War History Online presents this Guest Article from Robby Houben
The world’s newest tank museum opened its doors this year in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Situated in the country’s capital Amman, Jordan’s Royal Tank Museum teaches visitors about the country’s military past and the history of armored warfare.
The museum aims to “provide an environment of exploration, knowledge and activity through the collection, restoration, perseveration, and display of military tanks and armored artifacts so as to educate, remind, and inform visitors of the role played by tanks and armored fighting vehicles of the Jordanian Armed Forces in the struggle to shape our country and society, within the shadow of world conflicts”.
The collection is housed in an architectural gem which resembles a modern interpretation of the country’s old square-shaped desert fortresses. The concept symbolizes the transformation of tanks from slow, bulky machines to high-tech sophisticated weapon systems, aiming to connect Jordan’s rich past with its views towards the future. The museum is situated in King Abdullah II Park in Amman and stretches over 20,000 square meters, displaying over 110 tanks and armored vehicles.
The institution originated from a royal decree issued by Jordan’s King Abdullah II in 2007. King Abdullah is the current commander of the Jordan Armed Forces. After graduating from the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he served in an armored brigade of the Royal Jordanian Army and in an anti-tank helicopter wing of the Royal Jordanian Air Force.
These two positions explain the museum’s two centerpieces: a chieftain tank and a Cobra Assault helicopter, two types of vehicles his majesty operated during his military career. His time served left him with a profound interest in military vehicles and according to the museum staff, he has visited the museum many times since its opening.
The museum is organized in 14 different halls in which the visitor can explore expositions displaying the evolution of tanks from medieval times to present and learn about Jordan’s military past. Although all iconic World War I & II vehicles are present, the museum understandably focuses on regional conflicts and the legacy of the Royal Jordanian army.
While the indoor museum is completely finished, the outdoor tank arena is still under construction.
The museum introduces its visitors first to the forerunners of modern armored vehicles; a Saracen medieval knight is displayed next to a full-size replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s tank. The conflict which saw the appearance of the first tanks is displayed next: World War One.
A giant half-circle shaped diorama displays scenes of the battles which occurred in Jordan during the First World War, including the ambush of the Ottoman Hejaz Railway, made famous by the stories of Lawrence of Arabia. The first armored vehicles displayed are a British Rolls Royce armored car and the iconic trapezoid shaped Mark IV tank.
The World War Two exhibition hosts all of the key vehicles that demonstrate the rapid evolution of tanks during the war. Many famed vehicles such as the M4 Sherman, Panzerkampfwagen V Panther and T34/76 are thoughtfully exhibited before large backgrounds featuring their theatre of war. It is truly surprising how many of these old vehicles have found their way this far to Jordan. “The only thing missing here is a Tiger” proclaimed our proud guide.
The other exhibition halls provide a deeper exploration into Jordan’s recent military past. Noteworthy is the presentation of the Battle of Karama in which Jordan troops battled Israeli forces. In this large exposition, the visitor walks alongside the orange trees which grow in the Jordan Valley, investigating the different scenes of battle which are presented in realistic dioramas.
The middle of the museum is reserved for two of the vehicles in which the king served during his military career; the chieftain tank and a Cobra assault helicopter. Next to the central space, visitors can walk through a cut out of an M60 tank and observe the inner mechanics of this vehicle.
Another interesting hall introduces the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB), an institution which develops modern military weapons, vehicles and sophisticated defense technology. Unique Jordan technologies such as the Falcon turret and the M60 Phoenix upgrade for the M60A3 main battle tank are displayed next to an impressive array of vehicles used by Jordan’s security forces. Visitors get to know the workings of the KADDB and learn how new technologies grow from blueprint to prototype.
The enormous surface of the museum provides room for the large amount of around 120 tanks. All vehicles are presented with informative signs displaying information about the type of vehicle, their origin, weight, caliber, crew, engine, speed and range.
While most vehicles have connections to Jordan, Israeli, Egyptian or Syrian forces, some unexpected types can be found as well such as the Austrian SK-105 Kürassier, the Swedish Stridsvagn 42 and even a German Jagdpanther.
The presence of these vehicles is explained by an informative sign at the end of the museum gallery’s, showing the different countries that helped to establish the museum’s collection and the vehicles they provided.
Much effort has been put into the presentation of the vehicles; many look as if they just left the factory. The museum definitely has much to offer for military enthusiasts, but to satisfy the accompanying family & kids, the new museum could still invest more in fun and interactive methods to explore the collection and learn about history.
The museum can be accessed for 2/5 Jordanian Dinar (resident / Visitors of Jordan) and is located in King Abdullah II Park, which can be easily reached by taxi transport from Amman. They offer free guided tours around the exhibition by friendly and knowledgeable English speaking guides.
Its surprising collection and modern setting certainly make a visit to The Royal Tank Museum worthwhile and I personally can’t wait to find out what kind of outdoor displays and events they will offer.