The M103 heavy tank
The M103 was the late offspring of the US heavy tank projects T30 and finally the T43 which led to the M46 and M47 tanks. It was designed to counter the soviet
heavy tanks JSIII.
The inital T43 were of such poor performance that they were never declared ready for active service. The following T43E1 project finally entered service as the M103 heavy tank.
The M103 as
it finally appeared bears a strong family resamblance to the M47/ M48 Patton tanks.
The basic hull layout with its boatshape and suspension layout is similar to the M48 hull, however it is wider and longer with
thicker armour and an additional roadwheel and six return rollers on each side.
The original M103 powerplant was the same as that of the M47 and early M48 resulting in the 65to tank being heavyly underpowered and
mechanically unreliable. The main weapon was the 120mm T123 gun located in the huge turret designed to cope with the massive recoil of the gun. The commander and gunner were both located in the bustle of the turret.
The commanders .50cal could be aimed and fired buttoned down, from within the turret.
The USMC finally funded an upgrade program under the designation T43E2 to overcome the major problems. This included new
controls and a ballistic computer. 72 of these M103A1 were leased by the US Army for service in a heavy tank battalion in Europe. The USMC received the M103A1 in 1958-59.
The final upgrade was the M103A1E1, later
to become the M103A2. This finally eliminated the original underpowered gasoline engine replacing it with the
state-of-the-art AVDS 1790 diesel engine, the same in use with the M48A3 and M60 tanks. The new engine required a complete reshaping of the engine compartment. The M103A2 can therefore be easily distinguished from its predecessors.
The M103A2 remained in USMC service as late as 1974.