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The T55 joins our Museum Pieces

Category: Blog
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Posted: 26/02/2015 09:55
Views: 11029

After a grueling journey and many set backs through customs, a few months in the workshop and a paint-job, our new T55 is on display at Armourgeddon. Read more to understand the importance of this workhorse to many armies across the world.

Our T55 arrived just 6 months ago here at Armourgeddon to join the array of tanks, military vehicles and paraphernalia on show here at our museum. Now refurbished and ready for viewing, we thought this week we would share some of the history of this Soviet battle-horse with you.

The T55 is a medium tank according to its Eastern block owners. It may be argued that this is actually a Main Battle Tank, but the Russian and Soviet sources state that it is a medium tank and don’t class it as a main battle tank because the concept of a main battle tank was applied only to tanks beginning T-64A armed with a 125mm tank gun.

The T55 and its close relation the T54 are often referred to as one in the same as the distinction between the two designs is minimal. In March 1945, the T-54 prototype was created- just as WWII ended. In 1947, the T54 went into full production and soon became the main battle tank for the Warsaw Pact countries. The T54 and T55 have been involved in many of the world’s conflicts from the late 20th Century and the early 21st Century and has now become the most-produced tank in history. Some sources claim that as many as 100,000 T54s and T55s have been produced.

Production mainly took place in Russia (1946-1981), Poland (1956-1979) and Czechoslovakia (1957-1983). The T55 weighs 36 tonnes and stands 6.45m long, 3.37m wide and 2.4m high, requiring a crew of 4 to be fully manned. At a high speed of 48km per hour (30 miles per hour) the speed of this tank is not particularly great compared to others, especially considering its size.

The appearance of the T55 in the west spurred the UK to develop a new tank-gun, the Royal Ordnance L7 and for the USA to develop the M60 Patton in order to compete with this mechanically simple, robust and easy to operate tank. Being small in stature, the tank presents a smaller target for their opponents to hit.

The good mobility and relative light weight design of the T55 mean that transport by road via a flatbed truck or by rail and for crossing lighter bridges was more possible than with previous models. The wide tracks produce lower ground pressure and good mobility on soft ground. The T55 also has excellent cold-weather start-up system and they even sometimes have a snorkel system attached that allows river crossing. Although useful here at the moment, with the amount of mini lakes we have on the track, our version doesn’t have a snorkel. Shame. It would be great to watch some of our instructors disappear under water in an experiment of tank impermeability!

The cabin layout of the T55 sees a fighting compartment in the front, an engine compartment in the rear, a dome shaped turret and a drivers hatch on the front left. The Commander sits on the left with the gunner in front and a loader on the right.

The small size of the T55, positive in so many ways, did also cause issues. The Israelis who crewed the T54s and T55s during the 1967 and 1973 conflicts complained that the physical constraints of the tank slowed movements and reduced the operation of controls and equipment to a slower pace.

The T55 has been used worldwide by as many as 50 countries and mock-armies although modifications over the years have changed almost every aspect of the vehicle. The T55 is now often seen with an improved turret shape, increased protection, power and firepower with the addition of AA machine guns or improved tank guns. There are also often advanced armour arrays and technologies such as laser range finders, computerised fire control systems and GPS.

Our T55 came from the former Czech Republic about 6 months ago. It houses a 100mm tank gun, which is able to live fire, and is in excellent condition. It has been in the workshop for the past couple of months having been needle gunned entirely and re-painted. We have left the inside in its original condition to maintain the authenticity of the tank. The import process took a significant amount of time and the transportation story could be made into a feature-length documentary, but we got there in the end and now, our newest addition to Armourgeddon sits sunbathing in the yard on this beautiful winters day.

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