Tanks are armored fighting vehicles made for fighting wars in rough terrain. They provide heavy firepower in the form of large guns and mounted machine guns.

Joseph Hawker developed the idea for the modern tank. In 1872, he obtained a patent for “propelling a road locomotive employing endless flat linked pitch or other chains passing round the rims of the main moving wheels.”

It was not until World War I, however, that tanks were first produced and used in war. To avoid fierce face-to-face combat, the British first used tanks at the Battle of Somme in 1916.

It was around this time that tanks also got their name. Because they wanted to surprise German forces, the Allied forces built the first tanks in total secrecy.

They told the workers building the vehicles that they would be used to transport water. When it was time to ship the completed machines, the crates were marked “tank” (as in “water tank”), and the name has been used ever since.

One of the key benefits of tanks is their mobility. Tanks are able to move over and around obstacles, as well as most types of rough terrain, due to their continuous tracks.

Continuous tracks — also called “caterpillar tracks” — move tanks by a system of metal plates that are linked together and driven by wheels. Compared to the rubber tires on a regular car or truck, continuous tracks have a much larger surface area.

The larger surface area of continuous tracks spreads a tank’s heavy weight over much more ground area. This allows a tank to travel on many types of rough or soft terrain without sinking or becoming stuck.

The treads of the metal plates that make up caterpillar tracks are very tough. They provide good traction and are much more reliable than rubber tires would be. Can you imagine how easy it would be to disable a tank if it had rubber tires?

Since tanks are very heavy due to their armor and big guns, you might think that they can only move very slowly. Believe it or not, tanks can actually move at about 25 miles per hour on flat terrain and up to 45 miles per hour on roads! Some tanks have even gone as fast as 60 to 70 miles per hour for short periods of time.

Tanks aren’t really built for speed, though. Driving tanks at high speeds often leads to mechanical problems and breakdowns.

Tanks perform better at slow speeds over short distances. That is why they usually must be transported to where they are needed on huge planes, trains or special trucks.


32 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (26 votes, avg. 4.15 out of 5)
  1. I think that he needs to pay attention to his car, but that is what he deserves for eating that cupcake, but it saved his life. :(

    • That cupcake must have tasted VERY good to keep his attention for that long, Logan! We hope he will pay more attention next time, too! :-)

  2. Joseph Hawker didn’t invent the Tank. He was one of dozens of people who invented a type of caterpillar track during the 19th century. He designed an agricultural tractor that had no armour or armament.

    The tank got its name because workers on the first British prototype were told it was a mobile water-carrier and they referred to it aa a Tank. The name was adopted by the British Landships Committee on December 24th, 1915 for the purpose of secrecy. Tanks weren’t shipped in crates. When the first British production models were being moved by train they had Russian writing painted on the body as a further security measure.

    Tanks designed with a military purpose in mind were designed in several countries before WWI, but none was built. Britain and France began separate tank programmes after the start of WWI.

    • Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis and for taking the time to give us your facts about tanks, Tankmanc! We appreciate your comment! :-)

    • Hello, Lane! We think it’s really neat that you chose this Wonder of the Day® about Tanks! We’re glad you’re learning some new things and that you’re going to share what you learn with others through your project! :-)

    • That would be a sight to see, Cole! We think it’s a GREAT thing to WONDER about, and you’ve got an AWESOME imagination! :-)

    • Hi, Clayton! Thank so much for sharing your comment with us! We think it’s cool that you know about different types of tanks! :-)

  3. Hi Wonderopolis People!!!!
    First I would like to say I absolutely love tanks!!!! You should ask some inventors to make a hovering tank. That would be ridiculously awesome!!! :) But anyway, I learned so much from this wonder! Like that a tank can go up to 45 MPH on a road! That’s also ridiculous. Another one is that a tanks tracks are also called “caterpillar tracks”! I also like caterpillars. their all cute and squirmy then turn into a beautiful butterfly! Anyway, I also wanted to know how many different types of tanks are their, and which one is the fastest? My favorite type of tank is the Leopard 2A6! I read online that its one of the most used tanks in the army. That’s mainly why I like it. It also looks really cool!

    :DTeam McNeil 6:D

    • WOW! You sure do know a lot about tanks, Team McNeil 6! We agree with you…a hovering tank WOULD be awesome! It would take some super smart engineering to figure out how to make the huge weight of a tank hover above the ground! :-)

  4. Two words I found were stalemate and the other was mobility. Mobility means to move freely and easily. Stalemate means position counting as a draw. I know that tanks are weapons, and I also knew that they are able to run over people, but I did not know that they had more than one weapon on them. I thought that they could only shoot massive bullets that are the size of cannon balls. I also definitely know that the people that are making the cannons right know could probably enhance them like maybe making some float like the previous people have said above me. I obviously knew that tanks are very heavy. But something I did not know was the fact that the tracks are called “caterpillar tracks”. Three things I WONDER about are: 1.can tanks have a better boost? I have a question about this because of the fact that since the tanks weigh an amount of tons, they move slowly. I am wondering if they can enhance the tank so it can go into enemy bases or camps faster. Can’t tanks move while setting mines? and 3, are they meant to run over people while they drive or move? I asked this question because of the fact that the people get run over the tanks intentionally when we watch a movie about wars. Three new wonders I want to explore are, Why are they called tanks, because that is a peculiar name for something that moves and kills people. Who is the unknown soldier this year, because I saw a video that showed how the soldiers were guarding gold or something like that. 3. What do caterpillar tracks look like. I love wonderopolis, and I will write later. BYE. :)

    • WOW! That’s a LOT of WONDERing about tanks, Team McNeil 14! Thank you for visiting this Wonder and also for taking the time to write such a detailed comment. We encourage you to go on a “Wonder Journey” of your own to learn even MORE about tanks and also to find the answers to some of your questions about them! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your knowledge about tanks, Clayton! We appreciate when our Wonder Friends (like YOU!) add something special to a Wonder of the Day® with their comments! :-)

    • WOW! You sure do know a lot about tanks, Mr. B.! Thanks for adding something extra cool to this Wonder about them by sharing some of your knowledge with us! :-)

    • Thank you for commenting, Tankmanc! We appreciate that you have done a great deal of research on your end and we hope you continue to Wonder with us. :)

  5. Then instead of putting up goofy replies, why not correct the misinformation on the site? If you wish, I’ll rewrite it so that it makes sense.

    • Hi there, Tankmanc!
      Thanks so much for sharing your comment with us! We certainly value your opinion of Wonderopolis.
      We also see the value in replying to the comments of our AMAZING Wonder Friends (of all ages) as a way for us to communicate with them and let them know how much we appreciate them stopping by Wonderopolis and learning new things with us each day! :-)

    • Great point, Wonder Friend Tyler! While tanks can drive quite fast, they are not built for speed. Those high speeds can lead to engine breakdowns, so we don’t think you will have to worry about speedy tanks anytime soon! :)

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