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Hello everyone,

yesterday, in the article about Object 777 Soviet heavy tank, an American tank was mentioned, the T43. The Soviets feared it and considered it on par with their best mass-produced heavy tank at that point, the T-10. So, what was the T43 actually?


Well, as you might have guessed from the picture, it was the designation of the M103 prototype. Its history is rather well-described: in 1946, the War Department Equipment Review Board, led by Joseph W.Stilwell initiated a program with the goal to re-arm the US Army with a new type of tank. New light, medium and heavy tanks were proposed (on the other hand, the tank destroyer program was cancelled altogether). Especially the heavy tanks were under scrutiny, with the T34 120mm gun tank proving to be perhaps the most promising of them all after some extensive testing at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. It was however too heavy, 10 tons heavier than what the board demanded.

In 1948, the Ordnance Committee Minutes (OCM) 32530 defined new demands on the future heavy tank, giving the design a designation of T43. In this case, the crew was to consist of 4 people only: commander, driver, gunner and loader.

The vehicle was to be powered by the Continental AV-1790 engine, specifically its turbocharged version, producing whopping 1041 horsepower. It was to be armed with a 120mm cannon, inserted into the T140 mount along with a coaxial 12,7mm machinegun. This mount included a three-cylinder recoil compensator. The aiming system was to consist of a rangefinder, panaromatic periscope, gunner telescope and mechanical ballistic computer.

The armor was to be the thickest at upper front hull plate (127mm at 58 degrees), the turret front was to have a 60 degree slope. During the development however, the shape of the tank gradually changed, even though the T43 designation remained. Tests have shown that cast armor of elliptic shape reduces the vehicle weight while keeping the level of protection the same.

The mockup was ready in December 1949, but it was not to last long – on 24.4.1950, the Ordnance Committee again changed some of the project parameters, including the size of the turret ring, which was increased to 2159mm. The crew count was increased to 5 as well and it was decided to rework the recoil compensator system, while removing the ballistic computer, rangefinder and panoramatic periscope from the project. After these changes, it was assumed that the weight of the tank would not cross the 55 ton threshold.

On 7.11.1950, the vehicle was officially designated as Tank, 120mm T43. The first prototype was trialed in December 1951 at Aberdeen. At that point, Chrysler took over the third prototype being built at Detroit Tank Arsenal and made some modifications to the vehicle, resulting in the tank being renamed to 120mm T43E1. The first prototype was armed with a 120mm T122 gun, the other prototypes were armed with 120mm T123 gun (T123 had the pressure increased to 48000 psi, the later model with improved recoil compensators was called T123E1).

These prototypes are recognizable from the mass-produced tanks by their commander’s cupola with 5 viewports and one fixed periscope – the same cupolas, as were mounted on the M47 medium tanks (while the mass-produced tanks recieved M48 medium tank cupolas).

300 T43E1 tanks were produced between 1953 and 1954, but further trials uncovered some significant flaws and as a result, the tanks were temporarily mothballed, until the issues got fixed (at that point, the vehicle recieved its M103 designation).

Characteristics of the T43 prototype (in brackets, M103 for comparison)

Weight: 54,431 tons (56,699)
Crew: 5
Length (gun forward): 11394,4mm
Length (hull): 6992,6mm
Width: 3749mm
Height (up to cupola roof): 3218,2mm (3558,5)
Turret ring: 2159mm
Ground pressure: 0,871kg/m2 (0,906)

Upper front plate: 127mm (127)
Lower front plate: 102mm (114)
Sides: 76mm (51-44)
Rear (upper): 38mm
Rear (lower): 25mm
Bottom: 38-13mm
Mantlet: 267 to 102mm
Turret front: 127mm
Turret sides: 83-70mm (137-70)
Turret rear: 51mm
Roof: 38mm (25)

Gun: 120mm T122, 34 rounds (120mm M58 aka T123E1, 33 rounds)
Engine: Continental AV-1790-5C (810 hp) (several, same horsepower)
Maximum speed: 40,2 km/h (33,8)


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