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Light Tank, M3 / M5 (Stuart) Light Tank (1941)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 11/27/2013

The General Stuart series of light tank had little combat value by 1944 but nonetheless played an important role in early Allied operations concerning World War 2.

The M3 / M5 series (commonly known as the "General Stuart") was an Allied design classified as a light tank and appeared through the early and middle years of the Second World War. The system was under-gunned and lightly armored but fast and reliable enough to warrant a good opinion of her crews. The system would appear of combat value up until 1944 when it was basically outclassed by even the lightest of German counterparts. The General Stuart served with American, British and Soviet forces alike and appeared in several forms throughout its production life.

Development of the General Stuart stemmed from the American post-World War 1 development of small infantry support tanks, namely the M2, which appeared by the 1930s. This system was an adequate infantry tank for its time, mounting a respectable 37mm main gun and good protection for advancing infantry. By the 1940s however, the system was simply outclassed by its German performers and was relegated to secondary roles, most notably the training of tank crews.

This did not signify the end of the American light tank development program for the invasion of Europe spurned American warplanners to come up with a redesigned version of the M2 in the Light Tank M3 - appearing with an increase to armor and combat weight whilst still retaining the 37mm main gun and machine guns. The M3 entered production and would see no fewer than 5,800 examples by series end.

Britain was a primary user of the M3 system (along with the US Army and the Red Army, te latter via Lend-Lease) and designated it as the "General Stuart" or simply "Stuart". Stuarts under British control served as the Stuart I, Stuart II, Stuart III, Stuart IV, Stuart V and the Stuart VI. The Stuart I and II differed mainly between the gasoline and diesel engines offered for each design while the Stuart III and Stuart differed similarly but featured a gyro stabilized main gun and a power traverse turret assembly. The Stuart V mainly offered up an improvement to armor protection while the Stuart VI was based on the revised M3, becoming the Light Tank M5 series, and featured a twin-Cadillac engine design along with a re-engineered turret.

Armament for the base M3/M5 series centered around the single 37mm main gun mounted in the turret. This main armament was retained throughout the entire lifetime of the vehicle though some variants would appear with the turret completely removed and instead housing more anti-infantry 7.62mm machine guns. Beyond the main gun, the crew of four had access to no fewer than five 7.62mm machine guns elsewhere in the standard design. This would include a bow-mount, coaxial mount, turret roof mount for anti-aircraft defense, and two in driver-controlled sponson mountings.

In the end, the Stuart appeared where ever it was needed and with three of the larger Allied armies. It earned a favorable reputation that would go on to solidify its place in World War 2 history. Though outclassed by many of the German platforms, the Stuart series nevertheless retained the qualities and capabilities admired by a tank crew on the battlefield.

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Specifications for the
Light Tank, M3 / M5 (Stuart)
Light Tank

Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: American Car & Foundry Company - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1941
Production: 22,744

Focus Model: Light Tank, M3A1 (Stuart)
Crew: 4

Overall Length: 14.90ft (4.54m)
Width: 7.35ft (2.24m)
Height: 7.55ft (2.30m)
Weight: 14.2 US Short Tons (12,900kg; 28,440lbs)

Powerplant: 1 x Continental W-670-9A 7 cylinder 4-cycle radial gasoline engine generating 262hp at 2,400rpm.

Maximum Speed: 36mph (58 km/h)
Maximum Range: 70 miles (113 km)

NBC Protection: None
Nightvision: None

M3 Stuart:
1 x 37mm M6 main gun
1 x .30-06 Browning M1919A4 coaxial machine gun
1 x .30-06 Browning M1919A4 bow-mounted machine gun.
1 x .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine gun on turret roof.
1 x .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine gun in left-side sponson.
1 x .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine gun in right-side sponson.

M5 Stuart:
1 x 37mm M6 main gun
1 x .30-06 Browning M1919A4 coaxial machine gun
1 x .30-06 Browning M1919A4 bow-mounted machine gun.
1 x .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine gun on turret roof.

103 x 37mm projectiles
7,500 x 7.30-06 caliber ammunition

Light Tank M2 - Initial Light Tank Design on which the M3/M5 series derived from; fitted with a 37mm main gun.

Light Tank M2A4 - Training Tank

Light Tank M3 - Based on the M2A4; revised suspension system; increased armor and combat weight; "Stuart" designation brought about by British forces.

Light Tank M3A1 - Mass Production Model; early models of riveted construction, appearing later with welded turrets and welded hulls; armed with 1 x 37mm main gun and 5 x 7.62mm machine guns.

Light Tank M3 "Stuart I" - Fitted with Continental 7-cylinder gasoline engine.

Light Tank M3 "Stuart II" - Fitted with Guiberson T-1020 diesel engine.

Light Tank M3A1 "Stuart III" - Gasoline engine; power-traverse turret; gyro stabilized main gun.

Light Tank M3A1 "Stuart IV" - Diesel engine; gyro stabilized main gun; power-traverse turret.

Light Tank M3A3 "Stuart V" - Increased Armor Protection; revised drivers station; radio necessitating bulged rear compartment.

Light Tank M5 - Fitted with 2 x Cadillac engines; revised rear hull end; designated Stuart VI when in British service.

Light Tank M5A1 - Redesigned turret; radio addition necessitating bulged rear compartment.

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