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Fastest Tanks in the World

Updated on April 25, 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

After the fastest submarine article which was written recently, 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 article talking about another moving vehicle which may not need to be fast; yet, they are quite fast.

You can read about the fastest submarines here

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, why do we need fast tanks? 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 on the list else we will have to bring in the known difference of 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. American M18 Hellcat

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The Hellcat has two distinctions for a tank destroyer out there. It is one of the fastest – correction – the fastest one and 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 fast cars but when it came to tanks, they built the fastest ones. Only one model of a tank was ever built by Buick but the thing was so fast that its record for fastest road run still stands. 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 the point was how nimble the destroyer would be. It did well on the battlefield too. 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.

2. 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 that existed before 2015, barring the M18 Hellcat’s; that one still stays. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 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.

5. 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 armories which could withstand a 125 mm round fired from a distance of 1.5 km.

6. 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 in 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.

7. 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 part between the two. When it comes to the best armored and protected tank in the world, there is only one name at the top and that is Challenger 2.

  • 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.

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. Not only that but the fact that 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 only can assume how it looks or how well it performs; more importantly, how fast it can 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 few 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.

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 reader good company.

Barring the speed, which Tank appeared most impressive?

See results

© 2018 Savio Koman

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