russia
  • Speed on road: 90 kmph [56 mph]
  • Speed off road: 56 kmph [35 mph] [Estimated]
  • Weight: 105,762 lb (48 metric tons)
  • Numbers built: 20 built and series production started
  • Produced from: 2015 onwards
  • Current Status: To be deployed

The T-14 boasts of many firsts and few best in the world features. The muzzle energy for its main gun is considered the best in the world surpassing the previous best of the German Leopard 2. The other enhancement is that of an unmanned turret allowing better and faster reaction to changes in firing direction if need be. The video, in fact, shows the turret in action. No wonder the Americans are a bit concerned.

4. British FV101 Scorpion

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This tank or for that matter this tracked armored reconnaissance vehicle was certified as the fastest production tank in 2002. Understandably, the much recent T-14 would not have been rated yet on speed and the M18 is not exactly a tank. Remember, we mentioned that these are all different forms of tracked vehicles. So, we will still hold our list in the mentioned order and call out the Guinness record for this particular one.

  • Tank: FV101 Scorpion
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Speed on road: 82.23 kmph [51.07 mph]
  • Speed off road: 56 kmph [35 mph] [Estimated]
  • Weight: 17,800 lb (8 metric tons)
  • Numbers built: 3000+
  • Produced from: 1973 – present (many retired)
  • Current Status: Partly active. Most retired

The interesting part is that the FV101 is lighter than the M18 Hellcat and way lighter than the T-14 Armata and yet is slower than the two. Of course, that would be a bit unkind to the Scorpion considering it to be a way older model as compared to the T-14.

5. M1 Abrams

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The M1 Abrams is one of the main battle tanks of the United States military along with armies of few other countries. It replaced the M60 and production started in 1980 and still continues in further variants of the original M1.

  • Tank: M1 Abrams
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed on road: 72.45 kmph [45 mph]
  • Speed off road: 48.3 kmph [30 mph]
  • Weight: 132,203 lb (60 metric tons)
  • Numbers built: 10,000+
  • Produced from: 1979 – present
  • Current Status: Active

There were two things that stood out about the Abrams and maybe that is why it continues in service today. As compared to the M18, it has a faster off-road speed and therefore more practical in combat situations. It also does an impressive speed, which we just spoke about, despite being nearly four times heavier than the M18. This means that it is well-armored along with having the best munition available. The only point against it is the fact that it may not be as nimble as the M18 but then nimbleness is definitely not a major disadvantage in the conditions that the Abrams operates.

6. Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) 7

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The AAV7 is one of the oldest amphibious tanks on our list and is in production since 1972. The need was for tanks which can traverse water bodies during wars and the AAV7 fit the bill perfectly.

  • Tank: Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV7)
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed on road: 72.45 kmph [45 mph]
  • Speed off road: 32.2 kmph [20 mph]
  • Speed in water:12.9 kmph [8 mph]
  • Weight: 64,108 lb (29.1 tons)
  • Numbers built: 1,000+
  • Produced from: 1972 – present
  • Current Status: Active

The AAV7 had been part of wars in Vietnam, Iraq and the Persian Gulf. Of course, it did participate in others too. The ease of use, especially to launch from the shorelines, is what helped the AAV7 to become a popular choice for the Americans. However, having neared the end of its life, it will soon be replaced by the SuperAV.

7. BMP - 3

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The BMP - 3 is a Soviet Infantry Vehicle which had a partial amphibious role. This is one tank which has been in operation since 1987 and has witnessed the Chechen War and the recent Yemeni Civil War in 2015.

Here are some vital stats of the vehicle:

  • Tank: BMP - 3
  • Country: Soviet Union of Russia
  • Speed on road: 72 kmph [44.7 mph]
  • Speed off road: 45 kmph [28 mph]
  • Speed in water:10 kmph [6.2 mph]
  • Weight: 41,197 lb (18.7 tons)
  • Numbers built: 2,000+
  • Produced from: 1987 – present
  • Current Status: Active

8. German Leopard 2

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The German Leopard 2 is one of the finest battle tanks built and is comparable in operation to the M1 Abrams of the United States and Challenger 2 of the United Kingdom. It is, in fact, compared to the two well-known and operationally ratified best tanks in the world. The video below shows the comparison between German Leopard 2 and Challenger 2. Do take a look to decide for yourselves. In the meantime, here are some stats:

  • Tank: Leopard 2
  • Country: Germany
  • Speed on road: 71 kmph [44 mph]
  • Speed off road: 45 kmph [28 mph]
  • Weight: 136,609 lb (62 metric tons)
  • Numbers built: 3,400+
  • Produced from: 1979 – present
  • Current Status: Active

Leopard 2 vs. Challenger 2

The Leopard had one of the best muzzle energy delivered for its main gun until the T-14 took that crown. The tank which started as Leopard 1 in West Germany went on to improve as Leopard 2 in United Germany and later serving twelve other European countries and five non-European countries. It had many operational records to its name while safety features include one of the toughest armors which could withstand a 125 mm round fired from a distance of 1.5 km.

9. Combat Vehicle (CV) 90

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The better-known version of this tracked combat vehicle is the CV90- Armadillo. The Armadillo though, is not a combat vehicle, rather a heavily armored vehicle which depending on the need could be converted to an Ambulance, Armoured Personnel Carrier, etc. So, then let’s go back to the CV90. The CV90 is Swedish and was developed by BAE Systems. It was designed for the Swedish army and had to be heavily armored yet agile and carry out anti-tank and anti-aircraft operations. The CV90 fit the bill and continues to be in operation since the 1990s.

  • Tank: Combat Vehicle 90
  • Country: Sweden
  • Speed on road: 70 kmph [43.48 mph]
  • Speed off road: 48.3 kmph [30 mph] [Not available. Estimated]
  • Weight: 77,118 lb (35 metric tons) [Maximum]
  • Numbers built: 1,120+
  • Produced from: 1993 – present
  • Current Status: Active

Most of the buyers of the combat-capable CV 90 are Scandinavian. Though the vehicle was in production since 1993, its real combat test came during the war in Afghanistan when it was bought by a couple of NATO nations for the war. It held its own in the war and continues to be in operation as we speak.

10. Challenger 2

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The Challenger 2 is the United Kingdom equivalent of the M1 Abrams. There are very few tanks which have achieved operational excellence in battle and the Challenger 2 is one of them. It is an extensive upgrade over Challenger 1, to the extent that there is hardly any interchangeable parts between the two. When it comes to the best armored and protected tank in the world, the Challenger 2 makes the list.

  • Tank: Challenger 2
  • Country: British
  • Speed on road: 63 kmph [39 mph]
  • Speed off road: 40 kmph [25 mph]
  • Weight: 137,710 lb (62.5 metric tons)
  • Numbers built: 440+
  • Produced from: 1998 – present
  • Current Status: Active

Do have a look at the video comparative between the Leopard 2 and Challenger 2 to understand the Challenger a bit more (video is shown under the Leopard 2).

11. VN - 18

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The VN - 18 is claimed by the Chinese to be the fastest amphibious assault vehicle in the world. While the "on road" speed does not justify that tag, it is the speed in water which makes it really fast. The speed of 30 kmph in water is way faster than the AAV7 of America. So in a track with water body and dry terrain, the VN - 18 may just pip the AAV7.

  • Tank: VN - 18
  • Country: China
  • Speed on road: 65 kmph [40.4 mph]
  • Speed off road: 45 kmph [28 mph]
  • Speed in water: 30 kmph [18.6 mph]
  • Weight: 58,380 lb (26.5 tons)
  • Numbers built: 50+
  • Produced from: 2017 onwards
  • Current Status: Active

The reason for its overall speed is many innovative ideas like the wheel track contracting while in water and therefore, reducing drag. The same level of innovation is expected in the weapons department about which China is mum at the moment.

Special: Unnamed American Super Tank

Only for representation. Not true model.
Only for representation. Not true model. | Source

Now we have gone through all the fast tanks that are available out there and it is obvious that the most updated and modern seems to be the T-14. Besides, the modifications and changes that have been done on the M1 Abrams, the currently active main tank of the Americans, is reaching its peak. Which means it cannot be technically upgraded much hereon. Adding to that is the fact that the NATO allies have their own share of aging tanks like the Leopard 2 and Challenger 2. All these have prompted the U.S. to look at their own next-generation tank.

The tank will be technologically most advanced boasting of laser range finder, color cameras, advanced meteorological sensors, integrated onboard networks, laser warning receivers as well as computer algorithm so complex that it will make the tank nearly autonomous in operation. This tank, at least in concept, is expected to be ready by 2021 and till such time we can only conjecture about how it would look or how well it would perform; more importantly for the sake of our list, how fast would it go. If the speed of the T-14 is any indication then expect this particular model also to do a 90-100 kmph. After all, Americans are the ones who built the fastest M18 many decades back. Can they do it again? Time will tell.

Watch the following comparative video between M1 Abrams and the T-14, one of many such factors leading to this particular futuristic model from the Americans.

Looking Ahead

Tanks will continue to see radical improvements from the current generation. Will radical improvements also include speed? We don’t know but until we get to know, this article should give the readers a good company.

Barring the speed, which Tank appeared most impressive?

See results

© 2018 Savio Koman

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