Sunday, 12 April 2015

World of Tanks History Section: PT-76

During the war, the famous designer Joseph Yakovlevich Kotin was not only the Deputy Commissar of Tank Production, but also the chief designer at the Chelyabinsk factory. A number of vehicles were built with his participation or under his direct supervision: KV-1S, IS-122, SU-152, ISU-152, and others. After the war, Kotin returned to Leningrad and headed the tank and diesel research institute. Here, he kept working on new vehicles.

Steel Swimmer

The experience of war showed that one of the most difficult tasks was crossing water hazards: rivers, canals, etc. Existing means of crossing had to be towed and had poor mobility. There were no self propelled pontoon vehicles in the late 1940s.

On August 15th, 1949, the Council of Ministers tasked engineers with developing an amphibious tank and APC. The deadline was tight: trials were to begin before the end of 1950. The project, indexed Object 740, was to be managed by Kotin.

Immediately, an argument erupted between designers. How will this vehicle swim? There were four options: collapsible propellers, propellers concealed in tunnels, a track-based movement system, or water jets. Koshkin favoured the collapsible propeller system, but Shashmurin proved to him the advantages of a water jet system, which was settled on. Trials proved this solution to be the best one, as the Object 740 proved itself superior to all its competitors during government trials.

In early August 1951, the tank was adopted under the index PT-76. At military trials, the vehicle showed itself well, successfully crossing the Kerch Strait. This proved that the PT-76 could be used during amphibious landings.

The PT-76 remained in production from 1951 to 1967. Elements of its design were modernized many times, mostly the armament, communications devices, and sights. The shape and size of the hull changed as well. More than 3000 PT-76 tanks were built, used by the Soviet Army and other armies abroad.

Amphibian in Battle

The tank fought in many 20th century conflicts: Vietnam War, Arab-Israeli conflicts, Indo-Pakistani War, and others. It showed itself to be an excellent fighting machine and a good design.

The use of the PT-76 in 1971 during the Indo-Pakistani war was particularly indicative of its quality. Good performance off-road carried it through difficult terrain. The modernized post-war gun and optics were a decent match for American M24 Chaffee tanks. The PT-76 could fire from a range of over a kilometer, while its opponent, using WWII era optics, was incapable of firing back effectively. Similarly, Pakistani bazookas, grenade launches, and recoilless rifles proved ineffective. The ability to cross rivers, which saturated the region, proved an advantage for the Indians. The PT-76 could also carry a 12-man squad on it, more if necessary.

Another successful use of the PT-76 was during the Yom Kippur War between Israel and Arab states in October of 1973. Here, the tank was used by both sides. In the first stages of the conflict, the Egyptians used these tanks to cross the Suez Canal. After a large number of tanks was captured by the IDF, operation Valiant was executed. In it, a small Israeli squad commanded by Ariel Sharon crossed the Great Bitter Lake on 7 captured PT-76 tanks and 8 APCs and captured a foothold, which was then used by the main force.

For its time, the PT-76 was one of the best amphibious vehicles. Kotin succeeded in combining good mobility on land, excellent mobility in water, and serious firepower. It's not surprising that some nations kept the PT-76 in their armies into the 2000s.

Article author: Alena Guskova

Original article available here.

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