Cold War Tanks
Starting from the sundry families of light, medium and heavy tanks, the strategists and tacticians of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact got to work revising the tactics and technologies inherited from WW2. This led to the development of new armored vehicles including Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and other specialized vehicles.
The two power blocks prepared for a large-scale conventional conflict until 1960, when the nuclear deterrent policy started to occupy the bulk of military spending and strategic thinking. However, armored warfare did manage to keep pace with the development of new, smaller and more efficient AT missiles, munitions and electronic targeting devices. These armaments were employed in many decolonisation wars, preventive conflicts and in the Middle-East. Some were what we now call “asymmetric wars”, like Vietnam or Afghanistan. Others were more balanced types of conflicts like Korea, the three Israeli wars (1956, 1967, 1973), or the Iran-Iraq war, where both sides fielded MBTs and armored vehicles.
The MBTs became more and more costly with the development of new composite armor, new and more complex ammunitions, and new sets of NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) equipment. Additionally, advancements in electronic warfare, fording equipment, flares, on-board infrared vision and radar, flame-throwers, grenade launchers, remotely operated machine guns, etc. added to the cost as well as to the efficiency and destructive power of the MBT.
MBTs were supposed to replace all the older types of tanks simultaneously but only a few countries had the technological, financial and political capabilities to build such machines (namely members of the United Nations Security Council- USA, USSR, United Kingdom, France and China). At the same time, many other nations of the world began to develop their own derivatives from these main models, tailored for their military needs and industrial capabilities. With the transfer, purchase, and expansion of technology, new industries capable of building such tanks have continued, and will continue, to design and refine the new generations of MBTs of the post-Cold War era.
The rapidly increasing costs, as well as the need for better tactical flexibility, created a market for cheaper, but still deadly-effective vehicles. Light tanks and “low-tech MBTs” were prevalent on the export market. Wheeled tanks (experimented with during WWII) also found new markets in some third-world countries as well as in the arsenal of the world’s biggest armies. Armored cars, preferably with true off-road capabilities were, and still are, part of the armies of many countries today and their builders are now flourishing.
In the 1980s, many “third world” nations developed home-grown industrial capabilities which, while being able to create an MBT from scratch, could completely modernize existing ones to extend their service life by decades. This had two advantages at the time. Building starting from something already in existence and very well known was a cost-saving solution – even from the development perspective alone. Second, it also saved considerable money from a training and maintenance point of view. Since it was based on an already-existing model, it was easier to modify training procedures (due to new ergonomics), to train maintenance crews, or to change ordnance, transport, storage, and spare parts management than it was to create an entirely new model from scratch.
Upgrading was a natural process which triggered a wave of local versions depending on the needs of each user. A complete refurbishing upgrade was a combination of changes that lead to, in effect, a brand new tank. Most of these 1980s-90s programs were aimed at converting so-called 1st generation vehicles to at least 2nd generation standards. These modifications ranged from engine improvements (US or German engines and transmissions were often preferred), gunnery improvements (adoption of the standard NATO L7 gun for example) or with new Firing Control Systems, (gun stabilization, target management computer, laser range finder, new day-night all-weather IR sights).
Last but not least, protection improvements were developed to replace obsolete Rolled Homogenous Armour (RHA), including simple add-on appliqué plates, classified composite modular armour (ceramics-alloys-kevlar), or Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) bricks. The front arc protection often ranged up 250 to 800 mm equivalent of RHA.
Israel was probably one of the most proficient countries in this discipline, literally morphing every single tank bought or captured into a new model. This began with old stock M4 Shermans refurbished into the M-50 and M-51 (sometimes called Super Shermans) with modern FCS and a French cannons. The Centurion was developed into the Sho’t, captured Soviet tanks were given L7 105 mm (4.13 in) guns, new FCS and other improvement, forming the Tiran family. The M48 and M60 were radically upgraded as the Magach and the Sabra.
This experience was also useful during the creation and successive upgrades of the Merkava MBT and made the Israeli defence industry one of the most influential players on the market worldwide. Israeli expertise was, for example, instrumental in the complete refurbishment of Centurions into the Olifant in South Africa.
Upgrading national tanks for export was an especially popular “sport” for private venture. However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s markets, most of these projects failed despite their respectable qualities simply because of cost issues. Cheap, second-hand tanks were stockpiled with détente in the late 1980s and were sold at scrap value or given away at shipment cost only. This doomed many conversions and even new projects aimed at export like the Brazilian Osorio and Tamoyo (based on the Leopard and M41 Walker Bulldog respectively), the US-Chinese Jaguar, French AMX-32 and AMX-40, German Super M48, Italian OF-40, Ukrainian T-84-120 Yatagan, British Vickers Mk.4 Valiant, Mk.7 & VFM-5, and the American Super M60 and Stingray, just to name a few.
BMP-23 in a regular green livery, 1980s
Camouflaged BMP-23D, 1990s
4K 4FA-G1 basic APC version
4K 4FA-G2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle/Grenadier version, armed with the one-man turret Oerlikon 20 mm (0.79 in) autocannon.
4F GrW1 81 mm (3.19 in) mortar-carrier version.
4K 4FA-SAN, armored ambulance version.
Early type Austrian Kürassier during maneuvers.
Austrian SK-105A2 in the 1980s.
Argentinian SK-105A2 during peace keeping operations.
Argentinian SK-105A2 during peace-keeping operation with KFOR, 1992.
Austrian SK-105A3, with improved FCS and a fully stabilized L7 derived 105 mm gun.
Tunisian Kürassier SK105A3 in the 1990s.
SK-105A2S Kürassier of the Brazilian Marines
Argentinian Patagón, 2010s.
ASCOD Pizarro – definitive version with add-on armor
ASCOD Ulan of the Austrian Army, in the 2000s
Zulfiqar I in 1998 with the “southern” pattern.
Zulfiqar 2 prototype in the 2000s with the desert pattern.
Camouflaged Zulfiqar III (northern pattern based on greys). At least five camouflage patterns were identified.
Zulfiqar III with another variant of the 4-tone camouflage pattern in 2012-2013.
Safir-74 with a desert camouflage.
A T-72Z. Four types of camouflage patterns were observed for this type. Desert (sand/black or sand/reddish-brown), Northern regions (Olive Green and reddish-brown) or the “autumn” 3-tone pattern (sand, yellow, brown).
Type 72Z with a 4-tone camouflage.
Based on the numerous M47 Patton still in storage but completely modernized.
Tiam Tank as shown on the official presentation, 13 April 2016.
Tiam without ERA or side skirts, showing the supposed shape of the add-on armour welded on the old cast turret of the Type 59. A strange Sino-American hybrid.
Prospective livery of the Tiam, if built in serie and operational.
Komatsu’s Type 82 wheeled Command & Communication vehicle (1982), production stopped recently, after 231 vehicles.
Type 96 APC at Camp Shimoshizu. This vehicle entered service with Japan in 1996 as the main wheeled aroured personal carrier. So far, 365 has been produced since 1995 until 2014. It i sechedule for replacement by the Komatsu Wheeled Armoured Vehicle (Improved) in trials in May 2019.
Unknown unit, standard green livery, 1960s.
Type 60, 12th Tank Battalion, Camp Sumigahara, Gunma prefecture.
71th Tank Regiment, Camp Kita-Chitose, Hokkaido Prefecture.
7th Tank Battalion Camp Kusu, Ohita prefecture, 1991.
Unknown unit, standard two-tone camouflage, tank group Kusu, 1965.
Unknown unit, first experimental camouflage example
Unknown unit, second camouflage example, probably the strangest of the series.
Unknown unit, third experimental camouflage example
Type 73 APC in the regular two-tone livery.
Camouflaged Type 73 in a complicated exercize 5-tons pattern
Type 73 command tank variant.
Type 74 Nana-Yon in the regular dark olive green/dark beige livery, 1976.
Type 74 early production in winter livery, 1980s.
Type 74 type C or D in a four-tone Summer/October pattern.
Type 74 Mod E in Winter exercises, in a Zebra pattern.
Type 74-Kai or mod.G, in winter camouflage, 1990s.
Illustration of the Type 87
An unknown, unnamed light tank spotted in 2019 (first spotted by spioenkop). Illustrated by David Bocquelet
Camouflaged Bravia Chaimite VBPM V-600 of the Marines
Chaimite VBPM-600 of the Cavalry School, Carnation Revolution (25 April 1974), Lisbon.
V-200 Heavy fire support, with a low-pressure 90mm gun.
Portuguese Marines Armada-90
YPR-765 of the Koninklijke Marechaussee (Dutch Royal Military Constabulary)
YPR-765 with SFOR
YPR-765A1, Bosnia 1997
YPR-765A1, Afghanistan, 2007
YPR-765s were the main AIFVs of the Dutch Army, locally produced from 1975 in several variants. They are all retired now. It was based on the M113 American APC also used by Belgium. Some served in Afghanistan. All have been replaced by CV9035NLs IFVs and other wheeled vehicles.
YP-408 used in peace keeping operation with UN livery
YP-408-PWGWT, Ambulance vehicle
YP-408 PWMT, mortar version (not shown here)
YP-408 PWAT, antitank version
K1 88 initial production model, 1986
Up-armoured k1 88
K1-88 late production in winter manoeuvers
Camouflaged K1A1 88 in exercises
K2 Black Panther.
K-SAM Chunma in regular livery, 2000s. To our knowledge that’s the first illustration done of this vehicle, an exclusivity from Tanks Encyclopedia.
K200 KIFV, 1988.
K200A1 KIFV in UN colors, 2000s
K242 mortar carrier
K263 Cheongoong SPAAG
Malaysian K200 IFV
KM900 APC, 1980s.
Land Rover Series in Biafra, Steiner W. unit
Land Rover up-armored used by the commando Steiner in Rhodesia
Land Rover ELPS with a ZPU AA mount