Sunday, November 13, 2011

Russian Tanks


It is estimated that some 50,000 examples of the T-54 and similar T-55 systems have been produced.

Designation: T-54
Classification Type: Main Battle Tank
Contractor: State Factories - USSR
Country of Origin: Soviet Union
Initial Year of Service: 1949

The T-54 series of Soviet main battle tanks came about with development after World War 2, ending with the system becoming operationally available by 1949. It can be said that no other Cold War or post-Cold War tank has seen as many production models or combat usage as has the T-54 and the similar T-55 series of tanks. Despite its heavy use by armies worldwide - many to this day fielding the system as a frontline unit - the T-54 has had its fair share of engine and transmission issues which have plagued the type since the beginning.

The T-54 is an identifiable brand of Soviet tank design, featuring a rounded cast turret mounting a 100mm main gun. Five road wheels adorn either track side and the large .50 caliber anti-aircraft gun at the loader's hatch is noticeable. A very fundamental tank design, a student of the Second World War can see definite similarities between the influence of late war systems apparent in this post-war design.

Power is derived from a V-12 diesel engine mounted at rear of the all-welded hull. The engine also serves a dual purpose in that diesel fuel is injected into the exhaust for a self-created smokescreen. As such, smoke grenade dischargers are not a standard component of the T-54 design. The T-54 tank is crewed by four personnel and features a driver at center front, whom also controls a bow-mounted 7.62mm fixed machine gun (another is a coaxial mount on the turret, controlled by the gunner). The commander, gunner and loader are situated in the turret with the former group at left and the latter at right. The T-54 has access to a variety of munitions to select from and many are of the standard modern variety. Up to 34 projectiles are carried in the turret and the D-10 main gun can engage and defeat targets some 1,000 yards away though limited downward traverse is a noted deficiency.

As one might assume, such a numerous system has produced an equally numerous amount of variants that include the standard conversions such as bridgelayer, armored recovery vehicle and command vehicles - all utilizing the base T-54 chassis. Additionally, the basic T-54 has been upgraded with various modifications that include gun stabilizers on both of the firing axis, infra-red nightvision capability, increased ammunition storage capability and deep fording equipment.

To this day, the T-54 is fielded en mass, having seen active combat in a variety of environments, especially with former Soviet allied nations and states. China produced their own version of the T-54 known as the Type 59. Though having the pedigree of the famous T-34 tank of World War 2, the T-54 is often seen as inferior to its contemporary counterparts in the West. In any case, the system will probably still maintain a battlefield presence for some time to come, thanks in large part to overwhelming production figures and modernization programs instituted by a variety of its owners over the years.


The PT-76 is billed as a Light Amphibious Tank and is still in service with several countries.

Designation: PT-76
Classification Type: Light Amphibious Tank
Contractor: State Arsenals - Soviet Union
Country of Origin: Soviet Union
Initial Year of Service: 1952

The PT-76 was developed shortly after Second World War. The weapon system is designated as a "Light Amphibious Tank" featuring a crew of three and the ability to traverse varying depths of water.

The PT-76 is armed with the World War Two-standard 76.2mm main gun, has turret traversal of -4/+30 and can fire the standard set of projectiles - from high explosive to AP-T and HE-FRAG rounds. For self-defense, the system features a 7.62mm machine gun while some models have also added a 12.7mm air defense heavy machine gun of DShKM type. Additional fuel tanks can be added to the system increasing the overall road range by 68 miles (110 km).

By design, many of the PT-76's components are also shared with the BTR-50, SA-6 Gainful SAM and the ZSU-23-4. The engine of the PT-76 is also the same one that powers the T-55 Main Battle Tank.

The PT-76 is marketed as being fully amphibious but features some noticeable drawbacks in the way of no NBC protection, a rather large overall size and thin armor protection for ammunition and crew.

Total production numbers of the PT-76 has reached over 7,000 vehicles. The last PT-76 entered service in 1967, though modernization programs and new turret designs have kept the system ongoing. China produces a version of the PT-76 locally as the Type 63.


Designation: T-55
Classification Type: Main Battle Tank
Contractor: State Factories - Soviet Union
Country of Origin: Soviet Union
Initial Year of Service: 1958

The T-55 Medium Tank is probably the most internationally prolific piece of tracked armor as it can be found in dozens of military inventories across the globe. It has seen military frontline service from the invasion of Hungary in 1956 to the Arab wars with Israel of the late 1960's and early 1970's.

The T-55 features a 100mm D-10 rifled main gun. Two 7.62mm defensive machine guns are provided, one coaxially and one in the bow front-hull. A 12.7mm air defense machine gun is provided in later models of the T-55.

Development of the T-55 stems from the base T-54 Main Battle Tank design, which itself can trace it's roots back to the World War Two-inspired T-34 tank design. The T-55 was superceeded by the T-62 detailed elsewhere on this website.

In all essence, the T-55 shares many common features, components and systems with the T-54, thus many sources may group their histories together as such (sometimes shown as T-54/T-55).

T-55 - Base production model. Basic T-54 with new turret and 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun.
T-55A - Added radiation protection and 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun.
T-55M - New 580hp engine sans cupola for loader; Ability to fire AT-10 Stabber ATGW missiles through main gun.
T-55M-1 - Passive armor protection
T-55MV - Explosive reactive armor protection
T-55AM-1 - Standardized to T-55A specifications with passive armor protection and AT-10 firing ability.
T-55K - Command Vehicle
T-55AK - Command Vehicle
T-55MK - Command Vehicle
T-55MVK - Command Vehicle
T-55AM2B - Czech-produced variant
T-55AM2P - Polish-produced variant
T-55AM2PB - Russian-produced variant
T-55AD - T-55M standardized specifications with specialized countermeasures system installed.
T-55AD-1 - Upgraded engine; Laser-rangefinder.

Length: 20.34ft (6.20m)
Width:11.81ft (3.60m)
Height: 7.61ft (2.32m)
Speed: 22mph (35km/h)
Range: 242miles (390km)

Accommodation: 4
Weight: 44.6 US Short Tons (40,500kg)
NBC Protection: None
Nightvision: Yes - Infrared
Engine(s): 1 x 462-516 kW 675 hp diesel engine.

Armament & Ammunition:

1 x 100mm D-10 rifled main gun
1 x 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun
1 x 7.76mm coaxial machine gun
1 x 7.62mm machine gun in bow

34 x 100mm projectiles
500 x 12.7mm ammunition
3,000 x 7.62mm ammunition

T-10 Josef Stalin

The T-10 was the last of the Josef Stalin heavy-caliber, heavy-armor tank designs dating back to the Second World War.

The T-10 can be considered the pinnacle "Josef Stalin" tank design as it is the tank that superseded previous forms and became the final product of the series. It sported an all new main gun, redesigned body and turret and put upon itself all of the lessons learned through armored conflict in World War 2. The tank was of a heavy classification and was such an outstanding and well-regarded design that the last known operational usage of the T-10 was reported in 1996.

Outwardly, the T-10 was similar to the preceding IS (Josef Stalin) tank series with a rounded turret placed forward of the hull design and had more in common with the IS-3 than other previous forms. The T-10 featured an all new turret and main gun armament along with a redesigned hull and improved engine performance. A crew of four personnel operated the machine with the drive in the front hull and the commander, loader and gunner in the turret in traditional Soviet tank design fashion (commander and gunner on left and the loader on the right inside the turret - contrasting Western design placement). Power was derived from a single 12 cylinder diesel generating around 700 horsepower.

Armor protection was excellent, reach some 10 inches at its thickest.

The T-10 appeared in two supplementary forms with subtle modifications as the T-10A and the T-10B. The final version in the series would be the T-10M, which fitted a longer M-62-T2 (L/43) main gun. This particular version also featured a new muzzle brake, NBC protection for the crew and infra-red nightvision. Additionally, self-defense machine gun protection was improved allowing for an optional 12.7mm anti-aircraft DShK machine gun to be installed.

The T-10 performed as expected and was well-regarded. It saw action with Egyptian forces against Israel in the Six Day War, losing many examples to Israeli control - to which the very same systems were used to guard the Suez Canal from Egyptian encroachment. Production of the T-10 ended in 1966, to which some 2,500 examples appeared overall, and were the last of the Soviet heavy tanks when that classification type fell out of favor with Red Army needs.


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