“If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell” - Philip Sheridan
|Armor||Front 2 / Side 1 / Rear 1 / Top 1|
|Fuel Capacity||600 L|
|Operational Range||550 km|
The M551 Sheridan was a light tank developed by the United States and named after Civil War General Philip Sheridan. It was designed to be landed by parachute and to swim across rivers. It was armed with the technically advanced but troublesome M81/M81E1 152mm gun/launcher which fired conventional ammunition and the MGM-51 Shillelagh guided anti-tank missile.
In the immediate post-World War II era the US Army introduced the M41 Walker Bulldog into service to fill the role of a light tank. The lifespan of the M41 was fairly short; at 25 tons it was considered too heavy to be a true light tank, and had a rather short cruising range. Plans started to build an even lighter replacement mounting the same gun, resulting in the T-71 and T-92 test designs. Two prototypes of the 19 ton T-92 were later ordered. However, as the prototypes were entering testing, information about the new Soviet PT-76 tank became available. The PT-76 was an amphibious light tank, and soon there were demands that any U.S. light tank should be able to swim as well. The T-92 was already in the prototype stage and could not be easily refitted for this role, so the design of an entirely new system started as the XM551.
The vehicle designed to mount the gun had a steel turret and aluminum hull. Although it could defend itself from heavy machine gun rounds, it would "brew up" when hit by a rocket propelled grenade due to the main gun propellant being stored in cardboard tubes. Like the M113, it was also highly vulnerable to mines.
In the Vietnam War, firing the gun often adversely affected the delicate electronics, which were at the early stages of the transition to solid state devices, so the missile and its guidance system was omitted from vehicles deployed to Vietnam. The expensive missile ended up almost never being fired in anger, despite a production run of 88,000 units. The M551 since Vietnam served with the 82nd Airborne Division during both Operations Just Cause in Dec 1989 the only time the M551 was air dropped into combat and was joined by a platoon of four Sheridans that were concealed at a hangar at Howard AFB in Panama and in Operation Desert Storm and also served at the National Training center at Ft.Irwin CA and was phased out in 1997.
The M551 Sheridan was the successor to a flawed tank destroyer called M56 Scorpion which can be air dropped from a plane it only saw limited service in the Vietnam War and served with the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions.
"Don't shoot! I'm unarmed!"