Friday 8 January 2021

Tank Comfort

Vadim Elistratov is a renowned restorer of armoured vehicles, with experience of bringing WWII era tanks back to life with their original components. Since he doesn't just rebuild the tanks but also drives them, he gave his impressions on how various nations' armoured vehicles compare to one another in a recent interview with Tactic Media.

"The German Praga (well the the Czech Panzer 38(t)) was very memorable, since the driver's station is very cramped for a man of my size. It took great effort to fit in there. It's easy to steer, a preselector gearbox is an interesting thing, you need to get used to it, the way it works, the algorithm of operation is completely different than what we are used to. Once you get used to it then maybe the driver's life got much easier. This added to the mobility of the tank a lot. But what was the most memorable is that it's very cramped.

For instance, the T-26 and the Praga are peers, the driver has the same position on the right side in both tanks. In the T-26 you sit in an armchair like you're watching TV in absolute comfort. In the Praga it feels like you were crammed into a tin can, to your right is a huge box, it has reinforcement ribs, those ribs are hot and are sticking into, well, your own ribs. Maybe tankers back then were not very big and they didn't mind.

The Hetzer was memorable because the driver likely drove off-road only based on the commander's directions, since he really can't see anything. He has a periscope but, the vehicle is short and its front is very overloaded, so it pitches a lot. When you're driving off-road it goes like this [waves hand up and down]. The driver is either looking up at the sky or down at the ground. Getting in is a hassle too, you all line up and climb into the rear hatch. Also not a very comfortable vehicle to get in and out of.

I must say that our vehicles are surprisingly on par with at least early German tanks in terms of crew comfort. The T-70 is very comfortable to get into and drive, very fast, like a sports car. The T-60 is slower but is also rather mobile and drives well in mud. The driver sits in luxury even though there's the engine nearby, but it's not very intrusive since it's mostly in the fighting compartment. His space is very comfortable.

Each vehicle largely has its nuances and its specifics when you drive it. Take the T-34 for instance. It does not allow you to stop in mud, especially when facing uphill. It's hard to get moving again then. The German tanks move through mud more confidently but much slower. If you take the Panzer IV and compare it to the T-34 it's more of a tractor than a tank. It's slow, it doesn't have the T-34's mobility, it can't perform rapid maneuvers at all. The tank is overloaded, the chassis was made for an absolute limit of 20 tons, it was loaded to 26 tons, everything else remained the same. The front of the tank was overloaded. It radically lost mobility. Compare 300 hp for 26 tons and the power the T-34's 26 tons had when you drove it during filming, the same 26 tons but with 500 horses. Twice as much power. The mobility is incomparable. Each vehicle has its own nuances, every one. You can talk about it forever."

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