Special Report

The Rarest and Most Mass-Produced American Cold War Tanks

tomasdelcoro / Flickr

The Cold War was a time of great geopolitical tension, not much unlike today, with two global superpowers on the brink of nuclear war. Lines were drawn across Eastern Europe as the Soviet Union was looking to hold on to its territorial gains from the Second World War. In the midst of this political turmoil, an arms race was brewing between the Soviets and Americans that included a massive buildup of warships, aircraft, and especially tanks.

The tank gained prominence in World War II as an armored attack vehicle. Capable of punching holes through enemy lines with its high-caliber cannons and of sustaining heavy fire with its armored hulls, the tank was widely used across the European Theater of WWII among both the Axis and Allied Powers.

As tensions rose following World War II, the next generation of tanks was being developed. The Americans saw great success in the war with their Sherman and Pershing tanks, and they would continue to build on these designs with the Patton, a homage to Gen. George S. Patton. Many more tanks would be developed in the coming decades from the United States, as it readied its arsenals for a potential war with the Soviet Union. (These are the most important events during the Cold War.)

To determine the most and least mass-produced U.S. tanks during the Cold War, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a catalog of U.S. tanks from Military Factory, an online database of weapons, vehicles, and aircraft. We ranked these tanks according to how many were produced. We included supplemental information from Military Factory regarding the year introduced, type, manufacturer, weight, top speed, and armament. We excluded prototype and experimental tanks.

In the later years of the Cold War, the M1 Abrams claimed its position as the main battle tank of the U.S. military. About 10,000 of this model have been produced by General Dynamics, and they are currently in operation in some 10 countries. Despite being introduced to the service in 1980, the M1 would not see combat until the 1991 Gulf War, or Operation Desert Storm. (These are the guns the United States used to fight the Gulf War.)

The M1 Abrams was originally designed for a 105mm M68A1 main gun, but later iterations would be upgraded to a 120mm Rheinmetall M256A1. It is outfitted with a series of machine guns ranging from 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine guns to 7.62mm M240 machine guns. Smoke grenade dischargers come standard for making a hasty retreat or other tactical maneuvers. The M1 Abrams is perhaps one of the more famous tanks during this time, and there were many others like it produced in the Cold War era.

Here is a look at the most and least mass produced U.S. Cold War tanks:

29. Sherman Jumbo

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total units produced: 254
  • Type: Up-armored medium tank
  • Manufacturer: Fisher Tank Arsenal
  • Year introduced:1944
  • Weight: 41.9 tons
  • Top speed: 22 mph
  • Armament: 76mm main gun, .50 caliber anti-aircraft heavy machine gun, .30 caliber coaxial machine gun, .30 caliber bow mounted machine gun, smoke mortar

28. M103

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total units produced: 300
  • Type: Heavy tank
  • Manufacturer: Chrysler Motors
  • Year introduced:1957
  • Weight: 62.5 tons
  • Top speed: 21 mph
  • Armament: 120mm main gun, 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun

27. M3 Bradley

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total units produced: 500
  • Type: Armored reconnaissance assault vehicle
  • Manufacturer: United Defense
  • Year introduced:1983
  • Weight: 25 tons
  • Top speed: 41 mph
  • Armament: 25mm automatic main gun, 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, TOW-2 anti-tank guided missile launchers, smoke grenade dischargers

26. Rheinmetall Landsysteme Wiesel (Weasel)

  • Total units produced: 529
  • Type: Lightweight armored weapons carrier
  • Manufacturer: Porsche / MaK (Rheinmetall Landsysteme)
  • Year introduced:1989
  • Weight: 4.8 tons
  • Top speed: 43 mph
  • Armament: 25mm autocannon, 12.7mm machine guns, 7.62mm machine guns, anti-tank guided missile launchers

25. M114 CRV

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total units produced: 615
  • Type: Command and reconnaissance vehicle
  • Manufacturer: General Motors
  • Year introduced:1962
  • Weight: 7.5 tons
  • Top speed: 36 mph
  • Armament: 20mm M139 cannon, 12.7mm Browning M2 heavy machine gun, 7.62mm M60 machine gun, M72A1 LAW launchers

24. M46 Patton

Source: signalcorpsarchive / Flickr
  • Total units produced: 1,160
  • Type: Medium tank
  • Manufacturer: Detroit Tank Arsenal
  • Year introduced:1950
  • Weight: 48.5 tons
  • Top speed: 30 mph
  • Armament: 90mm M4A1 main gun, 12.7mm machine gun, 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, 7.62mm bow mounted machine gun

23. M551 Sheridan

Source: 101561334@N08 / Flickr
  • Total units produced: 1,562
  • Type: Armored reconnaissance assault vehicle
  • Manufacturer: General Motors
  • Year introduced:1968
  • Weight: 16.8 tons
  • Top speed: 43 mph
  • Armament: 152mm M81E1 main gun, 12.7mm M2HB anti-aircraft machine gun, 7.62mm M240 coaxial machine gun, smoke grenade dischargers, MGM-51 anti-tank guided missiles

22. AAV-7 (LVTP-7)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total units produced: 1,737
  • Type: Advanced amphibious assault vehicle
  • Manufacturer: United Defense / FMC Corporation
  • Year introduced:1972
  • Weight: 25.2 tons
  • Top speed: 40 mph
  • Armament: 40mm grenade launcher, 25mm Bushmaster cannon, 12.7mm Browning M2HB heavy anti-aircraft machine gun

21. M163 Vulcan Air Defense System

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total units produced: 2,000
  • Type: Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun
  • Manufacturer: General Electric
  • Year introduced:1969
  • Weight: 13.8 tons
  • Top speed: 40 mph
  • Armament: 20mm gattling gun

20. Sherman Firefly

  • Total units produced: 2,100
  • Type: Tank destroyer
  • Manufacturer: State Factories
  • Year introduced:1944
  • Weight: 33.3 tons
  • Top speed: 25 mph
  • Armament: QF 17-Pounder (76.2mm) Mk IV L/55 main gun, .30 caliber Browning M1919A4 machine gun

19. M4A3 Sherman (Easy Eight)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total units produced: 2,617
  • Type: Up-gunned medium tank
  • Manufacturer: Detroit Tank Arsenal / Fisher Tank Arsenal
  • Year introduced:1944
  • Weight: 32.5 tons
  • Top speed: 23 mph
  • Armament: 76mm high-velocity main gun, .50 caliber Browning M2 anti-aircraft machine gun, .30-06 machine guns

18. M41 Walker Bulldog

  • Total units produced: 3,728
  • Type: Light tank
  • Manufacturer: Cadillac Gage
  • Year introduced:1951
  • Weight: 25.9 tons
  • Top speed: 45 mph
  • Armament: 76mm M32 main gun, 12.7mm M2 Browning anti-aircraft machine gun, 7.62mm Browning M1914A4 coaxial machine gun

17. M26 Pershing

Source: wsmahar / E+ via Getty Images
  • Total units produced: 4,550
  • Type: Heavy tank
  • Manufacturer: Fisher Tank Arsenal / Detroit Tank Arsenal
  • Year introduced:1945
  • Weight: 46.3 tons
  • Top speed: 25 mph
  • Armament: 90mm main gun, 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun, 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, 7.62mm bow mounted machine gun

16. M2 Bradley

Source: upsidedowndog / iStock via Getty Images
  • Total units produced: 4,641
  • Type: Infantry fighting vehicle
  • Manufacturer: United Defense
  • Year introduced:1981
  • Weight: 40.4 tons
  • Top speed: 38 mph
  • Armament: 25mm automatic main gun, 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, TOW anti-tank guided missile launchers, smoke grenade dischargers

15. M24 Chaffee

  • Total units produced: 4,731
  • Type: Reconnaissance light tank
  • Manufacturer: Cadillac / Massey Harris
  • Year introduced:1944
  • Weight: 19.9 tons
  • Top speed: 35 mph
  • Armament: 75mm main gun, 12.7mm machine gun, 7.62mm machine guns, smoke mortar

14. LAV-25 (Light Armored Vehicle 25)

  • Total units produced: 5,000
  • Type: 8×8 wheeled armored reconnaissance vehicle
  • Manufacturer: General Dynamics
  • Year introduced:1983
  • Weight: 18 tons
  • Top speed: 62 mph
  • Armament: 25mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun, 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, 7.62mm anti-aircraft machine gun, smoke grenade dischargers

13. M47 (Patton II)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total units produced: 8,676
  • Type: Medium tank
  • Manufacturer: Detroit Tank Arsenal / American Locomotive Company
  • Year introduced:1951
  • Weight: 50.9 tons
  • Top speed: 30 mph
  • Armament: 90mm M36 main gun, .50 caliber HB M2 air defense machine gun, .30 caliber M1919A4 machine guns

12. M5 Stuart

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total units produced: 8,884
  • Type: Light tank
  • Manufacturer: General Motors / Massey Harris / American Car and Foundry
  • Year introduced:1942
  • Weight: 16.5 tons
  • Top speed: 36 mph
  • Armament: 37mm M6 main gun, .30 caliber Browning M1919A4 coaxial machine gun

11. M1 Abrams

  • Total units produced: 10,000
  • Type: Main battle tank
  • Manufacturer: General Dynamics
  • Year introduced:1980
  • Weight: 69.5 tons
  • Top speed: 42 mph
  • Armament: 120mm Rheinmetall M256A1 smoothbore main gun, 12.7mm Browning M1HB anti-aircraft machine gun, 7.62mm M240 coaxial machine gun, smoke grenade dischargers

10. MOWAG Piranha

  • Total units produced: 11,300
  • Type: 8×8 wheeled armored fighting vehicle
  • Manufacturer: MOWAG Motor Car Factory
  • Year introduced:1972
  • Weight: 30 tons
  • Top speed: 62 mph
  • Armament: 12.7mm machine gun, 40mm grenade launcher, TOW anti-tank missile launcher

9. M48 Patton

Source: 101561334@N08 / Flickr
  • Total units produced: 12,000
  • Type: Medium tank
  • Manufacturer: Chrysler / Ford / General Motors
  • Year introduced:1952
  • Weight: 54 tons
  • Top speed: 30 mph
  • Armament: 90mm T54 or M48 main gun, 7.62mm machine guns, smoke grenade dischargers

8. MT-LB (M1970)

Source: Farhad Ibrahimzade / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Total units produced: 12,000
  • Type: Multipurpose tracked vehicle
  • Manufacturer: Kharkov Tractor Plant
  • Year introduced:1968
  • Weight: 13.1 tons
  • Top speed: 38 mph
  • Armament: 7.62mm general purpose machine gun

7. M60 (Patton)

Source: FuzzMartin / iStock via Getty Images
  • Total units produced: 15,000
  • Type: Main battle tank
  • Manufacturer: General Dynamics
  • Year introduced:1960
  • Weight: 53.7 tons
  • Top speed: 30 mph
  • Armament: 105mm M68 main gun, 7.62mm M73 coaxial machine gun, 12.7mm M85 anti-aircraft machine gun, smoke grenade dischargers

6. Half-Track Car M2

  • Total units produced: 17,000
  • Type: Multipurpose armored personnel carrier
  • Manufacturer: White Motor Company
  • Year introduced:1940
  • Weight: 9.9 tons
  • Top speed: 40 mph
  • Armament: 12.7mm M2 Browning heavy machine gun

5. Landing Vehicle Tracked (Alligator / Water Buffalo)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total units produced: 18,614
  • Type: Amphibious personnel carrier
  • Manufacturer: State Factories
  • Year introduced:1941
  • Weight: 20 tons
  • Top speed: 20 mph
  • Armament: .50 caliber M2HB Browning heavy machine guns, .30-06 M1919A4 Browning general purpose machine guns, 75mm main gun

4. T-62

  • Total units produced: 22,750
  • Type: Medium tank
  • Manufacturer: State Factories
  • Year introduced:1961
  • Weight: 45.7 tons
  • Top speed: 28 mph
  • Armament: 115 smoothbore main gun, 12.7mm DShKM anti-aircraft heavy machine gun, 7.62mm coaxial machine gun

3. M4 Sherman

  • Total units produced: 50,000
  • Type: Medium tank
  • Manufacturer: American Locomotive / Detroit Tank Arsenal / Lima Locomotive
  • Year introduced:1942
  • Weight: 31.3 tons
  • Top speed: 24 mph
  • Armament: 105mm main gun, .50 caliber Browning M2 anti-aircraft machine gun, .30-06 caliber coaxial machine gun, .30-06 bow mounted machine gun

2. T-54

  • Total units produced: 50,000
  • Type: Medium tank
  • Manufacturer: State Factories
  • Year introduced:1949
  • Weight: 39.7 tons
  • Top speed: 30 mph
  • Armament: 100mm D-10TG main gun, 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, 7.62mm bow mounted machine gun

1. M113 APC

Source: mtcurado / iStock via Getty Images
  • Total units produced: 80,500
  • Type: Tracked armored personnel carrier
  • Manufacturer: United Defense / FMC Corporation
  • Year introduced:1960
  • Weight: 12.5 tons
  • Top speed: 38 mph
  • Armament: 12.7mm M2 Browning heavy machine gun, smoke grenade dischargers

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