Today we present a report from the British Archives dating back to 1970 concerning the Soviet T-55 tank. This particular report was conducted jointly by the British and the Israelis and documents “trials to assess the weapon system and fightability characteristics of the Soviet T-55 tank.” We have uploaded the entire report onto a separate page which can be viewed here. The report is quite lengthy and will be of interest for those interested in the T-55 tank, particularly those looking for information as to the crew ergonomics. We have transcribed the report summary below:
The main points which emerged form the assessment are:
Ballistic dispersion of the 100mm gun – this was found to be comparable with western standards, ie intrinsic dispersion applicable to full bore projectiles – AP or HE.
The Weapon System – it is simple and has the basic components of any AFV system but without any sophistication or complexity.
The Gun Control System – it is crude. The hand controls do not operate smoothly and in particular elevation and depression is of a low standard due mainly to excessive gun muzzle preponderance. The power and stabilizer controls leave much to be desired, this applies particularly to attempts at engaging targets on the move with the 100mm gun.
Vision for the Driver and Gunner – it is adequate but, for the commander, the devices provided are, by British standards, inadequate and cupola arrangements are of poor quality. They do not compare favorably with the equipment provided for the commander in Centurion of the 1958 period.
Fuel Stowage – this constitutes a fire hazard. The forward or hull front tank surrounds 100mm ammunition and other fuel is carried in “Jerry Can” type containers which are plumbed into the system and situated on the right side track guard and are highly vulnerable to aircraft cannon fire.
Ammunition Stowage – other than the rounds stowed in the forward hull compartment, some rounds – about 6 – are stowed above the turret ring on the turret walls. the rounds are secured by rather crudely designed clips. The total carried is 43. The rounds are heavy.
Armour Protection – for a weight of 6 tons the arrangement of armour is a point in favour of the T-55 tank although it is well known that considerable success against the armour was obtained from attacks with the British 105mm L28 APDS ammunition during the Six Day War.
Silhouette – this is similar to that of the FRG Leopard tank. However, detection of the tank is enhanced by the external fittings on the turret roof. It is, however, a compact vehicle.
Vehicle Generated Smoke – this is extremely effective and simple to operate. A few tanks employed in creating a smoke screen can accomplish a screen of high density, lacking “windows”, in a very short time – a very good feature.
Fightability in General – the vehicle is rugged, the ammunition is heavy and awkward to handle in the cramped crew positions, the gun is loaded from the right side, ie left handed loading, and the result is a very low rate of fire which when combined with the low chance of hit with the first round of an engagement constitutes rather poor fightability characteristics.