The Battle of the Somme has gone down in history as one of the bloodiest ever fought, with over a million men killed or wounded in the course of the largest action on WW1's Western Front. Less well known, however, is that the third phase of that 141-day long offensive also marked the battlefield debut of the tank.
Although its direct military impact on 15 September 1916 was almost negligible, within a few short years the tank had risen from a ponderous, breakdown-prone novelty to a potent platform that was to dominate battlefields throughout the rest of the 20th Century and beyond. To this day, nothing makes such a bold statement of military might as the sight of massed armour, but the face of war has changed over the past 100 years, and radically so over the last 20. So how are tanks keeping up?
Defence contractors and military research establishments, from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the US to Britain's own Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), are busily working to find the answers.