An armored fighting vehicle (or armored fighting vehicle; AFV) is a military vehicle, protected by strong armour and armed with weapons. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked.
Armoured fighting vehicles are classified according to their intended role on the battlefield and characteristics. This classification is not absolute; at different times different countries will classify the same vehicle in different roles. For example, armoured personnel carriers were generally replaced by infantry fighting vehicles in a very similar role, but the latter has some capabilities lacking in the former.
Successful general-purpose armoured fighting vehicles often also serve as the base of a whole family of specialised vehicles, for example, the M113 and MT-LB tracked carriers, and the MOWAG Piranha wheeled AFV.
The tank is an all terrain AFV designed primarily to engage enemy forces by the use of direct fire in the frontal assault role. Though several configurations have been tried, particularly in the early experimental days of tank development, a standard, mature design configuration has since emerged to a generally accepted pattern. This features a main artillery gun, mounted in a fully rotating turret atop a tracked automotive hull, with various additional machine guns throughout.
Philosophically, the tank is, by its very nature, a purely offensive weapon. Being a protective encasement with at least one gun position, it is essentially a pillbox or small fortress (though these are static fortifications of a purely defensive nature) that can move toward the enemy - hence its offensive utility.
Historically, tanks are divided into 3 categories: Light Tanks (small, thinly armoured, weakly gunned, but highly mobile tanks intended for the armoured reconnaissance role), Medium Tanks (mid-sized, adequately armoured, respectably gunned, fairly mobile tanks intended to provide an optimum balance of characteristics for manoeuvre combat, primarily against other tanks), and Heavy Tanks (large, thickly armoured, powerfully gunned, but barely mobile tanks intended for the breakthrough role against fortified lines, particularly in support of infantry formations). Other designations (such as Cavalry Tank, Cruiser Tank, and Infantry Tank) have been used by various countries to denote similar roles.
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