Publication: The Military Balance 2016
09 February 2016
The year 2015 saw the hundredth anniversary of the first prototype tank, a vehicle originally designed to provide infantry with fire support and to breach barbed wire and cross trenches. In 1918, two years after British tanks first appeared on the battlefield, the United Kingdom was developing armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to transport accompanying infantry. Subsequent decades saw a steady growth in the roles undertaken by armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs), as well as in the numbers fielded, and they dominated ground combat in some theatres of conflict in the twentieth century.
There have been significant developments in the capabilities and tactics deployed to defeat AFVs, but there have also been considerable advances in the technical sophistication of the vehicles themselves, as well as their firepower, protection and mobility. Indeed, though their continued utility has sometimes been questioned, AFVs remain vital capabilities for military forces, and in an increasingly complex and contested security environment will continue to constitute one of the principal means of delivering military effect on land.
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AFVs have played a significant role in military operations over the past decade, including in the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, the 2006 war in Lebanon between Israel and Hizbullah, the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia, and the war in Afghanistan since 2001. They have also been employed in such theatres as the 2013 French intervention in Mali, the repeated wars between Israel and Hamas, and wars in eastern Ukraine and Syria. AFVs are also employed by many forces deployed on international peacekeeping and peace-support missions, mainly to improve protection.