Beginner's Guide to Tank Battles

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Welcome to the Tank Battles mode of War Thunder! This guide will help get a player on their feet in trying out War Thunder tank warfare.

Wallpaper KurskBattle.jpg

Getting started in War Thunder

This section's purpose is to get the player adequately ready in jumping into a War Thunder tank battle, starting from choosing a nation towards joining a battle.

Choosing a nation

With seven nations in the game as of Update 1.85 "Supersonic", there are lots of starting points to choose from for the War Thunder tank career. These descriptions will cover the first impressions of each country and the trends in tank characteristics as a player progresses in the tech tree.

Msg-info.png Do note that these are very general descriptions of the tech tree and that individual vehicles present in each nation can have their own characteristics that may differ from the trends.

USA flag.png USA

Starters:
The starter American tanks have a good mix of mobility and protection in their overall design, combined with a fast-firing cannon to do good work against the enemy. This mix in characteristics make the tanks very versatile in their battlefield performance when used correctly. The American tanks' good mobility allows them to take on advantageous position against enemy routes, with their firepower allowing them to penetrate foes with ease. Armour is also good with an average amount throughout the body; while not thick enough to resist a full-on hit, they could provide some lucky ricochets from poorly angled incoming shots.

Tech Tree trends:
The American starter tanks epitomize the rest of the American tech tree with a mediocrity that gives each tank a balance of firepower, mobility, and protection. However, this also means that against enemies that are more focused to a specific trait, the American tanks would do poorly in regards. One general advantage in American tanks is the presence of a gun stabilizer, which allows the gun to lay more easily during slow movements or when coming to a halt. While Rank I-III American tanks do generally well against their counterparts, the tanks slowly begin to fall behind in tank traits in Rank IV, as the medium tank's averageness could not easily compete in face-to-face combat against the common foe. However, the more specialized ends such as light and heavy tanks begin shining in prominence however as they bring better mobility and firepower to the matches respectively. At Rank V and beyond, medium tanks catch back up and bring forth the epitome of Cold War main battle tanks to the battlefield.

Tank destroyers in the American tree are quite unique compared to other nations' as they are primarily turreted designs. Most American tank destroyers rely on mobility to benefit their firepower and definitely have armour considerations last, so careful positioning is always important to preserve the tank destroyer's efforts on the battlefield. All these special mentions, however, go out the window with the Rank V T28/T95 casemate tank destroyer, which is an armoured shell with a gun sticking out that moves at a snail pace, so be aware so that this radical shift in play style does not surprise you.

Anti-aircraft vehicles in the American tree are quite lacking at first with only barely armoured half-tracks bearing machine guns, though make up with saturation of fire to whittle down aircraft. This progresses slightly in Rank III-IV with a tank chassis with a 40 mm Bofors gun, which can down planes more reliably but still has an exposed tank crew and low amount of ammo for extended firing. Anti-air capabilities exponentially rise by Rank V-VI with the M163 and M247 providing heavy fire onto target.

Germany flag.png Germany

There are other things to consider about the German tree besides those fancy Tiger tanks in Rank III-IV, hold your horses.

Starters:
Starter tanks for Germany are characterized by high mobility, decent firepower, and dubious armour protection. Most German vehicles at this early stage are quite quick due to their light weight and engine power. Armaments vary from the quite damaging 37 mm guns to the rapid-fire 20 mm autocannons that arm the Panzer II tanks. However, the armour in these tanks is often the bare minimum, and sometimes even thinner especially on the sides. Thus, early German tanks must make the most of their mobility to establish an advantageous position and then relying on their guns to defeat the enemy. However, the guns also lack a comfortable amount of long-distance penetration power, so there may be more than a few times the German tanks would have to wait for the enemy to come in closer for a penetrating shot. All this combined with sub-par armour means the German tanks snare the initiative to prevent the enemy from firing back.

Tech Tree trends:
Going up the tech tree to Rank II and III, the German tanks begin catching up dramatically in firepower, with armour improving as well. Firepower is enhanced by longer cannons that now provide more than enough power against enemy armour even at range. Armour is enhanced little by little with each version of the Panzer III and IV, but the enemy cannons could also deal with this armour easily as well so they are simply proof against earlier enemies. Mobility takes a short dip as engine power stays the same while tank weight increases. All this is capped off by the introduction of newer tanks like the infamous "Panther" and "Tiger tanks" in Rank III and IV. These two tank designs expand on the potentials of German tanks with better firepower, armour, and mobility; with the Tiger tanks providing much more of the first two. However, these tanks also bring higher battle ratings into the matchmaking, so players should be careful in instantly jumping into the BR 5.7 Tiger I tanks when the rest of the line-up only consists of the BR 3.3 Panzer IIIs (Read the Matchmaker section for more details).

After Rank IV, the German tanks take a sharp split in the extremes of design. One side is the super-heavy tanks such as the Maus tank that brings all 188 tons of armour into battle with good gun and poor mobility. The other side puts all their chips into mobility and firepower with the medium tank such as the Leopards, being able to outpace the enemies with a cannon able to obliterate from kilometers away. This trend continues up until the Leopard 2A4 at the (current) end of the tree, with great extremes in firepower, mobility, and protection. There are also a few scout vehicles at this top rank that also bring good firepower to the table with their mobility.

Tank destroyers for Germany also split into two design philosophies. One is the light-weight open-top vehicles with a huge gun, which often brings a gun from the next rank into the current that absolutely devastated the enemies like the Sturer Emil. The other is the enclosed armoured casemate design that offer decent to impressive frontal armour, though a gun that is contemporary with those in the same rank. As the ranks go up however, the armour becomes much thicker, as seen going from the StuG series of tank destroyers to the Jagdtiger.

German anti-aircraft vehicles are nothing to slouch at, all bring impressive capabilities of downing the enemy aircraft. However, from Rank I-II, the crew arrangement is very vulnerable and can be quickly knocked out with an airstrike or a nearby artillery shell. From Rank III onward, all German anti-aircraft vehicles keep the crew in a semi to fully-protected position, with the vehicle bristling with rapid-fire cannons able to track and shoot down the enemy aircraft.

USSR flag.png USSR

Starters:
Early USSR tanks are defined by lackluster armour, but good gun penetration and good rate of fire. These tanks are easy to penetrate and are destroyed quickly. When playing these tanks try to stay in the second rank or on the flanks. Sniping is also an option with them because the guns fire at relatively high velocities. Remember to seek cover when an enemy starts to shoot at you, as you will not survive many hits. These tanks are powerful weapons in the correct hands, capable of selecting targets of importance and dispatching them in quick order – however, one must be mindful of one's surroundings since the only protection early USSR tanks have is natural cover or distance.

Tech Tree trends:
Several trends make the Soviet tanks stand out in comparison to their peers: Heavily sloped hull armour and minute amount of gun depression. Past the starter tanks onto BR ~3.0 in Rank II, the access to the famous T-34 tanks will show the heavily-angled sloped armour on not just the front armour, but the sides and rear as well. This can be the bane against enemies with poor shot placements and/or weaker guns. However, design trade-offs in Soviet designs that reduce their overall profile on the battlefield also cause gun depression in the turret to be rather poor, with the average depression angle being only 5 degrees. As such, many conventional tank tactics such as the hull-down position and terrain exploitation (such as hills) are complicated by the lacking gun depression.

However, Rank II is characterized with great hull armour with the KV-1 heavy tanks and T-34 medium tanks, with the turret being the primary weak points on these tanks. By Rank III, more powerful armaments such as the 85 mm are available that can make short work of many tanks, but the presence of more powerful enemy tanks, while Russian tanks are still using the same armour as Rank II, mean that enemies will have an easier time knocking out Russian tanks. Even in Rank IV, which features improved tank armour as seen in the T-44 and IS-2 tanks, the stronger enemy guns could make short work of the hull, and even the weaker ones could penetrate through the turret.

By Rank IV onwards as well, the Soviet tree also has a great diversity in the types of vehicles able to be used, with light, amphibious, scout vehicles such as the PT-76B, BMP-1, and Object 906; heavily armoured tanks such as the IS-3 and T-10M; and the medium tanks. Medium tanks begin to dominate the Soviet play style by Rank VI as the introduction of main battle tanks such as the T-64 and T-80B set the score up at the top.

Soviet tank destroyers are characterized early with weakly armoured, but heavily gunned platforms such as the ZiS-30. This soon peters out in Rank III to armoured casemates with either a respectable gun or a massive-calibre cannon as seen in the SU series of tank destroyers from the mellow SU-85 to the pumpin' SU-152. While a few more lightly-armoured, open-topped tank destroyers exist by Rank IV, the solid armoured casemate designs remain a prominent figure in the Soviet tech tree.

Anti-aircraft vehicles in the Soviet tree are all quite poor in their ability to protect the crew, as every anti-air vehicle up to Rank IV is built from a truck chassis; and even up to Rank V with the ZSU-57-2, the crew compartment is exposed. While Rank I is quite low-powered with rather anemic machine guns and fire rate available, auto cannons become present and available by Rank II that could lay down impressive fire to destroy the aircraft, providing the aircraft does not strafe and knock out the crew in an attack run.

Britain flag.png Britain

Starters:
The early British tanks are defined by speed and adequate firepower. The usage of the cruiser tanks enable the British to have some of the fastest introductory tanks available in the game, second to USSR's BT tanks. Armour on the cruiser tanks are at a minimum to keep speed, but will improve as you move down the rank. Unlocking the medium tank Valentine will also help in armour, though at a cost of speed. The British all have a very high damage output with their large, rapid-fire guns.

Tech Tree trends:
Outside of a single exception in the researchable tech tree, the British are burdened with only solid-shot rounds for its armaments, meaning there are no explosive fillers available to enhance post-penetration damage on enemy vehicles. Early British tanks are also burdened by a poor reverse speed, especially in their Cromwell chassis.

British tanks up the line to Rank II and III split their tank designs to two types, the cruiser and infantry tank which are characterized in War Thunder as light/medium and heavy tanks respectively. So, fast tanks like the Cromwell are working alongside heavily armoured ones such as the Churchill tanks. By Rank III, while infantry tank armour proves much more substantial than its peers, the cruiser tanks begin expanding their firepower with the famous 17-pounder cannon. While still firing solid-shot, the cannon can penetrate most, if not all, of its peers' armour. By Rank IV, the infantry tank concept fades away as the more flexible medium tanks in the form of Centurions become the predominant British tank up to Rank V, with few heavy tanks like the Conqueror supporting its protection. By Rank VI, the British revolve around the Chieftain and Challenger tanks for their duties, with the assisting Warrior for recon tasks.

British tank destroyers take up an odd niche of supplying much needed firepower, but in many different manners with deigns such as the odd 3 inch Gun Carrier, the rear-facing Archer, heavily armoured Tortoise, and the big-bang slinging FV4005 that are present throughout the entire tree. As such, it is hard to establish any trend they set other than giving a bigger gun to the average British line-up. By Rank VI though, tank destroyers primarily focus on missile launching systems.

Anti-air vehicles in the British tree are often lackluster in firepower, earlier ones relying on either regular machine guns or the large 0.50 caliber ones before switching over to more reliable autocannons. By Rank II however, all of Britain's anti-air crew compartments are decently protected from enemy fire that can allow for closer protection of the fighting groups.

Japan flag.png Japan

Starters:
The early Japanese tanks have generally light frames, but decent manoeuvrability. Their armament has terrible penetration, but the shells have good explosive content. The only exception is the excellent Rank I truck mounted anti-aircraft gun. The tracked artillery gun is also devastating at medium range.

Tech Tree trends:
Moving up to Rank II shows almost no changes in the trend from the starter, with light armour and decent manoeuvrability attached to a rather anemic gun. However, at the end of Rank II, the Chi-Nu vehicle begins to solve the firepower issue with a larger and more powerful 75 mm gun. This is continued in Rank III where armour really takes a setback as an even longer 75 mm becomes the go-to gun for the Japanese tree, while mobility slowly drags down up to the bulky Chi-Ri II. By Rank III, there are also some American tanks to supplement the line-up.

By Rank IV onwards, armour has taken a backseat while firepower and mobility becomes the prime focus of addition. By the Rank V, a new mechanic called "Hydropneumatic suspension" allows for more flexibility in the positioning of Japanese tanks to ambush enemies from locations that are unorthodox in tank placements. It is not until the top-rank tank, the Type 90 main battle tank, that an balance to the extremity of firepower, mobility, and protection is achieved. To add to this, the Type 90 also has one of the highest penetrating sabot round in the game, meaning while the journey to the top may be hard, it could be quite rewarding with a potent vehicle and a huge reserve of game skills.

Japanese tank destroyers are emphasized by being lightly armoured and heavily gunned, each of them more than able to destroy the competitors on a battlefield. The one exception are the Ho-Ri types, which trade in mobility for a larger set of armour encapsulating the crew and modules.

Anti-aircraft vehicles are quite capable, with every single one equipped with autocannons to smack down enemy planes. However, the crew are always exposed in all versions except the top-rank Type 87 SPAA.

Italy flag.png Italy

Starters:
Early Italian tanks have good emphasis on firepower, sub-par armour, but are quite lacking in mobility. The various 47 mm calibre cannons give good penetration and damage, which can give the Italians a good advantage at range. Armour are often just averagely thick, but have huge unangled plates that could be easily penetrated. The low engine power seems to only just be able to drag the tank by to its firing position. While the armoured car options are more viable for mobility, the expense is extremely thin armour that can allow even machine gun rounds to penetrate at the right conditions. A smart play style will be needed when starting the Italians.

Tech Tree trends:
To be written

France flag.png France

Starters:
The early French tanks are defined by extremely lackluster firepower but excellent armor. Even the highest penetrating shells on the reserve tanks cannot engage most tanks of their tier from the front. The armor, however, is quite a tough nut to crack. The mobility is generally average or sub-par. The main exception is the P.7.T AA, an anti-aircraft armed tractor, and the AMR.35 ZT3, a light, maneuverable tank destroyer.

Tech Tree trends:
Rank II trends closer towards an even balance in tank traits, though firepower still requires catching up. Some American vehicles such as the M4A1 and the M10 are available to supplement the odd French tanks. Once Rank III roll by, firepower has been improved with many high-velocity 75 mm cannons available for all types of tanks. However, emphasis on armour begins to decline in the face of the opponents of the rank.

Rank IV introduces some of the more popular French tanks of the game such as the Lorraines and the AMX tank series. These tanks have armour that are quite thin even among its peers, but boast high mobility and heavy firepower that allows them to exploit enemy weaknesses by getting around them at places they don't expect. This trend is continued all the way to Rank VI, where armour may not be heavily relied upon, but firepower and mobility can be. However, the French are in a general disadvantage in the top-rank battles due to the absence of gun stabilizers, so keep this in mind when fighting in a warfare of movement.

Tank destroyers in the French tree are a mix of casemates and turreted designs, though the general trend is always in firepower and mobility; with only the turreted ARL-44 having decent amount of armour to stand toe-to-toe with the enemy.

Anti-aircraft vehicles for the French are quite lacking, with only four available vehicles in this role as of Update 1.85. The first two are typical trucks with guns mounted on them, but the last two AMX designs provide powerful guns for combating aircraft, as well as radars to more easily target and destroy enemy aerial threats.

Preparing for the first match

Before starting up the first tank match, it is recommended for all players to play the tutorial section in-game to be familiarized with the tank controls and damage mechanics of the game.

To enter the tutorial form the menu, go to "Battles" at the top left corner in between a cog icon and "Community." A drop down menu should appear, with "Tutorials" appearing fourth from the top. From there, the tutorials titled "Tank Control Basis" and "Tank Gunnery" should be completed, with a bonus in currency added once completed.

Now, it is time to select the game mode for the match. For any newcomers, Arcade mode is recommended as there will be assist markers available for shell trajectory and penetration indication that helps new players understand where their shots will go at long range, and what tanks they could handle. As experience is earned while playing the game, the player can choose between realistic or simulator battles for their continued gameplay experience.

Once a mode is set, click the large, orange "To Battle!" button to join a queue for game match to be made!

For more details on the game modes for tanks, click here!

Fighting in the first match

Once a match has been chosen, the map and objective will be laid out for the player.

The first thing encountered upon joining a match is a vehicle and ammo selection screen, with vehicle selection done atop and ammunition done in the center. The next thing to take note of is a map of the battlefield on the right side, where diamond symbols with letters on it will be pinpointed, these are the primary objectives of any War Thunder tank battle.

Most objectives in the game rely on the capture and control of strategic points, with the game mode being called "Conquest" or "Domination" depending on the number of capture points available. These points are captured simply by driving into the bordered circle area with the enemy removed from it.

However, the ease of capturing these points is hampered by the terrain of each map and the enemies shooting. To solve this, start planning a route towards the target point using the mini-map provided, then pick the appropriate ammunition for the task.

Msg-important.png The best penetrating ammunition is not necessarily the most optimal round to fight with in War Thunder, as other factors such as round type (AP, APCBC, etc.), angle of attack effect, and explosive filler are to be considered as well. Though APCR ammunition may have a large amount of penetration potential upclose, they are poor at long-range fighting, against non-flat armour plates, and have negligible post-penetration damage. For more details on ammo type, see this page.

When selecting ammo type and numbers, a general rule is to not bring all available ammunition into the battle as these increase the presence of ammo racks in the tank which, when hit, could detonate and instantly destroy the tank.

Once these considerations are taken into account, click any of the orange "To Battle!" buttons; the large one on the bottom right or the ones above the vehicle icon (or double-click on a vehicle icon) to spawn into the fight!

Now that the tank is finally track-on-the-ground and ready to rumble, the one thing to keep in mind is to play the objective. Because even if one side manages to knock out more total tanks than the enemy, if the enemy retains the capture points, they will win by draining the ticket counter. Plus, capturing these points result in a nice reward and score boost, so there's something in it for not just for the team, but for the individual!

Maneuvering the battlefield takes skill and familiarity around the terrain and tank's characteristics. Bead-lining a straight path towards the objective could run into open, exposed areas where the enemy could fire upon with ease. Use the terrain for cover and concealment under foliage, rubble, hills, buildings, and the such. Knowing the tank's mobility power can allow for more complicated manoeuvres in rough terrain like steep hills and river-bogged areas to get around predictable road routes that may have enemy in sight.

Every encounter with an enemy, like in most player-versus-player games, is a test of wits and initiative. As such, it comes down to whether a penetrating shell could be placed onto their tank before they could open fire and destroy the player. A good mindset to have is to not view exposure as a mere state, but rather as a conscious, active decision. Every second of exposure represents a risk one should be aware of. Try to surprise the enemies by attacking on their flanks, even when sniping. When you must move into an area that an enemy tank is aiming at, remember to pre-angle your armour and aim your weapon to do as much damage as you can with your first shot. This means aiming for driver's view ports and the cheeks of the turret.

The reward at the end of a match is largely determined by whether you have won or lost the match, and the outcome of the match is largely determined by who possesses the capture points. This, coupled with the fact that a point capture carries a higher reward than destroying an enemy, means capturing points is a first priority. Even having more targets destroyed and losing can net a smaller result than less targets destroyed and winning.

Congratulations! You have experienced your first match in War Thunder (or at least one that you have a good awareness on what's actually happening). However, there's more to War Thunder than just blasting away at the enemy.

After the first match

Now that you know how to fight and win battles, it is now time to use that experience to advance your placement in the tech tree you have chosen.

As more battles are fought, research points are earned towards upgrading the tank and progressing the tech tree. We'll relay how to do each step here.

Upgrades

Upgrading tanks comes down to two factors, unlocking modifications for the modules and training the crew.

Modules and modifications

Main article: Modifications

In the menu, there is the option to unlock modifications for the vehicle in question. These are divided into three categories: Mobility, Protection, and Firepower. Mobility upgrades the engine, transmission, and suspension characteristics. Protection upgrades survivability potential with repairs, fire extinguishers, and crew replacement. Firepower upgrades turret characteristics, accuracy, and unlocks new ammunition to be used. These are researched and unlocked one by one, and as the criteria is met, the next tier of modifications can be unlocked to further enhance the vehicle.

In any vehicle, it is recommended to always focus on unlocking these two modifications, which happen to both be in the protection column.

  • Parts — This is due to otherwise being unable to repair critical modules on the battlefield. By default, only track damage could be repaired anywhere on the battlefield and repairs can be done on captured points. However, repairs to critical modules such as the gun, turret, transmission, and engine would be impossible away from a captured point without the Parts modification.
  • FPE — The Fire Protection Equipment is very important for combat survival as these are the most viable way to extinguish vehicle fires (outside of driving and submerging in a body of water. Without this, a simple fire will slowly chip away at module health (and expose the tank for anyone in the vicinity to find) and eventually lead to a fuel or ammo combustion that will knock out the tank from the game.

Past these, the priority of modifications to upgrade can vary from different tanks and should be consulted on individual vehicle pages on whether mobility or firepower is more important to research.

Crew skills

Main article: Crew skills

Arguably one of the least looked at part of tank upgrades, crew skills can play a big role in the firepower and mobility of a tank. Unlike modifications, the training of a crew are specific to the crew slot in the line-up and can be transferable to any tank the crew is using (except "Expert" and "Ace" status).

Crew information can be reached on the left drop-right menu on the screen with the middle button for the selected crew (under "Vehicle Information" and above the "Favourite Achievements" button). From here, "Crew Training" would direct the player to a screen that would show the following tabs:

The crew training page, where upgrades in the loader's reload skill shows an appreciable benefit.
  • Driver
  • Gunner
  • Tank Commander
  • Tank Loader
  • Radio Operator Gunner
  • Logistical Service
  • Qualification

Each have their own unique skills to help enhance the tank in their role, from driving capabilities, gun laying, and communications. Upgrading each trait in a crew tab with the earned Crew XP Points would add a 0.5 point to the overall crew level. Each skill that can be upgraded is detailed more on the crew skills page.

Once a certain crew level is reached with crew upgrades, they can enter "Qualification" to become enhanced to one specific tank. The first stage would be "Expert" which adds 3 point to every crew skill for the cost of several Silver Lions Sl icon.png. The impact can be quite noticeable once put into a match.

After an "Expert" qualification is gained, the next step past a maxed out "Expert" crew is the "Ace" status, which enhances the reward to an additional 5 point to every crew skill. However, earning this status is much harder and requires either Golden Eagles Ge icon.png or a huge amount of experiences to achieve.

Progression

Upon selecting your preferred tech tree, you will then being the gradual process of unlocking, researching, and purchasing vehicles down a column to progress towards the next vehicle type.

Progression is restricted by two factors in the tech tree, vehicle unlock criteria per rank and vehicle branch connection. Each rank past the first has a criteria of the number of vehicles that must be researched and purchased before the next rank's vehicles could be researched. Vehicles are then linked via an arrow branching from one vehicle to the next. These arrows indicate that the prior vehicle must be researched before the next vehicle could be researched, and purchased before the next vehicle could be purchased.

Vehicles restricted from being researched are noted by being under a dark red overlay, with indications that the vehicle is locked.

Matchmaking

Main articles: Matchmaker, Battle ratings

While ranks are important for progression, they are not the deciding factor on what types of battles you enter.

Matchmaking in the game is solely based on battle ratings, which are indicated by a numerical value on the lower right corner of a vehicle box (or on top of a stat card). The rank of a vehicle does not play a part in this matchmaking process, and so a rank II vehicle can be evenly matched with a rank III vehicle if both have the same battle rating.

Matchmaking in tank battles is sorted by the highest battle rating in the line-up and then battling against enemies within a battle rating range of ± 1.0. For example, a player enters a battle with a line-up with a maximum battle rating of 2.3, causing the player to join a match potentially between 1.3 to 3.3 in battle ratings. This is further divided into groups separated by a value of 1.0, so matches would consist of vehicles in the 1.3-2.3, 1.7-2.7, 2.0-3.0 and 2.3-3.3 vehicles. This develops into the concepts of "uptier" and "downtier" as coined by the community, where "uptier" would be placing the 2.3 line-up in a 2.3-3.3 match, while a "downtier" would be in a 1.3-2.3 match.

Always consult the stats cards for tanks when creating a line up. Also remember that every vehicle have a different battle ranking and stats card in different game modes. To change which stats card you are looking at, simply click on the mode view option at the bottom right of the research tree.

Advanced considerations

Aside from turning that diamond-shape symbol on the capture point into a blue color and destroying enemy tanks, there are more intricate details to cover when detailing how to play the game more deeply than shoot-and-scoot.

Vehicle usage

Here we detail the typical usage of each vehicle type in a battle.

Msg-info.png It should be pointed out that when choosing a vehicle to load into a battle, not every tank in the game is optimal for every situation. For example, it would probably be unwise to take the slow Churchill infantry tank on the vast, open and maneuvre-friendly map of Kursk, or to pick a heavy tank during an uptier where enemy tanks would have firepower that makes the armour moot.

These situations are the reason why a diverse line up is usually good, as you cannot predict what map or match you will get, so the tank line up has to be suitable for most/all maps. In addition, later into the game, the second, third, and proceeding vehicles you choose can impact the game. If your team needs to quickly capture the "A" point to prevent from losing, you want a fast-moving vehicle to get there quickly to stop the "ticket bleed".

Without further ado, here's a general "doctrine" on how each tank type are to perform on the battlefield.

Light tanks

Light tanks are lightly armoured and small, yet highly mobile and armed with an adequate gun. At Rank I and the reserves, the light tanks make up the majority of the tanks involved in the playing field. Make good usage of your mobility and small size to move from cover to cover, peeking out occasionally to fire at the enemy. Don't fire from the same place more than twice as it will let the enemy take aim at your position. Peek out the other side of the cover or reposition for a better chance at survival. You can also use your mobility to get to the enemy's sides, thus giving you a good shot on the vulnerable weak side of the tanks. At the later ranks, most of the nations have phased out the light tanks due to their inadequacy against the larger tanks, but the American and Soviet tree still retain them up to the late ranks. These late rank light tanks put more emphasis on the firepower to deal more damage for the light weight, so more confidence can be had fighting the ranks they exist in. However, the strategy remain unchanged in making sure you do not even take a single enemy hit, as a single hit will end you.

Medium tanks

Medium tanks are the jack-of-all-trade tank in the game. Armed with a adequate armour, mobility, and firepower, they can fit in multiple roles on the battlefield. Their greatest pro is also their greatest weakness, being just as good in everything and also being just as bad in everything. They are not armoured enough to hold positions, fast enough to flank the enemy, or armed enough to take out any tank they see. Flexibility is the key of the medium tanks, giving you free rein in what you will do to dominate the battlefield. By Rank IV, the firepower and armour of the medium tanks start to wane in the presence of the stronger heavy tanks such as the IS-2 and Tiger II. At this point, start playing the medium tanks akin to the light tanks, taking cover and popping out occasionally to fire before repositioning or get on the enemy's flanks.

Heavy tanks

Heavy tanks are the breakthrough vehicles of the game and in MMORPG terms, would be the "tank" of the team. Their heavy armour allows them to absorb enemy fire, their size makes them bullet magnet to take fire intended for your weaker teammates, and more often than not you have a very powerful gun able to destroy the opposing forces. Though you may want to ominously crawl toward the enemy with a face of intimidation, you are not invulnerable. Going up to the enemy increases the risk of their gun being able to penetrate certain weak points on your frontal armour or even get a tank onto your sides and penetrate your weaker side armour. Use the heavy tanks sparingly, stand back a certain distance from an enemy strong point and blast at the stranglers, with the distance empowering your armour as the enemy's shells may not have enough energy to penetrate your armour after traveling a distance. Remember to slope your armour by angling the hull so the enemy would never get a straight shot onto your armour.

Tank destroyers

Tank destroyers are a specialized type of vehicle meant to... well, destroy tanks. However, different design aspects on these tanks lead to different doctrines within the same class.

Armoured casemate structure
These tank destroyers, with examples like the Jagdpanzer IV, SU-85, and Semoventes, are distinguished by a fully enclosed fighting compartment with a gun mounted fixed to the front on a flexible mount. These tank destroyers typically rely on a low-profile to set up unnoticed ambush positions against incoming enemies, and often carry guns equivalent to the tanks in the rank. Exploit the low silhouette by hiding in the distance or in foliage so the enemies cannot detect it. Take position near choke-points to channel the enemy in and open fire in opportune moments at the weak spots or when they expose their sides.

Another school of thought in casemate structures are larger-profiled, but more heavily armoured designs such as the Jagdtiger, Tortoise, and T95 in a role that could be considered assault tank destroyers. While these could still rely on ambush methods to obtain hits on the enemy, their slower speed and higher profile can make concealment at advantageous positions difficult, often causing them to take up a role similar to heavy tanks to absorb fire from the front while using their cannon to decimate the enemies in front trying to penetrate the thick armour.

Glass-cannon casemate structures
These tank destroyers, with examples like the Marder III, ZiS-30, and Ho-Ni I, are distinguished by very little, if any, armour on the design. For this penalty in armour, mobility may or may not be enhanced as well. However, firepower on these tank destroyers are often of a league of the next rank's equivalent, such as the Rank III Nashorn being equipped with an 88 mm cannon that does not begin to appear on tanks until the next rank up. As such, while these tank destroyers are lightly armoured, probably slow, and most likely of high-profile construction, they provide firepower nearly unparalleled to the matches they can fight in. These should not go on any offensive and rely on advantageous, defensive terrain to be positioned where minimum return fire can be expected while ambushing the enemy as they appear in the gun sights.

Turreted
Mostly exclusive to the United States' and British designs, these turreted designs are typically higher-profile and lighter armoured than the casemate counterparts, but feature greater tactical flexibility and mobility. The epitome of this type of tank destroyer lies in the American M18 Hellcat, which provides very high speed with a reliable cannon to destroy most tanks upon a penetration; yet has paper-thin armour that even high-explosive shells could cripple it. These tank destroyers rely on moving to areas in a very short amount of time to set up flanking ambushes against the incoming enemy. The additional advantage is that these tank destroyers, with the tank characteristic of a turret, can use the gun depression for hull-down positions and the turret traverse for an enhanced horizontal targeting range.

Self-propelled anti-aircraft

Self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicles are specialized vehicles not meant to destroy ground vehicles, instead they are meant to attack the enemy aircraft. Equipped with rapid-firing autocannons or machine guns, you are to lead the enemy plane right into your firing field to knock them out of the sky. Most SPAA do not have the same armour as a tank, so the SPAA should stay back behind the attacking force to stay safe from enemy fire and yet blast away any plane attempting to strafe your allies. Some SPAA are able to defend themselves against ground targets such as the German Ostwind, the British Falcon and the Soviet ZSU-57-2, but these are last ditch weapons.

Aircraft

Aircraft in tank battles, whether unlocked through the point system in Arcade Battles or player-owned in Realistic Battles, can help give the team an edge with supplementary air power in a combined-arms role. These too are separated into roles of emphasis in tank battles.

  • Fighters should primarily be focused on protecting the air space against enemy aircraft that come in to intercept friendly aircraft or attack ground units. The best strategy to destroy enemy planes is to gain a higher altitude than them, then dive and shoot them down. If no enemy planes are present, strafing the enemy ground units to harass them also fits fighter duty, but the most important role you can be is act as an aerial reconnaissance for your team, relaying where each enemy is on the map. Staying at a high altitude or taking evasive manoeuvres would be necessary if an enemy SPAA is present on the ground.
    • Alternatively, fighters can be armed with bombs and rockets in a Fighter-bomber role to attack ground units. Note that this sacrifices the plane's ability to fight other aircraft so long as these armaments are on the aircraft, and the aircraft's performance in this role varies as they are not designed for the purpose of attacking ground units.
  • Attackers and Dive-bombers should both focus on targeting individual ground units and eliminating them with either cannon-armaments on the aircraft or the available bombs and rockets.
    • Attackers come in at a low altitude with their relatively armoured air frame to get better accuracy onto target. Due to their low altitude of attack, equipped bombs should be set on delay to avoid the bomb blast and shrapnel on the ground from affecting the aircraft.
    • Dive-bombers rely on coming in from a high altitude towards the ground to directly deliver a bomb onto target. Air-brakes are available on most of these aircraft to help slow down the dive to allow for an easier adjustment of aim and also to be easier to pull up from the dive.
  • Bombers are more preferred for a carpet-bombing of an area to eliminate the enemy. These should be retained at high altitude to avoid anti-aircraft fire as most bombers lack the maneuverability owing to their size from dodging enemy fire.

Gameplay

Outside of the written guide here, there are several YouTube tutorials provided by War Thunder to further enhance your experience, as listed here:

"Part 3: Tanks Arcade"
"Part 7: Tanks Tactics"
"Part 11: Tanks Armour"
"Part 12: Tanks Sniper"

Beyond those videos, here are some details to consider when playing in a match.

Shoot-and-scoot

Probably one of the more basic detail to know in a tank fight, it details changing positions after engaging in a firefight. This can be done as simple as retreating back into cover after firing the cannon to reload in safety, or as thorough as repositioning the fire location before exposing the tank again. This is done because after opening an engagement, the enemy downrange will be focused on locating the origin of the attack to eliminate the threat. As such, repositioning by moving out of the line-of-sight and then changing the firing location will buy time in the enemy not realizing where the shot come from. With this, even if they did identify where the first shot originated, the repositioning will ensure their gun sights are not aligned onto the last appeared area, buying extra time as the enemy would then need to readjust the sights towards the new location. This is especially important if artillery is incoming onto the location; as exposure to this attack is detrimental to anyone's health, movement to another firing location will make the incoming rain of explosions miss your vehicle.

Protecting a capture point

Capture points serve as giant magnets of allies and enemies, and protecting these points from enemies can be a chore. The preferred tank specifications for this job is one with lots of armour and a very powerful gun, though any tank can do this job given the correct skill sets. There are two ways to protect a capture point:

  1. Stay on the capture point and fight off any incoming invaders.
  2. Position yourself a distance away from the capture point so you are able to see any enemy that tries to reach the point, then pick them off when they are either on the way or on the capture point.

Both have their pros and cons. Staying on the capture point ensures that you will be there to prevent the zone from being captured, but you risk being swarmed by the enemy or picked off at a distance by a tank hitting one of your critical weak points. Positioning yourself away from the capture point at a vantage point around the zone so you can give supporting fire to any teammates that are at the zone, but if the enemy manage to get to the zone and none of your teammate are on the zone, the zone will be captured by the enemy easily, or neutralized if you are able to knock out the enemy on the zone before they can capture it. Either way, it may require you to move away from your position to take back the point. Protecting the capture point requires a good knowledge of your tank's strengths and the environment to find good vantage areas and cover.

Flanking

Flanking is one of the main tactic that must be recognized by everyone. Flanking is the movement of units to get around the enemy to their sides, then hitting them. In tank warfare, flanking is absolutely essential to gain an upper hand over the enemy. If coordinated, this would force the enemy to engage in two different directions, the front where the main force would be, and the sides where the flanking force is. This will lower their distribution of firepower to two targets, whereas the flanking force and main force can still concentrate their firepower on just one enemy force. With the addition of lowering the enemy's attention to one target, the flanking force also had the benefit of being able to get to one of the tank's main weaknesses, their side armour. This will allow flankers to be able to not only take the advantage over the enemy, but give them a lethal edge over their forces.

Flanking requires tanks that are very mobile due to the quick nature of the tactic, yet have a gun that can reliable defeat the enemy. Armour should not be prioritized because that would decrease mobility, and hopefully if the tactic is done right, the main force should be receiving the brunt of the enemy's firepower rather than the flanking force. Thus, the best tanks for this job is a light or medium tank.

Sniping

Like real-life sniping, this tactic requires skill and patience. Skill to accurately range and hit very far away targets, patience to wait for the enemy to drive right into your firing range. If you are able to exploit not only your tank's firepower, but also the environment, the enemy may never be able to accurately pinpoint your location and you will be able to pick them off one-by-one.

Tank destroyers do this job the best due to their low silhouette and high-power guns compared to tanks, but suffer from a limited firing angle (unless you are using American or British tanks, in which case their silhouette is large, but allow a larger degree of fire).

Brawling

This is where things get aggressive. No fancy long shots or skillful maneuvers, just getting up close and personal with the enemy, front and center. This tactic requires fast reflexes and intuition, and most importantly, the ability to get the first shot off to your enemy. The first shot is the most important shot as a brawler, because at the close ranges this tactic is in when fighting, the tank armour can be negligible, and also the first shot could impede the enemy's attempt to fire off a shot at all if you are able to incapacitate their gunner, then they can't get any shot off at all.

Any tank can play this tactic really, its just two factors that matters the most now, how many tanks your team has and the penetration value on your gun. So a light tank can play this role if it has a very powerful gun and would not be out-numbered by the enemy. Strike at the enemy's ability to fire back by destroying each enemy tank, or their gunner if you do not believe a one-shot knock-out is possible. Overwhelm them, swarm them, but do not give the enemy the edge because in brawling, anything is exploitable.

Game modes

Should you wish for more excitement in your game play, there are other modes to try out with their own perks!

Msg-info.png Simulator Battles features are assumed to also match Realistic Battle's unless stated otherwise.
Ground Forces - Features by Game Mode
Arcade (AB) Realistic (RB) Simulator (SB)
  • Aim and penetration indicator available
  • Rangefinder always enabled
  • 3D markers indicate enemy and friendly vehicles and range
  • Scoreboard shows vehicle composition of both teams
  • Engine power is enhanced
  • No player-owned aircraft - only selected match spawns available
  • Limited to three spawns
  • No aim or penetration indicator available
  • Rangefinder only on selected tanks with the modification
  • 3D markers indicate only friendly vehicles
  • Scoreboard shows vehicle composition of only player's team
  • Engine power matches real life specifications
  • Player aircraft can be brought in and used
  • Spawn using "Respawn Points" earned through contributing actions in the match
  • Friendly fire is on
  • Only a "first-person" view from commander's position
  • Gun sight is moved to the actual position of optics
  • Vehicles limited to allowed vehicle in simulator events
  • 3D markers are now absent
  • Unable to lock onto target due to absence of markers
  • Vehicle selection system restricted to one vehicle per air and ground.
  • One or two spawn depending on vehicle type

As mentioned earlier, the Arcade Battle mode is the recommended starter mode since it is forgiving to beginners with assists in firepower (aim and penetration indicators) and mobility (enhanced engine power) to help be familiarized around the mechanics of the game. Once comfortable with the game, Realistic and Simulator Battles can be considered for further immersion into the War Thunder battles. Realistic and Simulator battles, owing to their more complicated game style, also offer enhanced rewards after a battle.

Other tips for beginners

There is a lot of things to learn about War Thunder, so much so that all other tips are placed here! Here are some tips we can give you if you're still new to War Thunder Ground Battles and want some advice, or for ideas on how to fight certain vehicles.

  • M4 Shermans are tough American medium tanks to crack, but there are certain weak points at the hull such as the transmission area, and the side armour are very thin, large, and flat for an easy penetration.
  • Panzer III and IV are the main German medium tanks in the early ranks, here are some tips...
    • They are quite easy to take out if you hit their front plate as close to a perpendicular angle as possible, but the front glacis part in front of the front plate is basically invulnerable, so aim a bit higher when aiming at the front plate to avoid a round ricocheting off the glacis.
    • Shooting the Panzers in the empty space in the middle of the suspension will most likely cook off the ammunition rack or fuel container under the tank, ensuring their knock-out.
  • T-34s are the early bane in the Rank II with their extreme sloped front armour. Until you gain a powerful gun able to penetrate the front armour like the Panzer IV F2, here are some tips...
    • Aim for the sides of the turret, the areas that look like the "cheek" on a face. These are weak spots and are much weaker than the frontal hull. Shoot the right side because that is where the gunner sits. When that is hit, the T-34 is unable to fire. Once that's done, aim at the left to knock out the loader, so if he is able to fire, the next shot will take a longer time to follow-up. Finish by either waiting for the replacement gunner to come in and take him out as well or flank the T-34 during this opportunity and fire at its weaker side armour at the driver's compartment in front.
    • Aim at the hull armour on a hill when it is below you. This way, you can minimize the sloping effectiveness of the tank, as the armour facing towards you is less sloped if you can see it in a near 90 degree angle. The hull armour is only 45 mm thick, and without the sloping advantage, it is easy to penetrate.
    • Ambush the T-34 on its sides, it is less sloped than the front armour. If possible, you can also aim at the small clearing above the track, but below the sloped side armour to hit an unsloped 45 mm side plate behind the track.
  • Mastering the different camera viewpoints is vital to tank battles:
    • Gunner view, named Sniper mode in the controls option, is necessary to make accurate shots at long-distance targets or to hit weak spots.
    • Commander view, named Binoculars in the controls option, is necessary to look over hills and obstacles.
    • Driver view, is sometime useful to peek below obstacles.
    • Turret view, which is the zoomed-in exterior (third-person) view (right-click by default), is necessary for close-quarter combat (especially on urban maps).
  • Use your binoculars, it's free. This ingame hint points at a major element of Ground Forces: spotting enemies before they spot you. Being able to ambush enemies to land the first hit is the best way to win a tank fight. Binding the Binoculars command in the controls option ("Tank Controls" category) will allow you to watch the landscape with a significant zoom, while keeping your hull behind cover and your turret aimed at its current direction.
    • While looking through the Binoculars, the Gunner can be ordered to aim where you are looking, by left-clicking. This function can be used to make accurate shots at long range, when the Gunner view (Sniper mode) is obstructed by bushes, or has a lesser magnification (zoom) than the Binoculars.
    • Most importantly, the Binoculars view position is from the Commander point of view, which is nearly always higher than the Gunner view ("Sniper mode" in the controls option), allowing you to scan and spot above obstacles and hills without exposing more than your cupola.
  • The controls command "Tank: short stop" (no keybind by default), when pressed and held, will stabilize and progressively slow down the tank to a stop. An absolute life-saver when driving at high-speed and suddenly encountering an enemy: continuing with the full-speed drive will make aiming too difficult, while braking will leave you unable to aim until the tank is properly stopped. The short stop is the best way to survive an unexpected duel.
  • The towing hook (default keybind: 0) actually works pretty well if you respect these two rules:
    • Point of attachment: if you want to roll a tank back on its tracks, attach the hook at the top (aiming with the mouse and pressing the hook key), then drive perpendicular to its tracks. The goal is to pull the top of the tank, not drag the bottom across the ground.
    • Momentum: if you want to turn over a large tank, or a tank that has both of its tracks in the air, you need momentum. Pick up some speed from a short distance, make sure to narrowly drive past the tank (don't drive into it!), and just as you sneak past it: look behind you, and HOOK the tank while still speeding away at full speed! Attach the hook to the top or the furthest point from you if possible to really pull it back around. Your tank will suddenly be attached to its target and the momentum will brutally pull it back up. With practice, practically all Light and Medium tanks and many Heavy tanks can be put back on their tracks on the first try.
  • Do not leave a battle if you can still respawn. Not only will you be ditching your team, you will also get a Crew Lock, which prevents you from using whichever vehicles receive the lock.