From the Vault: US description of Soviet tanks from 1942

Today we present an article from August 13, 1942, US Army publication Tactical and Technical Trends #5.  The technical information is relatively accurate although the illustrations leave a bit to be desired.  This article gives a good impression of how well informed the US military was concerning armor development on the Eastern Front in 1942.  It is interesting to note that the longest paragraph in this report deals with aspects of the T-34 design intended to allow infantry to ride on the tank or to prevent enemy soldiers from climbing aboard.

Tank warfare has taught the Russians lessons which have influenced their tank design.  The turret is located well forward to permit tank infantrymen (desyanti, see tactical and Technical Trends No. 3, page 44) to use it as a shield while riding atop the tank.   Every provision has been made to prevent unwelcome riders from getting aboard.  There is a lack of external fittings, tools, sharp projections, etc.: this meets the double purpose of eliminating hand grips for enemy hitch-hikers and the chance that a fire bomb or other missile could lodge on the tank.  The fender of the tank is very narrow so that “tank hunters” who seek to jump aboard run the risk of being caught in the track.  The newer American sponson-type tanks have no fenders as such and have solved these problems largely through basic design.  As a further protective measure for the tank crew, the hatch in the top of the turret is so constructed that it cannot be opened from the outside.  A special tool is required to open the hatch from the inside.

Leichttraktor pictures and documents from Swedish Tank Archives blog

leichttracktorRen Hanxue, creator of the Swedish Tank Archives blog, recently posted a PDF of documents and pictures from the Swedish Archives pertaining to the German Leichttraktor.  The documents are of course in German so we are not entirely sure what they contain.  However, the pictures are very interesting, providing shots of not just the vehicle but also of some of the automotive components and subsystems.  The Leichttraktor is a fairly obscure vehicle, being a German post WWI design that never saw mass production.  It is most widely known as the tier one German tank in the World of Tanks video game, where it is commonly referred to as the “Loltraktor.”

The PDF is available here.

We highly recommend Swedish Tank Archives.  People with an interest in Swedish tanks will find it a valuable resource.  The site also contains documents relating to Swedish evaluations of foreign vehicles such as the Chieftain, AMX 13, and T-80U.  Ren Hanxue also maintains a youtube page with some videos if Swedish tank terrain trails including Centurion, Strv 104, T-72 and T-80 tanks.

From the Editor: Weird and wonderful old timey AFV patents

Here at Tank and AFV News, we like to dig through old patents to see what sort of odd and unusual ideas people have come up with in regards to tanks and AFV design.  Today we present a few of the more unusual patents we have found from the early days of tank and AFV design.  These were found by browsing Google patents (any typos in the patent descriptions are due to errors made by the OCR when these patents were digitized.)

1. We’ll start with a patent from 1911 by Anthony Mcf Mcsweeny for a “Skirmish-machine.”  This is essentially an armored car and is probably the most sensible of the designs we present in this article.  That said, it earns a place on this list by nature of it’s rather unusual name of “skirmish-machine.”

The inventor describes his invention as:

The present invention provides an engine of warfare which is self-propelling and armored so as to amply protect the `vital parts and the complement of men manning the same. The machine besides being self propelling, so as to move from place to place by its own power, is adapted for use as a traction engine for drawing ordnance, wagons,” or vehicles containing supplies or munitions of war.

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From the Editor: The Hull Machine Gunner

bow gunOne of the unique characteristics of WW2 era tanks is the hull machine gunner position.  This crew position was assigned a variety of names in different armies, being referred to as the assistant driver, radio operator, or bow gunner to name a few. A large majority of the tanks designed and used during the war had this position as part of their crew layout, although it quickly disappeared from tank design in the post war period.

In the 1920’s and early 1930’s, tank design was still in its formative stages and vehicle crew and component layout varied dramatically.  However, by the late 30’s a consensus starts to emerge in regards to crew layout.  In Germany, the Panzer III and IV established the layout that would be most common during the war, a five man crew with three in the turret and two in the hull, a driver and the hull machine gunner.  The Soviet Union, USA, Czechoslovokia and Japan also adopted the hull gunner concept, although their early war tanks typically had two men in the turret (T-34, M2 and M3 light tank, LT vz 35 and 38, Type 97).  The two major exceptions to the move toward bow gunners were the United Kingdom and France.  French tank design was fairly unique, relying primarily on smaller vehicles with 2 man crews (Renault and Hotchkiss infantry tanks) or larger tanks such as the Somua S35 or Char B1 Bis which had a radio operator position but did not give him a machine gun to operate. British pre-war tank design varied.  The Matilda II (A12) infantry tank had a very modern crew layout of driver in the hull and three in the turret.  On the other hand, the Cruiser Mk I introduced into service in 1939 had two hull machine gunners, each with his own turret!

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From the Vault: Vickers Valiant MBT

Today we present an article on the mostly forgotten Vickers Valiant Main Battle Tank. This article is from the March-April 1983 issue of ARMOR and is authored by noted tank expert Richard Ogorkiewicz.  The Valiant MBT (also knows as the Vickers MBT Mk 4) was designed in 1977 as a follow up to the Vickers MBT developed in the 1960’s as a private venture.  While the original Vickers Mk 1 MBT was relatively successful, being adopted by the armies of India (as the Vijayanta) and Kuwait, and the later Mk 3 version was used by Nigeria and Kenya, the Mk 4 Valiant never made it past the prototype stage.  The primarly selling point of the Mk 4 was the inclusion of Chobham armor and a “universal” turret capable of mounting either the L7 105mm gun, the 120mm rifled gun of the Chieftain MBT, or the Rheinmetall 120mm gun of the Leopard 2.  Unlike most British main battle tanks, the Vickers series used a torsion bar suspension rather than the Horstmann system found on Centurion or Chieftain.  It’s worth pointing out that the Vickers MBT Mk 4 was the second unsuccessful British tank to be named “Valiant.”  The first was a dreadful WW2 era infantry tank prototype (A38) developed by the Ruston & Hornsby company.  This vehicle is preserved at the Tank Museum in Bovington, in part as an example to armor students on how not to design a tank.

From the Vault: M551 Sheridan videos and documents

Today we present some historical documents and video concerning the M551 Sheridan light tank.  We start off with a government video showing the conduct of fire procedure for the Sheridan.  The video is dated 1969 and provides plenty of footage for those interested in the operation of the weapons system of the vehicle.

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From the Vault: Anti-Armor Defense Data Study (A2D2)

bulge34Today we present a very interesting group of documents called the Anti-Armor Defense Data Study (A2D2).  This report was put together in the early 90’s and examines instances from World War II of US anti-tank units fighting against German armored attacks.  There are five separate documents, one of which is a “how to research” guide and the others are labeled Volume I-IV.  Volume I is titled “Technical Report” and primarily deals with methodology, sources and appendices.  Volume II, III and IV are more interesting, for they include the meat of the report.  Each volume examines a particular battle, providing detailed descriptions of the actions that took place.  Volume II looks at the US anti-tank defense in Mortain France in August 1944.  Volume III focuses on US anti-tank operations at Dom Butgenbach, Belgium in December of 44 and volume IV looks at Krinkelt-Rochrath, Belgium in December of 44.

Here is an unusual excerpt from Volume IV, page 149 :

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From the Vault: The Patents of General Barnes

For those with an interest in the history of US Armor, the name General Gladeon Barnes may be a familiar one.  Barnes served as the head of the Technical Division of the Ordnance Department during World War 2.  In his book “Armored Thunderbolt”, Steven Zaloga refers to Barnes as “the single most influential U.S. Army officer in the development of wartime tank designs.”  During World War 2, Barnes and the Ordnance Dept. often butted heads with Army Ground Forces and the Armored force.  in particular, Barnes and the ordnance dept. were known for their advocacy of a heavy tank for the US Army and for the development of the T20 series of vehicles to replace the M4 Sherman.

Barnes started his career with the U.S. Army in 1910 as a lieutenant of Coast Artillery.  He transferred to the Ordnance Department and spent World War 1 designing heavy artillery. According to the book “Faint Praise” by Charles Baily, Barnes’ post war assignments gave him experience in both production and design, and he owned some thirty-four patents.  We thought it might be interesting to do a search for some of these patents and see what they looked like.  A quick search in Google patents revealed four pages of results (click here to view them.)  Most of the results are for various gun designs or vehicle components.  However, there are two rather unusual patents from 1942 and 1944 simply described as “tank.”  Both patents seem to describe the same vehicle.  Let’s take a look.

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From the Vault: AMX-30 articles

Some old articles on the French AMX-30 MBT.  We primarily uploaded these to share with a friend that is doing some research on this vehicle but we figured there might be others that would find them interesting.

AMX 30 France’s Main Battle Tank by General Jean Marzloff (1971)

AMX 30 page 1 AMX 30 page 2 AMX 30 page 3 AMX 30 page 4

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From the Vault: The Army’s Tank Engine Adventure of WWII

Today we present another article from the Army R,D&A magazine.  This article is from the May-June 1992 issue and gives a short history of US Army tank engine development during the Second World War.