Armoured warfare or tank warfare is the use of armoured fighting vehicles in modern warfare. It is a major component of modern methods of war.
The premise of armoured warfare rests on the ability of troops to penetrate conventional defensive lines through use of manoeuvre by armoured units.
Much of the application of armoured warfare depends on the use of tanks and related vehicles used by other supporting arms such as infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery, as well as mounted combat engineers and other support units. The doctrine of armoured warfare was developed to break the static nature of World War I trench warfare on the Western Front, and return to the 19th century school of thought that advocated manoeuvre and "decisive battle" outcomes in military strategy.
==World War I==
Modern armoured warfare began with the need to break the tactical, operational and strategic stalemates forced on commanders on the Western Front by the effectiveness of entrenched defensive infantry armed with machine guns—known as trench warfare. Under these conditions, any sort of advance was impossibly slow and occasioned massive casualties. The development of the tank was motivated by the need to return manoeuvre to warfare, and the only way to do so was to protect soldiers from small arms (rifle, machine gun) fire as they were moving.
Strategic use of tanks was slow to develop during and immediately after World War I, partly due to technical limitations but also due to the prestige role traditionally accorded to horse-mounted cavalry.
Tanks were first developed in Britain and France, as a way of navigating the barbed wire and other obstacles of no-man's land while remaining protected from machine-gun fire. The manoeuvrability of the tank would at least in theory regain armies the ability to flank enemy lines. In practice, tank warfare during most of World War I was hampered by mechanical failure, limited numbers, and general underutilisation.
British Mark I tanks first went to action at the Somme, on 15 September 1916,〔p.27, Design and development of fighting vehicles, R.M. Ogorkiewicz, Macdonald, London, 1968〕 but did not manage to break the deadlock of trench warfare. In the Battle of Cambrai (1917) British tanks were more successful, and broke a German trenchline system, the Hindenburg Line.
The German Empire produced only a few tanks, late in the war. Twenty German A7V tanks were produced during the war, compared to over 4,000 French and over 2,500 British tanks of various kinds. Nonetheless, World War I saw the first tank-versus-tank battle, during the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918, when a group of three German A7V tanks engaged a group of three British Mark IV tanks.
After the final German 1918 Spring offensives, Entente tanks were used at the Battle of Soissons and Battle of Amiens, which ended the stalemate imposed by trench warfare on the Western Front, and thus effectively ended the war. Following the First World War, the technical and doctrinal aspects of armoured warfare became more sophisticated and diverged into multiple schools of doctrinal thought.
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