World War II came and went, and defeated Germany had been divided into two, with the eastern half falling under the influence of the communist Soviet Union and the western region working alongside the United States.

When tensions grew, and the Cold War era took hold in the late 1940s, western allies perceived the communist region’s rising power as an imminent threat. More potent main battle tanks were developed in case eastern forces decided to attack using their own war machines. This eventually became a race between the two sides to build the most innovative, powerful tanks.

The ‘Super Tank’ Race

When Russia introduced its T54/55 series, American and West German forces unveiled the MBT (main battle tank) M60 “Patton” and Leopard 1 as the former tank’s capable rival. Soon, however, US intelligence discovered the development of the Soviet Union’s advanced T-62 MBT equipped with powerful arms modifications, and they decided it was time to sprint ahead of the competition.

Subsequently, then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara proposed an unprecedented “super tank” and initiated the joint battle tank program between the US and West German forces. During this period, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states lacked cohesion on common military equipment, which McNamara saw as needing improvement.

MBT70 Prototype
MBT-70 prototype undergoing a speed test at Aberdeen Proving Ground. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

By 1963, Germany and the US signed a memorandum of understanding that guaranteed both nations equal input in the tank’s design and features. This turned out to be the first big misstep in the program as engineers from both sides later couldn’t agree even on the smallest details, such as which system of measurement use.

“As testing continued, they realized they had another big problem. Because the driver would be located inside a turret that would be rotating in battle, the tank’s designers had come up with the solution of mounting the driver inside his own contra-rotating cupola within the turret. Regardless of the direction the turret was facing, the cupola would automatically face forward. The drivers, however, accustomed to being located in a stationary position at the front of a tank’s hull, were becoming disoriented and suffering from motion sickness.” via Defense Media Network, 2016.

Dubbed MBT-70 by the Americans and KPz-70 by the Germans, the designed super tank comprised promising, ahead-of-its-time features, which caused its eventual cancellation.

Couldn’t Agree on the Design

The main design of the super tank includes a steel-layered tungsten alloy armor and an inner protective shell capable of buffering Soviet ammunition.