This installation in R. P. Hunnicutt's legendary 10-volume history of American tanks and armored vehicles provides a detailed survey of the American light tank's developmental history, culminating with the M551 Sheridan AR/AAV and the vehicles based on its design. In the period directly after WWII, the Army became interested in developing a light tank. Hunnicutt begins by detailing the program that eventually produced the M41 series of 76mm gun tanks that were designed to fulfill this interest. At 25 tons, the M4 was considered to be too heavy in spite of its popularity with the troops that operated it.
Programs developed in an effort to produce a lighter-weight tank resulted in the T71 and T92 tanks, both of which retained the 76mm gun and weighed in at about 17 tons. However, once it was discovered that Soviet tanks of the same caliber were amphibious, the T92 was scrapped to redirect design efforts to an amphibious light tank. This new program produced the XM551 Sheridan, no longer designated as a tank but rather as an "armored reconnaissance/airborne assault vehicle", or AR/AAV for short.
An extremely complex design, the M551 Sheridan AR/AAV was plagued by problems with its weapons system in its early stages. The vehicle required a great deal of frequent maintenance which made it unpopular with troops regardless of the fact that it provided a wide range of services. It was phased out of service in the late 1970s. Part III of this book covers the development of a future replacement for the Sheridan. Part IV covers several other light tracked combat vehicles.
Boasting dozens of detailed illustrations, line drawings and photographs, as well as the depth, precision, and nuance for which R. P. Hunnicutt's books are renowned, Sheridan: A History of the American Light Tank is a must-have for anyone with a keen interest in American military history.
About the Author:
Richard Pearce Hunnicutt (1926-2011) enlisted in the 7th Infantry Division in 1944 and in 1945 was promoted to sergeant and awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions. After WWII, Hunnicutt earned a Masters in engineering from Stanford University under the GI Bill. In addition to being one of the most respected metallurgists in California, Hunnicutt wrote the definitive 10-volume history of the development and employment of American armored vehicles. As a tank historian and leading expert in the field, Hunnicutt was one of the founders of the US Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD and was a close friend and frequent contributor to the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, KY.