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Tank/AFV Glosary

People who work with military vehicles appear to have their own language involving words such as sponsons, glacis plate and guide horns.  This article aims to explain the more common terms used with tanks, armoured vehicles and similar beasts.

The Glossary

Term Explanation
Applique armour Additional armour plates bolted on to an AFV to improve protection
Armoured Car A general term for an light armoured vehicle that has wheels instead of tracks.
Cupola Normally on the top of the turret there will be one or two cupolas.  They are hatches allowing crew entry and exit and generally also contain periscopes allowing the crew member underneath all round vision even when the hatch is closed.
Chobham armour A type of modern armour developed in the UK (at Chobham) that consists of a still secret combination of layers of metal and ceramic.  It is much more effective than a solid piece of armour plate and is said to be almost imprenatrable. It is used on the British Challenger and US Abrams tanks.
Drive Sprocket On both sides of the tank at either the front or rear (the opposite end to the idler wheel) there will be a drive sprocket.  The drive sprocket is powered by the tank’s engine and is what drives the tracks and gives the tank it’s forward motion.
Fighting compartment This refers to the inside of the tank inhabited by the crew.
Flash suppressor See Muzzle Brake
Glacis Plate The sloped front most plate at the front of a tank between the two tracks.  The glacis is the most obvious target in a head on engagement and thus is normally one of the areas of the tank with the thickest armour.
Guide horn/tooth These are the projections on the insides of the tracks that keep the tracks in line with the wheels as the tracks go around.  Tracks will always have at least one row of guide horns but may have two rows.  Some guide horns are hollow which is difficult to mold so some kit manufacturers produce them either solid or with indentations for simplicity.
Half-Track A vehicle with tracks at the rear but is steered by normal wheels at the front.  Very common in WWII but are no longer used on modern AFVs.
Idler wheel On both sides of the tank at either the front or rear (the opposite end to the drive sprocket) there will be an idler wheel.  The tracks wrap around this wheel, but it does not provide any power.
Mantlet A plate or shield attached to the main gun that protects the opening in the turret through which the gun projects.
Muzzle Brake The device fitted to the end of the gun barrel.  It reduces the flash when the gun fires (and is sometimes called a flash suppressor) and may also reduce the recoil of the gun.
Reactive armour Additional armour plates that have a layer of solid explosive on the outside.  When hit with a projectile, the armour itself explodes and counters the effect of the incoming projectile.
Return rollers These are small wheels above the road wheels that support the top row of the tracks.  Some tanks with large road wheels do not need these because the tracks rest on the top of the road wheels.
Road Wheels These are the wheels that are in contact with the ground (or would be were it not for the tracks)
Schurzen The additional metal plates added to the sides and sometimes turret of German armoured vehicles during WWII.  They were normally held some distance away from the tank hull/turret by brackets and were intended to make incoming rounds explode prematurely.
Sponsons The sides of a tank that project over the tracks
Turret The big thing on top of a tank that rotates and houses the main gun.
Turret basket Underneath the turret and inside the tank there is normally a cage that rotates with the turret and in which the turret crew sit.  This is known as the turret basket.
Zimmerit This was a cement like paste applied to the vertical hull and turret plates on German armoured vehicles between September 1942 and 1943 as a counter to magnetic mines.  The paste was applied by hand and would have a pattern imprinted on it.  Often the pattern is an indication of which factory and when a particlar tank was made.

Abbreviations

Term Explanation
AFV Armoured Fighting Vehicle
APC Armoured Personnel Carrier – an armoured vehicle for carrying troops into battle in some safety
MICV Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle – another name for an IFV
IFV Infantry Fighting Vehicle – an enhanced APC that carries armament to support the troops that it carries.

 

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