T-55
Overview
 
The T-54 and T-55 tanks were a series of main battle tank
Main battle tank
A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

s designed in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. The first T-54 prototype appeared in March 1945, just before the end of the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The T-54 entered full production in 1947 and became the main tank for armored units of the Soviet Army, armies of the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 countries, and others. T-54s and T-55s were involved in many of the world's armed conflicts during the late 20th century.

The T-54/55 series eventually became the most-produced tank in history.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
The T-54 and T-55 tanks were a series of main battle tank
Main battle tank
A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

s designed in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. The first T-54 prototype appeared in March 1945, just before the end of the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The T-54 entered full production in 1947 and became the main tank for armored units of the Soviet Army, armies of the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 countries, and others. T-54s and T-55s were involved in many of the world's armed conflicts during the late 20th century.

The T-54/55 series eventually became the most-produced tank in history. Estimated production numbers for the series range from 86,000 to 110,000.

T-54/55 tanks were replaced by the T-62
T-62
The T-62 is a Soviet main battle tank, a further development of the T-55. Its 115 mm gun was the first smoothbore tank gun in use.The T-62 was produced between 1961 and 1975. It became a standard tank in the Soviet arsenal, partly replacing the T-55, although that tank continued to be...

, T-72
T-72
The T-72 is a Soviet-designed main battle tank that entered production in 1970. It is developed directly from Obyekt-172, and shares parallel features with the T-64A...

, T-64
T-64
The T-64 is a Soviet main battle tank, introduced in the early 1960s. It was used solely by the Soviet Army in its front-line divisions and was a more advanced counterpart to the T-62...

 and T-80
T-80
The T-80 is a main battle tank designed and manufactured in the former Soviet Union. A development of the T-64, it entered service in 1976 and was the first production tank to be equipped with a gas turbine engine for main propulsion.the Swedish Stridsvagn 103 of 1971 used a gas turbine alongside...

 in the Soviet and Russian Armies, but many remain in use by up to 50 other armies worldwide, some having received sophisticated retrofitting.

Soviet tanks never directly faced their NATO Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 adversaries in Europe. However, the T-54/55's first appearance in the west in 1960 spurred the United States to develop the M60
M60 Patton
The 105 mm Gun Full Tracked Combat Tank, M60, also known unofficially as the M60 Patton, is a first-generation main battle tank introduced in December 1960. It was widely used by the U.S. and its Cold War allies, especially those in NATO, and remains in service throughout the world today...

.

Predecessors: T-34 and T-44

The Soviet T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

 medium tank of the 1940's is considered by many to have the best balance of firepower (85mm gun), protection and mobility for 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 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 performed at least as well as the T-34, but with substantially superior armour
Vehicle armour
Military vehicles are commonly armoured to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missiles, or shells, protecting the personnel inside from enemy fire. Such vehicles include tanks, aircraft, and ships....

. The T-44's main drawback was the small turret which remained incapable of mounting more powerful armament than its predecessor's 85 mm tank gun
Tank gun
A tank gun is the main armament of a tank. Modern tank guns are large-caliber high-velocity guns, capable of firing kinetic energy penetrators, high explosive anti-tank rounds, and in some cases guided missiles. Anti-aircraft guns can also be mounted to tanks.-Overview:Tank guns are a specific...

. A tank mounting a 100 mm gun was desired.

Prototypes

Development of the first T-54 prototype started in October 1944 at the OKB-520 design bureau, at the Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183 (Uralvagonzavod
Uralvagonzavod
Uralvagonzavod is a Russian machine building company located in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. It is one of the largest scientific and industrial complexes in Russia and the largest main battle tank manufacturer in the world....

), in Nizhny Tagil
Nizhny Tagil
Nizhny Tagil is a city in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, situated east of the virtual border between Europe and Asia. Population: -History:...

. The initial design was completed in December, with a prototype completed in February 1945.

Trials conducted between March and April 1945 resulted in the new tank being commissioned for service with the Red Army as the T-54. The tank had virtually the same hull and drive train as the T-44. Major differences included thicker front armour (120 mm on the upper section and 90 mm on the lower section) and a newly designed driver's hatch and vision slot. The turret ring increased in diameter to 1800 mm and had thicker armour (180 mm on the front, between 90 mm and 150 mm on the sides and 30 mm on the roof).

The main armament was the 100 mm D-10TK cannon, with two 7.62 mm GWT machine guns. The tank was powered by a new V-54 12-cylinder 38.88 litre water-cooled diesel engine developing 520 hp (388 kW) at 2,000 rpm with a two-stage reduction gearbox. Fuel capacity was increased to 530 litres in the internal fuel tank and 165 litres in the external fuel tank. Unlike the T-34, the external fuel tanks were connected to the fuel system. The rubber rollers on the road wheels were widened. The T-54 weighed 35.5 tonnes, making it slightly slower than the T-44 at 43.5 km/h. The road range increased to 360 km.

It was decided to modernize the tank before production started. The new tank's turret was tried on two modified T-44 tanks.

Another T-54 prototype was built in July 1945 which received the alternative designation Ob'yekt 137. The tank was equipped with a new turret armed with 100 mm LB-1 tank gun and 7.62 mm SG medium coaxial machine gun. The turret armour was thickened (200 mm on the front, between 125 mm and 160 mm on the sides). The tank was armed with two 7.62 mm SG-43 medium machine guns mounted inside fixed boxes on the fenders, each with 500 rounds of ammunition and operated by the driver. The turret was fitted with a 12.7 mm DShK
DShK
The DShK 1938 is a Soviet heavy machine gun firing the 12.7x108mm cartridge. The weapon was also used as a heavy infantry machine gun, in which case it was frequently deployed with a two-wheeled mounting and a single-sheet armour-plate shield...

 anti-aircraft heavy machine gun. The fuel capacity was increased to 545 litres in internal fuel tanks and 180 litres in external fuel tanks. Because of this, the road range remained 360 km despite the increased weight of 39.15 tonnes. This prototype went through trials between July and November 1945. Although there were numerous drawbacks which required correction and many alterations which 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 production in Nizhni Tagil and Kharkiv in 1947.

T-54

Production of the initial series of T-54s began slowly, as 1,490 modifications were made. The Red Army received a tank which was superior to World War Two 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 inferior penetration capability compared to similar ammunition fired by 88 mm KwK 43 on the Tiger II
Tiger II
Tiger II is the common name of a German heavy tank of the Second World War. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B,Panzerkampfwagen – abbr: Pz. or Pz.Kfw. Ausführung – abbr: Ausf. .The full titles Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf...

, but superior to those fired by the shorter-barrel 88 mm KwK 36 of the Tiger I
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

and only slightly inferior in penetration to the KwK 36's PzGr.40/43 high-velocity tungsten-core round. The 100mm OF-412 HE fragmentation was 60% heavier in both total weight and bursting charge than the equivalent 8.8 cm Sprgr.43.

Due to its revolutionary design, this gun was mounted in a tank weighing four-fifths that of the Panther, two-thirds that of the Tiger I, and only just more than half that of the Tiger II. The light weight, powerful engine, and robust suspension gave it excellent cross-country mobility. The exploitation trials went without any breakdowns.

The serial production version, designated T-54-1, differed from the second T-54 prototype. It had thicker hull armour (80 mm on the sides, 30 mm on the roof and 20 mm on the bottom) which surpassed that on the German Tiger tank
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

. 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 1950s the personnel of the OKB-520 design 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 a 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 production.

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 and TPN-1-22-11 IR gunner's sight, and OU-3 IR commander's searchlight. Modern APFSDS ammunition was developed, dramatically enhancing the penetrative performance of the gun to keep it competitive with NATO armor developments. T-54B served as the basis for T-54BK command tank which had exactly the same additional equipment as the T-54AK command tank.

T-55

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 (984.3 ft) from the epicenter, but the crew only had a chance of surviving at 700 metres (2,296.6 ft). It was decided to create an NBC
CBRN
CBRN is an initialism for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear. It is used to refer to situations in which any of these four hazards have presented themselves. The term CBRN is a replacement for the cold war term NBC , which had replaced the term ABC that was used in the fifties...

 (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 particulate filtration, but not against 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 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 l (66 imp gal; 79.3 US gal) fuel tanks were added to the front of the hull, increasing the overall fuel capacity to 680 litres (1,437.1 US pt).

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 (15.4 in) thick armour. The TPKU commander's vision device
T-54/55 Fire Controls
The T-54 and T-55 combines a high-velocity gun with a highly mobile chassis, low silhouette, and exceptional long-range endurance. The T-54/55 tanks have been produced in greater quantity than any other tank in the world. Seven main production models have been widely used throughout the Warsaw Pact...

 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 "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.

The T-55 was significantly superior to the IS-2 Heavy Tank in all respects, including the rate of fire of the gun (at least four compared to less 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, and future Soviet heavy tank designs remained prototypes. The old model of highly mobile medium tanks and heavily armoured heavy tanks was replaced by a new paradigm: the "main battle tank
Main battle tank
A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

". Parallel developments in the West would produce similar results. Katsev combined all the ongoing improvements being offered, or planned, on the T-54 into one design. This became the Ob'yect 155, and entered production at 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 km (6.2 and 18.6 ).

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 km (0.93205910497471 and 1.2 ). 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 Omsk
Omsk
-History:The wooden fort of Omsk was erected in 1716 to protect the expanding Russian frontier along the Ishim and the Irtysh rivers against the Kyrgyz nomads of the Steppes...

 was 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.

The Omsk OKB-29 group tested three experimental T-55 tanks (designated Ob'yekt 612) between 1962 and 1965 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 "Malyutka" (NATO code: AT-3 Sagger) ATGMs
Anti-tank guided missile
An anti-tank missile , anti-tank guided missile , anti-tank guided weapon or anti-armor guided weapon is a guided missile primarily designed to hit and destroy heavily-armored military vehicles....

 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.

During the 1950s, the T-55 remained a significantly smaller and lighter tank than its NATO contemporaries—the U.S. M48 Patton and the British Centurion
Centurion tank
The Centurion, introduced in 1945, was the primary British main battle tank of the post-World War II period. It was a successful tank design, with upgrades, for many decades...

—while maintaining good firepower and reliability but light armor. The 100-mm D-10T tank gun had a larger bore than its Western counterparts.

In January of 1945 some captured German tanks and vehicles were shipped to the Ordnance Research and Development Center, Aberdeen, Maryland, for tests and examination. The criteria for penetration in the tests was for at least fifty percent of the mass of the projectile to penetrate the armor.
The M3 90mm gun, firing the most widely equipped T33 armor-piercing round penetrated roughly 6 inches (152.4 mm) of steel armor at 100 metres (328.1 ft), while the T30E16 HVAP round penetrated 10.5 inches (266.7 mm) at the same range. These tests were carried out before the T-54/55 tank entered production so it was not known how would the popular 90 mm gun on the M-46, M-47, M-48 and other western tanks perform against the armour of the post-WWII soviet tanks.

The data shows that the T33 AP round would fail to penetrate the frontal armour of the T-54/55 at any range, while the T30E16 HVAP round would only be able to penetrate the armour within 700 metres (2,296.6 ft). The T33 round could penetrate the side armour of the turret at about 800 metres, while the T30E16 HVAP round could do this at any practical range. The most popular anti-armor round the Soviets used for the D-10 tank gun was the 100 mm BR-412 APHE
Armor-piercing shot and shell
An armor-piercing shell is a type of ammunition designed to penetrate armor. From the 1860s to 1950s, a major application of armor-piercing projectiles was to defeat the thick armor carried on many warships. From the 1920s onwards, armor-piercing weapons were required for anti-tank missions...

, first used on the SU-100
SU-100
The SU-100 was a Soviet tank destroyer. It was used extensively during the last year of World War II and saw service for many years afterwards with the armies of Soviet allies around the world.- Development :...

 tank destroyer during World War 2 with an 80% probability of penetrating 135 millimetres (5.3 in) of steel armour at 1000 metres (3,280.8 ft) fired from the D-10S tank gun. The BR-412D and BR-412B rounds developed in 1946-1950 had slightly superior performance over the 90 mm T33 and the M82 armor-piercing rounds.

This disadvantage lasted until the Soviet tanks began to be surpassed by newer Western developments like the M60
M60 Patton
The 105 mm Gun Full Tracked Combat Tank, M60, also known unofficially as the M60 Patton, is a first-generation main battle tank introduced in December 1960. It was widely used by the U.S. and its Cold War allies, especially those in NATO, and remains in service throughout the world today...

 Main Battle Tank and upgraded Centurions and M48 Pattons using the 105 mm rifled Royal Ordnance L7
Royal Ordnance L7
The Royal Ordnance L7 is the basic model of Britain's most successful tank gun. The L7 was a 105 mm L/52 rifled design intended for use in armoured fighting vehicles...

 gun. Due to the low velocity of rounds from 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 armor began reducing the effectiveness of HEAT warheads and SABOT
Kinetic energy penetrator
A kinetic energy penetrator is a type of ammunition which, like a bullet, does not contain explosives and uses kinetic energy to penetrate the target....

 rounds were developed for the D-10T gun.

T-55A

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 coaming
Coaming
Coaming is any vertical surface on a ship designed to deflect or prevent entry of water. It usually refers to raised section of deck plating around an opening, such as a hatch...

s 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
PK machine gun
The PK is a 7.62 mm general-purpose machine gun designed in the Soviet Union and currently in production in Russia. The PK machine gun was introduced in the 1960s and replaced the SGM and RPD machine guns in Soviet service...

. 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.

T-54/T-55 upgrades

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 PT-55 mineclearing system or the BTU/BTU-55 plough. In 1967, the improved BM8 APFSDS 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 which could be used for between 2000 km and 3000 km which was two times more when compared to 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 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 sideskirts and a driver's windshield for use during longer stints.

T-54 and T-55 tanks continued to be upgraded, refitted, and modernized into the 1990s. Advances in armour-piercing and HEAT
Heat
In physics and thermodynamics, heat is energy transferred from one body, region, or thermodynamic system to another due to thermal contact or thermal radiation when the systems are at different temperatures. It is often described as one of the fundamental processes of energy transfer between...

 ammunition would improve the gun's antitank capabilities in the 1960s and 1980s.

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
T-54/55 Fire Controls
The T-54 and T-55 combines a high-velocity gun with a highly mobile chassis, low silhouette, and exceptional long-range endurance. The T-54/55 tanks have been produced in greater quantity than any other tank in the world. Seven main production models have been widely used throughout the Warsaw Pact...

 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
Textron
Textron is a conglomerate that includes Bell Helicopter, E-Z-GO, Cessna Aircraft Company, and Greenlee, among others. It was founded by Royal Little in 1923 as the Special Yarns Company, and is headquartered at the Textron Tower in Providence, Rhode Island, United States.With total revenues of...

 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 powerpack 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
Ramses II tank
The Ramses II tank is a main battle tank designed for the armed forces of Egypt. A single T-54 was sent to the United States for upgrading. A primary prototype was sent to Egypt where extensive trials were completed in late 1987. The tank finally entered production in 2004-2005. 260 units have been...

.

Description

Like many post-World War II tanks, the T-54 and T-55 have a conventional layout with fighting compartment in the front, engine compartment in the rear, and a dome-shaped turret
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

 in the centre 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
Sprocket
A sprocket or sprocket-wheel is a profiled wheel with teeth, cogs, or even sprockets that mesh with a chain, track or other perforated or indented material. The name 'sprocket' applies generally to any wheel upon which are radial projections that engage a chain passing over it...

 at the rear, and dead track
Caterpillar track
Continuous tracks or caterpillar tracks are a system of vehicle propulsion in which modular metal plates linked into a continuous band are driven by two or more wheels...

. 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.

The T-54 and T-55 tanks are outwardly very similar and difficult to distinguish visually. Many T-54s were also updated to T-55 standards, 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
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, for example, affixed fake fume extractors to its T-54s and T-55s so that its gunners wouldn't confuse them with Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

i Type 59s.

The older 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 centre 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" gun mantlet.

Advantages and drawbacks

The T-54/55 tanks are mechanically simple and robust. They are very simple to operate compared to Western tanks, and don't 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 which allows river crossings. The T-54/55 tanks have together 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. (Gelbart 1996:75-78)
Nevertheless, T-54/55 tanks have many serious defects. Small size is achieved at the expense of interior space and crew comforts. This causes practical difficulties, as it constrains the physical movements of the crew and slows operation of controls and equipment (in Finnish army crew of a T-55 was often called "four left-handed midgets".) Israelis who crewed T-54/55s captured during the 1967 and 1973 wars constantly complained about this, and it remains a problem that cannot be remedied by any upgrades. However, height limits were set for any recruit joining the tankers in the Soviet Army, hence the low average height of Soviet tankers. This is believed to completely solve the low silhouette issue, whereas other armies may not include crew member height limits as standards. The low turret profile of the tanks prevents them from depressing their main guns by more than 5° (the average for Western tanks is 10°), which limits the ability to cover terrain by fire from a hull-down
Hull-down
The term hull-down describes the situation where the upper part of a vessel or vehicle is visible, but the main, lower body is not; the opposite term hull-up describes the situation where all of the body is visible....

 position on a reverse slope. While both tanks have stabilized guns, in practice they can only fire accurately when the vehicles are at rest (this problem may have been solved with more recent upgrades). The 100 mm gun is less effective than newer tank guns of 105, 120 and 125 mm calibre, and only has a chance at being effective against some heavily armoured tanks when firing special ammunition (such as missiles) or hitting them at weaker areas such as the rear. Its main disadvantage is its light armor. While it had very strong armor that could withstand frontal hits from bazookas, PIAT
PIAT
The Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank was a British hand-held anti-tank weapon developed during the Second World War. The PIAT was designed in 1942 in response to the British Army's need for a more effective infantry anti-tank weapon, and entered service in 1943.The PIAT was based on the spigot...

, RPG-2
RPG-2
The RPG-2 was the first rocket-propelled grenade launcher designed in the Soviet Union.-Development:The RPG-2 , was a man-portable, shoulder-launched rocket-propelled grenade anti-armor weapon...

 and most tank guns of that era, its armor became obsolete within 20 years of its introduction. Because it was designed for "traditional warfare", its side and rear armor was two or three times thinner than on the front. In Vietnam, its side armor proved very vulnerable to M72 LAW
M72 LAW
The M72 LAW is a portable one-shot 66 mm unguided anti-tank weapon, designed in the United States by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, and Frank A. Spinale et al...

 rockets, TOW missiles
BGM-71 TOW
The BGM-71 TOW is an anti-tank missile. "BGM" is a weapon classification that stands for "Multiple Environment , Surface-Attack , Missile ". "TOW" is an acronym that stands for "Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire command data link, guided missile"...

 and the M41 Walker Bulldog
M41 Walker Bulldog
The M41 Walker Bulldog was a U.S. light tank developed to replace the M24 Chaffee. It was named for General Walton Walker who died in a jeep accident in Korea...

 light tank with 76mm gun. Like in most tanks of that generation, the internal ammunition supply is not shielded, increasing the odds that any enemy penetration of the fighting compartment could cause a catastrophic secondary explosion. And while the T-54/55 tanks can be upgraded, the stunning losses suffered by upgraded Iraqi T-55's against coalition
Coalition of the Gulf War
The Coalition of the Gulf War were the countries officially opposed to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait during the 1990 / 1991 Persian Gulf War.-Coalition by number of military personnel:-United States:*Norman Schwarzkopf*Colin Powell*Calvin Waller...

 tanks during Operation Desert Storm showed the inescapable limitations of the design. The original T-54/55 tanks are unlikely to be successful against modern opponents without the benefit of upgrades.

The T-54 is especially defective: It 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 T-55 tank, which is otherwise largely identical to the T-54.

USSR

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 Ural Tank Factory No. 183 (Uralvagonzavod
Uralvagonzavod
Uralvagonzavod is a Russian machine building company located in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. It is one of the largest scientific and industrial complexes in Russia and the largest main battle tank manufacturer in the world....

); by then it had completely replaced 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 Omsk Factory 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 1959. The 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

Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 produced 3,000 T-54, T-54A, T-54AD and T-54AM between 1956 and 1964 and 7,000 T-55 (between 1964 and 1968), T-55L, T-55AD-1 and T-55AD-2 (between 1968 and 1979).

Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

  produced 2,700 T-54A, T-54AM, T-54AK, T-54AMK between 1957 and 1966 and 8,300 T-55 and T-55A between 1964 and 1983 (T-55A was probably produced since 1968) (most of them for export).

Soviet Union to Russian Federation

The 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 the 1956 invasion of Hungary, and a few were knocked out by Molotov cocktails and Hungarian antitank guns. The revolutionists delivered one captured T-54A to the British Embassy in Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

, the analysis of which spurred the development of the Royal Ordnance L7
Royal Ordnance L7
The Royal Ordnance L7 is the basic model of Britain's most successful tank gun. The L7 was a 105 mm L/52 rifled design intended for use in armoured fighting vehicles...

 tank gun
Tank gun
A tank gun is the main armament of a tank. Modern tank guns are large-caliber high-velocity guns, capable of firing kinetic energy penetrators, high explosive anti-tank rounds, and in some cases guided missiles. Anti-aircraft guns can also be mounted to tanks.-Overview:Tank guns are a specific...

.
The T-62 and T-55 are now mostly in reserve status; Russian active-duty units mainly use the T-80
T-80
The T-80 is a main battle tank designed and manufactured in the former Soviet Union. A development of the T-64, it entered service in 1976 and was the first production tank to be equipped with a gas turbine engine for main propulsion.the Swedish Stridsvagn 103 of 1971 used a gas turbine alongside...

 and T-72
T-72
The T-72 is a Soviet-designed main battle tank that entered production in 1970. It is developed directly from Obyekt-172, and shares parallel features with the T-64A...

, with a smaller number of T-90
T-90
The T-90 is a Russian third-generation main battle tank that is a modernisation of the T-72 . It is currently the most modern tank in service with the Russian Ground Forces and Naval Infantry...

 tanks in service.

Middle East

During the 1967 Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

, 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/T-55 series.

By the 1973 Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War
The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War , also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria...

, the T-54A and T-55's gun was starting to lose its competitive effectiveness to the 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7
Royal Ordnance L7
The Royal Ordnance L7 is the basic model of Britain's most successful tank gun. The L7 was a 105 mm L/52 rifled design intended for use in armoured fighting vehicles...

 gun mounted in Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i Centurion Mk V and M60A1 tanks. Israel captured many T-55s from Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and mostly Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 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 them were then sold to assorted Third World countries, some of them in Latin America, and the rest were heavily modified, converted into heavy armoured personnel carrier
Armoured personnel carrier
An armoured personnel carrier is an armoured fighting vehicle designed to transport infantry to the battlefield.APCs are usually armed with only a machine gun although variants carry recoilless rifles, anti-tank guided missiles , or mortars...

s; the Achzarit
IDF Achzarit
The Achzarit is a heavily armored armored personnel carrier manufactured by the Israeli Defence Forces Corps of Ordnance.-History:...

.

Vietnam War

Late in the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, the North Vietnamese NVA
Vietnam People's Army
The Vietnam People's Army is the armed forces of Vietnam. The VPA includes: the Vietnamese People's Ground Forces , the Vietnam People's Navy , the Vietnam People's Air Force, and the Vietnam Marine Police.During the French Indochina War , the VPA was often referred to as the Việt...

 used T-54s against the South Vietnamese ARVN
Army of the Republic of Vietnam
The Army of the Republic of Viet Nam , sometimes parsimoniously referred to as the South Vietnamese Army , was the land-based military forces of the Republic of Vietnam , which existed from October 26, 1955 until the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975...

 and US forces.

The NVA and ARVN engaged each other for the first time during Operation Lam Son 719
Operation Lam Son 719
Operation Lam Son 719 was a limited-objective offensive campaign conducted in southeastern portion of the Kingdom of Laos by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam between 8 February and 25 March 1971, during the Vietnam War...

, in February 1971. During that battle, 17 M41 light tanks
M41 Walker Bulldog
The M41 Walker Bulldog was a U.S. light tank developed to replace the M24 Chaffee. It was named for General Walton Walker who died in a jeep accident in Korea...

 of the ARVN 1st Armored Brigade destroyed 22 NVA-tanks, 6 T-54 and 16 PT-76
PT-76
The PT-76 is a Soviet amphibious light tank which was introduced in the early 1950s and soon became the standard reconnaissance tank of the Soviet Army and the other Warsaw Pact armed forces. It was widely exported to other friendly states, like India, Iraq, North Korea and North Vietnam. Overall,...

, at no loss to themselves, but the friendly units loss 5 M-41s and 25 APCs

On Easter Sunday, 2 April 1972, the newly activated ARVN 20th Tank Regiment, consisting of approximately 57 M48A3 Patton
M48 Patton
The M48 Patton is a medium tank that was designed in the United States. It was the third and final tank to be officially named after General George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. Third Army during World War II and one of the earliest American advocates for the use of tanks in battle It was a...

 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
Dong Ha
Đông Hà is the capital town of Quang Tri province, Vietnam. It is located at around . Dong Ha is situated at the crossroads of National Highway 1A and Route 9, part of the East-West Economic Corridor . It lies on the Reunification Express Railway and is served by Dong Ha Railway Station...

 (the largest South Vietnamese city near the DMZ
Demilitarized zone
In military terms, a demilitarized zone is an area, usually the frontier or boundary between two or more military powers , where military activity is not permitted, usually by peace treaty, armistice, or other bilateral or multilateral agreement...

 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
PT-76
The PT-76 is a Soviet amphibious light tank which was introduced in the early 1950s and soon became the standard reconnaissance tank of the Soviet Army and the other Warsaw Pact armed forces. It was widely exported to other friendly states, like India, Iraq, North Korea and North Vietnam. Overall,...

 light tanks and two T-54 medium 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-54's fell short, and the NVA tanks began to scatter. By the end of the day, the 20th had destroyed sixteen T-54 and captured one Type 59, at no loss to themselves.

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
22nd Division (South Vietnam)
The 22nd Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam —the army of the nation state of South Vietnam that existed from 1955 to 1975—was part of the II Corps that oversaw the region of the central highlands north of the capital Saigon....

 at Tan Canh, which dominated a main route into the city of Kontum
Kontum
Kon Tum is the capital town of Kon Tum province in Vietnam. It is located inland in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam, near the borders with Laos and Cambodia....

. 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. T-54 tank No. 377 had destroyed seven M-41s before itself had been destroyed effortlessly by M72 LAW
M72 LAW
The M72 LAW is a portable one-shot 66 mm unguided anti-tank weapon, designed in the United States by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, and Frank A. Spinale et al...

 rocket launchers.

On 30 April 1975, T-54 tank No. 390 of the NVA 203rd Armored Regiment went crashing through the gates of the South Vietnamese presidential palace, signalling the end of the war.

Other conflicts

T-54 tanks were used during the Cambodian civil war
Cambodian Civil War
The Cambodian Civil War was a conflict that pitted the forces of the Communist Party of Kampuchea and their allies the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Viet Cong against the government forces of Cambodia , which were supported by the United States and the Republic of Vietnam The Cambodian...

. During the Ugandan-Tanzanian War of 1978-79, Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 sent an expeditionary force to aid Uganda dictator Idi Amin
Idi Amin
Idi Amin Dada was a military leader and President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Amin joined the British colonial regiment, the King's African Rifles in 1946. Eventually he held the rank of Major General in the post-colonial Ugandan Army and became its Commander before seizing power in the military...

 which included a few dozen T-54/55 tanks. Some of these tanks saw action against Tanzanian forces.

Polish T-55L tanks were also deployed during Martial law in Poland
Martial law in Poland
Martial law in Poland refers to the period of time from December 13, 1981 to July 22, 1983, when the authoritarian government of the People's Republic of Poland drastically restricted normal life by introducing martial law in an attempt to crush political opposition to it. Thousands of opposition...

 to intimidate the population and suppress overt displays against the Communist government.

The T-54/T-55 saw action against South African and UNITA forces during the war in Angola. This Soviet tank's reliability and ruggedness matched the demanding African operational environment. However, several numbers of T-54/T-55 tanks were lost to South African Olifant MBTs, artillery fire, and wire-guided missiles in several engagements.

The T-55 was the most numerous tank of the Yugoslav People's Army
Yugoslav People's Army
The Yugoslav People's Army , also referred to as the Yugoslav National Army , was the military of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.-Origins:The origins of the JNA can...

 (JNA). It was the mainstay of armoured combat units during the Yugoslav Wars
Yugoslav wars
The Yugoslav Wars were a series of wars, fought throughout the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995. The wars were complex: characterized by bitter ethnic conflicts among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, mostly between Serbs on the one side and Croats and Bosniaks on the other; but also...

, 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
Battle of Vukovar
The Battle of Vukovar was an 87-day siege of Vukovar in eastern Croatia by the Yugoslav People's Army , supported by various paramilitary forces from Serbia, between August and November 1991. Before the Croatian War of Independence the Baroque town was a prosperous, mixed community of Croats,...

, where the JNA grouped a large part of its tank force, a number was destroyed, almost exclusively by infantry-carried anti-tank weapons. 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 used by Yugoslavia and Macedonia in Kosovo
Kosovo War
The term Kosovo War or Kosovo conflict was two sequential, and at times parallel, armed conflicts in Kosovo province, then part of FR Yugoslav Republic of Serbia; from early 1998 to 1999, there was an armed conflict initiated by the ethnic Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" , who sought independence...

 and the 2001 Macedonia conflict.

China sold thousands of Type 69 tanks to both Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 during the Iran–Iraq War of 1980-1988. Some saw action during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq and Kuwait in January/February 1991, and during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom).

The T-55 has been used by Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 in conflict with the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia
Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

.

The Sri Lankan army used T-55s in the Sri Lankan Civil War
Sri Lankan civil war
The Sri Lankan Civil War was a conflict fought on the island of Sri Lanka. Beginning on July 23, 1983, there was an on-and-off insurgency against the government by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam , a separatist militant organization which fought to create an independent Tamil state named Tamil...

, which concluded in May 2009, against the LTTE (Tamil Tigers)
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was a separatist militant organization formerly based in northern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976 by Vellupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a violent secessionist and nationalist campaign to create an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil...

. 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
2011 Libyan civil war
The 2011 Libyan civil war was an armed conflict in the North African state of Libya, fought between forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government. The war was preceded by protests in Benghazi beginning on 15 February 2011, which led to clashes with security...

, with anti-Gaddafi forces
Anti-Gaddafi forces
The anti-Gaddafi forces were Libyan groups that opposed and militarily defeated the government of Muammar Gaddafi, killing him in the process. These opposition forces included organised and armed militia groups, participants in the 2011 Libyan civil war, Libyan diplomats who switched their...

 either stealing them or having them contributed by defecting members of the Libyan Army
Libyan Army
In 2009 the IISS estimated that the Ground Forces of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya numbered 25,000 with an additional, estimated, 25,000 conscripts...

.

Operators and variants

The 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.

See also

  • Ramses II
  • Type 59
    Type 59
    The Type 59 main battle tank is a Chinese produced version of the Soviet T-54A tank, an improvement over the ubiquitous T-54/55. The first vehicles were produced in 1958 and it was accepted into service in 1959, with serial production beginning in 1963...

  • Al-Zarar
  • Type-72Z Safir-74
  • T-54/55 Fire Controls
    T-54/55 Fire Controls
    The T-54 and T-55 combines a high-velocity gun with a highly mobile chassis, low silhouette, and exceptional long-range endurance. The T-54/55 tanks have been produced in greater quantity than any other tank in the world. Seven main production models have been widely used throughout the Warsaw Pact...


External links

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