M50 Ontos

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The Ontos was an American light armored tracked anti-tank vehicle developed in the 1950s. It mounted six M40 106 mm recoilless rifles as its main armament, which could be fired in rapid succession against single targets to guarantee a kill. The Ontos (Greek for "the thing") project was created to be an air transportable tank-destroyer capable of being lifted by the cargo aircraft of the 1950s. This limited it to a weight between 10 and 20 metric tons, the only other limitation to the design being that it had to use the six-cylinder engine then widely used in the Army's GMC trucks. Allis-Chalmers was awarded the contract on August 12, 1955, for 297 vehicles. Allis-Chalmers' first vehicle, completed in 1952, was based on the running gear of the M56 Scorpion light anti-tank vehicle. The vehicle mounted a cast steel turret with two arms holding three rifles each. This early model could traverse the turret only about 15 degrees. A second prototype used a new suspension system including new tracks, and a newer turret with about 40 degrees traverse. Only eighteen rounds for the main guns could be carried inside the vehicle due to limited space. Four of the rifles also had 50-caliber spotting rifles attached, firing a round that flew like the 106 mm round and gave off a puff of smoke on impact with the target. This meant that the 106 mm recoilless rifles were lined up with the target, and then they would be fired. A single .30 caliber M1919A4 machine gun was also carried for anti-infantry use. The Ontos was particularly liked by its crews, and praised by commanders. Their relatively light weight meant that the M50s could also go where tanks got bogged down. The Ontos, with its lower ground pressure, could drag timbers up to the tanks to help get them unstuck. In another operation, the Ontos was the only tracked vehicle light enough to cross a pontoon bridge. In the Battle of Hue, Regimental commander Colonel Stanley felt the Ontos was the most effective of all Marine supporting arms. Its mobility made it less vulnerable than tanks, which suffered heavy losses, while at ranges of 300 to 500 yards (270 to 460 m), its recoilless rifles could knock holes in or completely knock down walls. The appearance of an Ontos was sometimes enough to make the enemy break and run. In Operation De Soto, the introduction of the large CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter made possible moving a platoon 25 miles (40 km) south of Quan Ngai City carrying Ontos in slings underneath the aircraft. The Ontos units were deactivated in May 1969, and some of the vehicles were handed over to an Army Light Infantry Brigade. They used them until they ran out of spare parts, and then removed the turrets and used them as fixed fortifications. Both these and the rest of the vehicles returned from Vietnam in 1970 and were cut up for scrap, with some of the chassis being sold off as construction vehicles. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]





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