|This page is about the American light tank M3 Stuart. For other versions, see M3 Stuart (Family). For other uses, see M3 (Disambiguation).|
The M3 is the first variant of the M3 light tank family. While observing events in Europe and Asia during World War II, American tank designers noticed the M2 was becoming increasingly obsolete and set about improving the design. The M3 was developed following the German invasion of France during World War II. The fast collapse of France prompted the U.S. Army to consider a new doctrine, which resulted in an independent U.S. armoured force. The M3 was an improved design with thicker armour, redesigned suspension, and a new gun recoil system. The vehicle's production began in March 1941 and lasted until October 1943. Furthermore, the M3 chassis served as the basis for a variety of weaponry throughout the war (for example, the 75 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M8 (HMC), also known as the M8 "Scott").
Introduced in Update 1.45 "Steel Generals", the M3 is a U.S. Army light tank that shares many common characteristics with the M2 light tank family. With a better engine, slightly improved armour thickness, and a more reliable transmission system, the M3 is able to manoeuvre around the battlefield extremely easily. In general, it offers a very similar playstyle to a light attack or scouting vehicle, making it well-suited for beginners to learn and experience the beginning of the U.S. Army ground forces. Many variants of the M3 light tanks family were also seen in service in many other countries throughout the world during World War II, which is reflected in the ground forces in many other nations in War Thunder.
Survivability and armour
Being a light tank the M3 Stuart has fairly thin armour, it can generally protect against most machine guns but will usually not stand up against the main weapons of most enemy tanks at its battle rating. The inside of the tank is fairly cramped with the two turret members standing, this means that the likelihood of a crew member being hit is fairly high.
- Rolled homogeneous armour
- Cast homogeneous armour (lower frontal plate)
|Hull|| 38.1 mm (18°) Driver Port
15.8 mm (69°) Front Glacis
|25.4 mm||25.4 mm||12.7 mm|
|Turret||38.1 mm||25.4 mm||25.4 mm||12.7 mm|
- Suspension wheels and bogies are 15 mm thick, tracks are 10 mm thick.
|Game Mode||Max Speed (km/h)||Weight (tons)||Engine power (horsepower)||Power-to-weight ratio (hp/ton)|
The M3 Stuart can reach a speed of 49 km/h off-road and up to 50 km/h on road. It can feel sluggish while turning at a lower speed as it lacks neutral steer, but when moving forward the turning is much smoother and quicker. The vehicle reverses at up to 5 km/h which while somewhat slow, is still usable in most situations on the battlefield.
Modifications and economy
The main gun of the M3 Stuart is a 37 mm M5 cannon; this gun is also featured on the M2A4 and M3 Lee. On the M3 Stuart the M5 can use 2 round types, either M74 (AP) or M51 (APCBC) with the latter being a Tier 1 modification.
The overall firepower is decent. The main cannon has an adequate penetration of about 60 mm which is more than enough to go through most tanks below 2.0, for example, T-26, Pz.III and Pz.35(t). Although the available ammunition is all solid shells, they still make quite a bit of shrapnel when penetrating which is enough to knock out compact tanks like T-26 and Pz.35(t). For larger tanks like the LVT(A), accurate shots pinpointing the crew are required which may be difficult for new players. The cannon has enough accuracy to precisely knock out the enemy's crew within 500 m. If one shot misses, the reload time of around 3.5 seconds allows quick following shots.
There is a nice stabiliser for the cannon which is a big advantage when exchanging fire, as it allows you to move out of cover and fire (usually before the enemy) without having to wait for your tank to stop wobbling. The stabiliser should be utilised to maximise your chance of surviving and killing. Note that it only works below 10 km/h, so remember to slow down or it will not stabilise the gun.
Targets like the 15cm sIG 33 B Sfl or M3 GMC (mixed battle) can be quite hard to destroy, as their armour is thin enough to create little shrapnel, but are also thick enough to stop MG bullets. Against them, you can only rely on you fire rate, accuracy and of course your knowledge of their crew position to knock out their crew one by one. Always go for the gunners or drivers first, if you failed then they can always fight back and knock you out.
The main cannon is only effective in close-quarter combat (usually within 200 m) or against weakly armoured targets since the penetration drops drastically as the range increases; in addition the small calibre makes the shells easy to ricochet. When encountering fairly well armoured tanks like the M13/40 or H.35, try and break their gun barrels first or track them. If they are too far away, pin them on the map and call teammates to help.
|37 mm M5||Turret rotation speed (°/s)||Reloading rate (seconds)|
|Ammunition|| Type of
|Penetration @ 0° Angle of Attack (mm)|
|10 m||100 m||500 m||1,000 m||1,500 m||2,000 m|
|Ammunition|| Type of
|Fuse delay|| Fuse sensitivity
| Explosive mass
(TNT equivalent) (g)
|103||84 (+19)||41 (+62)||1 (+102)||No|
Alongside the main gun, the M3 has four additional 7.62 mm M1919A4 machine guns. The first machine gun noted is in a coaxial mount aligned with the gun, the second is mounted on the turret top in a pintle mount and the last two are mounted on the hull sides in a fixed firing position. The M3 does also have a hull front machine gun, however, this machine gun cannot be fired.
The machine gun is only powerful enough to destroy poorly protected vehicles such as AS 42, Flakpanzer I and GAZ-AAAs. The penetration of around 10 mm is not enough to go through the frontal armour of those not-so-weakly-armoured tanks like SU-5-1, Panzerjäger I or 15cm sIG 33 B Sfl. If you are skilled the two machine guns can effectively damage low-flying biplanes or deter enemy ground attack aircraft.
|7.62 mm M1919A4|
|Mount||Capacity (Belt)||Fire rate||Vertical||Horizontal|
Usage in battles
When driving the M3 Stuart it is best to maintain some distance from enemy vehicles, this is advisable due to the somewhat thin armour and closely packed crew that you have to work with. If you are on a smaller map where keeping distance from enemy vehicles is not possible then it would be a good idea to use buildings and landscape features for cover and to keep your vehicle concealed.
In the majority of cases, you will be able to go through the frontal armour of enemy tanks (maximum penetration is 86 mm) although some vehicles with heavily angled front armour may be able to stop your round being effective, a consistently effective tactic is to flank an enemy vehicle and fire into the side of the crew compartment, aiming near the turret to disable their ability to fire is a good way to use your first shot. Thanks to the quick (at best 2.9s) reload of the M3 you can then put second and third shots into the enemy if needed to finish off their crew.
Another aspect worth mentioning here is the mobility of the M3. While not the fastest vehicle at its BR it certainly still has competitive mobility that will allow it to reach capture points quickly or get to a good camping or flanking position before most enemy or friendly vehicles.
Enemies worth noting:
Specific enemy vehicles that bear mentioning are firstly any German vehicle with the 20 mm KwK38 or FlaK38 cannons, these guns might be small in calibre but can have up to 48 mm of penetration, which is enough to go through the M3A3. Combined with a rate of fire of 280 rounds per minute, and a very short reload time, these guns will very easily take out your crew before you have a chance to respond. To counter these opponents, the best chance you have is to angle your frontal armour which can make it difficult for their PzGr 40 HVAP-T rounds to penetrate. The Soviet T-50 and T-126 are vehicles you will also see commonly, these have fairly thick and angled frontal armour that will prevent you from easily getting through. These tanks can also carry an APHEBC round that will destroy you in one shot with little difficulty, to counter you should use your speed to attempt to get a side shot into either the turret or engine. If the T-50 cannot move you can outrun its turret and finish it without much difficulty.
It is likely that the M3 will encounter some rough heavies, like the Matilda III and the B1 bis. The best tactic against these types of targets is to use the M3's fast speed, get within 200 m from them and attack, with shooting at point-blank range being the most effective way. Before conducting an attack, check the M3's and the enemy's surroundings to make sure no one will ambush the M3. While charging, use the M3's quick turns to suddenly change direction to avoid being shot if they are aiming and firing at the M3. Once the tank is at the ideal distance, manoeuvre so that the gun is perpendicular to their armour. Do not shoot if the enemy is angling! The small calibre 37 mm gun is very likely to bounce off or not penetrate against sloped armour.
For the Matilda III, shoot at the middle of the near-vertical frontal plate to knock out the driver first, since the 37 mm shell is not enough to knock out the gunner after penetrating. Once it is immobile, go to its side and finish it by shooting its hull sides. Or, shoot the right side of the gun mantlet to disable its gunner. For the best chance of penetration, do not shoot its turret side.
For the B1, either aim for the near-vertical frontal armour plate at the right side of the hull, or the turret ring to incapacitate the commander/gunner, or simply move to its side and knock out the crews one by one by hitting its flat side armour.
Pros and cons
- Great cannon with good penetration, excellent rate of fire and gun depression; it can effectively penetrate common opponents like the Pz.II and Chi-Ha, as well as heavy targets like the B1 bis or Matilda III
- Excellent acceleration, top speed and turning ability on all terrains; easily outruns slower opponents like the Pz.III
- Access to a vertical stabiliser which most tanks don't have, it is an advantage in close-quarter encounters
- Respectable frontal armour that, if angled, might bounce some shells from a distance (e.g. Japanese 37 mm/German 20 mm)
- Small turret profile makes it harder to get hit when hull-down
- Empty space below the turret crew can absorb poorly aimed shots, they tend to not do much damage
- Weak armour against shells from high-penetrating cannons like the 50 mm KwK39 or the 76 mm F-34
- Its shells do not have explosive filler, severely limiting the post-penetration effect especially against spacious tanks like the LVT(A)(1)
- Inefficient brakes when trying to stop the tank at full speed
- Hull is fairly tall for a light tank and the crews are closely packed, reducing its survivability
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 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 all its later 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 a well-known action in the Phillippines. In total 108 M3s served with the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions, also known as the 1st Provisional Tank Group, in the 1941 U.S. defence of the Phillippines, despite having no HE ammo issued. More than 30 were captured by the Japanese, who equipped their 7th Tank Regiment with them, who used them to defend the Philippines again, against the US in 1944. M3s were also used by Company B of the 1st Marine Tank Battalion at Guadalcanal in 1942. 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 75 mm 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.
At the beginning of 1940 the Ordnance Department put together technical requirements for a new tank, the need for which was clear at the beginning of World War II. The first prototype was refashioned after the M2A4 at the Rock Island Arsenal. The tank had a riveted turret with few viewing slits, and the new M22 mantlet had thicker armour. The hull's frontal armour was also thickened to 45 mm and the turret to 38 mm. The tank hull was assembled from rolled armour plates on a frame made from angle sections and flat bars using rivets, though later releases were partially welded. From the end of 1941 to the beginning of 1942 a lack of standard gas-powered Continental aircraft engines forced some tanks to be outfitted with 265 hp Guiberson T-1020-4 diesel-powered, nine-cylinder, air-cooled radial engines capable of reaching 2,250 rpm. The diesel tanks could be recognized by their Vortex air filters and were generally designated M3 diesels. At the end of 1941 the tanks with carburetor engines were equipped with two cylindrically-shaped external fuel tanks, each with a capacity of 102 liters, that were connected to the engine supply system. After being exhausted, the external tanks could be jettisoned by the crew without leaving the tank. Adding the new tanks doubled the M3's range.
On July 5, 1940, the new light tank was standardized and released under the M3 designation. It was more widely known by the moniker General Stuart, given it by the British, who received a significant number of them in 1941 and 1942 via Lend-Lease.
Production of the M3 began in March 1941 at the American Car & Foundry factory. March 1941 through August 1942 saw 5,811 built, 1,285 of which were equipped with the Guiberson T-1020-4 engine.
M3 Stuart light tanks were also delivered to the Red Army and the UK via Lend-Lease to be used on all fronts in World War II beginning in 1941.
- Other vehicles of similar configuration and role
- [Wikipedia] M3 Stuart
- [Tanks Encyclopedia] Light Tank M3 Stuart
- [Military Factory] M3 Stuart (Light Tank, M3)
|USA light tanks|
|LVT||LVT(A)(1) · ○LVT(A)(1) · LVT(A)(4)|
|M2||M2A2 · M2A4 · M2A4 (1st Arm.Div.)|
|M3/M5 Stuart||M3 Stuart · M3A1 Stuart · M3A1 (USMC) · M5A1 · M5A1 TD · ▃Stuart VI (5th CAD)|
|M24 Chaffee||M24 · M24 (TL)|
|M18 Hellcat||M18 GMC · M18 "Black Cat" · Super Hellcat|
|M41 Walker Bulldog||M41A1|
|M3 Bradley||M3 Bradley · M3A3 Bradley|
|Wheeled||M8 LAC · T18E2 · M1128 · M1128 Wolfpack|
|Other||M8A1 GMC · T92 · T114 · HSTV-L · CCVL · XM8 · AGS|