Light tank m551 “Sheridan”
But if there were no problems with lightweight artillery guns for the Airborne Troops, then the tanks were not equipped for landing. Attempts to adapt a light tank M41 “Walker Bulldog” for the needs of the winged infantry did not lead to anything. The parachute systems available at that time were not able to ensure its landing due to its heavy weight. All said that you need a special tank.
The development of the project was entrusted to the subsidiary company “General Motors” – “Alisson” in 1959. We should pay tribute to its participants, who soon demonstrated to the customers 12 prototypes. The choice fell on the product XM551. Six years later, the tank was adopted for armament under the name M551 “General Sheridan”.
Even at the testing stage, the m551 Sheridan revealed serious problems with both the undercarriage and with the armament. But if the first problem was quickly resolved, then we had to tinker with the weapons. According to the design of the designers Sheridan had to resist the Soviet T-54 tank, which required a gun of at least 90-mm caliber. After much searching, the M81 (152 mm) gun was placed on the gun, which was also a guide for the Shillale antitank system.
The ammunition consisted of 20 shells of various types and eight anti-tank missiles. A serious problem was created by paper cartridges, which were supposed to burn out when shot, but this was not due to depletion, which caused the cabin to fill with smoke. Not all was well with the ATGM.
Nevertheless, it was quite a combat, light, well-armed machine, designed for landing from large and small heights, able to swim and overcome obstacles.
|Tactical and technical characteristics|
|Dimensions||6.3 x 2.8 x 2.9 m|
|Max. speed||72 km / h|
|Power reserve||630 km|
|Power point||engine Detroit 6V-53T power of 225 kW (311 hp.)|
|Overcoming obstacles||wall height of 0.84 m
ditch width of 2.6 m
lifting angle up to 30 °
Body and armor
With the arrival of the tank in the troops (mainly in the 82nd Airborne Division) it became obvious – “Sheridan” turned out to be “raw”, which was especially noticeable during the war in Vietnam. The case made of aluminum alloy proved to be defenseless against Soviet grenade launchers, anti-tank mines and even large-caliber machine guns. It was not possible to increase armor due to a critical increase in weight, which is unacceptable for a tank intended for landing from a transport aircraft.
The crews experienced great difficulties because of the tightness. In the cab, designed for 4 people, there was not enough space, even for boxes with machine-gun cartridges, because of what they had to be fixed from the outside directly to the tower. The disadvantages of the chassis are clearly illustrated by the episode in the invasion of Grenada in 1989. Then when landing three “Sheridan” just went into the sand along the tower.
Fate measured Sheridan for a short time. Its creators did not succeed (even taking into account the advanced design decisions of the time) to create a reliable machine that meets the requirements of modern warfare. Serial production of tanks lasted from 1966 to 1970 and was limited to 1,700 vehicles. And even participation in three conflicts in Vietnam, Panama (1989) and the Persian Gulf (1991) did not gain him special fame.
Currently, several dozen units are still in service with the US Airborne Forces, and there is a simple explanation: more modern analogues of Sheridan have not been developed.