Military Review

M103. The last US heavy tank

52

One of the first tanks T43. Photo from the book "Firepower: A History of the American Heavy Tank"


After World War II, the USA continued to develop promising heavy tanks, but the first projects of this kind were unsuccessful. Since 1948, work was underway on the T43 project, and a few years later the resulting tank entered service under the designation M103. As a result, he was the last heavy tank in the United States.

In the early stages


In 1948, the Detroit Arsenal, using available technologies and components, developed the design of the T43 heavy tank. This machine received a thick inclined homogeneous armor and a 120-mm rifled gun for a separate loading shot. It was assumed that such a combat vehicle would be a worthy response to the heavy tanks of a potential enemy.

The army showed limited interest in this project, which is why the work did not go too fast. Only at the end of 1950, against the backdrop of the Korean War, a technical project was completed, and at the very beginning of 1951 a contract with Chrysler appeared. The contractor was to build six prototypes of the original project. The first tank was launched for testing in November of that year.

During the tests of the T43 tanks, a number of shortcomings and problems were revealed. They were proposed to be fixed when creating an improved project called T43E1. In parallel, the development of the main gun and ammunition for it was carried out. In October 1953, all design work was completed, and the tank was ready for a new stage.

M103. The last US heavy tank
Tank version T43E1 in trials. Photo Tanks-encyclopedia.com

Already in December, Chrysler launched a full-scale series. Until June 1954, they managed to build 300 tanks of an improved version of the T43E1. After that, the assembly of M51 armored repair and recovery vehicles based on the new tank began. Until 1955, inclusively, 187 units of such equipment were built.

Separate production tanks went for control tests - and could not cope with them. For a number of parameters, the equipment did not meet customer requirements. Testing and refinement continued until mid-1955, and after that the tanks decided to send for storage.

Technical features


The T43E1 project completed the formation of the final appearance of a promising heavy tank. In the future, the design was repeatedly refined, the composition of the equipment changed, but in principle the tank did not change.

The T43E1 was a heavy armored vehicle of a traditional layout with a 120-mm rifled gun. Finished components were widely used in the construction, including borrowed from other tanks. This approach simplified the design, but led to certain problems.


Tank T43E1 with a dozer blade T18. Photo from the book "Firepower: A History of the American Heavy Tank"

The hull of the tank is welded, assembled from cast and rolled parts. The frontal armor was up to 127 mm thick with a slope of 60 °. Boards - up to 51 mm. The cast tower had a 127 mm forehead and a mask up to 254 mm thick. Boards - from 70 to 137 mm. It was assumed that such armor would be able to protect the tank from the main foreign tank guns.

At the rear of the hull was a power unit based on the Continental AV-1790 gasoline engine with a capacity of 810 hp, borrowed from the M48 tank. The chassis had seven road wheels with torsion bar suspension on each side. In the future, the power plant and chassis were revised.

A 120 mm T122 / M58 cannon was installed in the turret with a rifled barrel of 60 clb length and a T-shaped muzzle brake. The gun used separate loading shots. The gun could disperse the M358 armor-piercing shell to 1067 m / s. At a distance of 1000 yards (914 m) he pierced 220 mm of armor (angle 30 °), at 2000 yards - 196 mm. Also in the ammunition included cumulative, high-explosive fragmentation, smoke and training shells. The stacks held 34 shots.


M103 front part. Photo Tanks-encyclopedia.com

There was a simple fire control system based on optics and other devices. As the project developed, its composition changed - new devices were added, up to the ballistic computer.

Additional armament included two M1919A4 machine guns paired with a cannon and one M2 anti-aircraft gun.

The crew consisted of five people. The driver was located inside the hull, the rest - in the fighting compartment. A gunner worked to the right of the gun, two loaders to the left. The commander was in the niche of the tower behind the gun, above its place there was a turret of the M11 type. He was also responsible for the use of radio equipment.

The T43A1 tank had a combat weight of 58 tons with a length of 11,3 m (with the gun forward), a width of 3,76 and a height of 2,88 m. The estimated speed reached 32-34 km / h, the actual speed was less. Estimated power reserve - 130 km. The tank could overcome various obstacles. It was lighter than other heavy tanks of its time, which imposed less restrictions on mobility and use.


Marine Tanker demonstrates a 120-mm round with a M356 shaped-charge projectile. Photo US MC

New Modifications


Tests of the serial T43E1 ended unsatisfactorily. One of the main reasons for criticism was the lack of mobility and high fuel consumption associated with the use of a power unit from a medium tank. Outdated fire control devices did not allow to realize the full potential of the gun. These and other problems led to the temporary abandonment of the tank and to the sending of finished equipment for storage.

The project was finalized with the installation of a new transmission and other devices. We also improved weapons: in particular, the design of the muzzle brake changed and an ejector appeared. A couple of the existing T43E1s were rebuilt according to the updated project T43E2. In a new form, the real characteristics of the tanks were closer to the calculated ones. In 1956, it was decided to put the tank into service under the designation 120 mm Gun Combat Tank M103.

It was planned to rebuild the existing tanks from storage according to the updated project and send them to combat units. However, in 1956-57. altered only 74 cars. Soon, the Marine Corps wished to pick up 219 (according to other sources, 220) heavy tanks, but initiated a new modernization. It was completed in 1959, the finished machines were designated as M103A1.

Project A1 included the installation of a stereoscopic sight for the T52 gunner and the M14 ballistic computer. Changed the electrical rotation mechanism of the tower and turret basket. One of the coaxial machine guns was removed from the gun mount.


Marine tank M103A2 takes part in maneuvers, 1947. Photo by US MC

The last major modernization was carried out in 1964 in the interests of the ILC. 153 tanks received a power unit from the M60, made on the basis of a 1790 hp Continental AVDS-2-750 diesel engine. Due to this, the maximum speed increased to 37 km / h, and the power reserve - up to 480 km. Also replaced some fire control devices. Upgraded tanks were designated as M103A2.

Short service


The heavy tank M103 officially entered service in 1956, but the actual supply and deployment of equipment extended over several years. The first units to receive new equipment were those in the most critical areas.

Already in 1956, a couple of experimental T43E2 were sent to Germany. In January 1958, the 7th heavy tank battalion (later the 899nd battalion of the 2rd tank regiment), equipped with M33 vehicles, appeared in the "German" 103th US Army. The battalion included four companies with six platoons each. The platoon had three tanks, the battalion - 72, i.e. the whole available fleet of new heavy tanks was sent to Germany.

The ILC brought the M103 heavy tanks into companies as part of tank battalions. Also, similar equipment was available in reserve units. According to well-known data, the M103 Marine Corps were exported from US territory to various overseas bases and returned back, as needed.


Repair and recovery vehicle M51 ARV based on the T43 chassis. Photo from the book "Firepower: A History of the American Heavy Tank"

Military operation revealed new design flaws. The diesel engine, despite the economy, did not allow to obtain good mobility. The power unit withstood only 500 miles of the road, after which it needed to be repaired or even replaced. The chassis was not reliable. The layout of the internal compartments was unsuccessful and complicated the work of the crew.

In addition, by the early sixties, the M103 had ceased to meet the requirements of the times. He had no protection against weapons mass destruction and not all specifications meet current requirements. It also turned out that intelligence had previously overestimated the Soviet heavy tanks, and in a collision with medium T-54 / 55s, the M103 parameters turned out to be excessive.

Quick rejection


In terms of the combination of technical, combat and operational characteristics, the heavy tank M103 quickly became obsolete. In addition, the M60 has already appeared - the first full-fledged main battle tank of the United States, combining high mobility and firepower. Thus, the M103 was no longer of interest to the army; the prospects for the entire direction of heavy tanks were questioned.

In the early sixties, the ground forces began mass development of the M60 MBT, and by 1963 this led to the complete abandonment of the heavy M103. KMP was in no hurry to write off its equipment and carried out modernization under the A2 project. However, later, in the early seventies, the Marine Corps also began rearmament. By 1974, obsolete heavy tanks again gave way to promising main tanks.


Museum M103 based on Fort Hood. Wikimedia Commons Photos

Thus, for all the time, from 1951 to 1955, approx. 300 T43 tanks of two modifications, subsequently repeatedly subjected to modernization. Operation in the army lasted less than five years, and in the ILC - three times longer. During all this time, tanks repeatedly participated in maneuvers, but never went into battle.

After removal from service, the decommissioned equipment was sent to storage bases or was disposed of. Also, do not forget about museums. According to well-known data, 25 tanks of all the main modifications in service were preserved. The technique is in various museums, including at military bases in the United States. Tanks have a different state, some of them are still on the move.

End of an era


The heavy tank T43 / M103 was long and difficult to go to military service. To achieve the desired potential, several successive upgrades were required. At the same time, the amount of equipment remained small - only 300 units, including all prototypes.

Against the background of these processes, preparations were under way for a new breakthrough in tank building. At the turn of the fifties and sixties, the U.S. Army received its first main tank, and the concept of a heavy tank was finally and irrevocably outdated. A replacement for the M103 was no longer created in its class. The future was for MBT.
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  1. potap6509
    potap6509 April 9 2020 18: 10 New
    +1
    Well, thank God.
    1. Vladimir_2U
      Vladimir_2U April 10 2020 08: 29 New
      0
      About the combat use, fortunately not held, M103, there is an episode in the book “The Price of an Error” by Roman Gribanov, which is interesting in my opinion.
      1. Aleksandr72
        Aleksandr72 April 10 2020 09: 46 New
        +3
        I also remembered this book - "Landing of local importance", as soon as I began to read the article. In this book, the M103 tanks were part of the 3rd US Marine Corps division and took part in an unsuccessful landing on Kachatka. Moreover, their opponent was the T-34-85 tanks and SU-100 self-propelled guns.
        The T43A1 tank had a combat weight of 58 tons. It was lighter than other heavy tanks of its time, which imposed less restrictions on mobility and use.

        Clarification required: lighter than other heavy tanks of its time western production: British FV 214 "Conqueror" - 65 tons, French AMX-50 - 62,7 tons (but it can not be called serial, only 6 pieces were produced). While the Soviet T-10 - only 50 tons. (Of course there was still IS-7 - 68 tons, but also not serial), although in fairness the Soviet IS-4, released almost in the same series as the M103, was heavier - 60 tons.
        M103 was doomed from birth: to develop and adopt a tank without a defense system against WMD at the turn of the 50s and 60s is nonsense. The Americans apparently were in a great hurry to create a counterweight to the Soviet IS-3, whom they met at a joint parade in Berlin on September 7, 1945. But haste is needed when. In this case, the haste came back to the US Army and the ILC with the fact that the newest tank was outdated without even having time to serve. In addition, the M60 arrived, which was lighter and whose 105-mm M68 gun (a copy of the very successful British L7) was no worse than the M120 58-mm gun in terms of performance, and it only needed one charging one.
        1. Grigory_45
          Grigory_45 April 11 2020 00: 42 New
          0
          Quote: Aleksandr72
          The Americans apparently were in a hurry to create a counterweight to the Soviet IS-3, whom they met at a joint parade in Berlin on September 7, 1945

          but what's the rush if development began only in the late 1940s, and the first prototypes appeared in 1953-54? On the contrary, there is a certain slowness in the creation of the tank, I do not think that the IS-3 served as the impetus for the creation of the M103.
  2. ares1988
    ares1988 April 9 2020 18: 22 New
    +7
    "At the rear of the hull was a power unit based on the Continental AV-1790 gasoline engine with a capacity of 810 hp, borrowed from the M48 tank"
    “153 tanks received a power unit from the M60, made on the basis of a Continental AVDS-1790-2 diesel engine with a capacity of 750 hp. As a result, the maximum speed increased to 37 km / h”
    Where is the mistake?
    1. The popuas
      The popuas April 9 2020 19: 06 New
      13
      Under the photo where is m103a2 1937
    2. Nemo
      Nemo April 9 2020 21: 53 New
      +6
      there is no mistake, they actually replaced it with an 1790-hp AVDS-2-750 This engine has a higher torque than gasoline.
    3. Octopus
      Octopus April 10 2020 07: 54 New
      +5
      Quote: ares1988
      Due to this, the maximum speed increased to 37 km / h "
      Where is the mistake?

      No, that's right. Firstly, the speed increased by 3 km / h, it was 34. Secondly, the diesel engine worked better with a two-speed gearbox, the relatively high-speed gasoline engine in these conditions did not pull very well.
      1. ares1988
        ares1988 April 10 2020 08: 06 New
        0
        Got it, thanks for the clarification.
  3. Ros 56
    Ros 56 April 9 2020 18: 32 New
    +5
    And like a marine with this 120 mm. a toy in the tank babysitting, something does not reach me?
    1. Cowbra
      Cowbra April 9 2020 18: 42 New
      0
      Quote: Ros 56
      The gun used separate loading shots.

      The gun used separate loading shots.
      recourse
      1. AU Ivanov.
        AU Ivanov. April 9 2020 19: 55 New
        +2
        Marine - tanker hugs a unitary shot. Or it seemed to me?
        1. Cowbra
          Cowbra April 9 2020 20: 07 New
          +3
          So this I did not understand! The projectile is definitely not on charge
          1. Bad_gr
            Bad_gr April 9 2020 22: 24 New
            +3
            Quote: Cowbra
            The projectile is definitely not on charge

            Why not ? A full-sized sleeve and a projectile is placed on it (on which no additional charges are hung).
            1. Cowbra
              Cowbra April 9 2020 22: 33 New
              0
              Quote: Bad_gr
              Why not ?

              Because with this option, the cone, the only place where the projectile should go into charge - must be very strong mechanically, so that the weight holds the projectile. Those. you have another shell under the shell) the wad felt felt a shell placed on top of 25-30 kilograms will not hold the weight, the shell in the photo collapsed the sleeve into an accordion or it just failed
              1. Bad_gr
                Bad_gr April 9 2020 22: 52 New
                +4
                Quote: Cowbra
                Because with this option, the cone, the only place ......

                The shell does not stand on the cartridge case exactly, slightly shifted to the left.
                1. Cowbra
                  Cowbra April 9 2020 23: 07 New
                  +1
                  So and I about this cone, it even differs in color from the sleeve. Rolling should not ... Is the material different? Again, rolling a projectile standing on the edge will surely crush, it is already bent
                  1. Bad_gr
                    Bad_gr April 9 2020 23: 34 New
                    +1
                    Quote: Cowbra
                    Again, rolling a shell standing on the edge will surely crush

                    When I was at school, our school bell was made of a cut-off sleeve, the bell was heard everywhere. I mean, the metal on the sleeve is not so thin that it would bend from the projectile placed on it. I served on 62-s - and the sleeve from his gun, it’s unlikely that you accidentally drive. Unless, to lower a shell on it in a big way.
                    PS
                    The T-62 has a unitary shot, but after regular firing there were enough empty cartridges. The metal in them is not thin.
                    1. Cowbra
                      Cowbra April 9 2020 23: 40 New
                      0
                      Figs knows him. I just always thought that in a separate metal it is noticeably thinner - which is why - why the heck is it? But I will not argue - not a tanker and not an artilleryman ...
                      Again, this horseradish cone - in the soul I can not catch up. why not to wake up? Nonsense. And again, the difference in color.
                      I would have generally said that at first I thought that the cone was part of the projectile, well, as the Germans had in anti-tank - the caliber is larger, the deformable drive belt for the most important obturation
                      1. Bad_gr
                        Bad_gr April 9 2020 23: 55 New
                        +1
                        Quote: Cowbra
                        in separate metal, it’s noticeably thinner - which is why - why the hell is it?
                        And you imagine the situation: at the stage of transporting the cartridge case from the warehouse to the tank ammunition, the cartridge case was slightly bent. When loading the guns, that projectile, that sleeve in the chamber is loaded quite energetically. The projectile sat down normally, but it was then driven out of the sleeve, but not completely (the dent on the side changed the shape of the sleeve). The shutter cannot be closed; it cannot be pulled back. What to do next ?
                      2. Cowbra
                        Cowbra April 10 2020 00: 13 New
                        0
                        Below is the cone again, see?
                      3. Bad_gr
                        Bad_gr April 10 2020 00: 30 New
                        +1
                        Quote: Cowbra
                        Below is the cone again, see?

                        Although I am a tanker, I’m a driver, shells with shells a little not my profile. We must wait for the comments of professionals from artillery.
                  2. your1970
                    your1970 April 10 2020 10: 30 New
                    +2
                    Quote: Cowbra
                    believed that in separate metal it is noticeably thinner - why is it - why the heck is it?

                    The sleeve for the 152 mm 2C3 gun had a thickness of about 5 mm in the upper part of the hard brass. The loading is separate ...
                  3. Cowbra
                    Cowbra April 10 2020 10: 33 New
                    0
                    If so - I have no questions.
        2. Saxahorse
          Saxahorse April 9 2020 23: 21 New
          0
          Quote: Cowbra
          Because with this option, the cone,

          I myself was surprised, however, a fact. Other sources also confirm that the loading of the M58 gun is separate-shell.

          And if you take a closer look at the photo with the marine, then the shell does not stand perfectly perfectly, it seems like there is a small step.
  • WapentakeLokki
    WapentakeLokki April 9 2020 22: 48 New
    +5
    ... by the way, in modern Abrams, it’s the same 120 mm gun and only ONE loading. (.. according to the generally known data - Negro ..) but it copes with loading ..so the Yankees still believe that it is. ( ..that is African-American ..) is better than an automatic loader .. (..Baby .. I'm better than a dog ..) .. however, the paradox ..
    Py.Sy .... 58 tons against the background of ~ 70 tons at Abrashi .. well, not so impressive ... no ??
    1. Nikolaevich I
      Nikolaevich I April 10 2020 00: 58 New
      +4
      Quote: WapentakeLokki
      By the way, in modern Abrams, it’s the same 120 mm gun and only ONE loading. (.. according to well-known data - Negro ..) but it copes with loading ..

      At one time, the Germans had to tinker with gunpowder to get a unitary shot, acceptable for a "Negro"! 120-mm unitary “leuder” shot and 120-mm separate-shell for M103 - two “Odessa” differences ...
    2. BREAKTHROUGH READY
      BREAKTHROUGH READY April 10 2020 01: 57 New
      -1
      No paradox, the weight of the shell and the charge are different.
      For example, the shells of grandfather’s 122mm guns are heavier than 120mm NATO unitaries.
    3. Grigory_45
      Grigory_45 April 11 2020 01: 02 New
      -1
      Quote: WapentakeLokki
      ... by the way, in modern Abrams the same 120 mm gun and only ONE loading

      as in Leopard (though I haven’t seen blacks in their crews)



      1. Octopus
        Octopus April 11 2020 02: 07 New
        0
        This has already been explained above. Gauge BBs are not currently used. Kumas and subcalibers are much lighter; modern liners are much lighter. Modern unitaries are comparable in weight to D-25T shells.
  • Alexey RA
    Alexey RA April 9 2020 18: 47 New
    10
    The M103A2 Marine Corps takes part in maneuvers, November 1937, XNUMX Photo by US MC

    In what year? The pre-war M103A2, and even the marines? belay
    1. Paranoid50
      Paranoid50 April 9 2020 20: 45 New
      +5
      Quote: Alexey RA
      In what year?

      Instead of five, they stuck three. laughing
      1. Svarog51
        Svarog51 April 10 2020 06: 52 New
        +2
        Alexander hi Is there a collection of M103 and BREM based on it?
  • bars1
    bars1 April 9 2020 19: 08 New
    +5
    “It also turned out that intelligence overestimated the Soviet heavy tanks, and in a collision with medium T-54 / 55s, the parameters M103 turned out to be excessive"
    The best tank in the world at that time?
    1. BREAKTHROUGH READY
      BREAKTHROUGH READY April 10 2020 01: 38 New
      0
      Speaking of weapons, the word “best” usually means “most effective”.
      And from this point of view, a monstrous barn (it is a meter higher than Abrams !!!) released by a scanty series can not be called the best in any way. The generals themselves understood its real value, which is why these machines did not get into the combat zone, despite the fact that the US army was at that time a lot.
    2. Octopus
      Octopus April 10 2020 08: 00 New
      +2
      Quote: bars1
      The best tank in the world at that time?

      What period? At the end of the 50s - Centurion with L7 and M60, which forced the USSR to urgently make the T-62.
    3. Vladimir_2U
      Vladimir_2U April 10 2020 08: 27 New
      0
      Quote: bars1
      The best tank in the world at that time?
      Best among the cords? Perhaps, but there were also ST and LT.
  • aglet
    aglet April 9 2020 19: 14 New
    0
    Quote: Ros 56
    And like a marine with this 120 mm. a toy in the tank babysitting, something does not reach me?

    there they have a black man in the tower decides these issues
  • Ural Cossack
    Ural Cossack April 9 2020 19: 15 New
    -4
    In the forms of the American tank the Soviet school of tank building is clearly traced. Tower from the ISs and the slope of the armor. In general, copied, but to the mind, the mind was not enough to bring. In general, the Yankees.
    1. Octopus
      Octopus April 10 2020 08: 02 New
      +1
      There is nothing from the Soviet school of tank building in this machine. The USSR was eyeing the solid buildings (about 907, about 770), but in the 50s it could not, and in the 60s it was no longer necessary
  • svp67
    svp67 April 9 2020 19: 27 New
    10
    It also turned out that intelligence had previously overestimated Soviet heavy tanks, and in a collision with medium T-54 / 55s, the M103 parameters turned out to be excessive.
    Reevaluated Soviet tanks ????? But the IS-3 can, and the IS-4? A T-10, especially in the modification of the "M" ... I think that it is underestimated.
    And what is striking is the huge cast tower ... This is of course a great ability to make such a large, thick-walled part.
    1. kalibr
      kalibr April 9 2020 20: 04 New
      +6
      The case is also cast and it is even bigger! This is a feature of the then American tank building school - a cast tower and a cast hull! By the way, this book by R. Hannicatta is simply a masterpiece of information:
      "Firepower: A History of the American Heavy Tank"
      1. svp67
        svp67 April 10 2020 05: 26 New
        +4
        Quote: kalibr
        This is a feature of the then American tank building school - a cast tower and a cast hull!

        Thanks for the book we'll see. And at the expense of casting, so we have ISy-2, the same mass of cast parts had hull and tower parts. But smaller in size
        1. Svarog51
          Svarog51 April 10 2020 07: 06 New
          +2
          Sergei hi And this tower is even larger and also cast. True, it is experimental, if not a layout at all. request
  • Arslan Ali
    Arslan Ali April 9 2020 20: 07 New
    0
    [/ quote] the amount of equipment remained small - all [quote]

    It is decent for this tank, and many in good condition, honor their history.
  • Arslan Ali
    Arslan Ali April 9 2020 20: 12 New
    +1
    [/ quote] In the forms of the American tank the Soviet school of tank building is clearly traced. [quote]

    So, if they don’t argue that the Soviet tanks in the Second World War were better, especially those who themselves saw how the zippo were burning.
    1. Octopus
      Octopus April 10 2020 08: 08 New
      +2
      They somehow put them on Soviet tanks. As for Zippo, this is a usual nagging, excusable for people who are forced to fight Panthers on such a tank. In the Red Army, Shermans on average showed much better crew survival than the T-34. Partly due to a more proper organization (Shermans were used more in mk rather than mk, there was better support for infantry), partly due to a more reasonable layout (there are no tanks in the BO).
      1. Jager
        Jager 22 June 2020 12: 31 New
        -2
        vertical sides, gasoline engine, height of the hull - this of course we do not take into account.
        1. Octopus
          Octopus 22 June 2020 12: 34 New
          -1
          Do not take.

          And why did you remember that?
  • Arslan Ali
    Arslan Ali April 9 2020 20: 22 New
    +3
    . A replacement for the M103 in its class was no longer created. The future was for MBT.

    As far as I remember, the British tanker Konkorror was the heaviest in NATO and the last in service.
  • ANB
    ANB April 10 2020 04: 20 New
    +4
    . Marine tank M103A2 takes part in maneuvers, 1937. Photo by US MC

    Typo. The year 1937 is clearly wrong. Correct, if possible. The article is interesting.
  • Hydrogen
    Hydrogen 3 June 2020 19: 55 New
    -1
    What is the reevaluation of Soviet heavy tanks?