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M103 Heavy Tank

The M103, the Heavy Tank variant of the M48 series, was designed to counter to the Soviet's JS III heavy tanks, which outclassed all other US tanks during the immediate period following World War II. At nearly 65 tons, it was by far the heaviest tank placed in service by the US Army prior to the advent of the M1 Abrams.

The strong family resemblance to the M48 was based on the components common to both vehicles. The suspension was similar to that of the M48, though modified to carry the increased weight. The M103 had one additional road wheel on each side, though unlike the M48 most of the M103's torsion arms had shock absorbers. Six return rollers were fitted, and the final-drives had much larger exposed gear-boxes.

While the M103 hull was similar in shape to the M48, it was longer and wider, and had thicker armor with better ballistic shape in the forward hull. The engine deck was unlike that of the M48. The turret was totally different, with a large bustle to enable the 120mm gun to recoil. The ballistic shape was excellent from the front, but poor from the rear. The machine gun mount was used to allow the gun to be trained, elevated, and fired from within the vehicle.

The M103A1 differed slightly from the M103, having improved fire-control devices that resulted in minor changes in the turret shape.

The M103A2 was the Heavy Tank variant of the M60 series. It had the large bulged rear engine deck, typical of the diesel engined M48 and M60. It saw service, with a few being around into the 1970's.



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