M-51 Proyecto-T - The Chilean modification of the Israeli modification

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M-51 Proyecto-T

History:

By the end of the 70s, Chile was in a precarious situation in terms of armored material, this was really worrying since in those years Peru had acquired the Soviet T-55s and Argentina had the repowered Shermans and by then Chile had the old M4A1E9 that despite being slightly improved versions of the Shermans were insufficient to face the Peruvian and Argentine tanks. The acquisition of new armored material was a priority since border tensions with its neighbors were getting worse and a war could soon loom, so in 1981 Chile acquired 150 M-51 tanks from Israel since both countries had good relations. With the passage of time the tank was gaining the affection of the Chilean crews since they were a reliable medium and these tanks were distributed throughout the country, so they can be seen with different types of camouflage, for forest, desert and snow. The M-51s were kept in reserve until 2006 and were decommissioned in 2008. Some survive in museums or as guards in military bases in Chile.

Characteristics of the M-51 received by Chile

The Israeli M-51s had a CN 105 high pressure gun in a new mantlet fitted to the T23 turret, were repowered with Continental diesel engines, fitted with new HVSS suspensions, with wider tracks. this conversion occurred essentially on late cast hulls of the M4A1 type with large hatches or on late welded hulls with 47° glacis (M4 and/or M4A3), Chile received both versions although the version with 47° glacis was more scarce so they were less. As for the armament they had the 105 mm gun L.51 D.1508. Before being sent to Chile, a .50 machine gun was installed in the upper part of the barrel, which was a rather peculiar modification, and a .30 machine gun was kept in the commander’s cupola. There are several photos of this special modification for Chile.

Chilean M-51 with the additional .50 machine gun near the tank barrel

Chilean M-51 derived from an M4A1(76)HVSS

Chilean M-51 in snow camo derived from an M4 or M4A3

Simfire simulation system

To get acquainted with the new tank and train the crew the Simfire Tank Gunnery Simulator (TGS) was purchased from the Swiss company Solartron Analytical. This simulation system was made up of a laser beam projector mounted on the barrel connected to the gunner’s trigger and on top of the tank smoke launchers of different colors that simulated battle situations, the yellow smoke simulated that the tank had been hit by an enemy shot and the red smoke meant that the tank had been destroyed, these smoke launchers were activated when the laser beam hit the system’s detector unit. This realistic system was very useful for the Chilean crew as it gave them more experience in a real combat environment.

An M-51 (on an M4A3 hull) with the Simfire system

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An M-51 on M4A1 hull with a Simfire having been hit during an exercise

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The Chilean improvements, the proyecto-T

Over the years the old engines that these M-51 had began to reach the end of their useful life and have poor performance, for this reason Chile carried out the so-called “Project-T” that consisted in the modernization of the tank, mainly the change of the old engine for a new one, a new 8V-71T diesel engine giving 350 hp at 2,100 rpm from the Detroit Diesel Company was fitted, the original Cletrac manual gearbox was retained due to its excellent quality and because the modification implied that the tanks will increase their acceleration and effective force, which was demonstrated in a series of hill climbing exercises, etc. In this way the maximum speed of the tanks increased from 38 km/h to 46 km/h. The upgrade involved a modified engine deck. The exhaust system was mounted on the left side with the exhaust pipe facing downwards and covered with a curved perforated grille. An improved periscope was also added to the driver. Another very important improvement was the addition of laser rangefinders for commanders.

New engine

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Modified engine platform and new exhaust pipe


M-51 with the RKM mineroller

In the context of a possible war with Peru in northern Chile, the border had been mined, for this reason at least 8 RKM Nochri anti-mine roller systems were acquired from Israel that had been captured from the Syrian and Egyptian armies. The plate that was attached to the Chilean M-51s was specially designed for them through a joint effort between IMI and FAMAE of Chile (Fabricas y Maestranzas del Ejercito), these supports were installed on the hulls of the M4A1 and M4A3 although it was in the latter where it was preferred to install them since they fited better. On some occasions this special support was kept attached even if the minesweeper system was not installed, since this support was thick and could provide additional armor to the lower part of the hull of the tanks, mainly protecting the tank transmission and giving the Chilean tanks a distinctive look.

Chilean M-51 with the minesweeper installed

Chilean M-51 with the minesweeper mount as additional armor

Detail of the minesweeper mount

Specifications:

  • Crew:
    • 5 (Commander, gunner, loader, driver, bow-gunner)
  • Armament:
    • Primary: 105 mm gun L.51 D.1508 with 47 rounds
    • Secondary: Coaxial Browning M1919 7.62 mm machine gun with 4750 rounds, Browning M1919 7.62 mm machine gun or Browning M2HB 12.7 mm machine with 600 rounds gun on top, Browning M2HB 12.7 mm machine on top of the tank barrel, Four 76mm smoke grenade launcher.
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 6.15 m
    • Width: 2.42 m
    • Height: 2.24 m
    • Weight: 40 tons battle ready
  • Maneuverability:
    • Engine: Detroit 8V-71T 350 HP diesel with 606 liters tank
    • Maximum speed: 46 km/h
    • Suspensions: Horizontal Volute Springs Suspensions (HVSS)
  • Armour:
    • 63 mm frontal hull, 38 mm sides and rear, 19 mm top and bottom. 89 mm mantlet, 73 mm front, sides and rear of the turret.
  • Accessories:
    • laser rangefinder for commander
    • RKM mineroller
    • Additional front armor plate

Photos:


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Sources:

4 Likes

Some photos taken a few days ago of an M-51 Proyecto-T

1 Like

According to Tank Encyclopedia, the 8V-71T used by Chilean Shermans had 535 hp.

Also, the Israelis put .50 Cals over their Shermans’ gun barrels as well: https://i.imgur.com/RzKzmfD.jpg

Still crazy to think the Sherman Tank was in service till 2018 with Paraguay being the last nation to service it. Within an Official sense, since there are probably still Shermans out there still being used/serviced just not in a large number.