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Cold War Chilean Armor

M-51 in Chilean Service

Republic of Chile (1978-2006)
Medium Tank – 119 Purchased

After their valiant successes in two Arab-Israeli wars against more advanced Syrian and Egyptian tanks, the Israeli M-51s ended up in Chile. There, from 1978 to 2006, they finished their service history, sometimes lasting over 60 years.

They did this 13,000 km away from Israel, in a terrain very similar to the dusty Sinai peninsula and the mountainous Golan Heights and in a nation that, like Israel, was politically alone and was surrounded by belligerent nations.

In South America, just like in the Middle East, the M-51s proved to be very reliable and suitable for the needs of the Ejército de Chile (Eng. Chilean Army).

An M-51 of the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 9 “Vencedores” during training in the Atacama Desert. Source: facebook.com

Chile’s Political Situation

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Chile drew near the United States and its economic policy, which led to many wealthy American and Chilean tycoons to invest large sums of money in the development of some industries in Chile.

The poorest social classes of the nation, mostly farmers and workers, to whom the investments brought little else but more exploitation, increased their support of the leftist parties. In 1970, Salvador Guillermo Allende, the candidate for Unidad Popular (Eng: Popular Unity), a coalition between the center-left and left wing parties Partido Radical de Chile (Eng: Radical Party of Chile), Partido Comunista de Chile and Partido Socialista de Chile (Eng: Socialist Party of Chile), was elected as president. Allende implemented major reforms for the country to help the population including increasing literacy rates, decreasing rents and food costs, funding for public health services and the nationalization of some major industries. In addition, the new administration was substantially closer to socialist nations, such as Cuba and the Soviet Union, and moved away from the United States and its economic policy.

The Chilean affluent classes did not see these reforms favorably and with some funding from the CIA they financed dissident members of the Ejército de Chile.

A first attempt to topple Allende took place on June 29, 1973 when the soldiers of the Regimiento Blindado N.º 2 commanded by Lt. Col. Roberto Souper arrived in Santiago de Chile and surrounded the Palacio de la Moneda, the residence of Salvador Allende.
This coup has become known as ‘el Tanquetazo’ (from the Spanish word for tank – tanque) because of the many tanks used. 22 people were killed but Allende was not deposed.

A second coup, commanded by General Augusto José Pinochet, overthrew the Allende government on September 11, 1973.

Between September 1973 and March 1990, the nation was commanded by General Pinochet, who was accused of crimes against humanity, including the murder of thousands and the unlawful imprisonment of houndreds of thousands under his totalitarian regime.

His political conduct accentuated the problems between Chile and Peru and destroyed the bond of peace with Argentina by reigniting border disputes.

The three nations launched a race for the most modern weaponry that the three South American nations could financially afford. Fortunately, this never resulted in a real war, but conflict was barely avoided.

In January 1978, Argentina denounced the decision of an external tribunal composed of 5 judges (chosen by Chile and Argentina) and of the Court of Justice of The Hague regarding the Chilean ownership of the islands of the Beagle Channel. Argentina began to prepare for a military offensive.

Argentina planned to launch the Operación Soberanía (Operation Sovereignty) on December 22, 1978, in two phases. The first phase involved aerial bombardments of Chilean Tierra del Fuego and of Chilean military airports, and the second one was a huge ground attack along the 5,150 km long border with Chile.

An Argentinian Sherman IV Hybrid ‘Repotenciado’ on the border, ready to attack the Chilean positions, December 22, 1978. Source: reddit.com

At that time, due to the embargo, Chile was in no position to attack the technologically superior Argentinians, and prepared to defend its territory. In fact, the element of surprise was lost because the Chileans constantly monitored the moves of the Argentine fleet and could identify the buildup of Argentinian soldiers along the border.

Fortunately, on December 22, 1978 a storm slowed down the operations of the Argentine fleet, allowing Pope John Paul II to negotiate a peace.

The Argentine operation was aborted 6 hours before the start of the landing of troops in Tierra del Fuego.

Chilean military situation before the M-51

M4A1E9 at the Antofagasta training school, 1970. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

Between 1947 and 1952, thanks to the good relations with the United States, Chile received a total of 48 M4A1E9(75)D Shermans equipped with VVSS suspension with larger tracks to reduce ground pressure. These came along with seven M32B1 Armored Recovery Vehicles, nicknamed ‘Panchotes’ by the crews, and a first batch of 21 M24 Chaffees.

These medium tanks formed the backbone of the Chilean Armored Corps for about 20 years.

The M4A1s were withdrawn from service in the late 1970s, while the M32B1s and some reconditioned M24s were not retired until the early 2000s.

Between 1964 and 1970, Chile also received a total of 60 M41A1 Walker Bulldogs which, together with some M4A1s, were employed during the 1973 coup d’état.

After the coup, two other great developments shook the Chilean military in the first half of the 1970s. The first was the acquisition by Peru of over 375 T-54s and T-55s between 1973 and 1975. The second was the condemnation by the UN and the embargo on military equipment caused by Pinochet’s bloody dictatorial regime.

Towards the end of the 1970’s, Argentina, with French support, modified 120 of its approximately 200 Sherman ‘Fireflies’ into Sherman ‘Repotenciado’ (1978). They also produced, with the assistance of Thyssen-Henschel, the Tanque Argentino Mediano, also called TAM (1979).

The Chilean Army could only count on 21 modern tanks, the AMX-30, purchased from France.

In fact, the order had been for 80 vehicles, but due to the embargo, the French did not send the remaining 59 vehicles. The few units received had a very short operational history because there was a shortage of spare parts that did not arrive until the 1990s, when the embargo was finally lifted.

To overcome the lack of adequate armored vehicles needed to face the Argentinian and Peruvian threats, the High Command of the Chilean Army tried to buy additional armored vehicless. They were interested in the Austrian SK-105 Küraissier, British Centurion, Brazilian EE-9 Cascavel and the light French AMX-13-75. However, apart from the EE-9s, of which 83 were bought, the other nations were not interested in selling their vehicles to Chile in order to avoid diplomatic incidents or not undermining military and economic relations with the United States.

Chile turned to Israel, which accepted the request for help by proposing several vehicles to the Chilean Army.

The critical lack of funds and the US military embargo, in addition to the lack of Israeli availability, did not allow the purchase of military vehicles of newer generations, such as Centurions or M60 Pattons. Thus, Chile was forced to fall back on less modern vehicles.

Sherman Repotenciado near Buenos Aires, 2016. Source: deviantart.com

Another great problem of the Chilean Army was that, even in the 1970s, the Cavalry Corps (equipped with light and fast tanks, such as the M24 Chaffee and M3 Stuart) was completely independent from the Armored Corp (equipped with medium tanks, such as the M4A1E9 Sherman and M41A1 Walker Bulldog). With different training schools, with officers and NCOs with different training and with different doctrines of employment, effective cooperation between the two units of the army was difficult. This made joint operations between armored forces and infantry very complex, as it was necessary to coordinate three different forces, Cavalry units, Armored units and Infantry units.

Israeli M-51

After its creation in 1948, the State of Israel was able to purchase dozens of M4 Medium Tanks of all kinds from various nations. These formed the first heterogeneous Israeli armored fleet, armed with 75 mm, 76 mm and 105 mm guns, all types of engines and suspensions.

The Israeli generals soon realized that the standard M4s armed with the 75 mm gun and the 105 mm support version were not able to effectively fight against the Soviet-made tanks supplied to Egypt and Syria. Thus, they asked France for help.

With French support, between 1954 and 1956, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) developed the M-50, a medium tank based on the M4 hull rearmed with a French CN-75-50 75 mm cannon (the same as on the AMX-13-75) in a modified turret.

The new vehicle was used with excellent results during the Suez Crisis of 1956, but the IDF soon realized that, in order to face future threats, a 75 mm gun would not be enough. In 1960, again with French support, another version of the M4 rearmed with a 105 mm gun, the D.1508 L.51, was developed. This was a shortened version of the 105 mm Modèle F1 L.56 (the same of the AMX-30) that could not fire APFSDS-T ammunition because of the reduced muzzle velocity.

Unlike the M-50, the M-51s were produced on M4 chassis originally armed with 76 mm M1 guns (or their upgraded versions), because the T23 turrets had more internal space to better accommodate the breech of the powerful French gun.

M-50 on M4A3(75)W hull in Israel, date unknown. Source: Deviantart.com

Another big upgrade was the engine. In the 1950s, due to logistical reasons (following the French example), all Israeli M4s were re-powered with the Continental R-975 C4 delivering 420 hp. Also for this reason, most of the M-51s were based on M4A1(76)W Sherman hulls, and in some rare instances on M4A3(76)W hulls with radial Continental engines. It was immediately realized that the radial engines and VVSS (Vertical Volute Spring Suspension) suspension could not cope with the weight increase of the M-51s, which came in at 39 tonnes.

Immediately, HVSS (Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension) was introduced and, as soon as they were available, the new 460 hp VT-8-460 Turbodiesel diesel engines of the Cummins Engine Company were installed, which increased the vehicle’s range and speed.

M-51 on M4A1(76)W hull during the Six Days War, 1967. Source: pinterest.com

The M-51s fought alongside the M-50s in the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. They were obviously more than outdated in the latter war, but still able to face enemy armored vehicles, such as the Syrian and Egyptian T-34-85, SU-100 and more modern T-54s and T-55s. In some cases, they even destroyed some T-62s of the Arab armies.

The success in the Arab-Israeli conflicts was not only due to the technical superiority of their armored vehicles (which were fewer and, in the case of the M-50 and M-51, were less modern than most Arab vehicles) but, above all, to the excellent training of their tank crews. These far exceeded the training of the Egyptian and Syrian tank crews in many respects.

In the mid-1970s, Chile and Israel were concluding negotiations for SAM missiles and electronic equipment when Chile requested to also purchase armored vehicles.

The exact number of M-51s that arrived in Chile was 119, but some sources mention 85, 117 or even as many as 150 units.

Following logical reasoning, it is easy to understand that 150 units could not have arrived in Chile. Of the 180 units produced by Israel, some were destroyed in the Sinai or in the Golan Heights in 1967 or 1973, 6 were supplied to Lebanon in 1975 and another 6 ex-Israeli units are exhibited in museums or used as monuments.

The 119 M-51s that arrived in Chile in 1978 were of the fourth series, the last upgrade package of the Israeli M-51s. This variant was also in service in Israeli Army between 1978 and 1990 and had important innovations for urban combat. These included a 60 mm mortar mounted between the commander’s cupola and the loader’s hatch, which was usable only by leaning over one of the two hatches. The Browning M2HB 12.7 mm caliber machine gun was dismounted from the commander’s cupola support and was mounted on a support on the 105 mm gun barrel. A 7.62 mm Browning M1919 caliber machine gun was mounted on a new scissor mount near the commander’s cupola.

A box for the 60 mm mortar ammunition was then mounted to the right side of the turret counterweight.

These modifications were made after the experiences of the Lebanese in the Lebanese Civil War in order to increase firepower. The modifications were very useful in fighting in urban environments, especially with militias fighting with guerrilla strategies.

A great novelty was also the adoption of a rudimentary night vision system. Night vision periscopes were mounted on the driver, commander and loader’s hatches, as well as an Infrared (IR) intensifier on the hull.

The engine deck was also modified. The previous versions had added air intakes and the exhaust system in the lower part, while for the new version, the upper part was modified to increase the air flow and therefore improve the cooling of the engine compartment.

To Chile

In 1977, Chile and Israel signed a contract that provided for the purchase of tanks, other vehicles of various types and for the dispatch of Israeli technicians and specialists commanded by General David Elazar to train Chilean tankers.

A first batch of 10 M-51s arrived by sea in 1977 and was transported to the Atacama Desert, where the Chileans evaluated them. The other 109 M-51s were shipped in 1978 and arrived in Valparaíso in the same year.

Of the 119 Chilean M-51s, between 6 and 12 were on M4A3(76)W hulls. Unfortunately, precise data is not available.

From there, they were transferred to the Training School in Peldehue, near Santiago de Chile. There, they were modified by the Chileans by removing the 60 mm mortar from the turret, the 12.7 mm caliber Browning M2HB machine gun from the support on the barrel of the cannon and the 7.62 mm caliber Browning M1919 machine gun from the scissor mount on the turret. In a hypothetical conflict in South America, urban clashes would have been very rare and Chile would have been on the defensive. As a result, the urban warfare kit was seen as not necessary.

It is worth mentioning that the removal of the machine guns was not a standardized affair. The 7.62 mm caliber machine guns were refitted almost immediately on the scissor mount near the commander’s cupola. In some cases, a 7.62×51 mm Rheinmetall MG3 was fitted instead of the Browning. On some M-51s, the 12.7 mm caliber machine guns were still mounted until 1990.

One M-51 was totally dismantled to train mechanic teams and to permit local factories to produce spare parts together with the 105 mm ammunition.

It should also be mentioned that the Chilean crews greatly appreciated the night vision system which was later installed on their M-50s rearmed with the 60 HVMS gun and on the M24 Chaffee rearmed with the same gun.

Rangefinder lasers were added to the M-51s of the platoon commanders, so that they could direct the fire of the M-51s under their command.

In some cases, the machine guns in the ball mounts in the hull were remounted. The Browning M1919A4 machine gun placed there on the regular M4 Shermans was removed by the Israelis in late ’60s and early ’70s because they did not have enough crewmen to equip all the tanks they owned and in order to free up more space for ammunition. The Israelis brought their Sherman-based crews down to four men, increasing the number of soldiers available for other tanks.

The reinstallation of the machine guns in the hull, as can be seen from some photographs, was done only on a few vehicles for a reason not yet clarified. It is possible they were only reinstalled on Platoon and Company Commander’s vehicles.

An M-51 on M4A1 hull. The machine gun in the hull and the machine gunner with his head out of the hatch are clearly visible. Source: facebook.com

On some M-50s, the crews placed a fridge to store drinking water or a rack with extra 60 mm ammunition on the right side of the gearbox, where the machine gunner’s position was previously located. It is very likely that similar changes were made on the M-51s without a hull machine gun.

Sequential numbers were welded in Peldehue onto the frontal plate of the hulls. This allowed the vehicles to be identified in case an explosion or fire erased the serial numbers painted on top of the camouflage.

M-51s lined up at Peldehue after the Chilean modifications, 1981. The absence of the 60 mm mortar ammunition box on the right side of the counterweight is visible. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

Proposed Update of 1978

The Israeli companies Nimda Co., Israel Military Industries (IMI) and National Aluminum and Profile Co. (NAPCO) developed an upgrade for the M-50 and M-51, regardless of the model to be sold to Chile, following the example of the Norwegian NM-116.

The project involved taking CN-75-50 guns, reboring the barrel to bring the caliber from 75 to 90 mm and modifying the breech and muzzle brake. On the M-51s, this would have involved replacing the gun mantlet in order to fit the 90 mm cannons. This expedient would have allowed the gun to be brought to the level of the GIAT CN-90-F3 low pressure gun mounted on the AMX-13-90.

The gun would then be mounted on the M-50s and M-51s along with a new engine, the Detroit Diesel SV-71T, mated to a new Allison HT 700 5-speed automatic transmission, new sand filters, cooling system and exhaust system. The Shermans, after the upgrade, would have had the same weight but a top speed of about 46 km/h and a range of about 300 km with the original 606-liter tanks.

The decision to develop this version armed with a 90 mm low-pressure cannon was made because, in 1976, the Chilean Army was interested in the 90 mm cannon. When Israel decided to help them upgrade their M24s in 1979, the Chileans asked to mount a 90 mm cannon on it, as in the Norwegian project. Chile already had the 90 mm low-pressure cannon in use with the Brazilian Engesa EC-90 of the EE-9 Cascavel (which was a copy of the Belgian Mecar 90 mm). Thus, there would be no need to buy new stocks of ammunition, spare parts and so on.

Due to the embargo, however, Chile was not able to receive new 90 mm cannons from the Brazilians or the Israelis. Due to diplomatic problems with France, they could not be provided with French 90 mm cannons. Apparently, Belgium preferred not to sell 90 mm Mecar cannons to avoid souring international relations.

The upgrading project was then abandoned for a few years but was restarted when Peru was interested in purchasing the more modern Soviet T-62 MBTs (never purchased in the end).
When the news came, Israel proposed the cannon developed by IMI and the Italian company OTO-Melara, the 60 mm L.70, for the M-50.

Crew Training and Structure

With the combat tactics and training from experienced IDF instructors, the Chilean crews greatly appreciated their M-51s, which the soldiers nicknamed ‘Burritos’, little donkeys.

In addition to training the Chilean crews in long-range firing and doctrine for the employment of the M-50 and M-51 in the Atacama Desert, the Israelis also created a doctrine for the employment of the Chilean armored forces that, up to December 31, 1981, had been divided into Armored Corps and Cavalry Corps.

As an example, after World War II, the Italian Army also had separated Cavalry and Armored Corps. Only in 1951 were they united into the ‘Armored and Mechanized Corps’, later renamed Armored Corps. Italy was one of the last nations in Europe that had this problem.

Due to the creation of the Armored Cavalry Corps of the Chilean Army, the Israeli instructors and the High Command of the Chilean Army had to help modify all the staff structure.

A new school for the training of officers for armored units or the retraining of cavalry officers and NCOs was formed in Quillota, and the one in Peldehue was converted.

Almost all cavalry regiments were renamed and became armored cavalry regiments.
Apart from these big organizational changes, the training was quite quick and easy. Chile already owned a number of Shermans and already had crews trained to use them, teams of mechanics trained to repair them and some spare parts. This was another reason why Chile decided to buy M-50s and M-51s in 1979 instead of continuing to try to buy more modern vehicles.

Because of the length of Chile, about 4,200 km from North to South, and the obvious logistical problems that derive from it, some regiments kept the five IMI UZI caliber 9 mm Parabellum submachine guns that the Israelis had installed as weapons for close defense, as well as the personal weapons of the crew, usually FAMAE FN-750 pistols. In some other cases, the crews removed the UZIs and installed five Italian Beretta PM12S of the same caliber.

To effectively train its crews, the Chilean Army purchased the Simfire Tank Gunnery Simulator (TGS) from the Swiss company Solartron Analytical.

This realistic crew training system was composed of several subsystems, like a low intensity laser beam projector mounted above the gun barrel connected to the gunner’s trigger. Behind the projector, above the turret, a pyrotechnic launcher was mounted that, when the gunner pulled the trigger, launched a grenade simulating the flash and sound of a gunshot. There were also four detector units that intercept the laser beams coming from the “enemy” projectors. On the roof of the turret, behind the launcher, was mounted a radio transceiver with its own antenna to connect the firing vehicles and the one that was hit.

A photo of an M-51 (on an M4A3 hull) from the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 9 “Vencedores” with the Simfire system. Source: facebook.com

There was also a red smoke generator connected to the detector units. It was set off when the vehicle was hit by the laser beam of an opposing vehicle to show the tank was destroyed. An amber light also flashed when the vehicle was hit, which was very useful for night operations or in very foggy areas of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.

The number of Simfires purchased is unknown, but they were certainly also used by the Chileans on their M41A1 Walker Bulldogs and probably on the M24 Chaffees rearmed with the 60 HVMS.

This allowed the Chilean crews to train in a more than realistic way. In addition to buying these systems from Switzerland, in 1978, Chile ordered and purchased 4 T-54s and T-55s (arrived in 1979) from Israel to train their crews in an even more realistic way, making them familiar with the opponent vehicles.

The Simfire was used also by British Army to train their crews on the Scorpion light tanks and Centurion and Chieftain Main Battle Tanks.

An M-51 on M4A1 hull with a Simfire having been hit during an exercise, Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 10 “Liberadores”, Peldehue, early 2000. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

The M-50s and M-51s had four French-made 80 mm smoke launchers on either side of the turret. These were used extensively during service with the IDF. When the purchase contract with Chile was signed, the ammunition for the smoke launchers was not supplied because Israel had gotten rid of them years earlier.

Asking France for smoke grenades stocks was out of the question due to the embargo and it was no longer possible to remount the 60 mm mortars on the M-51 turrets. The crews were provided with the same smoke grenade mortar that the Chilean infantry used and the smoke grenades were stored in the same box as the Israeli 60 mm mortar ammunition.

Chilean modifications in 1990

In late 1990, Chile began an upgrade program for the M-51s called “Proyecto-T” (Eng: Project-T).
Project T was based on the proposal of the Israeli companies from 1977, with some modifications. The gun modification proposal was not changed, but a new 8V-71T diesel engine giving 350 hp at 2,100 rpm from the Detroit Diesel Company was fitted. The old Cummins engines were no longer able to achieve the same performance as in the past and, moreover, it took too long to ignite as the diesel preheating chambers could not quickly bring the fuel to the combustion temperature, a problem already encountered by the Israelis, but exacerbated by wear due to prolonged use of almost thirty years.

The first batch of upgraded M-51s. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

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.

Unlike the 1979 upgrade package, the new Allison Transmission HT 700 gearbox was not fitted. The original Cletrac gearbox was retained.

The gunner’s optics were updated but, due to the limited internal space, the Browning M1919A4 coaxial machine gun was removed.

As for the armament, the D.1508 cannon remained unchanged. However, laser rangefinders were added on many M-51s and the gun mounts were repaired. These, due to the stress of recoil and continuous use, showed signs of aging and degradation, with large cracks.

The first 12 upgraded M-51s were delivered to the Chilean Army units in February 1995 and the last in February 1998.

Upgraded M-51 arriving at their Regimiento. Source: pinterest.com

In 1990, only 100 were upgraded as part of Project T. The other 17 (and the one that fell in the ocean) were used for spare parts, which means that, between 1995 and 1998, the regiments’ M-51 organic strength probably decreased, although the data is not clear.

Service in the Chilean Army

Of the 117 M-51 owned by Chile that were left because of the two lost vehicles, one dismounted and the other fell into the ocean.
The M-51s were delivered to four Armored Cavalry Regiments of the Chilean Army.
One of the regiments that used the M-51 was the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 9 “Vencedores” (Eng: 9th Armored Cavalry Regiment), at first located in Arica, on the Chile-Peru border. In 1987, it was moved to San Miguel de Azapa, a few kilometers further south.

This regiment employed its M-51s extensively, also receiving at least one M32 ‘Panchotes’ and two M-51s on M4A3(76)W hulls.

The M-51s (the regiment was the only one that also used the M-50) remained in service until 2002, when they were replaced by the Leopard 1V and, in 2007, by the Leopard 2A4.
It is noteworthy that, between 2002 and 2006, Chilean crews trained on both Leopard 1s and the old Shermans.

Crew in training with their M-51, somewhere in the desert near San Miguel de Azapa o Arica, 2002. Source: Facebook.com

The regiment had three different accidents with their Shermans. The first occurred in 1988, when a Mercedes-Benz truck carrying an M-50 on a trailer overturned. The second took place in similar circumstances but at an unknown date, when an M-51 with a mine clearing device overturned during transport on a paved road in the desert. In both cases, there were no casualties and the Panchote was used to lift the vehicles.

During maneuvers in the 1980’s, one of the M-51’s of this regiment, for an unclear reason, fell off a cliff in the region of La Portada, near Iquique. The M-51 remained at about 40 m underwater for several weeks, after which it was finally recovered, disassembled and used for spare parts. The fate of the crew is unknown.

The M-51 with mine clearing device overturned in the Atacama Desert. Source: Facebook.com

The Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 4 “Coraceros” (Eng: 4th Armored Cavalry Regiment) stationed in Osorno, in mid-Chile, also had M-51s. They were used until 2006, when the regiment was disbanded and the barracks was transformed into a Training School. The vehicles probably ended up in storage or were scrapped.

The Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 6 “Dragones” (Eng: 6th Armored Cavalry Regiment), stationed in the Punta Arenas Barracks, in the extreme south of Chile, on the Brunswick Peninsula in Patagonia, also received M-51s. In that region, there were some border disputes with Argentina, which claimed sovereignty over the Picton, Nueva and Lennox islands in the Beagle Channel.

Although the dispute was slowly being resolved thanks to the Papal State, the Chilean government preferred to send troops on the border as a deterrent against possible Argentine attacks.

The M-51s were used in this region until at least 2002, when the vehicles, probably more worn than those used further north because of the difficult terrain in which they had to operate, were put in reserve until 2006.

Two M-51s on M4A1(76)W hulls of the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 6 “Dragones” during training in the winter of 1986. From the picture, the M-51 in the foreground is one of those upgraded with the Project-T while the second one, in the background, is not yet upgraded. Source: facebook.com

The Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 8 “Exploradores” (Eng: 8th Armored Cavalry Regiment) stationed in Antofagasta, northeastern Chile, received M-51s later than the other armored cavalry regiments, between 1984 and 1985.

Their employment is not well documented and, unfortunately, there is not much information about the service of the M-51s stationed in Antofagasta. However, on more than one occasion, the crews trained with those of the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 9 “Vencedores” .

The Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 10 “Liberadores” (Eng: 10th Armored Cavalry Regiment) had received some M-51s after the modifications of 1990. The crews trained with M-51s from the early 1990s until 2000 and received them for a short amount of time but, when the first Leopards purchased began arriving in Chile, the regiment’s crews were redirected to the Leopards, abandoning the M-51s.

Within the regiments, the M-51s equipped a homogeneous company consisting only of M-51 tanks, armored personnel carriers (of various models) and reconnaissance vehicles. It is not clear how the M-51 companies were structured. The book Serie Terrestre No°2 M4 Sherman (the only one which talks about the the structure of the M-51-equipped units in the Ejército de Chile) mentions that, thanks to the Israeli instructors, the Israeli organic structure was maintained, i.e., 3 platoons of 10 tanks that formed a company plus a company commander’s tank for a total of 31 M-51 per regiment. It is unlikely that each regiment received 31 M-51s. The total number of M-51s in the regiments would amount to 124 which would have meant the Chilean Army would not have had any M-51s in reserve or in schools for training. This leads to the supposition that the Israeli unit scheme of 3 platoons of 10 tanks was not maintained.

It is difficult to make assumptions based on the very little data available on this subject and on the poor records of the Chilean Army. Another hypothesis is that there were 20 vehicles plus the tank of the company commander for each regiment. This would mean a total of 84 vehicles plus 35 in reserve and in training schools, a hypothesis much more plausible than 31 tanks per regiment.

M-51 Mine Clearance

For mine-clearing duties, Chile used M-51s equipped with KMT-5M roller mine clearing devices.

The 7.5 tonne heavy mine-clearing system has a very complex history. It was manufactured in East Germany for the Soviet Red Army in the 1960s, and was sold to the Syrians and Egyptians for their T-54s, T-55s and T-62s.

T-54M Mod. 1951 with KMT-5M used by the Finnish Army in 1983. Source: militaryimages.net

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israelis captured several dozens of these, keeping them in service on their Tirans or selling them to Brazil (which later resold them to Argentina, which mounted them on its Sherman ‘Repotenciados’) and Chile. The Israelis also developed their own improved variant for the Merkava and Magach.

At least eight were received by the Chilean Army in 1983, along with a stock of ammunition and other military equipment.

Since they were not designed for the Sherman hull, the Israelis modified them by adding a mount to fit the Sherman hull, also allowing the system to be lifted off the ground before the vehicle approached the ground to be cleared.

The KMT-5M was used on M-51s based on both M4A1(76)W and the few on M4A3(76)W hulls. It should be pointed out that the mount developed by Israelis for the M-51 was better suited to welded hulls. Therefore, when they could, the Chileans mounted the KMT-5M on M-51s based on M4A3 hulls.

An M-51 on M4A3(76)W hull with the KMT-5M anti-mine rolling device raised up. The vehicle belonged to the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 9 “Vencedores”. Source: facebook.com

Due to the small number of devices received, only platoon commanders’ M-51s were equipped with this device.

The M-50s did not receive the anti-mine devices because they were considered too important due to their new gun. Furthermore, the 105 mm gun of the M-51s could provide the necessary support in the demining phases.

Chilean M-51 on M4A1(76)W hull with the KMT-5M with the scissor mount armed with the Browning M1919, Punta Arenas, 1991. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

Camouflage

The M-51s arrived in Chile in the standard IDF ‘Sinai Gray’ camouflage, which the Chileans liked very much for two reasons. Firstly, the Sinai Gray was well suited, as the training of the Chilean crews was held in the Atacama desert. Secondly, the camouflage paint decreased the vehicle’s IR signature.

The Chilean Army, however, had not taken into account that the Atacama Desert is the driest in the world because of the very high salt content. This corroded the Israeli-made paint.

The Chilean Army High Command ordered local commanders to repaint their M-51s, but without giving instructions on which camouflage schemes to apply. Local commanders then purchased paints from civilian vendors and applied camouflage patterns to their M-51s at their own discretion.

Most were repainted in a monochrome sand-colored scheme, lighter or darker, depending on what civilian stores could offer.

Chilean M-51 with a monochrome sand yellow camouflage of the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 9 “Vencedores” in the Pampa de Tana, near Iquique, 1990. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

In the Punta Arenas area in the extreme south of Chile and in the Training School in Peldehue, the camouflage adopted was very similar to the US MERDC (Mobility Equipment Research and Design Command), with a sand yellow base with dark green stripes and some black lines.

There was also a variant with a white base, dark green lines, sand yellow spots and black outline used in Punta Arenas.

During the 1994-1998 upgrades, many M-51s were painted in MERDC sand yellow, dark green and black outlines, while the remainder retained their sand yellow monochrome camouflage.

M-51 of the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 6 “Dragones” with MERDC camouflage. Source: facebook.com

The M-51’s Fate

The fate of the Chilean M-51s has been a sad one. Only 7 of these veterans, with more than 60 years of service onboard, have been saved. One has been exhibited since 2008 at the Museo de Tanques del Arma Caballeria Blindada in Iquique. Another one has also been exhibited since 2008 at the Museo de Tanques del Arma Caballeria Blindada in Quillota. Two, one of which is equipped with the KTM-5M anti-mine device, are at the museum of Rinconada de Maipúe. One is the gate guardian of the military base of Antofagasta. One is exhibited in another Chilean museum and the last one is a gate guardian in the headquarters of the Batallon Logístico Divisionario.

M-51 abandoned in the Atacama Desert, ready to be used as a target. Source: pinterest.com

All other M-51s were held in reserve until 2006 and decommissioned by 2008. Some were used in the Atacama Desert as targets for Leopard fire, while others were sold as scrap and dismantled.

According to some unconfirmed rumors, there are still between 10 and 15 of them abandoned in some military depot in Chile, ready to be sold to museums or private collectors.

An M-51 that belonged to Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 6 “Dragones” is being dismantled by a group of Chilean workers to resell the parts to steel mills. Source: elpinguino.com

Conclusion

The M-51s arrived in Chile about forty years after their construction and twenty years after the conversion to the M-51 standard. They proved to be worthy combat vehicles for the Chileans. The Chilean crews appreciated their mechanical reliability and their robustness.

Although they were not the most modern vehicles in service in the Ejército de Chile, they were the ones most used between 1980 and 1990.

Many Chilean tank officers still serving on the Leopard 1V and 2A4CHL today learned the tactics and trained on the ‘Burritos’ and were then assigned to more modern vehicles when the M-51s were removed from service.

The Chilean M-51s were not the longest-lived vehicles in the Sherman family to remain in service. The oldest M4s to be removed from service were the M4 Sherman ‘Repotenciado’ the Paraguayans only just removed from service in 2018.

M-51 in the Chilean Service

Chilean M-51 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.15 m x 2.42 m x 2.24 m
Total Weight, Battle Ready 40 tonnes
Crew 5, driver, machine gunner, commander, gunner and loader
Propulsion Detroit 8V-71T 350 hp diesel with 606 liters tank
Speed 46 km/h
Range ~400 km
Armament D.1508 with 47 rounds, 1-2 Browning M1919 7.62 mm with 4,750 rounds and a Browning M2HB 12.7 mm with 600 rounds
Armor 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
Production 119 acquired from Israel

Sources

Serie Terrestre No°2 M4 Sherman – Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Hugo Bianucci
Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile – Ejército de Chile
T-54 and T-55 Main Battle Tanks 1944–2004 – Steven Zaloga
Evolución de las Unidades Blindadas en Chile 1944-1982 – Academia de Historia Militar
Rivista Militare, Anno XCVII Numero 6 Novembre-Dicembre 1974
The Sherman in the Chilean Army – Tom Gannon

Categories
Cold War Chilean Armor

M24 Chaffee with 60 HVMS

Republic of Chile (1983-2006)
Light Tank Destroyer – 21 Upgraded

The M24 with 60 HVMS was an upgrade developed by Israel and Chile to transform the aging fleet of Chilean M24 Chaffees into light tank destroyers and extend their operational life as a stopgap solution before a modern vehicle could be obtained. At a time of political isolation and international condemnation, alongside a poor financial situation, the M24 HVMS were forced to remain in service until the very early 2000s, with the last ones being retired from service only in 2006, 62 years after the first M24 Chaffee entered service.

24 Chaffee HVMS
The commander of an M24 Chaffee HVMS inspects the mock battleground from his cupola at a training exercise in Punta Arenas. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

Context – Isolation: Chile’s political situation in the 1970s

In 1970, Unidad Popular (Eng: Popular Unity), a popular front electoral alliance of the major left and center-left parties, including the Partido Comunista de Chile (Eng: Communist Party of Chile) and the Partido Socialista de Chile (Eng: Socialist Party of Chile), led by Salvador Allende, won the presidential election by the slightest of margins.

In the three years that he governed Chile, Allende began a policy of nationalization without compensation of the industries and a program of the expropriation of agricultural land, while also building new schools, new hospitals and reducing rents.

Under Allende, Chile distanced itself from its former economic and military partner, the United States, whilst forging relationships with communist or socialist nations, including Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Allende’s reforms antagonized large elements of Chilean society, including powerful landlords and industrialists, and the armed forces. The USA was also not keen on Allende and had gone to great lengths to stop him from becoming president. Whilst they had been successful in the 1964 presidential election, they did not have the same success in 1970.

Allende’s opposition did not take time to take action. On June 29, 1973, the Regimiento Blindado N.º 2 [Eng. Armored Regiment No. 2], under the command of Lt. Col. Roberto Souper, took to the streets of Santiago to try and depose Allende. The coup, which has since been known as the ‘tanquetazo’ due to the large number of tanks used (one of the words in Spanish for tank is ‘tanque’), failed, but the situation was, nevertheless, still one of crisis. To calm the situation and reaffirm his position, Allende had the intention of calling for a plebiscite on his position as President of the Republic.

However, this was not to be. From August, a newly planned coup was in the works, which, unlike the tanquetazo, could count on all the branches of the armed forces. On September 7, 1973, Augusto Pinochet, the new Commander in Chief of the Army, had been convinced to join the coup by Vice Admiral José Toribo Merino and General Gustavo Leigh. Pinochet had previously been considered a loyal and apolitical officer. In the early morning of September 11, 1973, the Chilean fleet took Valparaíso. By 10 o’clock in the morning, tanks were yet again on the streets of Santiago and, just before noon, Hawker Hunters of the Chilean Air Force bombed the Palacio de la Moneda. Allende committed suicide and, by the end of the day, a military junta had taken control of the country. Whilst the exact role of the USA and Nixon administration in the September coup is unclear, what is clear is the CIA’s covert spending in Chile, US$8 million in the three years between 1970 and September 1973, with over US$3 million in 1972 alone.

Within a year and a half, Pinochet centralized all power around his figure and unleashed massive repression against those who had supported Allende. In all, conservative estimates state that during his regime, 3,000 people were murdered, alongside at least 35,000 people tortured, and 300,000 people detained.

Pinochet introduced neoliberal economic policies influenced by Milton Friedman and carried out by the Chicago Boys. In the early years of Pinochet’s rule over Chile, there were good relations with other military despots in the continent, especially with the Brazilian military junta.

Earlier, in 1975, tensions with Peru over granting Bolivia a stretch of land which would give them access to the sea almost led to a full-blown war. Peru sent its T-54s and T-55s of the 18.ª División Blindada (Eng. 18th Armored Division) to its border with Chile. A coup in Peru averted the war, but relations between the two countries would not improve.

In May 1977, the UK arbitrated a long-standing border dispute between Argentina and Chile and gave Chile sovereignty over the Picton, Nueva, and Lennox islands in the Beagle Channel. Less than a year later, in January 1978, Argentina rejected the arbitration and claimed sovereignty over the islands. The year 1978 was a tense year and both countries undertook a military build-up with the potential to boil over into war between the two nations. In December 1978, Argentina was ready to launch Operación Soberanía, which would capture the Picton, Nueva, and Lennox islands alongside a number of other islands it claimed and mount two attacks on Chile. However, an eleventh-hour Papal mediation ended the conflict just as Argentinian troops were ready to go into action.

Following a number of diplomatic embarrassments and the election of Jimmy Carter in the 1978 US Presidential Election, Chile became increasingly isolated.

Chile’s Military Situation in the 1970s

For the period between the Second World War and Allende’s presidency, the USA had been the main armor provider for Chile. The earliest vehicles to arrive were a batch of M3 and M3A1 Stuarts between 1943 and 1945. These were followed by M8 Greyhounds and M3 half-tracks. With the end of WWII, Chile received a total of 48 M4A1E9(75)D Shermans equipped with VVSS suspension with larger tracks to reduce ground pressure. They also received seven M32B1 Armored Recovery Vehicles, nicknamed ‘Panchotes’ by the crews, and Chaffee light tanks. These modern light and medium tanks formed the backbone of the new Chilean Armored Corps for about 20 years.

M4A1E9(75)D Shermans
M4A1E9(75)D Shermans during a parade in Antofagasta. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

Between 1964 and 1970, Chile also received as many as 60 M41A1 Walker Bulldogs, alongside 3 M578 ARVs, and 60 M113A1 APCs from the USA as military aid. The Walker Bulldogs would go on to play a role in the tanquetazo coup attempt of June 29, 1973, firing upon the Palacio de la Moneda.

M41A1 Walker Bulldog
M41A1 Walker Bulldog during training in the Atacama Desert, 1976. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

After the coup, two events shook Chile and its military in the first half of the 1970s. The first was the acquisition of over 375 T-54s and T-55s by Peru between 1973 and 1975. The second was the UN’s condemnation of Pinochet’s dictatorial regime and the subsequent embargo on military equipment.

In 1976, the assassination of former Chilean politician and Allende minister Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C. led to a diplomatic fallout between Chile and the USA, its closest ally. The consequences of this, alongside the election of Jimmy Carter and the subsequent realignment of US policy towards Latin America, pushed Chile to increased political isolation, economic stagnation, and without an international military provider.

Towards the end of the 1970s, at the height of tensions with Argentina, another important development shocked the Chilean regime. With French support, Argentina modified 120 of its approximately 200 Sherman ‘Fireflies’ into Sherman ‘Repotenciados’ (1978). During the same period, with assistance from the German firm Thyssen-Henschel, Argentina began the Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM) project, though the first of these would not enter frontline service until 1980.

Tanque Argentino Mediano
The Tanque Argentino Mediano. This was one of the most advanced vehicles of South America in the early 1980s. Source: pinterest.com

To face the new threats posed by its neighbors, Chile searched the market for a new tank, considering the British Centurion, the French AMX-13, and the Austrian SK-105. However, these were refused and Austria even went on to sell the proposed Chilean batch to Argentina and Bolivia. In 1980, an agreement was reached to buy 50 AMX-30s from France, with 20, plus a recovery vehicle on the same chassis, arriving the following year. Due to political pressure, France canceled the delivery of the remaining 30. The AMX-30s had a short operational life because of a shortage of spare parts that did not arrive until the 1990s, once the embargo was lifted.

Thus, Chile turned to Israel, which accepted the request for help by proposing several vehicles to the Chilean Army. The critical lack of funds and U.S. military embargo, in addition to the lack of Israeli availability, did not allow the purchase of military vehicles of the latest generation, such as the Centurion Mark V and the M60 Patton. Chile was forced to fall back on less modern vehicles that had given great proof of their value in the hands of experienced crews in previous years, the M-50 and M-51 Shermans.

M-51s lined up at Peldehue
M-51s lined up at Peldehue after their arrival in Chile, 1981. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

The US M24 Chaffee

The program that would lead to the M24 Chaffee was born in the United States in early 1943. It was meant to replace the M3 and M5 Stuart with a faster and more maneuverable vehicle for reconnaissance operations and better armed to support the infantry.

The development took a long time because the first product, the M7, was rejected.

The Ordnance Committee then requested a vehicle armed with a 75 mm cannon, like that of the M4 Medium tank, that was suitable for both infantry support and anti-tank fighting.

In April 1943, work began on the vehicle, initially named Light Tank T24, with a crew of five. The driver and machine-gunner were in the hull, seated left and right of the gearbox, while the rest of the crew were placed in the turret. The gunner was seated on the left, in front of the commander, while the loader was on the left side with his personal hatch.

The tank was equipped with torsion bar suspension, a 75 mm M6 gun with 48 rounds, two 7.62 mm Browning M1919A4 machine guns, one coaxial and one in a ball mount, with a total of 3,750 rounds carried, and a 12.7 mm Browning M2HB on an anti-aircraft mount with 440 rounds.

To keep the weight of the vehicle within 20 tons, the armor was kept very thin, a maximum of 25 mm inclined at 60° on the front of the hull and 38 mm only on the gun mantlet.

The vehicle was powered by two 8-cylinder Series 44T24 Cadillac engines dispensing 220 hp at 3,400 rpm. This gave the tank a maximum speed of 56 km/h and a range of 160 km, thanks to its 420-liter tanks.

In October 1943, the prototype was tested and accepted in service as the M24 ‘Chaffee’, in honor of US General Adna R. Chaffee, who was one of the main proponents of the use of mechanized forces during the interwar years

Production began in May 1944 and the first 34 vehicles arrived in the European theater in November 1944.

The production of the vehicle ended in August 1945, after having produced 4,731 M24 Chaffees. The U.S. Army was not particularly impressed with it. It was obviously a great step forward compared to the M5 Stuart, but the very thin armor proved too vulnerable against German weapons. The gun was ineffective against German vehicles, the gyro stabilizer mounted on the gun was also ineffective and, finally, the two coupled engines proved very complex to maintain.

The vehicle remained in service after the war, especially in the US divisions deployed in West Germany. The others were used with poor results in the Korean War in 1950 against the North Korean T-34/85s or provided to allied nations. The most notable were France, which received 1,200 M24s that were used in the Indochina War and in Algeria, 500 that went to Italy, which was the third nation by number of M24s in service, 130 to Pakistan, which still used them in 1971 against India, and Norway, which received 120 in the 1950s.

The M24 Chaffee in the Ejército de Chile

Chile received its 21 M24 Chaffees in 1952, arriving in Antofagasta, a port city located in North-Central Chile. The vehicles had probably been decommissioned from a training school in the United States, as the Chaffees were retired in 1953 with the arrival of the more modern M41 Walker Bulldogs.

Some of them were slightly modified by welding an anti-aircraft mount in front of the commander’s cupola for a 12.7 mm Browning M2HB and installing a 7.62 mm Browning M1919 machine gun, operable by the loader, on the already present support, bringing the total number of machine guns to four.

M24 Chaffees in a parade in Antofagasta
M24 Chaffees in a parade in Antofagasta, 1954. The Browning M2HB in the new support and the original support without the Browning M1919 are visible. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

The M24s were then assigned to the Destacamento Blindado N° 2 (Eng: 2nd Armored Detachment) of Antofagasta, where they served for 17 years, until 1969. Then, the barracks where they were stationed became the Escuela de Blindados (Eng. Armored School) until 1975.

During this period in which they served as training vehicles, the mechanical parts of the vehicles were worn out due to the dozens of training courses for new crews. In addition to suffering from mechanical problems due to low maintenance, the vehicle’s problems began to be noticed, namely its gyro-stabilizer and coupled engines.

There were so many problems that five vehicles, the hardest to repair, were abandoned in storage to rust and a sixth, in a similar condition, was placed as a gate guardian in front of the barrack entrance.

M24 Chaffee of Destacamento Blindado N° 2
An M24 Chaffee of Destacamento Blindado N° 2, Antofagasta, probably 1975. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

In 1975, the Armored School was moved to the Santa Rosa Barracks in Santiago de Chile. With the removal from service of the M3 and M3A1 Stuarts, vehicles were swapped from some regiments. All M24s were taken, including those abandoned in storage and the gate guardian, and transported by train to Santiago de Chile.

After an intensive overhaul by army technicians, the problems with the engines, the gyrostabilizer, and the worn-out guns were resolved and, unexpectedly, all 21 M24 Chaffees were restored to a condition where they could still operate as training tanks.

They were stationed both in the Santa Rosa barracks in Santiago de Chile and in the Escuela Militar in Peldehue, where a number of vehicles were sent after overhaul to participate in the Alféreces Blindados training courses.

M24 Chaffee in the Escuela Militar
M24 Chaffee in the Escuela Militar in Peldehue during crew training, 1978. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

However, it was immediately clear that the overhauls would keep the vehicles operational for a short period of time, especially considering their use as training tanks, i.e., subject to greater wear and tear due to student errors.

Thus, Chile began to look at other nations’ projects to buy some upgrade packages or, at least, to copy them.

NM-116 Panserjager

In the early 1970s, Chile was interested in upgrading their M24 Chaffees because they were obsolete against almost any other vehicle they would face. In 1975, the Kongelige Norske Hæren (Eng: Norwegian Army) put in service its upgraded M24 Chaffee (Stridsvogn M24) renamed NM-116 Panserjager, rearmed with a French 90 mm D/925 low-pressure gun, Detroit Diesel engine, laser rangefinder, night vision, and smoke launchers.

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The Norwegian NM-116 Panserjager. Source: facebook.com

The Chilean Army was very impressed by this upgrade and was interested in producing its own variant. However, due to the military embargo, the Norway-Chile joint project could not develop. The Army, not being able to upgrade the armament of its Chaffees, decided to at least upgrade the propulsion system.

First Chilean upgrade

When the fear of a Peruvian invasion increased, Chile launched a tender that did not violate the U.S. embargo to replace the engines of the Chaffees. The German company Mercedes-Benz, the American Cummins Engine Company, and a joint project of the companies Detroit Diesel and MACO Pvt. Ltd responded to the tender.

The three projects were tested by modifying three different M24 Chaffees of the Escuela Militar. These underwent many tests to evaluate the mechanical reliability of the engines and the range of the tanks.

Cummins engined prototype
The Cummins engined prototype during testing, Peldehue, 1978. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

At the end of 1978, the joint MACO-Detroit Diesel project was chosen as the winner and the 21 M24 Chaffees were re-engined with the Detroit Diesel 6V53T, a 6-cylinder turbo-diesel delivering 275 hp at 2,800 rpm and weighing 770 kg. The same engine was used on the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier and the Canadian LAV-25 Light Reconnaissance Vehicle.

It can be assumed that the Chilean Army preferred the Detroit engine because it was already in use in the Chilean ranks with the M113.

The engine compartment was not modified because the 5000 cm³ engine could fit without any problem, allowing the original 420-liter tanks to be kept unmodified. The only modified part was the engine deck, which received more air grilles to facilitate air circulation. This was a very useful expedient, as these M24s were used in a desert environment. A new radio station of an unknown model with a new antenna on a support on the right side of the turret was also added.

The automatic hydramatic transmission with 8 forward and 4 reverse gears was probably replaced with an Allison HT 700 5-speed (5 forward and 1 reverse) automatic transmission, later proposed for upgrades on other Chilean vehicles. The top speed increased slightly to about 60 km/h, while the weight increased from 18.4 to 19 tons. The new engine had a cold ignition system that pre-heated the diesel fuel, allowing the new M24s to operate at temperatures of -30°C, a necessary expedient if the Chilean Army intended to operate the M24s in the Patagonian territory. The vehicles then received a new overhaul that brought them from a mediocre mechanical level to a more than acceptable one.

Detroit Diesel 6V53T
The Detroit Diesel 6V53T mounted on the Chilean M24s in 1978. Source: industrialdiesel.net

Obviously, it was clear that the upgrade would not cover all the problems of the M24 Chaffee. The 75 mm M6 guns were too worn out, decreasing their accuracy and effectiveness. The Chilean Army needed something more powerful, but because of the military embargo, it could not buy the new vehicles that it desperately needed and was forced to deploy very old and worn-out tanks on the borders with Peru and Argentina.

The M24 Chaffees
The M24 Chaffees lined up in the Santa Rosa barrack in Santiago del Chile, 1979. The new engine decks with the new Detroit Diesel engine are visible. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

Israeli intervention

The need for more powerful armament was resolved when, in 1979, Israel was contacted and had no problem in violating the US embargo to help the Ejército de Chile.

Chile tried to buy some vehicles from Israel, such as the M60 Patton and Centurion, but, due to the poor Chilean finances and the Israeli impossibility to supply such modern vehicles, as the IDF needed them, the idea was abandoned.

Israel proposed the purchase of its M-50s and M-51s that, although outdated when facing modern threats, such as the T-62 or T-72, were more than suitable for fighting the Peruvian T-54 and T-55 and the Argentinean Sherman ‘Repotenciado’.

The Chileans showed interest in the purchase but they also requested to upgrade their M24s like the Norwegian NM-116s.

Due to the impossibility of purchasing 90 mm low-pressure cannons from France, Belgium, and Brazil, the companies NIMDA, Israeli Military Industry (IMI), and NAPCO found another solution. Because the M-50s also needed their guns replaced, due to the wear and tear of their 75 mm CN-75-50 cannons, an upgrade was developed that could also be applied to the M-51 (if the D.1508 105 mm cannon was replaced with the CN-75-50). The barrel of the gun would have been rebored, bringing the caliber from 75 mm to 90 mm. This expedient measure would have allowed the gun to be brought to the level of the GIAT CN-90-F3 low-pressure gun mounted on the AMX-13-90.

The cost, however, would have been too high for Chilean finances, so it was decided to supply the M-51s to Chile immediately and without modifications, and later to supply the M-50s modified with the 60 mm Hyper Velocity Medium Support (HVMS) gun, decreasing the upgrade costs.

It was also decided to modify the M24s with the same guns to increase the anti-tank performance of the light tanks.

M-50s refitted with the 60 HVMS gun
One of the M-50s refitted with the 60 HVMS gun during training in the Atacama Desert. Source: reddit.com

Second Chilean upgrade

In 1980, the first M-51s arrived in Valparaiso. The first batch of 60 mm cannons for the M24 Chaffees of the Chilean Army had to wait until 1983 when they arrived along with 65 M-50s, as well as other materials of various types.

The vehicles and the guns arrived in Iquique where the Chaffees were modified, adding the 60 mm HVMS to the M-50s and M24 Chaffees. The new gun was also tried on a MOWAG Piranha.

M24 Chaffee HVMS
An M24 Chaffee HVMS showing off its new powerful gun. Source: reddit.com

The Chileans, following Israeli directives, replaced the M6 cannons with the new 60 HVMS, with new firing systems and obviously a new gyro-stabilizer.

There is no certain data but it can be supposed that the M24 HVMS received, like the M-50 HVMS, a Fire Control System (FCS) developed by the Israeli companies Elbit and EL-OP which guaranteed a very high precision even at long range and a moderate precision even on the move.

In addition, a travel lock on the transmission cover plate was added for the new longer barrel gun.

The vehicle increased in weight, reaching more than 20 tons (some sources mention 22 tons) battle-ready. This led to a decrease in top speed, which returned to 56 km/h, the maximum speed of the standard M24 Chaffee.

This version of the M24 is often called the “M24 Super Chaffee”, following the example of the updated Israeli Shermans being called M-50 or M-51 ‘Super Sherman’. In fact, neither the Israeli nor the Chilean Army ever called the 60 mm rearmed M24 Chaffee or the M-50 and M-51 ‘Super’. The nickname ‘Super’ comes from the Israelis, who gave it to their M4 Shermans armed with 76 mm cannons, which they called M-1 ‘Super’. The nickname has probably been misreported. Even if respected authors such as Tom Gannon call it ‘Super’, this nickname was probably created by model companies or uninformed journalists.

M24 HVMS on September 19th
An M24 HVMS on September 19th, during the Dia de las Glorias del Ejército de Chile (Eng. Day of the Glory of the Chilean Army) with civilians inspecting it. An M41 Walker Bulldog and two MOWAG Piranha 6x6s are visible in the background. Year unknown. Source: reddit.com

From the sources available, it seems that all 21 M24s were rearmed.

Unfortunately, the exact quantity of ammunition carried by the vehicles is unknown. Given the reduced space onboard, these would not have been more than fifty rounds, as in the original M24 Chaffee.

Before receiving the upgrade, the M24s underwent a new check-up, eliminating the mechanical problems of these vehicles, which had now had 36 years of service.

It can be supposed that Israel supplied Chile with some spare parts for the M24s, as Israel was on good terms with Italy, which had decommissioned the last M24 Chaffees in the early 1970s. This is only a supposition with no factual backing. What is certain is that the 21 Chilean M24 Chaffees remained in service for over 60 years in total, an enormous amount of time for vehicles that were used extensively for training (therefore worn out faster) and in desert environments that tend to wear out mechanical parts of armored vehicles. In addition, it should be noted that Italy, like Israel, ignored the U.S. embargo, and sold infantry weapons, such as the Beretta PM12 submachine guns, and 60 mm ammunition to Chile.

M24 Chaffee HVMS
The new M24 Chaffee HVMS showing off all the Chilean upgrades; the new engine deck, radio antenna, 60 mm cannon, and Browning M1919. Brunswick Peninsula, early 1990s. Source: pinterest.com

It was also planned to modify the M41A1s with a 60 mm gun and a more powerful engine, but the project was canceled after the production of a prototype due to the high upgrade costs.

M41A1 Walker Bulldog fitted with the 60 HVMS gun prototyp
The M41A1 Walker Bulldog fitted with the 60 HVMS gun prototype. Source: pinterest.com

The 60 HVMS gun

The 60 mm Hyper Velocity Medium Support L.70 gun was developed in 1977 by the Israeli Military Industry and the Italian company OTO-Melara to provide the infantry with a towed or Infantry Fighting Vehicle-mounted gun that could provide excellent anti-tank fire and adequate anti-infantry support. It was tested by Israel on a modified M113 with a turret and by the Italians on the VBM Freccia prototype and on a modified VCC-80 Dardo, but was not accepted in service.

60 HVMS on a carriage
The 60 HVMS on a carriage during shooting tests. Source: pinterest.com

In fact, the 60 HVMS IMI-OTO (known in Italy as the HVMS 60/70 OTO-Melara) had excellent anti-tank performance and was able to penetrate, with its M300 APDSFS-T (Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot – Tracer), 120 mm of Rolled Homogeneous Armor (RHA) angled at 60° at a 2000 m range. This was the equivalent of the frontal armor of a Soviet T-62.

In one test, it allegedly managed to penetrate the side armor of two T-62s from side to side at 2000 m. As an example, a 105 mm APDSFS-T projectile from the Royal Ordnance L7 penetrated the same armor at the same distance. However, the 60 mm gun weighed 700 kg with a total projectile weight of only 6 kg and a length of 62 cm, while the Royal Ordnance L7 weighed 1,200 kg with projectiles weighing around 18 kg and a length of about 95 cm.

The tungsten penetrator of the APDSFS-T projectile weighed 0.87 kg with a diameter of 17 mm and a total length of 292 mm. It had a muzzle velocity of 1,620 m/s thanks to the high-pressure barrel, giving it very good accuracy up to a 2,500 m range.

The HE-T (High-Explosive – Tracer) projectile weighed 7.2 kg.

M300 APDSFS-T round produced by IMI
The M300 APDSFS-T round produced by IMI. Source: cartridgecollectors.org

The ammunition purchased from Chile was produced by MECAR in Saneffe, Belgium. It was then transported to Italy, from where it was then transported by ship to Chile. It is not clear to what extent Belgium was aware of the destination of the ammunition. A few years earlier, it had refused to sell the 90 mm MECAR to Chile to avoid diplomatic incidents with the United States.

 Spanish language OTO-Melara poster on the APFSDS and HE rounds
A Spanish language OTO-Melara poster on the APFSDS and HE rounds of the 60 HVMS guns. Source: Foro Militar Genera

Service history

Unfortunately, there is very little information about the operational use of the M24s armed with the HVMS gun. It is known that, during tests, the new vehicles performed better than the M-50 with 60 HVMS, beating them in speed and maneuverability, even if they were more vulnerable to anti-tank mines or to fire from weapons such as 20 mm cannons.

Because of the poor armor, Chile devised a doctrine of employment much more akin to that of a tank destroyer than a light tank. The tactic was to use them in hard to access territories, preparing ambushes for the enemy in the few points where armored vehicles could pass or to employ them in a hull-down overwatch position and engage the enemy at long range, thanks to the high precision of the cannon and the good accuracy at long range, and then retreat to other positions before the adversaries have a chance to engage.

M24 Chaffee HVMS and M41 Walker Bulldogs
M24 Chaffee HVMS and M41 Walker Bulldogs lined up in Punta Arenas for the ceremony when the M24s arrived to the Regimiento “Liberadores”. Source: Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile

They were sent to Punta Arenas on the Brunswick Peninsula in Patagonia, South of Chile, to the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 5 “Liberadores” (Eng: 5th Armored Cavalry Regiment). The Regiment used them together with 20 M41A1 and A3 Walker Bulldogs, an unknown number of M113A1 Armored Personnel Carriers and MOWAG Piranha 6×6 (called Piraña by the Chileans).

When they were used during training with the M-51s and AMX-30B1s of the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 6 “Dragones” (Eng: 6th Armored Cavalry Regiment), also located in Punta Arenas, they proved to be more effective than the M-51 and more maneuverable than the AMX-30. They were also much more accurate at long range, having a greater possibility of hitting the target with the first shot than the 105 mm ammunition (produced by MECAR) of the D.1508 L.51 and CN-105-F1 L.56 guns at a range of 2500 m.

M24 Chaffee HVMS of the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 5
A bad quality photo showing an M24 Chaffee HVMS of the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 5 “Liberadores” and an M-51 of the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 6 “Dragones” during training somewhere in the Brunswick Peninsula, early 1990s. Source: pinterest.com

They remained in active service until 2002 when, together with the M-50s and M-51s, they were removed from active service, although they were still used for training activities at least until 2005.

With the arrival of the first Leopard 1V to the Regimiento de Caballería Blindada Nº 6 “Dragones”, the AMX-30B1s of the regiment were transferred to the “Liberadores”, which could retire the worn-out M24 Chaffees 61 years after their production and after 53 years in the Chilean Army.

Conclusion

The M24 Chaffee 60 HVMS was the last upgrade of the M24 Chaffee. By the 1980s, the chassis was too old to be upgraded. However, due to the impossibility of procuring new material, Chile was forced to equip itself with what it had, just like Israel did thirty years before.

The result was satisfactory. The new design did not upgrade the armor, which remained vulnerable to fire from autocannons, but provided the vehicle with an armament capable of dealing on equal terms with an MBT and have a greater chance of hitting it at 2000 m.

Chile could only afford to have a 40-year-old vehicle and spend little to upgrade it so that it could face much more modern and much more expensive vehicles and have a chance of succeeding.

The Chilean M-24 Chaffee with 60 HVMS gun illustration by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 7.06 m x 3 m x 3.77 m
Total weight, battle ready: 22 tonnes
Crew : 5 (Commander, gunner, loader, driver, bow-gunner)
Propulsion: Detroit 53T6V 275 hp diesel with 420 liters tank
Top Road Speed ~ 56 km
Armament 60 HVMS IMI/OTO, 3x Browning M1919 7.62 mm with 3,750 rounds and a Browning M2HB 12.7 mm with 440 rounds.
Armour 25 mm frontal and sides hull and 19 mm rear. 38 mm mantlet, 25 mm front, sides and rear of the turret.
Total Upgraded 21

Sources

M24 Chaffee Light Tank 1943-1985 – Steven J. Zaloga
A History of the American Light Tank – Richard P. Hunnicutt
Familia Acorazada del Ejército de Chile – Ejército de Chile
Evolución de las Unidades Blindadas en Chile 1944-1982 – Academia de Historia Militar
SIPRI Arms Transfers Database

Categories
Cold War Chilean Armor Cold War Israeli Armor

M-60 Sherman (M-50 with 60mm HVMS Gun)

Israeli Tanks Israel/Republic of Chile (1983)
Medium Tank – 65 Purchased & Modified

Simply put, the Chilean M-60 Sherman is a ‘modification of a modification’ of one of the most versatile tanks ever built, the American M4 Sherman. These Shermans had already been owned, upgraded and operated by the Israelis, who then sold them to Chile in the early 1980s. Chile bought 65 of these tanks, who in turn, requested that they be modified once more. This modification included the replacement of the main gun with a 60 mm (2.3 in) High-Velocity main gun, and a new Detroit Diesel engine.

By 1983, the M4 Sherman had been in active service with one country or another for 41 years. The Chilean Army (Spanish: Ejército de Chile) was about to extend this life further, only retiring their M-60 Shermans between 1999 and 2003. The 16 years of service the M-60 saw in Chile made it one of the last operational weaponized Sherman tanks to actively serve in any of the World’s militaries. The M-60s served alongside the far more modern French AMX-30, of which 21 were purchased in the early-1980s. The Shermans were replaced by the German Leopard 1V, in 1999.

Chile is a long, thin country located on the west coast of South America, with the Andes mountain range forming its eastern border. The country has seen a number of internal conflicts throughout its history. The last major conflict Chile fought was against Peru and Bolivia in what is known as the War of the Pacific (1879-1883). This resulted in a Chilean victory, but tensions between the three countries survive to this day. Chile has not taken part in any major international war in the 20th or 21st Centuries. In World War 2, Chile’s hesitation at declaring war on the Axis did not please the United States, who were pressuring the Latin American Countries to do just that. In 1943, Chile only broke diplomatic connections with Germany. It was not until 1945 that Chile would declare war on Japan as part of an agreement between the US and Chilean Governments. Diplomatic repercussions caused by the fact that Chile did not declare war on Germany resulted in reduced support from the US in the post-war years. Chile has maintained a very tense relationship with its neighbors, especially Argentina. However, it has taken – and does still take – part in a number of United Nations Peacekeeping missions across the globe. These included the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP, 1964-2013) and United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL, 1978-13). Throughout its history, the Chilean Army has been supplied by various countries, such as Israel, the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, and Spain.

An M4A4-based M-60 on maneuvers. Photo: Public Domain

Previous Experience

The M-60 variant was not the first type of Sherman to be employed by the Chilean Army. In 1947, following the signing of the Rio Treaty (Officially the ‘Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance) the United States supplied Chile with 30 M4A1 Shermans. This treaty, still in effect to this day, was signed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by multiple countries in the Americas. In a similar line to NATO, the principal article of the organization is that an attack against one is to be considered an attack against them all.

Two Chilean M4A1E9s on maneuvers in Antofagasta (north Chile) in 1975. The E9 was still in service with the Chilean Army in the mid-1970s. Photo: Familia Acorazada Del Ejército De Chile

Chile then acquired a further 46 from commercial sources. In 1948, this Sherman force was bolstered further by the arrival of 48 M4A1E9 Shermans, again supplied by the USA. The E9 was a modified M4A1 which saw an addition of a spacer set between the hull and bogies of the Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (VVSS). There was another spacer on the drive sprocket. The spacers allowed the addition extended end connectors to be fitted on both sides of the track, giving it a wider track. The E9 was supplied to many friendly countries of the USA after the Second World War.

Other upgrades included the addition of the newer vision cupola for the commander and a new hatch for the loader. The tank retained the standard 75mm M3 gun. They remained in service with the Chilean Army into the mid-1970s.

Third Hand Shermans

By the time the Chilean Army got hold of their M-60 Shermans, the tanks had already changed hands at least two times during their existence, making the South American buyers the third owners of these specific tanks. Originally, of course, the Sherman was an American tank which entered service with the Allies in 1941. During the Second World War, the M4 was used by the British, Soviet, French, Chinese and many other Allied nations. They also continued to serve with numerous countries after the war had ended. In the late 1940s, Israel found itself in need of tanks but was unable to purchase any directly, so instead, started scouring the scrapyards of Europe and acquired demilitarised Shermans which they brought back into service, ironically some of which had German guns. Over the next 20 or so years, this hodgepodge of all varieties of Sherman – from M4 to M4A4 – went through several upgrade programs.

In the early 1950s, with help from the French Military, a program began with the intent to upgrade their M4s. This included the addition of the 75mm SA 50 gun, as used on the AMX-13 light tank, which led to them being renamed the M-50 Sherman. In the 1960s, the tanks were upgraded once more to fit the 105 mm Modèle F1 gun. These upgrades received the M-51 designation and are often incorrectly called the ‘Super Sherman’ or ‘Isherman’. Along with this gun, all tanks were given a mobility improvement with the addition of the Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS) system and the Cummins V-8 460 horsepower diesel engine.

Chilean M-51s of Combat team ‘Niklitschek’, Aguada Dolores, 1991. Photo: Familia Acorazada Del Ejército De Chile

By the early 1970s, the 75 mm armed M-50s were being phased out. The 105mm armed M-51 would stay in service until the early 1980s. Once retired, Israel chose to sell them. The Republic of Chile would purchase a mix of around 100 M-50 and M-51 Shermans from 1983 onwards. A few of the purchased M-50s had previously had their 75 mm guns removed when they were retired, however, Israel offered to install a 60 mm Gun developed by OTO-Melara of Italy and Israeli Military Industries (IMI) instead. Twenty-seven of these tanks were dispatched to Chile in 1988. The 27 tanks arrived and were disembarked at Iquique, a port city in Northern Chile. The first of these newly armed tanks were placed in service with the 9th Armored Cavalry Regiment ‘Vencedores’ (Triumphant). More of these modified Shermans would arrive in Chile throughout the following years. It is thought that as many as 65 Shermans were upgraded to this standard.

Close up photo looking at the engine deck, 60mm gun and turret face of one of the modified Shermans. Note the new gun travel lock and, on the right of the photo, the cowling for the modified exhaust. Photo: Public Domain

These 60 mm-armed Shermans were known by a few different names. The most popular of these is the ‘M-60’. The Chilean Army christened it ‘M-60’ after the 60 mm gun. However, it is also known as the ‘M-50/60mm’ or ‘M-50 (HVMS)’.

It is reasonable to suggest that one of the reasons the Chilean Army decided to purchase the Israeli Shermans was the fact that they had already gained experience in operating and maintaining Sherman tanks. This is the author’s own opinion, however. Also, in 1976, the United States had placed an arms embargo on Chile, which barred the sale and import of weapons which lasted until 1989. Furthermore, the French government had vetoed the sale of more weapons to Chile in 1981. This meant that the market for a new tank was restricted and Chile had to do with an obsolete tank.

This photo was taken moments after the gun had fired during a live-fire exercise, noted by the red flag flying from the turret. Photo: Familia Acorazada Del Ejército De Chile

Chilean Changes

The two identifying features of the Chilean M-60 Sherman are the 60mm gun and the modified engine deck. It is these modifications that will be focussed on in this section. There were other, smaller additions though, such as an Israeli-style stowage bin on the engine deck overhanging the rear of the vehicle or an air deflector which was also added below the overhang to deflect heat away from the stowage bin. A new folding travel lock compatible with the 60mm barrel was also added to the rear of the engine deck.

The 60 mm Gun

Officially, the weapon is known as the 60 mm High-Velocity Medium Support (HVMS) Gun. It was a joint development started in the late 1970s between Israeli Military Industries (IMI) and OTO-Melara of Italy. The 60 mm (2.3 in) gun was designed for infantry support, the idea being to give infantry units increased anti-armor firepower by giving them a powerful, but light gun that could be mounted on light vehicles. A joint project to develop a lightweight turret housing the gun, which could be mounted directly onto light vehicles, such as the M113 APC, was planned, but this did not come to fruition. The two companies split during the project, developing their own versions. Despite being a success, the weapons did not enter service with either the Italians or the Israelis.

The 60 mm High-Velocity Medium Support (HVMS) Gun in testing on an ex-British 6-Pounder gun carriage. Photo: Unknown Source

The gun had a barrel length of 70 Calibers (4.2 meters), with a fume-extractor placed halfway down its length. The barrel was constructed using the autofrettage method of metal fabrication. In short, this allowed the barrel wall to be thin, but extremely tough. The gun utilized a hydrospring recoil system, meaning the spring surrounds the breach-end of the barrel, protected by a shroud. It is further protected from the elements by a truncated rubber – or possibly canvas – sleeve. The hydrospring system allows quick barrel changes as the gun and recoil system can be removed/installed as one unit.

The gun has the feature of being both manually and automatically loaded. Manually consists of the traditional method of sliding the shells into the vertically-sliding breach by hand, though, in this case, there is hydraulic assistance. The automatic method consists of a vertical magazine with a three-round capacity loaded in a similar way to Bofors’ automatic guns. This system is recoil-operated with a shell-to-shell reload of three seconds. These could be fired one-by-one, although there was also the option of firing a three-round burst. Chile decided to modify their guns to be manually loaded, with a new rate of fire of 12 rounds per minute.

A Spanish-language promotional poster produced by the Italian Company OTO-Melara, featuring the statistics of the APFSDS-T round and the High-Explosive shell. Photo: Foro Militar General

The weapon was equipped with both High-Explosive (HE) and Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding-Sabot, Tracer (APFSDS-T) rounds. Both rounds were produced by OTO-Melara. In Israeli tests, the gun proved to be precise at over 2,500 m. The APFSDS projectile flew at an initial speed of 1,600 meters-per-second and was able to penetrate the side armor (15 – 79 mm thick) of two T-62’s, side-by-side, at 2,000 m. At maximum, the dart could penetrate 120 mm of armor, angled at 60 Degrees, at a distance of 2,000 m.

The 60 mm guns were delivered separately from the tanks. Chilean Military Industries were given the task of installing the guns in the tanks, which involved modifying the existing mantlets to accept the new guns. The installation process and modifications were developed by the Israeli based NIMDA Co. Ltd. Apart from the installation of the appropriate gunnery and sighting systems, and new ammunition racks for the 60 mm rounds, very little modifications to the turret were needed. The Sherman was not the only tank upgraded with this weapon. The Chilean Army also had a number of their older M24 Chaffee tanks adapted to carry the gun.

New Engine

The other major upgrade to the M-50s came in the form of a new engine. The old Cummins V-8 460 hp diesel engines were worn out, and a replacement was required. The chosen replacement was the more powerful 535 hp V-8 Detroit Diesel 8V-71T engine.

Two M-60s on maneuvers. Note the exhaust emerging from the engine deck onto the sponson of the tank. Photo: Unknown Source

The introduction of this engine required some modification to the engine deck. On M4 tanks, the exhaust vents out of the rear of the tank, between the idler wheels. On the M-60 version, the exhaust vented out of the top of the deck. A hole had to be cut in the top of the engine deck, on the right side of the hull, near the air intakes. The exhaust pipe extended from the hole, down on to the upper portion of the sponsons. Additionally, a protective cowling was welded over it. The Israeli-added armor over the air intake was kept in place to protect the exhaust where it emerged from the deck.

Service

The tensions between Chile and Peru never subsided after the Pacific War of 1879-83. In the late 20th Century, when the M-60s entered service, tensions were at their highest between Chile and their northern neighbor. There was a fear that the two countries would once more fall into conflict. The Chilean Army had great faith that their M-60s, and indeed their M-51s of which they retained over 100, would be able to combat the Peruvian, Soviet-origin T-55s. Although both sides prepared for it, a war never materialized.

The M-60s would continue to serve past this point, complemented by the M-51s, 60mm-upgraded M24 Chaffees, and even a few French AMX-30s which were purchased in the early 1980s. In the late 1990s, Chile began to receive German Leopard 1Vs, supplied by the Netherlands between 1999 and 2000 and a few more AMX-30s. With this, the M-60s and M-51s became redundant. They were finally removed from service between 1999 and 2003. This made them some of the last operational weaponized Shermans in any military in the world, bringing the total service life of the M4 Sherman to approximately 60 years.

Although the tanks were retired, it appears that the guns continued to serve. Despite the fact there does not seem to be any currently available photos, some of the guns were reportedly mounted on Chilean license-built MOWAG Piranha I 8x8s. While most of the Shermans ended up as range targets, at least one survives as a museum piece. This tank can be found in the Museo de Tanques del Arma Caballeria Blindada in Iquique.

M-60 Sherman at the Tanques del Arma Caballeria Blindada in Iquique, 2012. Photo: Surviving Israeli Shermans


Illustration of an M-60 (HVMS), produced by Tanks Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.15m x 2.42m x 2.24m
(20’1″ x 7’9″ x 7’3″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready: 35 Tons (32 tonnes)
Crew : 5 (Commander, gunner, loader, driver, bow-gunner)
Propulsion: V-8 Detroit Diesel 8V-71T 535 hp V-8
Suspensions: Horizontal Volute Springs Suspensions (HVSS)
Top Speed Aprx. 40-45 kph (25-27 mph) M51/M50
Armament (see notes) Main: OTO-Melara 60mm (2.3 in) High-Velocity Medium Support (HVMS) Gun
Sec: Coaxial .30 Cal (7.62mm) machine gun
Armour Hull nose and turret 70, sides 40, bottom 15, rooftop 15 mm
Total Converions 65

Sources

Familia Acorazada Del Ejército De Chile
Thomas Gannon, Israeli Sherman, Darlington Productions
Thomas Gannon, The Sherman in the Chilean Army, Trackpad Publishing
www.theshermantank.com
www.army-guide.com
www.mapleleafup.nl
The Sherman Minutia


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