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Tank M-50 "Ontos"

During the 1950's, a proliferation of tanks and armor by Russia fueled the "Cold War" and had the U.S. Marines seeking a mobile tank destroyer. The M-50 "Ontos" was developed in 1951, with the first prototype constructed in 1953. The "Ontos" was a small self-propelled tracked vehicle with (6) 106mm recoilless rifles mounted in an unusual array on its exterior. Powered by a 185 hp gasoline engine the "Ontos" had a operating range of 150 miles with a maximum speed of 30 mph. Construction of (300) of these tank destroyers were completed by Allis Chambers Corporation by 1957. The U.S. Marines did utilized the "Ontos in the Dominican Republic in 1963 and the early phases of the Vietnam War. The "Ontos" was quickly obsolete as the anti-tank TOW missile was devised in the early 1960's.
In operation the driver positioned the vehicle and the gunner would manually aim the 106mm recoilless rifles. The turret mount could be adjusted 40 degrees left or right, or with 20 degrees angle in elevation. Aiming was assisted by a .50 caliber spotting rifle. The gunner would fire the spotting rifle and adjust for effect, firing one or more 106mm rounds simultaneously. The "Ontos" carried (18), 106mm High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) projectiles, they had an effective range of 1,200 yards or a maximum range of 7,600 yards. In addition, a .30 caliber machine gun was mounted on the turret for protection.
As an Ontos crewman who served in Vietnam I was happy to see the article about the "pigs" on your website. However parts of the article were in error.

Originally the M50 Ontos (Multi Gun 106 mm Recoilless Rifle, Tracked, M 50 "Ontos") was designed to meet a U.S. Army requirement for an air transportable, parachute deployable anti tank weapon. It lost out in competition to a single gun design but was adopted by the Marine Corps in the mid 1950's. It did indeed serve in the Dominican Republic and was in Vietnam from the first deployment of Marines in 1965 until the last Ontos unit was disbanded in November 1969. Most of the units in Vietnam used the M50A1 upgrade which had a V8 Chrysler engine. The Ontos was used in such close relationship to the Marine infantry that Ontos crewmen had an 03xx infantry MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). Ontos were used in several capacities - road security, convoy escorting, perimeter security, direct fire artillery, etc. as well as informally as small troop carriers, armored ambulances, etc. They served well in Khe Sahn during the seige and hill fights and also in Hue during Tet of 1968 as their small size allowed more freedom of movement in the narrow streets. Besides the HEAT round the Ontos was also capable of firing HEAP (High Explosive Anti Personnel) and a HEP-T (High Explosive Anti Personnel - Tank) rounds. Most Ontos losses in Vietnam were from mines owing to the light steel plating used in the underside of the vehicle.
At present: there is a small informal group of Ontos crewmen who have a yearly reunion and a more formal group is part of the Vietnam Tankers Association. Over 60 Ontos sit in the California desert slowly rusting away at the China Lake Naval Facility despite efforts to salvage some for restoration and museum placement.
Hope this helps some...

Baby Huey sends
Paul Fischer

P.S. I was part of group to take the last 15 Ontos out of Vietnam in November 1969.


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