The Joint MBT-70 Tank Project

About The Joint MBT-70 Tank Project

The Main Battle Tank 70 project AKA the MBT-70, was a joint development project between West Germany and the USA. The development process kicked off after 1963 when both nations signed a joint development agreement. Several prototypes were built, but with the inability to agree on the main armaments, subsystems and powerpack, the  production cost ended being a reported five times the original predicted cost, Germany was the first to walk away from the project in 1970, followed by the US and the project ceased. The US went on to develop the Abrams series and the Germans with their Leopard 2.

A STANAG is the NATO abbreviation for Standardization Agreement, which set up processes, procedures, terms, and conditions for common military or technical procedures or equipment between the member countries of the alliance. Thou the MBT 70 project wasn’t a STANAG, its potential use would have the same benefits of a STANAG, that is, it can be operated by servicemen from different countries, but also the cost.

Basic economics show that when you manufacture something on mass, it drives down the production costs. It was this that worked as the major incentive behind the project, but was to be the eventual down fall of the project resulting in its cancellation.

The Joint MBT-70 Tank Project Description

The MBT70’s hull looks similar (especially the track set up) to that of the US’s M60 Patton series, with the turret being a larger new design. It housed the automatic loader, that reduced the crew to three (Driver, Commander and Gunner) and surprisingly the driver.

The Joint MBT-70 Tank Project

The Joint MBT-70 Tank Project Firepower

The Germans used a 120mm smoothbore which went on to be used in the Leopard 2, as they felt the more advanced larger 152mm bore calibre (but was much shorter in length) which the US wanted to use was perhaps a little to advanced for the time, that is it fired an anti-tank missile. The gunner kept his cross hairs on the target and changes in the missiles course were fed via laser.

Once clear of the gun the missiles fins popped open and the engine ignited. In order to keep it from spinning while in the gun due to the rifling, a small “key” fitted into a straight groove in the rifled gun. This level of technology also meant that more things could go wrong as well as costly compared to a less sophisticated larger calibre tank round, which would be used by the Germans with their smoothbore.

Behind the drivers hatch was a 20mm chain gun that remained under armour until it was deployed when it would raise out of the turret to engage enemy aircraft. The main gun also had a coaxial 7.62mm MG.

The Joint MBT-70 Tank Project Protection

All nations learnt after World War 2 how effective a shaped charge hand held weapon was at defeating steel armour. The shaped charge works by blowing an inverted cone made of copper inside out, at which point it forms a super hot copper jet that burns through the steel. The longer the copper jet is, the less effective it becomes.

The easiest way to defeat a shaped charge is to use spaced AKA stand off armour, that is you have an external skin that the shaped charge is detonated on and there is then a space between the skin and the actual steel construction of the vehicle the copper jet has to cross, increasing its length and thus reducing its effectiveness. This was the type of armour used on the MBT-70. Smoke grenade launchers were also added.

The Joint MBT-70 Tank Project

The Joint MBT-70 Tank Project mobility

The vehicle was fitted with a Continental AVCR air-cooled V-12 diesel engine, which could generate 1470hp, but Germany swapped between a  Daimler-Benz and then an MTU engine, both capable of generating such a respective HP and could also reach the top speed of 70km/h.

Hydrogas suspension springing medium (material inside) can be up to six times more flexible than conventional steel as used in TorsionBar suspension. The decision to use hydrogas suspension gives two advantages. A smoother ride as there is less resistance as the road wheels hit bumps so the vehicle can travel faster cross country, but it also means the vehicle becomes a more stable platform and thou the main gun was stabilised, the increased stability of the vehicle increase the accuracy of the main weapon when its fired whilst the vehicle was on the move, increasing its first hit rate. The only downfall is that hydrogas suspension requires more maintenance and costs more than TorsionBar suspension.