The T-54 and T-55 tank were a series of main battle tanks designed by the Soviet Union. The first T-54 prototype appeared in 1946, shortly after the end of the Second World War. The T-54 entered full production in 1947 and became the main tank of the Soviet Red Army's armored units, as well as of the armies of the Warsaw Pact countries and other armies as well. T-54s and T-55s have been involved in many of the world's armed conflicts during the later 20th century.
The T-54/55 series eventually became the most-produced tank in history. Estimated production numbers for the series range from 86,000 to 100,000, and the series is still in use worldwide, having received sophisticated retrofitting. It has been described as the "most popular tank in history" and is the most widely used tank of all time.
The T-54/55 series was eventually replaced by the T-64, T-72, and T-80 in the Soviet army, but original and modernized versions continue to be used by up to 50 other armies today. T-54 and T-55 tanks never directly faced their NATO Cold War adversaries in Europe, however, their first appearance in the west in 1960 spurred the United States to develop the M60.
The Soviet T-34 medium tank of 1940 is considered by many to have the best balance of firepower, protection and mobility of its time of any tank in the world. Its development continued throughout the Second World War and it continued to perform well, however, the designers could not include the latest technologies or major developments as the series production of the tank could not be interrupted during wartime.
In 1943, the Morozov Design Bureau resurrected the pre-war T-34M development project and created the T-44 tank. Thanks to a space-efficient torsion-bar suspension, a novel transverse engine mount, and the removal of the hull machine-gunner's crew position, the T-44 performed at least as well as the T-34, but with substantially better armour. The T-44's main drawback, however, was its small turret that was still incapable of mounting more powerful armament than its predecessor's 85 mm tank gun. A tank mounting a 100 mm gun was desired.
The development of the first T-54 prototype started in October 1944 at the OKB-520 design bureau, at the Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183 (Uralvagonzavod), located in Nizhny Tagil. The initial design was completed in December, with a prototype completed in February 1945.
Trials conducted between March and April 1945 resulted in the new tank being accepted for service with the Red Army as the T-54. The tank had almost the same hull and drive train as the T-44. The major differences included the thickened front armour (120 mm on the upper section and 90 mm on the lower section) and a newly-designed driver's hatch and vision slot. The turret ring increased in diameter to 1800 mm and had thicker armour (180 mm on the front, between 90 mm and 150 mm on the sides and 30 mm on the roof).
The main armament was the 100 mm D-10TK, with two 7.62 mm GWT machine guns. The tank was powered by a new V-54 12-cylinder 38.88 litre water-cooled diesel engine developing 520 hp (388 kW) at 2,000 rpm with two-stage reduction gearbox. The fuel capacity was also increased (530 litres in the internal fuel tank and 165 litres in the external fuel tank). Unlike in the T-34, the external fuel tanks were connected to the fuel system. The rubber rollers on road wheels were widened. The weight was 35.5 tonnes, making the T-54 slightly slower than the T-44 at 43.5 km/h. The road range increased to 360 km.
Another T-54 prototype was built in July 1945 which received the alternative designation Ob'yekt 137. The tank was equipped with a new turret armed with 100 mm LB-1 tank gun and 7.62 mm SG medium coaxial machine gun. The turret armour was thickened (200 mm on the front, between 125 mm and 160 mm on the sides). The tank was also armed with two 7.62 mm SG-43 medium machine guns mounted inside fixed boxes on the fenders, each with 500 rounds of ammunition, operated by the driver. The turret was also fitted with the 12.7 mm DShK anti-aircraft heavy machine gun. The fuel capacity was increased (545 litres in internal fuel tanks and 180 litres in external fuel tanks) and because of it the road range remained 360 km despite the increased weight of 39.15 tonnes. This prototype went through trials between July and November 1945. Although there were many drawbacks which had to be corrected and many changes which had to be done to the vehicle's documentation, it was decided to begin serial production of the new vehicle and the vehicle officially entered service on 29 April 1946. The preparations began to start production in three factories.
Production of the initial series of T-54s began slowly as 1,490 modifications were made. The Red Army received a tank which was superior to WW2 designs and theoretically better than the newest tanks of potential opponents. Its 100 mm gun was not as powerful as the 88 mm gun on the Tiger II but was superior to the 88 mm on the Tiger I, and was comparable to the 75 mm gun of the Panther medium tank.
Due to its revolutionary design, this gun was mounted in a tank weighing four-fifths that of the Panther, two-thirds that of the Tiger I, and only just more than half that of the Tiger II. The light weight, powerful engine, and robust suspension gave it excellent cross-country mobility. The exploitation trials went without any breakdowns.
The serial production version, designated T-54-1, differed from the second T-54 prototype. It had thicker hull armour (80 mm on the sides, 30 mm on the roof and 20 mm on the bottom) which surpassed that on the German Tiger tank. As production ramped up, quality problems emerged. Production was stopped and an improved T-54-2 (Ob'yekt 137R) version was designed. Several changes were made and a new turret was fitted. The new dome-shaped turret with flat sides was inspired by the turret from the IS-3 heavy tank; it is similar to the later T-54 turret but with a distinctive overhang at the rear. It also had a shorter bustle. The fender machine guns were removed in favour of a single bow-mounted machine gun. The transmission was modernized and the track was widened to 580 mm. The T-54-2 entered production in 1949 (at Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183 (Uralvagonzavod) the production started in 1950). In 1951, a second modernization was made, designated T-54-3 (Ob'yekt 137Sh), which had a new turret without side undercuts, as well as the new TSh-2-22 telescopic gunner's sight instead of the TSh-20. The tank also featured the TDA smoke generating system. It served as the basis for the T-54K command tank, which had an additional radio set, navigation equipment, and a battery charger at the expense of slightly reduced ammunition load (five fewer rounds).
In the beginning of 1950s the personnel of the OKB-520 design bureau of the Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183 (Uralvagonzavod), located in Nizhny Tagil has been changed considerably. Morozov was replaced by Kolesnikow who in turn was replaced by Leonid N. Kartsev in March 1953. The first decision of the new designer was to fit the 100 mm D-10T tank gun with STP-1 "Gorizont" vertical stabilizer. The new tank gun received the designation D-10TG and was fitted into the T-54's turret. The new tank also received the night vision equipment for the driver and was designated T-54A (Ob'yekt 137G). Originally this had a small muzzle counter-weight, which was later replaced with a fume extractor. It is also equipped with OPVT wading snorkel, TSh-2A-22 telescopic sight, TVN-1 infrared driver's periscope and IR headlight, new R-113 radio, multi-stage engine air filter and radiator controls for improved engine performance, an electrical oil pump, bilge pump, automatic fire extinguisher and extra fuel tanks. The tank officially entered service in 1954 and production in 1955. It also served as a basis for T-54AK command tank, with additional R-112 radio set (front line tanks were equipped with R-113 radio set), TNA-2 navigational device, ammunition load for the main gun decreased by 5 rounds and the AB-1-P/30 charging unit, which was produced in small numbers. In October 1953 a T-54A tank, designated as T-54M (Ob'yekt 139) served as a testbed for new D-54T and D-54TS 100 mm smoothbore guns, "Raduga" and "Molniya" stabilization systems, which were later used in the T-62. These were not completely successful, so further T-55 development continued to use the D-10 series guns. It was also fitted with V-54-6 engine developing 581 hp (433 kW). It never went into production.
The new version based on T-54A, designated T-54B (Ob'yekt 137G2), and was designed in 1955. It is fitted with a new 100 mm D-10T2S tank gun with STP-2 "Tsyklon" 2-plane stabilizer. It entered production in 1957. During the last four months of production the new tanks were equipped with L-2 "Luna" infrared searchlight and TPN-1-22-11 IR gunner's sight, OU-3 IR commander's searchlight. In addition, modern APFSDS ammunition was developed, dramatically enhancing the penetrative performance of the gun to keep it competitive with NATO armor developments. T-54B also served as the basis for T-54BK command tank which had exactly the same additional equipment as the T-54AK command tank.
After the first trials with nuclear weapons it turned out that T-54 can survive 2-15 kt nuclear charge at a range of more than 300 m from the epicenter. The crew however has chances of surviving the same explosion at a range of more than 700 m from the epicenter. So it was decided to create an NBC protection system which would start working 0.3 seconds after detecting gamma radiation. The task of creating basic PAZ (PAZ stands for Protivoatomnaya Zashchita) NBC protection system offering protection against the deadly blast overpressure of a nuclear explosion and particulate filtration, but not against radiation or gas was given to the KB-60 design bureau in Kharkov and it was completed in 1956. The documentation was sent to Uralvagonzavod. It was decided to increase tank's battle capabilities by changing the tank's construction and introducing new production technologies. Many of those changes were earlier tested on T-54M (Ob'yekt 139). The tank was fitted with the new V-55 12-cylinder 4-stroke one-chamber 38.88 litre water-cooled diesel engine developing 581 hp (433 kW). Higher engine power was accomplished by increasing the pressure of fuel delivery and charging degree. It was planned to introduce a heating system for the engine compartment and MC-1 diesel fuel filter. The engine was supposed to be started pneumatically with the use of AK-150S charger and an electric starter. This eliminated the need for the tank to carry a tank filled with air. To allow easier access during maintenance and repairs it was decided to change hatches over the engine compartment. To increase the operational range fuel tanks with 300 litres were added to the front of the hull which increased the overall fuel capacity to 680 litres. The ammunition load for the main gun was increased from 34 to 45, 18 from which are stored in so called wet containers located in hull fuel tanks (the concept for which came from Kartsev's cancelled Ob'yekt 140 tank). The said ammunition load included high explosive-fragmentation and anti-tank rounds and it was also planned to introduce the BK5M HEAT rounds which penetrated 390 mm thick armour. The TPKU commander's vision device was supposed to be replaced by either the TPKUB or TPKU-2B. The gunner was supposed to receive TNP-165 vision device. The loader's hatch-mounted 12.7 mm DShK anti-aircraft heavy machine gun was dropped, because it was deemed worthless against high-performance jets. The fact that it was removed meant that the loader's hatch had to be modified. The tank was supposed to be equipped with "Rosa" fire protection system. The tank also had a thicker turret casting and an improved two-plane gun stabilization system from T-54B as well as night vision fighting equipment. To balance the weight of the new equipment the armour on the back of the hull was thinned slightly. The T-55 was significantly superior to the IS-2 Heavy Tank in all respects, included the rate of fire of the gun (at least four compared to less than three rounds per minute). Despite somewhat thinner frontal turret armour (200 mm rather than 250 mm), it also compared favourably with the IS-3, thanks to its improved antitank gun and better mobility. Heavy tanks soon fell from favour, with only 350 IS-3s produced and future Soviet heavy tank designs remaining as prototypes. The old model of highly mobile medium tanks and heavily armoured heavy tanks was replaced with a new paradigm: the "main battle tank". Parallel developments in the West would produce similar results. However the T-55 was simply a modernized T-54 but it received a new designation because of political reasons. It entered service with the Red Army on 8 May 1958. It entered production at Uralvagonzavod in 1958. Since 1959 the tank also served as a basis for T-55K command tank which was equipped with additional R-112 radio set, AB-1-P/30 fuel powered accumulator charging unit and TPN-1-22-11 night vision sight. All this additional equipment made it necessary to decrease the carried ammunition load for the main gun to 37 rounds and eliminate the bow machine gun. In the beginning of 1960s a T-55K was experimentally fitted with "Uran" TV relay apparatus used for battlefield observation. The tank was fitted with an external camera, the picture from which was relayed to a receiver in a BTR-50PU command vehicle. Additionally there was an observation camera mounted on a folding mast which was in turn mounted on UAZ 69 car. The range on which the picture could be relayed was between 10 km and 30 km. In 1961 a T-55 tank was used to test the "Almaz" TV complex which was supposed to replace the standard observation devices right after the nuclear explosion and while fording. There was a camera mounted on the hull for the driver and two cameras mounted on the turret, one for aiming and one for observation the picture from the cameras was relayed to two control screens. The tank had removed front hull fuel tanks and bow machine gun. Also the commander was seated on the driver's position while the driver sat next to him. The cameras allow battlefield observation and firing during daytime at ranges between 1.5 km and 2 km. However because of the low quality of the equipment the trials gave negative results. In the beginning of 1960s the OKB-29 design bureau in Omsk was working on adapting the tank to GTD-3T gas turbine engine developing 700 hp (522 kW). One T-55 tank fitted with the said gas turbine engine was passing trials which however weren't deemed unsatisfactory and the tank didn't go into production. Also in the same design bureau between 1962 and 1965 three experimental T-55 tanks (designated Ob'yekt 612) fitted with an automatic gearbox controlled by the electro-hydraulic device were tested. The trials showed that a gearbox of such kind will experience many break downs in a tank. At the same time the Ob'yekt 155ML (T-55 fitted with a launcher for three 9M14 "Malyutka" (NATO code: AT-3 Sagger) ATGMs mounted on the rear of the turret). Along with standard tanks a flamethrower armed version was designed (designated TO-55 (Ob'yekt 482)) which was produced until 1962. It was fitted with 460 litre tanks filled with flammable liquid instead of the hull front fuel tanks. the flamethrower replaced the coaxial machine gun. It was a much better way of mounting the flamethrower than in experimental Ob'yekt 483 based on T-54 tank where the flamethrower replaced the main gun. TO-55 flamethrower tanks were withdrawn from service in 1993.
During the 1950s, the T-55 remained a significantly smaller and lighter tank than its NATO contemporaries—the U.S. M48 Patton and the British Centurion—but with comparable or better firepower, protection, and reliability. The 100mm D-10T tank gun was considered a strong point of the T-54/55 because none of the Western tanks of the time used a gun of such high calibre and barrel length. This advantage lasted until the tank began to be surpassed by newer Western developments like the M60 Patton and upgraded Centurions. Due to the round's low velocity and the tank's simple fire-control system, however, the T-54/55 was able to rely on HEAT shaped-charge ammunition to engage tanks well into the 1960s, despite the relative inaccuracy of this ammunition at long ranges. The Soviets considered this acceptable for a potential European conflict, until the development of Chobham armor began reducing the effectiveness of HEAT warheads.
In 1961, development of improved NBC protection systems began. The goal was to protect the crew from fast neutrons; adequate protection against gamma radiation was provided by the thick armour and PAZ basic NBC protection system.
The POV plasticized lead antiradiation lining was developed to provide the needed protection. It was installed in the interior. Because of this, the driver's hatch had to be enlarged. The coamings over the turret hatches were also visibly enlarged. This liner had the added benefit of protecting the crew from fragments of penetrated armour.
The tank was also equipped with a full PAZ/FVU chemical filtration system. The coaxial 7.62 mm SGMT machine gun was replaced by 7.62 mm PKT machine gun. The hull was lengthened from 6.04 m to 6.2 m. The hull machine gun was removed, making space for six more main gun rounds. These changes increased the weight of the vehicle to 38 tonnes.
The design work was done by OKB-520 design bureau of the Uralvagonzavod under the leadership of Leonid N. Kartsev. The T-55A also served as the basis for the T-55AK command tank.
In its long service life the T-55 has been upgraded many times.
Early T-55s were fitted with a new TSz-2B-32P sight. In 1959, some tanks received mountings for the PT-55 mineclearing system or the BTU/BTU-55 plough. In 1967, the improved BM8 APFSDS round, which could penetrate 275 mm thick armour at a range of 2 km, was introduced. In 1970, a complex T-55/T-55A modernization at Uralvagonzavod equipped the tank with a 12.7 mm DShK machine gun. Newly produced T-55A tanks started receiving it in 1970. Since 1974 T-55 tanks started receiving KTD-1 or KTD-2 laser rangefinder in an armoured box over the mantlet of the main gun, as well as the R-123 or R-123M radio set. Simultaneously efforts were made to modernize and increase the lifespan of the drive train.
During production the T-55A was frequently modernized. In 1965 a new track was introduced which could be used for between 2000 km and 3000 km which was two times more when compared to the old track. However it required new drive sprocket with 14 teeth instead of 13. Since 1974 T-55A tanks were equipped with KTD-1 "Newa" rangefinder and TSzS-32PM sight. All T-55A tanks were equipped with TPN-1-22-11 night sight. R-113 radio set was replaced by R-123 radio set. Late production models had rubber sideskirts and glass cover for the driver which was used during longer marches.
T-54 and T-55 tanks continued to be upgraded, refitted, and modernized into the 1990s. Advances in armour-piercing and HEAT ammunition would improve the gun's antitank capabilities in the 1960s and 1980s.
A wide array of upgrades in different price ranges are provided by many manufacturers in different countries, intended to bring the T-54/55 up to the capabilities of newer MBTs, at a lower cost. Upgrades include new engines, explosive reactive armour, new main armament such as 120 mm or 125 mm guns, active protection systems, and fire control systems with range-finders or thermal sights. These improvements make it a potent main battle tank (MBT) for the low-end budget, even to this day.
One of these upgrade packages was produced by Cadillac Gauge Textron and a prototype named the Jaguar was produced. The Jaguar looked quite different from its predecessors. A newly-designed turret was formed by flat armour plates installed at different angles. The hull top was also new. The engine compartment and fuel tanks on the shelves over the tracks were also armour-protected. The Soviet-made 100mm gun was replaced with the American M68 105mm rifled gun fitted with the thermal sleeve. A Marconi fire control system which was originally developed for the American light tank Stingray was also fitted. The vehicle incorporated a Cadillac-Gauge weapon stabilizer and gunner's sight equipped with an integral laser rangefinder. The powerpack inherited by the Jaguar from the Stinger underwent only minor alterations and comprised the Detroit Diesel 8V-92TA engine and XTG-411 automatic transmission. In 1989, two Jaguar tanks were manufactured. The chassis were provided by PRC, while the hull tops, turrets and powerplants were manufactured by Cadillac Gauge Textron.
Another prototype upgrade package was produced by Teledyne Continental Motors (now General Dynamics Land Systems) for the Egyptian Army and was known as the T-54E. After further modifications, and trials it was sent into mass-production and received a designation Ramses II..
Like many post-World War II tanks, the T-54 and T-55 have a conventional layout with fighting compartment in the front, engine compartment in the rear, and a dome-shaped turret in the centre of the hull. The driver's hatch is on the front-left of the hull roof. The commander is seated on the left, with the gunner to his front and the loader on the right. The tank's suspension has the drive sprocket at the rear, and dead track. Engine exhaust is on the left fender. There is a prominent gap between the first and second road wheel pairs, a distinguishing feature from the T-62, which has progressively larger spaces between road wheels towards the rear.
The T-54 and T-55 tanks are outwardly very similar and difficult to distinguish visually. Many T-54s were also updated to T-55 standards, so the distinction is often downplayed with the collective name T-54/55. Soviet tanks were factory-overhauled every 7,000 km and often given minor technology updates. Many states have added or modified the tank's equipment; India, for example, affixed fake fume extractors to its T-54s and T-55s so that its gunners wouldn't confuse them with Pakistani Type 59s.
The older T-54 can be distinguished from the T-55 by a dome-shaped ventilator on the front-right of the turret and a driver-operated SGMT 7.62 mm machine gun mounted to fire through a tiny hole in the centre of the hull's front. Early T-54s lacked a gun fume extractor, had an undercut at the turret's rear, and a distinctive "pig-snout" gun mantlet.
The T-54/55 tanks are mechanically simple and robust. They are very simple to operate compared to Western tanks, and don't require a high level of training or education in their crewmembers. The T-54/55 is a relatively small main battle tank, presenting a smaller target for its opponents to hit. The tanks also have good mobility thanks to their relatively light weight (which permits easy transport by rail or flatbed truck, and allows crossing of lighter bridges), wide tracks (which give lower ground pressure and hence good mobility on soft ground), a good cold-weather start-up system, and a snorkel which allows river crossings. The T-54/55 tanks have together been manufactured in the tens of thousands, and many still remain in reserve, or even in front-line use among lower-technology fighting forces. Abundance and age together make these tanks cheap and easy to purchase. And while the T-54/55 is clearly not a match for a modern main battle tank, armour and ammunition upgrades can dramatically improve the old vehicle's performance to the point that it cannot be dismissed on the battlefield. (Gelbart 1996:75-78)
T-54/55 tanks also have many serious defects. Small size is achieved at the expense of interior space and crew comforts. This causes practical difficulties, as it constrains the physical movements of the crew and slows operation of controls and equipment. Israelis who crewed T-54/55's captured during the 1967 and 1973 wars constantly complained of this, and this remains a problem that cannot be remedied by any upgrades. The low turret profile of the tanks also prevents them from depressing their main guns by more than 5° (the average for Western tanks is 10°), which limits the ability to cover terrain by fire from a hull-down position on a reverse slope. While both tanks have stabilized guns, in practice the they can only fire accurately when the vehicles are at rest (this problem may have been solved with more recent upgrades). The 100mm gun is less effective than newer tank guns of 120 and 125mm calibre, and only has a chance at being effective against heavily armoured tanks when firing special ammunition (such as missiles). The internal ammunition supply is not shielded, increasing the odds that any enemy penetration of the fighting compartment could cause a catastrophic secondary explosion. And while the T-54/55 tanks can be upgraded, the stunning losses suffered by upgraded Iraqi T-55's against American M1 Abrams tanks during the Gulf War showed the inescapable limitations of the design. The T-54/55 tanks are simply outdated and cannot be expected to have much of a chance against modern opponents.
The T-54 is especially defective: It lacks NBC protection, a revolving turret floor (which complicated the crew's operations), and early models lacked gun stabilization. All of these problems were corrected in the T-55 tank, which is otherwise largely identical to the T-54.
The T-54-1 production was slow at first as only 3 vehicles were built in 1946 and 22 in 1947. 285 T-54-1 tanks were build in 1948 by Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183 (Uralvagonzavod), located in Nizhny Tagil. By that time it completely replaced T-44 in production at Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) in Nizhny Tagil, and Kharkov Diesel Factory No. 75 (KhPZ). However the production had stopped because of a low level of production quality and frequent breakdowns. T-54-2 entered production overall in 1949 (at Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183 (Uralvagonzavod) the production started in 1950 and until the end of the year it produced 423 tanks). It replaced the T-34 in production at the Omsk Factory No. 183 in 1950. In 1951 over 800 T-54-2 tanks were produced. T-54-2 remained in production until 1952. T-54A was produced between 1955 and 1957. T-54B was produced between 1957 and April 1959. T-55 was produced by Uralvagonzavod between 1958 and 1962. T-55K commands tank was produced since 1959. The TO-55 (Ob'yekt 482) flamethrower tank was produced until 1962.
Overall 35,000 T-54-1, T-54-2, T-54 (T-54-3), T-54A, T-54B, T-54AK1, T-54AK2, T-54BK1 and T-54BK2 were produced between 1946 and 1958 and 27,500 T-55, T-55A, T-55K1, T-55K2, T-55K3, T-55AK1, T-55AK2 and T-55AK3 were produced between 1955 and 1981.
Poland produced 3,000 T-54, T-54A, T-54AD and T-54AM between 1956 and 1964 and 5,000 T-55 (between 1958 and 1964), T-55L, T-55AD-1 and T-55AD-2 (between 1964 and 1979).
Czechoslovakia produced 2,700 T-54A, T-54AM, T-54AK, T-54AMK between 1957 and 1966 and 8,300 T-55 and T-55A between 1958 and 1983 (T-55A was probably produced since 1964) (most of them for export).
T-54 tanks served in the 1956 invasion of Hungary, and a few were knocked out by Molotov cocktails and Hungarian antitank guns. The revolutionists delivered one captired T-54A to the British Embassy in Budapest; the analysis of which spurred the development of the Royal Ordnance L7 tank gun. The T-62 and T-55 are now mostly in reserve status; Russian active-duty units mainly use the T-80 and T-72, with a smaller number of T-90 tanks in service (the T-90 in a few units only).
During the 1967 Six-Day War, U.S. M48 Patton tanks, Centurion tanks, and even upgraded World War II era Sherman tanks, were faced against T-55s. This mix of Israeli tanks, combined with superior planning of operations and superior airpower, proved to be more than capable of dealing with the T-54/T-55 series.
By the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the T-54A and T-55's gun was starting to lose its competitive effectiveness over to the 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 gun mounted in Israeli Centurion Mk V and M60A1 tanks. Israel captured many T-55s from Syria and mostly Egypt in 1967, and kept some of them in service. They were upgraded with a 105 mm NATO-standard L7 or M68 main gun replacing the old Soviet 100 mm D-10, and a General Motors diesel replacing the original Soviet diesel engine. The Israelis designated these Tiran-5 medium tanks, and they were used by reserve units until the early 1990s. Most of them were then sold to assorted Third World countries, some of them in Latin America, and the rest were heavily modified, converted into heavy armoured personnel carriers designated the IDF Achzarit.
T-54 tanks were also used during the Cambodian civil war
During the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, India operated T-55s in Chaamb against Pakistan's M48 Patton, M24 Chaffee, and Chinese Type 59 tanks. The Indians benefited from infrared night vision and better AP rounds and routed the Pakistani Armoured Forces.
During the Ugandan-Tanzanian War of 1978-79, Libya sent an expeditionary force to aid Uganda dictator Idi Amin which included a few dozen T-54/55 tanks. Some of these tanks saw action against Tanzanian forces.
The T-54/T-55 saw action against South African and UNITA forces during the war in Angola. This Soviet tank's reliability and ruggedness matched the demanding, rugged African operational environment. However, significant numbers of T-54/T-55 tanks were lost to S.African Olifant MBTs, artillery fire, and wire-guided missiles in several engagements.
The T-55 was the most numerous tank of the Yugoslavian Army (JNA). It was the mainstay of armoured combat units during the Yugoslav Wars, where it proved vulnerable to infantry equipped with anti-tank rockets, and to misemployment in urban areas and unfriendly terrain. But there were too many of them in service for them to be replaced. During the battle of Vukovar, where the JNA grouped most of its tank force, many were destroyed, almost exclusively by infantry-carried anti-tank weapons. The T-55 tank remained the most common tank in the armies of the Yugoslavian successor states until recently. T-55s were also used by all sides in Kosovo and 2001 Macedonia war.
The T-55 has been used worldwide by as many as 50 countries and quasi-armies. They have been subject to numerous improvements throughout their production history and afterwards and many are still in service today.
Modifications to the T-54/55 series over the years have changed almost every aspect of the vehicle. Initially, Soviet modifications included better turret shape, improved NBC protection and improved powerplant. Later, improved fire-control equipment and night-vision equipment was added.
Foreign improvements, both in Warsaw Pact nations and elsewhere, have further improved protection, powerplant, and firepower. T-54/55s have been re-armed with improved tank guns, AA machine guns, advanced armour arrays, and technologies such as laser rangefinders and computerized fire control systems that did not exist when the tank was first being built in the early days of the Cold War.