The US Army's Christie Tanks, and why they failed to take hold.


The unique Christie suspension system took the tank world by storm in the early 1930s, and tanks equipped with it remained in production until the very end of WW2. Yet, his home nation, the USA, entered the war with bogie wheeled volute sprung tanks, not the big-wheeled coil-sprung speed demons that Christie was building.

This was the result of a multi-year testing process, comprising more Christie-type vehicles than not, while Christie wrote himself out of the picture for most of it. By reference to test reports, we can see what happened.

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  1. Hey Nick.

    I just wanted to show some level of thanks for teaching me enough about thanks and armored warfare. I've made the decision to join the Service and enlist in the army, and you had a hand in my choice to try for 19K.

    Good day and God speed, Chieftain.

  2. Gumbo mud at Ft Riley (14:15)
    — from the Wikipedia entry on “Gumbo (soil)”: Although gumbo soils are exceptional at water retention, they can be difficult to farm, as precipitation will turn gumbo into a unique muddy fiasco that is challenging to work using large commercial farming equipment. Avoiding tillage of this type of soil, thru "no-till" farming, appears strongly correlated to higher yields versus more traditional tilling practices.

  3. Yes. Thanks Nick. A very well expressed discussion of the US Army's involvement with the Christie suspension. One thing that would have been interesting was an expansion contrasting the Russian and British experience – since they did go on and produce the design.

  4. Why didn't they just mount all the springs and stuff on the outside (like Sherman's actual suspension seems to be mostly external)? Too easily damaged or fouled by mud/debris?

  5. So the US was in bed with the communists in 1927. Had'nt heard that one before. We were in Russia attacking them in 1919.

  6. So after some digging on the Cartridge, 120mm, Advanced Multi-Purpose (AMP), XM1147, High Explosive Multi-Purpose with Trader (HEMP-T) it says no where what it really is (HEAT, HEP/HESH, HE-FS) is there anything that you can tell us about the actual type of round that it is, becayse my original thought was a type of AP-HE or APCBC.

  7. What do you think about the Romanian tanks and what would you think about their introduction in the World of tanks?

  8. Do you think that the new Rheinmetall 130mm gun will be introduced into NATO tanks?

    I just saw this video in my recommended:

  9. Technically there was a third party interested in the christie design, that is the Polish, however, after selling the prototype and patents to the Russians, Christie allegedly broke all negotiations with the Polish delegation.

  10. "Gumbo mud" is the super thick extremely sticky mud that will adhere nearly permanently to any surface, jam any machine, and suck the boot straight off of your foot or failing that the foot off of your leg

  11. He sold the Army all his patents, including the ones that weren’t even patents yet…

    That’s a hungry man. I expect his personal life was as interesting as his designs.

  12. Soil is primarily made of three particles from largest to smallest : sand, silt, clay…… Gumbo is composed of an overwhelming amount of clay…..clay has exceptional water retention….so when wet gumbo has about the same supportive capabilities as water…..making bottoming out a vehicle exceptionally easy.

  13. The US has had this weird track record of being prone to nurturing world changing innovators, who for one reason or another ended up having to try to find customers for their wares elsewhere. That sometimes ended up biting us in the rear end later on.

  14. how the heck did the Russians simplify the suspension design to pump out their massive numbers of BT-2, BT-5, BT-7 and T-34 derivatives?

  15. Hey Chieftain!
    I've got a question thats really bugging me.
    Why do russian tanks (For example T 72 T 80 T 64 T 90 etc) have two piece ammo? Its really confusing and its most likely bugging others questionwise. Ive never had an idea why they have the two piece ammo and not single piece. Is it to save space? Is it because its "Safer"? If the ammo is hit, If it hits a HEAT-FS or chemical energy rounds it will still explode. This doesnt make sense. Please help me on this.

  16. Probably just as well they didnt adopt these tanks, it would have been extremely fun to watch how many a german tank could kill 🙂

  17. they did have a mass produced vehicle created for navy then adapted by the us army for the 82nd airborne…the m551a1 sheridan light tank…152mm main gun…the only airborne armor for nato and only one with christie suspension…no support rollers

  18. I think I like the lie that America turned Christey away better than the "Well, it just wasn't that great and Rock Island did better" truth.

  19. It is so interesting to think about an era when they still had to invent everything and converge towards the best possible result … I think by now we have figured out almost everything a tank needs to be and it took us a world war and a long cold war to do it … in the 20s and the 30s they were in so much unknown territory …

  20. Wheels versus tracks–the US Army tried "both" and found that the convertible wheeled/tracked tank brought complexity without much performance difference. Comparing the Stryker family to these early tanks is comparing modern pick-up trucks to the Model T, but there's sometimes advantages to wheels and sometimes advantages to tracks.
    The desire to have "rapid strategic mobility" seemed to favor wheels–and tracks seem to have better cross-country mobility as well as the ability to weigh more and still remain mobile. The Christie convertible wheeled/tracked tank didn't work out well enough because a tracked tank could carry more weight (armor, guns, whatever) and still maintain off-road mobility but the combination tank was limited to wheeled tank weight class whether configured for wheels or tracks.


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