Another Cold War Flashback: T-55

I promise… this is the last video from this year’s open house at the American Wartime Museum.

I think this is a T-55AM2 turning laps on the demo field.  But I must admit my armored vehicle recognition has slacked over the years.


The T-55AM2 is a Czech offering to upgrade the dated, obsolete T-55.  The upgrades at least give the old clanker a chance against modern anti-tank weapons.  The upgrade package includes applique armor on the turret and hull, a side panel to protect the external fuel tanks, upgraded power pack, thermal protection for the main gun, suspension adjustments, better tracks, and a smoke grenade system.

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Yes, smoke grenades.  In the “old days” Soviet tanks used a TDA smoke generating system that simply dumped fuel or oil onto the exhaust manifold. I recall during one of our threat briefs circa 1991 an instructor clarified this solution by saying, “its just stupid, but that’s the way Ivan wants it!”

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Also on display at the open house was a basic T-55 in Czech colors.

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The basic T-55 was a formidable adversary in its day.  With 120mm frontal armor and a 100mm main gun, the Soviet tank had advantages over the contemporary American M-47s and early M-48s.  The low silhouette gave the T-55s some tactical advantages.   But that advantage came at a price – main gun elevation and depression.  I would also add, the T-55 is the most cramped tank I’ve ever taken a run in.

– Craig.

6 thoughts on “Another Cold War Flashback: T-55”

  1. “In the “old days” Soviet tanks used a TDA smoke generating system that simply dumped fuel or oil onto the exhaust manifold. I recall during one of our threat briefs circa 1991 an instructor clarified this solution by saying, ‘its just stupid, but that’s the way Ivan wants it!'”

    In the old days, the M1A1 had essentially the same smoke generation system, called the VEESS or Vehicle Engine Exhaust Smoke System. It basically sprayed diesel into the turbine exhaust, which evaporated and turned to dense white smoke when it hit the air. It was a good system, but if you were not situationally aware, it could silhouette you since it was coming from behind. When we switched fuels from DL2 or DF2 to JP8, they were all rendered inoperative due to the increased fire hazard with JP8. This was about 1997 or 98, if I recall correctly.

    1. My understanding of the VEESS is it worked much differently than the Soviet system. While the Soviet system dumped raw fuel onto hot engine components. The VEESS avoided some (!) dangers by injecting the fuel into the turbine’s exhaust instead of onto hot engine components. Some might say 6 of one half dozen of the other, but there was some distinction between the two.

    2. Sure, as I said, the M1 puts it into the exhaust. I am differentiating in that a reader could come away from the original post thinking that the US did not use vehicle smoke generation because the Soviets used a dumb system. Regardless of type, the system is confined enough that merely changing the fuel type rendered it unsafe. An M1’s exhaust is well over 1100 degrees in the turbine. I may be wrong but now that I am thinking about it, the fuel line used for this was subject to getting damaged and moved around when you pull or reset the powerpack.

  2. I don’t think I ever realized just what a youngster Craig is. Not only Ivan and the M1s, but M2/3 Bradleys had the option of using direct diesel injection to the exhaust to create a smoke screen.

    Now, one track makes a pretty whimpy screen. But a whole battalion of tracks running at a good clip? That makes a pretty impressive screen, and renders visually guided missiles like the old AT-3 Sagger pretty much useless.

    As to smoke grenades, all US armored vehicles have smoke grenade launchers (and they put out a very impressive, if small screen). Many up-armored Humvees also use smoke grenade launchers.

    In fact, i’ve been meaning to post on them. Please be patient.

    1. I had the vague feeling that Brads could, too, but not sure. The problem I saw with VEESS smoke is that it would tend to billow behind the vehicles, and the smoke would often not screen you but silhouette you. Bad problem in places with flat, open deserts. Looks cool, but creates an amazing target in daylight or thermal channel if used wrong. Even your Sagger gunner can pick out the big black front-runners ahead of the white smoke. You always have to know where the wind is, which is tricky while moving. New lieutenants have been known to screw this one up… (but not me, I just watched it get screwed up).

  3. Here’s the description of the VEESS from my old M60 notes: “The VEESS drops fuel from the fuel pump from the fuel/water separator into the exhaust system prior to the supercharger. Fuel injected into each hot turbo is vaporized. This makes a white cloud of smoke from the exhaust stacks. ”

    Maybe this is a misconception I’ve carried since those early days of instruction, but the distinction drawn in my mind at the time was the VEESS didn’t spray raw fuel ONTO the exhaust manifold, but rather INTO the exhaust flow. While both will make plenty of smoke, the “ONTO” method would tend to create some fire if not regulated properly. On the other hand the “INTO” method would just vent any fire out the exhaust system, as designed.

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