T54/55 MBT

The Russian T-54 was Main Battle Tank developed shortly after the end of the Second World War, with the first prototypes being completed in 1946 and the first production examples being delivered in 1947. It was derived from the T-44, itself an improved version of the famous T-34 tank that was widely used by the Soviet Union during World War II.

The T-54’s hull was of an all-welded steel monocoque and the turret as a large single casting with cupola and hatches welded on. The suspension is the same Christie-type as employed on the T-34 varying only in a gap between the first two road wheels to provide for a longer hull. Springing is by torsion bars. The engine and transmission is fitted transversely at the rear of the hull with drive feeding to the rear sprocket.

The T-54 was followed, in 1960, by the improved T-55. Both versions were armed with a 100mm gun, but there were many sub-variants and local modifications. The main difference between the T-54 and the T-55 was a more powerful engine, improved ammunition storage and a stabilizer for the 100mm main gun. The 1963 T-55A was similar but with the hull mounted machine gun removed. Some later vehicles had a new fire-control system and additional armour whilst some Egyptian vehicles were also modified to fit a British 105mm L7 rifled tank gun.

Standard equipment included an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical) system, a fire detection and suppression system, as well as the ability to be fitted with a snorkel (the tank needed only 15 minutes to be made ready for fording), night vision equipment for commander, gunner and driver, and the ability to lay smoke screen by injecting diesel fuel into the exhaust.

Powered by a 520hp 39,000cc V-54 V-12 water-cooled diesel coupled to a manual transmission, the tank could achieve a maximum road speed of 31 mph and had a range of 318 miles. Variants of the basic tank included an Armoured recovery Vehicle, Armoured Vehicle-launched bridge, Combat Engineering Vehicle, and a Flame thrower version.

It is estimated that over 50,000 T-54/T55 tanks have been built, with production ending in 1981. It has also been built in China (as the Type 59), Czechoslovakia and Poland. Both types were widely exported, being taken into service by at least 35 countries, and has seen combat in the Arab-Israeli wars, in, Algeria Vietnam, Angola and in the fighting in Somalia.

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