The armored vehicles of the US Army: the M18 Hellcat

(To Francesco Sisto)

THEM18 Hellcat it was the most important tank destroyer of the US Army used in the Second World War. Developed in 1943, the vehicle entered service in the spring of 1944; overall - from 1943 to 1944 - 2507 examples were built.

THEM18During the conflict, it proved to be a good combat vehicle. Among the strengths there was certainly the speed (it could reach up to 89 km/h), while among the vulnerabilities there was the too weak armor (4,8-25,4 mm).

The vehicle was withdrawn after the Second World War. However, the variant M39 Armored Utility Vehicle it was used during the Korean War (following photo).

It is worth underlining that in the United States, research and analysis on the project of a fast tank destroyer began in December 1941, under the influence of what was happening in the European and North African theater of war.

Initially the requirements necessary for the construction of the tank destroyer were: standard suspensions Christie, Wright R-975 Whirlwind aircraft engine and 37 mm cannon. At the same time, developments taking place in armored combat suggested switching to a 57 mm gun. Furthermore, “torsion bars were chosen instead of suspensions Christie".1

However, the new combat vehicle – named 57mm Gun Motor Carriage T49 – was considered not yet up to par. Subsequently, some modifications were made, and the 57 mm piece was replaced with a 75 mm one. Finally, in the winter of 1943, it was decided to "replace" the 75 mm gun with the 76 mm M1 gun (specifically suitable for anti-tank shooting).

The combat vehicle M18 Hellcat, despite its weak armour, proved to be a valid and efficient vehicle; all this thanks to its stability, good weight/power ratio and remarkable mobility. In fact, it was with theM18 that the US Army perfected a tactical characteristic of tank destroyers: "strike and move immediately to escape the reaction fire of opposing tanks".2

The vehicle, in the Second World War, was widely used on the Western Front and to a lesser extent in the Italian countryside and in the Pacific.

The conflict ended numerous M18 they were sold to other countries, including the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The vehicle was used by the Krajina Serb Army and the Bosnian Serb Army Republika Serbian in the Yugoslav wars.

The tank destroyer M18 Hellcat it weighed 17,036 tons. She had a length of 6,65 m, width 2,87 m and height 2,57 m.

Engine: Wright R-975 Whirlwind, power 350/400 HP. The maximum speed was 89 km/h on the road, while 42 km/h off-road.

The armament consisted of a 76 mm M1 cannon and a 2 mm M12,7 machine gun.

It had 4,8-25,4 mm armor.

The vehicle could count on a crew of 5 men.

1 See C. Falessi-B. Pafi, M18 Hellcat, in Illustrated History n°151, 1970, p.141

2 Ibidem

Photo: web / US Army