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Could Sherman tanks still have some military use?


Proyas
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Is there any way Sherman tanks could be upgraded at reasonable cost to still have a role on the battlefield? Assume that your military will never fight with a world-class army (U.S., Russia, China, etc.) and instead will only fight with second-rate armies using 1990s technology at best, or with terrorists, or go on peacekeeping missions. 

 

I'm thinking that the Shermans could have their turrets removed and modern autoloading turrets from other armored vehicles--like the 105mm Stryker gun, or the 40mm autocannon from the CV10, or the 30mm from the BMP-2 (would any of these fit in the Sherman's turret ring?)--could be dropped in, along with their sensors and computers. ATGM launchers could be installed as well. Explosive reactive armor bricks could be attached to the outside, as is common among modern Russian tanks. 

 

Assume that your Sherman fleet is 1,000 tanks, in various states of (dis)repair, so you have enough spare parts to last for many years. 

 

What do you guys think? Thanks. 

 

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Welcome to SH!

 

Just thinking about it off the top of my head, it could possibly be done (Brazil heavily upgraded their M3 Stuarts, and the NM116 was a heavily upgraded Chaffee that served into the late Cold War), several countries (such as Israel and Chile) kept them going until the 1980s. Is the hypothetical country for some reason unable to obtain more modern armor such as T-55s, T-72s, or M60s? Those tanks aren't too expensive, and there's numerous upgrade packages available for them already developed (even for something as old as the T-55).

 

For reference, some turret ring diameters;

  • M4 Sherman: 69 inches / 1752 mm
  • T-54/55: 71.8 in / 1825 mm
  • BMP-2: 68.5 in / 1740 mm (taken from a translated Russian site, use with caution)
  • M48 & M60: 85 in / 2160 mm
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4 minutes ago, LostCosmonaut said:

Is the hypothetical country for some reason unable to obtain more modern armor such as T-55s, T-72s, or M60s? Those tanks aren't too expensive, and there's numerous upgrade packages available for them already developed (even for something as old as the T-55).

Let's say you just got the 1,000 Shermans for free, and you want to make use of them. 

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Interestingly enough, the last Shermans only left service this year:

https://www.janes.com/article/79476/paraguayan-army-retires-last-m4-shermans-from-service

But to answer your question, if you were fighting guerillas that had no access to anti-tank weaponry it would be useful. I don't think it would be worthwile to upgrade them any further than maybe replacing the main gun with a low-pressure 90mm, though.

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4 minutes ago, Clan_Ghost_Bear said:

Interestingly enough, the last Shermans only left service this year:

https://www.janes.com/article/79476/paraguayan-army-retires-last-m4-shermans-from-service

But to answer your question, if you were fighting guerillas that had no access to anti-tank weaponry it would be useful. I don't think it would be worthwile to upgrade them any further than maybe replacing the main gun with a low-pressure 90mm, though.

Might be a dumb question, but what is the difference between a normal 90mm main gun and a low-pressure 90mm main gun?

 

Why couldn't a Sherman have a 105mm cannon? The Styker is smaller but has it. 

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2 hours ago, Proyas said:

Might be a dumb question, but what is the difference between a normal 90mm main gun and a low-pressure 90mm main gun?

 

Why couldn't a Sherman have a 105mm cannon? The Styker is smaller but has it. 

 

If I am remembering correctly, the Israeli's tried putting a 105mm L7 gun and the turret could not withstand the recoil.  So they went with the French 105mm gun instead with a special low power shell to reduce recoil.  The system on the Stryker is an external gun system which allows for a very long recoil, something that the small size of a Sherman turret would not be able to accomodate.  

 

As to the main question, I think one important factor is "which version of the Sherman are we starting with?"  An easy eight is going to have a lot more upgrade potential than an early M4A1 with 75mm gun turret.  

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3 hours ago, Proyas said:

Might be a dumb question, but what is the difference between a normal 90mm main gun and a low-pressure 90mm main gun?

 

Why couldn't a Sherman have a 105mm cannon? The Styker is smaller but has it. 

 

Low pressure equals low recoil.  Which means it can be mounted on a vehicle that is lighter than a standard main battle tank.  The disadvantage is that a low pressure gun is also low muzzle velocity, which limits it to HEAT style anti-tank rounds.  

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10 hours ago, Walter_Sobchak said:

Low pressure equals low recoil.  Which means it can be mounted on a vehicle that is lighter than a standard main battle tank.  The disadvantage is that a low pressure gun is also low muzzle velocity, which limits it to HEAT style anti-tank rounds.  

 

That is not quite true, Belgian and French 90 mm low-pressure gun can actually fire APFSDS and high-velocity HEAT rounds.

 

The French even designed APFSDS for their mortars...

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2 hours ago, Xlucine said:

Spare parts would be a very significant cost if you actually wanted to use them, probably worth replacing the engine, transmission and tracks

Are there any newer tank engines that could be easily installed in a Sherman? 

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50 minutes ago, Proyas said:

Are there any newer tank engines that could be easily installed in a Sherman? 

 

I would think so.  So many different engines were used in the M4 that it's reasonable to assume that a new engine could be installed without too much trouble.  Israel put a Cummins diesel into the Sherman, although I can't find any information on which particular model of Cummins they used other than it was 460 HP.  The Cummins VTA-903T used in the Bradley family of vehicles would be my guess as to which modern engine to use in an upgrade since it's a proven performer and still in production.  Looking at the engine dimension figures, it seems pretty comparable with other Sherman engines in terms of size

 

VTA-903t dimensions 1148mm length, 1011mm width, 1288mm height

 

Ford GAA dimensions 1499mm length, 845mm width, 1214mm height

 

Continental R975  1092mm length, 1143mm diameter

 

 

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As a few others have said: sell the M4s and buy T-55s/T-72s.

 

If you absolutely had to keep them, then stuff in a new engine, transmission and gun. You could actually fit a fair bit of extra armour on (about 4 tonnes if Jumbo is any indication) but I honestly wouldn't bother with anything. This vehicle is scrap if it bumps into any even remotely modern anti-tank weapon system regardless of what you slap on. Far better to retain as much mobility as possible and improve crew survivability by, for instance, installing better ammo storage.

 

In terms of the gun, I agree that a 90/105mm low-velocity piece is the best option. Failing that, I'd put a word in for the Rooikat's 76mm gun as it can handle older MBTs and is overall less boring. You'd definitely want to add in a laser rangefinder and ballistic computer, but that's not too difficult these days. Stick an ATGM on the turret top for the commander to play with if you feel like it. Or a MANPADS if you're secretly North Korean.

 

About the other most useful (and hardest to implement) upgrades would be to put in full stabilization and modern optics. For the former I again wouldn't bother - you'd end up stripping and reworking most of the turret interior, at which point you might as well just replace the whole damn thing. For the latter a modern day/night periscope for the commander should be doable. You're not going to get a proper hunter/killer system in without work, so I'd just leave it there.

 

Finally; I'd add in obvious but little-discussed stuff like modern radios and a decent GPS system. This would need auxiliary power, so stuffing in a modern battery pack and replacing little joe with a modern 4-stroke generator would probably be needed. I'd also put in a proper air conditioning system and whatever quality-of-life stuff my crew really wants (a boiler for the brits, for instance). You can at least keep them comfortable while they wait for an RPG-7/IED/ATGM to suddenly enter their lives.

 

Having done all of this you'd end up with a valuable antique with most of the original bits gutted and a bunch of modern stuff slapped on (probably lowering the value in the process); capable of maybe ambushing last-gen MBTs or providing indirect fire support to infantry.

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12 hours ago, Proyas said:

Are there any newer tank engines that could be easily installed in a Sherman? 

 

 

One advantage the Sherman has is that tranny, dif, and final drivers are not connected directly to the motor, so anything that fits and makes around 500 HP would work, but for it to work well, it needs to be making full torque and HP at no more than 2500 RPM and the lower the RPM the better. 

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5 minutes ago, Jeeps_Guns_Tanks said:

 

 

One advantage the Sherman has is that tranny, dif, and final drivers are not connected directly to the motor, so anything that fits and makes around 500 HP would work, but for it to work well, it needs to be making full torque and HP at no more than 2500 RPM and the lower the RPM the better. 

 

When I was at the Russell Military Museum in Zion Illinois a couple years ago, I was talking to the museum owner about Sherman tanks.  He said it's really easy to stall out an Isherman with the Cummins diesel when turning.  He owns one, so I expect he is talking from experience.  His rationale was that it had something to do with how the lower RPM diesel interacted with the transmission.  Not sure I understood it to be honest.

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14 minutes ago, Walter_Sobchak said:

 

When I was at the Russell Military Museum in Zion Illinois a couple years ago, I was talking to the museum owner about Sherman tanks.  He said it's really easy to stall out an Isherman with the Cummins diesel when turning.  He owns one, so I expect he is talking from experience.  His rationale was that it had something to do with how the lower RPM diesel interacted with the transmission.  Not sure I understood it to be honest.

 

I've heard similar things from other sources, basically my understanding is the Cummins, (thanks for the page corrections, I fix them ASAP) doesn't make power at a low enough RPM so at low speed, the engine is struggling the extra load from the steering brakes stalls it out.  Maybe Meplat knows more, I could have it wrong too. 

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7 hours ago, Jeeps_Guns_Tanks said:

 

 

One advantage the Sherman has is that tranny, dif, and final drivers are not connected directly to the motor, so anything that fits and makes around 500 HP would work, but for it to work well, it needs to be making full torque and HP at no more than 2500 RPM and the lower the RPM the better. 

 

That'd be easy to fix with a pair of gears between the engine and transmission, if you wanted to run the thing off a high speed engine. Just a transfer case like the M7

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4 hours ago, Xlucine said:

so anything that fits and makes around 500 HP would work, but for it to work well, it needs to be making full torque and HP at no more than 2500 RPM and the lower the RPM the better. 

Add a V55, that makes insane torque at low rpm... I dont know if it would be possible to squeezed in...

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On 12/27/2018 at 6:41 PM, Proyas said:

Might be a dumb question, but what is the difference between a normal 90mm main gun and a low-pressure 90mm main gun?

 

 

 

The lower the pressure in the breech of the cannon, the less steel you need to keep the cannon from exploding.  Low-pressure guns are much lighter, but also lower-performing relative to their size.

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