In the famous "tank missile" scene in Iron Man, the titular character is fired upon by an armored vehicle while engaging in vigilantism in the Middle East. In response, he fires a missile that annihilates the tank, presumably killing its occupants.

Upon a close look at the scene however, the trapezoidal turret and low sideskirts of the tank in question...

Mystery Tank with the highlighted sections mentioned above: Iron Man fires a rocket at it in the foreground

...resemble those of a NATO vehicle such as the;

American M1 Abrams


British Challenger II

Challenger II

And certainly don't resemble the Russian-made T-72, which insurgents would be far more likely to operate.


Is any reference ever made in or out of universe to whose tank that actually was? And is it ever determined whether Iron Man killed the insurgents he was after, or an American crew?

  • 13
    If you remember, Obadiah was selling Stark weaponry to those insurgents; it was most probably a Start tank (inspired by a real-world tank) with hostiles inside. Apr 29, 2017 at 17:35
  • 1
    Considering that a main battle tank has at least some chance to survive such a missile: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c3/… it seams strange that the tank was destroyed by a warhead the size of a ball-point pen, fired from the front where its armor is the strongest..
    – vsz
    Apr 30, 2017 at 11:12
  • 9
    This is the same movie in which Stark creates a power source more powerful than a fusion reactor, the size of a large donut, using blacksmith tools, yes? I think we are expected to suspend some disbelief...
    – Paul
    Dec 20, 2017 at 12:41
  • I'm really surprised this has so many upvotes considering the obvious plot elements that: (1) there aren't good guys around (2) Stane was selling American weapons to the baddies and (3) the good guy would never kill good guys for stroy-telling reasons Jun 14, 2019 at 15:24
  • 1
    @Paul comparing it to current fusion reactors is a bit unfair. On net power output, a AA battery is more powerful that a fusion reactor.
    – OrangeDog
    Jun 14, 2019 at 15:24

5 Answers 5


According to the film's official novelisation, the tank (along with all the other Stark-tech) was operated by elements of the Ten Rings terrorist group.

It was one of the Stark products that had fallen into their hands as a result of...

...their alliance with Stane...

...and we can reasonably assume that its destruction resulted in the death of a handful of baddies since there were no goodies in the area.

Tony lifted off again, heading back toward the town, when a missile blew him out of the sky. His armor handled the impact, but his sensors and navigation systems were scrambled for a brief moment. When he had them reset, he locked in on the truck that had fired the missile and destroyed it with a repulsor blast. Then he strode through the Ten Rings encampment and destroyed all the old Stark weaponry he could find, setting off a series of enormous explosions that echoed throughout the valley.

It felt good to settle some scores on Yinsen’s behalf, and also to get the local people out from under the tyranny of the Ten Rings. But before Iron Man could enjoy the victory, a tank shell shattered the building next to him. Tony staggered as tons of bricks and mortar rained down on his armor. The refugees, who had crept out of hiding to watch Iron Man, scurried back to safety. Then the tank itself rumbled into view, knocking down makeshift hovels as it came. It trained its turret cannon toward Iron Man as he rose to his feet. Tony studied the tank’s schematic on his heads-up display. The tank was Stark designed, and his computer files showed him everything about it, including its weaknesses.

Phase One: Iron Man

  • 10
    I seem to remember that being the scene where the Air Force was going through checks with the other branches making sure it wasn't any of them that destroyed all the stuff. "...we never got clearance to go in... it wasn't marines... army says it wasn't them..."
    – Odin1806
    Apr 29, 2017 at 17:48

As answered above, the tank is crewed by the Ten Rings. They got it from Stark Industries along with all of their other weapons. There are a couple of them just parked in the Stark parking lot for some reason at the end of the movie:

tanks seen in the background of the parking lot

  • 1
    As you say, you're just repeating an existing answer.
    – OrangeDog
    Jun 14, 2019 at 15:25
  • Abrams have 7 wheels per side. Chieftains have 6. This picture shows 6.
    – Mazura
    Jun 14, 2019 at 16:10
  • @Mazura What? This answer doesn't mention what kind of tank it is...
    – F1Krazy
    Jun 14, 2019 at 16:12
  • 1
    Neither did I, but it's not an Abrams.
    – Mazura
    Jun 14, 2019 at 16:13

I just watched the film and realized this tank looks like British Chieftain MK10 which is used by armed forces in the Middle East.

tank picture

tank with Union Jack flag

  • Do you have a source on the tank being used by any real-world terrorist groups?
    – Rogue Jedi
    Apr 3, 2018 at 12:50

It looks nothing like an Abrams or T-72. It's a late model Chieftain which makes sense since many were sold to Iran during the Shah Regime.

A close up of the tank in question from the film A Chieftain tank promotional image A Chieftain tank operating on a road

It's therefore reasonable to presume one fell into the hands of a terrorist group like the one scene in the film as other British export tanks such as the British MBT fell into hands of groups like ISIS. What's more arguable is if Stark killed Iranian soldiers which in this case is fairly possible but I doubt it'd be the case.

An ISIS marked British MBT

The tanks in the garage are also known as mockups, the upper frontal plate is far too steep for an Abrams, I feel less confident however in this so if you wish to see an image just google "Chieftain mockup Abrams" and come to your own conclusions.

It's a (former?) Iranian Chieftain and also Iron Man's reaction time was too quick so realistically the Sabot round should have turned him into Darth Maul at the end of episode 1 considering Tony's reaction time would've been nowhere near fast enough.


No - the tank shot him down first - so clearly insurgent controlled. And Iron Man puts a shell down the barrel so easily bypassing its armour and blowing up inside the tank.

  • 2
    This doesn’t old much water, the US jets try to shoot him down later on and Stark tech is clearly advanced.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Sep 12, 2019 at 22:43
  • 2
    This would not be the only case where US forces are confused by a sudden player in the battlefield and fire on a superhero who is not against them.
    – DavidW
    Sep 12, 2019 at 22:50

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