Tank, T-54 (M) (E1977.62)
The hull is low and sleek, with the engine mounted crosswise at the back to reduce length. Torsion bars replaced the Christie suspension in and effort to bring down the height and the front hull machine-gunner was eliminated to save space. One of the best known features of the T-54 and its derivatives is the dome-shaped turret, likened to an upturned frying pan. It is remarkably small for a 100mm gun and very cramped inside. It was always claimed that the old Red Army selected smaller conscripts for its tank crews.
Total production of T-54 and its successor T-55, amounted to more than 40,000 machines and they saw service all around the world. Our exhibit was captured by the Israelis, from the Syrian Army and subsequently supplied to Great Britain for evaluation.
Restoration: 18 Command Workshops - September 1976-May 1977
Precise Name: Medium Tank T54A
Other Name: Obiekt 137, T54M (NATO designation)
More than 100,000 tanks of the T54, T55 and T62 type were manufactured in the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, the North Korea, The Peoples Republic of China, Poland, and Romania. They served with the armies of 60 countries.
At the end of World War II the T34/85 was the principle Soviet medium tank (see E1952.44 for details of the T34/85). Its’ successor, the T44, was in small-scale production.
The T54 prototype had a new turret with a new gun, the 100mm D10 mounted on a modified version of the T44 chassis. The new turret had substantial overhangs at the front and rear and the gun was mounted in a wide mantlet. The hull front machine gun was eliminated to save space. This tank was called the T54 Model 1946 and a small batch was built for troop trials that revealed many faults. A modified version proved satisfactory and entered large-scale production as the T54 Model 1949. This was the tank that introduced the hemispherical turret with a narrow mantlet that is typical of post war Soviet tanks. There were numerous variants:
- The T54A Model 1951, fitted with a modified turret, a simple gun stabiliser and deep wading equipment to allow rivers to be crossed under water
- The T54B Model 1952 which introduced infra-red night vision and night fighting equipment
- The T54K Model 1954 command tank with an additional radio
- The OT-54 flame throwing tank
- T54 Armoured Recovery, Armoured Engineering and Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge versions.
The Egyptian Army upgraded some T54s by fitting a 105mm gun and new night vision equipment. The Israeli Army also fitted a 105mm gun and a new fire control system to captured examples, putting them into service as the Tiran.
The Soviet Union supplied the Peoples’ Republic of China with T54 Model 1951 tanks and helped the Chinese to set up a plant to manufacture the T54A, known in China as the T59. (See Entry E1991.89 Main Battle Tank Norinco Type 69-II for more details).
For its time T54 had some impressive features, its’ thick armour, a powerful gun, small size, good fording capability and a range of 450 km. Above all, it was available to the Soviet army in very large numbers. On the debit side its’ fire control equipment was inferior in long range engagements to that fitted to the NATO tanks.
About 35,000 T54s were manufactured in the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1958. Soviet production was supplemented by Czechoslovak output of 2,500 tanks and a further 3,000 were built in Poland, both starting in 1957/58. The T54 was succeeded in production by the T55. (See E1994.31). The T54 played an important role in the Middle East fighting of 1967 and 1973, in the later phases of the Viet Nam war, in the fighting between India and Pakistan, in all three ‘Gulf Wars’ and in the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia.
The Tank Museum’s T54 was captured by the Israeli Army from the Syrian Army and sent to Britain for evaluation. The tank was restored by 18 Command Workshops between September 1976 and May 1977.
Summary text by Mike Garth V1.0