M51 Heavy Recovery Vehicle

The M51 Heavy Recovery Vehicle was produced in the early 1950s to replace earlier recovery vehicles based on the Medium tank M4 Sherman.

By the early 1950s a number of heavier tank designs had entered American service, starting with the 42 ton M26 Pershing and the 44 ton M46 Patton, while the 58 ton Heavy Tank M103 was in development.

In February 1951 work began on a design study of a new heavy recovery vehicle. The idea was approved by the Army Field Forces Board in April 1951. A full scale mock-up was approved on 5 July 1951 and the production of two pilot vehicles on 2 August 1951. The new vehicle was designated as the Heavy Recovery Vehicle T51.

The second pilot went to Fort Knox for service tests in February 1953, and the first pilot was delivered to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in April 1953. The vehicle was accepted for production on 1 September 1953 and standardized as the Heavy Recovery Vehicle M51 on 22 October 1953. Work on the production pilot began at Chrysler's Detroit tank Arsenal in October 1953, and this vehicle went to Fort Knox for trials in August 1954. This was followed by 187 production vehicles, constructed in 1954-55. Despite all of these tests the new vehicle was then judged to be unfit for service. A total of 52 changes were required, and a second pre-production pilot was built incorporating them. The production vehicles were then brought up to the new standards between July 1956 and July 1958 at the Lima Ordnance Depot.

The M51 used the same suspension system as the Heavy Tank M103, with seven large road wheels on each side and torsion bar suspension. An armoured cabin with straight sides and a sloping front filled the front half of the vehicle. The rear half carried a crane. It was powered by a 980hp supercharged, fuel injected version of the Continental 1790 engine, giving it more power than the Heavy Tank M103.

The M51 was equipped with a number of recovery tools. The crane could lift 30 tons. There was a 45 ton main winch and 5 ton auxiliary winch. There were spades at the front and rear that could be raised for travel or lowered for use.

The M51 was used by the US Marine Corps and the US Army. The Army soon phased it out, but the Marine Corps kept it for much longer, and used it in Vietnam.

Stats (M51)
Hull Length: 399in (with boom and spade in travel position)
Hull Width: 143in
Height: 129in (inc AA machine gun)
Crew: 4
Weight: 120,000lb combat loaded
Engine: 980hp Continental AVS1-1790-6 air cooled V-12
Max Speed: 30mph
Max Range: 150 miles road range
Armament: One .50in MG on commander's cupola, able to carry one 3.5in Rocket Launcher M20






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Hull and cab






How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 April 2017), M51 Heavy Recovery Vehicle , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_M51_heavy_recovery_vehicle.html

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