Soviet tank development took another major step forward with the design of the T-62 tank, which was a derivative of the T-55 but armed with a 115mm smooth bore gun that fired arrow-like projectiles instead of the traditional, full calibre projectiles that until then were the standard armour-piercing ammunition of the Soviet tanks. Its projectiles, which came to be known as Armour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot or APFSDS projectiles, were fired with a muzzle velocity of 1,680m/s, which was higher than that of any other tank gun ammunition in use at the time, and this, together with the slender shape of the projectiles, resulted in greater armour penetration.

Soviet tanks, including the T-34-85, continued to rely on clutch-and-brake steering well into the Second World War, in spite of it being one of their weak points. However, in 1943 a geared steering system with two-speed epicyclic gearboxes was developed for the KV-13 experimental heavy tank that led to the IS or Stalin tanks, and they became the first Soviet tanks to go into service with such a system. 20 After the war a similar system was used on a large scale in T-54, T-55 and T-62 tanks.

Development of the T-62 began in 1958 and was almost concurrent with that of the 90 and 105mm smooth bore guns firing APFSDS projectiles that were being developed in the United States for the T95 tank. But whereas the results obtained in the United States were unsatisfactory and the development of the T95 was terminated in 1961, the T-62 was developed successfully and was accepted for use in that year. It was produced in its original form until 1972 and with modifications until 1983, by which time as many as 20,000 are believed to have been built. Most went to the Soviet Army but a significant number was delivered to the Egyptian and Syrian armies, which first used them in combat during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973. They were also supplied to Iraq and to North Korea, where the T-62 has been developed further.

The T-62 was the first tank to come into use armed with a high-pressure smooth bore gun firing APFSDS, and as such ushered in the worldwide adoption of this type of armament, which superseded almost all other types of tank guns and kinetic energy ammunition during the 1980s and 1990s. In spite of having an advanced gun armament, the fire power of the T-62M was augmented in 1983 by the provision of guided missiles that could be launched from its gun. The missiles were the 9M117 Bastion laser beam-riders, which were the same as those launched from the 100mm gun of the T-55M and significantly increased the range at which both tanks could engage targets. However, the T-55M and T-62M were not the first to be provided with gun launched missiles in addition to conventional ammunition.

The Soviets commenced quantity production of the T-62 in 1962. The major difference was in the introduction of the 115-mm 2A20 Rapira smoothbore gun with a bore evacuator. The can fire HEAT-FS, HE-FRAG and APFSDS rounds at a maximum rate of 4rpm. The flat trajectory of the APFSDS round coupled with the tank’s stadia rangefinder means that a T-62 can effectively engage targets out to 1600 metres.

The APFSDS projectiles fired by the T-62 looked like a scaled down version of the Peenemunde Arrow Projectiles that were being developed in Germany during the Second World War for long range artillery. 14 Their penetrators were only of steel, but they were fired with a muzzle velocity of 1,615m/s and were capable of penetrating 240mm of armour at 1,900m, which made them as good in this respect as the contemporary 105mm APDS projectiles.

Although housed in a larger turret the 115-mm gun leaves little room for the crew so an automatic shell ejection system has to be added, this ejects spent shell cases out of a hatch in the turret rear. The system requires the gun to be elevated slightly during unloading with the power traverse shut off, thus limiting any rapid fire and second round hit capability. Also the ejection system must be perfectly aligned with the ejection port otherwise a spent shell case bounces around the inside of the turret.

The T-62 can create its own smokescreen by injecting diesel fuel into its exhaust system. The tank is equipped with the PAZ radiation detection system and can use KMT-5/6 mine clearing gear.

TheT-62 has seen combat in a number of wars including the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 Lebanon War, the 1980- 88 First Gulf War, the 1990 Invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Second Gulf War. In practically all these instances its combat record has not been exactly brilliant by any standards. Many examples of T-62 have turned up in the West and those captured by the Israelis have been modified to their own requirements as the Tirdan 6.

T-62M Model 1984 – passive horseshoe shaped shields of homogeneous spaced armour fitted around the gun mantlet and turret sides frontal arc plus an optical belly armour package for mine protection. Developed especially for Afghanistan.

T-62M Model 1986 – fitted with the KTD-2 laser range finder, an upgraded diesel engine and the horseshoe armour package. Internally the vehicle is fitted with a ballistic computer fire control system to considerably improve the first round hit probability at 1600 metres range, a full weapon stabilization system, night vision sights for gunner and commander, a laser guidance package for the 4000 m range 115-mm calibre Sheksna anti-tank missile and an improved model infra-red searchlight.

T-62MK – command version of T-62M variants with additional radio and land navigation system. Only 37 rounds 115-mm ammunition carried. T-62MV – the T-62M Model 1986 fitted with Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) boxes.

The Iraqis also modified a number of their T-62 Model 1962, T-62 Model 1967 and T-62K by fitting the loader’s turret position with aDShK cupola ring from a T-55 MET. These vehicles and later T-62M series versions were also provided with sheet metal protective covers for the 800-m range LunaL-2G infra-red/whitelight searchlight that is mounted coaxially to the right of the main gun and the commander’s OU-3G infra-red searchlight mounted at the front of his cupola.

A form of slat or the very similar bar armour was first used in the 1960s by the US Navy on the gun boats that it operated in the Mekong delta during the Vietnam War. 19 It was also used by the Soviet Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in Chechnya in 1995 on T-62 tanks, and it was also fitted to the turrets of some Chinese-built Type 69 tanks used by the Iraqi Army in 1991 during the First Gulf War.

The Russians were also the first to develop a much more sophisticated type of protection against anti-tank guided missiles in the form of the Drozd active protection system. This appeared for the first time in 1983 on a T-55AD and consisted of a millimetre wave radar to detect incoming threats and a cluster of four launchers on each side of the turret with 107mm rockets, one of which would be fired at a threat missile at the appropriate moment determined by the system’s computer to shower it with fragments and thereby damage or destroy it. In contrast to other active protection systems developed elsewhere several years later that provided all-round protection, Drozd’s rocket launchers only covered a frontal arc of 80º, but this would have been sufficient for tanks used for frontal assaults. In addition to T-55AD, Drozd was also installed on some T-62D tanks, but its use has been limited, other Soviet tanks continuing to rely on ERA to augment their built-in passive armour protection.


American LVTs

The LVT (Landing Vehicle Tracked), better known as the Alligator. It was a modification of the original Alligator, a swamp rescue vehicle developed in 1935. The Alligator was an amphibious tank and the star of many U. S. Marine Corps landings in the Pacific. It was propelled by scores of small paddles on it tractor treads. Alligators performed a variety of chores. Some carried infantry, some carried supplies, some acted as light tanks, and others as self-propelled guns. Some were armored, some were equipped with turrets and the 37 mm gun of the M 3 light tank (Stuart tank to the British) , and others carried a 75 mm howitzer. All of them, in spite of the guns and armor, were light enough to float and seaworthy enough to make a sometimes lengthy trip from an anchored troop ship to the beach of a Pacific atoll.


There were two types of amphibious vehicles developed by the Americans in WWII to cross the shoals and beaches in the Pacific theater. One was the personnel carrier, or LVT (landing vehicle, tracked), generally equipped with a ramp in the rear which allowed troops to debark quickly under some cover; and the LVT(A), or armored amphibian, which was actually an amphibious tank. Although their names are similar, the LVT(A)4 was an entirely different machine from the LVT-4 vehicle. The LVT(A)4 was derived from the earlier LVT-2 Amtracs. Production for the new “Amtank” vehicles began in 1944, the LVT(A)4 being born from the US Marines’ urgent request for increased turret firepower from the earlier (A)1’s high velocity 37mm weapon (mounted in a M3 type turret). The result was the substitution of a 75mm howitzer (mounted in a M8 type turret) which considerably improved the potential for enemy bunker busting. But, in order to mount the M8 style turret on the roof of the (A)1, it was necessary to make some modification to the upper hull. These included increasing the size of the turret ring and lengthening the hull rear to provide space for the cramped engine compartment.

The LVT-4 was a natural continuation of the unique US Amtrac series of vehicles that were initially developed down in the Okeechobee marsh area of Florida back in the 1930s by a gentleman by the name of Donald Roebling. Originally built from light-weight aluminum, Mr. Roebling’s Alligator/ Crocodile tracked vehicles could travel equally well on land and water, and therefore caught the attention of the US Navy/Marine Corps as a potential rescue vehicle for downed pilots. After the start of WWII, a contract was awarded to Roebling to build 200 of his vehicles, but this time they were made from steel instead of aluminum. Originally designed to carry cargo, the Army vehicles gradually evolved into an armored fighting vehicle with some of the various types covered over and fitted with gun turrets. Generally called “Amtrac” (armored tractor)- or on occasion “Water Buffalo”- the LVT series of vehicles became very important assault and transport carriers during the island hopping campaigns of the Pacific theater in WWII, and to a lesser extent in Europe. Identifying the vehicles in the LVT series is sometimes difficult, as there were a couple of manufacturers and models of each type. It was the LVT-4 that was the first of the series to have an open cargo bay and a rear ramp for loading/unloading.


The LVT-4 differed from the LVT-2 in having a loading ramp at the rear, which enabled it to carry large loads such as Jeeps and some light weapons. It carried machine-guns on pintles at the front and sides.

These vehicles were very much a compromise design to obtain the best possible performances overland and on water. The two are disparate requirements, but the LVTs achieved a good working compromise and were thus able to carry amphibious warfare from the Rhine to the islands of the Pacific.

LVT-2 and LVT-4

Developed from a civil design intended for use in the Florida swamps, the LVT-1 was not really suited for combat, being intended solely as a supply vehicle. The Pacific war was to prove the need for a more capable amphibious assault vehicle. This emerged as the LVT-2, which used a better all-round shape to improve water performance, though it was still a high and bulky vehicle. Another improvement was a new suspension and the track grousers were made better by the use of aluminium W-shaped shoes that were bolted onto the track and could thus be easily changed when worn or damaged. A definite logistic improvement was introduced by use of the engine, final drive and transmission from the M3 light tank. At the time the LVT-2 was being developed these components were readily available and made spare-part supply that much easier.

The steering system of the LVT-2 gave considerable trouble at first, for the brake drums operated in oil and prolonged use of the steering bars could result in the brakes seizing up on one side. Training and experience solved that problem.

On the LVT-2 the engine was mounted at the rear, which restricted the size of the cargo compartment. This was relatively easily designed out of the overall layout by moving the engine forward and mounting a ramp at the rear to ease loading and unloading. Thus the LVT-2 became the LVT-4, which was otherwise generally similar. Of all the LVT series the LVT-4 was produced in the largest numbers: 8,348 produced on five production lines; in contrast 2,963 LVT-2s were produced on six lines. There were some design differences between the LVT-2 and LVT-4: for instance, the driver’s controls were rearranged on the LVT-4, but the main improvement was that all manner of loads could be carried on the LVT-4, ranging from a Jeep to a 105-mm (4.13-in) field howitzer.

Most LVT-2s and LVT-4s were armed with 12.7- or 7.62-mm (0.5- or 0.3-in) machine-guns on rails or pintles, but there were two versions of the LVT-2 that had heavier weapons. The LVT(A) 1 was an LVT with an M3 light tank turret mounting a 37-mm gun; this was intended to supply fire support during the early phases of an amphibious landing during the interval immediately after reaching the beaches. The gun proved to be too light for this role, so it was later supplanted by the short 75-mm (2.95-in) howitzer mounted in the turret of the M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage to produce the LVT(A) 4. On both of these gun vehicles the turrets were mounted towards the rear of the cargo area, which was covered in by armoured plate.

The ordinary LVT-2s and LVT-4s became the main load carriers of the early Pacific operations. The first LVTs were used in action at Guadalcanal, and thereafter every island-hopping operation involved them. Some were used in Europe during the Scheldt and Rhine operations of 1944-5 and there were numerous odd ‘one-off attempts to mount various types of weapon in them, ranging from rocket batteries to light cannon. Flamethrowers were fitted in some numbers, but all these types of armament should not disguise the fact that the LVT-2 and LVT-4 were most often used to carry ashore the first waves of US Marines.

The Tarawa landings on November 20, 1943, used landing vehicles, tracked (LVTs) for the first time in amphibious warfare. These were true armored amphibians, which could be deployed from landing ships into the water, then driven directly up to the beach and driven well inland, so that troops did not have to wade or walk ashore. Unfortunately, a shortage of LVTs meant that second- wave assault troops had to be carried in conventionally on landing craft. Worse because of faulty calculation of tides, many of the landing craft ran up on coral reefs, obliging the marines to wade long distances ashore. This exposed them to enemy fire and created heavy casualties that greatly imperiled the landings on the first day. Nevertheless, under Maj. Gen. Julian Smith, the 2nd Marine Division managed to occupy positions on the southern shore of the island as well as on the western end, thereby forcing the Japanese garrison to divide. This ultimately proved fatal to the defenders, and although the enemy counterattacked with suicidal banzai charges, the marines held their positions and, by November 23, had overrun the small island.

Specification LVT-2

Crew: 2+7

Powerplant: one Continental W970-9A petrol engine developing186.4KW (250hp)

Weights: unloaded 11000 kg (24,250 lb); loaded 13721 kg (30,250 lb)

Dimensions: length 7.975m(21 ft 6 in); width 3.25m(10ft8in); height 2.5m(8 ft 2.5 in)

Performance: maximum land speed 32km/h(20mph); maximum water speed 12 km/h (7.5 mph); road radius 241 km (150miles); maximum water radius 161km(100miles)

Armament: one 12.7-mm (0.5-in) and one 7.62-mm (0.3-in) machine-guns

Befehls Panthers

Throughout the nine months of the Model D Panther production run in 1943, German firms made about ten per cent of them into command tanks, or Befehls Panthers. These vehicles mainly served as commander’s and adjutant’s vehicles at company, battalion and even regimental levels. The Command Panther was simply a slightly modified standard Panther with ammunition stowage reduced from 79 to 64 rounds to make space for the powerful communications equipment and associated systems they carried. MAN alone completed 63 of these vehicles between January and August 1943. Model D, A and G Command Panthers came in two similar but distinct forms, although both versions shared many common features, such as an additional generator set, the absence of the co-axial turret machine gun, and the addition of three tubes fitted onto the hull sides in which spare antennae rods were housed.

The standard Sdkfz 267 Command Panther, irrespective of whether it was a Model D, A or G, featured the standard battle tank communications device, the Fu 5 10-watt transmitter and ultra-short wavelength receiver. Unlike on the combat tank, however, this device here worked through a two-metre-Iong rod antenna usually mounted on the right turret rear, adjacent to the commander’s cupola, in addition to the standard rod antennae mounted on the left hull decking behind the turret. In normal tactical conditions, operators could expect to obtain a range of eight kilometres with this device. In addition, the Sdkfz 267 tank also mounted the powerful Fu 8 long-range device. This 30-watt transmitter and medium wavelength receiver operated on the frequency band 0.83-3.0MHz, and worked through a distinctive 1.4 metre star antenna normally mounted on the hull roof at the rear of the vehicle. The Fu 8 could communicate up to a maximum range of 65km, sufficient to secure effective communications with regimental and divisional staffs in almost every conceivable tactical situation.

In total, throughout the war, the Germans delivered 350 Sdkfz 267 Command Panthers, including roughly 75 Model D and 200 Model A versions. In addition, it should be remembered that front-line troops could convert standard Panthers to command versions in the field with a dedicated conversion kit if their command vehicles had been destroyed and no replacement was forthcoming. The Sdkfz 267 Command Panther proved highly effective; by retaining the standard Panther gun and armour, it could engage the enemy directly while simultaneously controlling the actions of the unit it commanded. Moreover, by looking like the standard Panther tank its battlefield survivability improved, as striving to knock out enemy command tanks had always been a preferred tactic of armoured warfare.

The much less common Sdkfz 268 ‘Flivo’ Befehls Panther command variant was a dedicated air-ground liaison vehicle used for arranging tactical air support for Panther units. Rather than using the Fu 8, this vehicle mounted the Fu 7 device in addition to the standard Fu 5. The Fu 7 was a 20-watt transmitter and ultrashort wavelength receiver that operated on the frequency band 42.1-47.8MHz through a 1.4 metre rod antenna normally mounted on the rear hull roof. In theory, the two (or possibly three) rod antennae of the Sdkfz 268 easily distinguished this vehicle from standard Panther combat tanks (with only one rod antenna) and the Sdkfz 267 Command Panther with one star and either one or two rod antennae. However, pictorial evidence reveals that the Sdkfz 267 and 268 command vehicles often featured non-standard positioning of their aerials, making definite identification problematic. The ‘Flivo’ Command Panther remained a very rare vehicle, with only 40 being completed by the end of the war. Indeed, given the increasingly adverse strategic situation under which the Luftwaffe laboured during 1944-45, it remains unclear whether many such vehicles actually fulfilled their intended air-ground liaison role, as German tactical air support by this time was extremely limited at best. Moreover, as both the Command Panther variants carried two mounting devices onto which the Fu 7 or Fu 8 could each be fitted, it seems highly likely that the Germans refitted some Sdkfz 268 ‘Flivo’ vehicles as much needed standard command tanks by simply replacing the Fu 7 device with the Fu 8 set.


Tank Brigades, Stalingrad 1942

133rd Tank Brigade’s had nearly 17 heavy KV tanks. At the start of the battle on September 13, 1942, the 62nd Army had some 105 tanks (78 T-34s, 17 KV-1s and ten T-70s) in Stalingrad: in the city south of the Tsaritsa were the 26th and 133rd Tank Brigades with 35 tanks. In the central district were the 6th and 6th Guards Tank Brigades with 37 tanks, and near the Red October Factory in the north were the 27th and 189th Tank Brigades with 33 tanks. However, many of these AFVs were immobile and could only be used as fixed firing points.


One of the destroyed tanks of the 6th Tank Brigade at the intersection of Nevskaya and Karskaya streets, Zapolotnovsky district.


Disabled KV-1 from the 133rd Tank brigade on Sovetskaya Street, coming from the Astrakhansky bridge (October 1942)

In mid-July the Red Army began its defensive plan for Stalingrad by creating a new Stalingrad Front, its command transferred from Marshal of the Soviet Union Semyon Timoshenko to Lieutenant-General Vasily Gordov on July 23. Stalin reinforced the theatre with three fresh reserve armies (the 63rd, 62nd, 64th), the latter two (commanded by Major-General Vladimir Kolpakchi and Lieutenant-General Vasily Chuikov, respectively) being placed on the west bank of the Don to block any direct German advance to the city. In addition, two new tank armies, the 1st and the 4th, were formed and headed for deployment in the Don Bend.

Stalingrad itself was prepared for battle by the evacuation of livestock and food supplies, and the construction of bunkers, trenches and gun emplacements. Two days after Directive No. 45 was issued, the 6. Armee was dead in its tracks for lack of supplies, and was to remain so until the end of the first week of August, but now it was up against the new Stalingrad Front. This comprised seven armies, three of them fresh reserve armies and two in the process of conversion to tank armies, as well as the 8th Air Army. Paulus’s force of 290 panzers was thus facing over 1,200 Red Army tanks with more on the way.

The Stalingrad offensive got off to an inauspicious start as General der Panzertruppen Friedrich Paulus’s 6. Armee soon was struggling in front of stiffening resistance. The lead units encountered the main line of resistance of the Soviet 62nd and 64th Armies on July 23. Although seriously low on fuel and supplies, Paulus began to unseat Kolpakchi’s right flank and push him towards the Don to reach the strategic bridge over the river at Kalach. Significant Soviet armoured forces were sent to the Kalach bridgehead to bolster the position and by the 24th plans had been formulated for a counter-attack by the 1st and 4th Tank Armies, which included the 133rd and 158th Heavy Tank Brigades. Between July 25 and 28, 550 Soviet tanks were committed in the offensive to relieve the 62nd Army, being hammered mercilessly by the Luftwaffe on the open steppe while Paulus tried to hold on to and even complete his encirclement of the 62nd Army.

The first assault on Stalingrad city began at 13 of September 1942 Wehrmacht formations (295th and 71th Infantry Divisions of the 6. Armee, reinforced with SPGs of the 244th and 245th assault gun battalions) reached the western outskirts of the city from the Razgulyaevka road junction and railroad station Opytnaya near the height 112.5 and Aviagorodok. Soldiers of 42th Separate Rifle Brigade in their trenches near Dubovaya Balka would fight for four more days in half-encirclement before starting to retreat under constant German fire alongside Tsartitsa river to the banks of the Volga.

4. Panzer Armee units (24th and 14th Panzer divisions, 94th Infantry and 29th Motorized divisions) reached Stalingrad to the south of the Tsaritsa basin cutting off Chuikov’s 62nd Army from Shumilov’s 64th Army at the line between Minin outskirts – Kuporosny village – unfinished Amusement Park at the border between Kirov and Voroshilov districts of the city. Soon this area will become an arena for fierce fighting of 64th Army and their attempts to force their way back to the north.

The air was completely dominated by the Luftwaffe, the German spotters had the heights on the outskirts and almost the entire city which was stretched in the arc along the river could be seen like the palm of your own hand.

The headquarters of the 62nd Army (Pushkinskaya St., Building 3, underground command post) in the central district of the city and the main ferries were almost entirely undefended. Only the remains of the 272nd NKVD regiment reinforced by 28th detachment of anti-tank dogs were trying to entrench in the area of the Komsomolsky garden in the grove near train station. Soldiers of 84th separate construction battalion were building defensive positions in the ruins of the Stalingrad-I railway station and depot. The ferries were defended by cadets of the Ordzhonikidze Military School (115 soldiers) and several border guards from the 79th Border Guard Regiment. A joint force of people’s militia and NKVD (45 people) operated at the square of January 9. An armored train cruised along the Volga coast, several gun crews from the 748th anti-aircraft artillery regiment were entrenched near the Holzhunov monument (ferry No.2), covering the pier from the air.

The situation to the south of the Tsaritsa, in the area of mill (grain silos) and a cannery plant, was no better: the 35th Guards Rifle Division, the 244th Rifle Division, the 10th Rifle Brigade, the 271st NKVD Regiment and the 20th Motor Rifle Brigade were marked on the army maps in that area but existed only on paper. Their actual combat strength was only few hundred of men. The only mobile reserve, two battalions of KV-1 heavy tanks (14 vehicles) from the 133rd Tank brigade, defended the approaches to the grain silos.

Monday of the September 14 began very early. At 03:30 the 272nd Regiment of the 10th Division of NKVD, the combined regiment of the 399th Rifle Division and the surviving tanks of the 6th Tank Brigade made an attempt to take back the settlement by the airfield as Germans captured it by the evening of the previous day. The attack took place without recon, artillery preparation, aviation support and with no support from the neighbours on the right and left flanks. Commander of the battalion of the 272nd Regiment Dmitry Stupin and the senior political officer Vladimir Partugimov were killed after the attempt to personally lead the attack. The commanding officers of the combined regiment simply fled, the regiment commander and the commissar were shot the next day.

One of the few remaining T-34s of the 6th Tank brigade was the tank of Lieutenant Mikhail Vlasenko. He fought for ten hours straight on the previous day, constantly changing positions between the height of 112.5 and the Airfield settlement. The officers of the 6th Tank brigade was hastily evacuated the command post in the Aviagorodok to the river crossing and the remaining tanks of the brigade were left without control. Vlasenko’s tank broke one of its tracks, the turret was jammed. The loader was unable to withstand the tension of the battle and fled. The remaining crew (Vlasenko himself, driver Ivan Lyashenko and radio operator Norkin) repaired the track under fire and after avoiding an air attack took a position near the buildings of the Krasnie Kazarmy complex.

After a doomed attack attempt by the weakened units of the 62nd Army, the infantry and panzer divisions of the two German armies began their advance to the city. It was necessary to hold them out for the whole day before the arrival of the relatively fresh 13th Guards Rifle Division. The entire frontline of the 62nd Army from Mamayev Kurgan to the central railway station was wide open. After the aerial bombardment and artillery preparation, the infantry of the 71st and 295th Infantry divisions with the support of assault guns attacked. The goal for the Wehrmacht soldiers was simple – to break through all the way to the bank of Volga and the crossings.

Modernised T-55 TANK

The Soviet T-54/T-55 tank series is hands-down, all-time most popular tank in history. Perhaps 28,000 examples have been built: and these tanks have served with no less than than 50 armies and quasi-armies throughout Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America. The T-54 was developed immediately after World War II; the first prototype appeared in 1946, and it went into Red Army service by 1950. The very similar but improvedT-55 followed in 1960. The USSR supplied and licensed them at favourable terms to its satellites, and to other favored clients as part of its drive for world-wide influence throughout the Cold War. The series was adaptable; improvements were steadily incorporated, and many specialist modifications and conversions were carried out over the years. Russia was still buildingT-55s in 1979; and they are readily available today for about S 10,000 US per copy.

The T-54/T-55 family have seen combat on many battlefields, but will forever be associated with the Middle East wars of 1967 and 1973. In the Sinai desert in 1967 the Egyptian Army lost nearly 400 to Israeli aircraft and in battle with Israeli M48 Pattons and Centurions. In October 1973, after a much more evenly balanced start, enough were captured for Israel to take them into service, with suitable modifications – a considerable compliment. In the savage tank battles on the Golan Heights in 1973 Syrian tankers very nearly broke through Israel’s defensive line.

Several hundred Indian Army T-54s and T-55s also saw action against Pakistan in December 1971 – interestingly, coming up against Pakistan’s T-59s, the Chinese-built version, in the Chaamb sector. Honours were roughly even, despite the Indians having the advantage of better AP ammunition and infrared night fighting systems. These active IR systems, fitted to the T- 55 since the late 1950s, were useful back then, but are a real hazard on the modern battlefield. One IR searchlight is slaved to the main gun, and a smaller one is installed on the TC’s cupola, allowing him to search for and acquire targets. IR radiation is invisible to the unaided eye, but highly visible to anybody on the battlefield with a similar system; a tank which powers up an IR searchlight is essentially shouting “Over here, guys!” to any enemy tank with an IR viewer within line-of-sight. Modern passive night vision systems have entirely outclassed IR nowadays.

More than 3,500 T-54s and T-55s made up the bulk of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi armored force during the 1990/91 Gulf War; huge numbers of these were destroyed by US aircraft and later Coalition ground attacks. While the T-55 was a great tank in its day, that day has passed; it is totally outclassed by tanks like the M1 Abrams – whose fire control systems can easily home in on it in any light conditions; whose gun can easily outrange and penetrate it; whose armor is virtually impervious to its AP rounds; and which can outmanoeuver it on any battlefield.

A plethora of variants and modernization upgrades have been built. Here are but some of them.

Early on during the production T-55s were fitted with the TSh-2B-32P sight. Starting in 1970 T-55s were being armed at Uralwagonzavod 12.7 mm DShK 1938/46 or KPVT loader’s anti-aircraft heavy machine guns. These tanks were known as Model 1970, or sometimes T-55AM. KTD-1 or KTD-2 laser rangefinders and R-123 or R-123M radio sets were fitted to older tanks starting in 1974 (Model 1974). At the same time efforts were made to modernize and prolong the life of the drive train.

T-55 fitted with the ZET-1 vehicle protection system. It has net structure centred on vehicles main armament and flipper-type side plates.

T-55M (Ob’yekt 155M)/T-55AM (Ob’yekt 155AM) – Modernization of respectively T-55 and T-55A with new “Volna” fire control system, 9K116-1 “Bastion” ATGM system with new 1K13 BOM guidance device/sight, improved “Tsiklon-M1” gun stabilization system and TShSM-32PV sights, V-55U engine, improved suspension and RMSh tracks, increased armour, anti-mine, anti-napalm and improved anti-radiation protection and new R-173/173P radio set. Visual differences include a laser range-finder in an armoured box fitted over the main armament, side skirts, 81 mm “Tucha” smoke grenade launchers, BDD turret brow armour and glacis appliqué, and rear RPG screens (only used rarely in Afghanistan).

T-55M-1 (Ob’yekt 155M-1)/T-55AM-1 (Ob’yekt 155AM-1) [107] – The “-1” suffix was applied to later modified tanks that are powered by the 691 hp (515 kW) V-46-5M engine, which was derived from the T-72’s 780 hp (582 kW) V-46-6.

T-55AD “Drozd” (Ob’yekt 155AD) – T-55A fitted with Drozd (‘thrush’) active protection system (KAZ – kompleks aktivnoj zashchity). Soviet Naval Infantry saved money by installing “Drozd” on a small number of tanks instead of opting for appliqué armour, or acquiring newer T-72s. About 250 were kept in stores for secrecy, but later switched to simpler reactive armour. T-55AD is also fitted with the radio set R-173, sight TShSM-32PV, “Tsiklon-M1” stabilizer etc. of the T-55AM.

T-55AD-1 (Ob’yekt 155AD-1) – Version powered by the 691 hp (515 kW) V-46-5M engine, which was derived from the T-72’s 780 hp (582 kW) V-46-6.

T-55MV (Ob’yekt 155MV)/T-55AMV (Ob’yekt 155AMV) – “V” for vzryvnoj (‘explosive’) designated tanks, which carried “Kontakt-1” explosive reactive armour (ERA) instead of the passive BDD armour. The ERA bricks (EDZ or elementi dinamicheskoj zashchity) are normally mounted on the turret front, hull front and the hull sides. This variant was adopted by Soviet Naval Infantry first, and by the Russian Army after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The T-55MV is a modernized T-55M and the T-55AMV is a modernized T-55AM.

T-55MV-1 (Ob’yekt 155MV-1)/T-55AMV-1 (Ob’yekt 155AMV-1) – Versions powered by the 691 hp (515 kW) engine V-46-5M.

T-55M5 (Ob’yekt 155M5) – This modernization kit adds convex explosive reactive armour “Kontakt-5” panels around turret front, armour panel on glacis plate, a longer hull, a new style fire control equipment with stabilized TVK-3 and TKN-1SM sights for the gunner and commander, an improved V-55U engine (or V-46-5M) and a main gun stabilization system. The original 100 mm D-10T2S gun is maintained. Combat weight is less than 40 tonnes.

T-55M6 (Ob’yekt 155M6) – A more radical upgrade with longer chassis with 6 road wheels each side, a 690 hp V-46-5M diesel engine and with the complete turret with automatic loader and the 2A46M 125 mm main gun of the T-72B. Also, the protection was increased to T-80U level. Optionally, the tank can be equipped with the 1A40-1 fire control system with the 9K120 “Svir” ATGM system (as per the T-72B) or with the 1A42 and 9K119 “Refleks” systems (as per the T-80U). Combat weight is 43 tonnes.







British Cruiser Mk III/IV A13 tank series

A13 Mk I Cruiser Mk III

A13 Mk II Cruiser Mk IVA


The A13 was an important step in the development of British tanks since it was the design which initiated the long run of Cruiser tanks with Christie suspension produced in the World War II period by the British. Essentially it stemmed from the designs developed (largely unsuccessfully in his own country) by the American designer J. Walter Christie. Responsible for the introduction of the Christie suspension into British tanks was Lt Col G. Le Q. Martel, one of the pioneers of British tank development in the twenties, who was appointed Assistant Director of Mechanisation at the War Office in late 1936, and as such was in charge of AFV development. In September] 936, soon after appointment, Martel attended the Soviet Army autumn manoeuvres and was much impressed by the speed and performance of the BT tank, which the Russians had developed and put in service in large numbers after buying some of Christie’s prototypes. Returning to London, Martel expressed the opinion that a tank of vastly superior performance to the A9, then under development (qv), could be produced by adopting the Christie type suspension and a powerful lightweight engine like the Liberty used in Christie’s prototypes.

Funds were granted to buy two Christie vehicles, the first arriving from the United States, accompanied by Walter Christie, in the following month. Morris Commercial Cars Ltd acted as agents and licensees for the transaction and the vehicle was delivered as a “tractor” without a turret. The basic Christie chassis design incorporated compression spring suspension and large-diameter road wheels which could run either with or without the tracks. Trials led to the decision that, as far as the British were concerned, the “trackless” running facility could be done away with as an unnecessary complication. Also the Christie hull was too short and too narrow to take any existing (or contemplated) British turret. The power-to-weight ratio of the Christie design was 2 1/2 times better than the best existing British design, however, and it was decided to utilise the suspension but build a new chassis 5tin wider and 10in longer, to take a 2pdr gun and turret. At the end of 1936 funds were allocated to build two prototypes, and Morris Commercial Cars Ltd were asked to undertake detailed design. The original Christie vehicle was now designated A13El and the two British-developed prototypes became A13E2 and A13E3.

The Liberty engine (an American World War I aero type) was adopted as standard, as in the original Christie vehicle, and Nuffields, an associate company of Morris, were to build it under licence. Al3E2 was ready for trials in October ]937 and there followed a period of tests in which many mechanical problems were revealed, mostly due to the vehicle’s high speed of over 35mph. Modifications included governing the speed down to 30mph, altering the clutch and transmission, and using shorter pitched tracks. By January 1938 most of the problems had been overcome and a production order (provisionally set at 50) was confirmed for 65 vehicles. Trials with A13E2, now joined by A13E3, were continued and further detail modifications were made to fittings before production was started by Nuffield Mechanisations and Aero Ltd, a company formed specially for munitions work by Morris. Deliveries started early in 1939, and the order was completed by Summer 1939. No further orders for this type were placed, since progress was being made with developments of the A 13 design. This vehicle had taken only just over two years to get from inception to production status, a remarkably swift development for the period. These Cruisers Mk III as they were known were used by 1st Armoured Division in France in 1940, and (in small numbers) by 7th Armoured Division in Libya in 1940-41.


The Cruiser Mk IV was essentially an uparmoured version of the Mk III and did, in fact, have the ordnance designation AI3 Mk II. It followed the Cruiser Mk III in production and arose from a decision taken in early 1939 to increase the armour basis to 30 mm for cruiser tanks (for full circumstances see next entry, Covenanter). One of the A13 pilot models was accordingly reworked with additional armour to bring its thickness up to 20-30mm. Due to the high power-to-weight ratio of the basic design, there was little adverse effect on performance even though the weight was increased by more than I, 200Ib. The extra armour plating was mainly on the nose, glacis, and turret front, but another feature was the addition of V-section armour plating on the turret sides which gave the “spaced armour” effect later widely used on German tanks. This resulted in the characteristic faceted turret sides, the feature by which the Mk IV could be most easily distinguished from the Mk III.

Nuffield undertook main production of the Cruiser Mk IV after Mk III production had been completed, starting in 1938. Some Mk Ills were reworked with extra armour up to Mk IV standard and were externally similar, distinguished only by the early type mantlet as fitted to the Mk III. Mk IVA was the designation given to later production vehicles which had the Vickers co-axial machine gun replaced by a Besa. There was also a Mk IV CS which had a 3·7in mortar in place of the 2pdr gun. Only a small proportion of vehicles were of this type. Some vehicles had an armoured cover over the mantlet, and others were reworked with an armoured extension (heading picture) which completely concealed the mantlet. Cruisers Mk IV were used in France by 1st Armoured Division, 1940, and in the Western Desert by 7th Armoured Division, 1940-41. They were also used for training in Britain.

Total production of Cruiser Tank Mk IV series vehicles amounted to 655. Additional orders in 1939-40 were placed with the LMS, Leyland, and English Electric (200).

Tank, Cruiser, Mk IV (A13 Mk II)

Weight 14.75 Long tons
Length 19 ft 9 in (6.02 m)
Width 8 ft 4 in (2.54 m)
Height 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)

Armour 6–30 mm
QF 2-pdr gun
87 rounds
0.303 in Vickers machine gun
3,750 rounds
Engine Nuffield Liberty V12 petrol
340 hp (250 kW)
Suspension Christie
90 mi (140 km)
Speed 30 mph (48 km/h)
off road: 14 mph (23 km/h)

Char FT 75BS

The first order of construction of 100 tanks FT tanks was extended to 150, and interestingly enough, it is mentioned that they were intended to serve as command vehicles within tank units. Indecision of the Staff caused the order to be suspended until the numerous bureaucratic problems were solved with the arrival of Général Pétain in the position of Commander in Chief. In May 1917, he returned to give the order to manufacture the 150 and an additional 1,000 more. At that time he had already decided to equip some of the tanks with a 37mm cannon. The total order of 1,150 tanks, 500 armed with Hotchkiss 8mm, and 650 with 37mm cannons, were manufactured at Puteaux Arsenal, exceeding the possibilities of Renault, so this factory agreed to sell the production patent and expand production to other factories including Berliet, Delaunay-Belleville, Schneider, SOMUA, and it was even proposed that American companies would participate. The plans along with one tank were sent to the United States in order to start the construction of the tanks needed by the US army as well as another 1,200 for France.

In September, the Ministere d’Armement took over the first 4 units and throughout 1917, Renault produced only 84 tanks. This was due to the delay in the supply of armor, coming mostly from the company named Miris Steel from the UK, and the weaponry, including the new Puteaux 37mm gun, modified to operate semi-automatically and could be well handled by one man. Meanwhile, Estienne requested the production of 2,500 tanks to replace possible casualties, including 200 of a new version, a tank with a radio called the Char TSF – télégraphie sans fil, which served to transmit orders to units via radio. In December 1917, the total requests made totaled 4,000 tanks, 1,950 of which were armed with 37mm cannons, 1,150 with machine guns, 200 TSH, and 970 with Schneider 75mm howitzers. This latest version, the Char FT 75BS, was designed to serve as a vehicle to penetrate enemy lines that, besides having a more powerful weapon to demolish obstacles, had to carry a bridge to facilitate the passage of the remaining tanks after opening the gap in the main obstacle.

In April 1918 there had been 453 units with 3,177 vehicles built during the war. 1,950 of them would be produced by the Renault factory. Général Estienne brought the number of tanks used in the war up to 3,282, although we cannot explain this discrepancy of 105 vehicles. Another 570 were produced by the Renault firm after the conflict, in addition to national versions built in other countries like the United States. Finally, recent data estimates that some 3,728 vehicles were built up until 1921. The breakdown is as follows: 2100 tanks with machine guns, 1,246 37mm cannons, 39 75BS, 188 TSH, and 155 training vehicles.

FT 75 BS, howitzer armed version.