The Stingray Light Tank was developed as a private venture by Cadillac Gage (now Textron Marine & Land Systems) with the budget-conscious export market in mind. The target audience were, therefore, national armies with interest in combat-quality tank offering hard-hitting ranged firepower with good inherent mobility without the expensive nature of procuring, operating and maintaining Main Battle Tanks such as the M1 Abrams or Leopard 2 series. As such, Cadillac Gage took to utilizing many readily available off-the-shelf components in its inventory to make up the internals of a new, light-weight tracked vehicle which came to be known as the "Stingray". As a "light tank" system, the Stingray holds some tactical liabilities on the modern battlefield - compared to the firepower and armor protection of modern MBTs - though the vehicle still retains value in the armored reconnaissance and fire support role thanks to its strong agility. To date, only Thailand has procured the Stingray series in number, having procured 108 examples of the machine.
Design of the Stingray began in 1983 to which a prototype was made ready for testing in 1984. With Thailand interest secured, a prototype was delivered for evaluation in 1986 to which the system trialed successfully, resulting in a procurement order for 106 production-quality vehicles for the Royal Thai Army in 1987. Cadillac Gage began manufacture and deliveries commenced in 1988, eventually completing in 1990.
The overall configuration of the Stingray is conventional with a crew of four - a driver, vehicle commander, gunner and loader - managing the various onboard systems of the tank. The turret is situated at the center of the hull roof with full 360-degree traversal through electrical operation (manual traverse as backup). The turret sports well-sloped frontal surfaces for basic ballistics protection and houses three of the crew with the driver at front-center of the hull. The engine takes up a compartment at the rear of the design. The vehicle makes use of six double-tired road wheels to a track side with three track return rollers each. The drive sprocket is at the rear with the track idler at the front. The hull sides are noticeably vertical in their design, offering only limited support. The Stingray is protected over in up to 23mm of armor at its thickest facing through all-welded construction. This provides a counter to small arms fire (up to 14.5mm in caliber) and artillery spray but little else. Only optional applique armor blocks increase crew and systems protection at the expense of weight and performance. Dimensionally, the 23 ton vehicle features a running length of 9.3 meters with a width of 3 meters and a standing height of 2.7 meters. As such, she can be transported in a medium-lift tactical aircraft such as the ubiquitous Lockheed C-130 Hercules series.
The Stingray is completed with the NATO-standard Royal Ordnance 105mm L7A3 rifled main gun with thermal sleeve - a once-effective implement during the Cold War and of an excellent British design. However, by modern standards, the 105mm has limited armor-penetrating capabilities and has since fallen out of favor when compared to the increased firepower of 120mm/125mm gun breeds available today. As a NATO-standard design, the Stingray does maintain access to the full line of NATO-standard 105mm projectiles. The main gun is backed by a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun which is utilized against infantry and lightly-armored targets at range when the main gun becomes an "inappropriate" solution. The vehicle is further defended by a 12.7mm anti-aircraft heavy machine gun on the turret roof, useful in countering low-flying fixed-wing aircraft types or helicopters. Eight smoke grenade dischargers are fitted in two banks of four to either forward turret side for developing smoke screens to cover the tank's movements. 32 x 105mm projectiles are stored about the hull and turret as are 2,400 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition and 1,100 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition. There are no onboard reloads for the smoke discharger systems.
Power for the Stingray is served through a Detroit Diesel Allison 8V-92TA liquid-cooled, turbocharged, diesel-fueled engine capable of generating up to 535 horsepower. The vehicle is suspended atop an independent trailing arm torsion bar suspension system which allows for a top road speed of 70 km/h on ideal surfaces and an operational range out to 480 kilometers. The suspension arrangement is similar to that as used in the M109 Paladin self-propelled gun (SPG) vehicle of the US Army.
The original Stingray line has since been modernized through the "Stingray II" initiative which was actively marketed as an Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) solution over that of a light tank as in the original. The new design features improved performance capabilities, slightly broadened armament options and an uprated engine of 550 horsepower as well as increased hit probability through a revamped Digital Fire Control System (DFCS). Additionally, the series sports a Low Recoil Force (LCF) main gun along with dual firing controls for both gunner and vehicle commander. Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks are optional but required for improved battlefield survivability and a thermal imaging system and laser rangefinder are among the provided optical assistance facilities. NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection is standard while a land navigation system and fire suppression system are optional. The Stingray II became available in 1996 though does not appear in active Textron Marine & Land Systems marketing material (2012).
The Cadillac Gage brand label has now been superseded by "Textron Marine & Land Systems" following the Cadillac Gage/Textron Marine merger of 1994.
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