Cuba IS-2M

Cuban IS-2M. Source: Author's Collection

Following the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s, Fidel Castro sought to rebuild the Cuban military into the most powerful in army in South America.

Utilising the newly forged alliance with the Soviet Union, Cuba was quickly able to acquire significant numbers of used WWII-era armour including 41 IS-2M heavy tanks [1].

"Havana tank column that had participated in military parade on revolutionary square for 4th anniversary of Cuban revolution" -1963.  Note the  DShK machine gun. Source: Magnum Photos

The IS-2M designation refers to the post-war modernisation of the IS-2 [2].  This update included adding hull mounted stowage bins, protective upper skirting for the tracks and the provision for additional rear mounted external fuel tanks.

During the attempted 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, an unknown number of IS-2Ms were deployed to the area.  However whilst some Cuban tanks were actively engaged in combat [3] the IS-2Ms were held back from the immediate front-line in reserve and ultimately not required [4].

Following the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile the following year, Cuba focused tank procurement on additional T-34/85 and the more modern T-55 [5].  It is not known how long the relatively small and increasingly obsolete numbers of IS-2M remained in front line service services, though many may have been put in reserve in case of future invasion [6].

Though the author is not aware of any Cuban IS-2Ms preserved for public display or transferred to other countries it would appear that at least one example has bee placed off the Cuban coast to act as a diving wreck / artificial reef. [7]

Submerged Cuban IS-2M. Source: Tripadvisor.com

There are also claims that IS-2M were used as static coastal defences, though the author has been unable to identify any supporting evidence of such claims.


[1] SIPRI Arms Transfers Database http://sipri.org (accessed 29/04/2013)
[2] Not be confused with IS-2 Model 1944, sometimes referred to as IS-2m.
[3] Accounts and imagery supports T-34/85 and SU-100 involvement, with examples of both types being put on public display in celebration of their participation.
[4] http://urrib2000.narod.ru/ (accessed 29/04/2013)
[5] SIPRI Arms Transfers Database http://sipri.org (accessed 29/04/2013)
[6] Based on reports of large numbers of T-34/85 kept in reserve long after being withdrawn from frontline operational services.
[7] A picture of a probable IS-2M was uploaded to http://www.tripadvisor.com http://tripadvisor.com (accessed 29/04/2013) by a reviewer of Eagle Ray Scuba Diving Center, Guardalavaca, Cuba.

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