M551 SHERIDAN LIGHT TANK
Development of the M551 Sheridan began in 1959. Its programme was known as the AR/AAV or Armored Reconnaissance / Airborne Assault Vehicle. First prototypes were built in 1962 and production commenced in 1966. Vehicle is named in honor to Civil War General Philip Sheridan. A total of 1 700 M551 Sheridan light tanks were built until 1970, when production ceased. The M551 Sheridan replaced the M41 tanks and M56 self-propelled guns in service with the US Army. Since 1978 the Sheridans were gradually phased out of service, however last operational vehicles were decommissioned only in 1996. Currently the US Army has no real replacement for this light airborne and amphibious tank.
The Sheridan could be airdropped, including low altitude drops. The low altitude drops were made using LAPES extraction system. A special pallet absorbed most of the landing impact during landing. This maneuver allowed to deliver the tank when landing was not possible and enemy has a strong air defenses. In fact Sheridan was the only air-deployable tank in service with US Army.
Hull of the M551 Sheridan is welded from aluminum alloys and turret is welded from steel. It was made in attempt to save weight. Front armor protects against 20 mm armor piercing rounds, while overall protection is against 14.5 mm bullets. Vehicle is fitted with NBC protection system.