MT-LB (M1970) Multi-Purpose Tracked Vehicle
The MT-LB multirole tracked vehicle proved a Cold War favorite with approximately 12,000 units produced.
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World War 2 warfare instilled on the Soviet Army the need for a very mobile armored force. After the war, the concepts proven in battle were furthered to all new levels. During the Cold War years, a slew of armored vehicles emerged with various battlefield roles in mind and one of these creations became the MT-LB multirole tracked vehicle. Development began in the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West, to which the completed vehicle was adopted sometime in the latter part of the decade. Once identified by the West, the vehicle was designated in NATO nomenclature as the "M1970" ("Model 1970").
The MT-LB was developed as a direct replacement for the aged AT-P artillery tractor line. The design was largely formed from the work that also begat the successful PT-76 Amphibious Light Tank which was produced in over 12,000 examples. The initial product was the MT-L which then evolved to become the armored MT-LB. Production was assisted by the type utilizing many off-the-shelf components in circulation, and readily available, to the Soviet Army at the time. Manufacture was headed through the famous Kharkov tractor facility. The designation of "MT-LB" is born from the Russian translation describing "Multi-Purpose, Light-Armored Towing Vehicle".
One of the key qualities required of most any Soviet armored vehicle was amphibious support allowing the vehicle to cross moving water sources under its own power. The alternative was traversing bridges and similar checkpoints or arranging for engineers to construct a make-shift bridge over the span of hours and maybe days. The MT-LB was designed with this quality in mind, fully-amphibious, and propelled in the water by its own tracks, negating the need to activate a dedicated propulsion system.
Another key quality consistent with Soviet-inspired armored combat vehicles of the period were low silhouettes to make for a harder target to spot, identify and engage along the horizon. The MT-LB, therefore, was granted as low a profile as possible. It lacked any large, powered turret (a small, one-man installation was used instead) with the hull consisting of a near-flat glacis plate, armored visors at the front panel and a flat roof line with rounded hatches for the crew (a pair of hatches are set along the forward portion of the hull roof line). Armor consisted of welded steel for maximum protection (14mm at its thickness). A typical operating crew was just two men with up to 10 or 11 passengers in relative comfort (inward-facing folding canvas seats are provided).