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Modern German Other Vehicles Modern Swiss Armor

AEV 3 Kodiak

Switzerland/Germany (2002)
Armored Engineering Vehicle – 43 Built

The AEV 3, nicknamed ‘Kodiak’, is an armored engineering vehicle currently in service with four armies in modest numbers. The vehicle, being based on the Leopard 2 MBT chassis, offers a high level of protection, combined with good mobility. With the use of different modules, the Kodiak has a variety of uses, including breaching minefields and destroying or erecting obstacles. It was the Swiss Army which initiated the development process and a consortium was set up between the German company Rheinmetall Landsysteme and the Swiss company RUAG Defence. The first prototype, funded by both companies, was well received and ordered by Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Singapore. The vehicle is still marketed, with current Leopard 2 users as potential buyers.

The AEV 3 Kodiak prototype during a demonstration using the excavator arm. Source: Rheinmetall Defence Press

The Leopard 2

The Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank was developed by Krauss-Maffei during the 1970s and succeeded the Leopard 1. The tank, armed with a 120 mm gun and powered by a V-12 twin-turbo diesel engine, is currently in service with eighteen countries. Since the first tank entered service in 1979, it has seen many upgrades and improvements. Over time, the Leopard 2 chassis was used to develop other vehicles as well, like an armored recovery vehicle and an armored vehicle launched bridge. An armored engineering vehicle was not initially developed, however, around the turn of the century, several armies started to feel a need for such a vehicle.

The first prototype under construction. Source: Allgemeine schweizerische Militärzeitschrift

Early development

The development of the Kodiak started in April 2002 when Switzerland initiated its Armored Engineer Vehicle 3 (AEV 3) program. The strategic technology partner of the Swiss Army, RUAG Defence, committed to a consortium with Rheinmetall Landsysteme, based in Kiel, Germany. Rheinmetall, with future sales in mind, nicknamed the project ‘Kodiak’ for marketing purposes, referring to the Kodiak bear, one of the two largest bear species. A team of experts from both companies worked closely together developing and manufacturing the new vehicle. The prototype was developed and completed using private industrial funds.
After Armasuisse, the procurement agency of the Swiss Army, handed over a surplus Leopard 2 chassis from Swiss army stock, construction of the prototype could be initiated. It would be completed shortly after, in May 2003. The vehicle was ready for its first trials and handed over to the Swiss Army for a two month trial period. The vehicle passed these tests successfully. In 2004, the AEV was shown at Eurosatory in Paris Nord-Villepinte, France, a biennial Defense and Security Exhibition. The vehicle sparked interest by several Leopard 2 MBT operating armies, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden, so the vehicle underwent trials with these countries. An important series of trials was conducted at a Spanish Army base in Zaragoza, where the vehicle proved to be well capable of operating in a warmer environment than northwest Europe.
In early 2005, the AEV3 prototype was sent to Sweden and leased to the Swedish armed forces procurement agency (FMV, Försvarets Materiel Verk) to be tested at Boden in northern Sweden in harsh winter conditions. Beforehand, a Swedish crew was trained by Rheinmetall employees. The tests confirmed that the vehicle met Swedish requirements for an armored high-performance multiple purpose engineering system. After the successful trials, the vehicle was returned to Rheinmetall and the test results were shared with the International AEV Coordination Group which then consisted of Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Spain. This group was specifically established to harmonize national AEV requirements and programs. Despite the successful trials, Spain backed out of the program and chose to acquire the domestically-built Pizarro CEV instead. Denmark backed out of the program as well, deciding it did not need an AEV yet, but later went to acquire the Wisent 1 AEV/ARV based on the older Leopard 1 chassis.

Design

Powered by the MTU-MB873 V-12 twin-turbo diesel engine, producing 1475 hp, the Kodiak can reach a top speed of 68 km/h (42 mph). Weighing in at 62 tonnes, the vehicle falls in the MLC 70 class (Military Load Class, NATO vehicle classification system based on weight) and has a power to weight ratio of 23.8 hp/t. The weight is spread over seven road wheels on each side and the tracks are guided by four return rollers. The tracks can be tensioned with the idler wheel at the front and are driven by the drive sprocket at the rear.
Although a large part of the chassis remained unchanged compared to the Leopard 2, the front armor plate and turret were removed to make place for a superstructure. This superstructure, with a heavy slope on the front and slight sloping on the sides and rear, extends to roughly the middle of the vehicle. The superstructure is split in two, to accommodate the hinged-arm excavator being placed front center, unlike many other AEVs which have their excavator arm located on the side of the vehicle. A centrally placed excavator, however, offers a major advantage to the crew as they have a better view of what they are doing. Furthermore, it eases operation in confined spaces.
The excavator bucket has a volume of one cubic meter and, when in continuous use, it can move up to 200 cubic meters of earth per hour. The arm has a horizontal operational range of 9 meters and a range of 8.2 meters vertically. The arm can also be used to lift objects up with a weight of up to 3.5 tonnes (2.6 tonnes when the bucket is attached). These objects include things like logs and fascines. The bucket is attached to the arm with a hydraulically actuated quick coupling device, so it can easily be detached and replaced by another kind of tool. These tools include a universal gripper, a hydraulic hammer, an earth drill, a fascine launching system, and a concrete crusher. Two of these tools can be transported on the rear rack of the Kodiak, above the engine deck, while additional ones can be transported separately by a truck. The crew can perform all these actions without having to exit the vehicle.
Furthermore, the vehicle is equipped with two capstan type Rotzler winches which can pull 9 tonnes each at a speed up to 90 meters per minute and with a cable length up to 200 meters. Although the vehicle is primarily designed to be used during military operations on the battlefield, it can also be used during disaster relief or civil-military operations due to its wide array of equipment.

A Dutch Kodiak crushing a car with its excavator arm. Source: Defensie

Crew

The vehicle is manned by a crew of three: a commander, a driver, and an engineer, but the vehicle is also fully operable when only manned by the commander and driver. As the crew compartment consists of two halves, the crew members are separated from each other, with the commander sitting in the right half, the driver in the left front, and the engineer behind him. The chairs, equipped with 4-point belts, are mounted on the roof so, when the vehicle is hit by an explosive charge like a land mine or Improvised Explosive Device (IED), less of the force of the blast is imparted to the crew. Together with a reasonable amount of space and air conditioning, the crew conditions are rather good.
Six cameras provide a panoramic surrounding view which allows the crew to fully operate the vehicle with no problems.

Armament

To defend itself against near threats, the Kodiak is equipped with a weapon station on top of the right side of the superstructure. This station, which can be operated both manually and remotely, is armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun, but can also be equipped with a 40 mm grenade launcher. Furthermore, the vehicle is equipped with a smoke grenade launcher system which is mounted on the front.

The Pearson mine plow, seen from above, mounted on a Dutch Kodiak. Source: Defensie

Mine Plow Capabilities

Besides the conventional dozer which has a width of 3.42 meters or 4.02 meters with side extensions, the Kodiak can be equipped with a mine plow. This mine plow was developed by the British company Pearson Engineering and is marketed under the name Full Width Mine Plough (FWMP) which clears mines and explosives down to thirty centimeters underground. With this mine-breaching method, a path of 150 meters can be cleared within a minute. It also features an integrated electromagnetic system, meaning that explosives with electrical ignitions explode immediately. When equipped, the plow adds 4 meters to the total length of the vehicle.
To mark the breached path, the Kodiak is also equipped with a Pearson Lane Marking System. This system features two devices per side, containing fifty marker poles each. They are pneumatically fired into the ground at either timed or distance based intervals and have enough power to penetrate asphalt as well. The poles are equipped with LEDs so that a breached path can also be recognized during bad weather or nighttime.
Both systems are not unique to the Kodiak, for example, they are also used on the American M1150 ABV and the British Trojan AVRE, among others.

One of the Singaporean Kodiaks with its crew. The Army of Singapore was the latest customer of the Kodiak. Source: Singapore Army


A Swedish Kodiak taking part in Bison Counter 2016. Photo: European Defence Agency

Swiss Order

On January 9, 2007, Rheinmetall announced that the Swiss procurement agency had signed the first contract for the delivery of twelve Kodiak AEV 3, in Swiss army parlance known as Geniepanzer. The deal had a value of CHF 95 million (US$76 million), an earlier CHF 129 million (US$103 million) offer had been rejected in 2005 by the Swiss parliament. The first vehicles were planned to be delivered over the course of 2009. Construction was to take place in Switzerland by RUAG, assisted by Rheinmetall Landsysteme Gmbh in Kiel, a subsidiary of Rheinmetall AG of Düsseldorf. Production took longer than anticipated, and the delivery date was postponed to the end of 2010, however, this was further delayed.
A further setback was encountered in January 2011 when it became apparent that the hydraulic arm became heated up within a short time of use, which meant that it had to cool down before returning into action. Fortunately, the issue could be resolved, but the last AEV was only delivered just before the end of 2011. Although twelve vehicles were ordered, only six Pearson mine-clearing modules were ordered. The twelve Leopard 2 chassis, designated Panzer 87 in Swiss use, came from Swiss army stocks with turrets removed. Since delivery, the vehicles are in use with the Panzersappeurbataillon 11, 11th Battalion Combat Engineers.

One of the Swiss Kodiaks during production at the RUAG works. Source: Moritz Hage

Swedish-Dutch Cooperation

In 1999, Sweden initiated a procurement program for a combat engineering vehicle and after deciding against using the Leopard 1 chassis as a base for this new vehicle, the Leopard 2 chassis, in Sweden known as the Stridsvagn 121, was chosen. To reduce costs, the Swedish procurement agency tried to collaborate with other agencies participating in the coordination group. An initial collaboration with Switzerland was set up but had to be terminated in December 2001 due to lack of funding from the Swedish government. While production of the Kodiak prototype started in Switzerland, Sweden was approached by Denmark, but during the final negotiations, Denmark backed out of the program altogether. After these initial difficulties, Sweden eventually initiated their AEV 3 S program in 2005, with the Dutch Army joining in 2006. In the Netherlands, the need for a new AEV had already emerged during the mid-’90s. On January 16, 2008, the procurement agencies of both Sweden and the Netherlands placed a combined order for 16 vehicles, six for Sweden and ten for the Netherlands for a total amount of €100 million (US$147 million, roughly €60 million from the Netherlands and €40 million from Sweden or US$88.2 million and US$58.8 million respectively). As a result, costs could be reduced by 20% because it created the possibility to substantially reduce non-recurring costs and brought advantages in production and purchasing. Delivery period was set for 2011-2012.

The first Kodiak that was shipped to Sweden already painted in a Swedish camouflage scheme. Source: Rheinmetall Defence

Delivery to Sweden

Sweden provided six Stridsvagn 121 chassis for conversion. Their turrets were removed by Markverkstaden in Skövde and the chassis were upgraded to Stridsvagn 122 standards. After the preparations were completed, the chassis were shipped to Germany after which they were converted into AEV 3 S (Swedish). In November 2011, the first out of six AEV3 S Kodiaks was handed over to the Swedish armed forces procurement agency (FMV, Försvarets Materiel Verk). The symbolic keys were handed over during an official ceremony in Kiel, the home base of Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH. Known in Sweden as Ingenjörbandvagn 120, the vehicles are operated by the two Engineering Battalions which received three vehicles each.

Delivery to the Netherlands

The Netherlands used Leopard 2A4 chassis from their own stocks as well. Ten vehicles were completely overhauled by Instandhoudingsbedrijf Landsystemen (Conservation company Land systems) in Leusden, and the turrets were removed as well. After these were converted in Germany and delivered, the vehicles were intensively tested. During these tests, several teething problems were resolved, including some major issues with the hydraulics. At the end of 2017, the vehicles were banned from driving on roads because a control cable had snapped in one vehicle. Eventually, on May 31, 2018, the vehicles could finally be transferred into active service, as all problems had been resolved. The ten vehicles replaced fourteen Leopard 1 engineer vehicles, which were heavily worn out. Its projected service life is set to be around thirty years. In 2019, some Dutch Kodiaks were made available to be used by the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) of NATO.
The Swedish and Dutch Kodiaks are roughly 95% percent identical to each other, with differences being the camouflage patterns, markings, the smoke grenade discharge arrangements, some tools, and the Dutch vehicles feature a bomblet protection package.

Operation by Singapore

When the Army of Singapore decided to buy Leopard 2 MBTs, a total of fourteen Kodiaks were ordered and delivered in 2014-2015, replacing the aged US-built M728 CEVs. The Kodiaks, in Singapore Army parlance mainly known as L2-AEV, are operated by the 38th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers (38 SCE), together with the Leopard 2 AVLB. This armored engineer battalion is specifically trained to operate together with other armored forces. The vehicles are painted in a green color and feature a white on black registration plate on the front left side.

One of the Singapore Army Kodiaks during a parade pictured from above. Source: unclear

The future of the Kodiak

The Kodiak is still marketed by Rheinmetall and RUAG. It also is Rheinmetall’s entry in the competition to supply the German Army (Bundeswehr) with a new armored engineering vehicle. Its main competition will probably be the more recently developed Wisent 2, an AEV/ARV developed by the German company FFG, also based on the Leopard 2 chassis and already in use with the Canadian and Norwegian armies and on order by the Army of Qatar. Whether Rheinmetall will manage to secure future sales of the Kodiak remains uncertain, but potential buyers include Austria, Chile, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Poland, Portugal, and Turkey, as these countries all operate Leopard 2 MBTs and are either operating older or no armored engineering vehicles. Countries which are most likely not going to operate Kodiaks, while fielding Leopard 2 tanks, are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Qatar, and Spain, as these countries are already operating, or going to operate, other modern AEVs.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 10.2 (14.02m with plow, 11m with dozer blade) x 3.54 x 2.6 meters
Total weight, battle-ready 62,000 kg, MLC70
Crew 2-3 (Commander, Driver, Engineer)
Propulsion MTU-MB873 diesel engine, 1,100 kW (1475 hp).
Maximum speed 68 km/h (42.3 mph)
Suspensions High-hardness-steel torsion bars with rotary shock absorbers
Armament 12.7 mm machine gun or 40mm grenade launcher
Ballistic Protection STANAG 4569 edition 1 annex A/level 4
Mine Protection STANAG 4569 edition 1 annex B/level 3B and 4A
Production 43

Sources

AEV 3 Kodiak – Technology for Combat Engineers, RUMAG Brochure, PDF.
World’s first Leopard 2-based armoured engineer vehicle, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, May 8, 2003. (LINK)
AEV 3 Kodiak stands up to extreme Arctic conditions in Sweden, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, March 23, 2005. (LINK)
Swiss Army orders new Armoured Engineer Vehicle from Rheinmetall, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, January 9, 2007. (LINK)
Rheinmetall to supply Kodiak armoured engineer vehicles to Sweden and the Netherlands, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, January 17, 2008. (LINK)
Converted Leopard with claws, FMV press release, March 14, 2008. (LINK)
Rheinmetall transfers first Kodiak armoured engineering vehicle to Sweden, Press Release Rheinmetall Defence, PDF, November 21, 2011.
RUAG supplies Leopard Armoured Engineer and Mine-Clearance vehicles for the Swiss Armed Forces, Press release RUAG Defence, December 23, 2011. (LINK)
Trotz Panne fliegen die Funken, Berner Zeitung, January 14, 2011.
Ingenjörbandvagn (Ingbv) 120, Jan Forsberg, Pansar Nummer 1, 2012, PDF.
En tysk försvarsjätte, Slagfjädern Nummer 4, 2012, PDF.
Wehrtechnischer Report, issue 2/2015.doz
Allgemeine schweizerische Militärzeitschrift Band 169 Heft 5, 2003, Andreas Renker, p.16-17, Neuer Geniepanzer auf der «Leo-2»-Plattform.
Defensie Krant, Prototype genie-/doorbraaktank doorstaat testen, January 17, 2008, Dutch Ministry of Defence.
Defensiebeer beschermt bemanning tegen explosieven, Materieel Gezien 04, May 22, 2014.
Nieuwe Kodiaktank van de Landmacht krijgt rijverbod, Reformatorisch Dagblad, 22 November, 2017. (LINK)
Een beer van een tank als grommende gereedschapskist, Reformatorisch Dagblad, 22 November 2017. (LINK)
Landmacht krijgt krachtpatser met Kodiak-geniedoorbraaktank, Dutch Ministry of Defence press release, May 31, 2018. (LINK)
The Kodiak on the official Dutch Defence website.
The Kodiak on the official Swedish Defence website.
The Kodiak on the official Singapore Defence website and Facebook.
Full Width Mine Plough description on Pearson-eng.com
Numbers of delivery on SIPRI trade Registers.



A Swedish AEV 3 Kodiak in its standard configuration with a dozer blade at the front.


A Dutch AEV 3 Kodiak equipped with a Pearson mine plow and lane marking system.

These illustrations were produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Categories
WW1 Austro-Hungarian Armor

Burstyn Motorgeschütz

Austria-Hungary (1911)
Tank Design – Concept Only

“The claim that the Kampfwagen is an English invention – the term ‘tank’ should be avoided, being a foreign word and technically incorrect, – appears in the various newspapers and journals. This claim is completely wrong. The Kampfwagen, which is no more than an armored and equipped tracked vehicle is as less an invention as the armored car. This judgment was made by the authority in this area, the Patent Office, when I, in 1911, applied for a patent for the Kampfwagen -Back then I called it Motorgeschütz-. I had to revise my patent and could only patent the obstacle crossing device.”

This piece, part of a larger column, was written by Austrian officer Günther Burstyn in 1924, in which he opposed the conception that the tank was an English invention, and explains why he is not the inventor either, although he specifically notes that his idea was at least earlier than the English ideas he knew of.

Günther Adolf Burstyn during the 1900s. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Günther Burstyn

Günther Adolf Burstyn was born on July 6, 1879, in Bad Aussee, a town in the geographical center of Austria. He went to gymnasium in Vienna, after which he joined the Pionierkadettenschule (Engineer cadet school) located in Hainburg an der Donau, a town to the west of Bratislava. In 1899, Burstyn joined the Eisenbahn- und Telegraphenregiment (Railway- and Telegraph regiment) of the Austro-Hungarian Army. From 1902 until 1904, he served in the military harbor of Pola as commander of the local Fortress Telegraph Squadron. After this position, he followed a ‘higher engineering course’, which he completed in November 1906 and was promoted to Oberleutnant. He then was attached to the Engineer Staff of the Engineers Directorate in the city of Trient (Trento, Italy).

The Emergence of the Motorgeschütz

During his service in the harbor of Pola, on March 15, 1903, Burstyn was invited by his cousin, who was a Marine officer, to join him on a torpedo boat trip. During this trip, impressed by the ship’s speed, power, and protection, the idea arose in Burstyn’s mind for a ‘land torpedo boat’ and he wrote: “Like this, we have to approach the enemy on land as well.” Burstyn realized that such a vehicle should be armored, capable of off-road maneuvers, as well as being able to cross trenches. He thought about the gasoline engine as the propulsion of the vehicle.
In March 1906, he was confronted with his idea again. While following the higher engineering course, he visited the 6th National Automotive Exhibition in Vienna. There, he saw the Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil, development of which was initiated in 1904 and had been completed in 1905, being one of the very first armored cars in history. He immediately realized the potential of this four-wheel driven vehicle, which in some way matched his idea, although he saw the four small wheels as a huge limitation, as it did not allow the use on rough and muddy terrain, due to the high ground pressure, and it could not cross trenches and ditches either. As such, he sought a way to overcome these limitations in off-road mobility.
After he completed his course and was promoted, he moved to Trento where he was stationed from November 1906 until 1908. There, he saw how the wheels of heavy guns were equipped with ‘plate chains’ to reduce ground pressure. That made him think about how to apply this kind of chain around several wheels, creating a ‘band chain’. He called this chain of metal plates ‘Gleitbänder’. Unaware of the tracked tractor built by the firm Holt in the USA, designed by the English company Hornsby, and patented in Austria in 1911, he finalized his own design, resolved issues, and in October 1911, he sent his design to the Austro-Hungarian War Ministry hoping that they would have interest in such a vehicle.
He called his vehicle ‘Motorgeschütz’, meaning motorized gun. This term had already been occasionally used before 1911 to describe an armored vehicle in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For example, an edition of the Allgemeine Sport Zeitung (General Sports Magazine) from 1906 refers to the French CGV armored car as ‘gepanzerte Motorgeschütze’.

The Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil, an inspiration for Burstyn when he first saw it in March 1906. Source: Public Domain

Design

It is impossible to describe the design of the Motorgeschütz in much detail because the details do not exist. As Burstyn was not allowed to patent the complete design, nor the suspension, he only patented the arms, which meant that he had to leave out many of the design details, resulting in a brief patent. So, apart from the arms, the design of the vehicle is relatively obscure with many important details missing.
The Motorgeschütz featured a box-like armored structure. The lower glacis was placed vertically while the upper glacis was heavily sloped, behind which the curved base for the round turret was located. The turret could not rotate 360 degrees, as it was blocked by the compartment behind the turret, and had a maximum rotation of approximately 300 degrees. The main armament, a quick-firing gun, was located in this turret. Although the gun has often been interpreted to be a 37 mm gun, it remains unclear which caliber gun Burstyn envisioned to use. Inside the turret, two crewmembers were located whose seats were located on the left and right of the main gun. Secondary armament is said to have consisted of two machine guns, which probably were meant to be fired through the several vision ports.
The third crew member sat in a compartment behind the turret with three vision ports facing to both sides and the back. The question how the crew was arranged (commander, driver, gunner) inside the turret has been speculated on, with the driver in the back, and commander and gunner in the turret, however, the final layout is unknown, especially since the patents provide no definitive answer either. Give the amount of available space, the engine was most likely to be mounted in the back of the vehicle, it is assumed that this would be an already existing regular truck engine, which at the time, produced on average 60 hp. The vehicle, without arms, had a length of 3.5 m and width and height were both 1.9 m. The turret had a diameter of 1.3 m.
Patent dated 28 February 1912 for the Burstyne Motorfahrzeuge
Patent dated 28 February 1912 for the Burstyne Motorfahrzeuge

Comparison between the design of 1911 and 1912. The main differences are the differently positioned road wheels and the addition of two wheels, one on each end, to which the arms are attached.

The Arms

The most distinctive features of the Motorgeschütz were the four movable arms, two on the front and two on the rear. The arms were to assist the vehicle in overcoming obstacles. They featured a small wheel on the end so the arms would not suddenly get stuck in the ground. The arms pivoted on the very front and rear wheels. They were vertically adjustable by moving a beam that was mounted on the arm on one side and attached to a crosshead with a spindle, which could slide back and forth in a special casing. The spindle did not rotate but was moved back and forth by a bevel gear which in turn was powered by the engine. How the engine was to power the bevel gear is not specified. The patent drawings also seem to include a hand crank device with which the bevel gear could be operated manually, but if this would have worked is doubtful.
The arms could not be operated from one central position. The rear arms were operated by the crewmember in the rear compartment, while the front arms were operated by the crew in the turret. If the turret was turned to a side, the operating handle of either one of the front beams would become very hard to reach, if not unreachable. Setting the problems concerning power and handling aside, the question remains whether the arms would actually help to cross obstacles. Lifting of the vehicle would mean that the ground pressure was to be greatly increased as all the weight had to be transferred through the small wheel on the beam and a small part of the tracks. The tracks would also lose most of their traction which would increase the chance of the vehicle getting stuck in muddy terrain.

Model of the Motorgeschütz, photographed during the 1930s, showing the function of the beams by crossing obstacles. Source: Radio Wien


Illustration of the Burstyn Motorgeschütz by David Bocquelet, modified by Leander Jobse

Rejection of the Motorgeschütz

After Burstyn submitted his design and scale model in October 1911, three months later, in January 1912, the War Ministry sent a response: “The project at hand has to be assessed primarily from the automotive point of view, because it introduces a new kind of motor vehicle construction intended for driving in the terrain. It does not matter at first whether the wagon is being used to transport a gun or for any other purpose.” Due to this opinion, Burstyn’s submission was sent to the head of the Automotive Sector of the Army. Who reacted: “Based on this opinion, the project in question is not suitable to form the subject of a trial at the expense of the Army Administration. It is therefore requested to inform the proponent that the realization of his project cannot be done at the expense of the army administration.”
In other words: the Ministry did not want to fund the new project as it did not have enough faith in the new design to invest in it. If Burstyn wanted the vehicle to be built, he had to use private funds, which he did not have. This was a major setback for Burstyn who had expected better from his nation. Interestingly, the head of the automotive sector, who had the final say in accepting or discarding the vehicle, was Lieutenant Colonel Robert Wolf. However, it was Wolf who can be credited most for the design of the Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil from 1905 which was a significant design in armored vehicle history. Wolf, familiar with armored vehicle design, looked at the Motorgeschütz as nothing more than another armored car and probably influenced by his own experience, the Austro-Daimler had been rejected as well, decided that there was no future for the Motorgeschütz.
Burstyn did not give up his design directly. He filed another patent in the German Empire and approached the German War Ministry, but they turned down the design as well. Burstyn did not offer his design to other countries but instead went to the press. He wrote an article for the second Streffleurs Militärische Zeitung (Military Magazine of Streffleur) of 1912 and furthermore his design was described and positively evaluated by German Major Blümer in the ninth Kriegstechnischen Zeitschrift (Military Technical Magazine) of 1912. But his idea was not picked up, there came no support.
The conservatism of the German and Austro-Hungarian war ministries is often blamed for not accepting the Motorgeschütz but, although this is true, the other major issue was the vagueness of Burstyn’s design. Not only the descriptions from the patents are very brief, but the model did not have much detail and many details were not specified, like the type of engine, type of gun, and sturdiness of suspension.
Coincidently, by the time Burstyn submitted his design, the first Holt caterpillar tractors arrived in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its design had been patented in Austria-Hungary in 1911. It is important to stress that the Motorgeschütz was not based upon the Holt tractor design. When Dr. Leo Steiner from Budapest first gained interest in the vehicle he ordered it to be tested in Austria-Hungary. Tests were conducted since January 1912 in Felixdorf, a town north to Wiener Neustadt. These tests were successful and sixteen were ordered. They formed the Automobilabteilung 24 Spezialautolenker (Car Unit 24 Special car drivers) of the engineering troops. In case of need, it was envisioned to use the tractors to tow 30.5 cm mortars if used in rougher terrain.
The Holt tractor was to become the inspiration for several tracked armored vehicles during the First World War, and the chassis served as the base for the first operational French tanks. At the same time, however, the British rejected the Holt chassis as useless for an armored vehicle.

Drawings of the Motorgeschütz by Burstyn, included in his German patent. Source: DE patent 252815

Legacy

In 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Army went to war without a single armored vehicle. Burstyn would have liked to bring his invention under the attention of the War Ministry once again, but the thought that his idea would once more be rejected withheld him from doing so. Apart from a few armored vehicles, the Austro-Hungarian army never fielded any tanks.
After the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved at the end of WWI in 1918, Burstyn continued his military career in the Austrian Army. He retired in 1934 and became general baurat. He kept his interest in tanks and anti-tank defenses. In September 1935, he filed a patent for a tank trap. After Germany annexed Austria in 1938, he offered his service to the German War Office and he made several designs, including an armored raft for amphibious operations. For this effort, he was awarded the War Merit Cross 1st and 2nd class in November 1941, which he received from General Alfred Streccius. In April 1945, Burstyn took his own life, in fear of being taken prisoner by the Soviet Army.

A tank trap, patented by Burstyn in September 1935. Source: AT patent 146573

Scale Models and a Full-Size Replica

Two scale models of the Motorgeschütz were constructed, of which at least one was made by Burstyn, and were exhibited in museums, one in the Pionier Museum in Klosterneuburg and another in the Technischen Museum in Vienna. In 2011, the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (HGM) hosted a temporary exhibition of military inventions made in Austria over 500 years. As part of this, a full-size replica of the Motorgeschütz was created and placed in front of the museum. After the exhibition was over, the vehicle was moved inside and is currently on view in the Panzer gallery.

The replica in front of the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna, photographed in 2011. Currently, it is on display in the Panzer Gallery. Note that the wheel spacings are based upon the scale model which is constructed slightly different than the patent drawings. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

Although this statement is sometimes made too easily, the Motorgeschütz was, even with its shortcomings, truly ahead of its time. However, this was only the indirect reason why it never came further than the drawing board. The main reasons were the lack of support from both the Prussian and Austro-Hungarian ministries and Burstyn having no contacts in the right places who would argue for his case.
Its combination of off-road mobility, armor, and weaponry meant it was the very first example of an armored vehicle that matched the general characteristics of tanks that were to come later. One can only speculate what would have happened if the Motorgeschütz was actually built. There is no doubt it would have brought the Austro-Hungarian forces an advantage during the early days of the war, but if it would have changed the outcome of the war is a question impossible to answer and there is no need for an answer either because the Motorgeschütz never became reality. The tank was destined to be a child of war, not a child of peace.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 3.5 x 1.9 x 1.9 meters (without arms)
Crew 3 (Commander, Driver, Gunner)
Propulsion 50-60 hp engine (type unknown)
Speed 30 km/h on road, 8 km/h off-road
Armament 1x small caliber, quick firing gun, 2x machine guns

Sources

DE patent 252815, issued February 28, 1912
AT patent 53248, filed March 1, 1911, issued April 25, 1912)
AT patent 146573, filed September 18, 1935, issued March 15, 1936
Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer des österreichischen heeres 1896 bis heute, Walter J. Spielberger, Motorbuch Verlag, 1976.
Der erste Kampfpanzer der Welt: Günther Burstyn und sein Motorgeschütz, Helmut W. Malnig, Truppendienst 309, 2007.
Tactics and Procurement in the Habsburg Military, 1866-1918: Offensive Spending, John A. Dredger,
Waffen Revue nr. 4, March 1972.
Danzers Armee Zeitung, January 25, 1924
Radio Wien, July 5, 1935
Innsbrucker Nachrichten, August 14, 1936
Illustrierte Kronen-Zeitung, September 18, 1940
Illustrierte Kronen-Zeitung, November 20, 1941
Das Burstyn Motorgeschütz aus 1911, doppeladler.com.
Note: The author is still looking for Streffleurs Militärische Zeitung (2. Heft 1912) and Kriegstechnischen Zeitschrift (9. Heft 1912), if you can help him, please leave a comment.

Categories
WW2 Dutch Armoured Cars

C.P.I.M. Improvised Armored Car

The Netherlands/Shell (1929) Armored Car – 2 Built

In 1929, Venezuelan revolutionaries performed a successful surprise attack on a Dutch fortress on Curaçao in order to capture the fortress’ arsenal. The goal was to use these weapons to overthrow Caudillo Juan Vicente Gómez in Venezuela. The Dutch governor and the military commander of the island were both taken prisoner. During the chaos, the director of the oil refinery on the island ordered the construction of two armored cars which would be used to defend the refinery against a potential attack by the revolutionaries.


One of two armored cars, note the crude fitting of the metal sheets.

Short history of Curaçao

Curaçao is a 144 km2 island which is part of the Lesser Antilles and located above the coast of Venezuela. In 1499, the island was discovered by a Spanish expedition which enslaved most of the native Caquetio people, who were later sent to the island of Hispaniola. Together with the small neighboring islands of Aruba and Bonaire, Curaçao (the ABC islands) was considered ‘useless’ by the Spanish, as there were not many natural resources, such as gold deposits. Furthermore, the soil was not suited for agricultural exploitation, but cattle thrived on the island. In 1634, only around 30 Spaniards remained on the island, when it was successfully invaded by the Dutch West-Indische Compagnie (West India Company, WIC for short).
The island was quickly fortified to defend it against a potential Spanish attack.

The Spaniards indeed tried on one occasion to recapture the island, but due to the wind heading in the wrong direction, they could not land, and a renewed attempt was never made. As such, the island remained in Dutch possession. In the meantime, the population grew steadily, plantations were built, and the island became an important trading post due to its deep natural harbors and close proximity to the Venezuelan coast. Slave trade began in 1665 and, in 1674, Curaçao became a free-trade zone, increasing its position in the international trade network. However, during the 18th century, French and English colonial possessions in the Caribbean, became more and more powerful, decreasing Curaçao’s role in trade with revenue dropping and, in 1791, the WIC had to file for bankruptcy.

The island became an official Dutch colony and property of the Netherlands. In 1800, due to the French occupation of the Netherlands, Curaçao was invaded by the British. They were expelled from the island by the local inhabitants in 1803, but returned in 1807 and kept control of Curaçao until it was returned to the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1816. The economy mostly depended on trade (the slave trade was abolished in 1863), agriculture, and fishing. After 1816, the island was defended by a garrison of nearly 370 men with the primary task of defending against a surprise attack and the secondary task of preventing domestic unrest, but their number dropped over time.


A map of Curaçao, including its surrounding area, roughly 70 km from the main coast of Venezuela. Source: hubpages

Oil Reserves

The economic situation would make a drastic turn after 1914 when oil deposits were discovered. Within a year, the Curaçaose Petroleum Industrie Maatschappij, (Curaçao Petroleum Industry Company), CPIM for short, a subsidiary company of Royal Dutch Shell, settled on the island. After a century of standstill, there was a sudden increase in employment opportunities, which attracted many workers from the Caribbean, as well as people from Venezuela. The sudden increase of the working class also meant an increase in unrest, mainly in the capital Willemstad. The civilian police corp could not cope with the problems and two slums on the island were no-go areas for any law enforcement.

To deal with these problems, the Dutch government decided in 1927 to replace this police corp and the garrison, which had been gradually scaled down to around 80 men, with 150 men from the Korps Politietroepen, a military police unit from the Netherlands. So, unlike the previous garrison, this unit had as a priority the maintenance of order, and only secondary to defend the island against an attack. The unit arrived during 1928-1929. Nevertheless, the two slums on the island, Rio Canario and Suffisant, were still no-go areas for the police.


Rafael Simón Urbina (right) and Gustavo Machado Morales (left). Source: Maritiem Digitaal

Venezuelan Revolutionary Rafael Simón Urbina

It was in those two slums that the Venezuelan revolutionaries, Rafael Simón Urbina, Gustavo Machado Morales and Miguel Otero Silva, managed to gather a great following among the Venezuelan workers. Although they united to overthrow Caudillo (a military president-dictator) Juan Vicente Gómez in Venezuela, they had different motives. Some, including Urbina, where part of a group of patriots who wanted to liberate Venezuela from Gómez, the others, including Machado, were communists and wanted to establish a communist regime.
After causing too much unrest on Curaçao, Urbina was expelled from the island in 1928, but he managed to return in 1929 under a different name and with a Mexican nationality, which had been given to him by the Mexican consul in Panama. The group of revolutionaries led by Machado had already made extensive plans for an attack on the fort to capture the fortress’ arsenal when Urbina returned on June 1. For unclear reasons, he was directly appointed the leader of the group.

The Attack

On Saturday night, June 8, between 21:15 and 21:30, two trucks with 45 men drove at full speed into the fort. Because the fort also functioned as a police station, the gates were always opened. One group of revolutionaries, armed with two automatic pistols and machetes took the guards by surprise, killed the officer and wounded two other policemen. Simultaneously, another group entered the messroom, where they fatally wounded a Sergeant. A third group, led by Urbina, went to the dormitory, while a fourth group went to the arsenal. At the moment of the attack, the fort was manned by 26 policemen and 9 soldiers. Three soldiers were killed and six other people were wounded. The alarmed Commander in Chief of the military police, Captain A.F. Borren, was taken prisoner when he arrived at the fort.

The loot consisted of 197 rifles, 4 machine guns, 1 binocular, 38 pistols, 75 klewangs (bladed weapons of Indonesian origin), 7,000 cartridges, some machetes, leather clothing, and a reasonable amount of money. After the fort was secured and sealed off from the city by the revolutionaries, Urbina came in contact with the governor of the island, L.A. Fruytier. Threatened by Urbina that the petrol depot would be set on fire, the governor agreed for a free retreat. Just after midnight, 154 revolutionaries (other sources state up to 250) boarded the American freighter S.S. Maracaibo, taking the governor, commander, and several policemen as hostages with them, as well as their loot.

During the early morning of June 9, the revolutionaries unboarded at La Vela del Coro (the capital of Falcón State and the oldest city in the northwest of Venezuela), using the ships’ lifeboats. The Maracaibo was allowed to return to Willemstad with the former hostages, who were humiliated up to the bone when they arrived during the afternoon. If it was up to Urbina, they would have been killed, but Machado prevented that from happening. In the meantime, Urbina’s followers who had stayed on the island were still in large control of Willemstad. The remaining 90 policemen, assisted by civilian volunteers started to recapture the city. Reinforcements were sent during the following days in the form of 40 KNIL soldiers from Suriname, later followed by more marines and KNIL soldiers. The voluntary civilian support would be formed into the Vrijwilligers Korps Curaçao (VKC), 143 men strong.


One of the barricades made by employees of the CPIM. Source: Royal Tropical Institute


Illustration of the C.P.I.M. Improvised Armored Car by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign

Defense of the C.P.I.M.

Going back to the night of the attack, when the director of the CPIM heard about the attack on the Waterfort, he realized that the refinery was a potential target as well. He immediately arranged defenses in the form of sandbags, iron plates, and similar kinds of obstacles behind which the employees could take defensive positions. He also ordered the construction of armored cars. They were made by adding steel plates to postal trucks, which were largely available at the company. A small attack did indeed occur on that same night, which was successfully dealt with, but the armored cars were not finished yet. A second attack never came, so when the armored cars were ready the next morning, there was no need for them anymore.

One of two armored vehicles near a CPIM building. Note how the mudguards are visible through the gap and the crude way how the armor is cut. Source: Royal Tropical Institute

The second vehicle, the main differences from the other are the installation of the front armor plate, the protection of the headlights and the removal of the canvas roof. Source: Curacao in Ansichten, derived from Overvalwagen.nl

The Armored Cars

In several newspapers and the like, there are mentions of several postal trucks being converted (specific model unknown). Based on photo evidence, there indeed appears to be at least two vehicles converted. It is clearly visible that the vehicles were very hastily assembled, in fact, they were completed in one night. Firstly, steel plating was added over the engine compartment which then folded over the mudguards down to roughly 10 centimeters above ground, protecting most of the wheels, shod with pneumatic tires. Another trapezoid shaped piece folded down over the front, in which two holes were made for the headlights. Another rectangular plate was added below to protect the lower part of the chassis and the front of the wheels. An opening was left so that the front of the mudguards were still visible.

The front of the driver’s compartment was protected by one large sheet of metal with one large horizontal vision slit. The sides of the vehicle were covered in one large plate on each side which was slightly curved at the front. A total of eight shooting holes, four on each side, were also made. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the back of the vehicle, but it can be safely assumed that the doors were in the back. The roof was not armored, as the canvas roof of the original truck was retained.


The postal trucks of the CPIM, two of which would be temporarily converted into armored cars. Source: Royal Tropical Institute

Aftermath

How long the vehicles remained active is unknown, but given their improvised state, they were probably dismantled soon after the threat of an attack was gone. The vehicles were the first armored vehicles ever built in the Dutch colonies, which is made more impressive by the fact that they were built by a private company and not ordered or used by the Dutch government.

The aftermath of the embarrassing attack on the fort was mainly felt by the governor, Fruytier, who got fired in November, and the commander-in-chief, Borren, who was sentenced to one day of prison. However, it was also acknowledged that it could also have been prevented if there was a larger Dutch military presence, which led to an increase in this regard in the area. Only during World War II would armored vehicles serve on the island again, in the form of the Marmon-Herrington CTLS tank, meant to defend the large oil refinery which was a vital oil supplier in the American war effort.

This was the third attempt by Urbina to overthrow Caudillo Gómez, but like the previous two times, he failed. After the Dutch hostages were freed to return to Curaçao, they immediately sent a message to the Venezuelan government in Caracas with information about the number of revolutionaries and their weapons, which allowed the government troops to respond and sent a force to defeat Urbina and his revolutionaries. Both Urbina and Machado managed to escape. Urbina would again try to overthrow the Venezuelan authorities in 1931 and would be involved in several other plots and coups until his assassination in 1950 after a failed kidnapping.

Sources

In de West de Nederlandse Krijgsmacht in het Caribisch gebied, Anita van Dissel, Petra Groen, Van Wijnen, 2010.
De rijke geschiedenis van Curaçao Indianen, de WIC en invasies, Jack Schellekens, Carib Publishing, 2012.
“De overval op Willemstad.”. Haarlem’s Dagblad. 09-08-1929. Consulted at Delpher.
“De blamage van Curacao. Hoe Willemstad in staat van verdediging werd gebracht.”. Haagsche courant. 11-07-1929. Consulted at Delpher.
“De verdediging van de C.P.I.M.”. Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant. 10-07-1929. Consulted at Delpher
Overvalwagen.nl and Overvalwagen forum

Categories
Cold War Belgium armor

Canon Antitank d’Infanterie 90 mm (CATI 90)

Belgium (1953-62)
Tank Destroyer – Aprx. 32 Converted

The Canon Antitank d’Infanterie 90 mm (CATI 90, Infantry Anti-Tank Gun) was a light tank destroyer developed in Belgium in 1953 and based on the British Loyd Carrier vehicle from World War 2. By adding a light but powerful gun to the old carrier, the Belgian Army had created a cheap vehicle which provided direct infantry support, especially to be used against enemy armored vehicles.

The most famous picture of the CATI showing it with the left armor plate hinged down, and a crew of three. The photo is likely to have been taken by the fourth crewmember on a firing range. Source: N/A

Background

After the end of the Second World War, the Belgian army was equipped with an array of surplus British armored vehicles, among them a rather large quantity of Loyd Carrier TTs. During the early 1950s, the army initiated a large re-equipment program which was largely made possible by the USA with their Mutual Defence Assistance Program (MDAP). The army received large quantities of US tanks, half-tracks, and self-propelled guns. However, the army still felt a need for an armored vehicle to directly support the infantry. To keep costs low, it was decided to convert Loyd carriers into tank destroyers as these carriers were largely available.
The light carriers, however, could not carry a large gun with heavy recoil. During the early 1950s, the Belgian joint-stock company MECAR S.A. (Mécanique et Armement – Mechanics and Armament), which was situated in the city of Roeulx-lez-Nivelles, had been developing a low pressure semi-automatic 90 mm gun. Due to its low pressure, the gun had very low recoil and low weight. This gun could be mounted on the carrier without too many issues.
Construction of the new vehicles was initiated in 1953 and the guns were mounted onto the Loyd carriers by Usines Émile Henricot (Émile Henricot Factories), located at Court-Saint-Etienne, central Belgium. In 1954, each infantry battalion was equipped with a platoon of four of these CATI vehicles together with four regular carriers which served as ammunition carriers.

Two CATIs with tactical numbers 016 and 018. The relatively small size of the CATI can be appreciated as one of the crew members in front offers a good size comparison. Source: museumbsd
The idea to repurpose an older chassis by mounting a rather large gun did not come out of the blue. In fact, before the Second World War, such an idea was already executed in Belgium, which resulted in the T13 tank destroyer.
The Loyd carrier had been used as a gun carrier before as well, although this conversion was attempted out by the UK during the Second World War, when they tried to mount a 25 pounder gun on the Loyd chassis. This attempt failed.

A blurry picture of the CATI, seen from the front left. Source: Royal Army Museum Brussels

Design

The Loyd Carrier was designed just before the war by Captain Vivian G. Loyd. The vehicle was based upon the 4×2 Fordson 7V truck 15cwt and used the same chassis, gearbox, transmission, front axle, and 85 hp Ford V8 Side-valve engine. On this chassis, a bodywork made of mild steel was added, against which 7 mm armor plates were installed. A total of 26,000 of these carriers were built until 1944 when production was ceased. The vehicle, which had a top speed of 48 km/h and weighed 4.5 tons, had dimensions of 4.24 x 2.06 x 1.42 meters.
To accommodate the gun, a hole was made in the front armor plate. This also meant that the storage box which was located on the front had to be divided into two smaller ones. The gun had a movement to each side of 22°, could be elevated 15°, and depressed 13°. The side armor plates were also changed, on both sides the middle section of the armor was hinged, which eased the accessibility of the vehicle.
The vehicle was operated by a crew of four, a driver who sat on the right side of the gun, a gunner who sat left of the gun, a commander, and a loader, who were both seated behind the gun.

This CATI bears the registration number 59412 and shows its gun in the depressed position. Source: De Carapat no.1 2017


Illustration of the Canon Antitank d’Infanterie 90 mm (CATI 90), produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Gun

The CATI 90 was the first armored vehicle that was equipped with the low-pressure MECAR 90 mm gun. The total weight of the gun was only 274 kg and featured a hydraulic recoil system. The gun had a recoil of 2500 kg and a recoil length of 40 cm, both of which are relatively low. The breech mechanism was semi-automatically cam-operated, the cases were ejected automatically. The rifling of the gun was unconventional as it was thin, shallow, and with a very low inclination.
The CATIs were equipped with two kinds of ammunition, HE and HEAT. The HEAT projectile weighed 2.28 kg and its accuracy and stabilization were achieved by the combination of the projectiles’ initial low rotation and eight stabilizing fins. It had a relatively low velocity of 633 m/s and an effective range of only 1 km, and a maximum range of 3.5 km. Within the effective range, the HEAT projectile could penetrate 350 mm of armor or 1200 mm of concrete. The HE projectile had an effective range of 2.1 km and a maximum range of 4 km. The maximum rate of fire consisted of 10 rounds per minute, with a sustainable rate of fire of 7 rounds per minute. The CATI had an ammunition load-out of 18 shells, the ammunition carrier could carry 54 additional rounds

The MECAR 90/28 mm gun, which was mounted on the CATI. Source: Jane’s Armoured Fighting Vehicle Retrofit Systems 1993-94

Production and Service

How many CATIs were eventually made is still unclear. It is known that each infantry battalion was equipped with four CATIs and four Loyd ammunition carriers, forming anti-tank companies, but the actual number of infantry battalions in the Belgian Army during the 1960s is hard to come by. We may find a clue in the history of the Kanonenjagdpanzer 90, of which eighty were used by Belgium, ten for each infantry battalion. These vehicles were put in service in 1973, twenty years later than the CATI, so it is likely that during the 1960s there were eight infantry battalions as well. This would implicate that probably 32 CATIs were made. According to Alexander Lüdeke, a German historian, up to a hundred CATIs were used by the Belgian army, however, this number seems unlikely as Belgium never had 25 infantry battalions in service, although some vehicles could have been kept in reserve.
Known registration numbers, visible on photographs, include 59603, 59412, and 59568. On two photographs, tactical numbers are visible, one having 016 and the other 018.

The only CATI that survived resides now at the Royal Museum of Armored Forces and Military History in Brussels. Source: Wikimedia

Fate

After the vehicles were taken out of service in 1962, most were scrapped and only one example is known to have survived. It is on display at the Royal Army Museum in Brussels. Some of the guns were re-used and mounted in the FN-AB (Auto Blindée) armored cars. These armored cars were produced by FN Herstal and based upon their 4RM-62F truck chassis. 61 of these armored cars were produced from 1965-1968 in three variants. 24 of these vehicles were armed with the 90 mm gun. This version was called FN-ABC (Auto-Blindée Canon). The FN-AB armored cars were in use by the Gendarmerie Nationale, the Belgian military police.
The CATIs were replaced in service by ENTAC AT missiles, either mounted on jeeps or AMX-VCI. 2500 of these missiles were ordered from France in 1961 and delivered until 1966. The AMX-VCI was put into service between 1963-1969.

The FN-4RM-62F ABC mounted the same MECAR 90/28 gun. They were taken out of service in 1977 and replaced by the BDX APC. Source: milinfo.org

Specifications

Dimensions 5.7 x 2.06 x 1.42 meters
Total weight, battle ready 4.8 tonnes
Crew 4 (Gunner, Loader, Commander, Driver)
Propulsion No.1 British Ford V8 petrol
85 bhp at 3500 rpm
Propulsion No.2 US Ford V8 petrol
90 bhp at 3500 rpm
Propulsion Canadian Ford V8 petrol
85 bhp at 3500 rpm
Speed 35 km/h
Armor up 7 mm (0.28in)
Total Production Aprx. 32

Sources

Les Chars et les Vehicules Terrestres du Musée Royal de l’Armée à Bruxelles, R. Surlemont, Tank Museum A.S.B.L., 1984.
Leichte Panzer und Jagdpanzer: seit 1945, Alexander Lüdeke, Motorbuch Verlag, 2014
Jane’s Armoured Fighting Vehicle Retrofit Systems 1993-94. Online.
De Carapat, Vriendenkring Carabiniers en Carabiniers-Grenadiers, 2017. PDF.
CATI 90 walkaround.
ENTAC delivery on SIPRI trade registers.
The FN-4RM 62F AB on milinfo.org.

Categories
WW2 Dutch Armoured Cars

Morris ‘Koekblikje’ Armored Car

The Netherlands (1932 – 40) Armored car – 3 Built

During the early 1930s, the Dutch army had two armored cars in service. The first was an Ehrhardt Plattformwagen, confiscated from retreating German troops in 1918 with an improvised armored superstructure. The other vehicle was based on a GMC chassis and was purely meant for training purposes, as such it did not have real armor and was made of tin and wood. However, the GMC was dismantled in 1931, leaving the army with only one armored vehicle to train with. Although three new armored cars were built, these were to be assigned to the Amsterdam police force, leaving the army with still only one vehicle. That is why the Minister of Defence ordered in January 1932 the construction of three new armored cars. These cars were to be used for police duties or training and army exercises, and were not meant or even suitable for war.

All three armored cars during a parade at the ‘Molenheide’ near the city of Nijmegen. Source: Author’s own collection.
These three vehicles were to be built by Artillerie Inrichtingen (Hembrug), a state-owned company producing artillery, small arms, ammunition, and similar army equipment. As a base, the Morris Commercial 6×4 truck was used, five of which were already in service with the Motorartillerie (mechanized Artillery), based in the city of Naarden. The new armored cars were designed by Captain J. Wijnman, a retired artillery officer, and were influenced by the design of the GMC armored cars from 1931.

A Morris Commercial 6×4 truck with registration number G-61137, in service with the motorist in the city of Naarden. Source: Conam.info

Name

On February 11, the Minister announced to several military authorities that the cars were to be given the names Buffel (Buffalo), Bison, and Wisent and so, the armored cars became known as the ‘Buffel class’. Sometimes they are also referred to as the ‘Wijnman’ armored car, after their designer, but among the soldiers, it quickly gained the nickname ‘Koekblikje’ (small biscuit tin), completely in the Dutch habit of naming their armored cars after ordinary household items.

It is unclear which one of the three this vehicle is. SOURCE

Design

The exterior of the vehicle was plain and box-like, hence why it was named ‘biscuit tin’. The armor thickness is unknown. The slightly sloped armor was perfect during riot control, as thrown objects like stones or furniture could not get stuck on the vehicle. Four machine gun ports were placed, one in each side of the crew compartment, providing space for up to four Lewis M.20 machine guns.
The crews received special helmets and tight-fitting clothes to ease operating inside the vehicle. Boilersuits were also provided to be used during maintenance. The driver sat to the front left of the vehicle and had a closable visor in front of him. A machine gunner was located to the right of the driver.

The Wisent, being cleaned by its crew during the mobilization in 1939 in the city of Voorthuizen. The registration plate has been removed. SOURCE
A hatch was installed in the roof which could be slid backward. As a result, one of the crew, probably the commander or searchlight operator had a clear view of the surroundings. A carbide searchlight could manually be raised from within the car and provide light when necessary. A second driver was located in the back. The exact amount of crewmembers is unclear but it ranged probably from four (two drivers, commander, gunner) to six (two extra gunners).
After the vehicles were completed in October 1932, they were added to the Korps Rijdende Artillerie, Corps Mechanised Artillery, KRA in short. They accompanied the five Carden-Loyd tankettes that were delivered to the KRA in 1931. They received the registration numbers M36313 Wisent, M36311 Bison, M36312 Buffel. On the right front of the vehicles, the number 60 was written, while on the left the tactical numbers (331, 332, 333) were written diagonally on a red-white-blue background, referring to the Dutch flag.


Illustration of the Morris ‘Koekblikje’ Armored Car by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.

More in Rotterdam?

In 1932, the Rotterdam Carbine Brigade was equipped with two armored cars, P1 and P2. These could be two armored cars like the Morris as two photos are known which show one Morris type car, together with police forces in 1934. Although the registration plate is largely unreadable, the number 5 is visible, a number not present on any of the Army Morris registration plates. It is also lacking any army markings.

A Morris armored car with the Rotterdam police. Source: Rotterdam Archives

The Morris cars in the Jordaan

During the Jordaan Riots in 1934, the Morris cars saw action and replaced the GMC armored cars. The GMC cars belonged to the second company police troops, based in Amsterdam. The head of the 4th Military Department, who was responsible for the military action during these riots, noted in his rapport about the riots that the GMC should be replaced by the three Morris cars, but that did not happen.
The cars performed well in the narrow streets. Thrown stones, furniture, and other kinds of objects didn’t harm the vehicles. The heaviest riots lasted from 4-9 July during which 56 people were wounded and five people were killed. Although the riots are named after one specific city district, the riots happened on a much larger scale, not only in other Amsterdam city districts but also in other cities, like Rotterdam.

The M36313 Wisent together with three soldiers in the Jordaan, Amsterdam. Source: Dutch National Archives

May 1940

After the riots, the armored cars remained in service with the KRA and played a big role during the annual wargames and other exercises until the country would be attacked by German forces. In May 1940, the Wisent, together with the Carden-Loyd tankette Panter, formed a platoon which was assigned to the 1st Regiment Huzaren (Hussars). This regiment was located close to Amersfoort. The platoon was commanded by 1st Lieutenant Reserve E.C. Everts and did not see any action on May 10. On May 11, the platoon was ordered to move to The Hague where it performed reconnaissance duties. The Buffel and Bison also formed a platoon, but were officially pulled back from duty just before war broke out.

Conclusion

None of three vehicles saw serious action, apart from reconnaissance duties, and they were all captured in their worn out state by the Germans. What happened after that is unknown, but it is most likely that all three vehicles were scrapped.

The Wisent at the K.R.A. in Arnhem, together with two out of five Carden-Loyd tankettes, registration numbers M37270 and M37272. The photo was taken between 1935-1940. Source: National Dutch Military Archives.

Specifications

Crew 4 – 6
Armament up to 4 Lewis M.20 6,5 mm machine guns
Total Production 3

Sources

J. Giesbers, A. Giesbers, R. Tas. Holland paraat! Volume 2, Giesbers Media, 2016.
C.M. Schulten, J. Theil. Nederlandse pantservoertuigen, Van Holkema & Warendorf, 1979.
Waffen Arsenal Band 146, Beutepanzer unterm Balkenkreuz, Werner Regenberg.
Hoefer, Armamentaria 3, Stichting Het Nederlandse Leger- en Wapenmuseum, 1969.
On politiemuseum.nl
On historischecollectiepolitieeenheidrotterdam.nl
On sytzema.nl

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #1 Republished

The first issue of the Tank Encyclopedia Magazine has been remastered and rereleased. It covers vehicles ranging from the French WWI Frot-Turmel-Laffly Armoured Road Roller up to the Salvadoran Cold War Marenco M114 converted vehicles. The star of this issue is a full article on the Improved Protection version of the famous M1 Abrams – the M1IP.

Our Archive section covers the history of the Mephisto A7V tank, the only one of its kind that still survives to this day in Queensland museum in Australia.

It also contains a modeling article on how to create Weathering and Mud Effects. And the last article from our colleagues and friends from Plane Encyclopedia covers the story of the Sikorsky S-70C-2 Black Hawk in Chinese service!

All the articles are well researched by our excellent team of writers and are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and photos. If you love tanks, this is the magazine for you!
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Categories
Cold War West German Prototypes Indian armour

Indien Panzer

West Germany/India (1953-55)
Medium Tank – Blueprints Only

The Indien Panzer (Indian Tank) was a tank designed by the German firm Porsche KG in the mid-1950’s in which the Indian Army showed interest. The Indian Army was looking for a tank to equip its army with, but also wanted to be able to produce it in India, so an easy to build design was necessary. The first plans were laid out in 1954, seven years after India gained its independence, but the project was soon abandoned in 1955.

Artist impression of two Indien Panzers in action. Photo: Motorbuch Verlag

India’s Military

When the British Raj became independent in 1947, it was split into India and Pakistan to create separate states for Muslims and Hindus to prevent tensions between both religious groups. This also meant that the British-Indian army was split up between the dominions of India and Pakistan, and went through a chaotic period with several military actions, with the main conflict being the Indo-Pakistani War in 1947-48.
After the war, tensions between Pakistan and India remained high. Fearing a Pakistani invasion, a modern powerful Indian army was desired. However, the army lacked modern armored vehicles as it only possessed some older Second World War tanks, such as the M3 Stuart, M4 Sherman and various British armored vehicles. The Indian government, which wanted to be as independent of other countries as possible, did not want to just buy vehicles abroad but desired that new armored vehicles were to be produced in India.

Two Sherman tanks of the Indian Army, they saw service until the 1970s. Photo: SOURCE

Post-War (West) German Industry

After the German Army was defeated in 1945, Germany was put under Allied control. However, due to growing tensions between the Allies (France, UK, US, USSR), the original plan to govern Germany as a single nation broke down. The main points that caused tension were the amount reparations that had to be paid by Germany, and what kind of new government was to be established. Instead, Germany remained divided in four occupation zones until 1949, when it was divided into the western capitalist Federal Republic of Germany (also called Bundesrepublik or West Germany), and the socialist German Democratic Republic (also known as East Germany). In 1955, they would join NATO and the Warsaw Pact respectively.
Already in 1945, after Germany’s defeat, not only its military was disarmed, but plans were made to disarm the industry as well. Military factories and civilian factories with military potential were closed down or heavily restricted until 1951. However, since 1946, several members of the Allied Commission considered it hurtful that Germany’s industry was so heavily restricted, as it not only worsened the social situation and living conditions in Germany, but it restricted economic recovery and growth of other European nations as well. After the division between East and West, further steps were taken to halt the closing down of the industry. Combined with the resistance of German civilians, the Allied control finally decided that West Germany’s industry was important for the prosperity of Europe, and combined with a growing threat from the USSR, it was concluded that the industry should be built up again. In the end, only a quarter of the 1,800 factories planned to be closed down were actually closed down. The industry could recover and was in such a position in 1954/55 that the Indian government had enough confidence in them being able to design a modern tank.

Development

Since 1953, Porsche designed several tanks which included:
– B-PS 100, a 36-tonne turreted tank, armed with a 90 mm gun with loading assistance and a crew of 3.
– B-PS 101 Ausf. A, a 36-tonne assault gun, armed with an autoloading 88 mm gun, and a crew of 3.
– B-PS 101 Ausf. B, a 36-tonne turreted tank, armed with a 55 mm quick-firing gun, and a crew of 3.
– B-PS 102, a 39.5-tonne turreted tank, armed with a 90 mm gun, and a crew of 4.
In 1954, the Indian government showed interest in the B-PS 102, which became known as the Indien-Projekt, or Indien Panzer. Porsche could obviously fall back on their experience gained by tank development during the Second World War. There are indeed some similarities between the E 50/75 and the Indien Panzer, especially in regards to the suspension. However, it has to be taken into account that tank technology had advanced in the nearly ten years that Porsche was not allowed to design a tank. Nevertheless, the Indian government opted for a German designed tank. Porsche KG, responsible for the overall design, relied on other German companies for the production of components. Daimler-Benz would deliver the engine, ZF Friedrichshafen the transmission and possibly the suspension, and Ruhrstahl would deliver the gun and turret. It was envisioned that the tank would be assembled in India by TATA, where equipment like optics and sights were to be made as well.
Why the Indian government approached German firms who were still recovering from the war is not completely clear. Maybe they based this decision on the performance of German tanks in World War 2. It is possible they wanted to get access to the more advanced industry in West Germany. Maybe they thought existing tank designs in the UK, France, or the US were just not good enough. Another reason could be that the Indian government did not want to order a tank from a NATO or Warsaw Pact member (India was not a member of NATO or WP) and in 1954 West Germany was also not part of NATO. West Germany would only join NATO until May 1955, around the same time the Indien Panzer project was canceled. Further research is needed to settle this question.

Design

Although the Indian Army requested a weight of 36-39 tons, Porsche envisioned the tank to be nearly 40 tons. The hull and turret were to be made of cast steel with 90 mm on the front hull, and up to 130 mm on the turret front. The vehicle was to be propelled by a Daimler-Benz MB837A 8-cylinder diesel engine, producing 600-700 horsepower. As a side note, this type of engine was later experimentally installed in an M47 Patton tank by the Bundeswehr.
The main armament was to be a 90 mm gun (type is unknown), and secondary armament consisted of two machine guns. One machine gun was located in the front of the turret, left to the main gun, and was to be operated by the loader, while the other was mounted in the back of the turret and operated by the commander. Ammunition was stowed in a rack on the bottom of the turret basket and on both sides of the hull with a combined ammunition storage of sixty-one shells.
The crew consisted of four men; driver, commander, gunner, and loader. The driver sat in the right front hull, he had one periscope and one hatch. Traffic drives on the left side of the road in India, hence the driver was planned to sit on the right. The other three crew members sat in the turret, with the loader on the left side of the gun, the gunner on the right side of the gun, and the commander behind the gunner. The loader had one hatch above him, while the commander sat in his cupola with hatch. Furthermore, one hatch was located in the back of the turret, besides the machine gun. The gunner aimed through a periscope which was located on the roof of the turret.
The machine gun in the back of the turret is a feature that stands out as it was rather uncommon during the post-war period. During World War 2, many Soviet and Japanese tank designs incorporated a rearward-firing machine gun and German Panther tanks, for example, had a pistol port in the back. Their main job was to prevent enemy soldiers from climbing on the back of the tank, a situation especially common during guerilla or street fighting.

Original blueprints of the Indien Panzer, unfortunately, the text on the side is unreadable. Source: Hilary L. Doyle

No Link to Panzer 58

Considering similarities with the Swiss-developed Panzer 58, it is often assumed that this project must be related to the Indien Panzer, especially since World of Tanks players started to note similarities between both tanks, but that is incorrect. In fact, development of the Swiss tank already commenced before the Indien Panzer was designed and Swiss documents never mention the Indien Panzer. The first Swiss design that would lead to the Panzer 58 was the 30 t Panzer, already drawn up in 1950, three years before the Indien Panzer was drawn for the first time. To conclude, they were two different projects that are not related with each other.

Potential Bundeswehr Tank?

Due to the Soviet threat and with West Germany in the ‘frontline’, the desire arose in Western countries to reinstitute the Germany Army and let it join NATO. Eventually, a new army was formed on May 5th, 1955, named Bundeswehr, and West Germany joined NATO on May 9th during the same year.
The newly formed Bundeswehr would receive its first main battle tanks in 1956, in the form of American M47 Patton II tanks (M41 Walker-Bulldog light tanks were also acquired). Although built in 1951, these M47 tanks were technically already obsolete in 1953, and the Bundeswehr was not fond of them, which led them to look for something better. This would lead to an agreement between West Germany and France to develop a ‘Europanzer’ in 1957 which in turn would be the basis for the Leopard 1 in Germany and the AMX-30 in France. However, the Indien Panzer seems to never have been into consideration to equip the German Army. It is rather likely that Army officials did not even know about the existence of such a design unless it was offered by Porsche KG, but that is never mentioned. However, Porsche KG was involved in the design process for the Europanzer and Leopard 1, so the experience gained with designing the Indien Panzer was probably more than welcome.

The French Europanzer. Built by AMX, it would become the forerunner of the AMX 30 French MBT. Sometimes, the vehicle is claimed to be designed by Porsche. Source: jedsite

Conclusion

All in all, little is known about this German designed tank meant for the Indian Army. Some thorough archive research is needed to bring information to light concerning its characteristics, development, and military potential, especially given the design period of the tank which was during a turning point in Germany’s history and the start of a new age of German tank development. After the project was abandoned in 1955, the Indian government continued the search for a tank to produce in India. As that took a long time, foreign tanks were acquired, such as the British Centurion and French AMX-13. Eventually, in 1961, six years after the Indien Panzer project was abandoned, they found their solution in the Vickers Mk. 1 Main Battle Tank (MBT) which was then license-built in India as the Vijayanta (Victorious) and entered service in 1965.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) Aprx. 10.6 (6.3 w/o gun) x 3.3 x 2.9 meters
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Armament 90mm Cannon, 2 x Machine Guns
Armor 90 mm hull, 130mm gun mantlet

Sources

Die Kampfpanzer Leopard und ihre Abarten (Militärfahrzeuge Band 1), Walter J. Spielberger, Motorbuch-Verlag, 1988.
Typenkompass: KPz Leopard 1 1956-2003, Rolf Hilmes, Motorbuch Verlag, 2011.
Duitsland na 1945, Ruud Slotboom, Uitgeverij Koninginnegracht, 1994.
The Evolution of Modern Indian Tanks, April 8, 2015.
Overlord’s Blog, Transmission Response from Mr. Doyle, June 12, 2012.
Pattonhq.com, The M-47 “Patton” Tank, Colonel Robert Icks, taken from Armor in Profile Series, originally published in 1967.
usembassy.de, Joachim von Elbe, Berlin, Frankfurt, Bonn 1946-1969.

Illustration of the Indien Panzer in a speculative green livery. Produced by Brian Gaydos, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Categories
WW1 Austro-Hungarian Armor

Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil

Austria Hungary tanks Austria-Hungarian Empire (1905-07)
Armored Car – 1 Built

The Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil, along with the French Charron, can be considered to be the first ‘modern’ armored cars. With first development already starting in 1904 by graduate engineer Paul Daimler, the vehicle was built in 1905 and had four-wheel drive -revolutionary for its time. Together with a fully armored body and a fully rotating turret, the vehicle featured many elements which would be used in later armored car designs.

Austro-Daimler

On August 11th, 1899, the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler, already owning a factory in Germany, established a car factory in Wiener-Neustadt, called Österreichische Daimler Motoren Kommanditgesellschaft Bierenz Fischer und Co. The factory was established to manufacture cars that were designed by the parent company Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft from Germany. The son of Gottlieb Daimler, Dipl.-Ing. Paul Daimler, was to become the manager of the company in 1900, but due to the death of his father and his own illness, he took the job two years later, in 1902.

One of the first known photographs of the Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil. The driver is a Daimler employee. Photo: Biblio Verlag

Early Development

In 1902, Hauptmann Ludwig Tlaskal-Hochwell made the first attempts to design a 4×4 drive (German: 4-Radantrieb) to be used for a tractor. Probably based on this first experience, Paul Daimler started to design a 4×4 drive himself, around March 1903. He received suggestions from Archduke Leopold Salvator, who had attended the Technical Military Academy.
In 1904, the design process of the armored car started. One of the main designers was Hauptmann Robert Wolf, who also played a big role in the motorization process of the Austro-Hungarian Army. In contemporary Austrian newspapers, the vehicle is claimed to be based on requirements set out by the military technical committee, although secondary sources sometimes note that the armored car was designed on private initiative, that was clearly not the case. The New York Daily Tribune of January 4, 1905 noted: “The Austrian War Department has just sanctioned the construction of an armored car, specially designed to carry a quick firing gun, mounted on a pivot (…) heavy haulage work, such as that of stores, munitions, and heavy guns, is already done by motor in the Austrian Army.”

Design

The Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil featured a fully enclosed armored body, made of 3 mm thick nickel steel with rounded edges. The engine was mounted at the front in an armored housing with a grille in the front and louvers on the sides and top. The crew compartment was located behind the engine, housing two crewmen, the driver and gunner. The driver could enter through a door on the left side of the vehicle with a little step mounted below it to ease entrance. Two vision slits were placed in the front armor plate, but none on the side, therefore leaving little view arc for the driver.
The solution for this problem was that the driver’s seat and the steering device could be lifted. A hatch was made in the roof and when lifted, the driver could poke his head out of the vehicle. On several photos, a second man can be seen seated in the driver’s compartment. This is not a third crew member as is commonly suspected in secondary sources, but the gunner when he does not need to fire the machine gun in the turret.
On the back of the vehicle stood a tower-like hull and a fully traversable, enclosed dome-shaped turret on top of it. The turret armor was 3.5 mm thick and there was room for one water-cooled 7.7 mm Maxim machine gun. A door was located in the back of the hull through which the gunner could enter.

First testing near the factory. Photo: Allgemeine Automobil Zeitung

Engine and Suspension

The vehicle was powered by a Daimler 4-cylinder piston carburetor engine with a capacity of 4.4 liters, producing 30 hp at 1050 rpm (from Spielberger, other sources mention 32 or 35 hp). Fuel was pumped to the engine using negative pressure and the fuel tanks had enough capacity to drive for ten hours on road. The power delivered by the engine was transmitted through a drive shaft with lockable differentials to the wheels, contrary to the then usual chain-driven back wheels. The vehicle featured a 4-speed cone clutch, covered in leather.
The leaf spring suspended front wheels were covered in nickel-steel and had a diameter of 83 centimeters. The spoked back wheels were made of wood, had a diameter of 92 centimeters, and were partially covered by an armored plating. The wheels were shod with solid rubber tires.

The vehicle being inspected by Archduke Franz Ferdinand (standing in the middle) on March 18, 1906. Photo: Sport und Salon

Exhibition in Vienna

The vehicle was completed in early November, 1905. The first trials took place in front of the factory and the attendants were impressed by the performance of the 4-wheel drive and its ability to take slopes of 60 per cent with a short run-up. The vehicle was offered both to the German and Austro-Hungarian Empire, but the German War Ministry turned down the offer. The vehicle presumably remained at the factory until it was showcased at the 6th Wiener Nationaler Automobilausstellung (Eng: Vienna’s National Automotive Exhibition) in March 1906.
The 6th National automotive exhibition in Vienna was held in the building of the Gartenbau Gesellschaft (Eng: Horticultural Society) and the Panzerautomobil was to be the main attraction of the Daimler Motorengesellschaft booth. However, due to difficulties, the vehicle could initially not be placed inside the hall, and when Archduke Franz Ferdinand visited the exhibition on March 18, the Panzerautomobil was still on display in the garden. The vehicle’s technical details were explained to him by Hauptmann Robert Wolf, and the Archduke seemed satisfied. The following day, the Panzerautomobil was placed inside the hall.
On March 20, the exhibition was visited by the Emperor himself, and when he visited the Daimler booth, he was first introduced to director Bernhard, after which the technical details of the vehicle were explained to him by the president of the Militär-Technischen Comité (Eng: Military Technical Committee), F.M.L. Ritter von Wuich, who explained that the vehicle was made after their wishes. The Emperor closely examined the vehicle from all angles, and Hauptmann Wolf noted that the next armored car would be armed with two machine guns. This is an interesting statement as it raises the question whether the vehicle was modified after the exhibition or if a completely new armored car was being built.
Other mentionable noble visitors were Archduke Franz Salvator who visited on the 21st, and Archduke Friedrich who visited on the 27th. Both were very interested in the Panzerautomobil and how it worked, so they were both accompanied by Hauptmann Wolf, who mentioned that the vehicle could carry 14,000 ammunition rounds, could go 45 km/h with a 32 hp engine, and that the vehicle weighed 1,900 to 2,000 kg, although he told Friedrich that the other armored car had better armor and as a consequence would be around 700 kg heavier. This again raises the question of a possible second vehicle.
Another officer who visited the exhibition was Günther Burstyn. When he saw the armored car, he realised the big potential of armored vehicles but also the limited off-road potential of wheeled vehicles. He started to look for an alternative and decided upon metal plates, connected to each other, which looped around the wheels. He made a design which he named Motorgeschütz. This design can be considered as one of the precursors of the tank which appeared in 1916, but it was never built.

Changes

Between the exhibition in Vienna in March and the Kaisermanöver (Eng: Emperor Maneuvers, annual wargames) in August/September of 1906, the vehicle received some heavy modifications. The most obvious change was the new designed turret which was now opened in the back and a second machine gun could be fitted in a newly added gun port. The armor was thickened to 4 mm instead of 3, and the 30 hp engine was replaced by a more powerful 40 hp engine. These changes raised the combined weight to 3,200 kg. These modifications had a severe impact on the specifications of the vehicle and as such has caused much confusion between researchers.

The vehicle after changes were made in 1906. The most notable difference is the new turret design. The other two vehicles were built by Daimler as well. Photo: Motorbuch Verlag

A Postcard showing the Panzerautomobil in color. This picture is probably taken during the maneuvers in 1906. Photo: Landships Forum.

Austro Daimler
Illustration of the Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil by David Bocquelet.

Kaisermanöver in Schlesien, 1906

On April 11, Archdukes Friedrich and Franz Salvator, Fürst Schwarzenberg, and several officers and generals visited the Daimler factory in Wiener Neustadt. They came to inspect the new Trainwagen and Panzerautomobil and drove around in them. They possibly tested the vehicles to see whether to use them during the upcoming Kaisermanöver or not. Eventually, they decided to do. In August 1906, the armored car grouped up with several other vehicles in Vienna and from there moved to Schlesien, the area where the Emperor maneuvers were to take place. This was the first public appearance of the armored car with changes.
During the maneuvers, the car was under the command of Oberstleutnant Heinrich Graf Schönfeld and assigned to the 2nd. Corp. He talks about his experience in an interview published in the Neues Wiener Tagblatt of December 25, 1906. On the day before the maneuvers started, he made a reconnaissance move and drove 160 km. According to him, the 4-wheeled drive performed really well. The vehicle also was admired by the troops and the press reporting about the maneuvers were enthusiastic as well, especially when the vehicle drove back From Teschen (Cieszyn) to Vienna (roughly 250 km), after the maneuvers ended, in just two days. On the last day of the maneuvers, on August 4, the vehicle was demonstrated to the Emperor who was accompanied by the archdukes Franz Ferdinand and Friedrich and the maneuver command. No special events were reported by the contemporary press, so the following anecdote either never happened or was covered up:
A popular anecdote claims that, when the vehicle was shown to Emperor Franz Joseph and his generals, all sitting on horses, one of the horses was scared of the noise produced by the engine. The horse tried to flee and in doing so, threw a general from his back. The Emperor, then declared that he was not interested in ordering the vehicle. Besides this incident, another reason for not accepting the vehicle was caused by conservatism. The old strategy worked, the new technology had not proven itself yet, so change was not seen as needed. It must also be considered that introducing such a vehicle into the army would have necessitated new supply chains for gasoline, lubricating oil and spare parts, especially to the front lines, sometimes over difficult terrain, and the hiring of new trained mechanics and crewmen. However, taking into consideration that regular trucks were also slowly being adopted, none of these issues seem to have been insurmountable.

The Panzerautomobil at the exhibition in the Grand Palais, Paris which lasted from 7-23 December 1906. Source: Jules Beau Collection (gallicia.bnf.fr)

Presentation to France

After it became clear that the Austro-Hungarian Army was not interested in ordering the vehicle, Austro-Daimler asked permission from the War Ministry to offer the vehicle to France, as well as being allowed to exhibit the vehicle in Berlin. This request was accepted. Why Berlin is mentioned in sources is rather curious, it may be an error, as it should state Paris, where the armored car was indeed exhibited in the Grand Palais in December 1906. The Consul General of the Dual Monarchy in France, Ernst Jillenek, as a representative of Daimler, brought it under attention in France under the name Mercedes, after his daughter’s name, and so the vehicle became known in France as the Austro Daimler Mercedes de 45 cv.
France was rather interested in the vehicle, not in order to acquire it, but to compare it to the domestically built CGV armored car. As such, in January 1907, the armored car was handed over to the French Army and first demonstrated in front of the French Minister of War, General Picquart at the Mercedes plant in Puteaux. Several experts were present as well, and seemed to be impressed by the performance of the vehicle on rough terrain. The vehicle was also tested at Fort Mont-Valérien, west of Paris, specifically chosen for its rough terrain. During the tests, the vehicle performed above expectations.
On May 4th, 1909, the Commision d’étude des armes portatives et de petit calibre, (Eng: Commission for the study of portable and small firearms), released a report that included information about the Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil, as well as the Charron and experience from Generals. It concluded that contemporary armored cars were not yet fit for military service, due to their relatively bad off-road capabilities and high production price.

The Panzerautomobil during trials in France. Source: Biblio Verlag

Fate

After the French trials, the vehicle returned to Austria, and was most likely taken apart several years later. It is sometimes suggested that it may have been used in Galicia during the First World War, but this is only speculation.
When the vehicle was first shown to the Austro-Hungarian press, they were very optimistic and enthusiastic about the concept of an armored car, and in military circles, the car was also received with great interest. The same happened in France. Although impressed by the vehicle, the time for the armored car had not yet come.
World War I saw a massive increase of armored car designs, and apart from its novel features, none seem to be really inspired by the looks of the Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil, except maybe for the Belgian SAVA armored car which also featured a curved crew compartment and a dome-shaped turret.

A Fistful of Dynamite

A prop armored car, closely modeled after the Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil, appeared in the 1971 Spaghetti Western movie ‘A Fistful Of Dynamite’, also known as ‘Duck, You Sucker!’. The movie was directed by Sergio Leone, who is best known for ‘The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly’. The film is set during the Mexican Revolution which lasted from 1910-1920. As such, the film features many vintage weapons from the early 20th century, including the armored prop car.

The prop armored car as it appeared in Sergio Leone’s movie ‘A Fistful Of Dynamite’. Photo: Still from the movie
Although the vehicle’s appearance is not completely accurate, like the two machine gun ports in an enclosed turret and the edges of the cab being too sharp, it still closely resembles the real vehicle. As with most props, it was dismantled after the filming, but can still be admired in the movie.

Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil specifications

Dimensions 4.1 x 2.1 x 2.7 m (13’5” x 6’11” x 8’10”)
Total weight, battle ready 2-2.9 metric tons
Crew 2 (driver, machine-gunner)
Propulsion Daimler gasoline, 4-cylinder. water-cooled, 4.41 liter, 35 hp at 1050 rpm
Speed 45 km/h (28 mph)
Armament 1 or 2 water-cooled Maxim machine guns (7.62 mm/0.3 in)
Armor 3-4 mm (0.12-0.16 in)
Production 1

Sources

Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer des österreichischen heeres 1896 bis heute [Motor Vehicles and armored vehicles of the Austrian army from 1896 until today], Walter J. Spielberger, Motorbuch Verlag, 1976.
Die gepanzerte Radfahrzeuge des deutschen Heeres 1905-1945 [The Armored Wheeled Vehicles of the German Army 1905-1945], Walter J. Spielberger, Hilary L. Doyle, Motorbuch Verlag, 2002.
L’Aube de la gloire : les autos mitrailleuses et les chars français pendant la grande guerre [The Dawn of Glory: the french armored cars and tanks during the great war], Alain Gougaud, 1987.
Encyclopedia of Armoured Cars, Duncan Crow and Robert J. Icks, Barrie and Jenkins, 1976.
The Encyclopedia of French Tanks and Armoured Fighting Vehicles 1914-1940, Francois Vauvillier, Histoire & Amps Collection, 2014.
Age of Tanks: Iron, iron, everywhere S1A1, documentary, 2017.
Company’s history on austrodaimler.at
Newspapers and Magazines accessed on anno.onb.ac.at/
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, November 5, 1905.
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, November 20, 1905.
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, March 10, 1906.
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, March 18, 1906.
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, March 19, 1906.
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, March 20, 1906.
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, March 21, 1906.
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, March 22, 1906.
Neues Wiener Journal, March 25, 1906.
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, March 28, 1906.
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, September 11, 1906.
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, December 25, 1906.
Eisenbahn und Industrie nr. 17, September 5, 1906.
Eisenbahn und Industrie nr. 22, November 20, 1906.
Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung, September 4, 1906
Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung, September 5, 1906
(Neuigkeits) Welt Blatt, September 8, 1906.
Neue Freie Presse, January 29, 1907.
Sport und Salon, April 14, 1906.
New York Daily Tribune, January 4, 1905.

Categories
WW2 Dutch Tanks

Renault FT in Dutch Service

The Netherlands (1927-40)
Light Tank – 1 Purchased

One thing that emerged from the battlefields of the First World War was the tank. Although the Netherlands remained neutral during the war, its consequences were felt nonetheless, and all events and technological advancements were followed with great interest. As such, the invention of the tank did not go unnoticed. Although the war ended in 1918, it was not until 1927 that the Dutch Army could proudly announce that they had acquired a French Renault FT light tank. It would remain their only tank before the Second World War.

The Dutch Renault FT during one of the many public tests that took place throughout the country between 1927-1930. Photo: Nationaal Militair Museum

Background

After the Great War, the Dutch government faced several problems. There were diplomatic problems, such as the question of whether to join the League of Nations or not, territorial problems, such as the Belgian claim on Dutch land, and financial problems. The war had crippled the economy as trade was reduced significantly and mobilization during the war had consumed a lot of money. As a result, the military had lost most of its political and social support, with defense spending being especially despised. General mobilization during the First World War had ‘wasted’ a lot of financial resources and the trade with Germany, which was very important for the Dutch industry, had nearly disappeared. Obligatory military service was seen as a burden on both the people and economy, and the terrifying images of the Great War lead to a strive for disarmament.
Combined with the thought that the Dutch polder landscape was too swampy for tanks to operate properly in, and the fact that the tank had not yet completely proven its indispensable value in battle, the General Staff decided that no tanks were to be bought, neither to trial, to familiarise the army with tanks, or to operate with the army’s operational structure.

Turning Tide

Several years passed after the war without a real desire to acquire tanks, and even armored vehicles in general, until 1925, when plans were made to buy one tank, only for testing purposes. On October 6th, 1925, the Minister of War, Mr. J.M.J.H. Lambooy, ordered the technical trade association Greve & Co. to buy one Renault FT from France. Greve & Co. imported European cars and was located in The Hague.
There was a problem, however, as the Ministry did not want to pay more than 25.000 guilders (US$125.377 in 2015 absolute worth). As such, negotiations would take two years until the tank, without armament installed, finally arrived in the Netherlands. A special Vechtwagen Commissie (Eng: Tank Committee) was established which had to test and evaluate the vehicle in different circumstances and conditions. The Infantry Inspector was in charge of the committee which consisted out of four officers: Captain B.C. van Erckelens, Captain K.A. Rövekamp, First Lieutenant F.G. Dürst Britt, and First Lieutenant N.J. Jelgersma. One of their first notes was the heavy damage that the tank caused on the roads, so a special trailer was built which had to be towed by a tractor. Both the tank and the tractor with its trailer suffered many breakdowns and were often in repair.

The tank while being loaded on the special built trailer. Source: Nationaal Militair Museum 

Dutch Modifications

The tank acquired by the Dutch Army was the standard FT from 1917, but without fitted armament. Instead, a 7.92 mm M.08 Schwarzlose machine gun was rather crudely fitted by the Artillerie Inrichtingen Hembrug (Eng: Artillery Establishments Hembridge) after the vehicle arrived in 1927.
Other changes included a handle which was mounted on both sides of the vehicle, spanning over the engine bay just behind the turret. A wrench was uniquely put on the left front lower side of the suspension-covering armor plate. After the modifications were executed, the vehicle was sent to the Ripperda Barracks in the city of Haarlem, its home base.

This picture was taken on March 3, 1928, during a trial in the dunes near Katwijk which was also attended by members of the royal family, including Queen Wilhelmina. The Dutch modifications are visible in this images, including a handle on the engine deck behind the turret, two attachment bits on the front hull side, a Schwarzlose machine gun, and the wrench placement. Photo: BeeldbankWO2

Testing

Basic field testing started during the course of 1927, but the first major test to be carried out before the eyes of the press, government, and army officials was on April 12th, 1928. The area chosen was a peat polder behind Huis Ten Bosch Palace in The Hague. The tank’s main challenge would be to cross a ditch with a width of approximately 1.4 meters.
The tank completely failed the test and ditched itself into the mud. Unable to reverse, it had to be dug out. The story was widely covered in the Dutch press and positively approached, because, as it seemed, hostile tanks would never be able to maneuver in the Dutch landscape and even the Army Command was convinced.

The FT which got stuck during the test on April 12, 1928. The photo indicates that attempts have already been made to recover the vehicle. Photo: Author’s collection
But a different story appeared in the magazine Militaire Spectator (Eng: Military Spectator), written by two military engineer officers a few months later. As they rightfully claimed, this ditching problem was already present during the First World War, with many attempts made to solve this problem, and with success. Examples of these solutions were unditching beams and fascines. They also mention that tanks have been improved over time and that ground pressure had been reduced with many designs, which reduced the chance of ditching. To conclude, they claimed that this test did not prove anything at all.
The Tank Committee came to a similar conclusion. Their final report was based on many tests which had taken place throughout the country on all different types of terrain, including polders, swamps, claygrounds, dunes, and forests. During these tests, local garrisons were often tasked to build anti-tank obstacles which the tank then had to overcome. The tank often won. The report stated that the tank was superior in many areas of the country, except in polder areas. Tests were also carried out using a fascine near the city of Houten. The fascine could be released from within the vehicle and proved to be rather successful, so the argument that the tank could not be used in polder area was now proven invalid too. Based on these factors, the committee advised the Army Command and Ministry to continue testing with a modern tank. This was ignored. A tank was too expensive according to the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General H.A. Seyffardt.
However, a vehicle discussed by the two engineering officers was a tankette from Carden-Loyd, which had superior ground pressure over the FT. Interestingly, the Army ordered that several examples of this vehicle would be acquired in 1928, however, if this decision was influenced by these two officers is hard to say. In 1931, five of these tankettes were delivered and served until they were captured by the German Army in May 1940.

Around 1930, a dummy tank was built out of plywood and its design resembled loosely a Renault FT. It was located at Camp Waalsdorp and used by the 1e Stormschool. Photo: Nationaal Instituut Militaire Historie

The Following Years

After the last public tests with the tank in 1930, the tank was put in storage and no official plans were made to acquire more tanks. Meanwhile, armored vehicle development continued around the world and more advanced vehicles were designed every year.
Although it was announced in 1930 that no tanks were to be acquired, the first demands of Dutch officers arose for modern armored cars. The German rearmament programme, greatly intensified in 1933 by the Nazi regime, did not go unnoticed either, and officers started to express their concerns about this. However, the government initially believed that neutrality could not be retained by showing off with an aggressive army, so in the end, retaining neutrality was the main goal. However, the “si vis pacem para bellum” (If you want peace, prepare for war) notion became more apparent to the Ministry of Defence (the Ministry of War and Ministry of Navy were combined into Ministry of Defence in 1928), and so, 1934 saw the first signs of modernisation and motorisation of the army, which included a contract with the Swedish Landsverk to deliver twelve armored cars.
In February 1937, the army released an urgent program with all the needed measurements that had to be taken to make the army a serious force again. The then Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant-General I.H. Reynders, wrote that around 60 tanks, an additional squadron of armored cars, and two command armored cars were needed. Only the demand for armored cars was granted. Two years later, Reynders scaled the demand up to 110 light tanks, 36 medium tanks, and 100 armored cars.
One of the main reasons that no tanks were acquired had to do with the opinion of then Minister of Defence, Mr. Dijxhoorn. He believed that the concept of tanks had already become obsolete and saw this proven in the limited success of tanks during the Spanish Civil War. As such, he was strongly opposed to acquiring tanks, instead, he wanted to invest as much as possible in anti-tank measurements.

In November 1929, a ‘device’ was tested near the city of Houten, designed by Captain De Man. It fulfilled the same role as a fascine but was basically a wooden structure. It let the tank successfully cross ditches with a width of two meters. Photo: Nationaal Militair Museum


Illustration of the Renault FT in Dutch Service produced by Bernard ‘Escodrion’ Baker, funded by our Patreon Campaign

1939-1940

After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the army quickly tried to improve the defensive lines and were able to resolve multiple issues. The Renault FT tank was also brought back to life. It had to prove that the defensive lines were still impenetrable by tanks. At the end of October 1939, the tank was tested in the ‘Peel’ area. The test was attended by the commander of the field army, Lieutenant-General J.J.G. Baron van Voorst tot Voorst and his staff. The baron even changed the course set out for the tank. Against all expectations, the tank took the course successfully. This peat area proved in the 1920’s to be impassable, but after that, many peats had been removed to be used and now the area was suddenly passable by the tank, causing panic at the High Command. With great haste, an anti-tank channel, bunkers, and minefields were created in this area.

The infamous failed test with the FT in November 1939, an event extensively covered by the press. Photo: Author’s collection
After this test, the FT was loaded on its trailer and moved to the Vlasakkers, a swampy area near the city of Amersfoort and very close to the home base of the Landsverk armored cars. The worst terrain had to be chosen and eventually, a former potato field was chosen with water standing 50 cm high.
The tests commenced, and the 21 years old FT started to plow itself through the mud. Everything went well initially until the first invisible ditches were encountered. The vehicle dived nose first into the mud, which did not cause any problems, however, when it climbed out of the ditch, the back of the vehicle became completely submerged. The dirty water streamed into the engine compartment and when it reached the magneto ignition, the engine broke down.
The General Staff, satisfied with what it had seen, came up with a cunning plan. A public demonstration was to be held, especially intended for the press, both foreign and domestic. During the demonstration, the vehicle had to fail its task ingloriously. This should, as thought out by the Staff, comfort the Dutch citizens and ultimately even cause a change of plans of a German attack.
The demonstration became a great negative success. Although the field itself did not cause great problems, the ditch beside the road did. The driver was instructed to try everything to let the tank fail, if the Renault would not fail the test itself. After the war, the driver recalled that the General instructed him to get the tank literally upside down. With a speed of 3 km/h, the tank, while slanted plowed itself into the ditch. As such, the driver had enough time to get out of the vehicle before it sunk away completely. Although portraying the opposite, the army command did realize that the tank was a more powerful machine than they wished. After the demonstration, the tank was pulled out of the mud and the necessary repairs were made.
When more demonstrations were executed, the Army Command got more and more frustrated, as the FT could actually overcome many obstacles and changed the defensive lines from a safety guarantee to a safety warning. During the winter of 1940, this frustration was expressed by an officer. The water was frozen and barricades with blocks of ice were made. Against all expectations, the tank broke through, albeit with some difficulties. One of the officers became so infuriated at this achievement that he pulled his gun out and fired multiple times at the tank. Although an interesting anecdote, it is doubtful if this actually happened, however, it portrays the hopelessness of the Dutch situation prior to WWII. It seemed that the Dutch Army not only had to make more anti-tank defenses but also had to acquire tanks themselves. This, however, was too late.

The FT during a demonstration early 1940. It took much effort for the troops to make these obstacles, made of ice blocks. In the end, they could still be overcome. Photo: Nationaal Archief
When the country was attacked by Germany in May 1940, the Netherlands did not operate any tanks. The outdated FT stayed in Haarlem. The country was overrun and the bombing of Rotterdam caused the Dutch to capitulate within five days to prevent any other city being bombed. Only in the province of Zeeland fighting continued, and only because French troops were present.

Fact or fiction?

In the Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad (Eng: Batavian Newspaper) dated November 25th, 1940, an interview was held with officer-pilot Dr. Harloff. He was a geologist at the Department of Mining and was on leave in Holland when war broke out. There he was quickly promoted to Reservist Captain and assigned to an Airforce depot in the city of Rotterdam. He managed to escape successfully to England and travel back to the Dutch Indies. During the interview he told a remarkable story about a tank at Ypenburg airfield, close to The Hague:
“After the initial German attack on the airfield, the defending forces were eliminated, except for one tank, manned by a corporal and a soldier. When German Junkers 52 planes tried to land, it would break out of its concealment, low foliage at the side of the airstrip, and shoot at the incoming planes. Apparently, it shot down a total of 23 planes, a bizarre amount. After this action, it was destroyed by a 50kg bomb”
This story is contradictory to the official story, supported by official documents and other evidence. It is true that Landsverk armored cars were stationed at Ypenburg, and he probably referred to one of these vehicles, but even with the quick firing Bofors 37mm gun, this story is very unlikely to be true.

Fate

In reality, the tank ended its life as a gate guard at the Ripperda Barracks with its machine gun and engine removed. During the war, the tank was taken away by the Germans. Its fate is unknown, but it is very likely that it was scrapped. Two FT’s survive in the Netherlands, one in the National Military Museum Soesterberg and one in Museum Overloon, however, both are German beutepanzer of which 25 were active in the Netherlands during the Second World War to defend the airfields as part of the Luftgaukommando Holland (Eng: Air Command Holland). Nevertheless, the tank at the National Military Museum has been repainted in the same color as the original Dutch FT.

The Renault FT in the Dutch National Military Museum. Although not being the original Dutch FT, it has been repainted in its original color. Photo: Author’s own

Conclusion

The Dutch military command did not see enough tactical value in tanks to justify the expensive acquisition of them. Too much faith was put into the Dutch natural anti-tank landscape, which maybe could stop tanks from the WWI era, but definitely not newer tanks. The FT had proven itself to be better than expected, but was not a representative of interwar tank development; newer tanks performed even better. A fact already partially realised before the war, but experienced during the war.

In 1927, a detachment of the Royal Dutch Indies Army attended a test with the Renault at the Artillerie Inrichtingen. Photo: Nationaal Archief

The tank bogged down at De Vlasakkers with its driver Sergeant G.F.J. Haaze. Colorized by Jaycee “Amazing Ace” Davis. Photo: Nationaal Archief

Renault FT specifications

Dimensions 4.95(with tail)/4.20 x 1.74 x 2.14 m (16.24/13.77×5.7×7.02 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 6.7 tons
Crew 2 (commander/gunner, driver)
Propulsion Renault 4 cyl petrol, 39 hp (24 kW)
Speed 7.5 km/h (4.66 mph)
Range/consumption 65 km (40.38 miles)
Armament 1x 7.92 mm Schwarzlose M.08 machine gun
Armor 22 mm (0.87 in)
Total production 3700 (France), 4 supplied to Italy.

Sources

Armamentaria 3, Hoefer, Stichting Het Nederlandse Leger- en Wapenmuseum, 1969.
Holland Paraat! Volume 2, J. Giesbers & A. Giesbers & R. Tas, Giesbers Media, 2016.
Militaire Spectator, Tijdschrift voor het Nederlands Leger 97, 1928.
Nederlandse Pantservoertuigen, C.M. Schulten & J. Theil, Van Holkema & Warendorf, 1979.
Tussen Paard en Pantser, Jan Hof, La Riviere & Voorhoeve, 1990.
Wereld In Oorlog 23, Norbert-Jan Nuij, Wereld In Oorlog, 2012.
Nationaal Militair Museum publications.
Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad, November 25, 1940.
De Maasbode, April 14, 1928.
Historicalstatistics.org used for converting currency

Renault FT World Tour Shirt

Renault FT World Tour Shirt

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Categories
WW1 German Armor

Büssing A5P

German Empire (1915-1918) Armored car – 1 built

The Büssing A5P is one of few armored vehicles built by the German Empire during the First World War. Its symmetrical design and great dimensions make it stand out from other designs of the time. With the order given to the company Büssing to design an armored car at the end of 1914, work progressed the following year and production of one vehicle started. Two other companies; Ehrhardt and Daimler, were also tasked to develop an armored car and all three companies finished their vehicle at the end of 1915.

The A5P after its completion, viewed from the front left, being presented to German and Austro-Hungarian army officials. Photo: Tankograd Publications

Background

Although several armored cars were built in Germany before the First World War, like the Ehrhardt BAK and Opel Kriegswagen, both from 1906, the German army had no armored cars for tactical roles in their inventory when they went to war on August 1, 1914. This was due to the assumption of the Militär-Verkehrstruppen (Eng: military transport troops) that armored cars had not enough tactical or strategic impact in a war scenario, a view shared by many other European armies before the First World War. However, when the German troops encountered improvised armored cars at the front, such as Belgian Minervas, they quickly realised that the armored car actually had a great value.
The Oberste Heeresleitung (Eng: Supreme Army Command) was also convinced that armored cars had to be built, and on October 22, 1914, it requested the Kriegsministerium (Eng: War Ministry) to take the needed steps to start building armored cars as quickly as possible. The Minister of War approved this request five days later and ordered the Verkehrstechnische Prüfungskommission (VPK, Eng: transport technical testing commission) to make a list of requirements. Together with the Gewehr Prüfungskommission (GPK, Eng: Gun Testing Commission) and Abteilung A2 Infanterie (Eng: Department A2 Infantry) of the War Ministry, they presented a list on November 3, 1914.

Technical Requirements

The armored cars to be designed had to fulfill the following sixteen requirements:

  1. An armament of three machine guns, one of them being a spare. Both guns should be able to fire simultaneously in any direction.
  2. Ammunition load-out of at least 16,500 rounds.
  3. A crew of eight: Commander, driver, and six machine gun operators (later changed to a crew of ten with two extra drivers).
  4. Completely armored, with a minimum thickness of 5.5 mm (excluding roof armor).
  5. A maximum weight of crew, armor, armament, and ammo combined of 2,500 kg (2 MG: 75 kg, ammo: 660 kg, crew: 600 kg, armor: 1000 kg).
  6. The possibility of driving forward and backward at the same speed, without turning the vehicle.
  7. A turnable driver seat in the middle of the vehicle (not required with a driver in the front and rear), closable observation slits for the driver, machine-gun operators should not be hindered by the driver.
  8. Four-wheel drive.
  9. As good off-road capabilities as possible, therefore one gear with short gearing and carry wheel belts and ramps.
  10. A maximum speed of 40-60 km/h (forwards and backward).
  11. An engine of at least 40 hp.
  12. Sufficient engine cooling, despite covering armor plating.
  13. Steel wheels (when possible disc wheels, not steel spoked wheels).
  14. Solid rubber tires with armored protection.
  15. On both front and rear, two Acetylene headlamps, one movable electric searchlight, and electric lighting in drivers cabin.


The armored car unit in Buchsweiler (Bouxwiller). From left to right: the Daimler/15, Ehrhardt/15, and Büssing/15. Photo: Biblio Verlag

Development

Armed with this list, the VPK approached the firms Büssing, Ehrhardt, and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, which all agreed to build one vehicle. When completed, the vehicles were to run factory tests, after which they had to be handed over to the army battle-ready. Due to time restrictions, the vehicles were not to be initially tested by the crews. After completion, the vehicles were instead to be assigned to one unit and sent to the front. The vehicle that performed best was likely to be taken into serial production.
However, when development was carried out, the Western Front turned into a static war, eliminating the battle worthiness of armored cars, meaning that priority was given to development and production of trucks, artillery towing equipment, infantry weapons, and ammunition. As a consequence, the production of the three armored cars slowed down. Finally, on December 10, the VPK could report to the Ministry of War that the Daimler/15, Ehrhardt/15, and Büssing/15 were completed and ready for testing by the factory, meaning that development and production lasted for a bit longer than one year.

The Büssing Company

Why was Büssing tasked with producing an armored vehicle? The firm Büssing was founded in 1903 by Heinrich Büssing, in the city of Braunschweig (Lower Saxony, Germany). It produced trucks, as well as omnibuses, of which 400 were delivered to be used in London before the War broke out in 1914. In 1908, the first steps were taken to build trucks to be used in the German army. From 1914, Büssing delivered three types: the Type III (3500 kg payload), Type IV (4000 kg payload), and Type V (5000 kg payload). Due to a subsidization program launched by the Prussian government which improved sales of trucks, together with military orders coming in, Büssing had a solid financial basis.
So around 1910, it was possible for Büssing to dedicate itself more to the development of new technologies in the area of commercial vehicles as they had the financial resources. In this way, Büssing could take a technological lead in Germany, which meant that during the First World War, Büssing could build quite a lot of special purpose vehicles for the German army. Some of these pioneering breakthroughs, just made before the War, were 4-wheel drive chassis with steering both forward and backward, and 4-wheel steering. So Büssing had the possibility to fall back on an advanced chassis, which was a reason for the company to accept the order to build an armored car.

The chassis of the A5P. Keep in mind that the steering wheels are at an approximate height of 2 meters. Photo: Panzernet

Design

The design Büssing came up with had huge dimensions. With a length of 9.5 m, the A5P is still the biggest armored car that has ever been built and put in active service. Due to the size, the vehicle had a weight of 10,250 kg, which all had to be powered by a four-stroke, Otto type, six-cylinder, water-cooled engine, producing 90 hp at 850 rpm. Power was transmitted to all four wheels, which were shod with solid rubber tires. Furthermore, the vehicle could be steered from both sides with a driver in the front and one in the rear. All factors combined resulted in a maximum speed of 35 km/h, both forwards or backward.
The fully symmetrical armored hull, made of chromed nickel plates, had a thickness of 7.5 mm at the front and rear, and 5.5 mm on the sides, while the roof had a thickness of 3.5 mm. The 7.5 mm plates provided enough protection against S-bullets (Spitgeschoß, meaning pointed bullet) from over 100 meters.
On top of the vehicle, a fixed turret was located with four machine gun hatches, facing to the front, rear and sides of the vehicle. The box-like crew compartment had two driver positions, with each driver having one viewing hatch to his disposal. Beside each driver’s viewport, one machine gun hatch was located. Furthermore, two machine gun hatches were installed on both sides of the crew compartment. The crew could enter through two doors, one on each side.
During the design stage, it is likely that Büssing, Daimler, and Ehrhardt worked together as all three vehicles share common features, like the way the machine gun ports are arranged and the shape of the crew compartment with a slightly sloped roof at the front and rear, as well as a round fixed turret in the middle.

Armament

The vehicle carried three MG 08 water cooled 7.9 mm machine guns, of which one was a spare. They were in use with the German Army from 1908 onwards. A munition loadout carried consisted of 11.500 S bullets and 5200 SmK bullets, carried in drums of 100 bullets or boxes of 250 bullets.
Experimentally, the Büssing was equipped with a 20 mm Becker M II TAK cannon for a short period. The cannon was initially designed as a gun to be mounted on airplanes and was for the first time experimentally fitted to a Gotha bomber in 1915, however, after the first British tanks were encountered on the Western Front in September 1916, it was further developed as an AT gun. It could fire both single or multiple shots.
After it was tested, the weapon was withdrawn by the OHL, based on the belief that MG 08 machine guns firing SmK ammunition were superior in battle over the 20 mm gun.

20 mm Becker anti-tank cannon, which was experimentally used for a few months. Photo: Landships.info

Radio

In January and February of 1917, the armored cars were equipped with a Funkentechnischen FT-Gerät (Eng: radio technical device), when they were in repair after their service in Romania. The conversion was completed at the end of February 1917. When installed in the A5P, the radio had a 30 km range, but only 15-20 km in the Ehrhardt and Daimler.

Photo guide

Being symmetrical, it could difficult to tell whether one is looking at the front or rear, but in fact it is not very hard to tell the difference. The main difference is that the front armor plate is flat, while the rear plate has a hatch in it with two handles.
Throughout its service, the Büssing received several different markings which can help to determine the time frame a picture was taken in. Initially, the vehicle was painted in a field grey color (probably grüngrau, RAL 7009). After being handed over to the army in May 1916, the abbreviation P.Kr.MG Z.1 was painted on the front and rear. It also bore the registration plate G 1595. When the vehicle was sent to Romania at the end of 1916, big black iron crosses on a white background were painted on the sides and front. It also received a different registration number and the abbreviation was changed to P.Kr.MG A.1
When the vehicle was sent to Ukraine in 1918, it received a camouflage scheme after a proposal made by the OHL in September 1918 in the colors green, ocher yellow, and russet. Furthermore, iron crosses were painted on the front and right side.

Production

Only one vehicle was built, although it is sometimes mentioned that three vehicles were made, this probably comes from an error made by the editorial of Waffen Revue, because they describe an image that shows three Büssing armored cars. However, the other two cars on the picture are the vehicles built by Daimler and Ehrhardt.
There were several reasons why no more A5Ps were built. First of all, the vehicle did not always perform as hoped, mainly caused by the heavy weight, limiting its operational use. The 4-wheel steering caused also more problems than advantages. Secondly, the firm Büssing was not capable to produce more armored cars as they were already busy with the production of artillery tractors and lorries and also got involved in the A7V tank programme.
The most important reason, however, was that the OHL had ordered vehicles from three different manufacturers as a sort of competition to eventually end up with the best option. When it was decided in December that an additional twelve armored cars were to be built, an improved list of requirements was made. After reviewing these new requirements, it became apparent that both the Büssing and Daimler vehicles could not be improved in such a way, and as a result, Ehrhardt received the order to build these vehicles, which would become the Ehrhardt E-V/4.

The crew enters the A5P. A staged photo, taken during the summer of 1916 in the surroundings of the city of Bouxwiller, Alsace, France. Photo: Landships.info

Operational Use

The sole vehicle was completed at the end of 1915. After running factory tests, the vehicle was handed over to the army on May 22, 1916. It was assigned to the Panzerkraftwagen-MG-Zug 1 which was at that moment already active at the Western Front in the area north of Verdun. On June 19, the A5P reached its unit. The armored cars could not be used effectively and were instead sent to Buchsweiler (Bouxwiller) at the end of June. During the following months, the unit saw only combat seven times while stationed in the Alsace.
It would be the introduction of British tanks to the battlefield that caused the vehicles to be redirected to the Eastern Front. The OHL, encountering something they never had seen before, wanted to hear the opinion on these tanks from the commander of the armored car battalion. During this circumstance, the staff chief of the 9. Armee, Oberst Hesse, became aware that this unit was basically doing nothing.
However, on August 27 1916, the until then neutral country of Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary. The Transylvanian Carpathian mountains were crossed, and several cities were occupied by the new belligerents. On September 9, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Bulgarian troops went to counterattack. The German troops that took part in the counteroffensive were part of the 9. Armee, so Oberst Hesse lobbied that the cars should be moved to the new Romanian Front, which was approved by the OHL, and on October 12, the unit was on its way to Romania.

Situation in Romania

On October 18, 1916, the unit arrived in Transylvania. The unit was unloaded in Hermannstadt (Sibiu). The Büssing was put under command of the I. Res.-Korps from 23 to 26 October. The Ehrhardt and Büssing drove on the 24th from Kronnstadt (Brașov) to Oituz and performed several reconnaissance maneuvers, but the conditions were not positive for armored cars to be used so, on the 26th, they were sent back to Kronnstadt and reunited with the other armored cars.
On October 27, the vehicles moved from Sibiu to Hațeg, where it became apparent that there was a fracture in the rear axle of the Büssing, meaning that the vehicle had to be sent back to the factory in Braunschweig to be repaired; as a consequence, the Büssing was barely used in Romania. The other four armored vehicles (Daimler/15, Ehrhardt E-V/4, and two captured Belgian Minerva’s) were plagued by technical breakdowns as well. One after another suffered from severe breakdowns until only the Daimler/15 was left, however, on December 1, 1916, its engine broke too, meaning that all fighting vehicles were now out of service.

Reparations

As long as these vehicles were in repair, the remainder of the Abteilung was stationed in Berlin. On March 18, 1917, the unit was put under command of the military in Antwerp, Belgium. On March 25, the Büssing arrived in Kapellen, North of Antwerp. The Daimler and Ehrhardt would arrive later.
The vehicles did not see any action, but a lot of training took place. In this period, the 20 mm Becker was tested, as well as training with the new radios which were mounted in the vehicles during the executed repairs. On July 11, the unit was sent back to Berlin where it arrived on July 13. In the same month, preparations were made to send some armored vehicles to the Middle East, excluding the Büssing as it was too heavy, however, it was realized that the roads in Syria were too bad for armored cars and the initial plans were abandoned.

The A5P in markings it had while operational in Romania. Photo: warwheels.net

Ukraine

Instead, while other armored car units were also formed with Ehrhardt E-V/4 model 1917 armored cars, it was decided that the 1st armored car unit was to be sent to Ukraine. The Büssing saw limited operation, caused by its heavy weight and big size. Eventually, it was assigned to another unit, Zug 2, which was located in Kiev. The decision was made as it was felt that the Büssing would perform better in a city which had good roads. The vehicle was stationed there until the end of the war. During this time, the vehicle received a camouflage pattern, and a nickname: Grobetier, meaning ‘Rough Animal’.

Fate

After the truce was signed on November 11 1918, which basically ended the war, German troops started to retreat to Germany, and the Büssing A5P was moved to the region Wünsdorf/Zossen. In 1919 it was still standing near the Kokampf Barracks at the city of Lankwitz and apparently saw no action, however, a user of the Landships forum mentions that he has a postcard from 1919, showing the Büssing A5P being used by the German Freikorps. It is still bearing the camouflage and nickname received in 1918.  The vehicle was very likely scrapped in 1919/20.

The Büssing A5P in Ukraine at the end of 1918. This camouflage and adaptation of iron crosses were the last changes made to the vehicle before the war ended. Note the new nickname for the vehicle: ‘Grobetier’, meaning ‘Rough Animal’. Photo: Ebay auction

Conclusion

Being the only armored vehicle built by Büssing during the war, it was a remarkable achievement to build such a behemoth, which survived throughout the war. However, having served at both the Eastern and Western Front, the vehicle did not live up to expectations.

Büssing A5P specifications

Dimensions 9.5 x 2.1 x 3.5 m (31.17×6.89×11.48 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 10.3 tons
Crew 10
Propulsion 6-cylinder Büssing “Otto” petrol, 90 hp (67.14 kW)
Speed 35 km/h (21.7 mph)
Range (road) 240 km (150 mi)
Armament 3 x Mg08/Mg15na 7.92 mm (0.31 in) machine guns
Armor 3.5-7.5 mm (0.14-0.3 in)
Total production 1

Sources

Die deutschen Radpanzer im Ersten Weltkrieg Technische Entwicklung und Einsätze, Heinrich Kaufhold-Roll, Biblio Verlag, 1996.
Panzer-Kraftwagen Armoured Cars of the German Army and Freikorps, Tankograd No 1007, Rainer Strasheim, Jochen Vollert Verlag, 2013.
Die gepanzerte Radfahrzeuge des deutschen Heeres 1905-1945, Walter J. Spielberger, Hilary L. Doyle, Motorbuch Verlag, 2002.
Typenkompass Panzerkampfwagen im Ersten Weltkrieg, Wolfgang Fleischer, Motorbuch Verlag, 2017.
Waffen Revue 123, Karl R. Pawlas, Journal-Verlag Schwend, 2001.
Private Conversation with Chris (Landships Forum username ‘elbavaro’) concerning post-war images of the A5P.
Short film fragment, taken in Kiev, showing the Büssing A5P and an Ehrhardt E-V/4 1917. Note the crude way how the camouflage is applied: (WATCH HERE)

Büssing A5P Armored Car
The Collosal Büssing A5P Armored Car. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet, with correction by Leander Jobse

Categories
WWII Soviet Other Vehicles

IT-28

USSR (1936-41)
Armored Bridge Layer – 1 Built

The origins of armored bridge laying vehicles can be traced back to the First World War, when fascines (bundles of wood) were used by Allied tanks to be able to cross trenches and German anti-tank ditches. After the war, the idea of trench crossing systems based on tank chassis settled and the Soviets started to develop such vehicles which led, for example, to the CT-26 (ST-26), a bridge-laying tank based upon the T-26 light tank. When the T-28 medium tank was taken into production in 1933, it also proved to be a valuable base to test new designs and technologies, like mine crawlers, but also bridge tanks, one of them being the ИТ-28 (Инженерный Танк: Engineering Tank IT-28).

A clear view of the IT-28. Photo: SOURCE

Development

The development of the IT-28 was started in 1936 by the Научном авто-тракторном институте (abbreviated НАТИ, NATI: Scientific Auto-Tractor Institute). Work went slowly and it was 4 years later, in March 1940, that the tank could be equipped with the prototype bridging system. Only one T-28, carrying serial number 1638, was assigned to be converted. The conversion took place at the Kirov factory No. 100 located in Leningrad. The main and the two secondary turrets were replaced by an armored superstructure. After completion, it was sent to the testing range and designated IT-1.

The IT-28 beside the factory. These pictures provide a good comparison between the size of the tank and the bridge. Photo: aviarmor.net

Design

The space freed by the removal of the two secondary turrets was used to enlarge the crew compartment. However, two machine guns were fitted in ball mounts in the hull, roughly on the same place as the original turrets. On top of the enlarged hull, two extensions were placed to which two arms were attached. The bridge was carried, raised, and lowered by these two arms. These arms could be turned backward in case the bridge was not attached. To do so, a power transmitter was placed between the engine and the arms. The two-track bridge had a length of 13.3 meters. Both tracks were attached together by steel beams and had a total width of 3.5 meters. The weight of both chassis and bridge combined was 29 metric tonnes which was one tonne heavier than a serial production T-28.

Note the spikes at the end of each track so it would have a better grip. Source: Eksmo Publishing
The main turret was replaced by an armored eight-sided superstructure and two winches were placed on top. The winches were attached to the back of the bridge via a pulley located near the arms. With these winches, the bridge could be pulled forward. After that, the arms could be pointed to the ground and, by loosening the winches, gravity pulled the bridge to the ground until the last bar rested on the slight slopes on the arms. At this point, the winches had to be detached by the crew. Then, the arms could be lowered more, the bridge would lay on the ground and the vehicle could drive backward removing the hooks from under the bridge. After that, the arms were turned backward to ease travel.
Picking up the bridge was a bit more difficult to perform. Although it was basically the reverse system, the winches could not pull the bridge further than the position of the pulleys. When the bridge reached that point, the arms were slightly raised, so the bridge could slide down by the force of gravity, while the winches would be slowly loosened again.

The front and the back of the vehicle. Source: en.valka.cz

Trials and Fate

The first trials took place during June 1940, on the NIBT proving grounds in Kubinka. These trials showed that it took between three to five minutes to lay the bridge. The bridge itself could sustain loads up to fifty tonnes. However, several major flaws were encountered, like how the bridge had to be picked up as mentioned earlier, but also the fact that some of the crew had to get out of the vehicle to attach and detach the winches, becoming very vulnerable to enemy fire.
Despite these flaws, the general results were relatively good, but the T-28 medium tank was planned to be taken out of production, so the project was canceled. However, the system and idea of the bridge laying tank lived on. It was planned at one point to mount the system upon a KV chassis, but this idea was never realised. The only IT-28 prototype was not scrapped and kept at the testing range.
During early October 1941, several vehicles from the testing range including the IT-28 were assigned to two armored companies, Semenov and Maksimenko, which were named after their commanders. Additional vehicles were urgently needed and the IT-28 was assigned to the company Maksimenko on the 8th of October. Some paperwork stated that the vehicle was armed with two DT machineguns. In red ink, ‘Kazan’ was written on the form too, which might mean that the IT-28 had to be sent to the city of Kazan, but in reality all traces of the vehicle were lost after it was assigned to the company. It is very likely that the vehicle was either captured and possibly used by the Germans or reclaimed by either side. Its fate is unknown.

The IT-28, driving over the bridge during trials at the NIBT testing site in June 1940. Photo: Eksmo

Other T-28 Based Bridging Vehicles

Beside the IT-28, several other vehicles were produced and tested. In 1936, the ДМТ-28 (DMT-28, with DM probably meaning деревянный мост, wooden bridge) was created. As the name suggests, it was basically a wooden bridge mounted on the T-28 chassis. The bridge could overcome ditches with a width of six meters and 2.3 meters wide eskers, ridges of stratified sand or gravel. Trials proved to be unsatisfying and further development was discontinued.
In the early months of 1940, another attempt was made to design a system to overcome ditches. It consisted of a metal bridge rigidly attached to a T-28 chassis with a removed main turret. This was done at the Kirov plant and specifically designed to overcome the anti-tank ditches of the Finnish Mannerheim Line. The philosophy was simple, just drive the tank into the ditch so other vehicles can cross over it. The idea is similar to that of the British Churchill ARK. One vehicle was converted, but the trials showed that the design was highly inefficient and the project was canceled. This may be to do with the end of the Winter War on the 13th of March 1940.

A schematic drawing of a T-28 with an attached metal bridge, designed at the Kirov plant in 1940. Photo: SOURCE

DFT-28

During 1939, a T-28 tank was equipped with wooden fascines. Trials showed that, with help of these fascines, trenches with a width up to six meters and a depth up to 2 meters could be crossed. The vehicle was called ДФТ-28 (DFT-28 with DF probably meaning деревянная фасция, wooden fascines). This project was discontinued as well. No photographs of this tank or its trials are known yet.

Conclusion

Although the IT-28 was original and worked relatively well, some major issues still had to be resolved, beside, the chassis was already obsolete in 1940-41. Maybe the most successful part of this project was the sustainability of the bridge itself, which could sustain every Soviet tank that was taken into serial production, not only at the time of construction, but also later tanks like the majority of the IS tanks. The IT-28 never went into production, but its legacy lived forth after World War II, with the MTU-12 ABVL based upon the T-54 tank chassis and resembling the IT-28 system.

T-28 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 7.35 m x 2.77 m x 2.78 m (24ft 1in x 9ft 1in x 9ft 1in)
Propulsion 12 cyl 45L Mikulin M17, 500 bhp
Speed (road/off-road) 37/20 km/h (23/13 mph)
Range 220 km (140 mi)
Armor 20 to 30 mm (0.79-1.18 in)
Track width 41 cm (1ft 1 inch)
Track length 17 cm (6.7 inches)
Total production 1

Links, Resources & Further Reading

1941 Tanks in the Battle Of Moscow, Maksim Kolomiets.
Medium tank Т-28, Stalin’s three-headed monster, Maksim Kolomiets
“Frontovaya Illyustratsiya” issue No. 4-2000, RKK T-28 and T-28 Multi-turreted Tanks, Maksim Kolomiets.


Illustration of the ИТ-28 (Инженерный Танк: Engineering Tank IT-28) by Ardhya ‘Vesp’ Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign