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Modern tanks combine mobility, armor and firepower to ensure maximum survivability and lethality on the battlefield. The combination has resulted in one of the most effective land weapon systems. A modern tank typically has a crew of four, a commander, a gunner, a loader and a driver. Tanks require considerable logistical support to operate effectively. Modern tanks mount a single large caliber gun with both armor piercing (for use against other tanks) and high explosive (for use against light vehicles, infantry and buildings) ammunition as well as one or more machine gun. Tank armor is strongest and thickest on the front of the tank, with lesser protection on the sides, rear, top and underside. Armor has evolved from homogenous steel to advanced composite materials. Examples of this are the British "Chobham" (Challenger 1, M-1 Abrams, Merkava) or "Dorchester" (Challenger 2) ceramic matrix armour packs, and the Russian "Sandbar" (T-72B, T-80 and T-90) fibreglass/aluminium/silicate laminate inserts. Further protection may be added outside this in the form of Explosive Reactive Armour, which uses explosive-propelled steel plates to disrupt the jet from HEAT weapons and (in the case of the Russian Kontakt-5 and Relikt systems) to destroy kinetic energy penetrators such as 120mm fin rounds. Research is underway into "active" defense systems that would destroy incoming projectiles before they could reach the tank itself. Israel's army is currently employing said systems on its Merkava tanks.

The rise of effective infantry anti-tank weapons has since eroded the dominance the tank enjoyed during the middle of the 20th century. Tanks remain vulnerable to airstrikes and helicopters, as well as other tanks, anti-tank missiles, heavy artillery and anti-tank mines or Improvised Explosive Devices. Unsupported Israeli armored units suffered heavy losses at the hands of Egyptian troops with early  ATGMs in the Sinai. This experience confirmed Liddell-Hart and Guderian's insistence that tanks must be supported by infantry at all times, a doctrine that led to the German Panzergrenadier units of mechanised infantry and the Soviet development of the MBP-1, the first mechanised infantry fighting vehicle.

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