Vietnamese army T-54M MBTs still ready to serve


The Vietnamese army (PAVN) still operates a modernized version of the Soviet-era T-54 MBT, hence its designation of T-54M. Local modernization of the T-54s had been carried out at state-owned Factory Z153 as early as 2016 though an older prototype T-54M3 was around since 2012.
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Several of the Vietnamese army's T-54M MBTs parked at a tank gunnery range. (Picture source: Facebook page of VietDefense/Nguyen Duc Ngoc)

A picture dating back to the 1990s or early 2000s, taken at an unspecified location in Israel, shows PAVN officials in plain clothes examining an Israeli Tiran-5Sh tank, which indicates that the Vietnamese modernization of the T-54 can be considered a long-desired goal.

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PAVN officials examining an Israeli Tiran-5Sh tank (Picture source: Facebook page of VietDefense)

The T-54 already underwent modernization to the T-55 standard in the 1960s and in 1977 with various upgrades including OPVT snorkel and KTD-1 laser rangefinder, leading the Soviets to designate it T-54M. PAVN's T-54Ms result from T-54B and Type 59 modernization programs developed in the Z153 factory based on the experience from the T-55M3 program designed by Israel for the Vietnamese People's Army.

The armor protection of the tank was improved considerably by attaching Vietnamese second-generation ERA blocks to the upper front hull and the turret. The tank received a Spain-produced Indra TIFCS-3BU fire control system. The original 100 mm tank gun D-10T2S received a thermal sleeve, a DShK or NSVT 12.7 mm heavy machine gun, a PKT 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, laser rangefinder system which works in conjunction with a thermal imaging camera for increased accuracy and operated in the dark. A computer system is also installed, allowing the vehicle to have stability control, calculate the tilt, the speed of the vehicle. In the driver's position installed with a hydraulic power steering system allowing the steering column, brakes and clutch to become much easier. In terms of communication, the tank is equipped with a Russian-produced RF2050 multi-band system.

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A Vietnamese-upgraded T-54M next to a traditional T-54/55 (Picture source: Wikipedia)