Key Point: A lot of weirdness happened before the modern main battle tank.
The United States fielded a pretty standard lineup of tanks during the Cold War. First came the Patton line, which evolved in a pretty straightforward fashion from the M47 to the M60 with a few deviations such as the M60A2 Starship.
Then came the Abrams, which serves on to this day. But American designers made plenty of weird prototypes in attempts to improve on these designs.
(This first appeared in November 2018.)
Some of them used groundbreaking features that could have given them significant edges compared to their Soviet counterparts, others had features that were ahead of their time in some ways.
Here are some of the best and most interesting:
1. T95 Medium Tank:
The T95 was a very high-tech tank. It featured one of the first real attempts to make an electronic rangefinder.
Tanks prior to the laser rangefinder had to rely on stadiametric rangefinding, where an enemy tank was bracketed between markings on the sight to estimate the distance, or stereoscopic rangefinding, where the commander rotated two mirrors to combine an images from a left and right viewing port, with the range being determined from the angle of the prisms relative to each other when the images merged.
The T95 had an optoelectronic system called OPTAR that emitted bright infrared pulses, the return time of which was used to determine the distance to enemy tanks. However, being the 1950s, laser technology was not yet mature, so the regular light used in OPTAR was scattered easily with range and moisture in the air.
The tank also mounted a smoothbore gun for increased velocity with APFSDS projectiles. The T-62 featured a similar gun when it came out later, but if the T95 was adopted and entered service, the United States would have been the first military to field such a tank gun in numbers.
2. M8 Buford Armored Gun System: