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Expeditionary Tank

Prototype light tank

Expeditionary Tank

The electronics on the Expeditionary Tank were among the most advanced in any tank at the time

Entered service -
Crew 3 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight 19 t
Length (gun forward) 7.49 m
Hull length ~ 6.5 m
Width 2.69 m
Height 2.8 m
Main gun 105-mm rifled
Machine guns 1 x 7.62-mm
Elevation range - 10 to + 18 degrees
Traverse range 360 degrees
Ammunition load
Main gun 35 rounds
Machine guns 4 000 rounds
Engine Cummins VTA-903T diesel
Engine power 495 hp
Maximum road speed 80 km/h
Range 480 km
Gradient 60%
Side slope 40%
Vertical step 0.83 m
Trench 2.56 m
Fording 1.21 m


   In 1980, the US Army 9th Infantry Division began testing a number of concepts aimed at increasing the combat power of light forces, as part of the HTLD (High Technology Light Division) concept. However, this project had disappointing results, mostly due to the unavailability of a number of mission-critical technologies. One of the most important of these was a C-130 transportable Airborne Light Tank, which the Army considered critical for the realization the HTLD. To acquire an Airborne Light Tank, the Army established the AGS (Armored Gun System) requirement, which set a number of requirements for private industry to mold into a vehicle. Ultimately, three competing designs emerged; the United Defense CCV-L, the Cadillac Gage Stingray, and the Teledyne Vehicle Systems Expeditionary Tank.

   Development of the Expeditionary Tank began in 1982, and the chassis of the first prototype was completed in December 1983, followed by a complete turret in mid-1984. Following completion of durability trials of the chassis in Nevada, the turret and hull were finally combined in April of 1985, and displayed in public for the first time in the US Army Armor Conference at Ft. Knox.

   Ultimately, the AGS competition concluded in 1992, and the United Defense CCV-L was declared the winner (which was re-designated XM8, and finally type-classified in 1995 as the M8). At 19 tonnes, the Expeditionary Tank was 2 tonnes heavier than the CCV-L, and it was also some 300 mm taller - two factors that doomed it in the competition, as maximum C-130 transportability was mission-critical for the AGS requirement.

   The Expeditionary Tank continued to be marketed by Teledyne into 1996, and by GDLS after taking-over Teledyne, but no buyers ever came forward. As GDLS now focuses on marketing the Stryker vehicles in place of the Expeditionary Tank (its turret is fitted to the Stryker MGS), the project is effectively dead.

   The Expeditionary Tank is distinguished by its prominent EGT (External Gun Turret, a feature that made it unique in the AGS competition), flat and featureless roofline, and very long and shallow frontal slope. The crew sits inside a single, small, armored compartment far to the rear of the vehicle. The drive sprockets are forward, idlers rear, and there are 5 roadwheels on either side. Due to the presence of track skirts in all official photos of the Expeditionary Tank, it is uncertain if it has any return rollers (or if it has, how many), but the height of the track assembly suggests that it is not a flat track.

   The main gun is an M35 rifled 105-mm/L52, a Low-Recoil-Force gun, mounted in the aforementioned EGT. Ammunition is fed into the gun by a revolver-style autoloader with a 9-round capacity. The auxiliary weapon is a 7.62-mm M240 machine gun, with a 400-round feed. In addition to the loaded ammunition, 26 105-mm rounds and some 3600 7,62-mm rounds are stowed inside a container in the rear of the hull.

   The weaponry, however, was highly problematic. Being attached to the side of the EGT, the M240 is not a coaxial machinegun, and thus its accuracy, stability, and maintenance suffered accordingly. The External Gun Turret is not stabilized, and any reloading, repairs, or clearance of stoppages could only be performed by exposed personnel standing atop the vehicle. Both the autoloader and the machine gun suffered frequent, major stoppages - a trend that still persists long after the end of the Expeditionary Tank project, in the Stryker MGS.

   The electronics on the Expeditionary Tank were among the most advanced in any tank at the time, and included an M21 digital fire control computer, an AN/VVG-2 laser rangefinder, and an AN/TAS-4 thermal imaging system. The Driver utilizes an AN/VVS-2 (V) starlight periscope for low-light visibility.

   The Expeditionary Tank's protection consists of high-hardness steel armor, adequate against small arms fire, shell splinters, and blast overpressure. Additional layers of applique armor and ERA may also be fitted, which by design can be installed in the field without specialized tools, and track skirts are standard. An automatic Halon 1301 fire suppression system and a collective NBC protection system are also standard. The crew is seated in a single armored capsule well to the rear of the vehicle; though this gives them outstanding protection, this comes at the cost of poor forward visibility, and and a mush larger vehicle than one with a centrally-seated crew.

   Propulsion is provided by a Cummins VTA-903T Diesel V8, producing approximately 495 hp, combined with a General Electric HMPT-500 automatic transmission with 3 forward gears and 1 reverse gear. The internal fuel capacity of the Expeditionary Tank is 643 liters. The suspension consists of torsion bars and hydropheumatic struts, providing a smooth ride, as well as a soft buffer during airdrops.

   It is 7.49 m long, 2.69 m wide, 2.8 m tall, and weighs 19 tonnes at combat weight (without applique armor or ERA). It has 0.46 m of ground clearance, 0.7 kg/cm² of ground pressure, and can tackle a 2.56 m trench, a 0.83m vertical obstacle, a 60% grade, a 40% side slope, or ford a 1.21 m deep water obstacle.

   The unit cost of the Expeditionary Tank was approximately $4.5 Million.

   There are no known variants of the Expeditionary Tank's chassis, though the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System uses the same turret. The Expeditionary Tank was also marketed as the DFSV (Direct Fire Support Vehicle).



   Article by BLACKTAIL

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