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M551 Sheridan

We are pleased to tell you more about the light tank class. Light tanks in Armored Warfare are tracked, lightly armored but speedy vehicles, often equipped with rather powerful weaponry. Their role is not to take on the heavier opponents head to head but rather to use their speed and agility to attack from the sides and rear, dealing massive damage to the unprotected and vulnerable parts of other vehicles, including main battle tanks.

In battle, a light tank represents the ideal blend of main battle tank firepower and armored fighting vehicle mobility. The light tanks are the swift predators of Armored Warfare – alone or in groups, they can hound stronger targets or use their speed to get behind enemy lines, wreaking havoc on enemy artillery or tank destroyers. One of the main features of the light tank class is their ability to fire accurately on the move, allowing them to hit their targets even while moving at full speed or circling around the enemy.

These advantages however come with a price tag. Speed is life and this rule applies even more to the light tanks than usual as their armor cannot protect them against the firepower of tanks or tank destroyers. Their camouflage factor is also not nearly as high as the one of the AFV class vehicles and their view range is limited - not much better than the one of an average battle tank. A light tank should never stand still, trying to spot enemy vehicles – its view range and camouflage factor are too low for such a task, which would be better suited for an AFV.

Apart from hunting its enemies down, a light tank can also capture bases rather quickly – like the AFV class, it also gets a bonus to the base capture speed, but not as big one as the AFV scouts. On the other hand, light tanks are also suitable for countering exactly these tactics, being able to quickly return to defend the base against that one lucky AFV or light tank that managed to slip past your defenses where main battle tanks would take too long to save the base from being captured.

M551 Sheridan

One of the epitomes of the modern light tank is the M551 Sheridan. Born from the late 50’s program to replace the 76mm Gun Tank M41 Walker Bulldog, the first prototype was built in 1962 with the production running from 1966 to 1970 and with over 1600 vehicles built. Its purpose was to provide the American military with an air-transportable fire support vehicle that could also perform scout duties.

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The Sheridan featured several typical elements for this class of vehicles. It had powerful weaponry – a 152mm gun-launcher. By the time this weapon was introduced, it was capable of knocking out practically every main battle tank it would encounter on the battlefield. Apart from firing standard HE shells, it was also capable of launching Shillelagh missiles. The Sheridan was also very light for a tank – it weighed only 15 tons – and fast with its maximum speed reaching 70 kilometers per hour. Powered by a 300 horsepower Detroit Diesel engine (offering respectable 20 hp/t power-to-weight ratio), it was agile and accelerated rather quickly.

In the end however, these qualities could not compensate for its very thin aluminum armor. The Sheridan was used during the Vietnam War and it did achieve certain level of success, but it was extremely vulnerable to RPG hits and mine detonations. On the other hand, it could also get to places where other vehicles would not and was able to provide valuable firepower in the muddy terrain where regular main battle tanks were not available. Its rate of fire was however very low – it could only fire around 2 rounds per minute. Its raw firepower on the other hand was (thanks to high-explosive and flechette rounds) quite high.

The Sheridan survived in the US Army service until 1996 when it was finally phased out, mostly because there was generally nothing better available to replace it with.

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