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M41 Walker Bulldog Light Tank

The M41 "Walker Bulldog" Tank was a light tank designed to be air-transportable and to provide mobile firepower in combat. The United States Army needed a new and fast light tank to replace the already old-fashioned M-24 Chaffee. In 1949 the prototype of the T-37 appeared and becomes with some modifications in the T-41, and later in the T-41E1 and T-41E2. They were adopted to be the standard light tank in the United States. From 1950 on, it was named M41 Little Bulldog, later changed to Walker Bulldog, in honor of General W.W.Walker, who died in a Jeep accident in Korea in 1951.

In common with its predecessor the M24 Chaffee, the M41 was a light tank. It named after General W.W. Walker who was killed in an accident in Korea. Its importance in terms of the Cold War is its widespread distribution to other countries where it formed their main armoured equipment for part of that period.

The vehicle was designed round the engine, a Continental or Lycoming petrol engine, delivering 500 brake horse power. Also incorporated into the design was a 76mm gun which was about 2ft longer than the 90mm tank gun of World War Two. So the vehicle, for a light tank, was very heavily armed and mobile, and the armament was better than some of that fitted to “hit and run” tank destroyers of Second World War.

The downside to this of course, as with any light tank, was the armor. With a maximum of 38mm, the same as the M24, and the fact that the M41, to an untrained eye, looked like any other tank meant there would always be the temptation to use it as a main battle tank to the detriment of the crew. At the time of the vehicle’s design there was a shortage of cast armor, (its introduction coincided with the outbreak of the Korean War), so much use was made of welded armor in its construction. A four man crew was used instead of the five in the M24, a bow-gunner/co-driver being deemed an unnecessary luxury. The initial design was also notable for incorporating an early autoloader, although this was dropped in production.

The M41 had a very distinctive appearance, the long extended turret being reminiscent of its contemporary the M47 medium, with a ‘T’ shaped blast deflector and prominent bore evacuator at the muzzle end of the 76mm gun.

Production of the M41 was concentrated at the Cleveland Tank Arsenal, a former Second World War Two Air Force plant which had been sub-let after the war for the purpose of storing dried beans! These were removed and the plant set up in 1950, urgency being lent by the start of the Korean War.

In 1951, it beaome part of the American armored units as the standard fast light tank. A whole series of tactical support vehicles are developed from this tank: self propelled cannons , troop transportation, anti-aircraft vehicles, etc. The Cleveland Tank Arsenal, belonging to General Motors Corporation was in charge of the whole production. Its “baptism of fire” came in the Vietnan war (1965 – 1975). It was operated by the Americans and also by Vietnan southern army, even participating in the anti-guerrilla fight. The first battle involving North and South Vietnan tanks, occurred in February 1971, in the Lam Read Sound 719 operations. The M41 managed to destroy six T-54 as well as sixteen PT-76.

From a technical point of view, the M41 was very similar to the M24, with a rolling train of five pairs of wheels, suspension with torsion bars, rear motor of 500 HP, which gave a high speed on highways, easy to be repaired and substituted in the battlefield, armed with a 76,2mm cannon with mouth brake, smoke extractor adapted for the anti-tank shot. It had a very thin and entirely welded turrest, of an excellent characteristic.

While the M41 was highly manueverable, reasonably potent, simple to operate, and effective in combat, it also used fuel at an alarming rate and was extremely noisy. Its main gun was fully stabilised and very accurate for the time. Produced in the 1950´s by Cadillac´s Cleveland Tank Plant with first production models completed in 1951. By 1953 the M41 Bulldog had totally replaced the M24 Chaffee. The US did not use the M41 in combat in Vietnam but did provide a number of them to the South Vietnamese during 1965 as part of a massive re-equipment program. The M41 was highly effective against North Vietnamese T-54/55 tanks in the Vietnam war with its 76mm gun. However, in Vietnam the M41 suffered from being too light for most traditional battlefield support tasks and too heavy for most internal security tasks.

The AVDS series of engine, eventually used in the M60 Main Battle Tank, can trace their lineage back to the 1940's with the advent of the R670 Radial Aircraft Engine. The first engine bearing a resemblence to the M60's AVDS 1790 engines was the AOS 895 engine, produced for the army in the 1950's, and utilized in the M41 Tank and the M42A1 self propelled twin guns.

A total of 5,500 M41 were manufactured from 1950 the beginning of the 1970’s. The M41 has been exported to Brazil (300), Chile (60), Denmark, Dominican Republic (12), Guatemala (10), Somalia (10), Taiwan (675), Thailand (200) and Tunisia (10). Many of these tanks remain in service around the world, thanks to updates that have included replacing the old gasoline engine with a new diesel powerpack (500 hp Cummins VTA-903T). The 76 mm gun is improved with a new type of high performance anti-tank round (APFSDS from AAI International). Other improvements includes an NBC system, thermal night vision system with integrated laser rangefinder (Ericsson Radio Systems), night vision periscope (Texas Instruments) as well as Halogen searchlight mounted on the gun mantlet.

Taiwan's M41D life extension system upgrade includes a new, locally produced 76mm main gun, new diesel engine, thermal targeting system, digital ballistics computer and laser rangefinder, and reactive armor. However, the tank lacks stabilized sights and cannot fire on the move, and is relegated to scouting and counter-amphibious operations.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2016 20:29:27 ZULU