The Americans finished WW2 in a very strange position. On one hand they achieved great things, on the other hand they had fallen behind in a few areas. One of the aspects in which the Americans were in the lead was light tanks. Unlike other nations, which abandoned development of these vehicles by the middle of the war, the Americans rightfully kept going. The result was not just the best light tank of its time, but a whole family of SPGs. Production began to wind down in the summer of 1945, but a foundation for further work was already established. As a result, the first truly original tank built to post-war specifications was a light one. This was the Light Tank T37, an experimental vehicle that became the predecessor for the Light Tank M41.
Building on past experience
Even though the Light Tank M24 was the best light tank of WW2, it was not without issues. This vehicle was the result of compromises. It was built around components inherited from the Light Tank M5. There were several reasons for this. One was that reuse of existing components was necessary to keep production numbers up. The second was that the components, especially the engine, were already produced by the same company that made the tanks: Cadillac. There was also no good alternative to the pair of Cadillac engines. The Continental R-975-C4 used on the GMC M18 had a number of advantages, but also some drawbacks, including a short lifespan, large size, and low production volumes. It was already used on a number of fighting vehicles and Continental would not be able to produce more of them. An attempt to install the R-975-C4 on the Light Tank M24 was made anyway, but it was unsuccessful. Since the pair of Cadillac Series 44T24 engines put out only 296 hp at the highest throttle, it was impossible to increase the tank's weight any higher. The Light Tank M24 ended up with a decent power to weight ratio of 16 hp/ton, but the chassis had no room to grow.
|The Light Tank M24 was the best light tank of WW2. However, the idea for its potential replacement arrived by early 1945.
|Power pack with a 500 hp Continental AOS-895 engine. The full power pack was 1905 mm long, less than the Ford GAF engine with the same power without its transmission.
|Comparison of power pack dimensions. Top: Continental AOS-895. Bottom: Ford GAF.
|Model of the Light Tank T37 with the first variant of the turret. This was the only turret built for this tank.
|A comparison of the Light Tank M24 and Light Tank T37.
|The third variant of the turret had an autoloader mechanism designed for it.
|Light Tank T37 prototype, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, June 3rd, 1949.
|The stereoscopic rangefinder gave the tank a strange look.
|Machine gun pods can be seen on the turret. The machine guns could be aimed in the vertical plane.
|The Light Tank T37 had a large turret bustle.
|The commander and loader's hatches were protected with complex splash guards.
|It was already clear that the Light Tank T37 isn't going anywhere by the time the trials began, but it gave a lot of information useful for the development of another vehicle: the Light Tank T41.