One of the weaknesses of airmobile forces has always been their vulnerability to enemy armor. Since the 1940s, there have been numerous schemes to field light tanks that could be deployed by parachute or other methods to reinforce paratroopers and other airmobile forces. This book tells the story of the US experience with airmobile tanks, starting with efforts in World War II, notably the M22 Locust airmobile tank. Although not used in combat by the US Army, it was used during Operation Varsity in 1945 by British airborne forces and ended up supporting US paratroopers during this mission on the Rhine river. The book then turns to post-war efforts such as the unique T-92 airborne tank, designed for paratroop drop.
The only airborne tank actually manufactured in significant numbers was the M551 Sheridan. The history of this tank provides the focal point of this book, highlighting the difficulties of combining heavy firepower in a chassis light enough for airborne delivery. The book examines its controversial combat debut in Vietnam, and its subsequent combat history in Panama and Operation Desert Storm. It also rounds out the story by examining attempts to replace the Sheridan with other armored vehicles, such as the short-lived M8 MGS and Army LAV programs.