An ambitious project called “MBT-70” arose during the Cold War. It was a collaborative effort between the United States and West Germany. to develop an avant-garde tank, with long-range firepower and an innovative suspension that improved artillery and aiming, enjoying enviable characteristics at the time.
US intelligence services learned that the Soviet Union was upgrading its main battle tank, the T-62, with powerful modifications such as an automatic main gun and improved armor. It was then that Defense Secretary Robert McNamara opted for an unprecedented supertank to effectively counter Soviet armored vehicles.
Although this effort never came to fruition, jointly built armored vehicle contributed to future capabilities of the main battle tanks.
During the Cold War, NATO member countries used various weapon systems which, for the most part, lacked ammunition, fuel and common parts. McNamara saw how this lack of cohesion could be improved in the field of armored cars. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, US forces primarily used the M60 Patton main battle tank, while West Germany sported the Leopard I.
In order to carry out McNamara’s plan, Berlin and Washington signed a memorandum of understanding which guaranteed that both countries would have an equal say in the design and characteristics of the tank.
However, this was the reason why the MBT-70 program never came to fruition. During the design phase of the MBT-70 arose disputes surrounding all aspects of its design. Perhaps the most contentious between German and American engineers was whether or not to use the metric system.
Although the tensions ended up ruining the collaboration project, the designers agreed on some considerations. The MBT-70 was to have tungsten alloy armor with layers of steel and an inner protective shell. In theory, this design would protect against the 105m shells fired by the Soviets at the time.
As Defense Media Network explains, “instead of the crew’s stations being inside the hull, as usual, they were placed inside the oversized turret of the MBT-70, which would be protected against nuclear, biological and chemical threats ( NBC). This also made it easier to draw up the tank’s armor layout., who agreed that it should consist of two spaced layers; an outer layer of thick, hard, cold-rolled steel and an inner layer of “soft” steel that would also protect against “spalling,” or interior fragmentation of the armor.”
Another interesting feature considered by both groups of engineers was an air suspension system that could be lowered up to four inches off the ground. This design would allow the tank to gain a better defensive position. Also, the main gun of the proposed tank was impressive.
According to the design of the MBT-70, a 152 mm gun replaced the existing 105 mm main gun. The main battle tank also possessed greater mobility than its close counterparts. The higher acceleration of the MBT-70 allowed it to reach a top speed greater than that of the American M60 Patton and the German Leopard I.
In the end, design complications and a lack of communication between its German and American engineers scuttled the project of the MBT-70. The tank was too heavy to move on the road. It was too heavy a tank to ride on European bridges and railway carriages, making it useless for future combat on the continent.