Tank was born in Bromberg (Bydgoszcz), Province of Posen. His grandfather was a cavalry sergeant in the Uhlans and his father, Willi Tank, was a grenadier sergeant in the 3rd Division. When World War I broke out Tank wished to join the Imperial German Army Air Service, but his father insisted he instead follow the family tradition and enlist in the cavalry. He ended the war as a captain, with many decorations for bravery.
After the war, Tank graduated from the Technical University of Berlin in 1923. A mentor from the university secured him his first job, in the design department of Rohrbach Metallflugzeug GmbH, where he worked on flying boats and assisted in the design of the passenger aircraft, the Ro VIII Roland. Tank moved on to Albatros Flugzeugwerke, where he worked as a test pilot. The Albatros company went bankrupt in 1929 and in 1931, under government pressure, was merged with Focke-Wulf.
Tank then started work on the design of the Fw 44 Stieglitz (Goldfinch), a two-seat civilian biplane. It was Focke Wulf's first commercially successful design, launched in 1934. This led to burgeoning growth for the company as Hitler began to prepare the country for war.
World War II
The Fw 190 Würger (shrike), first flying in 1939 and produced from 1941 to 1945, was a mainstay Luftwaffe single-seat fighter-bomber during World War II, and Tank's most prolific (over 20,000 produced) and famous design. In January 1943, he was named honorary Professor with a chair at the Technical University of Braunschweig, in recognition of his services to the development of flight.
In 1944, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (German Air Ministry) decided that new fighter aircraft designations must include the chief designer's name. Kurt Tank's new designs were therefore given the prefix Ta. His most notable late-war design was the Ta 152, a continuation of the Fw 190 design.
After the war Tank negotiated with the United Kingdom, the Nationalist government of China, and representatives of the Soviet Union and when the negotiations proved unsuccessful, accepted an offer from Argentina to work at its aerotechnical institute, the Instituto Aerotécnico in Córdoba under the name of (Prof. Dr.) Pedro Matthies. It is recorded that the British government decided not to offer him a contract on the grounds that he was too important, and they could not see how he could be integrated into an existing research project or design group.
He moved to Córdoba, with many of his Focke-Wulf co-workers, in 1947. One of these was Ronald Richter who intended to power airplanes with nuclear fission power, to be developed in the Huemul Project.
The Instituto Aerotécnico later became Argentina's military aeroplane factory, the Fábrica Militar de Aviones. There, he designed the IAe Pulqui II based on the Focke-Wulf Ta 183 design that had reached mock-up stage by the end of the war. It was a state-of-the-art design for its day, but the project was axed in 1953 due to Argentina's financial crisis.
When President Juan D. Perón fell from power in 1955 the ex Focke-Wulf team dispersed, many to the United States.
Tank instead moved to India. First he worked as Director of the Madras Institute of Technology, where one of his students was Abdul Kalam (later Kalam became President of India and designed indigenous satellite launch vehicles and missiles).
Berlin, baseing himself in Germany for the rest of his life. He died in Munich in 1983.