Ok, rewriting this one, so some of the answers and comments are from a simpler version:
Let's say, in an alternate timeline, or on another world, we discover the equivalent of mechanized warfare -- tanks, battleships, cruisers, police APCs, jeeps, bazookas and other anti-tank weapons, etc.
How close to our own tech, say from World War II, would it have to be to still be considered armored fighting vehicles? How different could they be and still be considered AFVs?
What technologies would the race be expected to have mastered BEFORE inventing alien tanks and battleships? It doesn't have to follow our own history, but there must be some parallels. What sort of history would they have had to get to a point where they NEEDED to invent such vehicles? On Earth, we had trench warfare which drove the invention of tanks. Could tanks be invented WITHOUT trench warfare? Why? What materials would be necessary to build them -- could a planet low in iron use something other than steel to protect them? Could a world without the elements of gunpowder still build something to penetrate that armor? Why would the society go to all that work to build a lot of heavy vehicles armed and defended to fight with in the first place? Are treads a necessity or could something else be used? Do you have to have an internal combustion engine or could steam or something else work?
I guess I should have worded the whole thing differently. I'm basically trying to figure out, in a different timeline or on a different planet, what would the requirements for a race be to develop armored warfare. A race that didn't use metal or were pacifists or didn't discover gunpowder or didn't have fossil fuels to power an internal engine probably wouldn't invent it, so I'm trying to figure out what they WOULD be like. I don't know, maybe you could build tanks and battleships without metal or gunpowder or fossil fuels, but at what point would we no longer recognize them as armored war vehicles but as something else? In short, I'm trying to apply Civilization's tech tree to a culture other than our own history.
Let's say we come across an alien world. Scans show they have yet to develop atomic weapons or energy. The first images come back from the surface, and they show a group of metal vehicles with what appears to be some sort of gun or cannon barrel on them. These beings are using a variation of armored fighting vehicles.
What could one extrapolate about their culture based solely on this information? A few guesses:
- They have some sort of industry to be able to produce multiple vehicles.
- They have metallurgy to create the thick armor, and the metals in their crust to produce them.
- They have some sort of propulsion to move these ground vehicles without rails.
- They have some sort of projectile technology powerful enough to penetrate thick armor.
- They are engaged in some sort of significant conflict that would justify building these machines.
Anything more specific or general that one could surmise about their personalities, their technology, their civilization?