Bit OT - cold tanks

This is a précis of a short conversation I had by e-mail with Jim Kirkes in California. It is related to the thread on Lauson and Homelite (et al) tank heater engines. There is no mention of stand-alone units for heating & it serves to somewhat harden my opinion that "tank heater" should not be read as "Armoured Fighting Vehicle heater" until more is known.

Jim said this ..............

"My experience with tanks goes back to 1955 when the Army made a tank mechanic out of me. Both of the tanks in use then had an auxiliary generator. The main use for APU was to allow everything to keep going when the main engines was shut down. The gun was traversed and elevated hydraulically and the turret power pack was a real current gobbler. It would run down the batteries in an about an hour.

As I remember the APU was a two cylinder vertical engine that was direct connected to the generator. This engine could be started by motoring the generator or by lifting open a section of the deck grill and pulling the starter rope. The pull was straight up, you had to bend over and then pull up and put some real muscle in it to get it going. These things were pretty noisy as there was not much room for a muffler.

Now as far as heating goes it was almost non existent. There was a quite powerful heater but it was not very effective. After 50 tons of amour gets cold it stays that way for a long time. Kind of like getting into a freezer. There were two heaters, one for the driver and one in the turret for the rest of the crew. Both burned gasoline and were completely self contained, they put out a lot of heat but still not at all effective when it was really cold. I don't have any idea how much gas they used although it was probably trivial compared to the main engine. The mileage was about 3 gallons to the mile and the gas tank held 270 gallons. The engine was a very large (several thousand cubic inches) V 12 made by Lycoming. I should also say that the tank I am referring to is the M 48 heavy tank, the era is 1955/56 and the location is Germany.

I changed out the generator in a armoured personnel carrier once that had been sitting out in the snow. I disconnected all of the engine connectors and the drive shafts to the final drives, at this point the engine could be slid out the front of the vehicle on rails that were provided so that engine could be got at for service.

The next step was to un-dog a hatch on the inside that gave access to engine compartment. I then crawled in this very cramped space and removed and replaced the generator. This was gear driven and it was held on with 10 or 12 studs several of which were pretty hard to get at. I had to do this squatted on my toes and thought they would take a permanent set when I finally got out. I don't think I have ever been any colder. I was a private at the time and the management was not at all interested in my opinions on personal comfort.

I have never been in a tank in hot weather but I think it might be worse than cold. The tankers in Iraq must have felt like they had been cooked. I doubt if there is any air conditioning as there is probably no room for it. All there was when I was there was a blower that created your own private wind storm complete with all of the loose dirt that had been tracked in.

Have a good Christmas.


Jim and Diane Kirkes

Interesting ..........


Kim Siddorn.

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Kim Siddorn
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I have a manual for a Medium tank M4A2, been hunting it since you began this thread. The APU is the two-stroke type discussed earlier and whose pic started the thread on oldengine. It is permanently mounted and has a duct which discharges the warm air from the APU flywheel-fan. The heat is normally ducted into the main engine (2 x 6cyl 2T GM diesels) compartment but can be directed into the crew compartment by a diverter in the duct. So in at least this case it is a tank-heater in addition to its primary purpose of APU. hth Roland


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Roland Craven

Similar if not the same unit fitted to all American Heavy Bombers.

Martin P

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