M-22 LOCUST gallery

Although the idea of an airborne tank could be considered excellent, in practice it was not so, at least on this occasion. At the beginning of 1941, the development of a tank with a maximum weight of 7,620 kg began. This weight was the payload limit of transport aircrafts in service. General Motors, J.Walter Christie and Marmon Herrington firms presented their models and finally the Marmon Herrington’s T9 model (on the image), would be the chosen one, and although this tank weighed 8,027 kg, it was agreed to lighten some components so that this weight would be maintained.
The T9 prototype of April 1942 (on the image), had a 37mm M-6 gun as main armament and was powered by a 168 hp Lycoming opposed six-cylinder air-cooled engine. It had a maximum armour of 25mm and different equipment such as front fenders, headlamps with brushguards, volute spring suspension with two bogies in each side, 4 side brackets for attachment to an aircraft and the trailing idler wheel in contact with the ground for a better stability.
This is the T9E1 prototype, which would be accepted for production. This model had some improvements like the sloped front hull without the flat front and the steep angles at the driver’s compartment. In addition, the suspension support beam was changed by a rod assembly to reduce weight. Its appearance was that of a “mini-Sherman” tank, although unfortunately its fame and its actions would be remotely similar to those of its “older brother”.
Despite being a tank designed and built in the United States, the American armed forces did not use it in combat, it was only distributed in training units. It would be the British who used it in a limited way with some airborne units like the 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions, which already had the British Tetrarch airborne tank.
The Douglas C-54 Skymaster cargo aircraft was chosen as the transporter for the M-22 Locust tank, but the turret had to be designed to be easily removable, since the hull was transported on the belly of the plane while the turret was carried inside the fuselage. The tank had the dimensions and the weight suitable to be transported inside a British Hamilcar glider if necessary. Although a specific aircraft was developed to carry the M-22 tank, the Fairchild C-82 Packet, it did not enter into service during the WWII.
It took 25 minutes to load a M-22 into its carrier, and about 10 minutes to download it, although we had to add the time of the turret’s assembly once on the battlefield. In addition, the aircraft had to operate from prepared bases, which limited its use after an airborne assault exclusively to the Hamilcar gliders, which could land in unprepared areas and allowed a rapid deployment of vehicles.
The British had already used Tetrarch light tank as an airborne tank, although this model was not designed as such. After the Battle of France in 1940, it was decided not to use light tanks within the Royal Army due to its poor performance and that is how the Tetrarch was destined to airborne units. However, reports of 1941 had made it clear that a crew of only three members made the tactical operations very difficult, and that is why the British Air Commission in Washington decided to request the United States the development of a substitute for the Tetrarch that met specific requirements for the airborne missions. The order was made to the United States due to the lack of industrial capacity in the United Kingdom at that time.
British requirements called for a tank of no more than 10 tons in weight, armed with a 37mm gun, with a range of about 300 km, a maximum speed of about 65 km/h and a maximum armour of about 50 mm in the front arc and 30mm in the sides. Finally, the M-22‘s protection had to be sacrificed in order to reach the maximum tolerable weight, which had a very negative effect on the tank’s capabilities, because it was not capable of resisting even the heavy machine-gun fire. Additionally, the weakness of some mechanical components made them suffer of frequent breakdowns.
The M-22 tank had died before being born, since British and American reports from 1943, highlighted numerous failures of the new tank, although the American reports would be the most critical. They highlighted mechanical problems due to the design, which caused problems of reliability and mobility, because the engine had little power and the transmission was inadequate. Nevertheless, the most serious problems were those about protection and armament, clearly insufficient to fight against any German tank of that time, not even against the antiquated Panzer III.
The operational career of the Locust was not too long nor successful, being framed in the Light Tank Squadron of the British 6th Airborne Division in April 1943. This unit received 17 Locust that replaced their Tetrarch tanks, although some Tetrarch I CS, armed with a 76mm howitzer for close support missions remained. Unfortunately, the M-22 did not adequately comply with any of the three basic precepts of any tank. It did not have good protection, it did not have enough firepower and its mobility was not good either, so this tank can be considered an absolute failure.
The only operation in which the M-22 Locust participated and which had a certain impact was Operation Varsity. This operation was included within Operation Plunder in which Allied forces had to cross the Rhine River. On March 24 1945, 8 Locusts got into 8 Hamilcar gliders and were sent to the east of the Diersfordter Wald and west of Hamminkeln near Wesel, Germany. Only 6 Locusts arrived in conditions to fight. Its mission was to occupy and maintain this position until the arrival of reinforcements. For several hours they held back the Germans who finally forced them to retreat.
Some Locust tanks were transferred to Belgium after the WWII, where they were used as command tanks in units equipped with M-4 Sherman tanks. Some returned to the United States after the war and ended up as … turretless agricultural tractors !. The largest postwar user was Egypt who received several dozen Locusts that ended up fighting Israeli forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

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