Following the success of the Type 2 Ka-Mi, the Imperial Japanese Navy began development of a larger, stronger replacement. This was the Special Type 3 Launch Ka-Chi (特三式内火艇 カチ Toku-san-shiki uchibitei Ka-Chi), an amphibious medium tank, based on the chassis of the Type 1 Chi-He.
Design & Development
The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) became very fond of the Type 2 Ka-Mi, and were determined that a larger version was needed, with better offensive and defensive capabilities. This would have made it more suited to the amphibious warfare that went hand in hand with the island-hopping nature of the War in the Pacific. In 1943, the Type 3 Ka-Chi prototype was completed, with the vehicle being approved for construction not long after. The vehicle then entered service later that year.
The Type 1 Chi-He, at the time Imperial Japan’s newest medium tank, was chosen as the foundation chassis for the Ka-Chi. The Hara or “Bell crank” suspension was elongated with 2 additional road wheels and return rollers. The hull was large and box-like with flat sides. It was of welded construction and waterproofed with rubber seals and gaskets. The sides tapered in where the additional pontoons were mounted. These pontoons were hollow and made of sheet metal. A large curved pontoon made up the vehicle’s “bow”. This was composed of two parts and would split down the center for mounting/dismounting. A smaller pontoon attached at the rear to form the vehicle’s “stern”. At the base of this section, there were 2 rudders.
The Ka-Chi with the bow pontoon split into its 2 component parts
These pontoons were jettisoned from the inside of the tank, once it had made landfall. Many Ka-Mi crews, however, kept the pontoons attached, however, as it granted a slight improvement in armor protection. Though this would have had minimal effect, it is a practice that would likely have carried on with the Ka-Chi. Propulsion in the water was provided by twin-screws with steering being achieved with 2 more. These were powered directly by the tank’s Mitsubishi Type 100 air-cooled V-12 diesel engine. The Type 3 Ka-Chi had a distinctive large snorkel behind the turret. This delivered air to the Mitsubishi engine, and at the same time kept water out of the engine compartment.
The armament of the Ka-Chi was standard to the newer Japanese tanks of this era. The main armament consisted of the Type 1 47 mm tank gun, This was the same 47 mm gun used on the army’s Type 97 Chi-Ha Shinhoto, and of course, the Type 1 Chi-He. Secondary armament was a coaxial Type 97 heavy tank machine gun. These weapons were mounted in a modified version of the turret found on the Chi-Ha Shinhoto. It had a large conical cupola built over the standard one, to avoid water entering the crew compartment. The tank also had a bow machine gun positioned on the left of the driver.
The vehicle required a crew of seven, one of whom served as on-board mechanic, as with the Ka-Mi. His exact positition inside the vehicle is unkown.
Illustration of the Type 3 Ka-Chi by David Bocquelet
Deployment via Submarine
A feature of this vehicle was the ability to be transported via submarine, even when the submarine was submerged. Imperial Japanese Navy submarines, such as the Type Cs, were modified to carry the vehicles. As such, the vehicles had specially constructed hulls to deal with high-pressure found in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. The rear hull of the Ka-Chi was made up of a single convex plate, riveted to the main structure.
The convex plate on the rear of the tank.
This tactic was a covert way of deploying reinforcements to the small islands of the Pacific during daylight hours. While larger forces would make land under cover of darkness, submarine drop off was a discrete way of reinforcing or dropping off crucial supplies.
The production, however, was extremely limited with only 19 Type 3 Ka-Chis built between 1943 and 1945. The reason being that, as a Naval project, the vehicle fell to a very low priority. Construction efforts were instead focused on warship and aircraft production. None of the tanks ever saw combat deployment. The Japanese would continue to develop amphibious tanks, however. Following the Ka-Chi was the Type 4 Ka-Tsu. This vehicle was also designed with the ability to be transported via submarine. After the Ka-Tsu, came the Type 5 To-Ku. This was the largest of Japan’s amphibious tanks and was based on the Type 5 Chi-Ri.
British military investigators studied the vehicles in Japan after the war. All 19 of the vehicles were reportedly assigned to the Special Cruiser Squadron of Yokosuka. This investigative team is responsible for the only images of the Ka-Chi, the ones displayed in this article. What happened to the vehicles after is unknown. They were likely scrapped.
An article by Mark Nash
Type 3 Ka-Chi
10.3 (with pontoons) x 3 x 3.82 m (33.7 x 9.84 x 12.5 feet)
Japan’s Type 10 Hitomaru Main Battle Tank (10式戦車 Hitomaru-shiki sensha) is one of the world’s most technologically advanced armored vehicles to date. This fourth generation vehicle is embedded with numerous top-of-the-line communicative and combative features, most notably the incorporation of the C4I system.
Designed to replace the aging second generation Type 74 and supplement the third generation Type 90 of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), the Type 10’s technological prowess comes at a hefty price, however. The Japanese Ministry of Defense paid 954 million Japanese Yen per vehicle. ( US$8.4 million)
“HITO” of “HITO-MARU” comes from “HITO-tsu” (means “one” in English), and meaning of “MARU” is “zero”. (The primary meaning of the word “MARU” is “circle”. It often substitutes for zero in some phonetic reasons.)
Type 10 of the 5th Tank Battalion, 5th Brigade of the Northern Army. Identified by the Golden M on the turret cheek.
Design and Development
Under project name of TK-X/MBT-X, development of the vehicle began in the 1990s, while the Type 90 was still fresh off the production line, with production expected to begin by 2010-2011. The Japanese military considered that their armed forces were in need of a tank more suited and prepared for 21st-century warfare.
The first prototype of the vehicle, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, debuted on February the 13th, 2008, at the Technology Research and Development Institute (TRDI) in Sagamihara. The Japanese Ministry of Defense liked what they had seen, formally signing off on the project late 2009. In 2010, ten of the vehicles were ordered from Mitsubishi.
Arms and Armor
The Type 10’s main armament consists of a purpose built 120 mm smoothbore auto-loading gun with optional barrels of L/50 or L/55 caliber. This gun was designed and developed by Japan Steel Works (JSW), who up until this point had been manufacturing the Rheinmetall L/44 under license, for use on the Type 90.
The Type 10 firing its 120mm main armament – Photo: Global Military Review
Though the weapon can use all compatible NATO 120 mm rounds, as well as the standard 120 mm rounds used by the JGSDF, the Hitomaru gun can also fire the Type 10 APFSDS (Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding-Sabot) round. This round is unique to the tank, and can only be fired by this specific gun.
As mentioned, the 120 mm is equipped with an auto-loading mechanism which negates the need for a dedicated crew member. As such, the Type 10 only has a crew of 3 with the commander and the gunner in the turret, and with the driver in the hull. The auto-loading mechanism is positioned in the rear section of the turret, giving it that rather large appearance. The gun is aimed with the assistance of various day and night compatible 360-degree view range sighting arrays. The barrel is also tipped with a muzzle reference sensor. Mounted on the right of the muzzle, this sensor is designed to detect any amount of warp in the barrel.
Secondary armament consists a coaxial Type 74 7.62 mm machine gun and a .50 cal Browning M2HB mounted on the roof in front of the commander’s position. This .50 cal can either be directly controlled by the commander or remotely from inside his position. Smoke grenade launchers are also integrated into the cheeks of the turret.
Protection against RPG (Rocket-Propelled Grenades) and shaped-charge munitions was a heavy influence in the development of the Hitomaru’s armor. The main armor plates on the tank are made from steel, with the option of using modular appliqué armor.
Some of the additional plates are sometimes mentioned to be a type of ceramic composite which can be added or removed depending on the mission and weight parameters. These plates can either be added to the sides of the hull, front of the hull, or all over the turret. Being new the exact nature of the armor is still classified.
Another part of the protective systems are the mud-flaps on the flanks of the vehicle, aiding in noise reduction, infra-red (IR) signature reduction, catch-fragmentation from explosives and reducing mud throw.
The Hitomaru is powered by a water-cooled, four-cycle, eight cylinder diesel engine producing 1,200 hp through a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) gearbox, propelling the 40-ton tank to a respectable 70 km/h (43.3 mph). The CVT gearbox allows the tank to go just as fast backward, as it does forwards, allowing for rapid changes in position. The baseline weight of the tank is 40 tons, with full armor and weapons loadout this can climb to 48 tons.
The Type 10 showing off its hydropneumatic suspension
A feature carried over from both the Type 74 and Type 90 is the Hydropneumatic Active Suspension. This is seen as a ‘must-have’ feature by Japanese strategic heads, given the Japanese countryside’s mountainous terrain. The suspension allows the tank to ride higher or lower depending on the terrain type, tilt left or right, or raise and lower the front or rear of the tank. This increases the elevation or depression angle of the gun, giving the ability to fire over a ridge line without presenting a target for an enemy vehicle.
This suspension also has another use. A bulldozer blade can be mounted on the bow of the vehicle. When the front of the tank is fully depressed, this blade serves as a way to clear out debris from a firing position or help to carve out a new one.
A similar system was incorporated on the Swedish Strv. 103, or S-Tank.
A highlight of this vehicle’s abilities is its compatibility with the C4I (Command, Control, Communication, Computer & Intelligence) system. Tests were made with the Type 74 and Type 90, but it was surmised that there was not enough room for the system in these vehicles.
Diagram of how the C4I system works. 1: Command vehicle spots the enemy vehicle. 2: Commander plots the vehicle’s position using the C4I computer system. 3: The information is shared with other tanks in the area. 4: With the information, the target is acquired. 5: Target is engaged. Author’s illustration.
The C4I system gives the tank the ability for direct communication within the JGSDF network, allowing the tank to share digital information with command positions as well as the infantry’s outdoor computer system, the Regiment Command Control System (ReCS). This allows both armor and infantry to work with the utmost cohesion.
The Japanese Government is understandably, very secretive about the system. As such, exact details of how it operates, or images of the system are not available as of this time.
The C4I control panel in the Commanders position of the Type 10. Photo: – Kamado Publishing
MBT-X/TK-X, the prototype of the Type 10.
The Type 10 with its turret traversed to the right. Note the length of it with the rack included.
The Type 10 with dozer blade attached. Note the cut-outs in the middle of the blade for the tank’s headlights – Photo: Global Military Review
The Type 10 officially entered service with the Japanese Ground Self Defense force in January 2012, and production of the vehicle now stands at 80 units, though some sources suggest this could rise to 600 as Japan’s older vehicles reach the end of their lifetimes.
On January 4th, 2014 the Turkish military expressed an interest in purchasing the Type 10’s powerful engine for their own indigenous Main Battle Tank, the Altay. By March 2014 however, the deal had fallen through, with Japan’s strict arms trading laws a major factor.
Whether the tank was worth the astronomical price is, of course, debatable as, like its predecessors, it has not been tested on the field of battle. With a growing threat from North Korea, however, it is considered a worthwhile investment to the Japanese Government.
Type 10’s of the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Division of the Eastern Army, taking part in the 2014 Firepower in Fuji event. The Battalion is identified by the Eagle on the turret cheek. – Photo: JP-SWAT
One of the issues with the Type 90 Kyū-maru Main Battle Tank was its weight of 50.2 tons. Due to weight limits of many roads and bridges in some of the more rural areas of Japan, the Type 90 was only deployed in Hokkaido.
A requirement of the Type 10 was that it was much lighter, and it achieved that. Unloaded, which is how it would be transported, it only weighs 40 tons, as previously mentioned. This means that 84% of Japan’s 17,920 bridges are now passable with the Type 10, compared to only 65% of the Type 90, and a meager 40% for the average western tank.
Type 11 ARV
The Type 11 Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV), is currently the only variant of the Type 10 Hitomaru. The driver and commander share a single compartment on the left front of the vehicle. On the right is a large heavy-lift boom. The vehicle retains the hydropneumatic suspension, allowing it lower if necessary for ease of vehicle recovery. The vehicle also carries a Browning M2HB .50 cal for personal defense.
Crowds of people had a demonstration of its capabilities at one of the displays at Fuji during which a Type 10 slipped a track during a rapid change of direction and so required the used of the Type 11 to rescue it.
Why build a tank?
It might seem curious that so many countries around the world go through all the trouble of designing and building their own indigenous tank. At a superficial glance, it might seem to be easier and more cost effective to simply buy an already proven design from another country.
However, this is not the case for a lot of countries. Tanks are very expensive high-end products. Building it locally means that all the money invested in the designing and construction stays within the local economy. It pays local people and local companies, which pay taxes to the state, so the money invested in such a military asset eventually return to the government as taxes.
Furthermore, such an investment creates jobs for a significant amount of people, ranging from engineers, scientists, programmers and construction workers. These are positions that require skilled employees, which are vital to the development of most countries.
The construction and designing of a new tank also imply the creation or integration of high-end technologies. However, these can be then also transferred into the civilian economy, leading to the production of more valuable goods. A tank requires a whole suite of different technologies that can then find their way into civilian use, from the suspension to advanced materials used in its construction, electronics, programming, various sensors or the powerful powerpack. Add to that the nationalism of developing and fielding your own tank with secure lines of supply etc. and even with the very high cost of the Type 10 it makes a little more sense.
Video from the 2014 Firepower in Fuji event at the JGSDF’s Guji training ground featuring the Type 10. It is accompanied by Type 89 IFVs and Type 87 SPAAGs.
An article by Mark Nash
Type 10 Hitomaru Specifications
31’11” x 10’6” x 7’5” (9.49 x 3.24 x 2.3 m)
40 tons, 48 tons fully armed and armored
3 (driver, gunner, commander)
4-stroke cycle V8 diesel engine
43.3 mph (70 km/h)
JSW 120 mm Smooth-Bore Gun
Type 74 7.62 machine gun
Browning M2HB .50 Cal. Machine Gun
Artillery Support Tank – Aprx. 12 built
The 120 mm equipped Chi-Ha, officially the Short Barrel 120 mm Gun Tank (ショートバレル120 mmガンタンク, Shōtobareru 120 mm gantanku), was an infantry/fire support tank built on the chassis of the Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha, the most produced medium tank of the Japanese Empire.
This was a late war variant of the Chi-Ha and was specifically produced for the IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy). They requested the construction of a gun tank similar to the Type 2 Ho-I, but with greater firepower, to support the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces (SNLF). This use of the tank has sometimes led it to be known as the Chi-Ha SNLF.
Four 120mm Armed Chi-Ha’s at Sasebo, photograph taken by the US Marine Corps on September 22, 1945. Photo: ja.wikipedia.org
The standard Type 1 47 mm (1.85 in) Tank Gun was replaced with a Naval Short-Barreled 12 cm (120 mm) “anti-submarine” gun which was fitted with a bespoke muzzle break and introduced onto the vehicle. An official designation of the gun is unknown. Elevation angles of the gun were +20 degrees, and -10 degrees.
A photo taken through the commanders hatch, showing the breach of the 120 mm
This howitzer type gun was developed as a high-angle, multi-purpose weapon that could provide close-range defensive fire against aircraft, small attack boats, and even submerged submarines. Due to the extremely short barrel, accurate long-range fire was almost impossible. Due to the high-arc and low projectile speed, hitting fast moving targets was equally as impossible.
It should be noted that there is no source available as to what shell was used for the anti-aircraft role, but it was likely some sort of air-burst round. Its effectiveness is doubtful.
The tank also carried a single Type 92 7.7 mm (0.3 in) machine guns. This was ball-mounted on the right of the bow.
The 120mm Howitzer was designed to fire 2 types of HE shells. One type had a fuse at the base of the shell, with a soft flat cap designed at its point. The shell is what gave the gun its ability to face submarines. Once fired these shells would to dive and explode in a similar fashion to depth charges. The Other Shell was a nose fused shell with settings for time delay or detonation on impact. When the captured vehicles were assesed, they wer found with both types of shell.
True AP rounds, though a rarity, were available to the gun. Field reports of their use are unavailable, though a technical booklet concerning the guns ammunition types can be found. (See Links & Resources section)
120 mm high-explosive would perform extremely effectively against large infantry formations, fortified emplacements or lightly armored vehicles, but would be next to useless against enemy armor, aside from giving the crew of something like a Sherman a bad headache. One must remember, though, the vehicle was designed for infantry support, and not tank-to-tank combat.
A personal photo of the 120mm armed Chi-Has in Sasebo. The original photo can be seen HERE.
The Chi-Ha 120 mm Gun Tank in a simple livery. Illustration by David Bocquelet Another shot of the vehicles at Sasebo, taken in 1945. Photo: ja.wikipedia.org
Unfortunately, information concerning this variant of the Chi-Ha is as rare as the tank itself. What is known is that the vehicles were deployed with the Yokosuka No. 16 Special Land Battle Corps. The Corp was divided into 2 Battalions, with each battalion divided into 2 squadrons. The Type 3 Ka-Chi and Type 2 Ka-Mi amphibious tanks were was also deployed with this unit.
It is unknown how the tank actually made land to support the troops. Not being amphibious like its battalion mates, it is likely it was deployed via a landing barge.
Most photographic evidence of the vehicles comes from those captured at the end of the war by advancing American troops. None of the vehicles survive today.
Long Barrel 120mm
The Short Barrelled howitzer was not the only 120mm to be mounted on the Chi-Ha chassis. A rarer field modification saw a naval Type 3 high-velocity 120mm mounted onto a damaged chassis. Its practicality is questionable, the recoil from such a large gun on such a small chassis could only result in catastrophic failure. Only one image is known of this field-mod, the one below, and it is unknown if it was the only of its kind.
An article by Mark Nash
Type 97 Chi-Ha 120mm specifications
5.5 x 2.34 x 2.33 m (18 x 7.6 x 7.5 ft)
Total weight, battle ready
15 tons/16.5 tons for the Shinhoto
Mitsubishi Type 97 diesel, V12, 170 hp (127 kW)@2000 rpm
38 km/h (24 mph)
12 mm (0.15 in) roof and bottom, 25 mm (0.47 in) glacis and sides
120 mm Short-Barreled Naval Gun (4.72 in)
2 x Type 92 7.7 mm (0.3 in) machine guns
210 km (165 miles)
Links & Resources
The 120mm Chi-Ha on IKAZUCHI Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #137: Japanese Tanks 1939-1945
Delta Publishing, Grand Power November 1996 issue, “The Japanese military vehicles of the Second World War”
Japanese Field and Amphibious Equipment, Kyushu Defense Systems. Account of a U.S. Naval Technical Mission to Japan, September 4th 1945, Published Febuary 1946. Online copy avalible HERE.
Japanese National Archive File 陸戦兵器要目表 Reference: A03032103400. Research Department, Tateyama Naval Gunnery School. Read HERE. (In Japanese, Ammunition Data). Get the Poster of the ww2 Imperial Japanese Army Tanks and support us !
In 1943, an alternative drive system for the Panzer IV entered development. This was the Hydrostatischem Antrieb or Hydrostatic Drive, also known as the “Thoma” drive.
It was designed and produced in the Augsburg plant of ZF Friedrichshafe, and was tested on a turret-less Panzer IV Ausf. G chassis that had been badly damaged during combat operations.
Surviving Panzerkampfwagen IV mit Hydrostatischen Antrieb in the US. Note the now sloped engine deck, and the smaller rear drive wheels. (Source:- commons.wikimedia.org)
The Thoma system operates in a similar way to the petrol/electric drive system produced by Porsche for his Tiger I concept vehicle that would later become the Ferdinand/Elefant. This system was a lot safer, however, as it was a petrol/hydraulic system. This gave the benefits of the Porsche system without the fire risk that plagued it so badly.
The Hydrostatic Drive system outside of the vehicle. Photo: – Spielberger Publishing
The Panzer IV chassis underwent heavy modification to be able to mount this new drive system. The engine compartment of the tank was almost completely removed and rebuilt. The drive was placed in the rear of the tank under a large sloping engine deck. Two oil pumps were installed behind, and connected directly to the normal Maybach HL 120 TRM engine. These powered two hydraulic motors. A swash plate drive sent the power through a reduction gear into the newly added rear drive wheels, which replaced the traditional idler wheel.
The new controls added to the Panzer, note the new control “wheel” and the many new dials. Photo: – Spielberger Publishing
Inside the crew compartment, the old drive shafts were removed along with the large gearbox and final drive assembly at the bow end of the vehicle. The traditional steering tillers were replaced with a crescent-like wheel, similar to the one found on Tiger I. Directional movement was achieved by two control cylinders. These cylinders regulated the volume of the oil inside the pump. This governed the amount of power the drive wheels would receive. Two large 780mm adjustable toothed idlers replaced the original Panzer IV drive sprockets.
Later in 1944, the vehicle was tested with a hydraulically powered turret. Unfortunately, more information on this modification is unavailable.
Tanks Encyclopedia’s own rendition of the Panzer IV with Hydrostatic Drive, by Jarosław Janas.
Only one prototype of the vehicle with this drive system was built by the time the Allies were knocking on Germany’s door. In April 1945, the US 3rd Infantry Division was advancing through southern Germany and into Bavaria. They broke into Augsburg on the 27th and had the whole city secured by the 28th. With the city, they captured the Zahnradfabrik plant, and the test vehicle.
The Turretless hull of the Panzer in the Zahnradfabrik plant. Photo: – Spielberger Publishing
After the war, the vehicle was shipped back to the United States, where it was subjected to thorough tests by Vickers Inc. Detroit, Michigan until at least 12th April 1946, when a report stating how the drive worked was drafted:
“The powertrain consisted of two staggered-plate oils pumps that are assembled as a unit and are driven by a 12-cylinder Maybach engine. Oil is pushed by the pumps to two separate oils engines which power the drive wheels of the tracks. The oil engines are attached to the final drive housings. The engine and power aggregate are located in the rear of the vehicle, and the vehicle is moved by rear mounted drive wheels. The volume of the pumps is controlled by the driver, who thereby controls the torque of the various pressure conditions that are created by the steering and stopping of the vehicle. In the same manner, the forward and backward movement of the vehicle is achieved by directing oil flow. Pressurized oil to activate the pumps and engines and for the high-pressure connections was advanced by a geared-wheel pump that was connected to the vehicle’s engine by direct drive.”
Unfortunately, the German test data has been lost to history. The vehicle was left in the open, exposed to the elements, at the U.S Army Ordnance Proving Grounds, Aberdeen in Maryland. In 2015 it was moved to the U.S. Army Center for Military History Storage Facility, Anniston, AL, USA, where it has the officially long-winded designation of “Tank, Medium, Full Track, Experimental Transmission, German Army, Steel, Tan, PzKpfw IV, 75mm Gun, German, 1945, World War II”.
This Pz.Kpfw IV mit hydrostatischen antrieb is now in storage in the U.S. Army Center for Military History Storage Facility, Anniston, AL, USA. (Photo – Masa Narita)
An article by Mark Nash
Panzer IV mit Hydrostatischem Antrieb
5.41 x 2.88 x 2.68 m (17.7×9.4×8.8 ft)
Total weight, battle ready
Rheinmetall 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 40
2-3 MG 34/MG 42 7.92 mm (0.31 in) machine-guns
The Type 4 Ho-Ro (タイプ4ホーロー Taipu 4 hōrō) was a self-propelled gun that saw limited production and service by the Imperial Japanese Army in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
The Japanese Grille
As part of the technology sharing scheme between Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, the Japanese Army delegates were shown many German vehicle designs. These included the Grille series of self-propelled guns.
This is what the Japanese Army Technical Bureau would base the Ho-Ro on. Like the German Grille, the Ho-Ro was based on an already existing tank chassis. The chassis chosen was that of a reinforced Type 97 Chi-Ha. Production of the vehicle would fall to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
The armament of the Ho-Ro was the Type 38 15 cm (5.9 in) howitzer (三八式十五糎榴弾砲 Sanhachi-Shiki Jyūgo-senchi Ryūdanhō), which was also based on a German design by Krupp. The gun had previously been withdrawn from service in 1942 as it was deemed outdated, being a 1905 design.
The surplus guns were brought back into service and mounted on the Ho-Ro. The ammo of choice for the Type 38 gun was the Type 88 APHE (Armor-Piercing High-Explosive) shell. It could also fire HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) if necessary. The gun was capable of firing one of these 36 kg (80 lb) shells at 282 m/s to an effective range of 6,000 m (6, 542 y). Ammunition was stored in a container on the engine deck.
A top-down view of the Ho-Ro
The 15 cm howitzer was mounted behind a 25 mm (0.98 in) gun shield and had a limited traverse arc of 3 degrees left and right. It could elevate 20 and depress 10 degrees. The gun shield was the only real armor on the vehicle. The 6 crew members of the Ho-Ro were completely open to the elements, small arms fire, and shrapnel. The vehicle also had no close-defense machine guns.
The Type 4 Ho-Ro sporting its impressive 15 cm howitzer at the front.
Mitsubishi produced a small number of these self-propelled guns, a meager number of 12. The Imperial Japanese Army rushed these into service during the last months of WWII in the Philippines Campaign. They served in batteries of 4 with the Japanese 14th Area Army.
Remaining units were stationed in Okinawa during the American assault. However, they were grossly outnumbered by the United States’ own artillery units.
One Ho-Ro was captured at Luzon and is preserved at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico. It is the only known Ho-Ro to have survived.
The Surving Ho-Ro at Quantico – Source: PreservedTanks.com
An article by Mark Nash
Type 4 Ho-Ro specifications
5.5 x 2.34 x 2.36 m (18 x 7.6 x 7.7 ft)
Total weight, battle ready
Mitsubishi Type 97 diesel, V12, 170 hp (127 kW)@2000 rpm
Although it had performed well before the outbreak of the Second World War, and during it’s early stages, the Type 95 Ha-Go was showing it’s age by 1942. It simply didn’t stand a chance against the increasingly powerful tanks being fielded by the Americans in the Pacific, and later, the Soviets in Northern Manchuria.
Between 1942 and 1943, attempts had been made to replace it with a new light tank. This resulted in the Type 98 Ke-Ni and Type 2 Ke-To, respectively. However, these projects failed to fully materialize with only 104 Ke-Ni and 34 Ke-Tos built by the end of the war.
Following this, the IJA decided to try again and work started on the Type 5 Ke-Ho (五式軽戦車 ケホ Go-Shiki Keisensha Keho). It was the last light tank designed by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA).
The Ke-To experimented with a slightly better main armament in the form of Type 1 37 mm (1.46 in) gun. This offered a much-needed improvement over the Type 94 37 mm (1.46 in) used on the Ha-Go. Though a step in the right direction, this weapon still was not enough to combat the M4 at any angle. The quest to mount the new Type 1 47mm tank gun on a fast, mobile chassis began in 1942. Up till then, the Ha-Go had performed well against American M3 Light tanks, but began to suffer as more heavily armored tanks began to appear such as the M5 Stuart and the larger M4 medium tank. The Ha-Go’s last successful engagement was against Ameican forces on the Bataan Peninsula in December 1941. A force equipped with M3 Stuart Light tanks.
It was projected that this new light tank would have a 4-man crew. This consisted of the Driver (front right hull), bow gunner (front left hull), the Commander who also acted as loader (right turret) and the gunner (left turret).
The Hull of the Ke-Ho was based on an enlarged Ke-Ni/Ke-To chassis. It utilized a miniaturized bell-crank suspension, based on that of the Chi-Ha/Chi-He with 6 road-wheels per-side, 3 return rollers and a rear mounted idler wheel. The bell-crank suspension consists of bogies mounted on arms, which in turn are connected to a long spring on the side of the hull. The bogies push against each other when passing over terrain, allowing the bogies to actuate. The Ke-Ho was powered by a 150hp Type 100 air-cooled diesel engine. Despite its heavier weight, the Ke-Ho would still be able to travel at a top speed of 50-55 km/h (31 – 34 mph). Like the majority of Second World War Japanese armor, the engine was placed in the rear with the transmission and drive sprockets at the front.
The turret planned for use on the Ke-Ho was based on the original Chi-He design, which in turn was based on the Chi-Ha Shinhoto’s. It had a long, square rear with a rounded turret face. There was a cupola on the right side of the roof with a two-part hatch and vision periscopes for the commander. The tank would be armed with the Type 1 47mm tank gun, as used on the Chi-Ha Shinhoto and initial models of the Chi-He. This gun had a muzzle velocity of 840 m/s (2,723 ft/s) and could penetrate a maximum of 55 mm (2.2 in) at 100 meters (328 feet). It was equipped with both Armor-Piercing High-Explosive (APHE) rounds and High-Explosive (HE) rounds. Although this gun was a huge improvement over the 37mm of the Ha-Go, it was still not enough to combat the front of an M4. It is likely that if the Ke-Ho made it to combat, it would have to exploit the same flanking, close quarters ambushes utilized by Shinhoto Chi-Has. Although the maneuverabiity of the Ke-Ho would of made that task much easier.
Secondary armament consisted of two Type 97 7.7mm machine guns. One of these was located in a ball mount on the front left of the hull, operated by the bow-gunner. The other was located in the right-rear corner of the turret bustle, operated by the loader. Either of these guns could be dismounted and placed atop a mount next to the commander’s cupola.
One of the major shortcomings of the Ha-Go which designers sought to address was the fact that with a maximum of just 12mm (.47 in) thick armor, a .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine gun could effectively knock one out. The Type 98 Ke-Ni and Type 2 Ke-To had somewhat of an armor upgrade, with a maximum of 16mm (.62 in). However, this was still not enough to reliably counter .50 cal rounds. As such the, Ke-Ho would have an even greater increase to armor thickness, being at least 20 to 50 mm (.78 in – 1.9 in) thick, more than enough to stop a .50 caliber round.
A planned variant of the Ke-Ho was the Ku-Se (自走砲 Jisōhō クーセ) self-propelled gun/tank destroyer. It was to be armed with a Short Type 99 75 mm mountain gun, in a similar open case mate to the planned Ho-Ni and Ho-Ro SPGs.
In 1942, a prototype vehicle was built, and the project was canceled soon after. As with most new tank designs the Japanese came up with, it was low on the list of importance. Resources and construction efforts were instead being focused on warships and warplanes. Mass production was approved in 1945 however, but this was of course too late and the one prototype remained the only one built. This also meant that the Ku-Se variant never left the drawing board.
What happened to the prototype is unknown. It was likely taken back to the USA for analysis and later broken down.
Illustration of the Type 5 Ke-Ho based on available drawings. Note the miniature bell-crank suspension and the early Chi-He turret armed with the Type 1 47mm gun. The placement of a jack and pioneer tools on the left rear fender is speculative. However, it is also based on the known placement of such items on other Japanese tanks of the era. This Illustration was produced by Brian Gaydos, funded by our Patreon Campaign.
4.38 meters long
4 (driver, gunner, commander, bow gunner)
150hp Type 100 Air-Cooled Diesel
50 km/h (31 mph)
Type 1 47mm Tank Gun
2x Type 97 7.7 mm machine guns
20 mm – 50 mm (0.78 – 1.9 in)
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #137: Japanese Tanks 1939-1945
Profile Publications Ltd. AFV/Weapons #49: Japanese Medium Tanks, Lt.Gen Tomio Hara.
Profile Publications Ltd. AFV/Weapons #54: Japanese Combat Cars, Light Tanks and Tankettes, Lt.Gen Tomio Hara
Bunrin-Do Co. Ltd, The Koku-Fan, October 1968
The M26 Pershing was deployed rather late onto the battlefields of WWII, with the first 20 landing in the Belgian port of Antwerp in January 1945. These tanks would be the only Pershings to see combat in World War Two, spread between the 3rd and 9th Armored Divisions, part of the First Army. The tanks drew their first blood in late February 1945 in the Roer river sector (not be confused with the Ruhr), with a famous duel taking place in March at Köln (Cologne).
Making a Heavy Heavier, the T26E4
The M26 Pershing was a much-needed boost to the fighting capabilities of the American armored units. The nemesis’ of the “good old” M4 Sherman, the Panthers and Tigers, were no longer untouchable foes. The M26’s powerful 90 mm (3.54 in) gun was a nasty surprise to these dreaded Axis vehicles.
This T26E4 prototype was based on a T26E1 vehicle. The old designation can still be seen on the turret. Here seen at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds – Credits: Photographer unknown
The M26 would, however, still come to struggle against the newer threat of the Tiger II or “King Tigers” dug into the heartlands of Germany. As such, it was decided to up-gun the M26 by installing a more powerful 90 mm cannon, the T15E1. This vehicle was based on the first T26E1 vehicle. After trials at Aberdeen proving grounds, it was approved and redesignated as the T26E4 Pilot Prototype No.1. A single tank was then shipped to Europe and was attached to the 3rd Armored Division.
Another prototype was produced, testing the T15E2 gun, using a T26E3 vehicle as a basis. These two prototypes had two recuperators on top of the gun, in order to help manage the stronger recoil of the gun. The second prototype, with the T15E2 two-piece ammunition gun, was the basis for the T26E4 production vehicles.
In March 1945, a limited procurement of 1000 T26E4s was authorized, replacing the same number of M26 Pershings ordered. However, with the end of the war in Europe, the number of T26E4s ordered was reduced to 25. These were manufactured at the Fisher Tank Arsenal. Tests at Aberdeen Proving Ground ran through January 1947. The project was later canceled, with some vehicles going on to be used as target practice. The M26 would, of course, go onto to be upgraded numerous times up to its replacement by the M48 Patton.
The standard T26E4, as it was produced – Credits: Photographer unknown
90mm Tank Gun T15E1
The T15E1 Tank Gun was designed to be America’s answer to the deadly 88 mm (3.46 in) KwK 43 wielded by Tiger II. In January 1945, this gun was mounted on a T26E1, causing the vehicle to be redesignated as the T26E4 Pilot Prototype No.1.
The T15E1 gun was 73 calibers in length, almost twice the length of the 90 mm (3.54 in) M3 Gun of the standard Pershing. The breach was also longer, with a much higher capacity chamber. Elevation ranged from -10 to +20 degrees.
This gave it a muzzle velocity of 3,750 ft/s (1,140 m/s) with the T30E16 APCR (Armor-Piercing Composite Rigid) shot and could penetrate the Panther’s frontal armor at up to 2,600 yds (2,400 m). In testing, this cannon was apparently able to put a shell into a Jagpanzer IV, which went straight through the vehicle and impacted the ground behind it.
This model used a 50 inch (1,300 mm) long single-piece shell. This was a very long shell and the tests made at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds showed that it was difficult to handle the shell inside the T26E4’s turret which, as in any tank, was quite cramped. Furthermore, storing the shells was also a problem.
The second E4 prototype was equipped with the E2 variation of the same gun, the major difference being that it used separately loading (shell, followed by charge) 2-piece ammunition. The T15E2 was the gun used on the 25 “serial” T26E4s.
A number of problems arose with the two piece ammunition. As such, and with the appearance of better designed one-piece ammunition, this version of the gun was discontinued after the war.
The weight of this larger cannons necessitated better stabilization. However, for the first two prototypes, this couldn’t be achieved internally. This resulted in the addition of large stabilizing springs to the top of the mantlet for the two prototypes. In some of the photos, these can be seen without their casing.
For the 25 serial produced T26E4s, an internal hydropneumatic equilibrator was installed inside the turret and the external springs were deleted. The first two prototypes were the only ones to have this feature.
Escapades of a Chop-Shop Tank
Logistical oversights hindered the deployment of this single tank. When it arrived at the 3rd Armored, it was missing the M71E4 telescopic gunsight designed by Slim Price for use with high-velocity guns. As such, an M71C sight, designed for the standard 90 mm gun M3, was fitted. During a second incident, a week prior, the special 50-inch shells were mistakenly shipped to the 635th Tank Destroyer Battalion. This only came to the attention of the 3rd Armored when a commander from the 635th enquired as to why the shells they had been supplied were many inches too long for their guns.
Major Harrington, Chief of Tank Repair Service to the 3rd Armored Division, did not want to lose the vehicles in their first deployment, and as such approached lieutenant Belton Cooper, who would later go on to publish the book ‘Death Traps’, to look into the possible up-armoring of the vehicles. The M26 Pershing was designed to fight the heaviest armor the Germans fielded, be it Tiger or Panther. The M26 did suffer from a very weak mantlet, however, with an 88 mm shell from a Tiger I’s KwK 36 able to go straight through. It would be even less of a match for the Tiger II’s KwK 43.
The uparmored Super Pershing in Germany, with the improvised additional armor – Credits: Photographer unknown
As such, Lt. Cooper chose a crude, but effective method of up-armoring the tank. Engineers salvaged an 80 mm (3.15 in) CHF (Cemented Hard Face) frontal plate from a destroyed Panther and welded it straight on to the mantlet. Holes were cut on the left and right of the gun so the gun sight and coaxial .30 cal machine gun could still be used. Additional, overlapping plates were also welded to the forward hull of the tank, creating a crude spaced armor. Later on, more armor, in the form of “ears”, was also attached to the mantlet plate. A large counterweight was also added to the rear of the turret bustle.
Individual torsion arms with bumper springs and shock absorbers
160 km (100 mi)
T15E1 or T15E2 90 mm tank gun (2.95 in)
Browning .50 cal M2HB (12.7 mm)
2xBrowning .30 cal (7.62 mm) MGs
Glacis front 100 mm (3.94 in), sides 75 mm (2.95 in), turret 76 mm (3 in)
25 standard tanks, 2 converted
The T26E4 Pilot Prototype No.1 “Super Pershing”, without the “ears” – Illustration by David Bocquelet.
A One Hit Wonder
This veritable Frankenstein of a tank was only recorded to have been in action twice. The first action took place between Weser and Nordheim where it destroyed an unidentified armored target.
The second action comes with slightly more detail. In the city of Dessau, on April 21, 1945, as the 3rd Armored Division advanced, the tank was engaged by what was widely believed to be a Tiger II. The enemy tank fired one shell at the Super Pershing which ricocheted. The Pershing returned fire, penetrating the lower plate of the Panzer, causing the ammunition to explode and the turret to fly off. This story was told by Gunner Cpl. J. Erwin, and has been scrutinized over the years as to its authenticity.
For one, the nearest Tiger II equipped unit was the SS 502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion and was 70 miles from Dessau. Second, as many larger German tanks were mistakenly named Tigers by the Allies, it is highly likely that it wasn’t a Tiger at all, some reports stating that was merely a Panzer IV.
Regardless of the accuracy of the report of this action, it was the tank’s only. After the war, the vehicle ended up in the Tank Dump at Kassel in Germany. It was photographed there in June 1945
Confusion about designations
There is some confusion about the designation of the first prototype that was also sent to Europe.
Hunnicutt, in his book, states that, after being upgunned, the vehicle received the designation T26E4, temporary pilot No.1. This is almost assuredly the correct designation for the vehicle that was sent to Europe.
The T26E1-1 denomination is probably the most common mislabel. It comes from the fact that the earliest images of the first prototype show it having “T26E1-1” written on the side of the turret. The vehicle was, indeed, the first T26E1 prototype, which is where the writing on the turret originated. The writing was not modified when the vehicle received the new gun. T26E1-1 is not the designation of a new type of vehicle, but how the first T26E1 prototype was labeled. Below, the T26E1-1 vehicle can be seen before receiving the T15E1 gun.
The T26E1-1 vehicle on a tank transporting trailer. This is a photo of the vehicle before it was modified to take the T15E1 gun. It is a normal T26E1 in this image. The T26E1-1 label can be clearly seen on the side of the turret.
There are no known instances where a US tank type received such a designation with a hyphen (“-“). This was a way to designate individual vehicles, as in the 1st built vehicle of the T26E1 type.
What is unclear is why the T26E1-1 label was not removed from the turret when the changes were done or if the redesignation to T26E4, temporary pilot No.1 was made after the photos were taken.
Another denomination that is often presented is T26E4-1. This can be taken to mean T26E4, temporary pilot No.1. However, this vehicle was not a regular T26E4, but a temporary pilot. Furthermore, there is no evidence of this designation being used historically or officially.
The last and worst offender on the list is the M26A1E2 designation. This denomination makes no sense whatsoever. The M26A1 was a version of the M26 with an M3A1 gun. The M26E1 was an M26 with a T54 gun. The M26E2 was an M26 with a better power pack (which lead to the M46). There is no proof of the M26A1E2 designation ever being used historically or officially.
The Super Pershing in its final resting place at the tank dump in Kassel. Note the addition armored “ears” – Photo: Pershing: A History of the Medium Tank T20 Series
A close up of the frontal spaced armor plates of the tank at Kassel – Photo: Pershing: A History of the Medium Tank T20 Series
In this shot of the tank at Kassel, the counter-weight added to the rear of the turret can be seen – Photo: Pershing: A History of the Medium Tank T20 Series
This turret had been associated with the planned Panther II. For a while it was thought to have been designed solely for it. The new turret was actually developed independently and was considered as an upgrade for both the ageing Panzer IV which was in its Ausf. J model at the time, and the Ausf. F of the fearsome Panther.
The Schmalturm (English: ‘narrow turret’) takes its root from the armaments manufacturer Rheinmetall. After their attempt failed somewhat, the project moved to Daimler-Benz in February 1944. This is where the name “Schmalturm” was born.
It followed specific design requirements, these were:
– Elimination of the shot trap under the mantlet
– An increase of protection while keeping the weight of the turret as low as possible.
– A decrease in the overall size of the turret, while still leaving the crew room to work efficiently.
– Addition of a stereoscopic rangefinder (The lack of this was one of the reasons Rheinmetall’s wasn’t approved).
– The replacement of the MG34 machine gun with the newer MG42. Make it easy for conversion into a command tank version (Befehlpanzerausführung).
– Make it compatible with possible IR device installation.
– It should Keep the standard Panther turret ring diameter (1650mm).
– Finally, Make the whole thing easier, faster and cheaper to produce.
Daimler-Benz’s prototype of the Turret, off-tank. (Photo – Achtungpanzer.com)
The turret granted increased armor protection in the shape of a 150mm conical mantlet leading to the 120mm front plate. The turret sides were 80mm thick outwardly angled to increase the effective protection. Despite the increased armor and narrower shape of the turm, the internal volume of the structure remained the same.
The KwK 44/1 in a special mount used for firing tests. Source:- https://www.oocities.org/
The Schmalturm turret was designed to carry a derivative of the deadly 7.5cm Kw.K.42 L/70 tank gun. In order to accommodate this powerful cannon, modifications had to be made to the recoil system. Škoda of Pilsen, Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (English: ‘Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia’) (German-occupied Czechoslovakia) with assistance from Krupp managed to create a new version of the canon with a more compact recoil system mounted on top of the gun. This was designated as the 7.5cm Kw.K.44/1 L/70. This allowed the gun to have +20/-8 elevation/depression. The usual muzzle brake was also removed from the barrel.
Panzers Considered for Upgrades
Panther Ausf. G and F
The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf. G of the Panther were the test beds for the ‘Versuchs-Schmalturm’ (English: ‘experimental narrow turret’). The production version was to be named Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F and include several other changes. The tank needed little in the way of modification to accommodate the new turret. Several Ausf. Fs hulls and turrets were under construction near the end of the Second World War and at least one Panther Ausf. F hull mounting an Ausf G turret was known to be completed and see service defending Berlin in 1945.
Panzerkampfwagen Panther with 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71
A diagram of the possible inclusion of the 88mm cannon, note just how little space is left in the turret. (Source – ftr-wot.blogspot.co.uk)
A further planned development of the turret, designed by Krupp in 1944, was the inclusion of the 88mm L/71 cannon, thus creating the Panzerkampfwagen Panther with 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71. The project was later taken over by Daimler-Benz in early 1945.
In Krupp’s design, in order to mount this larger gun, the trunnions of 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 the was moved forward and protected by a bulbous housing, in front of which was the conical mantlet. Additionally, the trunnions on the 8,8cm Kw.K.43 L/71´s gun carriage were moved 350mm rearwards or the gun itself was moved 350mm forwards depending on how it is interpreted. This upgrade, however, would have necessitated the enlargement of the turret ring by 10cm.
Panzer IV mit Schmalturm
It is very unlikely that this mating would’ve been a success. The already overloaded Panzer IV Ausf. J chassis would have never been able to carry the added 7,5tons of the turm. The vehicle was already at its limit with 80mm frontal armour and 7,5cm L/48 main-gun, a weight which caused bending frontal springs and forced an enormous tension on the final drives. Also, the Ausf. J had no electrical turret traverse and used a simple mechanic turret traverse with a gearing for the gunner.
Early in September 1943 another concept was penned. Wa. Pref. 6 asked Krupp if it would be possible to squeeze the Panthers 7,5cm L/70 in the standard Panzer-IV turret. Krupp’s reply was as simple as “No”. Another order from April 12th 1944 demanded to equip a modernised Panzer-IV chassis with 7,5cm KwK-42 in a modernized turret, but this turret had only 50/30mm of armour and had a weight of 4,5tons.
The Panzer IV mit Schmalturm would’ve been the final and most powerful form of the Panzer IV model of tank, which at the time of the turret’s development was starting to be phased out.
Armed with the L/70 canon, this would have definitely been the case, and it would have improved its chances against tanks such as the T-34/85 and late-war 76mm cannon armed M4s.
Tank Encyclopedia’s own rendition of a Panther Ausf. G mounting the Schmalturm turret.
First Versuchs-Schmalturm on a Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf. G chassis. Note the muzzle brake still on the gun. (Photo – Panzer Tracts)
The same early test bed as above seen from the side. (Photo – Panzer Tracts)
A second iteration of the Versuchs-Schmalturm mounted of a Pantherkampfwagen Panther Ausf. G chassis. (Photo – Panzer Tracts)
Bovington’s surviving Schmalturm, displaying the damage sustained in live-fire tests. (Photo – Author’s Photo)
Rheinmetall’s schmale Blende
A diagram of Rheinmetall’s schmale Blende. Source:- www.oocities.org
Rheinmetall had been tasked with designing the Panther II turret. This new turret was named ‘Turm Panther 2 (schmale Blendenausführung)’ (English: ‘Turret Panther 2 (narrow mantlet variant)’). The cancellation of the Panther 2 project came in May 1943, but Rheinmetall continued their work, with their turret now destined for the original Panther.
Rheinmetall’s progress was sluggish, as 1 year later, they had not yet progressed beyond the drawing stages as evidenced by drawing H-Sk 88517 “Turm – Panther (schmale Blende)” (English: ‘Turret-Panther (narrow mantlet)’).
New requirements were drawn up for a new iteration of the regular Rheinmetall-designed Pantherkampfwagen V Panther turret. An Entfernungsmesser (English: ‘rangefinder’) was to be incorporated into the turret and the gunner’s sight was to be changed to a periscope in the roof. Rheinmetall’s design incorporated the Entfernungsmesser in the turret, but this created a huge hump in the turret roof.
It appears this design, combined with the long time already used with no practical results, prompted Wa. Prüf. 6 to move responsibility for designing a new turret from Rheinmetall to Daimler Benz. It seems about nothing from the Rheinmetall’s Turm – Panther (schmale Blende) design was used by Daimler Benz for their Schmalturm design. By 20 August 1944, the first Versuchs-Schmalturm was mounted on a Panther Ausf. G chassis.
A number of prototype turrets had been produced and tested on and off the Panther Ausf. G. However not a single Panzer IV would ever feel the power of this new armament, even though there were copious amounts Panzer IV hulls, no Schmalturm ever touched its turret ring. None of these projects left the prototype phase, and both the Pz. IV mit Schmalturm and Panther with 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 never progressed further than pencil lines on paper.
Two of the production turrets were retrieved after the war by the Allies. The Americans took one while the British took the other and used it for ballistic tests. The remains of this turret can be found in the Bovington Tank Museum.
An article by Mark Nash
Links & Resources
Panzer-IV und seine Varianten (Panzer Iv and its variants) Spielberger and Doyle
Panzer Tracts issue No.5-4, Panzerkampfwagen Panther II and Panther Ausfuehrung F
Panzer Tracts issue No.20-1, Paper Panzers The Author would like to thank Marcus Hock and Herbert Ackermans for additional information.
In the past year, Wargaming’s mobile version of its flagship game, ‘World of Tanks: Blitz’ has been no stranger to some less than authentic tanks. The first of this type of vehicle was actually something rather unique and original. During Halloween 2015, after completing a series of special in game missions the players could unlock the Tankenstein heavy tank. A tier VII heavy tank with premium benefits.
The World of Tanks developers came up with a made up story about the tank’s origins; in the German-esque town of Middleburg, a Doctor Tankenstein drew up plans to create a monstrous, fire breathing weapon of unequaled strength and power. Gathering parts from some of the most powerful of histories tanks, he created Tankenstein.
It draws inspiration from Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein”. The name of the vehicle is also derived from that of the famous book. However, a common mistake is perpetuated, as the Frankenstein name refers to the doctor who created the ‘monster’, and not the ‘monster’ himself.
The Tankenstein as it appears in the game. Source:- worldoftanks.eu
The vehicle itself is mostly an amalgamation of three vehicles. The hull is that of the Porsche’s concept for the Tiger I competition, the turret comes from one of the KV-4 variants (possibly from V. Dukhov’s design). The main armament isn’t fixed, the players being able to chose between the 105 mm T5E1 from the American T29 Heavy Tank concept or the 130mm B-13-S2 from the Soviet SU-100Y SPG prototype.
Mounting the 105mm gives the tank increased frontal turret armor as the T29’s thick mantlet is also added. The 130 mm gun is more powerful inside the game, but it lacks the above-mentioned mantlet, which lowers the vehicle’s frontal turret armor
The vehicle is adorned with abnormal features, including ventilation piping on the right of the turret, two large sickels in place of pioneering tools on the right of the hull, metal “Stitches”, a Vickers machine gun in a ball mount on the left side of the turret, spiked rivets, spiked drive and idler wheels (front left is broken), somewhat flimsy Schürzen looking side skirts cover the road wheels, and a large hot-rod style exhaust at the left rear, which emits flames when the engine is running.
More Fictional Vehicles
A collection of some of the Fake tanks in ‘World of Tanks: Blitz’. Source:- Wargaming/Mark Nash
The Fictional tanks keep coming in Blitz. The most recent being the IS-3 ‘Defender’, and electrically powered, 3-shot Autoloader IS-3 (also designed by “Dr Tankenstein”) . The ‘Angry Connor’, an Irish version of the Archer 17-pdr, complete with large whiskey barrel.
Along with these, came the Panzer IV Anko Special and Tiger I Kuro Mori Mine tanks from the Girls und Panzer anime series. More of such vehicles were recently added to the game, in the shape of two vehicles from the Valkyria Chronicles video game series, these are the Edelweiss and Nameless Tank.
T6 Dracula and Helsing HO promotional art. Source:-Wargaming.net
The Halloween tradition continues in 2016. This tme featuring 2 vehicles achieved in the same way as Tankenstein. This time the tanks are based of the legend of Dracula and Van Helsing, in the form of 2 unique Tier VII tanks. The T6 Dracula is a Modified AMX CDC with cape like accents, and a black paint job. The Helsing HO is a turreted Tank Destroyer featuring a Double-Barreled main gun.
Each tank has it’s own unique ammo. The Dracula has Claw (AP), Fang (APCR) and Swarm (HE). The Helsing has Stake (AP) and Belt (APCR).
Wargaming’s official launch poster for the Tank. Source:- worldoftanks.eu
Real life Tankensteins
While the Tankenstein is purely fictional and exaggerated in its construction, such ‘Cut-and-shunt’ tanks do exist in the real world. Sweden, Indonesia and most notably some middle-eastern countries have all had experimental or serving tanks of this type in their respective militaries. While there are many in existence, too many to list here, as such a select few are described below.
Infanterie PzKpfw MK II 748(e) “Oswald”
This vehicle was a mating of a captured British Matilda Mk. II with a 5cm KwK 38 gun. The turret was removed and replaced with the 5cm and its gun shield. “Oswald”, as it became known, was used as a training vehicle in the Wehrmacht.
Full article on the “Oswald” can be found HERE.
This tank was a mating of an AMX-13 turret, mounting the 75mm SA50 and the hull of a M4A4 Sherman. The vehicle was powered by the diesel engine of the M4A2. Only around 50 of these vehicles were produced. A number saw military service, taking part in action in the Sinai desert during the Six Day War of 1967. T-100 (T-34/100)
Another modification from Egypt, this was a T-34/85 fitted with a 100 mm BS-3 anti-tank gun in a specially modified turret. The extra weight at the front of the vehicle some what affects it’s stability and makes it nose heavy. A number of these vehicles fought in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. T-122 (T-34/122)
This is another Egyptian modified T-34. The turret has been modified in much the same way as the T-100, and the D-30 122mm howitzer has been mounted.
Republic of China/Taiwan
The Type 64 (TL64, Chinese: 六四式), was a light tank built by mating the American M42 Duster hull with the turret of the M18 Hellcat. It mounted a 76 mm rifled gun. Its development started in Minguo 64 (1975), hence the name Type 64. Just over 50 of the vehicles were produced, the last tank rolling off the assembly line in 1979.
Odessa Tank / Na Ispug
At the Siege of Odessa, 1941, the Soviet defenders came up with a plan to turn militarized tractors (namely the STZ-5) into tanks. By using naval steel borrowed from the local naval base, salvaged (and improvised) turrets, and a variety of weapons (usually machine guns), locals began producing these improvised tanks. 55-70 were made between August 20th and October 16th. These tractor tanks were able to fend off the might of the Romanian army until it was decided by the Soviets to evacuate the city.
Full article on the Odessa Tank can be found HERE.
Second Spanish Republic
Hispano Suiza MC-36 con torreta de T-26
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), many vehicles were captured by the opposing side and reused. One such vehicle was a large pre-Civil War armored car designed for the police, which was flung into the furnace in the early stages of the war on the side of the Republicans. At some point, likely 1937, a Nationalist captured MC-36 was given a T-26 turret in place of its more humble Hotchkiss machine gun-armed dome turret. It served as the command vehicle for “Agrupacion de Carros del Sur“.
Full article on the Hispano Suiza MC-36 can be found HERE.
STRV M/42-57 Alt. A.2.
In an effort to up-gun their already vastly outdated Stridsvagn m/42, a meeting was held on February 15th 1952 on possible improvements. One design was to mount the French AMX-13 turret and gun on to the M/42’s hull. This idea never saw production, but the M/42 did later receive an upgraded turret and was redesignated Strv 74.
United States of America
T26E4 “Super Pershing”
This was an up-gunned M26 Pershing with salvaged Panther tank armor fixed to the bow and mantlet. Two large external recoil springs were also added to deal with the increased recoil force of the larger gun. 1 vehicle served in West Germany, early 1945.
Full article on the Super Pershing can be found HERE.
An article by Mark Nash
550hp Stein Type 1
35 km/h (26/14 km/h)
105mm T5E1 or 130 mm B-13-S2
1x Vickers MG, 1x MG-34.
200/80/80mm on the hull, 150/120/80mm on the turret
Nazi Germany (1942) Heavy Reconnaissance Tank – 22 built
The Panzer II bore many variants over its service life, from the Ausf. A, to the subject of this article, the J. The Panzerkampfwagen II Ausführung J. was a heavy reconnaissance tank, and compared to its bretheren, was far better protected.
Being a ‘Heavy Reconnaissance Tank’, the J performed a similar role to a light tank. This panzer was far from light, however, completely disregarding the usual morphology of this type of vehicle. It was slow, heavy and extremely well armored. The only similarity the vehicle bore to the other Panzer IIs was its name. It was not, in any way, an offensive weapon. If it got in trouble, the armor would have protected it while it withdrew, and its cannon would have been used to try and suppress the enemy in the meantime.
Panzer I Ausf. F
3 Panzer I Fs in the field. Source:- flamesofwar.com
The Panzer II J followed the same path as the heavy variant of the Panzer I, the Ausführung F. The 2 vehicles were very similar. The Panzer I Ausf.F had a single vision port for the driver and was armed with 2 MG 34s in a cylindrical turret. Only a small number of the vehicles were produced, however a few did serve at Kursk.
The Panzer II J began life as the VK 16.01 (VK: Vollketten – fully tracked, 16: Tracked vehicle weighing 16 tonnes. 01: First prototype) on November 15 1939. The prototype was approved in 1940 and the contract for production was given to MAN. There was some delay after however, and the vehicle didn’t go into production until 1943. Even so, the production run was quite limited.
The II J was an extremely tough nut to crack. The vehicle had 80 mm (3.15 in) of frontal armor and 50 mm (1.97 in) on the sides with similar values for the turret as well. This led to German crews, and the Russians that fought it, nicknaming it the “Baby Tiger”.
The II J’s teeth were not quite as sharp as the Tiger however, as the tank kept the same Rheinmetall 2 cm KwK auto-cannon that was standard issue for regular Panzer IIs. It also had a coaxial MG 34. The 2 cm (0.79 in) auto-cannon was a considerable improvement over the Panzer I Ausf.F’s dual MGs. The weapon was more than deadly to large groups of infantry and lightly armored vehicles. However, it would really struggle against most tanks of the era. Though as its main role was reconnaissance, this wasn’t too much of an issue.
The vehicle had a crew of 3. The driver was placed in the forward left part of the hull, next to which was the radio operator. Each position had a direct vision port in an armored housing, as found on the Tiger. The ports could be fully closed to increase protection, at the cost of vision. There were also vision ports on the flanks of the vehicle. The commander was alone in the turret and operated the 2 cm (0.79 in) cannon. The radio operator would also double as loader if required. The commander was able to ingress and exit the vehicle through a slightly raised cupola. The cupola lacked vision ports, so in order to survey the battlefield, he would have to expose himself. The crew accessed the vehicle via large round hatches in either side of the tank.
The tank was powered by a 150 hp Maybach HL45 engine, propelling the vehicle along at a steady 31 km/h (19 mph). All 18 tons of the tank were supported on overlapped road-wheels designed by E.Kniepkamp, a designer best known for his work on half-tracks.
Panzer II Ausf. J, unknown unit, Kursk, July 1943. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.
Panzer 31 of 221 Panzer Div. Source: panzerserra.blogspot.com
The Panzer II Ausf. J was a short-lived variant. The original order of 100 vehicles was canceled on the 1st of July 1942 due to construction efforts being focused on newer Panzer models. As such, only 22 of the vehicles were produced in total. In 1943, seven of the tanks were issued to the 12th Panzer Regiment, operating on the Russian Front.
These vehicles saw combat at the battle of Kursk along with its Panzer I F cousin. The Panzer II Ausf.J’s armor would have probably proven to be a quite nasty surprise to the Soviet defenders. However, it is important to note that this armor was only meant to allow the vehicle to get out of sticky situations, and not to actually assault enemy positions. It’s 2 cm (0.79 in) autocannon, while adequate for the reconnaissance role, would have been totally useless against most enemy armored opposition.
In 1944, a damaged IIJ was converted into a recovery vehicle, this being named the Bergepanzer II Ausf. J. The changes consisted in the removal of the turret and the introduction of a small crane. Later on, in 1944/45, the same vehicle served with Panzer Werkstatt Kompanie (Tank Repair Company) of the 116th Panzer Division.
No Panzer II Ausf.Js have survived to this day. One Panzer I F survives however, in the Belgrade Military Museum, Serbia.
An article by Mark Nash
A fully loaded and camoflaged II J fording a small Stream
2 crew members stand beside their vehicle. The cammo pattern can also be seen.