War Machine, Volume 2

Armoured Vehicles of the1950s and 1960s A t the end o f World Wax II the tank stood out as one of the prime weapons in the new mobile warfare. Great efforts were made to develop new families o f armoured vehicles and the 1950s saw the introduction of the first crude anti-tank guided weapons. Development was to such effect that many vehicles in use in the 1980s are designs o f the 1950s or earlier. World War II proved that tanks had a major role to play on the battlefield, and in the USA some of the projects still underway at the end of the war were continued though many others were cancelled. A considerable amount of work was done on automotive components such as engines and transmissions as well as on the main armament. This effort was put to good use at the outbreak of the Korean War and within a short time the USA was able to place in production a whole range of armoured vehicles including the M41 light tank M47/M48 medium tank and M l03 heavy tank as well as numerous self-propelled guns APCs and other special­ized vehicles. Many of these vehicles were ordered even before pro­totypes were completed and the result was that many of these had later to be rebuilt avery expensive and time-consuming process. Since then the USA has taken care to test thoroughly its armoured vehicles before placing them in production. In the aUK complete family of vehicles ranging from tanks to self- propelled guns was conceived but many of these did not reach the production stage and the most successful British tank of this period the Centurion can trace its development back to World War II. France also started an AFV development programme in the immedi­ate post-war period with the EBR armoured car and AMX-13 light tank, both unusual designs. The latter has been exported allover the world and remains in production to this day as do many of its specialized variants such as troop carriers and self-propelled guns. In the mid-1950s armoured development again started in Japan and West Germany with production vehicles following in the 1960s. Switzer- ln service with Israel for 20years the British-designed Centurion was developed at the end of World War II and by continuous modification has remained effective upright to the present day. land and Sweden also undertook the design and later production of tanks in this period the Swedish S-tank being one of the most unusual vehicles of its type. The USSR continued to design develop and place in production tanks after World War II. On a one-for-one basis these were generally inferior to their Western counterparts but they were cheap and easy to manu­facture maintain and operate all factors which have led to their export on a wide scale to most parts of the world During the 1950s the first anti-tank guided missiles appeared. These were very basic compared to the systems in use today but they did provide the basis on which more effective systems could be designed and built and their introduction in both vehicle- and man-portable versions has changed the face of the battlefield once again compelling tank designers to place greater emphasis on armour protection. It must also be remembered that many of the vehicles in service today and in some cases instill production can trace their development back to the mid-1950s orin some cases even earlier. Some of the vehicles described have now disappeared from service as their chassis could not be adopted to carry new weapon systems, while others (for example the M48 and Centurion tanks) have been constantly updated to enable them to remain viable weapon systems for the foreseeable future. One of the features of Middle East warfare has been the frequency with which captured weapons have been turned against their former owners. Here we see an Egyptian Centurion captured from Israel in 1973.
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