Tuesday 16 July 2024

German predecessor to the Soviet Gun Carrier

The Germans had the most diverse self propelled artillery branch of all belligerents in the Second World War. Even if it wasn't the most numerous, there were many different types from tank destroyers with bulletproof armour to assault guns. One of the classes that the Germans created was called Waffenträger (Gun Carrier). They could be built on tank chassis, but there were also completely original chassis that used components from production tanks.

Waffenträger für 8.8 cm PaK 43 L/71 (Ardelt) in Patriot Park.

Patriot Park now contains the world's largest collection of German vehicles from the Second World War. Today, most of the exhibits are displayed in display area #1, including one quite unusual vehicle. This is the Waffenträger für 8.8 cm PaK 43 L/71 (Ardelt), a tank destroyer that appeared towards the end of the war. In this case the concept of a "Gun Carrier" is quite literal, since the vehicle was developed to replace the towed carriage of the Pak 43 anti-tank gun.

Monday 1 July 2024

Video: IS-3 in 1945

The IS-3 entered production shortly before Germany surrendered, but how well would it have fought if VE Day was postponed by a few months? Check out my latest video to find out.

Monday 24 June 2024

Experience in the Far East

Soviet tanks and SPGs during the Battle of Lake Hasan and its impact on Soviet tank development

Battle is the main stimulus for development of tank armament and protection. No matter how much technology evolves during peace, only war will give a proper measure of its effectiveness. A conflict where tanks was used could be analyzed to show where to go from here. Even small conflicts like the Rif War yielded valuable experience for its combatants.

T-26 crews near Lake Hasan, summer 1938.

Soviet tanks first saw battle in the fall of 1929 during the East China Railroad Conflict. The experience gained there was minimal. Spain was a much better lesson, as Soviet T-26 and BT tanks were used fairly intensively. Experience in using the T-26 in late 1936 and early 1937 in Spain gave a lot of material for Soviet tank designers. Other local conflicts were also valuable. For instance, the events at Lake Hasan that erupted 85 years ago were the first time where the Red Army used its tanks and SPGs against a peer enemy.

Monday 3 June 2024

Video: Historically Accurate Panzer '46

Many German tank designs allegedly on the brink of going into production were actually borderline fiction, while one new tank that was actually good to go is very rarely talked about. Find out what tanks Germany would have fielded had the war gone on for a year longer in my latest video


Wednesday 22 May 2024

Quick-Fix Tank Destroyer

British tank building was in crisis in the spring-summer of 1941. The latest Pz.Kpfw.III and Pz.Kpfw.IV tanks encountered in North Africa could only be defeated with the 2-pounder gun at short range. Intelligence reported on heavy and superheavy Pz.Kpfw.V, Pz.Kpfw.VI, and Pz.Kpfw.VII tanks that the 40 mm gun would be completely powerless against. The British were in urgent need of a vehicle with a more powerful gun.

Any color the customer wants

The British needed to find a suitable gun and a suitable chassis. There were promising weapons: the 57 mm 6-pounder and 76 mm 17-pounder. These guns could deal with the even the most modern tanks. There was, however, a small problem. Mass production was not scheduled to start until at least the end of the year. It was also necessary to develop new gun mounts and turrets to fit these guns. The issue of cost was also an important one, as the British had to replenish their tank fleet after abandoning a good part of it in Europe, and a 2-pounder gun was considerably cheaper than a 6-pounder, let alone a 17-pounder.

Penetration of the 3" gun using a new round with increased muzzle velocity. This gun could theoretically fight any German tank.

There was a more budget friendly variant. The QF 3-inch 20 cwt AA gun accepted into service back in 1914 was being pushed out of service by a more modern 3.7" gun. Old AA guns could still be found in storage, and they could make a powerful anti-tank weapon. 

Trials showed that the HE shell was useless against even light tank armour. However, 12.5 lb (5.67 kg) AP shot with a muzzle velocity of 2600 fps (792 m/s) could penetrate 75 mm of armour at 30 degrees from 400 yards (365 meters), 58 mm from 1000 yards (914 meters) and 37 mm from 2000 yards (1828 meters). An improved AP shot was also developed that was supposed to penetrate 100 mm from 100 yards (91 m) and 80 mm from 750 yards (686 meters). In trials, the shot penetrated 91 mm at 400 yards, 77 mm at 1000 yards, and 55 mm at 2000 yards. This weapon couldn't defeat phantoms like the Pz.Kpfw.VII, but it was good enough to fight any real German tank. There was also some discussion of developing an AP-HE shell that would be more effective than simple shot.

Carrier, Churchill, 3-inch Gun, Mk.I with a 3" 20 cwt gun. The WD number is still in a tank format.

Saturday 4 May 2024

Video: Why are we so obsessed with the Tiger tank?

Even though the Tiger tank was built in very limited numbers and not used very widely, it's seen as the quintessential German tank of the Second World War. I look at some reasons why that could be in my latest video.

If you're interested in the Tiger tank, check out my latest book: ACHTUNG TIGER! How the Allies defeated Germany's heavy tank now available on Amazon and directly from the publisher.

Sunday 21 April 2024

Single Hatch for Tank Turrets

The interwar period was a time of new technical solutions, and tanks were no exception. Even though tank development was allocated a limited budget, experiments never stopped. The budgets began to swell in the early 1930s, which coincided with a rapid growth of tank characteristics. Various improvements were implemented, including those that improved the crew's working conditions. 

T-34 in Crimea, 1944. Factory #112 was the last to keep the turret with a single hatch in production. One of their tanks can be seen in the foreground.

One of the characteristic features of Soviet tanks and armoured cars in the late 1930s was the conical turret that came to replace the earlier cylindrical shape. Some vehicles also received a single hatch for their two-man turret. The T-34 tank was the most famous vehicle with this solution. This idea was dropped only to resurface in post-war designs. Let us discuss why this hatch appeared in the first place and why it disappeared.

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Video: Evolution of the T-34's Armour

The T-34 tank might look like it started and ended the Second World War with more or less the same level of armour protection, but things are more complicated than they first appear. In this video, I take a look at how the tank's armour evolved to deal with new threats on the battlefield.

Saturday 16 March 2024

There are Always Two

The tank was initially conceived as a mobile fortress; huge and slow. However, the army had to rein in their appetites from a 300 ton monster to just 28 tons. This didn’t mean that the idea of a mobile fortress died off. The mass of tanks continued to grow and the development of the K-Wagen clearly suggested that not only Lebedenko was thinking about Tsar-tanks. Only the prompt end of the First World War stopped these giants from reaching the battlefield. Although, the monstrous projects that were built by 1919 were about as useful as the rest of the Tsar family: a tank that doesn’t fight in addition to a bell that doesn’t ring and cannon that doesn’t shoot.

T-39, the first Soviet "large" heavy tank. Thankfully, clearer minds prevailed.

For obvious reasons, Soviet tank designers didn’t even think about a heavy breakthrough tank. Ironically, the most numerous tank in the Red Army at the time was the British Mark V that fit this role perfectly. The USSR began working on its own heavy tank in the early 1930s. It just so happened that they ended up with two designs over and over again for two decades. They choice was always made in favour of the lighter one, but it didn’t prevent work on the heavier one from moving forward.

Thursday 29 February 2024

Video: How the T-34 got an 85 mm gun

The T-34 tank was upgraded with an 85 mm gun in a new enlarged turret in 1944. The true story of how the new gun and turret ended up on a 4 year old chassis is an interesting and complicated one. Find out how it happened in my latest video.