From the Vault: The Gas Turbine and the S-Tank

When most people think of a gas turbine in a tank, they probably think of the M1 Abrams or maybe the Soviet T-80.  However, the first MBT to utilize a gas turbine was the rather unusual Swedish “S-Tank” STRV 103.   The S-Tank was the most unusual design of its day and its engine layout was unusual as well.  Rather than have a single engine, the S-Tank had two, a 490 HP gas turbine and a 240 HP diesel.  The tank could be run on just the diesel engine when stationary or moving at low speed, when moving at full speed both engines were engaged for a maximum power of 730 HP.  This article from the March-April 1973 issue of ARMOR details the design of the S-Tank layout.  The article author is Sven Berge, the Swedish engineer chiefly responsible for the S-Tank design.

From the Vault: Robert Icks on the best Tanks books circa 1972

Today we present a two part series written by tank expert and author Robert Icks originally published in ARMOR magazine in 1972.  The subject of the article is simply “books about armor.”  Obviously, many of the books mentioned in this article are out of print and forgotten, although a good number of them are still available through used book sellers online.  Good stuff for the serious tank book nerd.

From the Vault: Thoughts on Future Tank Design 1968

Today we present an article from the 1968 July-August issue of ARMOR by Richard Ogorkiewicz titled “Thoughts on Future Tank Designs.”  This article gives a pretty good summary of the state of the art in tank design in the late 60’s, illustrating the issues and thoughts that would go into the designs produced in the 1970’s.  Also of interest is the picture on the first page, an artist’s interpretation of an overhead gun system.  Page 2 states that the picture is courtesy of Continental Motors, who would later go on to develop the overhead gun system for the Teledyne Armored Gun System in the 1980’s.

From the Vault: ARMOR article on Depleted Uranium

DU ArmorToday we present an article that appeared in the July-August 2000 issue of ARMOR concerning the use of depleted Uranium in tank ammunition and armor.  The use of depleted uranium has been a source of controversy, with varying claims made as to it’s safety and environmental impact.  This article gives an interesting look at what the US Army was saying about DU in the period between Desert Storm and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

From the Vault: ARMOR article on Soviet Heavy Tanks

IS-3Today we present an article from the July-August 2002 issue of ARMOR magazine titled “Red Star – White Elephant?”  This article, written by Stephen “Cookie” Sewell, casts a critical eye on post WW2 Soviet heavy tank design, in particular the IS-3 and T-10.  Sewell notes that much of the information he is basing his conclusions on comes from research done after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  In the 1990s, access to the Soviet era archives opened up, allowing a new generation of Soviet armor authors to research and write.  Many of these names show up in the bibliography of this article, including Svirin, Baryatinskiy, and Kolomiets.  Unfortunately for western audiences, these Russian author’s works have not, for the most part,  been published in English.

From the Vault: The Secret Testing of Israeli M111 “Hetz” Ammunition

Today we present an article from the Sep-Oct 2006 issue of ARMOR by Jim Warford titled “The Secret Testing of Israeli M111 “Hetz” Ammunition: A Model of Failed Commander’s Responsibility.”  This article looks at the capture of an Israeli Magach-4 (M48) along with its brand new M111 Hetz ammunition by the Syrians during the 1982 “Operation Peace for Galilee” incursion. This tank and its ammunition eventually made there way to the Soviet Union were the M111 ammunition was evaluated, an event which contributed to the development of the T-72M1 variant.  This particular Magach-4 is now on display at the Kubinka tank museum outside of Moscow.

After this article was published, ARMOR published a letter in response to the piece which was also followed by a letter in answer by Jim Warford.  They may be read below.

Jim Warford was kind enough to provide us with some additional information and images relating to this article:

When I was visiting Kubinka in 2012, I had a tour guide arranged by my Russian travel agent who met me upon my arrival at the collection. He vaguely said that he worked for various governmental agencies and that he was happy to guide me through the collection. After awhile, I started to sense that he was there as much to keep an eye on me, as he was there to be my guide. Everything was going along very well (I was literally thrilled to be there), when we got to the captured Israeli Magach tank (that provided the M111 Hetz APFSDS ammunition to the Russians). I was looking forward to asking some questions about this tank, but before I could say a word, he quickly went into a speech about how they got the tank and that any reports that the tank arrived from Syria with the personal belongings and even the remains of the Israeli crew members on board, were completely untrue. While I suppose it’s possible that he gave that same speech to all his tours, I think it’s equally possible that he knew who I was and was aware of my 2001 ARMOR Magazine article “The Secret Museum at Kubinka,” where I reported the following:
“…a “victory parade” was held in Damascus, Syria, that included a captured Israeli Magach 4 flying Syrian and Palestinian flags. Several sources reported that the tank’s Israeli crew was also on display during the parade. Three of these crewmen are now listed as MIA by the Israeli government. According to the International Coalition for Missing Israeli Soldiers (ICMIS), there is reason to believe that this captured tank and the Magach 4 at Kubinka are one in the same. In January 2001, the ICMIS asked Israeli officials to request that an upcoming trip by the Israeli President to Russia include an examination of the Magach 4 at the museum. Reportedly, the Israeli tank (with turret serial number 94866 and hull serial number 817581) arrived at Kubinka still containing human remains, personal belongings, and documents belonging to the tank’s crew.”
Magach_Captured from IDF_Driving in Russia_1

Captured Magach 4 driving in Russia


Magach 4 on display at Kubinka

From the Vault: Edwin M. Wheelock and the Skeleton Tank

Today we present a four page article from the Jan-Feb 2002 issue of ARMOR on “Edwin M. Wheelock and the Skeleton Tank” by Major Dennis Gaare.  Readers with an interest in early tank development history may find this article worthwhile.  The Skeleton tank was an experimental prototype tank built in 1918 by the Pioneer Tractor Company of Winona Minnesota.  Only one prototype was built, and for many years it was housed at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

From the Vault: Ten Lean Years by General Robert Grow

ten lean years picToday we present a lengthy article from ARMOR magazine that appeared in four parts in 1987.  Titled “The Ten Lean Years: From the Mechanized Force (1930) to the Armored Force (1940)”, this piece was written by Major General Robert W. Grow.  The articles were published posthumously, Gen. Grow had passed away in 1985.  His career spanned the 1930’s to the 1950’s, including commanding the 6th Armored Division in the ETO during WWII.  The ARMOR magazine editors describe the article as “remarkable and enlightening” and state that it is “full of facts, the personal observation of a very astute officer, and generally  heretofore unknown or limited information, and deserves the widest possible dissemination to the Armor forces.”

We have provided two different methods by which people can read the article.  Below the four parts of the article are presented as four separate image galleries.  We have also collected the entire four part article into a single PDF document which may be downloaded from Internet Archive.

Part 1

[Read more…]

From the Vault: Tank Analysis by Joseph Williams 1974

williamsA while back someone asked us to dig up an article from a 1974 issue of ARMOR by Joseph Williams on US post war tank design.  With the help of an internet friend, we were able to obtain a copy.

Joseph Williams is one of those names that should be well known to tank and AFV aficionados but is not.  As we have pointed out in past posts, the former Soviet Union did a far better job of publicly recognizing their prominent tank designers than the Western democracies tended to do.  Fortunately, there is a short biography dedicated to Mr. Williams on the US Army Ordnance “Hall of Fame” page.

Mr. Joseph Williams entered Government service at Aberdeen Proving Ground in July 1941 as a designer and project engineer.

In a very short time, he became one of the Army’s pioneers in design and analytical disciplines which are now the basic framework for scientific approach and methodology of combat vehicle design and development. Mr. Williams played a key role in the initial concepts of prototype tanks leading to the medium tank M26. He was also responsible for the conception and execution of the first postwar tank design, Model T37/M41 light tank, featuring such innovations as a single driver, quick removable powerplant, scientifically developed ballistic shape, and concentric gun recoil system.

Mr. Williams was a driving force in the initiation and development of new tank building blocks. He designed the T42/M47 gun and turret assembly, including fire control selection and installation and development of ballistic and casting sections.

He also conceived and performed most of the preliminary design and analytical work for the M103 heavy tank. He then designed the T48/M48 tank, which was later produced in large quantities and is the main battle tank for many foreign countries.

Versions of this tank are currently being modernized in the US Army and are a vital part of the tank inventory. He was a driving force in the development of the M551 and the M60A2 tanks, in both a direct-responsibility role and as a consultant.

Through his international interests and affiliations and his vast knowledge of tanks, he also played a major role in the United States/Federal Republic of Germany tank development program, a precedent-setting international endeavor. During the last 10 years of his career, Mr. Williams was recognized internationally as an outstanding leader in the design and development of combat vehicles.

That is a pretty impressive resume to say the least.  In the gallery below we present Mr. Williams’ 1974 article from ARMOR magazine on “Tank Analysis.”

From the Vault: Armor of the Future circa 1960

picture coverLooking back at what previous generations predicted the future might hold can often be amusing.  Books, films and TV of the past often present version of the future that are considerably more fantastic than what actually came to be.  Military thinkers are not immune to this trend either, as today’s article shows.  We present “Armor of the Future” by Major Raymond J. Astor, published originally in the Sep-Oct 1960 issue of ARMOR.  In the article, the author uses as his starting point a quote from General Bruce C. Clarke on future tank requirements.

“We know exactly what we want.  Take the single item of the tank: our requirements are simple.  We want a fast, hightly mobile, fully armored, lightweight vehicle.  It must be able to swim, cross any terrain, and climb 30 degree hills.  It must be air-transportable.  It must have a simple but powerful engine requiring little or no maintenance.  The operation range should be several hundred miles.  We would also like to to be invisible.”

One would assume that General Clarke was speaking tongue in cheek when he made these comments, however the author of the article takes them at face value!

” This requirement could be approached and perhaps fulfilled completely if the United States were willing to assign the necessary scientific resources of the nation to the problem.  Let us examine the problem and determine how this could be achieved.”

Looking back, this claim seems to contain more than a hint of hubris.  Perhaps it is not surprising considering the unbridled optimism concerning technology that was the style in 1950’s America.