From the Editor: Unusual Soviet target vehicles

In our earlier post today on Soviet auto-loaders, we posted a youtube clip about the T-72 tank. This clip includes a good deal of footage that appears to be of early model T-72 tanks being put through tests or exercises.  In a couple instances, they show a T-72 firing at a target tank.  The scenes are quite brief, but it is still possible to identify the model of the target tank.  The vehicles used were rather surprising.

The first takes place at the 7:03 mark in the video and appears to show an Israeli M51 “Isherman” as the target vehicle.

Sherman target

The next scene showing a target tank takes place at the 9:17 mark in the video.  This shows a cannon fired missile being launched at what looks like a German Panzer III.

Panzer III target

Considering the price that WW2 German armor commands from collectors these days, it’s somewhat painful to see one used for target practice!

German Military – Fact or Fiction

The website for the video game “Armored Warfare” has posted a rather provocative article titles “German Military – Fact or Fiction.” The article focuses almost exclusively on tanks and armored vehicles. The article makes a number of claims that run counter to the popular conception of German WW2 armor. We present it here for the sake of discussion.


Was the Panther the best German armored vehicle of the war? No. That title probably belongs to a less obvious candidate – the StuG III. Built upon the Panzer III chassis, the StuG III was not expensive, had excellent results and remained effective right until the end of the war. Building these vehicles made much more sense during the war than building over-armored heavy tanks, especially in the price per enemy kill perspective.

Contrary to popular belief, Tigers were (especially late in the war) very rare. Many older wartime accounts mention “Tigers”, “Panthers” and “Ferdinands” destroyed in large numbers but most of these tank kills were other tank models and not the dreaded “big cats” – for an average Allied soldier, however, every tank was a “Tiger”, especially in the east.

One issue of interest is German steel. In the past, various popular sources have attributed nearly mythical qualities to it and the “Kruppstahl” was largely a synonym for “durable”. Recent Russian sources have claimed exactly the opposite – that it was brittle and poor, especially late in the war. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. The Krupp steel was certainly hard rather than soft but that is not inherently a good thing. Softer steel has some advantages over very hard steel (which is usually brittle), but it is possible that the (false) “harder means better” notion spawned the German steel reputation. On the other hand, the claim that German steel quality decreased later in the war is false – according to H.L.Doyle the Germans compensated the lack of certain elements of the steel creation process by modifying the formula.

Full article here.

Soviet Autoloader videos

Over at the tank-net forum, user “dyankov” pointed out this Russian youtube video showing how the autoloader in a T-72 tank works.  We thought it was worth sharing.


For those interested in seeing how the autoloader of the T-72 differs from that of the T-64, this video includes some brief footage of both systems.  The video is in Russian so it is a bit hard to follow for non-Russian speakers (setting youtube to translate the Russian close captioning to English will result in some real comedy.)  The operation of the T-64 and T-72 autoloaders can be seen starting at the 5:15 mark in the video.  T-64 autoloader is the one that turns the round from vertical to horizontal while the T-72 system keeps the shell horizontal through the entire process.

This video provides an even better look at the T-64 autoloader.


And here is a short clip showing the operation of the autoloader in the T-80, which is basically the same system as found in the T-64.

Overlord’s Blog on Universal Carrier

mor12U0Overlord’s Blog is featuring a post about a heroic action taken by a group of British Bren Gun Carriers during the 1940 campaign in France.  The post describes the exploits of Lieutenant Christopher Furness who commanded a section of Bren Gun Carriers belonging to the 1st Welsh Guards.  Furness was part of a column which was retreating from the Arras area and in danger of being destroyed by advancing German forces.  WIth a group of three Bren Carriers and three Mk VI light tanks, Furness set out to attack the German forces so as to give the rest of the column a chance to escape.

The light tanks set up a base of fire and started shooting at the Germans, however they were all quickly set on fire by the German anti-tank guns. However the lighter, smaller and faster Carriers were able to evade the German anti-tank gun fire. Not so the colossal amount of small arms rounds the Germans fired at the Carriers. Such was the volume of fire Carrier #3 had the bi-pod shot off its Bren gun. Soon all the Carriers had wounded men on them. Lt Furness led his Carriers along until nearly on top of the German position then began to drive in a circle around the German hilltop all the while firing with every weapon they could. They managed several circuits inflicting very heavy casualties on the Germans. However the German return fire was beginning to take its own toll. In Carrier #1 Lt Furness was the only man alive, and when the driver had been killed the Carrier had halted. In Carrier #2, just behind Carrier #1, Guardsman David Williams had been killed and the other crew wounded.

Read the full story at Overlord’s Blog.

Taiwan plans to buy 120 M1A1 Abrams

taiwan.soldier.tank_picTaipei Times is reporting that the Republic of China Ministry of National Defense has stated that they are sticking with a plan to purchase 120 M1A1 Abrams tanks.  The deal is set to be finalized in 2017 with delivery starting in 2020 and is valued at $1.08 billion.  The 120 tanks would come from existing US inventory and would replace Taiwan’s M60A3 and CM-11 Brave Tiger main battle tanks.  The article notes that the original plan was to purchase M1A2 tanks, but the less expensive M1A1 was selected instead.  Upon delivery, the 120 tanks are to constitute two battalions for deployment at the main ROC infantry base in Hsinchu County’s Hukou Township, which is tasked with the defense of the capital, Taipei, and northern Taiwan.

Motor Trend drives a tank

motor trendYet another in the recent rash of articles about reporters driving tanks over cars.  This particular article is from Motor Trend magazine and documents their visit to “Drive a Tank”, a small company in Kasota, Minn.  The article features a video and a rather nice photo gallery of the vehicles available at Drive a Tank.  Vehicles pictured include an Abbott SPG, Chieftain tank, M4A2E8 Sherman tank and at FV-432.

The Motor Trend article can be read here.

The website for “Drive a Tank” can be viewed here.

For those with a spare $2,999 laying around, check out the “Five Star” package at Drive a Tank.  This package includes a chance to drive an Abbott SPG, a FV-432, a Russian T55 and to crush a car with a British Chieftain.  The package also includes firing a number of machine guns, including a MG42 and a .50 Cal HMG.  Or, for a mere $3,599 a person can purchase an opportunity to drive a Sherman tank.


Book Alert: Genesis, Employment, Aftermath: First World War Tanks and the New Warfare

9781909982222Publisher Helion Company is advertising a new book on WW1 armor slated for a June release.  Titled “Genesis, Employment, Aftermath: First World War Tanks and the New Warfare, 1900-1945“, this book is authored by Alaric Searle and is part of the Modern Military History series from Helion.  Oddly, the Amazon listing for this book has a price of $79.95 while the Helion page shows a more reasonable price of $41.76.  The book is 224 pages with four maps and eight pages of black and white photos. From what information is available, this appears to be the first book by Dr. Searle specifically on tanks and armored vehicle history.

Publisher’s Description:

The employment of the first tanks by the British Army on the Western Front in September 1916, although symbolic rather than decisive in its effects, ushered in a new form of warfare – tank warfare. While much has been written on the history of the tank, this volume brings together a collection of essays which uncover new aspects of the history of these early machines. Leading military historians from Britain, France and Germany offer insights into the emergence of the tank before the First World War, during the conflict, as well as what happened to them after the guns fell silent on the Western Front. Based on painstaking research in archives across Europe, each of the chapters sheds new light on different aspects of the history of First World tanks. Two chapters consider why the Germans failed to recognize the possibilities of the tank and why they were so slow to develop their own machines after the first British tank attack in 1916. Two other chapters chart the history of French tanks on the Western Front and after the end of the war. Tank communication, the employment of British tanks on the Western Front, as well as the activities of British Tank Corps intelligence, are also explained. The use of British tanks in Palestine and in the Russian Civil War is examined in detail for the first time. The volume also reflects on the impact of the Battle of Cambrai, both in terms of its psychological impact in Britain and the power it exerted over military debates until the end of the Second World War. The aim of the book is to reconsider the history of First World War tanks by widening the historical perspective beyond Britain, to include France and Germany, and by reflecting on the pre-1914 and post-1918 history of the these new weapons of war.