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date of publication: 15-02-2013


US M3 Medium Tank

THE US M3 SERIES (continuation)

M3A1 Stuart Light Tank

The M3 was built by several US companies, including Alсo, Baldwin, Detroit, Pressed Steel Car and Pullman-Standard, and it became the first US medium tank to go into volume production. Factories in Canada also built 1100 M3s. At first, the M3 Tank had a seven-man crew, with a loader and gunner for each main weapon and a radio operator. This latter position was soon deleted and the radio given to the driver. The suspension inherited from the M2 turned out to be inadequate for the heavier M3, and was re-designed with heavier springs. Ammunition srowage was 46 rounds of 75mm (2.95 in), 178 of 37mm (1.46 in), and 9200 rounds of machine-gun ammunition. The USSR received M3A3 and M3A5 tanks but, with high silhouettes and archaic configuration, were unpopular, and nicknamed the 'Grave for Seven Brothers'.

Although the US Army would have preferred to develop a new with a gun of up to 75mm (2.93in) calibre, its pressing need was to re-arm before the United States became embroiled in the European war. As a result, the next development was an evolutionary step, rather than a revolutionary leap in tank design.

M3 Stuart Light Tank

The US Army chose to modernize the M2A4. The major change was to increase the armour thickness on the upper surfaces and replace the brittle, face hardened steel with homogenous rolled plate. The extra weight required a beefed-up suspension, specifically a new idler wheel mounted at ground level. Standardized in July 1940, production or the M3 Light Tank began in March 1941, directly after the last M2 was rolled our. During production, the M2's turret with its large rivets was replaced by a welded unit with reduced weight and afforded bener ballistic characteristics. Jettisonable external fuel tanks were added to increase range, and a simple gyro-stabilizer was fitted to me 37mm (1.46 in) gun. This last addition was a major advance. Based on a system for naval guns, the gyroscopes held the gun in elevation even as the tank moved across undulating terrain. This allowed the tank to fire with out stopping first, and was a major tactical advantage, as no Axis (or other Allied) nation developed such a system during World War II.

The version eliminated the remotely operated sponson machine guns and imroduced an all-welded hull during production. Other improvements were made to the sights, vision equipment. radio and crew intercom. A gyrostabilizer was fitted to the 37mm (1.46 in) gun, the first such equipment to enter service. The turret cupola was removed to lower the vehicle's silhouette. The M3A3 had a redesigned all welded hull with longer side sponsons, and it emered production in 1943. The Soviet Union (read also ) received 1676 Guiberson diesel-powered M3A1 Light Tank under Lend-Lease. A small number were shipped from British stocks, but the bulk came from the USA. Soviet crews criticized the high silhouette of the tank and also ridiculed the hull machine guns.

US Tank M3 Stuarts and M3 Grants

The M3 Medium was always regarded as an interim solution to US tank needs while a turret could be produced to mount a 75mm (2.93 in) gun. Improvements in casting technology and success with the 37mm (1.46 in) turret on the M3 Tank encouraged development of a compact, curved unit, which was drawn up by March 1941. The Armored Force Board was offered five options based on this turret and, in April 1941, selected the simplest, which involved fitting it to a modified M3 hull and chassis. The T-6 Medium mock-up was approved in May, and the pilot model delivered to Aberdeen in September 1941. One change was the elimination of a machine-gun cupola. The T-6 hull was or welded construction, as in later M3s, and its prominent side hatch was deleted in the production model.