The M113 armored personnel carrier is perhaps one of the best-known armored vehicles in the world. Fully-tracked, it has a M2 .50-caliber machine gun, a crew of two, and holds 11 troops.
This vehicle has been sold around the world – and has seen conflict since 1962. That’s 55 years of service, and with so many around the world (at least 80,000 were produced), it will be around for a long time and see a lot of future wars.
Russia, though, built its own version of the M113 dubbed the “MT-LB.” This vehicle was also tracked, had a crew of two, and could carry 11 people. However the MT-LB was never used for the purpose of carrying troops into combat – that was the job of the BMP and BTR armored fighting vehicles. As such, while the vehicle had a turret, the turret only had a PKM machine gun in it.
A MT-LB Acquired by the United States on display. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
That gun is no slouch, but it’s only really good against troops in the open. Even jeeps and Humvees can last for a bit when a 7.62mmx54R round is being fired at them.
So, what was the MT-LB used for? Towing artillery, evacuating wounded troops, delivering supplies, and a host of the not-very-glamorous but critically-important missions on a battlefield, without which, the tanks and IFVs would be in a world of hurt.
U.S. Marine Infantrymen from the 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion, 1st Marine Division, are riding in two soviet bloc MT-LB Multi-Purpose Tracked vehicles. The Marines were acting as the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) during this exercise. (DOD photo)
Like the M113, the baseline chassis of the MT-LB was modified into other roles. The SA-13 Gopher vehicle is based on the MT-LB. So is the 2S1 122mm self-propelled howitzer.
The Russians even developed a version that could fire the AT-6 Spiral anti-tank missile, a laser-guided weapon that is usually used on attack helicopters.
While not produced in the numbers of the M113, the MT-LB has found its way into many battlefields often with countries once aligned with the Soviet Union. Like the M113, it will be a long time before the last MT-LB is retired.