Saturday 31 October 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Skoda T-40

After the defeat of Germany in WWII, Czechoslovakia had a chance to return to its status as one of the world's biggest tank builders. To help them, they had six years of "inheritance" from being forced to work for their occupants. The experience, documentation, and equipment helped out during the first post-war decade, which turned out to be the most active.

For many reasons, both economical and political, many projects from the time not only did not enter mass production, but did not even reach the prototype stage. Nevertheless, they represent a monument to technical thought and deserve detailed exploration. One of those tanks is the Skoda T-40.

Muddled intentions of military minds

In 1945, the military formed a list of tactical-technical requirements for a vehicle called Všeobecného Použití (All Purpose Vehicle) or TVP. The military wanted a medium tank with 65 mm of armour and an 88 mm gun, capable of reaching a speed of 50 kph. As secondary armament, the TVP would have a paired machinegun and flamethrower.

Workers from the Military-Technical University (VTU) performed a colossal amount of work, creating a whole family of tanks with small differences. In his work on Czech vehicles between 1945 and 1955, historian Martin Dubanec credited Skoda with these vehicles, but this was corrected by another Czech historian, Irzhi Tintera. In reality, VTU and Skoda went with similar, but different designs.

Both the VTU project and the requirements for it were more of a concept than a technical solution. It is known that the tank was supposed to have a spring suspension, six road wheels, and three return idlers. The suspension was designed rather loosely, and would have to undergo a deep and long design process. It was still unknown how the tank would be powered.

Unlike specialists from the VTU, Skoda engineers did not just envision an approximate design, but made calculations for their "parallel" medium tank. Even though some design details are similar, there are more differences than similarities between the projects.

T-40: Thought through, but not implemented

The VTU design had a complex turret with a V-shaped front. The T-40 had a simpler design, similar to Krupp's turrets. This is no coincidence, as Skoda worked with Krupp during WWII and even built some Tiger II hulls and turrets.

The caliber requirement demanded an 88 mm gun, effectively the German KwK 36, like on the German Tiger. The Czechoslovak variant lacked a muzzle brake. The flamethrower was eventually dropped, and the designers settled on a coaxial machinegun. The T-40 mantlet was similar to the one designed by Krupp for "narrow" Panther turrets.

Unlike the TVP's engine, which was unclear, Skoda's design had an almost ready solution for their tank, with the X-shaped air cooled Skoda 16ADH140 700 hp at 2000 RPM engine. Even though that engine did not meet the hp/ton requirements, it could accelerate the tank to the necessary 50 kph. The T-40 used more advanced torsion bars instead of springs.

The main problem of both the T-40 and TVP was insufficient armour, but it would be incorrect to blame the designers for this. The military based its requirements on the T-34-85, which was hardly the most protected tank at the time.

With the exception of its armour, the Skoda tank was a modern and interesting design. Without copying either German or Soviet designs, the T-40 was a mix of solutions from two of the most powerful tank building schools of thought, resulting in a harmonious and original vehicle, which was sadly never built in metal.

Original article available here.

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