Translated Articles from TankArchives.blogspot.com

It’s time to pay a visit to the Tank Archives blog to see what Russian language articles they have translated to English.  Highlights from the July assortment of articles includes several pieces chronicling the history of the German Panzer I and II as well as a couple Lend Lease tanks in Soviet service, and the German Maus super-heavy tank .  Article previews are posted below, click on the headline to see the full piece.

 

Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf. c-C: At the Spearhead of Blitzkrieg

pz2c03-2aa3bf82e096bf3403161d68a424f44dThe story of the PzII tank was an unusual one. In many ways, it owes its “accidental” existence to the attempts of mounting a 20 mm autocannon in the Kleintraktor (future PzI). Due to issues with production of the Z.W. tank (future PzIII), the PzII was the most numerous front line tank for the first two years of WWII. Germany’s most common tank was not even originally included in the armament plans.

 

Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf.a through b: An Unplanned Tank

pz2a02-5c621ff79743816897f5878092e69bd8The light PzII tank played an important role in the structure of the German tank forces. Despite the opinion born of German generals’ memoirs, this was not a training tank. On the contrary: at the time of its inception, the PzII was one of the best light tanks in the world. It appeared almost by accident, but occupied a significant part of the Wehrmacht’s order of battle. The PzII remained in production for five years, with some small breaks. What is the history of the PzII, and what did its first versions look like?

 

M4A2(76)W: Emcha With a Long Hand

m4a276wussr03-e0d722afb74a5c89558b4ff816075a25The Americans considered improving the firepower of the Medium Tank M4 back in September of 1941. A year later, experiments with installing the 76 mm T1 gun into the stock turret commenced. Even though the gun fit, the military was unsatisfied with this rearmament. A decision was made to equip the M4 with the turret from the Medium Tank T23, which did not enter production. This was not hard, since the turret ring diameter was the same.

 

M24 Chaffee: Test Drive at the End of Lend Lease

m24ltussr01-1c9c98f143e28014b8bf6aa5e1abb71aStarting in the second half of 1943, the approach to sending British and American Lend Lease armoured vehicles to the USSR changed. Instead of immediate large scale shipments, the Western Allies sent a few samples of new vehicles. If the tank or SPG was satisfactory for the Soviet side, full scale shipments followed.  The first vehicle to arrive on this trial basis was the Light Tank M5A1. By that point, production of light tanks in the USSR was wrapping up, so the American novelty never made it into service.

 

SG-122: Assault Gun on a Foreign Chassis

sg122s07-9342fa6c05a58948d71e4ecaffd60830Work on SPGs, especially heavy ones, stopped in the USSR after the start of the Great Patriotic War. This was largely caused by the fact that the factories were busy with other orders. In addition, many factories were evacuated eastward. Only light SPGs were put into production at the start of the war, and these were largely improvised.  Meanwhile, due to the number of factories that switched from making artillery tractors to tanks, the artillery branch was forced to revisit SPGs towards the end of 1941.

 

Superheavy Trophy

mausussr02-8a5b6ff864d9a3928af986f06ec44264The German superheavy Maus tank left a mark in the history of tank building. This was the heaviest tank in the world, developed as an assault tank, practically invincible to enemy fire. In many ways, its fate was the same as the fate of another giant, the French FCM 2C, which holds the title of the world’s largest tank to this day. Like the French heavyweight, the German tank never saw combat. In both cases, the tanks were blown up by their own crews. Another similarity was that the tanks became the subject of a careful study.

 

Small, But Fierce

panzerjager1s02-5c106248489f7004540de199447f4dbcOne of the distinguishing characteristics of German tank building in WWII was an aim to use up obsolete vehicles, including those which used to be the backbone of the German tank force. If a German tank became obsolete, that didn’t mean that it would be scrapped. Some tanks were sent to training units, other were modernized. Obsolete tanks, especially light ones, were often converted to SPGs or engineering vehicles. This was the fate that awaited the PzI, Germany’s first mass produced tank, which was already obsolete at the start of WWII.

 

Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. F: Pocket Tiger

pz1f02-c6c820213c566fb51f61bb5918d7bb47Coming up with tank ratings is a hobby of many tank experts, as well as people who consider themselves as such. As a rule, the creators try to determine the best tank. While some kind of systematic approach was developed over the years, picking out the worst tanks is usually more complicated. Often, creators of lists of the worst tanks make their choices according to no set system and end up naming a number of tanks that didn’t earn such a shameful label.

 

Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. C: Kniepkamp’s Latecomer

pz1cs05-2fddacc4461e71c02ae7fac489888663Putting the PzI Ausf. B into production was the correct decision, albeit a late one. The problem wasn’t only that the concept of a light tank with machineguns for armament was obsolete. The 6th Department of the Armament Directorate was disappointed in the chassis developed by Krupp’s engineers overall. Even though the power to weight ratio of the PzI grew from 11.1 to 17.2 hp/ton after modernization, there was no drastic improvement in mobility. 40 kph is not what was expected with such a boost.

 

Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. B: All Grown Up

pzkpfw1b05-3df99b437de7812a0798c2d5ae5e7034The creation of the PzI light tank did not come easily for German tank building. The tank was redesigned several times while still in the development stage, starting out as a 3 ton tank with a 20 mm autocannon, and ending up as a 5 ton tank, where nothing larger than a pair of MG-13 machineguns could fit into the turret. Even though the PzI entered production and became a mass produced tank, easily numbering over 1000 units, the German tank forces were not completely satisfied with its characteristics even before production began. Modernization was only a matter of time. What results did it bring?

Translated Articles from Tankarchives.com (April 2017)

Here is part two of our post bringing us up to speed with the translated Russian articles from Tankarchives.com.  Click on the headline to read the full article.

 

Halftrack Experiments

zis41s03-02690271982d6ac26600456ac3b6e667Ever since their appearance in the mid-1910s, halftracks have been considered as a chassis for armoured vehicles, especially SPGs. Better off-road performance than wheeled vehicles and stability made these vehicles an attractive chassis for artillery. Halftrack SPGs were popular in Germany and the United States. The heroes of this article, Soviet ZIS-41 and ZIS-43 halftracks, are not as well known.

 

Medium Tank M2: Last Place in the Arms Race

m2medium02-eb9a5efac887bcff19fda8051f7411d4The late 1930s were a time when armoured vehicles were developing rapidly. The start of WWII in September of 1939 gave an even bigger push to the flywheel of progress. Designs that were considered revolutionary suddenly fell behind. There were cases where tanks became obsolete soon after coming out of the factory. The American Medium Tank M2 is among those unlucky ones. You can read a lot of mockery of the combat abilities of this tank, but they are unreasonable. American engineers made a decent medium tank, but by the time it entered mass production there were already other tanks with more armour and better armament.

 

Light Tanks T1E4 and T2E1: Experiments on an Ideal Platform

t2light07-11db1761b0741fc4e9c1088ed4197ddaThe idea of a light tank with a front engine that the American Ordnance Department insisted on was at a dead end by 1932. Trials of the Light Tank T1 family and later the Medium Tank T2 showed that the idea was unacceptable. Poor visibility, excessive mass, bad crew conditions, and, most importantly, the limits of further development, put an end to such tanks. Designers moved on to working on other tanks with different layouts. Harry Knox, the father of the front engine American tanks, did not abandon his idea, and kept looking for a place for his idea. Stooping down to plagiarism, he crossed his Light Tank T1E1 with the Vickers Mk.E, its overseas competitor. The resulting “hybrid” Light Tank T2E1 was not that bad.

Combat Car M1: Armour for American Cavalry

m1combatcar01-58fd2c9380fbf5aabb682a4b180a0fcaTraditionally, cavalry occupied a very strong position in the American army. As soon as there was an opportunity to obtain its own tanks, the cavalry took it. Since, officially, the cavalry was not allowed to have tanks, the name “combat car” was used, even though these vehicles were actually tanks. The Combat Car M1 and several similar vehicles on its chassis are typical representatives of the small family of interbellum cavalry tanks.

 

T18 HMC: Quick Howitzer

t18hmc01-608c1135334e018fbcc68d997973af85The American army began thinking of motorizing their artillery back in WWI. For a long time, attempts were made to build an SPG on the chassis of the light tracked Holt tractor. In parallel, John Walter Christie was working on a similar vehicle. Neither project satisfied the US Army for various reasons. A second attempt at an SPG was made in 1930, but the Howitzer Motor Carriage T1 remained an experiment. The next opportunity to obtain self propelled artillery came a decade later in the form of the Howitzer Motor Carriage T18.

 

Gun Motor Carriage M10

m10gmcussr01-01624a4b384f4eba2ee6dce9c1ef6a55Unlike many tanks, few tank destroyers arrived in the USSR within the Lend Lease program. The Gun Motor Carriage T48, or SU-57, built on the chassis of the M3 halftrack, was the only exception. Initially, they were built by the Americans for a British order, but the British barely used them. The USSR gave them a completely different reception: they were used actively and showed themselves as an effective anti-tank measure. As for tank destroyers on a tank chassis, the only Western vehicle that was accepted into the army was the Gun Motor Carriage M10, known widely under the British nickname “Wolverine”.

 

Infantry Tank Mk.I: the First Infantry Tank

infantrymk1s01-64e78e66aeb81b5b3394c2f146a819e9There are many tanks in the history of armoured warfare that were simply unlucky. The British Infantry Tank Mk.I is one of them. Even its name was lost when it became the Matilda due to some historian’s error, even though that name applies to a completely different vehicle. As Britain’s first infantry tank, it was hopelessly obsolete by the start of the war. Even its thick armour was not enough to survive in a war that it was simply not suitable for.

 

Hummel: Bee with a Long Stinger

hummel02-432ab111a90b761d1a30aaa29304f8e9German engineers invented the “self propelled gun mount” class of artillery. The first work in this area was done during WWI, but it truly became a mass event 25 years after it ended. The recipe was simple: take a light or medium tank and use its parts to to build a chassis with bulletproof armour. A slightly modified version of a towed gun was installed on that chassis. Thanks to this phenomenon, the mobility of German artillery grew significantly. The Hummel became the post powerful of German “self propelled gun mounts”. This SPG earned its position as one of the symbols of German self propelled artillery.

 

E-50 and E-75: A Story of Failed Unification

e50e75photo12-235c9c8156d3ec8de3ec4bd536ee09ceTanks that could have been built are often discussed within certain circles. Aside from the superheavy Maus and E-100, there are the light and medium E-10 and E-25 tank destroyers. Despite very incomplete data about these vehicles, the overall characteristics are known, including the armament.  Meanwhile, the core of “Panzerwaffe-46” was going to be composed of the medium E-50 tank and heavy E-75 tank, at least in the minds of fans of alternative history. The story with these tanks is a lot more complicated, since work stopped at an early stage, and a good half of the information available on these tanks is divination at best. Let’s try to figure out what about the E-50 and E-75 is true and what is blatant misrepresentation.