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M50 Ontos and M56 Scorpion 1956–70

M50 Ontos and M56 Scorpion 1956–70 Book Review

By Davd L. Veres

Date of Review December 2016 Title M50 Ontos and M56 Scorpion 1956–70
Author Steven J. Zaloga Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2016 ISBN 9781472814739
Format 48 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $18.00


In the wake of World War II, developments in shaped-charge projectiles fired by recoilless rifles changed inalterably the "previous gun-armor correlation".

Now, as author Kenneth W Estes notes, "practically any armor could be penetrated by relatively light gun, mounted on a light combat vehicle for transportation or fired from a ground mount".

That's the backdrop of M50 Ontos and M56 Scorpion 1956–70 – 240 in Osprey Publishing's perennially popular "New Vanguard" range.

Estes' absorbing account charts the design, development and deployment of these fascinating vehicles.

But the subtitle "US Tank Destroyers of the Vietnam War" is somewhat misleading. Armed with six 106mm recoilless rifles, the Ontos, for instance, saw action in Lebanon (1959) and the Dominican Republic (1965), as well. Both did see combat in Vietnam – M50 Ontos with the USMC and 90mm-gun-armed M56 Scorpions with the US Army.

Estes follows Osprey's familiar format. Background notes and chronology precede design, development and "specifications" sections. An "operational history" of the compact, air-transportable vehicles follows. And "foreign service", "variants" and "conclusion" round out coverage.

War planners held high hopes for the both. Nuclear weaponry and tactical air support naturally remained "major elements" of NATO's defense against a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. But defense experts also envisaged, a combination of thousands of Ontos "antitank vehicles", millions of "conventional antitank mines" and millions more "unremovable antitank mines" to combat Communist hordes.

Neither vehicle, however, ultimately met the Pentagon's sanguine expectations. And while a few Ontos examples soldiered on until April 1980, both effectively disappeared from service in the early 1970s.

Get the story from this handy handbook.


My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!