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|This page is about the American light tank M3A1 Stuart. For other uses, see M3 (Family).|
The Light Tank M3A1 Stuart is a rank I American light tank with a battle rating of 1.7 (AB) and 2.0 (RB/SB). It was one of the first American tanks to be released with the American ground tree in Update 1.45 "Steel Generals". Compared to its predecessor, the M3, it has a more streamlined turret shape that presents a smaller target.
Survivability and armour
- Rolled homogeneous armour
- Cast homogeneous armour (Gun mantlet)
|Hull|| 38.1 mm (18°) Driver Port
15.8 mm (69°) Front Glacis
|25.4 mm||25.4 mm||12.7 mm|
|Turret||50.8 mm||31.8 mm||31.8 mm||12.7 mm|
|Weight (tons)|| Add-on Armor
|Max speed (km/h)|
|Engine power (horsepower)|
|Power-to-weight ratio (hp/ton)|
|37 mm M6|
| Horizontal |
|Turret rotation speed (°/s)|
|Mode||Stock||Upgraded||Prior + Full crew||Prior + Expert qualif.||Prior + Ace qualif.|
|Reloading rate (seconds)|
|Stock||Prior + Full crew||Prior + Expert qualif.||Prior + Ace qualif.|
|Ammunition|| Type of
|Penetration in mm @ 90°|
Mass in kg
| Fuse delay
| Fuse sensitivity
| Explosive Mass in g
| Normalization At 30°
|106||71 (+35)||36 (+70)||1 (+105)||No|
|7.62 mm M1919A4|
|Capacity (Belt capacity)|| Fire rate
| Horizontal |
|Capacity (Belt capacity)|| Fire rate
| Horizontal |
Usage in the battles
Like all early American tanks, this tank works best from a distance where its armour can shine and its gun can provide fast covering fire. However, this tank also works well in tight spaces if the armour is angled correctly, thanks to is the ability to bounce shots and snipe enemy crew with its AP ammunition. It will also hold its own as a hit and run the tank with its fast speed and quick firing gun. But when in this tank, go for the German tanks or American as the Russian tanks have a better gun and armour. But against the Panzer III and IV, the M3A1 will be fine.
Pros and cons
- Good front armour
- Fast and agile
- Reliable gun with a good rate of fire
- Good ammo penetration
- Lots of empty space, so poorly aimed shots tend to not do much damage
- Tank is cramped, one shot can knock out most crew members
- Braking system unresponsive
- Backwards Traverse is slow
- Turning can be hit or miss
- No AP ammunition with HE filler
The American light tank design prior to World War II, the M2 light tank, was seen as obsolete after observing Germany's Panzer forces tear through Europe. The design was to be upgraded with more armour, a better suspension, and a new gun recoil system. The revised version was designated the Light Tank M3, which the British named the Stuart. At its basis, the light tank had a 37 mm cannon with a similar layout as the M2 light tank, with the radial engine at the rear and the transmission on the front, though the radial engine was in high demand so the Guiberson diesel T-1210 were fitted in some models to substitute the engine. The design used the VVSS bogie system seen on previous American tank designs. The tank had a crew of four: driver, assistant driver, gunner, and commander, who doubled as the loader.
The first variant of the M3 Stuart light tank was very similar to the M2 light tanks. It had five machine gun armaments scattered around like the M2 but featured better armour and a better cannon with the 37 mm M6 cannon. The design did not have a turret basket for the crew and it was constructed out of rivets, which increased the chance of spalling in the tank. Nevertheless, the first variant M3 saw about 5,811 units produced. The second variant, the Light Tank M3A1 Stuart , featured a new turret with no cupola on it, plus an added gun stabilizer. The machine guns on the hull sides were removed, so now the total machine guns were reduced from five to three. The design also featured a welded armour design to remove the weakness of riveted armour. 4,621 of this variant was produced from May 1942 to February 1943. The most used variant, the M5A1 Stuart, had a completely redesigned hull and turret, with the hull most notably having a full sloping frontal armour than the previous designs. This variant had about 6,810 units produced. All in all, the M3 light tank design and its variants were produced in massive quantities from March 1941 to October 1943 with a total of 25,000 units produced.
The British were the first to use the M3 Stuart in Africa in 1941, using it in Operation Crusader. However, the result ended with heavy losses, due to the better training the German Afrika Korps had compared to the British tank doctrine. The encounter also pointed out many flaws in the M3, mainly the cramped interior and limited operational range, but was praised for its high mobility and reliability when compared to the British contemporary designs. In 1942, the Stuarts were generally kept as recon units rather than combat units, and some were even modified to improve speed and range by removing the turret, and others were converted to armoured personnel carriers and command vehicles. Though the British used it extensively, it was still in small proportion compared to American usage. The Soviet Union was also another user of the M3 but found it unfavourable due to their own logistics, plus it was not made to withstand the Russian Rasputitsa or even the winter. The Soviet eventually turned down any more offers for the Stuart by 1943. The M3s also supported the British and Chinese forces in Asia against the Japanese Army, and also France and Yugoslavia in Europe against the German Wehrmacht.
The Americans used it widely in both operational theatres. In the Pacific, the M3s were the first tanks America used in a tank vs. tank operation against the Imperial Japanese Army, where five M3s fought Type 95 Ha-Gos in the Phillippines. Though the Stuarts were newer than the Japanese tank designs by about five years, they were seen as equal in performance and firepower, but the M3 benefited by the support of the American industry arm. The Stuarts served in the Pacific slightly better than its heavier counterparts such as the M4 Shermans due to its lighter weight and manoeuvrability in the poor jungle terrain, but the M3 Stuarts in the Pacific were gradually replaced by M4 Shermans due to heavy losses from its thinner armour. The M3 was also some of the first US tanks to be converted into flamethrower tanks, named as the "Satan". The Satan tanks provided favourable results to the concept of a flamethrower tank and were replaced by flamethrower-equipped M4 Shermans in 1945.
In Europe, the M3 formed a large part of the American tank battalions, though following the British path by sidelining the Stuarts from combat duties after heavy losses and to serve alongside Shermans as scouting units. A typical tank battalion for the US Army consisted of three companies of Shermans and one of Stuarts. Other than scouting, the M3s were also used in cavalry roles and infantry support since their cannon are unable to compete with the German tank designs. Despite their dwindling capabilities in battle, the M3 was kept in service up until the end of the war due to the large production numbers.
After World War II, the Stuarts were given out as cheap surplus, countries such as China, India, and Pakistan picked up a few and used them in their conflicts. Portuguese also picked up a few M3s for the war in Angola, and the South African Corps continued using the Stuarts until 1955, where some were still kept in service until 1968 due to available parts. Today, Paraguay is still a user of the M3 light tanks, though as the only tracked armour used in the country.
The Stuart light tank design was also quite versatile that it was made into different variants for different roles on the battlefield. It served as an infantry support vehicle as to the 75mm GMC M8 and experiments were also taken to see if it could be adapted to an anti-aircraft gun and a flamethrower as well. However, the M3 was becoming an ageing design with inferior armour, cramped interior layout, and a small 37 mm gun, so a program to replace the light tank began in 1943 and became the M24 Chaffee, which would eventually replace the M3 Light Tank mostly after World War II.
"Production of the M3A1 Stuart modification got underway in April 1942, with its primary changes affecting turret construction. The turret was a horseshoe-shaped M3, though it did not have a cupola, and two triangular hatches on its roof served as exits for the crew. The gunner and reloader had periscopes. The turret rotated using a power traverse as opposed to the manually rotated M3. Its faster rotation speed required changes in its construction, in particular a basket fitted with seats for the crew members.
The M23 mantlet was fitted with a 37 mm M6 cannon featuring a gyro stabilizer that significantly boosted accuracy while on the move. That did, however, require more training for gunners, a difficult assignment under battlefield conditions. The sponson-mounted immobile M1919A4 machine guns were replaced with additional ammunition storage, pushing the tank's capacity to 116 shells and 6,400 bullets.
From April to August of 1942 the M3A1 was produced alongside the M3. Changes were made gradually, meaning that some later M3s featured welded bodies and new turrets. They lacked, however, the basket and power traverse, and were called Stuart Hybrids. Some early M3A1s had sponson-mounted machine guns (the intervening models plugged up the openings) and riveted bodies. By the end of February 1943, 4,621 M3A1s had been assembled, 211 of them with the Guiberson T-1020-4 engines (called Stuart IVs by the British). It is worth noting that the M3A1s with welded bodies should have been designated M3A2s, though that never actually happened."
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|USA light tanks|
|LVT(A)(1) · M8 · M22 · M24 · M24 (TL) · T18E2|
|M2||M2A2 · M2A4 · M2A4 (1st Arm.Div.)|
|Stuart||M3 Stuart · M3A1 Stuart · M3A1 (USMC) · M5A1 · M5A1 (5th arm.div.) · M8 HMC|
|Post-war||M41A1 · T92 · M551 · M3 Bradley|