T-55 tanks are a series of Soviet main battle tanks
introduced in the years following the Second World War. The first T-54
prototype was completed at
Nizhny Tagil by the end of 1945. Initial
production ramp up settled for 1947 at Nizhny Tagil, and 1948 for
Kharkov were halted and curtailed as many problems were uncovered; the
T-34-85 still accounted for 88 percent of production through the
T-54 eventually became the main tank for armoured units
of the Soviet Army, armies of the
Warsaw Pact countries, and many
others. T-54s and T-55s have been involved in many of the world's
armed conflicts since the later part of the 20th century.
T-54/55 series eventually became the most-produced tank in
military history. Estimated production numbers for the series range
from 86,000 to 100,000. They were replaced by the T-62, T-64, T-72,
T-90 and soon, T-14 tanks in the Soviet and Russian armies, but
remain in use by up to 50 other armies worldwide, some having received
During the Cold War, Soviet tanks never directly faced their NATO
adversaries in combat in Europe. However, the T-54/55's first
appearance in the West around the period of the 1950s (then the
beginning of the Cold War) spurred the United Kingdom to develop a new
tank gun, the Royal Ordnance L7, and the
United States to develop the
1 Development history
T-34 and T-44
1.3.1 T-54A and T-54B
2.1 Advantages and drawbacks
3 Production history
3.1 Soviet Union
4 Service history
Soviet Union and Russian Federation
4.2 Middle East
4.3 Vietnam War
4.5 Other conflicts
5 Operators and variants
6 See also
9 External links
T-34 and T-44
T-34 and T-44
T-34 medium tank of the 1940s is considered to have the
best balance of firepower (
F-34 tank gun
F-34 tank gun 76.2 mm gun), protection
and mobility for its cost of any tank of its time in the world. Its
development never stopped throughout the Second World War and it
continued to perform well; however, the designers could not
incorporate the latest technologies or major developments as vital
tank production could not be interrupted during wartime.
In 1943, the
Morozov Design Bureau
Morozov Design Bureau resurrected the pre-war T-34M
development project and created the
T-44 tank. Thanks to a
space-efficient torsion-bar suspension, a novel transverse engine
mount, and the removal of the hull machine-gunner's crew position, the
T-44 had cross country performance at least as good as the T-34, but
with substantially superior armour and a much more powerful 85 mm
By the time the
T-44 was ready for production, the
T-34 had also been
modified to fit the same gun. Although the
T-44 was superior in most
other ways, by this time
T-34 production was in full swing and the
massive numbers of T-34s being built offset any advantage to smaller
numbers of a superior design. The
T-44 was produced in only small
numbers, around 2,000 being completed during the war. Instead, the
designers continued to use the design as the basis for further
improved guns, experimenting with a 122 mm design, but later
deciding a 100 mm gun was a better alternative.
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Efforts to fit the 100 mm gun to the
T-44 demonstrated that small
changes to the design would greatly improve the combination. The main
issue was a larger turret ring, which suggested slightly enlarging the
hull. A prototype of the new design, about 40 centimetres (16 in)
longer and only 10 cm wider, was completed in 1945. This model
looked almost identical to the original T-44, albeit with a much
In testing, there were numerous drawbacks that required correction and
many alterations that had to be made to the vehicle's design. It was
decided to begin serial production of the new vehicle and the vehicle
officially entered service on 29 April 1946. It would go into
Nizhny Tagil in 1947 and Kharkov in 1948.
The original T-54-1. It has a turret reminiscent of the T-34-85s, with
prominent, undercut shot traps. This example has the fender machine
gun boxes replaced with fuel tanks.
Production of the initial series of T-54s began slowly as 1,490
modifications were made. The Red Army received a tank that was
World War II
World War II designs and theoretically better than the
newest tanks of potential opponents. The 100 mm gun fired BR-412
series full-calibre APHE ammunition, which had superior penetration
capability when compared to the
T-34 that it replaced.
The serial production version, designated T-54-1, differed from the
T-54 prototype. It had thicker hull armour (80 mm on the
sides, 30 mm on the roof and 20 mm on the bottom).[citation
needed] As production ramped up, quality problems emerged. Production
was stopped and an improved T-54-2 (Ob'yekt 137R) version was
designed. Several changes were made and a new turret was fitted. The
new dome-shaped turret with flat sides was inspired by the turret from
the IS-3 heavy tank; it is similar to the later
T-54 turret but with a
distinctive overhang at the rear. It also had a shorter bustle. The
fender machine guns were removed in favour of a single bow-mounted
machine gun. The transmission was modernized and the track was widened
to 580 mm. The T-54-2 entered production in 1949, at Stalin Ural
Tank Factory No. 183 (Uralvagonzavod). In 1951, a second modernization
was made, designated T-54-3 (Ob'yekt 137Sh), which had a new turret
without side undercuts, as well as the new TSh-2-22 telescopic
gunner's sight instead of the TSh-20. The tank featured the TDA smoke
generating system. A command version was built, the T-54K
(komandirskiy), with a second R-113 radio.
T-54A and T-54B
In the beginning of the 1950s, the personnel of the
bureau of the Stalin Ural
Tank Factory No. 183 (Uralvagonzavod) had
been changed considerably. Morozov was replaced by Kolesnikow, who in
turn was replaced by Leonid N. Kartsev in March 1953. The first
decision of the new designer was to fit the 100 mm D-10T tank gun
with the STP-1 "Gorizont" vertical stabilizer. The new tank gun
received the designation D-10TG and was fitted into the T-54's turret.
The new tank received night vision equipment for the driver and was
designated T-54A (Ob'yekt 137G). Originally, this had a small muzzle
counter-weight, which was later replaced with a fume extractor. It was
equipped with an OPVT wading snorkel, the TSh-2A-22 telescopic sight,
TVN-1 infrared driver's periscope and IR headlight, a new R-113 radio,
multi-stage engine air filter and radiator controls for improved
engine performance, an electrical oil pump, a bilge pump, an automatic
fire extinguisher and extra fuel tanks. The tank officially entered
production in 1954 and service in 1955. It served as a basis for
T-54AK command tank, with additional R-112 radio set (front line tanks
were equipped with R-113 radio set), TNA-2 navigational device,
ammunition load for the main gun decreased by 5 rounds and the
AB-1-P/30 charging unit, which was produced in small numbers. In
October 1954 a T-54A tank, designated as T-54M (Ob'yekt 139) served as
a testbed for new D-54T and D-54TS 100 mm smoothbore guns and
"Raduga" and "Molniya" stabilization systems, which were later used in
the T-62. These were not completely successful, so further T-55
development continued to use the D-10 series guns. It was fitted with
V-54-6 engine developing 581 hp (433 kW). It never went into
A new version, based on T-54A, designated T-54B (Ob'yekt 137G2), was
designed in 1955. It was fitted with a new 100 mm D-10T2S tank
gun with STP-2 "Tsyklon" 2-plane stabilizer. It entered production in
1957. During the last four months of production, the new tanks were
equipped with an L-2 "Luna" infrared searchlight, a TPN-1-22-11 IR
gunner's sight, and an OU-3 IR commander's searchlight. Modern APFSDS
ammunition was developed, dramatically enhancing the penetrative
performance of the gun to keep it competitive with
developments. T-54B served as the basis for T-54BK command tank, which
had exactly the same additional equipment as the T-54AK command
T-55 front, rear and side elevations
Trials with nuclear weapons showed that a
T-54 could survive a
2–15 kt nuclear charge at a range of more than 300 metres
(980 ft) from the epicentre, but the crew only had a chance of
surviving at 700 metres (2,300 ft). It was decided to create an
NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) protection system which would
start working 0.3 seconds after detecting gamma radiation.
The task of creating a basic PAZ (Protivoatomnaya Zashchita) NBC
protection system offering protection against the blast of a nuclear
explosion and (radioactive) particulate filtration, but not against
external gamma radiation or gas, was given to the KB-60 design
bureau in Kharkov and was completed in 1956. The documentation was
sent to Uralvagonzavod. It was decided to increase the tank's battle
capabilities by changing the tank's construction and introducing new
production technologies. Many of those changes were initially tested
on the T-54M (Ob'yekt 139). The tank was fitted with the new V-55
12-cylinder 4-stroke one-chamber 38.88 litre water-cooled diesel
engine developing 581 hp (433 kW). Greater engine power was
accomplished by increasing the pressure of the fuel delivery and
charging degree. The designers planned to introduce a heating system
for the engine compartment and MC-1 diesel fuel filter. The engine was
to be started pneumatically with the use of an AK-150S charger and an
electric starter. This eliminated the need for the tank to carry a
tank filled with air. To allow easier access during maintenance and
repairs, it was decided to change hatches over the engine compartment.
To increase the operational range, 300 litres (66 imp gal;
79 US gal) fuel tanks were added to the front of the hull,
increasing the overall fuel capacity to 680 litres
(150 imp gal; 180 US gal).
T-55 lacked an antiaircraft machine gun mount.
The ammunition load for the main gun was increased from 34 to 45, with
18 shells stored in so called "wet containers" located in hull fuel
tanks (the concept for which came from Kartsev's cancelled Ob'yekt
140). The ammunition load included high explosive-fragmentation and
anti-tank rounds and designers also planned to introduce the BK5M HEAT
rounds which penetrated 390 millimetres (15 in) thick armour. The
TPKU commander's vision device was replaced by either the TPKUB or
TPKU-2B. The gunner received a TNP-165 vision device. The loader's
hatch-mounted 12.7 mm
DShK anti-aircraft heavy machine gun was
dropped, because it was deemed worthless against high-performance
jets. The tank was supposed to be equipped with the "Rosa" fire
protection system. The tank had a thicker turret casting and the
improved two-plane gun stabilization system from the T-54B, as well as
night vision fighting equipment. To balance the weight of the new
equipment, the armour on the back of the hull was thinned slightly.
T-55 was superior to the IS-2/IS-3/T-10 heavy tanks in many
respects, including the rate of fire of the gun (at least four
compared to fewer than three rounds per minute). Despite somewhat
thinner frontal turret armour (200 millimetres (7.9 in) instead
of 250 millimetres (9.8 in)) it compared favourably with the
IS-3, thanks to its improved antitank gun and better mobility. Heavy
tanks soon fell from favour, with only 350 IS-3s produced. The old
model of highly mobile medium tanks and heavily armoured heavy tanks
was replaced by a new paradigm: the "main battle tank". Parallel
developments in the West would produce similar results. Kartsev
combined all the ongoing improvements being offered, or planned, on
T-54 into one design. This became the Ob'yekt 155, and entered
Uralvagonzavod 1 January 1958 as the T-55. It was
accepted for service with the Red Army on 8 May. It suffered a
significant lapse in one area: there was no antiaircraft machine gun,
which had been present on the T-54.
After 1959, it served as a basis for the T-55K command tank which was
equipped with an additional R-112 radio set, an AB-1-P/30 fuel powered
accumulator charging unit, and TPN-1-22-11 night vision sight. All
this additional equipment made it necessary to decrease the ammunition
load for the main gun to 37 rounds and eliminate the bow machine gun.
In the beginning of the 1960s, a T-55K was experimentally fitted with
a Uran TV relay apparatus for battlefield surveillance. The tank was
fitted with an external camera, the picture from which was relayed to
a receiver in a BTR-50PU command vehicle. There was an observation
camera mounted on a folding mast which was in turn mounted on a UAZ 69
car. The range within which the picture could be relayed varied
between 10 and 30 kilometres (6.2 and 18.6 mi).
In 1961, a
T-55 tank was used to test the "Almaz" TV complex, which
was supposed to replace the standard observation devices right after a
nuclear explosion or while fording a body of water. There was a camera
mounted on the hull for the driver and two cameras mounted on the
turret, one for aiming and one for observation, and the picture from
the cameras was relayed to two control screens. The tank had the front
hull fuel tanks and bow machine gun removed. The commander was seated
in the driver's usual position while the driver sat next to him. The
cameras allowed battlefield observation and firing during daytime at
ranges between 1.5 and 2 kilometres (0.93 and 1.24 mi). Because
of the low quality of the equipment, the trials gave negative results.
In the beginning of the 1960s, the OKB-29 design bureau in
working on adapting the tank to use a GTD-3T gas turbine engine
developing 700 hp (522 kW). One
T-55 tank fitted with this
gas turbine engine passed trials but was deemed unsatisfactory and the
design did not go into production.
Omsk OKB-29 group tested three experimental
T-55 tanks (designated
Ob'yekt 612) between 1962 and 1965 that were fitted with an automatic
gearbox controlled by electro-hydraulic systems. The trials found that
such gearboxes were prone to frequent breakdowns in tanks. At the same
time the Ob'yekt 155ML, a
T-55 fitted with a launcher for three 9M14
NATO code: AT-3 Sagger) ATGMs mounted on the rear of the
turret, was tested. Along with standard tanks a flamethrower-armed
version was designed (designated TO-55 (Ob'yekt 482)), which was
produced until 1962. It was fitted with 460 litre tanks filled with
flammable liquid instead of the frontal hull fuel tanks. The
flamethrower replaced the coaxial machine gun. This was a much better
way to mount a flamethrower than in the experimental Ob'yekt 483,
based on the
T-54 tank, where the flamethrower replaced the main gun.
TO-55 flamethrower tanks were withdrawn from service in 1993.
In 1961, development of improved NBC protection systems began. The
goal was to protect the crew from fast neutrons; adequate protection
against gamma radiation was provided by the thick armour and a PAZ
basic NBC protection system.
The POV plasticized lead antiradiation lining was developed to provide
the needed protection. It was installed in the interior, requiring the
driver's hatch and the coamings over the turret hatches to be
noticeably enlarged. This liner had the added benefit of protecting
the crew from fragments of penetrated armour.
The tank was equipped with a full PAZ/FVU chemical filtration system.
The coaxial 7.62 mm
SGMT machine gun was replaced by a
7.62 mm PKT machine gun. The hull was lengthened from 6.04 m
to 6.2 m. The hull machine gun was removed, making space for six
more main gun rounds. These changes increased the weight of the
vehicle to 38 tonnes.
The design work was done by
OKB-520 design bureau of Uralvagonzavod
under the leadership of Leonid N. Kartsev. The T-55A served as the
basis for the T-55AK command tank.
A Somali National Army T-55.
In its long service life, the
T-55 has been upgraded many times. Early
T-55s were fitted with a new TSh-2B-32P sight. In 1959, some tanks
received mountings for the P
T-55 mine clearing system or the
BTU/BTU-55 plough. In 1967, the improved BM8 APDS round, which could
penetrate 275 mm thick armour at a range of 2 km, was
introduced. In 1970, new and old
T-55 tanks had the loader's hatch
modified to mount the 12.7 mm
DShK machine gun, to deal with the
threat of attack helicopters. Starting in 1974,
T-55 tanks received
the KTD-1 or KTD-2 laser rangefinder in an armoured box over the
mantlet of the main gun, as well as the R-123 or R-123M radio set.
Simultaneously, efforts were made to modernize and increase the
lifespan of the drive train.
During production, the T-55A was frequently modernized. In 1965, a new
track was introduced that could be used for between 2,000 km and
3,000 km, which was twice the range of the old track. It required
a new drive sprocket, with 14 teeth instead of 13. Since 1974, T-55A
tanks were equipped with a KTD-1 "Newa" rangefinder and a TSzS-32PM
sight. All T-55A tanks were equipped with the TPN-1-22-11 night sight.
The R-113 radio set was replaced by a R-123 radio set. Late production
models had rubber side skirts and a driver's windshield for use during
T-55 tanks continued to be upgraded, refitted, and modernized
into the 1990s. Advances in armour-piercing and
HEAT ammunition would
improve the gun's antitank capabilities in the 1960s and 1980s.
Sri Lanka Army
Sri Lanka Army T-55AM2
A wide array of upgrades in different price ranges are provided by
many manufacturers in different countries, intended to bring the
T-54/55 up to the capabilities of newer MBTs, at a lower cost.
Upgrades include new engines, explosive reactive armour, new main
armament such as 120 mm or 125 mm guns, active protection
systems, and fire control systems with range-finders or thermal
sights. These improvements make it a potent main battle tank (MBT) for
the low-end budget, even to this day.
One of these upgrade packages was produced by Cadillac Gage Textron
and a prototype named the Jaguar was produced. The Jaguar looked quite
different from its predecessors. A newly designed turret was formed by
flat armour plates installed at different angles. The hull top was
new. The engine compartment and fuel tanks on the shelves over the
tracks were armour-protected. The Soviet-made 100 mm gun was
replaced with the American M68 105 mm rifled gun fitted with a
thermal sleeve. A Marconi fire control system which was originally
developed for the American light tank Stingray was fitted. The vehicle
incorporated a Cadillac-Gage weapon stabilizer and gunner's sight
equipped with an integral laser rangefinder. The power pack inherited
by the Jaguar from the Stinger underwent only minor alterations and
comprised the Detroit Diesel 8V-92TA engine and XTG-411 automatic
transmission. In 1989, two Jaguar tanks were manufactured. The chassis
were provided by PRC, while the hull tops, turrets and powerplants
were manufactured by Cadillac Gage Textron.
Another prototype upgrade package was produced by Teledyne Continental
Motors (now General Dynamics Land Systems) for the Egyptian Army and
was known as the T-54E. After further modifications and trials it was
sent into mass production and received the designation Ramses II.
As late as 2013, Ukrainian companies were reportedly developing T-55
main battle tank upgrades targeting the export market. The Type 59
is still in production, in several variants.
The T-55, see here at the Panzermuseum Thun (de), can be
recognized by the fume extractor at the end of the gun barrel
T-55 have a cabin layout shared with many post-World War
II tanks, with the fighting compartment in the front, engine
compartment in the rear, and a dome-shaped turret in the center of the
hull. The driver's hatch is on the front left of the hull roof. The
commander is seated on the left, with the gunner to his front and the
loader on the right. The tank's suspension has the drive sprocket at
the rear, and dead track. Engine exhaust is on the left fender. There
is a prominent gap between the first and second road wheel pairs, a
distinguishing feature from the T-62, which has progressively larger
spaces between road wheels towards the rear.
T-55 tanks are outwardly very similar and difficult to
distinguish visually. Many T-54s were also updated to
so the distinction is often downplayed with the collective name
T-54/55. Soviet tanks were factory-overhauled every 7,000 km and
often given minor technology updates. Many states have added or
modified the tank's equipment; India, for example, affixed fake fume
extractors to its T-54s and T-55s so that its gunners would not
confuse them with Pakistani Type 59s.
T-54 can be distinguished from the
T-55 by a dome-shaped
ventilator on the front right of the turret and a driver-operated SGMT
7.62 mm machine gun mounted to fire through a tiny hole in the
center of the hull's front. Early T-54s lacked a gun fume extractor,
had an undercut at the turret's rear, and a distinctive "pig-snout"
Advantages and drawbacks
T-54/55 tanks are mechanically simple and robust. They are very
simple to operate compared to Western tanks, and do not require a high
level of training or education in their crew members. The
T-54/55 is a
relatively small main battle tank, presenting a smaller target for its
opponents to hit. The tanks have good mobility thanks to their
relatively light weight (which permits easy transport by rail or
flatbed truck and allows crossing of lighter bridges), wide tracks
(which give lower ground pressure and hence good mobility on soft
ground), a good cold-weather start-up system and a snorkel that allows
An abandoned Iraqi Army
T-55 tank lies among the wreckage of many
other Iraqi vehicles, such as trucks, cars and buses, somewhere along
Highway of Death
Highway of Death in April 1991.
According to Zaloga, "By the standards of the 1950s, the
T-54 was an
excellent tank combining lethal firepower, excellent armor protection
and good reliability"  while remaining a significantly smaller and
lighter tank than its
NATO contemporaries—the US
M48 Patton tank and
the British Centurion tank. The 100mm
D-10T tank gun
D-10T tank gun of the
T-55 was also more powerful than its Western counterparts at that
M48 Patton initially carried a 90mm tank gun and the
Centurion Mk. 3 carried the 20-pounder(84mm) tank gun).
This advantage lasted until the
T-54 began to be countered by newer
Western developments like the M60 main battle tank and upgraded
Centurions and M48 Pattons using the 105 mm rifled M68 or Royal
Ordnance L7 gun. Due to the lack of a sub-caliber round for the
100 mm gun, and the tank's simple fire-control system, the
T-54/55 was forced to rely on
HEAT shaped-charge ammunition to engage
tanks at long range well into the 1960s, despite the relative
inaccuracy of this ammunition at long ranges. The Soviets
considered this acceptable for a potential European conflict, until
the development of composite armour began reducing the effectiveness
HEAT warheads and sabot rounds were developed for the D-10T gun.
T-54/55 tanks had their drawbacks. Small size is
achieved at the expense of interior space and ergonomics, which causes
practical difficulties, as it constrains the physical movements of the
crew and slows operation of controls and equipment. This is a common
trait of most Soviet tanks and hence height limits were set for
certain tank crew positions in the Soviet Army, whereas other armies
may not include crew member height limits as standards.[citation
The low turret profile of the tanks prevents them from depressing
their main guns by more than 5° since the breech would strike the
ceiling when fired, which limits the ability to cover terrain by fire
from a hull-down position on a reverse slope. As in most tanks of that
generation, the internal ammunition supply is not shielded, increasing
the risk that any enemy penetration of the fighting compartment could
cause a catastrophic secondary explosion. The
T-54 lacks NBC
protection, a revolving turret floor (which complicated the crew's
operations), and early models lacked gun stabilization. All of these
problems were corrected in the otherwise largely identical T-55
T-54/55 tanks have been manufactured in the tens of
thousands, and many still remain in reserve, or even in front-line use
among lower-technology fighting forces. Abundance and age together
make these tanks cheap and easy to purchase. While the
T-54/55 is not
a match for a modern main battle tank, armour and ammunition upgrades
can dramatically improve the old vehicle's performance to the point
that it cannot be dismissed on the battlefield.
T-54-1 production was slow at first, as only 3 vehicles were built in
1946 and 22 in 1947. 285 T-54-1 tanks were built in 1948 by Stalin
Tank Factory No. 183 (Uralvagonzavod); by then it had completely
T-44 production at Uralvagonzavod, and Kharkov Diesel Factory
No. 75 (KhPZ). Production was stopped because of a low level of
production quality and frequent breakdowns. The T-54-2 entered
production in 1949 at Uralvagonzavod, which produced 423 tanks by the
end of 1950. It replaced the
T-34 in production at the
No. 183 in 1950. In 1951, over 800 T-54-2 tanks were produced. The
T-54-2 remained in production until 1952. The T-54A was produced
between 1955 and 1957. The T-54B was produced between 1957 and April
T-55 was produced by
Uralvagonzavod between 1958 and 1962.
The T-55K command tank was produced from 1959. The TO-55 (Ob'yekt 482)
flamethrower tank was produced until 1962.
Overall 35,000 T-54-1, T-54-2,
T-54 (T-54-3), T-54A, T-54B, T-54AK1,
T-54AK2, T-54BK1 and T-54BK2 tanks were produced between 1946 and 1958
and 27,500 T-55, T-55A, T-55K1, T-55K2, T-55K3, T-55AK1, T-55AK2 and
T-55AK3 tanks were produced between 1955 and 1981.
Poland produced 3,000 T-54, T-54A, T-54AD and T-54AM tanks between
1956 and 1964 and 7,000
T-55 (between 1964 and 1968), T-55L, T-55AD-1
and T-55AD-2 tanks (between 1968 and 1979).
Czechoslovakia produced 2,700 T-54A, T-54AM, T-54AK, T-54AMK tanks
(between 1957 and 1966) and 8,300
T-55 and T-55A tanks (between 1964
and 1983; T-55A was probably produced since 1968). Most of them were
for export.
Soviet Union and Russian Federation
Polish T-55A tanks on the streets during Martial Law in Poland.
T-54/55 and the
T-62 were the two most common tanks in Soviet
inventory—in the mid-1970s the two tank types together comprised
approximately 85% of the Soviet Army's tanks.
T-54 tanks served in combat during the Soviet invasion of
Hungary in 1956 and a few were successfully knocked out by the
defending anti-Soviet Hungarian resistance-fighters and rebels using
Molotov cocktails and several anti-tank guns. The local
anti-communist revolutionaries delivered one captured T-54A to the
British Embassy in Budapest, the analyses and studies
of which helped and spurred the development of the Royal Ordnance L7
105mm tank gun. The
T-62 and the
T-55 were auctioned off in 2012, with
all Russian active-duty military units mainly operating the T-72, the
T-80 and the T-90.
South Lebanese Army
South Lebanese Army Tiran-5 in South Lebanon
During the 1967 Six-Day War, U.S.-supplied
M48 Patton tanks, Centurion
tanks, and even upgraded World War II-era Sherman tanks faced T-55s.
This mix of Israeli tanks, combined with superior planning of
operations and superior airpower, proved to be more than capable of
dealing with the T-54/
During the 1970 Jordanian Civil War, Syrian tanks inflicted heavy
losses on Jordanian Centurions. In one case, a squadron of T-55s
stopped the advance of a large Jordanian column, with 19 Centurions
destroyed and up to 10 Syrian T-55s lost in the battle.
By the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the T-54A and T-55's gun was starting to
lose its competitive effectiveness relative to the 105 mm Royal
Ordnance L7 gun mounted in Israeli
Centurion Mk V
Centurion Mk V and M60A1 tanks.
Israel captured many T-55s from
Syria and mostly
Egypt in 1967, and
kept some of them in service. They were upgraded with a 105 mm
NATO-standard L7 or M68, a US version of the L7, replacing the old
Soviet 100 mm D-10, and a General Motors diesel replacing the
original Soviet diesel engine. The Israelis designated these Tiran-5
medium tanks, and they were used by reserve units until the early
1990s. Most of these were then sold to assorted Third World countries,
some of them in Latin America, and the rest were heavily modified,
converted into the Achzarit heavy armoured personnel carrier.
A destroyed Iraqi
T-55 and supply truck, painted with graffiti by
Coalition troops, along the highway between Kuwait City and Basra,
Iraq, following the retreat of Iraqi forces from Kuwait during
Operation Desert Storm.
The tank was heavily used during the
Iran–Iraq War of 1980-88.
T-54/55 participated in the biggest tank battle of the war in early
Iran lost 214 Chieftain and M60A1 tanks in the battle. In
Iraq lost 45
T-62 tanks. Another known tank
battle occurred on 15 October 1981, when a large Iranian convoy was
ambushed by Iraqi T-55s. During the battle, the Iranians lost 20
Chieftains plus other armoured vehicles and withdrew.
Many of Iraqi T-55s saw action during
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Desert Storm in Iraq
and Kuwait in January/February 1991, and during the 2003 US/UK
Iraq with poor results.
T-54 tank in Vietnam Military History Museum
In the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese NVA used T-54s against the
South Vietnamese ARVN and US forces.
The NVA and ARVN engaged each other with tanks for the first time
during Operation Lam Son 719, in February 1971. During that battle, 17
M41 light tanks of the ARVN 1st Armored Brigade destroyed 22
T-54 and 16 PT-76, at no loss to themselves,[full
citation needed] but the friendly units lost 5 M41s and 25 APCs.
On Easter Sunday, 2 April 1972, the newly activated ARVN 20th Tank
Regiment, consisting of approximately 57 M48A3 Patton tanks (ARVN
regiments were equivalent to US battalions, and ARVN squadrons were
equivalent to US companies or troops) received reports of a large
NVA tank column moving towards
Dong Ha (the largest South Vietnamese
city near the DMZ at the 17th parallel). At about noon, the crewmen of
the ARVN 1st Squadron observed enemy armour moving south along highway
1 towards Dong Ha, and concealed their tanks on high ground with a
good vantage point. Waiting for the NVA column to close to between
2,500 and 3,000 meters, the 90-mm guns of the Pattons opened fire,
quickly destroying nine
PT-76 light tanks and two
tanks. The remaining NVA armour, unable to see their enemy, turned
about and withdrew.
On 9 April 1972, all three squadrons of the 20th
Tank Regiment fought
enemy armour, firing upon tanks accompanied by infantry, again while
occupying the high ground. The Pattons opened fire at approximately
2,800 meters. A few answering shots from the T-54s fell short, and the
NVA tanks began to scatter. By the end of the day, the 20th had
destroyed sixteen T-54s and captured one Type 59, at no loss to
themselves. However, by 2 May, 20th
Tank Regiment had lost all
their tanks by enemy fire
NVA armour units equipped with the
T-54 tank achieved one of their
greatest victories in April 1972, when the NVA 203rd Armored Regiment
attacked the ARVN 22nd Infantry Division at Tân Cảnh, which
dominated a main route into the city of Kon Tum. After a two-day
artillery barrage, eighteen
T-54 tanks from the 203rd regiment
attacked the 22nd Division at dawn from two directions, breaking the
ARVN unit, which quickly abandoned its positions.[full citation
T-54 tank No. 377 had destroyed seven M41s before itself had
been destroyed by
M72 LAW rocket launchers. The NVA destroyed 18
M41 tanks and 31 M113 armored personnel carriers and captured 17 other
M41s, while losing only two
T-54 tanks and one
T-55 in the South African National Museum of Military History,
T-54/T-55s began appearing in Southern Africa in the late 1970s, when
many emerging Marxist states, particularly
Angola and Mozambique, were
bolstered with modern Soviet military hardware. The T-55's
dependability and ruggedness proved well-suited to the local combat
environments. Survivability of opposing medium-armour vehicles
UNITA and the
South African Defence Force
South African Defence Force (SADF) against
late model MBTs used in the
Angolan Civil War
Angolan Civil War remained a major concern
throughout that conflict. Angolan Army T-54s were first blooded
during Operation Askari, in 1981. At least five were
subsequently destroyed in encounters with South African Eland or
Ratel-90 armoured cars, and some were captured. Soviet sources
confirm that numerous T-55s were penetrated by an Eland's 90mm
low-pressure gun. Nevertheless, multiple
HEAT rounds were required
to guarantee sufficient damage against a T-55's frontal arc and
SADF anti-tank teams forced to operate in platoons accordingly.
During the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, another three T-55s of Angola's
21st Brigade were shot out by Ratel tank destroyers armed with ZT3
Ingwe ATGMs near the Lomba River. On 9 November 1987, an
engagement between South African and Angolan tanks occurred when
thirteen Olifant Mk1As eliminated two T-55s in a nine-minute
skirmish. T-55s again participated in a critical
engagement near Cuito Cuanavale on 14 February 1988, when Cuba's 3rd
Tank Battalion counter-attacked to spare Angola's 16th Brigade virtual
61 Mechanised Infantry Battalion Group
61 Mechanised Infantry Battalion Group and the 4th
South African Infantry Battalion. Six or seven T-55s were lost, but
the attack blunted the South African advance, safeguarding the
cohesion of the Angolan line. Cuban and Soviet sources maintain that
they destroyed ten Olifant tanks and twelve Ratels, while
South African and Western sources maintain that only one Olifant and
one Ratel were damaged, as well as one Ratel being destroyed.
Civilians atop a
T-55 tank in Libya, 2011
T-55 tank and its crew in 2001.
Indian Army has used the
T-55 extensively in its conflicts with
T-54 tanks were used during the Cambodian civil war.
Ugandan-Tanzanian War of 1978-79,
Libya sent an
expeditionary force to aid Uganda dictator Idi Amin, which included a
T-54/55 tanks. Some of these tanks saw action against
Polish T-55L tanks were deployed during
Martial law in Poland
Martial law in Poland to
intimidate the population and suppress overt displays against the
T-55 was the most numerous tank of the Yugoslav People's Army
(JNA). It was the mainstay of armoured combat units during the
Yugoslav Wars, where it proved vulnerable to infantry equipped with
anti-tank rockets, and to misemployment in urban areas and unfriendly
terrain. But there were too many of them in service for them to be
replaced. During the Battle of Vukovar, where the JNA grouped a large
part of its tank force, a number were destroyed, almost exclusively by
infantry-carried anti-tank weapons. Serbian T-55s performed well
M47 Patton tanks. The
T-55 tank remained the most
common tank in the armies of the Yugoslavian successor states until
recently, and it was the most used tank by all armies during the wars.
T-55s were also used by Yugoslavia in Kosovo and in Macedonia in the
2001 Macedonia conflict, as well as being used by Russian peacekeepers
after the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo.
T-55 has been used by
Ethiopia in the conflict with the Islamic
Courts Union in Somalia, and used in the Somali Civil War.
China produced thousands of Type 59 tanks (based on the Soviet T-54A)
for the People's Liberation Army, which were used in the
Sino-Vietnamese War, and sold
Type 69 tanks to both
Iran and Iraq
Iran–Iraq War of 1980–1988. Some saw action during
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Desert Storm in
Iraq and Kuwait in January/February 1991,
and during the 2003 US invasion of
Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom).
The Sri Lankan army used T-55s in the Sri Lankan Civil War, which
concluded in May 2009, against the LTTE (Tamil Tigers). A T-55
belonging to the LTTE was destroyed on 6 April 2009; according to
media reports, it was a model produced in
Czechoslovakia and obtained
by the LTTE in 2001 or 2002.
T-55 tanks have seen use on both sides of the 2011 Libyan civil war,
with anti-Gaddafi forces either stealing them or having them
contributed by defecting members of the Libyan Army.
T-55 has seen active combat service with the FARDC of the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, supported by the UN FIB, in
2013–14 during the campaign to suppress the M23 rebel group.
On July 7, 2014, a
T-54 from a museum in Donetsk was commissioned into
the armed forces of Novorossiya.
Russia announced that several
T-55 tanks used by ISIS in
destroyed in an air attack conducted by
Russia on October 5, 2015.
Operators and variants
For a more comprehensive list, see
T-54/55 operators and variants.
T-54/55 operators in blue, former operators in red
A Finnish T-55-based Marksman self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG)
vehicle, which is referred to locally as the ItPsv 90.
"Hurricane" firefighting vehicle, which uses the engine from a MiG-21
to blow water mist over a fire.
T-55 has been used worldwide by as many as 50 countries and
quasi-armies. They have been subject to numerous improvements
throughout their production history and afterwards and many are still
in service today.
Modifications to the
T-54/55 series over the years have changed almost
every aspect of the vehicle. Initially, Soviet modifications included
a better turret shape, improved NBC protection and an improved
powerplant. Later, improved fire-control equipment and night-vision
equipment was added.
Foreign improvements, both in
Warsaw Pact nations and elsewhere, have
further improved protection, powerplant, and firepower. T-54/55s have
been re-armed with improved tank guns, AA machine guns, advanced
armour arrays, and technologies, such as laser range finders and
computerized fire control systems, that did not exist when the tank
was first being built in the early days of the Cold War.
T-55 Variants & Current Deployment
The Ontario Regiment Museum has an operational T-54.
Tanks of comparable role, performance and era
Centurion tank : Approximate British equivalent
M48 Patton : Approximate US equivalent
^ a b Steven Zaloga,
T-55 Main Battle Tanks 1944–2004, p.6
^ Halberstadt, Hans (1997). Inside the Great Tanks. Wiltshire,
England: The Crowood Press. pp. 94–96. ISBN 1-86126-270-1.
OCLC 40989477. The T-54/
T-55 series is the hands down, all time
most popular tank in history.
^ Miller, David The Great Book of Tanks Salamander Books London,
England 2002 338-341 ISBN 1-84065-475-9.
^ Zaloga 2004, p. 6.
^ a b c d Zaloga 2004, p. 11.
^ "PAZ vehicle collective protection system". Janes.com. Retrieved
^ Sewell, Stephen, CW2 (rtd). "Why Three Tanks?" (Armor, July–August
^ a b Sewell, p.27.
^ Zaloga 2004, p. 14.
^ Jaguar Main Battle
Tank at Jane's Armour and Artillery.
^ Jane's Defence,
Type 59 History and Variants – Part 2
^ a b Zaloga 2004, p. 41.
^ a b Zaloga, Steven (2004).
T-55 Main Battle Tanks
1944-2004. Osprey Publishing. p. 40. ISBN 1841767921.
^ Gelbart 1996, pp.75-78
^ Zaloga 2004, p. 39.
^ "The Ministry of Defense Sells
T-62 in 2013". iz.ru. iz.ru. 2
January 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2017. As Izvestia was informed in
the Main Auto-Armored Administration (GABTU) of the Defense Ministry,
it was decided to start recycling
T-62 right after the New Year
^ Zaloga 1996.
^ Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991, Kenneth Michael
Pollack, U of Nebraska Press, 2002, pp.337-341
^ The Iran-
Iraq War, Efraim Karsh, pp. 29-30.
^ Tactical Evolution in the Iraqi Army: The Abadan Island and Fish
Lake Campaigns of the Iran-
^ Starry p. 193
^ Fulgham, David, Terrence Maitland, et al. South Vietnam On Trial:
Mid-1970 to 1972. Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1984. p. 85
^ a b Starry.
^ Starry pp. 207, 208
^ Vietnam Studies - Mounted Combat In Vietnam. General Donn A. Starry.
^ "Kíp xe huyền thoại - Quân đội nhân dân". Qdnd.vn.
^ Thi, Lam Quang, Hell in An Loc, The 1972 Easter Invasion and the
Battle that Saved South Vietnam, University of North Texas Press,
Denton, Texas, 2009. pp. 50-70
^ Cuban Tanks, II part, Rubén Urribarres, 2001
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Medium-armored Forces in past military operations (2011 ed.). RAND
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^ "A Forgotten War:
Angola and South West Africa - Historical articles
- Namibia". Retrieved 15 December 2014.
^ Lessons of the Border War
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Press. p. 94. ISBN 1-86872-340-2.
^ Tokarev, Andrei; Shubin, Gennady, eds. (2011). Bush War: The Road to
Cuito Cuanavale: Soviet Soldiers' Accounts of the Angolan War.
Auckland Park: Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd. pp. 128–130.
^ Mitchell, Thomas G. (2013). Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a
Two-State Solution. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc.
p. 97. ISBN 978-0-7864-7597-1.
^ a b George, Edward (2005). The Cuban Intervention in Angola,
1965–1991: From Che Guevara to Cuito Cuanavale. London: Frank Cass.
pp. 206–233. ISBN 0-415-35015-8.
^ Heitman, Helmoed (1990). War in Angola: the final South African
phase. Gibraltar: Ashanti Publishing. p. 137.
^ Bridgland, Fred (1990). The War for Africa: Twelve months that
transformed a continent. Gibraltar: Ashanti Publishing. p. 194.
^ Tokarev, Andrei; Shubin, Gennady, eds. (2010). Ветераны
локальных войн и миротворческих
операций ООН вспоминают [Veterans of Local Wars
and UN Peacekeeping Missions Remember] (in Russian). Moscow: Memories.
pp. 118–119. ISBN 978-5-904935-04-7.
^ Bridgland 1990, pp. 196-197.
^ Peou, Sorpong (2000). Intervention & Change in Cambodia: towards
democracy?. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 129.
^ Pollack, Kenneth M. (2002). Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness,
1948-91. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
^ Wierzynski, Gregory H. (1981-12-28). "Poland: Tanks Amid the Eerie
Calm". Time.com. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
Ukraine threatens rebels with 'nasty surprise' in new push". Yahoo
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Brassey's. ISBN 1-85753-168-X.
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Hunnicutt, R. P. Sheridan: A History of the American Light Tank.
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Zaloga, Steven; Hugh Johnson (2004).
T-55 Main Battle Tanks
1944–2004. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 1-84176-792-1.
Zaloga, Steven; Samuel Katz (1 September 1996).
Tank Battles of the
Mid-East Wars 1: The Wars of 1948–1973. Concord.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to T-55.
T-54-1, T-54-2, T-55AM, T-55AM2 Additional photos
Technical data sheet and pictures
T-55 from ArmyRecognition.com
T-55 Variant walk arounds and photos on Prime Portal
Jaguar prototype main battle tank
Russian, Ukrainian, and former Soviet armoured fighting vehicles after
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9K33 Osa (SA-8 Gecko)
9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher)
9K37 Buk (SA-11 Gadfly)
9K330 Tor (SA-15 Gauntlet)
S-300 (SA-10 Grumble)
Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound)
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Self-propelled anti-aircraft guns
surface-to-air missile systems
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