bookT-54 and T-55 Main Battle Tanks

Osprey New Vanguard 102
By Steven J Zaloga
illustrated by Hugh Johnson
Published by Osprey Publishing.

Soft cover, 48 pages
ISBN 1-84176-792-1

Review by Peter Brown

Forming the backbone of the Soviet armoured force and that of many other nation's armies for many years, the T-54 and T-55 series was built in greater numbers than any other tank and with the size of modern armies that record alone will not be beaten which should ensure its place in AFV history. Nor was it idle, seeing service in wars and smaller conflicts all around the world. Its story to date is followed here from the T-44 designed to supersede the classic T-34 design at the end of WW2, including the early
T-54 types with their unusual turrets of the immediate postwar years, the mainstream T-54 of 1951, its development and improvement leading to the T-55 and that series' own development.

This includes production, variations and enhancements in the Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia, the Chinese T-59 and T-69 series, development and many upgrade programmes including improvements in fire control and weapons, fitting reactive and even active armour and several non-Russian programs designed to keep these older tanks in service. The result is a bewildering variety of variants, with original build versions, continual rebuilds and reworks and improvements the number of subtypes is almost too many to list.

As well as technical developments, the story of these tanks in action is also followed from Hungary in 1956, several Middle East wars up to 2003, both sides in the 1971 India-Pakistan conflict, Vietnam, many African conflicts and Nicaragua. All is illustrated with black and white photos of various versions and colour plates of representative vehicles including a cutaway only slightly spoiled by being printed across two pages with detail lost across the join.

To cover such a big subject in the usual Osprey format means the text has to be concise. That does not detract from the coverage which has enough facts and figures for most people. The book also benefits from access to modern Russian sources, so have the proper designations and not the often confusing and conflicting names given to these series by NATO intelligence sources.
The definitive overall account of these tanks would need something of the size of a Hunnicutt, till we get that this is a source which would be hard to better.

Page created 28 July 2004

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