Often we receive many questions which is the best main battle tank in the world. Which is the greatest modern MBT and why. Our Top 10 analysis is based on the combined score of protection, firepower, accuracy and mobility. None of the tanks listed here have seen combat against each other during military operations yet. And even though some things, such as armor composition, are kept in high secrecy, we know a lot about these machines. Data on their protection, firing range, accuracy, capabilities of their fire control systems, and so on are widely available. So we know capabilities of each of these tanks. This analysis is based on specifications and available data.
All of the tanks mentioned here are incredibly powerful and devastating. However crew training of the tank is also an important factor, as performance of the actual tank depends from the crew performance.
This list do not contains tanks that are currently under development, at the prototype stage or tanks that never reach production. The only exception here is the Russian Armata which was produced in small numbers for testing and evaluation, but is not yet produced in quantity.
Currently top 10 best tanks in the world are these:
Nr.1 Leopard 2A7 (Germany)
It is a recent version of the proven and successful Leopard 2 design. It has additional armor and updated electronics.
The Leopard 2A7 is well protected against conventional and urban warfare threats, such as RPG rounds and IEDs.
This tank has better accuracy and longer range of fire comparing with other tanks due to its powerful gun and advanced fire control system. During numerous international tank challenge competitions the Leopard 2 series tanks outperformed American M1A2 SEP, British Challenger 2, French Leclerc and some other tanks in terms of overall performance.
This MBT is powered by a proven multi-fuel diesel engine, developing 1 500 hp. Despite increase in weight vehicle has increased mobility due to improved suspension components. Cross-country performance is similar to other Leopard 2 series tanks.
German Army ordered a first batch of 20 Leopard 2A7 MBTs, upgraded from Leopard 2A6. Deliveries commenced in 2014. German army plans to upgrade 50 to 150 tanks to the 2A7 standard. Qatar ordered 62 of these MBTs and Saudi Arabia more than 200.
Nr.2 K2 Black Panther (South Korea)
Currently the Black Panther is one of the most advanced main battle tank in the world, outclassing anything North Korea or China have. Furthermore it is the most expensive main battle tank to date. Deliveries of the K2 Black Panther tank commenced to the South Korean Army in 2016. As of 2017 at least 100 tanks were delivered. South Korean requirement is for around 300 of these new tanks. These will eventually replace the older K1 tanks.
This tank uses composite armor of undisclosed type and explosive reactive armor modules. It is claimed that front armor withstands direct hits from 120 mm tank rounds, fired from L55 guns. Its protection level is broadly similar to that of the M1A2 Abrams, considering that the K2 is much lighter. The Black Panther tank is also completed with an active protection system and countermeasures system, that further increase its survivability on the battlefield.
This new South Korean tank is armed with the latest German 120 mm/L55 gun, similar to that used on the German Leopard 2A6 and 2A7. This tank has a very advanced fire control system with can spot, track and fire automatically at visible vehicle-size targets, and even low-flying helicopters, without needing any input from a human operator. The K2 also uses advanced munitions.
The Black Panther is fitted with a powerful diesel engine. It is fast and has a state-of-the-art hydropneumatic suspension.
Nr.3 M1A2 SEP (USA)
The M1A2 SEP is a successor to the M1A2 Abrams. This tank has incredible technology and armor. Also it has seen combat. It is one of the most feared MBTs.
The M1A2 SEP offers significant protection against all well-known anti-tank weapons. This main battle tank uses advanced armor, reinforced with depleted uranium layers.
Its complex gas turbine engine offers good performance, but requires tremendous amount of maintenance, logistical support and is thirsty on fuel.
A number of older M1, M1A1 and M1A2 tanks were upgraded to this standard. The tank can be also fitted with a Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK), that improves survivability in urban environment. To date very few Abrams tanks have been destroyed in combat.
The M1A2 SEP is in service with United States Army (at least 900). It is planned that this tank will remain in service beyond 2050. The M1A2 SEP has not been exported yet. However the previous M1A2 has been supplied to Kuwait (218) and Saudi Arabia (373).
Nr.4 Challenger 2 (United Kingdom)
It is a very capable tank. The Challenger 2 has the latest Chobham armor and is one of the most protected MBTs in the world today. It offers very high level of protection against direct fire weapons.
This British tank is armed with a very accurate 120 mm rifled gun. Its gun is rifled as opposed to smoothbore guns used by all other modern MBTs. Its maximum aimed range is over 5 km. Currently the Challenger holds the record for for longest tank-to-tank kill.
Engine of the Challenger 2 is less powerful than of its Western rivals. Also it is not as fast as other MBTs. However this tank is famous for its mechanical reliability.
The Challenger 2 is in service with United Kingdom (386) and Oman (38).
Nr.5 Armata (Russia)
The Armata is a new Russian main battle tank of new generation. Pre-production tanks were first publicly revealed in 2015. In 2018 Russian MoD ordered a first batch of these new tanks. Exact order numbers were not disclosed but it is likely that around 60 tanks were ordered. First production tanks were planned to be delivered during the same year. Once in service, the Armata will gradually replace the ageing T-72, T-80 and T-90 tanks that become increasingly out-dated.
The Armata is a clean sheet design with a number of advanced features. It shares little common with the current T-90. Also the Armata is much bigger than its predecessor.
Its specifications are classified, however the Armata might be one of the most protected tanks in the world. It has newly-developed base armor, made of steel, ceramics and composite materials. Also Armata has a new Malakhit add-on explosive reactive armor. It has been reported that Armata will be fitted with a new Afghanit active protection system, that is currently being developed. However in 2018 it appeared that there are setbacks with development of the Afghanit. However by 2018 prototypes of this system were not completed and were not ready for testing. The tank has a new countermeasures system that reduces the chance of being hit by enemy ATGW with semi-automatic guidance.
This tank is operated by a crew of 3 men. All crewmembers are seated side-by-side in a well protected armored cell, located at the front of the hull. It is the first production MBT with such crew layout. The tank can operate even with penetrated armor, as far as the crew cell is intact.
The Armata is also a world’s first production MBT with completely unmanned turret. It is armed with a new 125 mm smoothbore gun that is more accurate than the previous Russian tank guns. This tank can launch anti-tank guided missiles in the same manner as ordinary projectiles. The gun is completed with an autoloader. This tank has a hunter-killer capability.
It has been reported that this tank is fitted with a diesel engine, developing 1 200 hp.
Introduction of this new Russian MBT created a stir in the West. Now a number of countries, such as Germany and UK are looking to upgrade their tanks, or develop new designs in order to counter the threat posed by this new Russian tank.
Nr.6 Merkava Mk.4 (Israel)
The Merkava Mk.4 is the latest Israeli main battle tank. It is a successor to the previous Merkava Mk.3. The Merkava Mk.4 was adopted in 2004.
It is one of the most protected tanks in the world. This MBT has an unusual design with a front-mounted engine which gives the crew additional protection and chance to survive if the tank is knocked-out. Improved Merkava Mk.4 Meil Ruach tanks are fitted with a combat-proven Trophy active protection system, which destroys incoming anti-tank missiles and rockets. This tank is also well protected against air-launched guided missiles and advanced top attack anti-tank weapons.
The Israeli tank is armed with indigenous 120 mm smoothbore gun. The Merkava Mk.4 is equipped with new fire control system, that includes some very advanced features. One of them is a high hit probability firing against low-flying helicopters using conventional munitions.
Mobility of the Merkava Mk.4 is rather average due to excessive weight, even though it is fitted with a powerful engine.
All Merkava series tanks have a rear compartment which can be used to carry troops and cargo under armor. It can carry up to 10 troops when ammunition is unloaded.
The Merkava Mk.4 is in service with Israel. A total of 360 of these tanks have already been built and another 300 have been ordered by Israel Defense Forces. For a long time these tanks were not available for export. However in 2014 it was reported, that Israel will export a number of these tanks to an undisclosed customer.
Nr.7 Type 90 (Japan)
The Japanese Type 90 tank was developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in cooperation with German Krauss-Maffei and MaK tank manufacturers. It has a number of external similarities with the German Leopard 2. The Type 90 was officially adopted by the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces in 1989. Full scale production commenced in 1992. At the time it was one of the most advanced and in fact the most expensive production MBT. Original Japanese army requirement was for 600 of these tanks, however only about 340 were built due to high unit price. This tank was never exported, as at the time Japan laws did not allow export of military equipment.
This MBT is armed with German Rheinmetall 120 mm smoothbore gun, which was produced in Japan under license. It fires all standard NATO 120 mm tank rounds. Unusual feature of the Type 90 is that this tank was fitted with a bustle-mounted automatic ammunition loading system. At the time only Soviet and Chinese tanks had autoloaders, but these were not used on Western tanks. The autoloader allowed to reduce the crew to 3 men, as there was no need for the loader.
This Japanese tank has a fire control system with independent commander’s sight.
Another unusual feature of this tank is that it has a hydropneumatic suspension. It allows this MBT to “kneel”, or “lean”, giving a number of advantages.
In 2012 a new Type 10 tank was adopted by the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces. However it is much smaller and lighter than the Type 90. Even though it is much more technologically advanced, in fact currently it is one of the most advanced tanks in the world, it has inferior protection. Its main role is to support infantry with its firepower, rather than to combat enemy tanks.
Nr.8 Leclerc (France)
This French main battle tank entered service in 1992. Overall it is a successful design. A number of design features of the Leclerc were later used on other Western tanks. The Leclerc was used during a number of peacekeeping and military operations.
The This French tank has advanced composite armor with add-on modular armor. Protection level can be tailored to the threat. Turret and hull roof was designed to withstand top-attack munitions. However in terms of protection the Leclerc can not match tanks such as the US M1A2 Abrams or the British Challenger 2.
This tank is armed with a 120 mm/L52 gun. This MBT is operated by a crew of three and is fitted with a bustle-mounted automatic ammunition loading system. It has a high hit probability against both stationary and moving targets. Also it has a hunter-killer engagement capability. It is claimed that the Leclerc can engage 6 targets, located 1.5 – 2 km away, within one minute with a hit probability of 95%. That’s impressive result.
This tank is fitted with a battlefield management system. It automatically reports to command post tank’s location, quantity of ammunition and fuel left.
This tank has good mobility due to its 1 500 hp engine and hydropneumatic suspension.
Currently it is in service with France (406) and the United Arab Emirates (388).
Nr.9 Oplot-M (Ukraine)
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine continued development of a T-80UD main battle tank. Their latest version of this tank is the Oplot-M.
The Oplot-M is fitted with explosive reactive armor of new generation. This MBT inherited from its predecessor automatic ammunition loading system. Ammunition is stored in the main compartment, rather than a separate compartment with a blow-out panels. It is a significant drawback of this tank, as once the armor is penetrated it is likely that the ammunition will detonate killing the crew and destroying the tank.
This latest Ukranian tank is not as accurate against long-range targets as its Western rivals. However this tank can launch anti-tank guided missiles in the same manner as ordinary munitions. These have a maximum range of 5 km.
The Oplot-M has an independent commander’s sight with thermal vision, which gives the tank a hunter-killer engagement capability.
This Ukrainian tank is superior to the Russian T-90 as it has more advanced add-on armor, more powerful engine and superior fire control system.
The Oplot-M completed Ukrainian Army trials. However it did not entered Ukrainian Army service due to limited funding. The only operator of this tank is Thailand. Currently the Oplot-M is produced in small numbers. Ukrainian Army operates a small number of older and less capable Oplot tanks.
Nr.10 T-90 (Russia)
The T-90 is currently the only tank produced in quantity in Russia. It is not as sophisticated as its Western rivals, however it uses proven technology and is cost effective. Currently it is the most commercially successful main battle tank on the global market. Also it is one of the cheapest among modern MBTs.
The T-90 has a small profile which makes it a harder target to hit. Significant drawback of the T-90 is ammunition stored in the main compartment due to its carrousel-type autoloader. Once the hull is penetrated onboard ammunition detonates by killing all the crew and destroying the tank. This drawback is common to all Soviet, Russian, Ukrainian and recent Chinese MBTs. Western tanks have a separate compartment in the turret bustle with a blow-out panels.
The T-90 is not as accurate against long-range targets, however it can launch anti-tank guided missiles in the same manner as ordinary munitions.
Fire control system of the T-90 was adequate in the 1990s, when this tank was introduced. However currently it is outdated. The T-90 lacks advanced sights with thermal vision, as well as panoramic commander’s sight, which would allow to detect and engage targets faster.
Original version has poor power-to-weight ratio due to its underpowered engine. Later models were fitted with more powerful engines.
The T-90 is currently in service with Russia (approximately 700), Algeria (305), Azerbaijan (20), India (620), Turkmenistan (40) and Venezuela (50 ~100).
The T-90MS Tagil is a recent version with new armor, new engine, new gun, improved turret, updated observation and aiming system. It is significantly more capable than the baseline T-90. However so far this version received no production orders.