T54 and T55

Overview

T54 and T55

The T54/55 series of Soviet tanks have had the largest production and distribution of any post Second World War tank. The series was the first of the Warsaw Pact tanks one could consider coming into the main battle tank category, and its use has been so widespread as to make its appearance familiar to virtually anyone with a television set.

For its time it introduced, like its predecessor the T34, an almost perfect balance of firepower and mobility with its 100mm gun, 205mm of armour and 580hp diesel engine.

Developed through the interim T44 series, the T54 first entered production in 1947. As these vehicles were so long in production, and having so many modifications and upgrades that it is very difficult to work out the history of any particular vehicle. However, the T55 designation dates back to a deep modernisation of the design initiated in 1955 to better equip the vehicle for the nuclear age. This included an early NBC (nuclear biological chemical) type hull seal with overpressure to keep out radioactivity. The T55 entered production in 1958 and would have probably stayed in production longer, had not a dissident Iranian officer provided the Soviets with a brand new American M60A1 in 1961, the 105mm gun prompting a further shift in the arms race with a total re-design producing the T55’s successor, the T62 with a 115mm smoothbore gun, which went into production in 1962.

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