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Centurion vs T-55: Yom Kippur War 1973: No. 21 (Duel)

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In 1965, Israel's military establishment began research and development on a domestically produced tank, the "Sabra" [62] [ unreliable source?] (not to be confused with the later model of the same name which is now in service, see: Sabra tank). Initially, Britain and Israel collaborated to adapt the United Kingdom's Chieftain tank that had entered British Army service in 1966. [63] However, in 1969, Britain decided not to sell the tank to Israel for political reasons. [64] A fundamental aspect in the design of the T-54/55 series was its ability to negotiate rivers by means of a snorkel device with the minimum of preparation so as to maintain the momentum of the advance. The OPVT snorkels on these Polish T-55s are fitted in place of the loader’s periscope with the top half of the device folded during an approach march and then raised for an operational crossing of a river. (RAC Tank Museum) But attitudes changed as legendary Israeli armor commander Israel Tal—known as the father of the Merkava tank—improved maintenance procedures. Meanwhile, the Israelis mixed and matched foreign components to upgrade their early-model Centurions—which included 30 Jordanian vehicles captured in 1967—to create the Sh’ot (Hebrew for “whip”). The 20-pounder gun was replaced with the British L7 105-mm cannon. To improve the Centurion’s sluggish speed, out came the Meteor gasoline engine, and in came a more powerful American Allison AVDS-1790-2A diesel engine as well as a better transmission. The Israeli tank force included a small number of Sherman and Cromwell tanks, as well as ten Hotchkiss H-39 light tanks. Egypt used Shermans, Crusaders and Matildas, as well as Light Tank Mark VI and M22 Locust light tanks. They may have used some Valentines, as well. The Syrians had Renault R35s and R39s (an improved R35). The Lebanese used Renault FTs. [ citation needed] A Hotchkiss H35 tank. Char léger modèle 1935 H modifié 39 in Latrun, West Bank

The General Staff of the British Army issues the requirement for a new Cruiser Tank under the designation A-41, later named Centurion.The Centurion was the first modern Main Battle Tank (MBT) to enter service with the IAC. At 50 tons, it was much heavier and more complex than previous tanks. From the outset, problems were encountered with the tank, particularly when operating in the training areas of the Negev Desert. The abrasive dust caused air filters to clog, leading to engines overheating and on occasions catching fire while brake failures were commonplace. Within a short period of time, the Centurion gained a woeful reputation within the IAC as temperamental and unreliable, reportedly ‘more

Almost to the 1990s, the T-55 series formed over a third of the Soviet tank inventory. Accordingly, it was necessary to keep them abreast of Western designs such as the US M-1 Abrams, British Challenger or the German Leopard 2 with the fitting of a new Volna fire control system incorporating the KTD-2 laser rangefinder above the main armament as well as a BV-55 ballistic computer. Some of these upgraded T-55s were modified to fire the Bastion 100mm (AT-10 Stabber by Western designation) laser beam riding missile with a range of 4,000 metres and capable of defeating 600mm of steel armour protected by Explosive Reactive Armour. (RAC Tank Museum) Israeli tank gunners were uniformly superior to their Syrian counterparts thanks in part to the superior optical sights of the Centurion as shown here as a T-55 is hit at close range viewed through the gunner’s Sight Periscopic No.30.

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The first Centurion model featured a turret with a cast front and welded rear with an independent machine gun beside the 17-pounder main armament. Six prototypes of Centurion arrived in Germany in May 1945 but too late to see action. The situation pushed the leaders of the neighboring Arab states to intervene, with the Arab Legion of Transjordan's monarch, King Abdullah I moving tanks and armoured forces into the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine. Trans-Jordan: Chess Player & Friend". Time. 16 February 1948. Archived from the original on February 1, 2011 . Retrieved 20 April 2010. Yoav Gelber (January 2006). Palestine, 1948: war, escape and the emergence of the Palestinian refugee problem. Sussex Academic Press. pp.98–. ISBN 978-1-84519-075-0 . Retrieved 14 April 2011.

The Centurion had better armor protection and survivability than the M48, whose transmission fluid was prone to catch on fire when the vehicle was hit. The Centurion’s simplicity also proved an advantage in the heat of battle. “The Centurion required less gunnery training to obtain a first-round hit than the M48,” Wheeler says. “With a well-trained crew, it could offset the M48’s technological advantage.” The T-54 first sees combat with the Red Army during the Hungarian Uprising of October 1956. During the following month, the Centurion sees combat during the Suez Crisis. Hundreds of T-54/55 tanks have been used in the countless wars that have ravaged the continent of Africa to this day, from Angola to Sudan and from Ethiopia to Eritrea. This T-55A(M) was sold by Ukraine to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006 and is being prepared for action on 26 October 2008 against the renegade forces of Laurent Nkunda that had captured the village of Rugari, some 40 kilometres north of the provincial capital of Goma. (Getty Images) Israeli reservists hastily load their Shot Meteor tanks with ammunition and stores soon after the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. The fate of Israel depended on the speed of mobilization of the IDF reserve armoured formations arriving on the Golan Plateau before the Syrian army captured the Golan Heights and thus threatened Israel proper. (IGPO)

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Subvariants indicate upgrades received by Sho't Kal tanks during their operational life, including a new turret rotating mechanism, a new gun stabilizer, a new fire-control system and preparations for the installation of the Blazer Reactive armour. Hatsor’s Centurions faced a variety of threats, including deadly Soviet-made AT-3 Sagger wire-guided anti-tank missiles. The control wires behind the missile “got tangled in the radio antennas of my tank,” Hatsor says. “They cut the antennas.”

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