Tank-O-Rama: Sheridan by Buffalo1 ()
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The M551 "Sheridan" was not a light tank. The U.S. Army dropped the designations of light, medium and heavy tanks in 1960. Therefore the M551 became an AR/AAV. This stood for Armored Reconnaissance/ Airborne Assault Vehicle - you know a light tank that could be dropped from a big cargo plane like a C-130 Hercules. The process was called LAPES for Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System. A C-130 would come in at about 20 feet and slide the Sheridan out the back ramp on a pallet and a parachute would deploy to slow it down as it skidded to a stop. A pal of mine with the 82nd Airborne Div. said it was pretty cool. The Sheridan served in Vietnam and had a mixed reputation. On the plus side its light weight (15 tons) meant it didn't get stuck in rice paddy mud as much as the heavier M48 mediums did in Vietnam. The Sheridan could go right along with the infantry and provide direct fire support with caseless 152mm HE or canister rounds. (M3 and M5 "Stuart" light tanks served in the same role during WWII.) The negative side of the 152mm gun was the caseless ammo falling apart with the warhead breaking off from the propellant charge when loading. The damaged round was tossed on the floor of the tank where it was a hazard if the Sheridan rolled over a mine. The body of the tank was aluminum and had the same vulnerability problem as the M113 personnel carrier to mines and RPGs - both tended to burn furiously. The Sheridan took quite a few casualties in Vietnam despite field modifications like more armor on the underside. It was a reliable vehicle and there was nothing like it for the airborne troops so it stayed in service through Operation Desert Storm. The army retired the M551 in 1996. The photo was taken at the First Division Museum at "Cantigny" in Wheaton, Illinois. More on this wonderful place later.
Image Comments (10)
debbielove () 7:06AM | Fri, 29 May 2015
Neat!!! Very very neat! And, no rust at all to seen.. Lovely shot Rog (Hi there mate!), and must say certainly a very interesting looking place! Great post, look forward to more. Rob
T.Rex () 2:07PM | Fri, 29 May 2015
Thanks for posting and for the history and technical information. Keep up the good work! :-)
CleonXXI () 3:14PM | Tue, 02 June 2015
I once talked to a guy who had commanded a platoon of Sheridans in the 82d in Desert Storm (think maybe it was the only platoon the division had). I asked if he fired the anti-armor Shillelagh missiles they could fire in addition to the low-velocity 152 mm conventional rounds. He said they fired a few at a couple of Iraqi T 55s, but that the missiles just flew off in random directions and they never tried it again. Far as I can tell that was the only time the missiles were ever tried in combat, they weren't used in Vietnam. Other than the problem with the missiles it was pretty good at what it was designed to do, provide air droppable scouting, direct fire support and anti-fortification fire to airborne troops. To my knowledge its the only US effort to provide such a capability, while the Russians had and still have numerous types of air-droppable light tracked vehicles. Great photo and information, thanks!
Buffalo1 () 5:04PM | Tue, 02 June 2015
Cleon, You are right about the Shillelagh missile. It was not considered particularly effective. Despite the problem with the aluminum armor the Sheridan crews liked their tank.