Saturday 2 January 2016

World of Tanks History Section: 43M. Toldi III

In the 1930s, Hungary took its time to pick a tank for its army. At first, the kingdom received L3/L5 tankettes from Italy. After that, Hungary started thinking about producing its own tank, as the country's industrial base was powerful enough for such a task. As many European countries, the initial plan was to build a convertible drive tank, this one designed by Miklos Straussler. However, after trials in 1937, the decision was made to produce the Swedish light Lansverk L-60 tank.

At the time, the L-60 could be considered the best tank in the world. The tank was fast, comfortable, easy to produce. Otto Merker's tank stood head and shoulders above its competitors. It was the first tank in the world to use a torsion bar suspension. The L-60 was initially armed with a 20 mm Madsen autocannon.

In Hungary, the L-60 was initially indexed 38M. Toldi I or Toldi A20. A series of modifications were made before mass production in 1940. The Swedish engine was replaced with a German Bussing engine, and a 36M anti-tank rifle was used instead of the 20 mm cannon. When the Hungarians trialled the 37 mm Bofors cannon, much more suitable for fighting tanks, it was also converted for installation in the L-60. The initial order for 80 tanks was split between Ganz and MAVAG companies in Budapest. After that, 110 tanks from the second series were ordered, indexed 38M. Toldi II or Toldi B20. These tanks had thicker armour, more domestic components, and a new radio.

However time did not stand still, and requirements for tanks changed. In the summer of 1941, the Hungarians encountered their first problems.

The L-60 was made to fight light tanks from the late 1930s with a maximum of 20 mm of armour. The 20 mm autocannon could deal with them. Now, Hungary's enemy was the USSR, whose thinly armoured T-26, T-28, and BT tanks were largely lost in the summer of 1941. T-34s and KVs were built to replace them, against which a 20 mm shell or an anti-tank rifle bullet was useless. Even wartime Soviet light tanks like the T-60 and T-70 were too much for the Toldi, while the 45 mm gun on the T-70 could effortlessly knock it out in return.

The military started thinking about doing something with the armament in early 1942. This task was somewhat simplified by the new medium 40M. Turan tank. Its 40 mm gun was shortened and equipped with a muzzle brake. The 38M. Toldi IIA was born. It was not produced separately, but instead, existing tanks were modernized to the new standard. 80 vehicles were converted in total.

This was only a half-measure. The Hungarian army lost many tanks on the Eastern Front, and they needed a way to rebuild their tank army.

In 1943, Hungarian engineers developed a new tank that would replace the 38M. as the new light tank. The new tank was indexed 43M. Toldi III (Toldi C40). Its armour remained at the level of its predecessor, but could be equipped with side skirts, tested on the Toldi IIA. They could not save the tank from shells, but were a serious impediment to infantry anti-tank rifles.

The 43M. Toldi III was supposed to be produced at Ganz factories. Production began in 1944, but only 12 vehicles were finished. On July 2nd, 1944, Allied aircraft delivered a massive bomb strike on Budapest, which crippled Ganz factories. Thus, the story of Hungarian light tanks ends.

Even if bombs did not bring an end to the Toldi III, it was unable to fight any Soviet tank in 1943, while being penetrable by any anti-tank gun from any angle. The designers of the 43M. Toldi III were at least two years too late.

Original article available here.

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