In the ever-changing realm of military technology, Vietnam has been consistently improving its armoured capabilities. This article takes a closer look at the primary tanks that form an integral part of Vietnam’s armoured divisions, exploring the characteristics, capabilities, and strategic significance of the Centurion (A41), the M24 Chaffee, the M41 Walker Bulldog, the M48 Patton, and the M551 Sheridan. Each of these armoured vehicles plays a crucial role in Vietnam’s defence strategy, providing a captivating glimpse into the country’s military advancement. Join us as we embark on this expedition, examining the strength and potential of these formidable war machines.
Vietnam’s Top 5 Tanks
The Centurion (A41) Main Battle Tank (MBT) was introduced in 1945 and is widely regarded as one of the most successful tank designs after World War II. Serving as the primary British Army’s main battle tank during the post-war era, it gained popularity and was utilized by various nations, including Vietnam. Developed by the AEC Company in Middlesex in 1944, the Centurion made its combat debut in the Korean War in 1950, providing support to the UN forces. In the Vietnam War, the Royal Australian Armoured Corps also employed the Centurion, with most of Australia’s tanks being upgraded to the Mark 5/1 variant before deployment. However, due to the difficulties in tracking and verifying arms acquisitions in Vietnam, the specific details of how and when Vietnam acquired the Centurion remain elusive. Nevertheless, the Centurion continues to serve as a reserve tank in the former USSR and remains in active use by various countries worldwide.
The M24 Chaffee, officially designated as the Light Tank, M24, is an American light tank that was first introduced in 1944. It played a crucial role in the later stages of World War II and was also utilized in various conflicts following the war, including the Korean War. Additionally, the French employed the M24 Chaffee in the War in Algeria and the First Indochina War. This light tank represented a significant advancement in its design, incorporating modern torsion bar suspensions, enhanced welded steel armour, improved protection, and a powerful lightweight 75 mm main gun. The United States provided 137 Chaffees to South Vietnam, which saw extensive action during the coup attempts of 1963 and 1964, surpassing their encounters with the Viet Cong before being replaced by the M41. Furthermore, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam employed these tanks in their reconnaissance squadron during the Vietnam War, equipped with a troop of M24 light tanks from the World War II era.
The M41 Walker Bulldog, also known as the 76-mm Gun Tank, M41, was a light tank developed by Cadillac for armed reconnaissance. It was produced between 1951 and 1954 and was intended to replace the ageing M24 Chaffee tanks used by the United States Army during World War II. The M41 was the first American light tank to be used worldwide and was exported in large numbers to Asia. In 1965, South Vietnam received several M41s as part of a re-equipment program, which was used by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam in their reconnaissance squadron during the Vietnam War. The M41 was also widely used in Korea for reconnaissance, close infantry support, and even as a tank destroyer. Additionally, it was deployed in South Vietnam with Republic of Vietnam troops.
The M48 Patton, officially designated as the 76-mm Gun Tank, M48, is an initial American main battle tank that was introduced in February 1952. Its purpose was to replace various tanks such as the M26 Pershing, M4 Sherman, M46, and M47 Patton tanks. During the Vietnam War, it served as the primary battle tank for both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. From 1952 to 1961, approximately 12,000 M48s were manufactured, with Chrysler and the American Locomotive Company being the primary producers. The United States provided South Vietnam with over 600 Pattons during the Vietnam War. In 1965, the initial M48s were deployed with the 1st and 3rd Tank Battalions of the US Marine Corps. The M48 Patton played a crucial role as the main tank for the U.S. Army, Marines, and South Vietnam. Equipped with a 90 mm gun, it possessed the capability to effectively engage armoured adversaries and even utilize beehive rounds to neutralize enemy infantry. On the night of March 3, 1969, this unit was involved in a rare encounter between U.S. and North Vietnamese tanks. During an attempted attack on the Ben Het Special Forces camp, the NVA 202nd Armoured Regiment lost two PT-76 tanks.
The M551 Sheridan, also known as the Armoured Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle, is an American light tank that was introduced in 1968. Its design allowed it to be deployed by parachute and to traverse rivers by swimming. Equipped with the advanced yet problematic M81/M81 Modified/M81E1 152 mm gun/launcher, it could fire both conventional ammunition and the MGM-51 Shillelagh-guided anti-tank missile. The United States Army adopted the M551 Sheridan in 1967, following the recommendation of General Creighton Abrams, the U.S. Commander of Military Assistance Command Vietnam. In January 1969, the M551 was hastily deployed for combat service in South Vietnam. The initial units to receive the Sheridans were the 1st Squadron, 11th Armoured Cavalry, and the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, which belonged to the 25th Infantry Division’s cavalry squadron. Throughout the Vietnam War, the M551 Sheridan saw extensive action, revealing its shortcomings in terms of survivability and reliability. Despite these challenges, the M551 Sheridan remains in reserve service in the former USSR and is actively used by other countries on the frontlines.