PT-76 Light Amphibious Tank
The Soviet-era PT-76 is described as an Amphibious Light Tank and, while its best years are behind it, still maintains an active presence in several armies of the world.
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The Soviet-era PT-76 Amphibious Light Tank was developed shortly after World War 2 (1939-1945) and thus borrowed many of the concepts witnessed in the Grand Conflict. The turret fitted the Soviet Army standard 76.2mm D-56T main gun and featured traversal of -4 /+30 degrees while capable of firing a standard set of projectiles - ranging from High-Explosive (HE) to AP-T (Armor Piercing) and HE-FRAG (High-Explosive, FRAGmentation) rounds. For local defense, the vehicle carried a 7.62mm machine gun in a coaxial fitting while some models also benefited from adding a 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) for local air defense (DShKM type weapon). Additional fuel tanks could also be added to exterior of the hull to increase operating ranges by some 68 miles (110 kilometers).
As an amphibious combat vehicle, the PT-76 was given the inherent ability to traverse water sources. Its automotive components were shared between the BTR-50 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), SA-6 "Gainful" Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system, and the ZSU-23-4 Anti-Aircraft (AA) gun and included a torsion-bar suspension system for cross-country travel. The powerpack of the PT-76 was also the same one encountered on the T-55 Main Battle Tank (MBT) - this being a V-6 type diesel-fueled unit.
Despite the positive qualities built into the 14.5 tonne PT-76, it lacked NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection for its crew of three (driver, commander and gunner), was rather large dimensionally-speaking, and showcased thin armor protection for a frontline vehicle.
Total production numbers of the PT-76 reached over 12,000 vehicles before the end with manufacture stemming from VTZ and the Kirov Factory of the Soviet Union from 1951 until 1969. The last PT-76 entered service in 1967 and modernization programs and new turret were devised to keep the system relevant into the 1980s. China eventually took up production of a related vehicle form designated the "Type 63".
The PT-76 went on to have an extensive combat history for its part in the last century - from the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and the Indo-Pak War (1965) until the Second Chechen War (1999) and the Second Persian Gulf War (2003). Operators ranged from Afghanistan and Angola to Vietnam and Yugoslavia.
A few operators still manage limited stocks of this aging vehicle.