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M-551 Sheridan Light Tank

The M-551 Sheridan Light Tank (also called M551 General Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle) was adopted in 1965-66, served a three-year combat tour in Vietnam, and was employed by U.S. Cavalry units in Germany and Korea for nine years, remaining in Army inventory for a total of 27 years.

The M551 Sheridan had a spotty development history, characterized by difficulties with the complex electronics gear associated with its antitank missile system and problems with the combustible cases for its main gun rounds. The Shillelagh missile system was not a problem in Vietnam (since it was not used) but the combustible case gave persistent trouble.

The Sheridan was not popular in Vietnam -- it was suspected of being highly vulnerable to mines and rocket propelled grenades and could not break through jungle like the M48A3 Patton Tank. In later years, Sheridans served in operations such as Just Cause and were used as OPFOR at the National Training Center (top photo).

M551 Sheridan tank takes a simulated hit, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA
M551 Sheridan tank takes a simulated hit, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA.

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M-551 Sheridan Light Tank

The M-551 Sheridan was designed as an antitank weapon for airborne forces. The M-551 Sheridan was sent to Vietnam stripped of its Shillelagh primary antitank missile equipment. Its armament consisted of:

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the M-551 Sheridan Light Tank at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup:

XM551 pilot model of the M551 General Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle, circa early 1960s.
An 82nd Airborne Division M551 Sheridan light tank/reconnaissance vehicle is driven from US Army utility landing craft 1674 (LCU 1674), upon landing at Viegues Island during Operation OCEAN VENTURE 84, Puerto Rico, 20 April 1984.  M151A2 light utility vehicle (jeep) to the left.
(Left to Right): M-48 Patton main battle tank, an M-551 Sheridan reconnaissance vehicle, an M-47 Patton medium tank and a UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, U.S. Army Armor Center, Fort Knox, KY, 9 March 1989.
Sherman M4A3E2 medium tanks (Jumbo) of the 746th Tank Bn and soldiers of the 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division (Old Reliables) near the town of Rath, Germany, during Operation Grenade, 21 February 1945.
Operating as Opposing Forces at the National Training Center, Ft. Irwin, CA, an infantryman fires a rifle from the turret of an M551 Sheridan light tank (with a 75 mm automatic cannon), 20 March 1984. The tank has been altered to appear Russian. The soldiers, wearing Russian uniforms, are armed with an AK47 rifle and an RPG portable rocket launcher.
M-551 Sheridan tank, Ft. Drum, NY.

M-551 Sheridan Photo Gallery

Sheridan M-551 and crew members of the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry
Sheridan M-551 and crew members of the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry, Vietnam, 1969.

M551 General Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle
M551 General Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle.

M551 Sheridan tank as it fires Shillelagh antitank missile
M551 Sheridan tank as it fires Shillelagh antitank missile.

M551 Sheridan from C Company 3/73rd Armor, 82nd AB Div, was dropped by parachute into Panama on 20 Dec 1989 during Operation Just Cause
This M551 Sheridan from C Company 3/73rd Armor, 82nd AB Div, was dropped by parachute into Panama on 20 Dec 1989 during Operation Just Cause.

Sheridan M-551 and crew members photographed in Germany
Sheridan M-551 and crew members photographed in Germany.

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