A Craig tank posting again. Here’s another video from the American Wartime Museum open house:
Many will jump to compare the PT-76 to the M551 Sheridan. But the Russian tank had been around some 15 years before the American tank even did test laps. While the American tank used a highly advanced (perhaps too advanced) hybrid gun-missile armament, the PT-76 used a tried-and-true 76mm main gun. The gun fires both high velocity armor piercing (HVAP) and high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds. A 7.62 caliber coaxial machine gun complements the main gun.
The Russians kept the PT-76 in production through the late 1960s. All told over 5000 rolled out of the factories. Production variants introduced better NBC and night vision systems. A few PT-85s were produced with an 85mm main gun. And experimental versions featured 90mm or anti-tank missile armament.
The PT-76’s design put emphasis on amphibious capabilities. In fact, the PT-76 came with water jets to allow speeds of 6 mph when swimming.
In addition to great amphibious capabilities, the PT-76 had a roomy interior and good cross country mobility. But the tank’s armor was only good against rifle-caliber fire. And the main gun lacked any stabilization. You wouldn’t want to go toe-to-toe with enemy tanks. However, the PT-76 was designed to operate and exploit the fringes of a defense line where enemy tanks were not supposed to be.
In Soviet service the PT-76s armed reconnaissance companies in line divisions and tank companies in the marine divisions. Russia retains a significant number of the PT-76s. Here’s an old documentary forwarded by the political officer (can anyone translate what he’s saying?):
With over 2000 exported, many nations around the world continue to operate the amphibious tanks. Examples manned by the North Vietnamese participated in some of the few tank-vs-tank battles in the Vietnam War. In fact, PT-76s were the first to fall victim to TOW missiles.
While technically the tank COULD be airdropped or air-transported, the Russians opted to use the ASU-57 and ASU-85 self-propelled guns in airborne formations (and later BMD series recon/carriers).
Speaking of the ASU-85, that weapon used the chassis of the PT-76, with of course an 85 mm gun fixed in a superstructure. Other systems using the PT-76 chassis include the BTR-50 amphibious carrier, the ZSU-23-4 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, missile carriers, and various support vehicles. The Chinese improved the basic design into their own Type 63 tank.
Certainly there are some features of the PT-76 that make me wish the US Army or Marine Corps had procured something similar. On the other hand, the American habit of misusing light armor would make any “Yankee” version a death trap.