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WW2 French Other Vehicles

Lorraine 37L (Tracteur de Ravitaillement pour Chars 1937 L)

ww2 French tanksFrance (1936-1945)
Artillery & Supply Tractor – circa 630 built

The French Armored Tank supplier

The Renault UE was the most produced tracked armored vehicle in the French Army before WW2. Its main job was to transport supplies to infantry units on the front line. In April 1936, by which time the UE had already been in production for two years, the Chief of Staff, General Maurice Gamelin, issued specifications for another larger tractor. This bigger tractor, which would become the Lorraine 37L, was designed to serve the same purposes, the supplying of ammunition, gasoline and water, but for the armored units.

The philosophy behind such vehicles was that large armored formations, without infantry or with very limited specialized troops, would be used to penetrate through the enemy’s defensive lines. The breakthrough would be exploited by armored cavalry, while the armor would dig into position to repel enemy counter-attacks while waiting for the infantry to catch up. This was the point at which the Lorraine 37L armored tractor would come in most handy, as it could bring fuel, ammunition, spare parts, food and other much needed supplies to the rapidly-changing front lines and keep pace with the armor.

Production started in January 1939, less than a year before the official commencement of hostilities, but was never completed on the intended orders. While the vehicle was found to be reliable and sturdy despite its lightness, there were not enough Lorraine 37Ls issued to the units and this partly contributed to the poor supply situation of the French Army during the Battle of France. However, many were captured by the Germans and put into service, some being converted into self-propelled artillery guns or tank destroyers. Some would also be produced clandestinely in Vichy France and put into use for the liberation of the country.

Lorraine 37L tractor towing a tracked fuel trailer in muddy conditions. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Development of the Lorraine 37L

The French Army used the Renault UE to supply troops, as well as to tow mortars and small artillery pieces. However, it was not suitable for working with tanks, as both its operational range and its armor were poor. At first, in 1934, the Army entrusted Renault with the design of a larger tracked vehicle for this purpose. This vehicle, the Renault 36R, was initially considered satisfactory and 300 vehicles were ordered. Despite these orders, it was realized that the lack of armor was a problem when operating alongside tanks on the front line.

Therefore, on 17th April 1936, the Chief of Staff ordered the development of a new fully armored tractor explicitly meant to supply tanks on the move and on the frontline. In early 1937, the first prototype by Lorraine-Dietrich was ready to be shown to the Commission de Vincennes (the experimental automotive commission of the French Army). This was a lengthened version of a 1931 vehicle that had competed against the Renault UE. In February 1937, the Commission was supposed to take delivery of the prototype in order to start a long campaign of trials and evaluations, with a decision regarding the vehicle to be taken in November 1937. However, the prototype was still not ready, being plagued by teething problems, and the presentation was delayed until July 1937, thus postponing the decision.

The first trials started on July 9th and lasted until August 4th 1937. However, this first version appears to have been woefully underpowered. While the vehicle was capable of reaching 30 km/h on hard flat ground, the speed fell to 22.8 km/h when towing the petrol tank trailer, and was further reduced in muddy conditions. As a result, the commission rejected the prototype, finding it unacceptable. Lorraine retrieved the vehicle, which was driven back to the factory. After modifications of the engine compartment and exhaust, the new Delahaye type 135 six-cylinder inline petrol engine giving out 70 hp was chosen to power the tractor. This was one of the most powerful car engines available in France at that time, outside of those from Bugatti. The Delahaye 135 luxury and sports cars, which used the same engine, were finding success on the race tracks of the time.

However, the engine was not military-grade and had to be modified for these new requirements. This mostly included a modified, sturdier transmission. The first factory trials were successful and the vehicle was taken back to the Vincennes proving grounds. New official trials took place between 22nd September and 29th October 1937, where the vehicle was able to reach 35 km/h, which was found to be acceptable by the commission. After a few revisions, the commission granted the vehicle a greenlight for ordering in November or December 1937. The excellent suspension system was most appreciated as noted by the commission.

Details of the 37L design

A light, stretched-out hull

The 37L was derived from a much shorter model designed as a competitor to the Renault UE. Therefore, Lorraine lengthened the chassis to 4.22 m long while adding another suspension bogey, up to a total of three per side instead of two. The width remained the same at 1.57 m which was advantageous on narrow roads and paths and also allowed the Lorraine 37L to be carried on a standard railway carriage. However, it left little space for cargo capacity. Since the driver and co-driver were seated quite low, the vehicle was only 1.22 m high without anything sticking above, and was easy to conceal and difficult to spot.

The narrow, low hull was lightly armored, only offering limited protection even in the frontal arc. It had 12 mm (0.5 in) of armor on the cast nose, 9 mm on the sides, and only 6 mm for the top and bottom of the main hull. The armor was made of riveted plates. Therefore, the empty weight was only 5.24 tonnes, rising to 6 tonnes when battle-ready, while the trailer weighed another 1.9 tonnes.

Outstanding Suspension

Despite this, the vehicle was able to carry a 5-tonne load without stressing the chassis. This was due to the addition of leaf springs above each bogie. This was quite efficient at spreading the load and offering a relatively smooth ride. However, it did not allow for high speeds with 35 km/h being its maximum. This was enough to keep up with almost all medium, heavy, and light tanks in the French arsenal except for the reconnaissance cavalry light tanks and the Somua S35. However, the 37L was supposed to catch up with them after they stopped for resupply, as well as travel with them as part of the unit. The great advantage of this suspension system was its ruggedness and simplicity. This contrasted with the delicate and complex, sometimes fragile suspension systems encountered on some French tanks at the time, such as the Char B1.

The bogies were relatively big, supporting two pairs of large road wheels, and despite the narrow tracks (22 cm), the vehicle still operated well on muddy ground and in snow. Each bogie could move along the vertical axis, connected to an inverted set of leaf springs just under the upper track. Four return rollers supported the track on each side. The drive sprockets were at the front, with the transmission housed in the cast nose, the strongest part of the hull. The two crew members were seated at the front, separated by the gear lever. The driver was on the left, with the commander on the right. Two large access hatches in the front of the vehicle allowed the crew to access their stations. The smaller, more vertical one was also used to allow unimpaired vision when no danger was present, being dropped down in combat areas.

Powerful Engine but Limited Range

The engine compartment was located in the center, behind the crew compartment. Above it, there were air intake grilles and a fireproof bulkhead separated it from the crew. Near the exhaust, a silencer was placed on the left under the shielded hood. Inside was the 3,556 cm3 6 cylinder in-line Delahaye type 135 engine which developed 70 hp at 2,800 rpm. When this engine was fitted to the Delahaye sports cars, the vehicles were capable of reaching a blistering 100 km/h, whereas the 37L tractor could only manage 35 km/h on flat ground. During trials, the vehicle was shown able to ford to a depth of 60 cm, cross a 1.30 m wide trench, and climb up a 50% slope. The engine was fed by a single gravity-fed fuel tank that could hold 144 liters of fuel. This gave a theoretical maximum range of 137 km, but far less on rough terrain, higher speeds, or with a heavy load. This range was rather limited for modern warfare, but the Lorraine was not supposed to dash on its own, but rather to maintain a link between rear area supply depots and the front line units. It was just the end of the supply chain, but this limited range would have played a limiting role during a French offensive.

Trailer

The Lorraine 37L was delivered with a tracked trailer using a pair of road wheels on each side. It was of the same type as that of the Renault UE and allowed the storage of 810 kg of ammunition in the bin or a 565-liter fuel tank. The fully laden weight of the trailer would then rise to 1,890 kg and, added to the vehicle, the whole thing reached 7.9 tonnes and 6.9 m in length. The trailer, in addition to the utility bin, oil, grease, water canisters, also contained tools for tank maintenance. If the 565-liter fuel tank was present, a Vulcano fuel pump was used to quickly transfer the contents of the fuel tank to the vehicles to be resupplied.

Production 1939-1940

Despite the first order being issued in late 1937, production really started in January 1939, over a year later. Contracts had been given to Lorraine for 78 of the new Tracteur de Ravitaillement pour Chars 1937 L (TRC 37L), then another two separate contracts for another 100 vehicles each for a total of 278. In 1939, another order for 100 vehicles came through, followed by yet another for 78 (meaning a total of 456 vehicles). Shortly thereafter, another order was issued for 100 ‘short’ Lorraine tractors, as an alternative to the Renault UE. The vehicle was called a ‘chenillette’ (tankette), as it barely approached 4.8 tonnes empty.

Setting up the production lines at Lorraine-Dietrich took time, with numerous delays, along with some disorganization in the networks of the parts suppliers and social troubles. The first vehicles emerged from the factory lines in January 1939. By the time war was declared nine months later, just 212 had been delivered to the Army. With the war and the creation of new semi-autonomous armored units, the head of staff decided that a total of 1,012 vehicles would be needed to cover the needs of the army. The theoretical production goal, as set by the general staff, was an optimistic 50 vehicles per month. It was also decided that, since the Lorraine factory at Lunéville was perilously close to the German border, a second, less exposed one would be built at Bagnères de Bigorre, in South-West France.

Fearing delays in deliveries even before the war, the FOUGA factory in Béziers, Southern France was contracted to help with the orders. Once more, tooling took time and the factory received a 20-30 vehicle monthly target. These figures were never achieved and, in January 1940, total monthly deliveries amounted to only 20, reaching 32 in later months. By the time the western campaign started on 26th May 1940, only 432 vehicles had been delivered in total, reaching 480 by June. The Vichy regime would eventually take over the production of more vehicles from the FOUGA factory, under the cover of building civilian agricultural and utility tractors.

Tactical deployment

When the 37L arrived at frontline units in 1939, tactical thinking was just undergoing a full reset. In the 1930s, French armored doctrine revolved around deep protection “belts” meant to counter and defeat enemy infiltrations. The only aspect in which armor was instrumental was part of the larger ‘operational art’ school, the in-depth breakthrough, with the goal of breaking the enemy lines and being later reinforced by the slower infantry. Other aspects requiring greater mobility, like envelopment tactics, were completely set aside. At the end of the 1930s, combined tactics were in vogue. However, most officers did not entertain the idea of large armored units (with organic artillery, reconnaissance and infantry), as it would require an expanded skilled and professional core to a largely conscript army. Politics also prevented this move and the army was stuck with a large conscription structure unfit for these large armored units.

It was agreed that concentrations of armor, without infantry or with very limited specialized troops, would be used as a “masse de manoeuvre” (maneuver mass) capable of piercing enemy defensive positions. This breakthrough would be exploited by armored cavalry, while the tanks would dig into position to repel enemy counter-attacks while waiting for the infantry to catch up. This was the point at which the Lorraine 37L and Renault UE would come in most handy, as they could bring supplies and reinforcements to the rapidly moving frontline positions. APCs, such as the 38L and modified APC versions of the UE, were developed with this prospect in mind. Trucks were too vulnerable for the task since the flanks of the open corridor would not be protected against enemy artillery.

Lorraine VBCP 39L with an enlarged platform and raised forward deck, tested without a roof in June 1939. Source: Armorama

Therefore, the Lorraine 37L vehicles were organically integrated into the bataillons de chars de combat (BCCs). Thirteen vehicles were issued to each unit, split into three platoons of four vehicles plus a spare. Each platoon was allocated to one of the BCC’s three companies. BCCs attached to the Armored Divisions and equipped with Char B1/B1 bis heavy tanks required an additional 14 TRC 37Ls, for a total of 27. Essentially, the heavy tanks’ demands for fuel, lubricants, and ammunition demanded that each tank had a Chenillette of its own.

In practice, this could never be achieved, as the tractors were not allocated in time, leading to a large number of Char B1s being abandoned due to a lack of fuel and other supplies during the French campaign. The DIM (Division d’Infanterie Mécanisée) were not supplied with these tractors, neither the second-rate units, equipped with the Renault FT.

However, a single colonial unit was equipped with the Lorraine 37L. This was the 67e BCC sent in June 1940 to Tunisia with a battalion of Char D1 light tanks. Cavalry units, or Division Légère Mécanique (DLM), were also equipped with the Lorraine 37L, 24 being allocated per unit, or three tractors for every 20 tanks (Somua S35s). The units equipped with fast vehicles such as the AMR 35 or the AMD 35 were not provided with any tractors, as these were too slow to keep up. Lorraine proposed a more powerful and faster version (50 km/h) to solve the issue, but this was not followed by any order. The Divisions Légères de Cavalerie (DLC) received no TRC 37L either.

In operations, the Lorraine was meant to advance, preferably using roads for speed, and supply gasoline using its fast Vulcano pump. It could transfer around 565 liters in just 15 minutes (2,260 liters per hour), meaning a B1 tank could take up to one hour for a full supply, which also included oil, spare parts if needed, and ammunition. The Lorraine would not return afterward to a regular depot, but a moving truck-based field depot, placed far from any possible artillery barrage, keeping the distances short. Each truck carried 3,600 liters of fuel, supplied to the Lorraine in 72 fifty liter jerrycans. These trucks needed to be resupplied themselves at battalion depots in the rear. However, in 1940, the quick pace of operations rendered all this process ineffective. Tanks were more often than not directly supplied by trucks.

On May 10th, 1940, the French Army had, on paper, about 606 Lorraine 37Ls. However, they were either not crewed, not supplied to their units, or stuck in depots. Those that found their way to the frontlines were far fewer than needed by active units, notably those of the First Army in the North. A third of active units never received their intended complement of supply tractors. On 10th May, the French high command ordered the doubling of the tractor allocations to the 1st and 2nd Divisions Cuirassées (DCr). Entirely equipped with the slower Char B1, these units were kept in reserve near Gembloux. This enhanced allocation was made by diverting the vehicles meant for the 3rd DCr. Ironically, the 1st DCr was surprised on 15th May 1940 by the 7th Panzerdivision while refueling. The first weeks of fighting also led some units to try to fit machine-guns to their Lorraine Chenillettes.

Used in Norway?

On 9th April 1940, the German Army invaded Norway in Operation Weserübung. The Western Allies had previously also contemplated invading Norway in order to deprive the Nazi war machine of vital iron ore shipments that were coming through the Norwegian port of Narvik. However, in face of the new events, an Allied Expeditionary Force was formed and sent to Norway to help fight off the Germans.

Part of this force was the 342nd Independent Tank Company (342e Compagnie Autonome de Chars de Combat), part of the 1re Division Légère de Chasseurs, which landed in the north of the country at Narvik. This unit was armed with 12 Hotchkiss H39 infantry tanks and it is sometimes speculated that these were supported by Lorraine 37L tractors. However, no photographic or source evidence for the presence of the Lorraine 37Ls could be identified.

On June 7th, following the German success in the invasion of France, the unit was withdrawn to France, with a part of its vehicles shipped to Great Britain while a part was abandoned in Norway. It is unclear what might have happened to the Lorraine 37L tractors if any had been present.

Lorraine 37L in Syria and Lebanon

Following the end of the First World War and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the area roughly corresponding to nowadays Syria and Lebanon came under French control as part of the Mandate for Syria and Lebanon.

There, the 68th Tank Battalion was formed on 30th November 1939, following the start of hostilities in Europe. Another unit, the 63rd, had been previously formed in the area from troops from Tunisia. The Battalions were equipped with vehicles that were originally meant for the Polish Army and were to be shipped through Romania. However, with the fall of Poland, the convoy was redirected to Syria. It consisted of Renault R35 tanks and a small number of Lorraine 37L tractors (at least 4).

Four Lorraine 37L tractors of the 68th Tank Battalion in Syria photographed sometime in 1939 or 1940. Source: Fonds Jourdan via anneesdeguerres.blogspot.com
A column of trucks of the 68th Tank Battalion in Syria. In the background, a Lorraine 37L can be observed with its trailer. Source: Fonds Jourdan via anneesdeguerres.blogspot.com

Following the Fall of France, elements of the 68th Tank Battalion tried to join the British Forces in Palestine in order to continue fighting. However, they were stopped en-route by other French units and apprehended. The 68th would be disbanded in early 1941. It is unclear who took over its equipment.

On June 8th, 1941, British, Commonwealth, and Free French forces invaded Syria and Lebanon in order to bring back under Allied control this region that was nominally controlled by the collaborationist Vichy France. The Vichy French forces surrendered on 14th July. A part of the Lorraine 37Ls were captured by the British.

A Lorraine 37L captured in Tripoli, Syria (nowadays part of Lebanon). The officers are from the 2/3rd Australian Army Field Workshops. Source: Australian War Memorial

Following the Second World War and the withdrawal of Western Forces from Syria and Lebanon, these two countries became independent. The two Arab nations also inherited at least one functional Lorraine 37L tractor which was armed with an American M1916 75 mm gun and used during the Arab-Israeli War.

Lorraine 37L for Switzerland?

A few online sources claim that, in 1946, following the end of the Second World War, there was an attempt to export Lorraine 37L tractors to Switzerland. While the Lorraine 37L might have been well suited for the difficult Swiss terrain, it is curious if the Swiss would have been interested in acquiring a pre-war design given the immense progress made in the field of tank design.

Unfortunately, no further information is available and this export attempt cannot be verified.

Early War French Variants

The Lorraine VBCP 38L APC

A VBCP 38L photographed by German trooper Böhmer, left over in May 1940. Source: Bundesarchiv

The first development of the Lorraine 37L chassis was called the Voiture Blindée de Chasseurs Portés 38L or “Armored Car for Reconnaissance Infantry 38L” (VBCP). This was an armored personnel transport for light reconnaissance infantry (chasseurs). The 38L consisted of a modified tractor with an armored tracked trailer. Like on the regular 37L, the driver and co-driver were seated in the frontal cab. Four infantrymen were seated in the rear platform, with six more in the trailer for a total of ten, a platoon.

Protection consisted of a tall box-shaped rear superstructure. The armor plates were proof against small arms and were riveted to the rear open body. The same arrangement was present on the trailer. Rear doors were present in these crew compartments, but they were crude. There were no hatches, window slits, or pistol ports.

The 38L model supplied to the Chasseurs Portés was hastily converted and must be seen as a stopgap. A separated platoon in a small armored compartment and a trailer was indeed an odd choice. Tactically they inherited the same role as the German Panzergrenadiers, following the tanks after the position was forced and cleaning it up. Introduced with the 1st and 2nd DCR, they comprised the 5th and 17th “bataillon de chasseurs portés” (BCP) equipped with the VBCP 38L. The theoretical allocation was 61 vehicles per battalion. However, since a variant of the VBCP 38L capable of towing the battalions’ 25 mm anti-tank guns was not ready in time, Latil M7T1 vehicles were adopted as a stopgap measure.

Prior to 1st September 1939, 240 VBCP 38L were ordered: 120 for the first two BCPs from August 1939, 120 in February 1940 for a further two BCPs. However, production was slow and only about 150 were delivered until the French capitulation of 1940. When the mobilization was declared, 200 Lorraine 39L were also ordered, to be delivered on 31st December 1940, although none were completed when the armistice was signed on 25th June.

A VBCP 38L towing a 25 mm SA 34 gun, with the gun crew in the rear superstructure. Image colorized by Jaycee ‘Amazing Ace’ Davis.

These vehicles were used only by the mechanized infantry battalions within the DCRs, plus the organic armored battalions of infantry divisions. However, infantry divisions used existing, unprotected semi-tracked vehicles, such as the Laffly.

This APC for “chasseurs portés” was used to accomplish many tasks: carrying a platoon of ten chasseurs with two FN 21 machine guns, carrying a 60 or 80 mm mortar, servants, and ammo, or towing the 25 mm standard AT gun (which was never done). The cramped crew of 12 comprised the driver and section chief in the front compartment, four infantrymen in the rear armored casemate, and six in the trailer.

The reality soon showed the vehicle’s deficiencies. In May 1940, both the 5th and 117th BCP were fully equipped but with 96 instead of the 120 planned vehicles, with Latil trucks used to fill in the gaps. In action, the vehicle soon came under criticism for their poor overall visibility, with few and narrow sight slits, poor off-road handling of the trailer, and inadequate armor for frontline service.

The Lorraine VBCP 39L APC

VBCP 39L APC, manufacture official photo Source: clausuchronia.wordpress.com

The 38L was only a transitional model. Plans were only set in motion in 1939 to replace the VBCP 38L with the VBCP 39L. The latter was created by enlarging the payload platform with a larger armored box (30 cm higher) and moving the engine forwards under a raised hood. It could carry eight infantrymen and no trailer was added. Only a single prototype was made.

The 39L was very much the final evolution of the concept started with the 38L, but refined and matured. The prototype was presented to the Vincennes commission in 1939. The whole chassis was lowered a bit, but the driver and commander were seated in a much more comfortable and straightforward position compared to the Lorraine 37L and 38L.

However, only the front compartment was protected by an armored roof, the troop compartment was left open. The men could always place a tarpaulin above in rainy weather, but it offered no protection against airborne shrapnel (It should be remembered that this was also the case with the US M2 and M3 half-tracks, the British ‘Universal Carrier’ and German Sd.Kfz.250 and 251). This open-air configuration facilitated fire on the move and throwing grenades. The chasseurs entered the vehicle through hinged rear doors, while their commander and driver entered through the front panel, which folded down. The armor was not improved in thickness, but slightly sloped for the front section’s sides and better sloped at the front, at least for protection against heavy machine-gun fire and shrapnel.

The commission in charge of the adoption, or CEMAV, estimated on 31st August 1939 that the second prototype “is sufficiently ready on technical terms and is sufficiently superior to the first prototype to be preferred for the next series of VBCPs and should be built from now.” On 1st October 1939, an order was passed for 150 VBCP related to the second prototype (39L) to be delivered at a rate of 50 vehicles per month. However, this had to wait for the delivery of the 241st 38L, which would only happen in theory by August 1940. This explains why this advanced APC (by WW2 standards) never passed the prototype stage.

An image showing the frontal crew compartment of the VBCP 39L. Source: Vauvalier

Renault, having the factory capacity to deliver more vehicles faster was also ordered to deliver a prototype for this role on 8th April 1940. Trials of the Renault prototype were to start in June and production in October, with 100-150 vehicles per month, reducing the estimated future delivery rate of the Chenillette UE2.*

Prototypes

Chasseur de Chars Lorraine. Source: chars-francais.net

Another interesting variant that reached pre-production status was a tank hunter armed with a 47 mm SA mle 1939 cannon, the new standard anti-tank 47 mm gun of the French army, of which only 1,300 would be built. It was simply called the “Chasseur de Chars Lorraine”. This, and the Laffly W15 TCC, were the only early-war French attempts at converting an existing vehicle to a tank-hunting role.

This prototype fell into German hands and was named the 4.7 cm Pak-181(f) auf PanzerJäger Lorraine Schlepper (f) by the occupying forces. This vehicle led to the appearance of false information on the internet that this was a German early tank hunter conversion. However, this is not the case and this vehicle was produced by the French. In addition, it was unlikely for the Germans to venture into doing a conversion using the French 47 mm gun, of which supplies were limited. The gun had a penetration of 60 mm angled at 30 degrees at a distance of 600 yards (550 m).

Another close derivative was a command tank with a large enclosed compartment, allowing the mounting of a map table and radios. It looked similar to the 38L VBCP.

Wartime production

Semi-Clandestine production 1941-42

Outside of the FOUGA factory in Béziers, the only plant capable of producing the 37L was the second Lorraine plant at Bagnères de Bigorre. Both FOUGA and Bagnères had the crucial advantage that, after the partition resulting from the capitulation, both were in the ‘Zone Libre’ controlled by the Vichy government.

Production was resumed in June 1940, reaching around 150 units, with some of these being built with a smaller chassis with four bogies instead of six (2 per side instead of three). Officially, the German authorities turned a blind eye, as these new vehicles were unarmed, declared as “agricultural tractors”, and therefore compatible with the capitulation conditions.

Tracteur Lorraine 37L with the shorter chassis. Source: WW2 Images

Clandestinely, the model evolved into the Tracteur Lorraine 37L 44, which was unarmored in case of an inspection. However, the design had been constructed with rapid conversion to military use in mind and armor plating was manufactured at the Ateliers de Construction d’Issy-les-Moulineaux (AMX) and stockpiled there in secret. In case of a general insurrection, vehicles could be quickly converted. After November 1942 and the occupation of the Vichy ‘Free Zone’, these tractors were hidden. However, the Allies in London were unaware of these plans and suspected that the factory was used for the German war effort. The French Resistance was contacted and directed to attack the Bagnères factory in the spring of 1944.

When the real intentions of the project manager became known, further attacks were canceled. Having made contact with the Resistance, clandestine production resumed after discussions with London and De Gaulle and, in January 1945, the twenty new vehicles, fully armored, were delivered to the French Army involved in operations and cleaning up pockets of resistance using a growing number of armed tractors. About 20 were delivered monthly. These were equipped with a single MAC 7.5 mm machine gun and would act as armed APCs. The best-protected model had a single forward-firing ball machine gun mounted in the fully enclosed rear compartment. Some had a front-mounted armored superstructure.

A rare conversion with a machine gun armed casemate used by the Free French in 1944-45. The Free French also converted one to carry a British 17 pounder. Source: Flickr, Massimo Toti.

German use

After the 1940 campaign, numerous Lorraine TRCs fell into German hands, practically all in perfect state. The new vehicle partially filled the Wehrmacht’s need for an armored supply vehicle. Therefore, 300 to 360 (depending on the source) Lorraine vehicles were reconditioned and pressed into service with the Wehrmacht as Lorraine Schlepper (f), the ‘(f)’ denoting a captured French vehicle in German service.

Gradually, the Germans came to appreciate it for its simplicity and the sturdiness of the suspension and the vehicle was renamed Gefechtsfeld-Versorgungsfahrzeug Lorraine 37L (f) or Munitionstransportkraftwagen auf Lorraine Schlepper. They were used by frontline units in 1941, in the Balkans, Russia, and North Africa.

Self-propelled gun conversions

Hitler himself headed an evaluation commission on 23rd May 1942. He ordered the conversion of a hundred Lorraine 37Ls to self-propelled howitzers. Therefore, in 1942, about 40 15-cm schwere Feldhaubitze 13/1 (Sf.) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine-Schlepper (f) were ordered. These were converted by Alkett, with 166 delivered in total. About 60 10.5-cm leichte Feldhaubitze 18/4 (Sf.) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine-Schlepper (f) were also ordered, but only 12 were delivered.

The best-known conversion of the Lorraine 37L was the 7.5 cm PaK40/1 auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper (f) or Marder I. This was the first tank hunter designed for the Eastern Front, kick-started by encounters with the T-34 and KV-1. They replaced the inefficient Panzerjäger I armed with a Skoda 4.7 cm gun, while the Marder I received the 75 mm (2.95 in) Pak 40. The idea was experimented with in May 1942 by Major Alfred Becker and about 170 were delivered, the first lost on the Eastern Front, while later conversions fought in Normandy in 1944.

Beobachtungswagen auf Lorraine Schlepper (f)

This was a dedicated Wehrmacht artillery observation vehicle made by Baukommando Becker, a group that took over control of three factories in occupied France and converted a large number of captured vehicles for various purposes, most importantly tank destroyers and artillery SPGs. It was meant to sit near the frontline, keeping a safe distance from the shelled area and anti-tank guns, in order to observe and communicate the results of the bombardment and any corrections in real-time. The observation post was in the elevated top rear part, with a range finder and binoculars. The radio operator had a powerful emitter-receiver FuG radio. The vehicle was unarmed except for a defensive multipurpose 7.62 mm MG 34 pintle-mounted at the rear of the casemate. Access was done through the rear. A ventilation plate was mounted above the engine for extra ventilation.

Beobachtungswagen auf Lorraine Schlepper, 1st August 1943 Source: German Army Official Photographer (cc)

12.2 cm schwere Feldhaubitze 396 (r) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper (f)

A rare conversion with a Soviet M30 122 mm howitzer captured from the USSR. It was used as a mobile unit carried (or firing from) an armored train in France, in action in 1944.

Post-war use

After the war, some Lorraine 37Ls found their way into civilian hands, being turned into agricultural or forestry tractors without their armor. Most of them seem to consist of post-occupation short chassis versions. No further info is available on how many were used as such. A few ended up in various collections and survive to this day.

An interesting short chassis Lorraine 37L with no armor towing a trailer filled with logs, most probably after the war. Notice the improvised driver’s cab at the front. Source: tanksrarities.blogspot.com

Conclusion

The Lorraine 37L arrived a bit too late to significantly impact the Western campaign of 1940. Not enough had been produced and even of those produced, many had not been issued to units. Nonetheless, the supply tractor would have been a step forward for the French armored divisions, with its ability to resupply troops even under machine-gun fire.

After the Fall of France, many of them found their way into German hands. The Germans, never ones to pass an opportunity to reuse a capable chassis given their paucity of armored and transport vehicles, used them both in their original role and converted into tank destroyers or artillery SPGs, and the Lorraine 37L continued to see service throughout the war, a notable distinction for a small supply tractor.

However, nowadays, the Lorraine 37L and its variants are mostly overlooked, although they represent an interesting step in the evolution of French arms and doctrine, and their fate mirror that of France itself.

Surviving Lorraine 37L/38L

According to the Shadocks website, there is quite a substantial number of Lorraine tractors still in existence:
-Two Lorraine 38L APCs are displayed at the Militärhistorischen Museum, Dresden (Germany) in the exterior court and in poor condition
-Two 37Ls in good condition are showcased in the private collection of Paul Bouillé, a CRI version and a TRC version. The first is in French 1940 livery, the second in 1944 all olive green FFL camouflage.
-One Lorraine 37L tractor is undergoing a restoration which began in 2016 at the Association France 40 véhicules (France)
-One 37L was spotted in Ghisonaccia, Corsica (France), rusty, without an engine, and with part of the hull missing
-A short 37L version is housed by the Kevin Wheatcroft Collection (UK), restored in German colors
-A 37L tractor (shortened) in French colors is the property of All American Imports BV, in Kaatsheuvel (Netherlands), used as a prop for movies
-A short 37L painted in green is displayed at the MM Park, La Wantzenau (France)
-A short 37L in grey artillery color is displayed at the Maurice Dufresne Museum, Azay-le-Rideau, not far from Saumur.
-A short 37L in working condition is owned by the Dupire Collection, Monthyon (France)
-A modified 38L tractor, short, is used in working conditions and German colors by the MVCG Midi-Pyrénées, Villeneuve-sur-Lot (France)
-A short 37L, post-war tractor conversion, is kept outside in a Private collection in France (rusty)
-Another one, in working condition and better shape is part of another Private collection at Saint Féliu d’Avall (France)
-A brown working condition short 37L is part of the Igor Ballo Collection (Slovakia)
-A German-painted supply version is owned by the State Military Technical Museum at Ivanovskoje (Moscow)
-A shortened Lorraine 37L in German colors and markings is in a US Private collection
-A wreck of a short Lorraine 37L is on private property in Poland
The authors of this list can be contacted for any find at [email protected]

Lorraine 37L Specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h) 4.20 m (13 ft 9 in) x 1.57 m (5 ft 2 in) x 1.29 m (4 ft 3 in)
Total weight 6 tonnes
Crew 2 (Commander, driver)
Propulsion Delahaye type 135, 6-cylinder inline gasoline, 70 hp
Suspension Leaf Spring suspension
Speed (road/off road) 35 km/h (22 mph)
Range 137 km (86 mi)/114 litres
Armament None
Maximum armor 5 to 9 mm (0.33 in)
Total production circa 630

Sources

Yves Buffetaut, Le Baukommando Becker et les chars français modifiés Batailles n°60,‎ Nov. 2013
S. Zaloga and Ian Palmer – Osprey 209 – French Tanks of World War II
F.Vauvillier, JM Touraine, L’Automobile sous Uniforme 1939-40
Lorraine tracteur de ravitaillement, panzerserra.blogspot.com
1938 Lorraine VBCP, chars-francais.net
VBCP Lorraine 39L, clausuchronia.wordpress.com
Lorraine APCs, france1940.free.fr
Surviving Lorraine 37L Tractors, the.shadock.free.fr
Lorraine 37L, fr.wikipedia.org
Lorraine 38L, fr.wikipedia.org
Historique du 68eB.C.C.(R35), cavaliers.blindes.free.fr
Albert Jourdan du 506e RCC au 63e BCC en Syrie, anneesdeguerre.blogspot.com
Lebanon’s past equipment, milinme.wordpress.com

French models

Speculative camouflage of a Lorraine 37L of the 342nd Independent Tank Company operating in Norway, March-April 1940.
Lorraine 37L of the 3/15e BCC in May 1940.
Lorraine 37L with its trailer in June 1940.

Variants

Lorraine VCTP 38L with its trailer in May 1940.
Lorraine VCTP 39L APC Project.
Lorraine 38L of the 1942 type (“demi-chassis”).
Free French armored cab model, 1945.

German conversions

Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f), Eastern Front, 1942.
Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f), 15th Panzerdivision, North Africa, 1942.
12.2cm FK auf-GW Lorraine Schlepper(f).
Grosser Funk-und Beobachtungspanzer auf Lorraine-Schlepper (f). 30 conversions were made with a brand new armored compartment with sloped sides.
Baukommando Becker’s Beobachtungspanzer auf Lorraine Schlepper(f) adapted from the VBCP 38, Normandy, June 1944.
15 cm sFH-13/1 auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f), converted by Baukommando Becker, Normandy, Summer 1944.
7,5 cm Pak 40 auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f), better known as the Sd.Kfz.135 Marder I, winter 1942-43, Eastern Front.

All illustrations are made by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

10.5-cm leichte Feldhaubitze 18/4 (Sf.) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine-Schlepper (f) in the background. Source: Bundesarchiv
Captured 150 mm German Lorraine-based artillery SPG in 1944.
105 mm Lorraine self-propelled howitzer conversion by Alkett.
Lorraine 37L modified in 1944. It has been armed with a 8 mm Mle1914 Hotchkiss MG. Source: aviarmor.net
Lorraine 39L APC prototype during tests. Source: Vauvalier
A post-war attempt of mounting a 17 pounder gun onto a Lorraine 37L. The odd muzzle brake is a Galliot type. Image colorized by Jaycee ‘Amazing Ace’ Davis.
Categories
Cold War French SPGs

155mm GCT AUF1 & 2

Self Propelled Howitzer (1977)
France. Around 407 built 1977-95.

In the sixties and seventies, the main French self-propelled gun was the Mk F3 155mm based on the chassis of the AMX-13 light tank. This self-propelled howitzer (SPH), which also saw success as an export, was in line with other SPHs of the era, meaning the crew had no protection whatsoever. Furthermore, the gunners and the ammunition had to be carried by a separate vehicle. In the case of a modern conflict, with the risk of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) being used, the crewmembers were left exposed. Just like the US in the 60s, when the M108 was developed (which lead to the more famous M109), which had closed rotating turret which protected the crew, France started work in the early 70s on a successor to its old SPH, based on the larger AMX-30 chassis.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

GTC 155mm Bastille Day 14 July 2008
GTC 155mm Bastille Day 14 July 2008 CC licence- author Koosha Paridel/Kopa
After a period of tests and trials running from 1972 to 1976, the final AUF1 version was approved in 1977, with 400 being ordered. This was followed by the improved AUF2 version in the 90s, based on the AMX-30B2 chassis, 70 of which were bought by the French Army. 253 AUF1 and AUF2 were bought by France in total. The production ended in 1995, and the 155 GCT (standing for “Grande Cadence de Tir”, which can be translated to High Rate of Fire), like its predecessor, was largely exported to Iraq (85), Kuwait (18) and Saudi Arabia (51), with 427 built in total. The 155 GCT saw service during the Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of Kuwait, both Gulf wars and in Yugoslavia.

155 mm GTC Auf-F1 in Bosnia, IFOR. US Army picture source

Design of the 155 mm GTC

The basis of the design was the chassis of the AMX-30, the Main Battle Tank of the French Army until the introduction of the Leclerc. Other vehicles were based on this chassis as well, like the engineering AMX-30D, the AMX-30H bridge layer, the Pluton missile Transport Erector Launcher (TEL), the AMX-30 Roland surface to air missile carrier, the AMX-30SA Shahine for Saudi Arabia and the anti-aircraft AMX-30 DCA also meant for the same country.

Front view AuF1 UN at Saumur Museum – Author Alf Van Beem
The engine compartment at the rear houses a Hispano-Suiza HS-110 12 cylinder engine (some sources incorrectly identify it as the 8-cylinder SOFAM 8Gxb). The B2 chassis, used on the AUF2, has a Renault/Mack E9 750 hp engine coupled to a semi-automatic gearbox. The latter propels the 41.95 ton vehicle to a maximum speed of 60 km/h (37 mph), a respectable value, superior to that of the American M109. An automatic fire suppression system is also located in the engine compartment. The suspension consists of five roadwheel-pairs connected to torsion bars and to shock absorbers for the front and rear units. The track is also supported by five return rollers. The drive sprocket is at the rear of the vehicle.The range of the vehicle was 500 km (diesel) or 420 km (gas) (310/260 mi). The 155 GCT is not air-transportable but it can ford 1 meter of water without preparation.
AuF1 155mm GTC side view
AuF1 155mm GTC “Falaise 1944” side view Saumur Tank Museum – Author Alf van Beem
The armor of the original tank was retained, the hull frontal glacis being 80 mm thick, the upper part being angled at 68° and the lower one at 45°. The sides were 35 mm thick at 35°, the rear was 30 mm thick and the top 15 mm. The driver was seated in the front of the hull, on the left, with a hatch sliding to the left and three episcopes, the central one being replaceable with an infrared night-driving system. The new turret was made of 20 mm homogenous laminated steel all around. For active protection, two pairs of smoke-grenade launchers are fitted on the lower part of the turret front. For the AUF2, these can be replaced with the GALIX multifunctional system (like on the Leclerc).
The rest of the crewmembers are seated in the large turret that was specially designed around the gun. The chassis alone weighs 24 tons, with the turret weighing 17 more. The latter needs its own auxiliary power sources mounted in the chassis, taking the shape of a 4 kW Citroën AZ generator which can power all the electrical systems when the vehicle is stopped.

AuF1 155mm GTC United Nations colors, rear view at Saumur Museum – author Alf van Beem
The 39-caliber long 155 mm howitzer was specially designed for this vehicle in 1972. The tests started in 1973-74 and showed that it can reach a rate of fire of 8 rounds per minute and, in special cases, it can fire three rounds in fifteen seconds thanks to a semi-automatic loading system. The howitzer was improved, including a combustible shell casing and an improved automatic system allowing it to fire 6 rounds in 45 seconds. Because the combustible shell casings do not need to be thrown outside, this improves the NBC protection.
The AUF 1 39-caliber long gun has a maximum practical range of 23.5 km that can be extended to 28 km using a rocket-assisted projectile. The turret can rotate a full 360° and has between 5° and 66° of elevation. The muzzle velocity is 810 m/s. 42 projectiles are carried on board, held in the rear part of the turret, along with the explosive charges. This compartment, which is usually closed off from the outside, can be opened and fully resupplied in less than 20 minutes. The High Explosive shells are NATO standard (BONUS). For close defense, a 7.62 mm machine-gun or, more commonly, a cal .50 Browning M2HB is placed on the roof of the turret, fired by the gunner. This crewmember has a hatch on the right side of the turret with a rail-mount for an AA-52 anti-aircraft machine-gun. The vehicle commander, on the left-hand side, has a peripheral observation cupola and an infrared vision system.

Development

In 1978, the testing campaign of the first six prototypes finished. These were followed by six vehicles in 1979 deployed with the 40th Artillery Regiment in Suippes. However, budgetary cuts delayed the project until 1980 when it was relaunched due to a successful export deal, as a series of 85 vehicles were sold to Iraq. Large-scale production was started and lasted until 1995 at GIAT in Roanne. The French artillery regiments received 76 vehicles in 1985 and, by 1989, 12 of the 13 active regiments were equipped with vehicles based on the AMX-30B chassis.

AuF1 in service with Saudi Arabia – 20th Brigade of the Royal Saudi Land Force 14 may 1992 Source author TECH. SGT. H. H. DEFFNER

Export

Iraq received 85 vehicles between 1983 and 1985, quickly deployed against the Iranians. They were in service when Saddam Hussein decided to invade Kuwait and during Operation Desert Storm. The Iraqi 155 GCT were mostly destroyed they did not fight in 2003.
Kuwait also received 18 vehicles (only 17 according to other sources) according to the JAHRA 1 contract, delivered just after the Gulf war. They were equipped with the CTI inertial fire control system and are currently in reserve.
Saudi Arabia also received 51 AUF1 vehicles. AUF2 vehicles mounted on the T-72 chassis were demonstrated in India and Egypt.

Modernization: AUF2

In the 80s, the armament system was deemed insufficient, especially the range. GIAT was responsible for incorporating a new 52-caliber long howitzer. The range passed 42 km using rocket-assisted munition. More importantly, the loading system allowed a rate of fire of 10 shots/minute with the capacity to fire grouped salvos, that impact the target simultaneously.
The AUF1T version introduced in 1992 was an intermediary version equipped with a modernized loading control system, while the auxiliary electrical generator was replaced with a Microturbo Gévaudan 12 kW turbine.
The AUF1TM introduced the Atlas fire control system, tested by the 40th Artillery Regiment in Suippes.
The AUF2 final version was based on the AMX-30B2 chassis, equipped with a 720 hp Renault Mack E9 engine with increased reliability compared to the previous powerplant. More importantly, the turret was modified in order to be mountable on the chassis of the Leopard 1, Arjun and T-72. At least one T-72/AUF2 vehicle was presented at an exposition for export. The roof machine-gun was standardized (7.62 mm AA-52). In total, 74 vehicles were converted by Nexter to the AUF2 standard starting in 1995. These were deployed in Bosnia. The 155mm GCT can be deployed in 2 minutes and can leave in 1 minute.

AMX AuF1 40e Artillery Regiment – Implementation Force 1996 – US Army photo Source

AUF2 in action

The Iraqi vehicles were the first to see service. The French AUF1 vehicles were deployed for the first time in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Eight AUF2 were deployed on the Igman mountain plateau in 1995 and participated in a bombing campaign (Operation Deliberate Force) in September against the positions of the Army of the Serbian and Bosnian Republic which threatened the security areas controlled by the UN. The intervention of these vehicles of the 3rd battery of the 40th Artillery Regiment and of the 1st Marine Artillery Regiment proved decisive, having fired 347 rounds.

155 mm GTC parked after an engine trouble – Author Ludovic Hirlimann, CC licence source

1st class Boucher and L. Hirlimann stacking 42kg ammo and charges separately – Author Ludovic Hirlimann CC licence Source
Currently, the 155 GCT vehicles are being retired and replaced by the CESAR system, which is far less costly in operation. In 2016, the ground army had 121 155 mm cannons, of which only 32 were GCT vehicles. However, their total retirement into the reserve is planned for 2019.

Sources

On chars-francais.net (many photos)
On army-guide
Forecast Intl Document

155mm GTC AUF2 specifications

Dimensions 10.25 x 3.15 x 3.25 m (33’6” x 10’3” x 10’6” ft)
Total weight, battle ready 42 tons
Crew 4 (driver, cdr, gunner, ammo handler/radio)
Propulsion V8 Renault/Mack, 16 hp/ton
Suspension Torsion bars
Speed (road) 62 km/h (45 mph)
Range 420/500 km (400 mi)
Armament 155 mm/52, 7.62 mm AA52 MG
Armor 15-80 mm hull, 20 mm turret ( in)
Total production 400 in 1977-1995
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index


Canon-Automoteur 155mm GTC with IFOR, 40th RGA, Mt Igman, 1995 NATO bombing campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Canon Automoteur 155mm GTC Iraq
Iraqi 155mm GTC in 1991
Canon Automoteur 155mm GTC UN
Auf F2 in UN colors
All illustrations are by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Categories
WW1 German Armor

Sturmpanzerwagen A7V

German Empire (1917) Heavy tank – 20 built

High command scepticism

In 1916, both the British and the French introduced tanks on the battlefield and gradually improved their performances and design through frontline experience. But still, even by 1917, the German high command still considered they could be defeated by using special rifle bullets and artillery, in direct or indirect fire. The impression they had was mixed, seeing their breakdowns and apparent difficult crossing of the heavily cratered no man’s land. But the psychological effect on an unprepared infantry was such that this new weapon had to be seriously taken in consideration.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

The traditional view still prevailed, seing infantry as the most versatile way to make a breakthrough, notably the famous elite “assault squads”, or “sturmtruppen”, equipped with grenades, small arms and flame-throwers. They proved successful during the spring offensive and further hampered the need for a tank.

Designed by Joseph Vollmer

Despite initial resistance against tanks, their first, shocking appearance on the battlefield in the fall of 1916, led, in September of the same year, to the creation of a study department, the Allgemeines Kriegsdepartement, 7 Abteilung, Verkehrswesen. (Department 7, Transport)
This Department was responsible for all the information gathering on Allied tanks and for formulating both anti-tank tactics and devices and specifications for a possible indigenous design. Based on these specifications, the first plans were drawn by Joseph Vollmer, a reserve captain and engineer. These specifications included a top weight of 30 tons, use of the available Austrian Holt chassis, ability to cross ditches 1.5 m (4.92 ft) wide, to have a speed of at least 12 km/h (7.45 mph), several machine guns and a rapid-fire gun.

The chassis was also to be used for cargo and troop carriers. The first prototype built by Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft made its first trials on April 30, 1917, at Belin Marienfeld. The final prototype was ready by May 1917. It was unarmored but filled with 10-tons of ballast to simulate the weight. After successful trials in Mainz, the design was modified once more to incorporate two more machine-guns and a better observation post. Pre-production started in September 1917. Production started in October with an initial order of 100 units and a training unit was formed in the process. By then, this machine was known after its studying department, the 7 Abteilung, Verkehrswesen (A7V), “Sturmpanzerkraftwagen” meaning “assault armored motor vehicle”.

The only operational German tank of WWI

When the A7V was first introduced in the two first operational units, Assault Tank Units 1 and 2, it had already revealed some flaws, notably the relatively thin underbelly and roof (10 mm/0.39 in), not able to resist fragmentation grenades. The overall use of regular steel and not an armored compound, for production reasons, meant that the effectiveness of the 30-20 mm plating was reduced. Like contemporary tanks, it was vulnerable to artillery fire.

It was overcrowded. With seventeen men and an officer, the crew comprised a driver, a mechanic, a mechanic/signaler and twelve infantrymen, gun servants and machine-gun servants (six loaders and six gunners). Of course, the restricted interior wasn’t compartmented, the engine was situated right at the center, diffusing its noise and toxic fumes. The Holt track, using vertical springs, was hampered by the overall weight of the tall structure and its very low ground clearance and large overhang at the front meant very poor crossing capabilities on a heavily cratered and muddy terrain. With this limitation in mind, these first two units (ten tanks each) were deployed on relatively flat grounds.

The amount of ammunition carried was considerable, further reducing the internal space. Around 50-60 cartridge belts, each with 250 bullets, plus 180 rounds for the main gun, split between special HE explosive rounds, canisters and regular rounds. In operation more shells were loaded, up to 300. During operations, a single tank was converted as a “female” with two Maxim machine guns replacing the main gun. As initially no engine was powerful enough to move the 30 tons of the A7V in the restricted allocated space, two Daimler petrol 4-cylinder engines, each delivering about 100 bhp (75 kW), were coupled together.

This solution produced the most powerful tank of the war, with a speed even greater than British late tanks (Mk.V). 500 liters of fuel were stored to feed this engine, but due to the enormous consumption, the range never exceeded 60 km (37.3 mi) on road. Top speed off-road was limited to 5 km/h (3.1 mph) at best. The driver had very poor vision. The A7V was committed mostly on open terrains and roads, just like armored cars, were its speed and armament could reveal its true potential. Last but not least, the A7Vs were all hand-built and of great manufacture quality (and very high cost). Every model had unique features as no standardization was achieved.

The A7V in action

The first five squads of A7Vs from the 1st Assault Tank Unit were ready by March 1918. Led by Haumptann Greiff, this unit was deployed during the attack on the St Quentin canal, part of the German spring offensive. Two broke down but successfully repelled a localized British counter-attack. On April 24, 1918, however, during the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, three A7V leading an infantry attack met three British Mark IVs, a male and two females. As the two females, damaged, were unsuccessful in damaging the German tanks with their machine-guns, they withdrew, and left the leading male (Second Lieutenant Frank Mitchell) dealing with the leading A7V (Second Lieutenant Wilhelm Biltz), in what was to become the first tank-to-tank duel in history. However, after three successful hits, the A7V was knocked-out and the crew (with five dead and several casualties) promptly bailed out.

The disabled tank was recovered and repaired later. The victorious Mark IV roamed the German lines, creating havoc and was joined later by several Whippets. But after murderous mortar fire, this attack was stopped in its tracks. Three Whippets were destroyed, as well as the Mark IV. This attack included all available A7Vs, but some broke down, other toppled into holes and were captured by British and Australian troops. The entire attack was deemed a failure, and the A7V removed from active service. The 100 machines order was cancelled and several were scrapped in November.

Aftermath

The commitment of all available tanks with poor results increased the resistance from the German high command. Some successes were achieved by the most numerous German tank in service during the spring offensives, the Beutepanzer Mark IV and V. Almost 50 captured British Mark IVs or Vs were pressed into service under German markings and camouflage. They showed the advantage of full-length tracks over difficult terrains. They influenced, along with the few captured Whippets Mark A light tanks, the design a new enhanced model, the A7V-U. U stands for “Umlaufende Ketten” or full-length tracks, a German-made but British-looking rhomboid tank.

Its featured two 57 mm (2.24 in) guns in sponsons and had a tall observation post similar to the A7V. Although the prototype was ready by June 1918, this 40-ton monster proved to have a high center of gravity and poor maneuverability. However twenty were ordered in September. None were completed by the armistice. All other paper projects (Oberschlesien), mockups (K-Wagen) and prototypes of the light LK-I and II also laid unfinished in November 1918. Starting late in the war, the Germans never had the opportunity to fully develop their tank arm both tactically and technically. This was achieved, mostly clandestinely, but successfully, during the twenties and early thirties. Nevertheless this early and deceiving attempt was a landmark in German development.

Links about the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V

The Sturmpanzerwagen A7V on Wikipedia

The first German tank

The only German tank to ever roam the battlefields of France and Belgium during WWI was nicknamed by the British the “moving fortress”. Big, tall and symmetrical, with sloped armor, surprisingly fast, bristling with machine-guns, it was indeed more akin to a moving fortification than a real tank. As it was basically an “armored box” based on the Holt chassis its crossing abilities were far from equal to the contemporary British Mark IV or V. With only 20 built of the 100 initially ordered, it was more a propaganda tool than an effective breakthrough apparatus.

Stürmpanzerwagen A7V
A7V replica on display at the Munster Panzer Museum. All A7Vs were christened by their crews. The “Nixe” for example took part in the famous duel at Villers Bretonneux, in March 1918. “Mephisto” was captured on the same day by Australian troops. It is now displayed at Brisbane Anzac museum. Other tanks were named “Gretchen”, “Faust”, “Schnuck”, “Baden I”, “Mephisto”, “Cyklop/Imperator”, “Siegfried”, “Alter Fritz”, “Lotti”, “Hagen”, “Nixe II”, “Heiland”, “Elfriede”, “Bulle/Adalbert”, “Nixe”, “Herkules”, “Wotan”, and “Prinz Oskar”.

Gallery

An A7V at Royes
An A7V at Royes, during the spring offensives, March 1918.

A7V
by Giganaut
on Sketchfab

A7V specifications

Dimensions 7.34 x 3.1 x 3.3 m (24.08×10.17×10.82 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 30 to 33 tons
Crew 18
Propulsion 2 x 6 inline Daimler petrol, 200 bhp (149 kW)
Speed 15 km/h (9 mph)
Range on/off road 80/30 km (49.7/18.6 mi)
Armament 1xMaxim-Nordenfelt 57 mm (2.24 in) gun
6×7.5 mm (0.29 in) Maxim machine guns
Armor 30 mm front 20 mm sides (1.18/0.79 in)
Total production 20

Sturmpanzerwagen A7V
The StPzw A7V number four, one of the five tanks under command of Hauptmann Greiff committed to the attack of St. Quentin canal (British sector), part of the March 1918 offensive.

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Categories
WW2 German Heavy Tanks

Neubaufahrzeug

German tanks ww2 Germany (1933)
Heavy tank – 5 built

The origin: The Großtraktor

The very roots of the Neubaufahrzeug (literally: “New Construction Vehicle”) are connected to the arrival of Hitler as the new head of state, and the desire to have, as quickly as possible, a suitable heavy tank, both for the army needs and for propaganda purposes. It had to be a symbol of the renewal of the German Army and was conceived in quite a hurry. Its inspirations can be traced back to the British multi-turreted prototype Vickers A1E1 Independent, which also inspired the the Soviet T-28 and T-35. The former was under intense scrutiny when the Reichswehr decided, in 1926, to give a contract to Rheinmetall-Borsig, MAN, Daimler-Benz and Krupp for the Reichswehr Großtraktor.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

Reichswehr Großtraktor built by Krupp undergoing trials
Reichswehr Großtraktor built by Krupp undergoing trials (Bundesarchiv)
This was a disguise designation, used to cover up tank development, which was forbidden under the Versailles treaty. Tests were performed at Panzertruppenschule KAMA, the gunnery and testing grounds at Kazan, in the USSR, and Oberstleutenant Malbrandt supervised the tests. This high security proving ground was part of the joint Red Army and Reichswehr training and testing cooperation, born from the treaty of Rapallo signed in 1922. Two prototypes of Daimler Benz’s Grosstraktor I were tested in 1929, showing transmission problems. Two others, Rheinmetall-Borsig’s Großtraktor II, were also tested in 1929 and modified for new tests in 1931. After a new campaign of trials, the four prototypes were given to the 1st Panzer Division for the 1935 maneuvers. Since they had been plagued by many problems, they ended as monuments outside training camps or practice targets for gunners but paved the way for the upcoming Neubaufahrzeug.
grosstraktor_iii
A Großtraktor turned into a monument with 2 german trainees. (Source N/A)

Pz.Kpfw. Nb.Fz.V and VI

Only two prototypes were built at first, one by Krupp – Model A, and the other by Rheinmetall-Borsig – Model B, and they differed only by their gun arrangement. The 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK L/24 main gun and secondary 37 mm (1.46 in) KwK L/45 was mounted coaxially in a single mantlet on the Krupp prototype and in vertical tandem on the Rheinmetall one. The two secondary turrets, equipped with 7.92 mm machine-guns, were borrowed from the Panzer I, then in development, but modified in order to fit. The Rheinmetall version was named Pz.Kpfw. Nb.Fz.V, and the Krupp vehicles were named Pz.Kpfw. Nb.Fz. VI. Once the two designs were ready, the first two prototypes were built in 1933-34 (N°1 and 2) and three others (N°3, 4 and 5) in 1934-36.

Design of the Neubaufahrzeug

The first two tanks were built in mild steel, with partially welded hulls. Final assembly (fittings and turrets) was performed at Krupp. The first one had the original Rheinmetall turret with the tandem guns (the 37 mm/1.46 in Tankkanone L/45 was installed over the 75 mm/2.95 in KwK L/24) and a horse-shoe FuG turret antenna. All the other four were given the Krupp turret (coaxial guns). There was also a project of conversion to a Nebel Panzer, armed with 105 mm (4.13 in) gun firing smoke rounds, which never materialized. The two secondary turrets were mounted in a lozenge configuration, one on the front left and the other one on the right rear. The driver compartment was next to the front turret, with the main fighting compartment behind. There were two rear hatches for the original BMW engine (Type A), replaced for the four others by a more powerful 300 hp gasoline Maybach HL 108 TR fed with 457 liters of fuel.
Transmission was done by a crash gearbox, 5 speed forward, no reverse. The suspension system consisted of modified coil (leaf) springs coupled with Christie type torsion arms, attached to a set of five bogies with paired road wheels. The front single road wheel was suspended independently, like on the British A1E1 and Russian T-28. They were protected by side skirts with mud chutes in échelon (under each return roller), with two access doors to the suspension. The turret also had two large, one piece access side hatches. The commander cupola was at the turret rear end. Provision for ammunition was 80 rounds for the main gun, 50 for the coaxial 37 mm (1.46 in), and around 6000 for the two MG 34 machine-guns. Armor was not particularly thicker than other Panzers of the time, just enough to provide minimal protection against infantry weapons, light AT guns and shrapnel.

Active service

Soon after delivery, the three late prototypes were extensively tested at the proving grounds at Putloss, while the first two took part in army maneuvers. However, by the end of 1936, it was decided to cancel all further development of the series, priority being given to the Panzer IV. The main tactic devised, notably by Heinz Guderian, favored mobility over firepower, which was as the very core of the Blitzkrieg. This condemned these vehicles, which soon became the “white elephants” of the Wehrmacht, displayed in all propaganda displays, shows and newsreels, starting with the International Automobile Exposition in Berlin, 1939. Another of these mediatic coups was that a platoon consisting of all three late prototypes, named Panzerzug Horstmann, after its commander, Lieutnant Hans Hortsmann, was deployed in Norway, notably to give the impression of a larger production. Similar disinformation operations had been also successfully performed with the Heinkel 100 fighter, despite the appearance in Spain of the Bf 109. The three were landed at Oslo harbor on April, 19, 1940 and took part in local operations. Although handicapped by their speed, they were still an impressive sight, and by far the most heavily armed German tanks fielded there. This unit was later posted at Akershus Fortress (Oslo) in Norway, in 1941 and their fate is unclear, although they were eventually captured in Norway by 1945 and scrapped afterwards. The two others seem to have taken part in operations in Ukraine and Romania.

Neubaufahrzeug specifications

Dimensions 6.6 x 2.9 x 2.98 m (21.8×7.2×9.9 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 23.41 tons
Crew 6 (commander, driver, loader, 3 gunners)
Armament 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK L/24 gun
37 mm (1.46 in) KwK L/45
2 or 3 x7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34s
Armor 13 to 20 mm (0.51-0.79 in)
Propulsion 290 hp BMW Va or a 300 hp Maybach HL 108 TR
Suspension Leaf spring system
Speed (road) 25-30 km/h (16-18 mph)
Range (road) 120 km (75 mi)
Production 5 prototypes

Grosstraktor
Rheinmetall Grosstraktor prototypes N°45 and 46, the last of the six prototypes tested at Kazan.

Nb.Fz.V
Neubaufahrzeug number 1 (Type A) was the only fitted with the original Rheinmetall-Borsig turret, showing an early large FuG horse-shoe radio antenna. The large size of the tank was well suited for a platoon commander vehicle. The three-tone camouflage was usual by 1937-38, seen here used in maneuvers at Panzertruppenschule Putlos. Their fate during the war is unsure. Reports seem to point to the fact that the first two vehicles served in the Balkans in March-April 1941, and were shipped to Army Group South, the Romanian sector. In the summer of the same year photos of one of these was taken at Dubno (28 of June, western Ukraine, during operation Barbarossa), with the usual dunkelgrau livery and a triple X as unit marking on the turret.Nb.Fz.VI, Norway.
Nb.Fz.VI, or Type B, with the Krupp turret and operational markings, part of the Hortsman platoon, also comprising two other “B” tanks. Number 8, Vaerwaagen, southern Norway, late April 1940. They were later stationed near the Oslo fortress during most of the war.

Neubaufahrzeug gallery

rosstraktorphoto026
Another Großtraktor turned into a monument. Photo: – forum.valka.cz
Neubaufahrzeug Type B tank (Pz.Kpfw. Nb.Fz. VI) off to Norway, April 1940Neubaufahrzeug Type B tank (Pz.Kpfw. Nb.Fz. VI) off to Norway, April 1940 (ebay)
Neubaufahrzeugs in Oslo
Neubaufahrzeug in Norway, Olso harbor, 19 March 1940
Neubaufahrzeug VI in Norway
Neubaufahrzeug Type B (Pz.Kpfw. Nb.Fz. VI) in Norway, April 1940 – Credits: Bundesarchiv.
Neubaufahrzeug at the Krupp factory
Neubaufahrzeug Type B being repaired – Credits: Bundesarchiv.
Neubaufahrzeug in Norway
Neubaufahrzeug in Norway – Credits: Bundesarchiv.
Neubaufahrzeug in Norway
Neubaufahrzeug in Norway – Credits: Bundesarchiv.
Neubaufahrzeug in Norway
Neubaufahrzeug in Norway – Credits: Bundesarchiv.

Artist impression of a Type A Nb.Fz.Artist impression; Nb.Fz.Type B
Originally published before 1 December 2014


Neubaufahrzeug
by GiganautGermans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW1 British Tanks WW1 US Armor

Tank Mark VIII International Liberty

ww1 British tanks American ww1 armor  Great Britain/USA(1918)
Heavy tank – 125 built

A joint British-US design to be built in France

With industrial resources stretched to the limits in France (after the loss of the eastern Lorraine region in 1914, which accounted for a large part of the heavy industry) and Great Britain, (due to massive debt, labor shortages, steel diverted for shipbuilding) the news that the USA entered the war was received with great hope.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

Soon after April 1917, the British planned to send a delegation to the USA to convince them to co-produce the next British tank model. But soon afterwards it was thought more judicious that the initiative should be led locally and endorsed by Congress. Via the American military attaché in London, some contacts were made with the US Navy for the Marine corps, based around the next project available, the Mark VI. However, the latter was tailored for the capacities of the British industry and relatively small.
Mark VIII 'Liberty' Tank at Fort George G. Meade, MD, USA
Mark VIII ‘Liberty’ Tank at Fort George G. Meade, MD, USA
Therefore, Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Gerald Stern proposed the Tank Mark VIII, fictitious at the time, a much bigger design. Meanwhile, the American Department of War intervened and asked that the model be developed for the US Army and sent Major H. W. Alden to the Mechanical Warfare Department design team at Dollis Hill. He arrived in October to find that much of the plans had already been made by Lieutenant G. J. Rackham, a veteran from Flanders.

The Tank Mark VIII Liberty design

The Mark VIII had similar features to the British-built rhomboid tanks, with full-length high track run and large track links, sponsons, and raised superstructure at the front. The latter housed three Lewis machine guns in ball mountings, while the driver had a small raised cabin or cupola with four vision slits.
The sponsons housed two 6-pounder (57 mm) guns, while two hull machine-guns in ball-mounts were placed just behind on the hull doors. Other great improvement was the engine compartmentalization through a bulkhead, preventing noise and fumes from invading the fighting compartment. The hull form was studied after reports and much rounder. The sponsons were made retractable to reduce the width for transport, which was in itself fairly limited compared to the total length of the hull. This would later cause serious agility issues.
The ammunition (208 shells and 13,848 machine-gun rounds) was stored inside a large locker on the fighting compartment platform where the crew stood. The US Liberty V12 (replaced by the Ricardo equivalent on the British design) was fed by three armored fuel tanks at the rear holding 200 L (240 US gallons), ensuring a 60-80 km (37-49.7 mi) ride on rough terrain.
The sheer length was intended for assaulting the new German anti-tank trenches and ditches of the Hindenburg line, and possibly to carry twenty infantrymen (thus performing as an APC), added to a crew of twelve. The hollow British prototype was ready in June 1918 and later shipped to the USA for completion in September, by hand-built components. During trials the links failed frequently and had to be strengthened, lengthened and reshaped, in hard cast steel before production. Protection was better than average, with frontal and side thickness of 16 mm (0.63 in).

Production

The gradual set-up of the production was a long an protracted affair. By September 1917 the US Army HQ in France planned its own tanks corps with French and US-built Renault FTs to equip 20 tank battalions, while five heavy tank battalions were to be given the new Mark VIII. James A. Drain from Gen. Pershing’s staff initially ordered 600 Mark VI tanks (then in development).
Later on, Stern was removed from the project by Churchill (the Mark VI was eventually cancelled in December) and instead was sent to study tank production in France, consulting both the French Minister of Munitions, Louis Loucheur, and Gen. Pershing.
However since French production capacities were severely limited, they devised a ten point agreement stating the component production would be separated between Great Britain and USA, and final assembly performed in France, in a brand new factory which had been built from scratch.
The new project was named the Mark VIII “International”. The projected figures of 1,500 heavy tanks had to be then shared among the Allies, including France, whose own project Char FCM 2C had barely advanced at all.
Later on 11 November the name was changed again to “Liberty” in relation to its US-built 300 hp (220 kW) Liberty engine.
Initial production figures stated that 1,200 vehicles could be produced monthly after extensions of the facilities. This proved way too optimistic. The British-built factory at Neuvy-Pailloux, 200 miles south of Paris, was not even completed by June 1918.
Another company was hired and did finish the factory in November, but the war was over then and the whole project was suspended. Meanwhile, the Liberty engine had its piston recast and was only available in October. US component production was also not ready before October. Armament from the UK was fixed and tested later in November.

Active service

Due to the end of the war, the needs for the Mark VIII dwindled rapidly. Nonetheless, due to the effort and money already spent, the Congress authorized the production of 100 tanks for US needs, built on US soil and partly British components. These were delivered between 1919 and 1920 by the Rock Island Arsenal at 35,000$ apiece and served with the 67th Infantry (Tank) Regiment, based in Aberdeen, Maryland.

These were the only heavy tanks in US service until the arrival of the M6 in 1942. The side machine-guns were later eliminated to have a peacetime crew reduced to ten, and all machine-guns were replaced by M1917 Browning models. They suffered from poor engine ventilation and reliability issues, phased out in 1932 and in 1934 were placed in reserve.
The first British-built Mark VIII was delivered the day of the armistice, with a mild steel hull and Rolls-Royce engine, but ultimately seven more were completed (out of a 1,500 unit order to the North British Locomotive Company and William Beardmore & co) with the definitive V12 Ricardo engine.
With extra sets of parts, twenty-four more were built after the war, with five sent to the Bovington training center and the others ultimately sold for scrap. The lengthened Mark VIII* (star) projected late in 1918 was supposed to be even longer, with the rear and front section of the fighting compartment stretched by a total of three meters.
This would have allowed it to cross anti-tank ditches up to five meters long. Production was cancelled soon after the armistice.
Surviving vehicles are on display at Fort Meade, Maryland, and at the Bovington Tank Museum in England. A further example is being restored at the National Armor and Cavalry Museum, Fort Benning, Georgia.
In Steven Spielberg’s movie ‘Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade’, a tank vaguely resembling a Mark VIII is seen, but with an added turret on top.

Myth

It is often said that in 1940, the surplus Mark VIII Liberty tanks in USA Army storage were sold at scrap value to Canada for training. This is wrong. They were offered for sale but that offer was declined. The Canadian Army purchased 236 American M1917 tanks for training tank crews instead. These were licensed built WW1 Renault FT tanks.

Mark VIII specifications

Dimensions Length 34ft 2in (10.42m).
Width 8ft 5in (2.57m).
Width with Sponsons 12ft 10in (3.92m)
Height 10ft 3in (3.13m)
Total weight 38 tonnes
Crew 10 US – 12 British
Propulsion V12 Liberty or Ricardo crosshead valve, water-cooled straight six petrol engine 150hp @ 1250rpm
Road Speed 5.25 mph (8.45 km/h)
Range 50 miles (80 km)
Trench Crossing ability 15ft 9in (4.8m)
Armament 4x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Vickers water-cooled machine guns
7x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine gun or
7x M1917 Browning machine guns
Armor Max 16 mm
Track links Length 1ft 1in (32.5cm)
Width 2ft 3in (67.5cm)
Hatch Length 3ft 5in (1.05cm)
Width 2ft 4in (71cm)
Total production 125

Gallery

Mark VIII 'Liberty' Tank being restored at the National Armor and Cavalry Museum, Fort Benning, GA, USA
Mark VIII ‘Liberty’ Tank being restored at the National Armor and Cavalry Museum, Fort Benning, GA, USA – Source: Rob Cogan for the Armour Journal, NACM
Cutaway Mark VIIIThe protype testing in 1918
Centennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs
All Posters
Originally published on 9 June 2014


Tank Mk.VIII Liberty
by GiganautMark VIII Liberty in US service, 67th Armored Regiment, Maryland.
American Mark VIII Liberty, US Infantry’s 67th Armored Regiment, Aberdeen, Maryland.
British Mark VIII, prospective view
Prospective view of a British Mark VIII, as it could have looked if deployed during the great summer offensive of 1919.
Categories
WW1 British Tanks

Tank Mark I

United Kingdom United Kingdom (1916)
Heavy tank – 150 built

100years-tanks

100 years of armored warfare

The Tank Mark I marked both the dawn of armored warfare and the start of the whole tank lineage that would soon find its treasured place in almost all armies of the world. It is important to remember that, although a weapon of war, perfected in the art of death and destruction on land, the tank also saved lives, thousands of them. This started right in 1916, when the first Mark Is helped restore the confidence of the exhausted and depressed fighting men, after facing years of being treated like meat for the butcher. This was the weapon that would unlock the stalemate and put an end to trench warfare.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

In reality, things get more complicated and, as crude as it was, the tank was never more than an organic part of a refined late trench warfare as a whole: New infantry tactics (inaugurated by the Canadians at Vimy Ridge), creeping artillery barrages with deadly precise schedules, better air reconnaissance and even strafing and aerial bombardments, and of course better coordination with tanks. The Mark I was the first of a lineage that stretched until 1918 with the Mark VIII Liberty, a lineage which also marked the beginning and the end of the “rhomboid” type in a period of just two years. As the famed “Little Willie” prototype is celebrated as the first practical tank, built a hundred years ago, the Mark I was the first operational tank.

The Big Willie in an illustration showing the first tank being tested with a tail wheel. According to photographs, it was painted in white, a color adopted by the navy for land vehicles.

The “Little Willie”

The Mk.I tank was the first operational tank in the British army and in the world. It was based on the “Little Willie” (The Lincoln machine) project, supported by the Landships Committee, headed by Walter Wilson and William Tritton. It was largely an attempt to overcome the previous model’s issues. One of the solutions was to avoid adding a turret and mounted the guns in sponsons instead. The Little Willie, also known as the “Lincoln machine number one”, was tested and modified, and the lessons were taken in account for the development of the Mark I and its prototype, called “Big Willie” or, more commonly, “Mother”.

“Mother”, the production prototype

In December 1915, the final prototype was ready for the first trials, which took place in April 1916. It was named officially “His Majesty’s Land Ship Centipede”, but was know colloquially as “Mother” or “Big Willie”, as a joke directed towards the German Kaiser and the crown prince, both named Wilhelm. In the meantime, the “Tank Supply Committee” succeeded the Landship Committee, under the chairmanship of Albert Stern. Other members included Ernest Swinton,  the head of the committee, General Haig, who acted as a liaison officer, Hugh Elles who would  later become the commander of the tank force in France. The trials were held up in an impressive reconstruction of no-man’s land with trenches, parapets, craters and barbed wire, and impressed all officers except the Secretary of War, Lord Kitchener. Despite of this, an order was secured for 150 tanks in two batches, with one order being issued 0n 12 February 1916 and another on April 23.

Design

The Mk.I was elaborated to encompass all the lessons learnt from the Little Willie trials in 1915. No turret (giving a low center of gravity), armament mounted in sponsons, bolted hull made of boiler panels, newly designed tracks inherited from the Little Willie and a large, easily recognizable rhomboid hull, with the tracks surrounding the hull, making up the entire length of the machine. This shape could not be underestimated. While Great Britain learned the difficult trade of crossing heavily cratered, muddy terrain with the previous Lincoln machine, a radical solution was adopted, which proved adequate to the task, but too radical at the same time, and would emerge in postwar years.

The “Mother” on trials. It was made of boiler plates, chiefly to speed up construction. Following Mark Is had hardened steel plates.
Indeed, a running track of this size allowed to gap the largest known trenches of the time, negotiate craters, while the front three meter recess allowed the vehicle to climb almost any obstacle. But, in addition of being heavy, these full-running tracks caused a safety problem for the crewmembers, who could get caught in it and be dragged under the tank. It also limited the ability to store anything on top, save for a narrow portion of the central hull. Visibility was perfectible and a lot of space was lost by cramming all the return rollers. A nightmare for an engineer, as well as the maintenance crew.

Mobility

Propulsion relied on a six cylinder petrol engine at the rear of the hull, with no compartmentalization, due to the transmission system tunnel, which ran through the tank and, more importantly, because, at that stage, the engine was relatively untested and finicky enough to force engineers to need to be able to get their hands on the engine just in case. In addition, the engine had to push quite hard to carry the 28 tons of steel with its just 105 horsepower, with a crushingly low of 3.7 hp per tonne. Not surprisingly, the burden was made greater by the incredibly sticky nature of the mud, which was shown by recent studies to just stick to metal, which meant a tremendous force was required to extract whatever was plunged in it.
At least in the case of the tracks, the flat shape and serial arrangement made it more likely to “surf” on the surface, although taking along a large amount of mud in the process. Being clogged in a sinkhole was just the level of effort which the valiant little Daimler was not ready to undertake. Breakdowns were commonplace and ruined the early stage of the assault, largely diminishing the number of tanks that just had the luck to make their way into the no-man’s land and reach the destination. Also, the engine not being separated from the fighting compartment proved ruinous for the crew, which fell ill quite quickly, but that feature remained unchanged until 1918. The general staff didn’t see this sickness as a limitation either, given the relatively short distance which had to be crossed between opposing trenches. A mobility aspect which was incorporated into the design concerned the removable sponsons, allowing the tank to be narrower and thus, providing easier transport by rail.

Crew

The crew comprised eight men, of which two were drivers (one for the gearbox and the other for the brakes) and two others controlling the gears of each track. This system needed perfect coordination, which was difficult due to the noise inside and the protective leather helmets they used. The four others were gunners, serving the six-pounders and the machine guns, depending on the armament. 50% of the Mk. Is were armed with two guns in the sponsons and three machine-guns (two in the sponsons, one axial in the hull), named “males”, and the other half were “females”, armed with five machine-guns. These were either Vickers models or the 8 mm (0.31 in) Hotchkiss air-cooled equivalents. The tanks were quite big, weighing 28 tons with an eight meters long hull and an overall length of nearly ten meters with the additional tail wheel, another feature kept from the Little Willie. It was designed to help crossing very large trenches, but later proved impractical and was dropped.

Production

No less than 150 Mk.Is were built at William Foster & Co. of the Lincoln Metropolitan Carriage and Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon & Finance Co. at Wednesbury. The first order of 100 was increased to 150 in April 1916, acting as a pre-series for further mass-productions. The Foster deliveries concerned 37 males, while Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon, and Finance Company, of Birmingham, delivered 113 Tanks, including 38 “males” and 75 “females”. Later on, two rails were mounted over the hull to handle a wooden beam, used for unditching. The first were ready in a hurry and deployed in August, just in time for the Somme Offensive. From the end of 1917 and until 1918, some of the surviving ones were converted as signal tanks with a large antenna at the base of the driver’s cab, participating in the battle of Cambrai. Others were converted as supply tanks.

Succession: the Mk. II and III

As the Mark I showed many limitations, the next batch of 50 tanks (25 females and 25 males) were built at Foster & Co and Metropolitan for training purposes only. There were some claims about their unhardened steel plates, but all data seems to show that the Mk.IIs were regular Mk. Is with a few modifications for training purposes. Some 20 were sent to France for advanced training and those left remained at the Wool training ground in Dorset.
However, in 1917, there weren’t enough tanks operational for the offensives planned in April 1917 near Arras, and twenty surviving Mk.Is and all the Mk.IIs remaining in Britain were put in action (despite some protests), suffering high casualties, mainly due to the new armor-piercing bullets the Germans employed.
The Mark IIIs were training tanks as well (the great improvements were still planned for the Mk.IV) and were all fitted with Lewis machine guns in smaller, lighter sponsons. Otherwise, few changes were visible at the beginning, as this batch of 50 vehicles was designed to incorporate all the Mk.IV improvements. Deliveries were slow and none left Great Britain.

The Mark I In Action

Their first operational use was in September at Flers-Courcelette, but this first attempt was a near disaster. Most of the tanks broke down on their way, others bogged down in the mud. However, despite the lack of training of their crews, some managed to reach their designated objective, if only too few. Only 59 were part of this attack, most of them being captured afterwards by the Germans. The first issues quickly arrived at the War Office. When they appeared however through the fog, they had an uncanny psychological effect on the German troops, which fled their trenches, leaving their machine guns. The distant roar and clinging of the tracks, and later the slow-moving masses emerging from the fog which resembled nothing built yet were enough. But their ability to take punishment and return fire was compelled by the fact the Germans were caught completely unaware of their existance. A real surprise achieved by the well-guarded secret behind the name that stuck ever since, the “tank”.

Sick Crews

The noise, the smell and the temperature that reached nearly 50 degrees Celsius were just unbearable. There were powerful emanations of carbon monoxide, cordite, fuel and oil vapors, all made worse by poor ventilation. The crews often opened the narrow door situated just behind the sponson, in an attempt to get some fresh air in. With poor training and almost no internal communication, steering was enormously difficult, resulting in mechanical over-stress, causing many breakdowns.

Breakdowns

Another factor was the petrol engine, overwhelmed by the weight of the hull combined with the very sticky, heavy mud typical of the region, something that was rediscovered when excavating and experimenting with the supposed battlefield of Agincourt. Coordination between the tanks also proved inadequate, theoretically by using a set of fanions, flags, lamps, semaphores and other devices inspired by navy practice. There was no radio on board. Pigeons were used instead to report positions and status with the General Headquarters.

Protection issue

Crew security was also an issue inside the tank. If the 8 mm (0.31 in) plates were proven bullet proof, each impact produced mini-shrapnel inside the hull, injuring anybody inside. Following the first reports, thick leather jackets and helmets, or a combination of leather and chain-mail, were provided to the crews. Spall liners only appeared decades later.

Surviving example

Despite its historical importance, which could already be perceived in 1916, only a single male survived. The world’s oldest surviving combat tank is showcased at the Bovington Tank Museum, in static display. Its Number is 705, C19 and it was named “Clan Leslie”, but both its true identity and wartime history remain a mystery. It was suggested that it might have been used as a driver training tank, numbered 702, the second Mark I built. It was discovered laying in 1970 in the grounds of Hatfield House, the world’s earliest proving ground for tanks.

Video footage of Mark I at fers-Courcelette in september 1916

Sources

David Fletcher – Osprey British Mark I Tank 1916
Wikipedia Mark I tank
The “Big Willie”, or Mother on militaryfactory
The Mark I on tanks-photographs
About camouflages and liveries (landship II)
Tank-Hunter.com Mark I tank

Mark I specifications

Dimensions Length 26ft (7.92m).
Length with tail 32ft 6in (9.92m)
Width 8ft 4in (2.53m).
Width with Sponsons 13ft 2in (4.03m)
Height 8ft (2.44m)
Total weight 27.5 (female) 28.4 (male) tons
Crew 8
Propulsion British Foster-Daimler, Knight sleeve valve, water-cooled straight six 13-litre petrol engine, 105 hp at 1,000 rpm
Road Speed 3.7 mph (5.95 km/h)
Range 28 miles (45 km)
Trench Crossing ability 11ft 6in (3.5m)
Armament Male Tank 2x Hotchkiss QF 6 pdr (57 mm) gun (1.4m long barrel)
4x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine guns
Armament Female Tank 4x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Vickers water-cooled machine guns
1x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine gun
Armor From 6 to 15 mm (0.23-0.59 in)
Track links Length 8 1/2 inches (21.5cm)
Width 1ft 8in (52cm)
Sponson Hatch Length 2ft (61cm)
Width 1ft 4in (41cm)
Rear Hatch Length 2ft 3in (69cm)
Width 1ft 3in (37cm)
Total production 150

Gallery

First engagement
The irst engagement of the Mk.I at Flers Courcelette, 15 September 1916. Despite their poor performance, the tanks were increasingly popular among soldiers, with propaganda and songs talking about “miracle weapons”.
Mark I Lusitania
The Mark I C19 at Bovington

tank Mk.I
The “Mother” prototype in trials by April 1917. The hull was made of resistant boiler panels which, along with poor ventilation, kept the interior very hot. Proof against normal infantry weapons, it was sensible to machine-gun rounds and could be disabled by field guns and specially-crafted armor-piercing bullets.
tank Mk.I Male
A wooden and wire mesh frame was added to the roof of the Mark I tank to deflect hand grenades thrown at the tanks by the German infantry. The Mark I Male tank was armed with a 6pdr gun and three machine guns. On 15th September 1916, 2nd Lieutenant J.P. Clark commanded this Mark I Male tank No.746 in C Company, Section 3, Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (HSMGC). It was later given the unit number C15. It crossed German trenches and returned to Allied lines at the end of the day.
Tank Mark I female in 1917
Mark I Female tanks took part in the Battle of Flers–Courcelette on 15th September 1916. They were armed with four 0.303 in (7.62 mm) Vickers water-cooled machine guns in side sponsons and a 0.303 in (7.62 mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine gun in the front cabin. A two wheeled steering tail was attached to the rear of the tank. Tank No.511 was commanded by 2nd Lieutenant E.C.K. Cole on that day as part of D Company, Section 4, Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (HSMGC). It was given the unit number D25. It engaged the enemy and returned to Allied lines at the end of the day.
Mark I Female tank No.523, C20 under the command of Lieutenant MacPherson, C Company, Section 4,  Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (HSMGC)
Mark I Female tank No.523, C20 under the command of Lieutenant MacPherson, C Company, Section 4, Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (HSMGC) was due to be part of the attack 15th September 1916. Like many other tanks, it broke down. It was repaired by the afternoon and tried to catch up with the advancing units. It had to be abandoned on the battlefield on 16th November 1916 after it ditched and could not get out.
Mark I Male tank No.745 D22 of the
This Mark I Male tank No.745 saw action on 15th September 1916 as part of D Company, Section 4. It was given the unit number D22. Lieutenant F.A. Robinson commanded the tank. Unfortunately, the tank crew mistook some soldiers as the enemy. They fired on and killed some British troops. The tank ditched but managed to get out. It returned back to Allied lines after the battle. It was back in action again on 26th September 1916 attached to C Company. It was hit and destroyed. The rear tail could be locked in the up position when necessary. The three ‘A’ shaped bits of metal on the roof were used when the sponson needed to be removed for rail travel.
Some Mark I Male tanks were used as supply tanks. This is tank, No.712 called 'Dodo', was part of B battalion, 5 company, 8 section, B37.
Some Mark I Male tanks were used as supply tanks. This is tank, No.712 called ‘Dodo’, was part of B battalion, 5 company, 8 section, B37. It was photographed 7th June 1917 at Messines. This was the first time old Mk.I tanks were used as supply vehicles. This tank was later renamed “Badger”, it presumably remained with “B” Battalion until the Mk I and II supply tanks were withdrawn.

Tank Hunter WW1
Tank Hunter: World War One

By Craig Moore

The First World War’s fierce battles saw the need to develop military technology beyond anything previously imagined: as exposed infantry and cavalry were mowed down by relentless machine-gun attacks, so tanks were developed. Stunningly illustrated in full colour throughout, Tank Hunter: World War One provides historical background, facts and figures for each First World War tank as well as the locations of any surviving examples, giving you the opportunity to become a Tank Hunter yourself.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
Cold War Soviet MBTs

T-80

USSR (1976)
Main Battle Tank – 5,404 built

The turbine tank

The most remarkable trait about this Soviet MBT was its turbine, used as main motricity power. It was indeed the first conventional MBT equipped with a turbine, preceding the M1 Abrams from two years in service. It could be argued that the first turbine tank was the innovative Swedish S-tank, but the latter was not a conventional MBT by any means (more an advanced tank destroyer SPG than MBT by all standards). It was more produced than the more modern T-90 MBT and largely exported in its final version T-80U. It was the first Soviet 3rd generation MBT.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

T80 in SPb
T80 in SPb
Perhaps 40 years in the making, this old concept going back to 1949 was only materialized in the 1970s and the final tank borrowed parts from the T-72 and others from the T-64. Often confounded with the latter by NATO experts at the beginning, it has the same family traits of contemporary Soviet MBTs but was by any means a specific branch of MBTs. Much costlier than the T-72, it was, like the T-64 before, considered much as a domestic “elite MBT” to be treated with special care, unlike the mass-produced, easy to manufacture and maintain T-72, it was neither intended for export. Its speed but limited range made it suitable only for “cavalry-type” armored tactics, alongside more conventional MBTs on the great plains of Eastern Europe. Never exported until the 1990s (by Ukraine) and completely overhauled as the T-80UM, it gave birth, still in Ukraine, to the T-84 Oplot.

Background

Speed was always valued as a form of active protection, especially when guns were un-stabilized. This made a fast moving target less likely to be hit even at relatively short ranges. The Soviet military staff became enamoured with speed for tanks already in 1929, purchasing the Christie tanks in USA, which were reverse-engineered in USSR and copied as the BT series, the ancestry of the famous T-34. In the late 1940s with the advent of the
In the Jet age, turbines seemed to be a promising alternative to conventional engines.
Soviet engineers, never short of unconventional approaches, already designed (on official specs) a first blueprint of a turbine-powered tank in 1949. With the T-64 the flattest, smallest and lightest transverse engine was devised in order to give a low and short silhouette. Whereas the American tanks seemed to grow bigger at each generation, the Soviets took the exact opposite path.

Early development

The 1949 turbine tank designer was A. Ch. Starostienko, for the Leningrad Kirov Plant (LKZ). Available turbine engines then were of poor quality and the case was quickly closed. In 1955 however, two prototypes rated for 1,000 hp (746 kW) both boasting new turbine engines were built at LKZ under the guidance of G. A. Ogloblin. In 1957, a team led by Josef Kotin constructed two other prototypes (Ob’yekt 278). Both were hybrids between the roomy heavy tanks IS-7 and T-10s, to accommodate the large GTD-1 turbine engine. These weighted 53.5 tonnes, and were armed with a 130 mm tank gun. Maximum speed was an astonishing 57.3 km/h (35.6 mph) but heavy consumption reduced the range to a mere 300 km (190 mi). Development stopped there as there was no future for heavy tanks anyway after the death of Stalin.
In 1963 however, Morozov Design Bureau designed the revolutionary T-64 and T-64T tanks. Both used a GTD-3TL turbine engine rated at 700 hp (522 kW), tested until 1965. Uralvagonzavod L. N. Kartsev team later created the Ob’yekt 167T tank which used the upgraded GTD-3T turbine engine rated at 801 hp (597 kW). In 1966 the Ob’yekt 288 rocket tank was more radical, being given no less than two aerial GTD-350 turbine engines, for a combined power of 691 hp (515 kW). Trials showed that this arrangement was no better than the single one in development since 1968 at KB-3 unit, Kirov Plant and WNII Transmash.
The 1969 LKZ team turbine tank was designed by Nikolay Popov, designated Ob’yekt 219 SP1. It was renamed later T-64T, powered by a GTD-1000T multi-fuel gas turbine engine rated for 1,000 hp (746 kW). It became clear on trials that this boosted dynamic characteristics but also required a complete overall of the drivetrain and track system to absorb the record performances. The Ob’yekt 219 SP2 received in that occurrence larger drive sprockets and return rollers, and six roadwheels (instead of 5).
The turret was modified to use the standard 125 mm 2A46 tank gun fitted with an autoloader and T-64A ammunition carousel. Other equipment was common with the T-64A. This LKZ hybrid was quite successful and practical, cheap, and therefore was followed by a series of prototypes for extra testings. With no less than seven years more of upgrades and gradual modifications in many aspects, the tank was accepted for service as the T-80.

Production

The T-80 was accepted in 1976, but production lasted until 1992, after the fall of the USSR with a grand total of 5,405 main battle tanks. They were quite a leap forward compared to the T-64 and even more to the T-72, and the among the first third generation main battle tanks to enter service worldwide. At the same time, Germany and the US were still struggling to close their over-ambitious MBT-70 design, and two years after both countries launched their own MBTs, the M1 Abrams and Leopard 2.
Therefore for two years, the Soviet Union had hundreds of the most advanced MBT worldwide at their disposal for any western offensive, light years from the M60, at that time the most widespread NATO MBT. However some analysts still saw it for years as a simple improvement of the T-72, whereas it was closely related to the T-64. As a fact T-64, T-72 and T-80 all looked superficially similar, and were armed with the same main gun. The real difference came with performances and the fact the T-64 and T-80 were small and shorter than the T-72. These were also manned by reputedly much better crews, as elite tanks.
The T-80 design not only added to T-64 design a gas turbine engine (denied for many years by western analysts) but compromised with the adoption of suspension components of the T-72. A very high power-to-weight ratio and reliability made it by far the most mobile tank in service worldwide, although still plagued by range problems. Now well known and established fact, the turbine had a high consumption, even at idle. Morozov bureau will later try to create a parallel development (T-80UD) with a commercial turbo-diesel instead.
The M1 Abrams had a much larger 1,500 hp (1,120 kW) gas turbine, but at the price of 61 tons on the balance compared to only 42.6 tons for its rival, meaning 24.5 vs 27.1 power to weight ratio, and it was also later recognized as less maneuverable than the T-80. Nothing is known however about the comparative noise produced by the T-80 turbine. Like the T-64, the T-80 was able to fire the 9K112 Kobra (AT-8 Songster) ATGM through the main gun for an extended reach beyond the 2500 m practical range of its 125 mm gun.

Design of the T-80A

Protection
Layout of the “turbine tank” was very similar to the T-64. The hull was quite low, with a highly pronounced front glacis slope (laminate armor) and made of welded steel RHA, assumed with similar armour thickness than the T-64. The driver’s compartment was in the centerline, and in the two-man turret, the gunner was located on the left and commander on the right.
Apart composite armor on the turret and hull rubber flaps and sideskirts protect the sides and lower hull against RPGs. Explosive reactive armor and stronger armor was used on the T-80U and T-80UM1. Active protection include Shtora-1 and Arena APS systems, as well as Drozd APS (Only a limited number installed). The crew was protected by NBC and there were Halon type automatic fire extinguishers in the engine compartment and turret. Also smoke dischargers were used on the turret, from three to six per side, and the usual exhaust diesel dispenser was also used to create a white cloud.
Mobility
The T-80 gas turbine engine developed 1,000 horsepower instead of a 750-horsepower diesel engine, although the later T-80 revert to diesel for reasons we will see soon. The gearbox had five forward and one reverse gear (and not seven forward, one reverse). Instead of the hydropneumatic suspensions of the T-64, well-proven torsion bars were used, and the tracks layed on six forged steel aluminium, rubber-clad road wheels. There were also rear sprockets and front idlers. The tracks were also slightly wider and longer than on the T-64, which gave lower ground pressure.
Armament
The turret houses the same 125 mm 2A46 smoothbore shared by the T-72. It can fire both standard ordnance of various types, from HE-frag to HEAT and APFSDS, but also anti-tank guided missiles as well. The feeding system is the Korzina automatic loader which holds up to 28 rounds (two-part) ammunition, in the carousel located under the turret floor.
Extra rounds are also stored inside the turret. This proven autoloader is effective and reliable also combat tested since the mid-1960s. The propellant charge is contained in a semi-combustible cartridge case. Only the small metal baseplate is ejected after being consummated. The loading process takes between 7.1 and 19.5 seconds depending on the initial position of the carousel.
PKT Machine gun
PKT Machine gun
Known issues
Apart the usual uncomfortable and crampy interior that would be unacceptable for NATO crews, the T-80BV used in combat in Chechnya was proven quite vulnerable and prone to catastrophic explosions. The reason given by US and Russian experts was the vulnerability of stored semi-combustible propellant charges and missiles when hit by molten metal jet from the penetrating HEAT rounds. Western tank indeed had their rounds stored in a separate stowage from the crew compartment, using with armored blast doors, ‘blow-out’ panels. The latest T-84 Oplot, the Ukrainian derived version of the T-80 has an entirely new turret with armored ammunition compartment to help prevent accidental detonation.
125 mm 9K112 Kobra gun ATGM
125 mm 9K112 Kobra gun ATGM

The T-80B (1978)

This first evolution of the basic type came quickly and was characterized by a new turret integrating new laser rangefinder, fire-control, even a new autoloader modified to operate the 9M112-1 Kobra ATGM. This one was credited for accurate 80% hits on the move. On the protection side, improved composite armor was used.
In 1980 this version received a 1,100-hp engine. In 1982 it was provided with a new gun.
In 1985, it received fittings for an improved reactivearmorr. This had an equivalent protection of 400 mm against HEAT warheads. Sighting range for the ammunitions range from 4000 m for kinetic energy ammunitions cumulative ammunition, 5000 m for HE-frag and near 10,000 when using the “side level” system. The night sight TPNZ-49 range in active mode was 1300 and 850 m in passive mode. Accuracy for the “Reflex” ATGMs system in enhanced by a laser beam allows for accurate targeting on the move at any speed.

The T-80BV/UM (1985)

In addition to the modifications seen above, the BV introduces a new ERA (Explosive Reactive Armour), and the UM is given the new Buran Thermal Imaging sight in place of the Luna IR.

The T-80U (1985)

The T-80U (“U” stands for uluchsheniye, meaning “improved”) was designed by SKB-2 in Leningrad for the hull, working with the Morozov Bureau for the turret and armament. The T-80U uses the Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armour (see later), had an improved gunsight, and the 9K119 Refleks ATGM (from 1990).
A development of the T-80A, it was powered from 1990 by a 1,250 hp (919 kW) GTD-1250 gas turbine, for improved range. The latter was derived from the GTD-1000T and GTD-1000TF engines used by the main production T-80s. This new gas turbine was mutifuel, accepting high-octane aviation gasoline as well as diesel and low-octane gasoline. It was also very reliable, stable for a better service life. It also had a built-in automatic system of dust deposits removal but still retains a relatively high fuel consumption. The main gun was provided with the 2A46 fire control system in an improved turret. For amphibious crossings, it was given the new Brod-M deep wading equipment.
The T-80U was preceded by the Object 219AS prototype, a transitional model which used the T-80U turret, but Kontakt-1/ERA instead of the new Kontakt-5. Some of these Object 219As even shows no ERA at all.
The commander version (T-80UK)is equipped with the Shtora-1 APS and the thermal imaging night sight TO1-PO2T (about 6400/4600 meters night range). By comparison the base thermal night sight is about 1750/1500 meters.
T-80U 2002 in Kubinka
T-80U 2002 in Kubinka
In terms of protection, The T-80U featured a second generation of explosive reactive armour (ERA) Kontakt-5, well proven against APFSDS rounds, which can largely dissipate the energy from the M829A1 “Silver Bullet”. Kontakt-5 was also integrated to the hull. It gave an equivalent of 780/1320 mm RHAe against APFSDS/HEAT rounds. It has full length rubber side skirts to protect the sides, the first three being rigid, armored, and provided with lifting handles.
The commander’s machine gun is a simple pintle-mounted one. The 9M119 Refleks (AT-11 Sniper) guided missile are provided for the main gun, each having a Long-Rod penetrator (HVAPFSDS) 3BM46. For active concealment, outside the smoke projectors, a special camouflage paint distorts the tank’s appearance in the visible and IR wavebands. The 1A46 fire control system includes a laser range finder, ballistics computer, advanced 1G46 gunner’s main sights, and thermal imaging sights.
These new systems, together with the 125 mm D-81TM “Rapira-3” smooth bore gun, ensures that the T-80U can accurately hit and destroy targets at a range of up to 5 kilometers (ATGMs and HV/APFSDS). Experienced crew was able to successfully at the international exhibition missile to strike 52 targets without a miss at a distance of 5 km.
T-80UM-1 exposed at Omsk, 2009.
T-80UM-1 exposed at Omsk, 2009.

T-80 UM (1990)

The T-80U(M) of the 1990s introduced the TO1-PO2 Agava gunner’s thermal imaging sight and 9M119M Refleks-M guided missile, and later an improved 2A46M-4 version of the 125 mm gun and 1G46M gunner’s sight was used. Both the T-80 poor combat performances and high fuel consumption conducted the Russian command to standardize the T-90 tank. The Omsk Tank Plant in Siberia since with that decision was left without orders but try to sell the T-80 on the export market. South Korea and China imported it in small numbers, as well as pakistan and Cyprus. The T-80UM1 was in that perspective intended for export only, given active protection systems from the T-80UM2 Black Eagle.

T-80UD Bereza (Ukraine, from 1987)

Morozov Bureau developed a diesel-powered version called the T-80UD, powered by a 1,000-hp 6TD-1 6-cylinder multi-fuel two-stroke turbo-piston diesel engine. This allowed operational fuel temperatures up to 55 °C and to ford to 1.8 m water depth. The engine deck and smoke-mortar array, turret stowage boxes are all different from the Russian-built T-80U. The remotely controlled commander’s machine gun is also part of the package.
500 were built in the Malyshev plant in 1987-1991, a potent addition for the Ukrainian Military after the breakup of USSR. Alongside the derived T-84, this tank is today the staple of Ukrainian MBT force and will remains so in future years.

Other variants

T-84 (Ukraine 1999): Further development with a 1,200-hp diesel, new welded turret.
T-80BVD (Ukraine, 2002): KMDB’s upgrade which includes the 6TD diesel engine, remote-controlled commander’s machine gun, better optics. It remains at a demonstrator but non was sold yet.
Chonma-ho V north korean T-80U
T-80UM2/Black Eagle tank: Cancelled project. Several Russian prototypes shown at trade shows, with a longer chassis and extra pair of road wheels, and very large turret with separate ammunition compartment.

Exports

Armenia: 20 in service.
Belarus: 95 in 2000, 90 today.
Cyprus: 27 T-80Us & 14 T-80UKs ordered in 1996, 25 T-80Us and 16 T-80UKs later -Total 82
Egypt: 14 T-80UKs, 20 T-80Us acquired 1997.
South Korea: 33 T-80Us ordered in 1995, two T-80UKs in 2005, now retired.
Pakistan: 320 T-80UDs ordered 1996 from Ukraine, last delivered 2002. They integrated many technologies common to the T-84.
People’s Republic of China: 50 (200 ordered in 1993) T-80Us obtained for evaluation used for the development of the Type 96 MBT.
Russia: 3,144 active, 1,856 in storage 1995, only 271 active in 2005.
Yemen: 31 ex-Russian delivered in 2000.
Bulgaria also tested the type in the late 1980s but after comparison with the latest versions of the T-72 rejected the design. Some sources also states that Kazakhstan also purchased some, without precision. According to most trusted sources however only T-72 MBTs of various types are currently in service. Also in 1992, the UK bought a number of T-80U tanks for defence research and development through a specially created trading company intended to deliver these to Morocco, offering five million USD each.
After being evaluated on their proving grounds one was transferred to the US, tested at Aberdeen Proving Ground (and later four Ukrainian T-80UD MBTs). Weak spots and flaws were duly noted. This was officially confirmed in January 1994 by the MOD. South Korean tanks were given in order to pay Russian debts incurred during the days of the Soviet Union. Russia also attempted to sell the T-80 to Turkey and Greece. Sweden also integrated the T-80 in the competition to modernize its armoured brigades in the early 1990s alongside the Leclerc but the upgraded Leopard 2 (Strv 122) was chosen instead and Leopard 2A4s (Strv 121) kept to simplify logistics.

The T-80 in action

The T-80 entered service in the early 1980, very gradually due to repeated teething problems. 1,900 were registered in service in 1985, 4,000 in 1990, and 4,839 during the breakup of the USSR, since passed to successors states (Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan), stored and exported. T-80Us were never deployed in Europe. Instead T-80B and T-80BVs were stationed in East Germany between 1986 and 1987. Their speed led concerns to NATO that the whole Soviet armoured brigades could reach the sea in less than two weeks, and led to the development of new ATGMs and attack helicopters.
T-80Us at the 1991 Moskow coup attempt.
T-80Us at the 1991 Moskow coup attempt.
But instead of the great rush on the open plains of Eastern Europe, T-80s were deployed in August 1991 when communists and allied military commanders tried to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev. T-80UD of the 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division were launched into the streets of Moscow to no avail as the coup attempt failed as crews refused to fire on the audience and parliament (see above). After that about 460 T-80UD are retained in service with 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division and 4th Guards Kantemirowsk Motor Rifle Division. It’s still a costly tank to operate. In the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, (4 October) six T-80UD MBTs -12th Guards Tank Regiment & 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division- took positions on a bridge opposite the Russian parliament and fired on it. Also in July 1998, a single T-80 (Major Igor Belyaev) went in front of the administration building of Novosmolensk, aiming at it in protest of several months of unpaid wages.
The Chechen war: Humiliation and Controversy
The real test came with T-80B and BVs deployed (without success) for capturing rebellious cities. Massive tank losses were suffered in particular in Grozny. Crews were not trained nor prepared to face opposing veterans of the Soviet War in Afghanistan, very mobile and well armed with RPG-7V and RPG-18s. They lacked reactive armour or were not fitted with explosive inserts. It was even discovered some “boxes” were left empty. Anti-tank fire was judiciously directed at the least armoured points of the vehicles, if needed with as many hits as necessary.
In general three to six RPG hits were sufficient to disable T-80s, and it was observed that most time the autoloader was the weak spot because of penetrating hits in their side armour, blewing stored ready propellant in a vertical position. They were supposed to be protected by the road wheels from the sides, but most of the times, rebels were posted in cellars and in general dominant positions or at the contrary from basements, whereas T-80s suffered from minimal gun elevation and depression and were unable to respond.
225 tanks in all were destroyed in the first month alone (about 10% of tanks deployed for thos campaign). This led General-Lieutenant A. Galkin (head of the Armor Directorate) to convince the MOD after the war to stop any delivery or procurement of gas-turbine propelled tanks. This led to new tactical assignments, like infantry squads support from a safe distance. On the other hand, some officers argued that the T-72s deployed in urban areas performed as poorly and anyway the crews sent has not been trained properly to face these missions, nor had the right tactics.
As a result T-80s were excluded from the operations in the second Chechen war, and the war in Ukraine. It is not known what the future reserves to the T-80. New offensive actions could come from foreign deployments, since its use in Russia has dwindled down to symbolic numbers, but nothing is closed so far for the Ukrainian ones, not modernized to the latest T-84 level and still in considerable numbers.

Links and ressources

The T-80 on wikipedia
The T-80U at fprado.com
The T-80 on militaryfactory
The T-80U on army-technology
The T80UD at Morozov website
The T80 on armyrecoignition.net
Object 480 walkaround
T-80BV walkaround
The T-80UD on militaryfactory
More T-80 photos on wikimedia commons
An article about the Chechen losses – nationalinterest
T-80U on wikimedia commons
T-80BV on wikimedia commons
T-80B on wikimedia commons

T-80B specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 9.9m (7.4m without gun) x 3.4m x 2.2m
(32’5″ (24’3″) x 11’1″ x 7’2″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 42.5 to 46 tons
Crew 3 (driver, cdr, gunner)
Propulsion SG-1000 gas turbine – 23.5 hp/tonne
Suspension Active hydropneumatic suspensions
Speed (road) 89 km/h (55 mph)
Range 320 km (200 mi)
Main Armament 2A46 125 mm gun
Armor 450-650mm equivalent vs APFSDS & HEAT
Total production 5404 in 1995

Video

Gallery

T80U @Engineering Technologies 2012
T80U @Engineering Technologies 2012
Yemeni T-80BVYemeni T-80BV on display
South Korean T-80U
South Korean T-80U
Pakistani T-80U
Pakistani T-80U
Egyptian T-80BV
T-80BV intended for egypt
Cypriot T-80U
Cypriot T-80U
Armenian T-80BV
Armenian T-80BV
T-80U_TankBiathlon2013early_T-80_during_maneuversT-80_in_Saint-PetersburgNSVT_HMGT-80U_Part5T-80BV_military_vehicles_static_displays_in_Luzhniki_2010-01T80_Verkhnyaya_Pyshma_Tank_Museum_2011_199T-80UM-1_at_VTTV-Omsk-2009Soviet_T-80BV4thTankBrigade_T-80U-37T-80U_tank_interior_gunnerT-80U_tank_interior_commanderT-80U_tank_interiorT-80U_tank_interiorT-80UK_at_VTTV-Omsk-2009Russian_T-80BVT-80U_Engineering_Technologies_2010_international_forumT-80UD_and_T-62T-80-blueprintT-80BV-blueprintT-80_trialsSoviet_T-80_MBT_exercizesT80U_exposedT-80B_museum_Moscow_OblastT80U_Engineering_Technologies_2012T80_ParkPatriot2015part2-31T-80U_ex_winter1T-80U_ex_winterT-80_adim_Zadorozhny_Technical_museum.T80_ParkPatriot2015part2-36Т-80BV_Khabarovsk_Military_Museum_2013Object_219A_in_museum_in_Kubinka_showing-Kontak5_ERAT-80U_MBT_photo005T-80U_exercises_rearT-80BV_military_vehicles_static_displays_in_Luzhniki_2010-03T-80U_-_TankBiathlon2013-15Soviet_T-80_tank_with_ERAT-80UK_at_VTTV-Omsk-2009T80U_4th_Guards_Kantemirovskaya_Tank_DivisionT80U_Verkhnyaya_Pyshma_Tank_Museum_2012_0078Turret_of_a_Russian_T-80BVT-80U_tank,_Engineering_Technologies_2010T-80UK_VTTV-Omsk-2009T-80_MBT_reactive_armourT-80_Arena_KAZT_Active_Protection_System

T-80, early preseries
Soviet T-80, early preseries, 1970s
T-80, 1970s
Soviet T-80, late 1970s
T-80 early 1980s
Soviet T-80 early 1980s
T-80B
Soviet T-80B, 1978
T-80B1
Soviet T-80B, 1980s
T-80 BV
Soviet T-80 BV, 1980s
T-80BV
Russian T-80BV, 1990s
T-80 BV Grozniy
Russian T-80 BV in Grozniy, 1994
T-80 BV in Transnistria
T-80 BV in Transnistria, 1996
T-80BV
Russian T-80BV
T-80BV
Russian T-80BV
t-80BVD
T-80 BVD
T-80 UK
T-80 UK, official presentation prototype
T-80BU
Russian T-80 BU
T-80U Guard Kamtemirovets
Russian T-80U Guard Kamtemirovets, Moskow, 1991
Pakistati T-80U
Pakistani T-80U
Russian T-80U
Russian T-80U, 2001
T-80UK
Russian T-80UK
T-80UM
Russian T-80UM

Categories
WW2 Polish Prototypes

10TP

Poland (1938)
Cruiser Tank – 1 prototype

The Polish Christie Tank

Poland chose to produce tankettes (The TK3 and TKS), derived from the Carden-Loyd Mark VI, more because of economical constraints than tactical choices. But there was also a real interest for another Vickers-Armstrong product of 1930, the Vickers 6-ton light tank of which 38 Type A and 22 Type B were ordered in 1932-33. This model served for a local development by the Ursus company, soon known as the 7TP. This was just one of several tanks models that the Army was looking on. Another was an American one, the Christie tank. Indeed, the 7TP was given the same old bogie suspensions systems of the Vickers 6-ton which didn’t made the cut in terms of speed. Whereas the American concept was soon copied by neighboring USSR and Great Britain for its Cruiser Mark III.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

10TP without tracks
10TP without tracks in its original configuration. Narrow tracks were carried, strapped on the catwalks.
The 10TP, however, was born much earlier as the Military Institute of Engineering Research (Wojskowy Instytut Badań Inżynierii, WIBI) sent Captain Ruciński in a mission in the US to legally acquire a Christie M1928 tank plus its blueprint and license. But the deal never materialized. Therefore it was not before the early 1930s that the WIBI Tank Design Bureau took charge to create a local tank inspired by the Christie M1928 and M1931 after data, leaflets and notes taken by Captain Ruciński.

Development

The WBI design bureau was liquidated in 1934 and the project was interrupted by the more urgent 7TP. It was taken over by the newly established Design and Testing Centre of the Armoured Forces, but most of the original documentation has been lost or destroyed so it started almost from a blank page and on 10 March 1935 the 10TP officially started under supervision of Captain Rudolf Gundlach (the famous periscope designer). His team also comprised engineers Jan Łapuszewski, Stefan Ołdakowski, Mieczysław Staszewski, Kazimierz Hejnowicz and process engineer Jerzy Napiórkowski. The design was advanced enough to be officially approved and included by the Armament and Equipment Committee (Komitet do spraw Uzbrojenia i Sprzętu, KSUS) in January 1936 to the 1936-42 armament projection plan.
It was specified to be given to four newly formed tank battalions and two motorised cavalry brigades. The final prototype was built by Experimental Workshop (WD), attached to the Ursus complex near Warsaw (PZInż), supervised by Captain Kazimierz Grüner. Because of the foreign engine and mechanical parts, delays amounted and the delivery did not occur before July 1938, it was ready eventually for tests on August, 16. Secret runs started under the supervision of the Trial and Experiment Department in the Bureau of Technical Studies on Armored Weapons headed by Captain Leon Czekalski. Trials stopped on 30 September to correct several minor defaults at the WD unit. Other long trips started from 16 January 1939 achieving a 2000km crash course on 25 April. Then it was completely dismantled at WD to check the wear on particular parts and assemblies and do extra corrections. Were detected and noted an above normal wear of the gearbox and clutches, excessive roadwheels and tracks fatigue, insufficient engine cooling and greater than expected fuel consumption.

Design of the 10TP

Externally, only the large roadwheels betrayed some connection to the Christie design. In fact, the 10TP was certainly not a copy of the Christie M1931 as the Soviet BT series was. The hull was significantly larger to accommodate two men side by side in the turret and two in the hull front (driver and co-driver/MG-gunner). Armour thickness was the same to the front, sides and back at 20mm, and 8mm on the bottom and top. Compartmentation was standard, with a rear compartment for the main engine, which was eventually a 12 cylinder American La France petrol engine which developed 210HP (245 stated by the manufacturer), coupled to a 5 gear mechanical gearbox. The tracks (one on two was teethed, double pin) had smaller links, more durable and made for a quieter ride. There was also a specific link hooking system. New drive sprockets (rear) were designed. Most importantly the the second pair of roadwheels were raising by using advanced hydraulic servomechanisms for steering. Both this and the hooking system were new and unproven, and caused many teething problems.
10TP suspension scheme
10TP suspension scheme
Top speed was around 50-75 km/h which was certainly less than the BT series (almost 90-100 kph), due to a lower output and heavier weight. Range was 210km on roads but fell to 130 in off-road conditions with a 130 l capacity. The two-man turret, protected by 16mm slopes was the same model used on the 7TP, housing a high-velocity 37 mm Bofors wz. 36 coupled with a coaxial 7.92 mm Ckm wz.30. The bow machine gun was of the same model, but its watertank was encased in an armoured mantlet and massive ball mount. There were leather straps on each side to carry the alternative tracks stored on the catwalks.

10TP illustration
Rendition of the 10TP by Tanks Encyclopedia, based on the profile photo, March-April trials of 1938

10TP by Bernard “Escodrion” Baker

Fate

Eventually, a demonstration allegedly took place before the general staff (perhaps in May 1939). At that stage the idea was no longer to have a convertible (wheeled vehicle/tracked) model, to get rid of all the dual system complications and stick to a track-only model. The spare weight could be then reallocated to improve armour thickness. Therefore, the whole project shifted towards a new model, the 14TP tank. The fate of the 10TP is not known unfortunately. It could have been cannibalized to create the 14TP or stored, or conditioned to take part in the desperate fight in November. The 10TP would have been however comparable with the British Crusader and its 37mm Bofors was able to deal with most German tanks up to the Panzer IV.

An article by David Bocquelet

Links

The 10TP on wikipedia
The 10TP on derela.republika
Blueprint, by Janusz Magnuski

10TP specifications

Dimensions 5.4 x2.5 x2.2 m (17.1 x8.2 x7.2 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 12.8 tons (25,600 Ibs)
Crew 4 (driver, co-driver(MG gunner), commander, gunner)
Propulsion 6 litre 12-cyl Am Lafrance, 210 hp, 16.5 hp/ton
Suspension Christie suspensions (coil springs, bars)
Speed (road) 70 km/h (44 mph)
Range 320 km (130 mi)
Armament 37mm Bofors wz.36, 2x 7.62mm wz.30
Armor 8 mm to 20 mm (0.3-0.8 in)

Gallery

10TP, tracks mounted (credits m.derela)
10TP, tracks mounted (credits m.derela)

10TP, profile view (credits m.derela)
10TP, profile view (credits m.derela)

10TP rear view10TP stranded after trials, Radzymińska Street in Warsaw, 25 April 193910TP being tracted near Warsaw 25 April 1939
10TP stranded after trials, being tracted in Radzymińska Street, Warsaw, 25 April 1939.


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Categories
WW2 US Tank Destroyers

90mm GMC M36 Jackson

ww2 US tanks USA (1943) Tank Hunter – 1,772 built

The ultimate American tank hunter of WW2

The M36 Jackson was the last dedicated American tank hunter of the war. After the early, soon obsolete M10 Wolverine and the superfast M18 Hellcat, the US Army needed a more powerful gun and better armored vehicle to hunt down the latest developments in German tanks, including the Panther and Tigers. Indeed, in September 1942, it was already foreseen that the standard 75 mm (3 in) M7 gun of the M10 was only efficient at short range (500 m) against the enemy vehicles. Engineers were tasked with devising a new 90 mm (3.54 in) gun, which became the M3 gun, to engage German tanks on equal terms considering range. This gun was also used by the M26 Pershing.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

M10A1 GMC in trials, 1943. The T71 was developed on this hull and chassis
M10A1 GMC in trials, 1943. The T71 was developed on this hull and chassis.
The need for a better armed tank hunter was confirmed, at a high cost, in the battle of Kasserine pass and later in multiple engagements in Sicily and Italy. The new tank equipped with this gun was designed quickly on the basis of the M10 tank destroyer. At first, the T53 sought a dual AA/AT rôle, but was eventually canceled.
The T71, which would become the M36, was completed in March 1943. However, due to multiple issues, the production only started mid-1944 and the first deliveries came in September 1944, two years after the idea was first proposed. This new tank hunter was known by the soldiers as “Jackson” in reference to the Confederate general of the Civil War Stonewall Jackson, or “Slugger”. Officially, it was named “M36 tank destroyer” or “90 mm Gun Motor Carriage M36” by the ordnance and US Army at large. It proved itself vastly superior to the M10, and was arguably the finest American tank hunter of World War Two, with a long postwar career.
T71 GMC pilot prototype in 1943
T71 GMC pilot prototype in 1943

Development (1943-44)

The first M36 prototype was completed in March 1943. It was characterized by a new turret mounting the 90 mm M3 gun on a standard M10 chassis. The prototype designated T71 Gun Motor Carriage and passed all tests with success, proving lighter and thus more agile than the regular Sherman M4A3. An order for 500 was issued. Upon standardization, the designation was changed to “90 mm Gun Motor Carriage M36” in June 1944. These were produced by the Fisher Tank Division (General Motors), Massey Harris Co., American Locomotive Co. and Montreal Locomotive Works (chassis) and hulls by the Grand Blanc Arsenal. The M36 was based on the upgraded M10A1 Wolverine hull, whereas the B2 was based on the regular M10 chassis/M4A3 diesel.
M36B2 at Danbury - side view
M36B2 at Danbury, – side view

Design

Like all US tank destroyers, the turret was open-topped to save weight and provide better peripheral observation. However, the turret design was not a simple repeat of the sloped plates of the M10 but rather a thick casting with front and side slopes and a backwards recline. A bustle acting as turret basket was welded on this casting to the rear, providing extra ammo storage (11 rounds) as well as acting as a counterweight for the M3 main gun (47 rounds, HE and AP). The main secondary armament, the usual dual purpose “Ma Deuce” cal.50 (12.7 mm) Browning M2 heavy machine gun was installed on a pintle mount on this bustle, but there was no coaxial MG. The B1 variant introduced a secondary Browning M1919 cal.30 in the hull. Postwar modifications included a folding armored roof kit to provide some protection against shrapnel, but also later fitting of a hull ball mount Browning cal.30 machine gun on the co-driver’s position and the new M3A1 gun.
GMC 6046 engine
GMC 6046 engine
The chassis was basically the same as the M10, with a Ford GAA V-8 gasoline 450 hp (336 kW) which gave a 15.5 hp/ton ratio, coupled with a Synchromesh gearbox with 5 forward and 1 reverse ratio. With 192 gallons of gasoline, this gave a 240 km (150 mi) range on roads with a top speed on flat ground of up to 48 km/h (30 mph). The running gear was comprised of three bogies with Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (VVSS), 12 rubberized roadwheels, with front idlers and rear drive sprockets. Hull protection counted on 13 mm thick add-on bolted armored panels like the M10 and ranged from 9 mm (035 in) to 108 mm (4.25 in) on the gun mantlet and front hull glacis plate. In detail these figures were:
Glacis front hull 38–108 mm / 0–56 °
Side (hull) 19–25 mm / 0–38 °
Rear (hull) 19–25 mm / 0–38 °
Top (hull) 10–19 mm / 90 °
Bottom (hull) 13 mm / 90 °
Front (turret) 76 mm /0 °
Sides (turret) 31,8 mm / 5 °
Rear (turret) 44,5–130 mm / 0 °
Top (turret) 0–25 mm /90 °

Variants

M36 (standard): 3″ GMC M10A1 hull (M4A3 chassis, 1,298 produced/converted)
M36B1: Conversion on M4A3 hull and chassis. (187).
M36B2: Conversion on M4A2 chassis (same hull as M10) with a twin 6-71 arrangement GM 6046 diesel (287).
M36B2 GMC at Danbury
M36B2 GMC at Danbury

The M36 in action

Although fielded much earlier for training, the first M36 in organic tank hunter units, in accordance with the US TD doctrine, arrived in September 1944 on the European Theater of Operations (also at the insistence of Eisenhower that regularly had reports about the Panther). It showed itself a formidable opponent for German tanks, largely on par with the British Firefly (also based on the Sherman). In addition, between October and December 1944, 187 conversions of standard Medium Tank M4A3 hulls into M36s were performed at the Grand Blanc Arsenal. These were designated M36B1 and rushed to the European Theater of Operations to combat alongside regular M36s. Later in the war, M4A2 (diesel versions) were also converted as B2s. The latter, in addition to their roof-mounted add-on armor folding panels, also had an upgraded M3 main gun with a muzzle brake.
The M36 was capable of nailing down any known German tanks at reasonable range (1,000 to 2,500 m depending of the armor thickness to deal with). Its gun left little smoke when firing. It was liked by its crew, but because of its high demand, fell rapidly in short supply: Only 1,300 M36s were manufactured in all, of which perhaps 400 were available in December 1944. However, like other US tanks hunters, it was still vulnerable to shell fragments and snipers due to its open-top turret. Field modifications, like for the M10, were hastily performed by the crews, welding additional roof iron plating. Later on, a kit was developed to protect against shrapnel, made of folding panels adopted by the M36B2, generalized after the war. When entirely closed there was a gap above the turret allowing the crew to still have a good peripheral vision. The other backsides was the choice of its Sherman chassis with a high transmission tunnel which made for a conspicuous target at 10 feet tall.
In an engagement with a German Panther tank at 1500 yards, an M36 of the 776th TD Battalion was able to penetrate the turret armor which became the commonplace preferred target, along with the sides, rather than the glacis. Tigers were harder to handle and needed to be engaged at smaller ranges. Mediums were relatively easier prey until the end of the war. The King Tiger was a slight problem, but it could still be destroyed with the proper range, angle and ammo. As an example, near Freihaldenhoven in December 1944, an M36 from the 702nd TD Battalion knocked out a King Tiger at 1,000 yards by a side shot in the turret. Panthers were generally knocked out at 1,500 yards.

M36 GMC, December 1944, en route for the battle of the Bulge
M36 GMC, December 1944, en route to the battle of the BulgeDuring the Battle of the Bulge, the 7th AD was engaged, with its M36s, at St Vith with success, despite artillery shelling and wood splinters, or the presence of snipers in these woody areas. M18 Hellcats (such as those of the 705th TD Bat.) also did wonders and all combined American TDs destroyed 306 German tanks during this campaign. It should be noted there were still numerous towed battalions at that time, which suffered the highest losses. The roof vulnerability of the M36 did much to rush out the arrival of the M26 Pershing, similarly armed. In addition, specialized semi-independent TD battalions ceased to be used and the M36s (the TD doctrine had been discredited meanwhile) were now operated within mechanized groups, fighting alongside infantry.Indeed at the time of the attack of the Siegfried lines, the M36 was used in close proximity of the troops and proved quite useful with HE shells against German bunkers. A postwar study alleged that the 39 TDs battalions knocked out no less than 1,344 German tanks and assault tanksuntil the end of the war, while the best battalion claimed 105 Germans tanks and TDs. The average kill count per battalion was 34 enemy tanks/assault guns, but also 17 pillboxes, 16 MG nests, and 24 vehicles.When the M36s and M18s started to arrive in force in Europe, M10 were gradually reassigned to less sensitive sectors and sent to the Pacific. They were first used at Kwajalein, in February 1944. No less than seven TD battalions operated there with M10s and M18s, but no M36s. Some M36s did eventually serve in Asia, in French use, at first with the Free Forces, then after the war with more US supplied vehicles arriving in Indochina.

Postwar operators

The M36’s main gun was still a match for the first modern MBTs. However, as most US WWII tanks, it was used in the Korean War and proved well capable of destroying the T-34/85s fielded by the North Koreans. They were judged as faster and more agile than the M26 but still much better armed than lighter tanks like the M24 and, some years after, the M41. The hull ball-mounted machine gun on the co-driver’s side was a postwar addition to all surviving M36s, and later an M3A1 90 mm gun (shared with the M46 Patton) was mounted instead of the 90 mm M3. This new gun can be recognized by its muzzle brake and bore evacuator. M36s were prioritized for the Military Assistance Program transfer towards South Korea over the more modern but similarly armed M26/M46. 110 M36s along with a few M10 TDs were transferred to the South Korean Army, serving until 1959. Many also found their way into other armies, although in limited numbers.
In Asia, after South Korea, the Army of the Republic of China acquired just 8 ex-French M36s in 1955, stationed on Kinmen Island until April 2001. At that time, two were still registered for training in Lieyu. The French also acquired some postwar, which were found in action in the 1st Indo-China war. Indeed, against the threat of a possible Chinese intervention and use of the IS-2 heavy tank, a Panther was first tested without success, and M36B2s were sent instead with the RBCEO and custom modifications (roof plates and additional .30 cal) in 1951. As the threat never materialized, these were used for infantry support until 1956.
Italy also received some postwar, deactivated in the 1960s. Another European operator was Yugoslavia (postwar). By the 1970s, these were modernized with a T-55 Soviet-made 500 hp diesel. After the partition of the country, existing M36s were passed to the successor states and saw heavy action, in particular in the Croatian War of Independence (1991–1995, withdrawn in 1995) but also with the Serbian forces in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo War as decoys for NATO air strikes.
M36s were also purchased after the partition of India, seeing action on both sides in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. The Indian 25th and 11th cavalry units used these as mediums due to their mobility. However, the Indians claimed 12 Pakistani M36B2s in the battle of Asal Uttar alone, and the remainder were decommissioned before the battle of 1971.
ROCA (Republic of China Army) M36 on display at the Chengkungling museum.
ROCA (Republic of China Army) M36 on display at the Chengkungling museum.
Iran was also provided M36s before the revolution of 1979, and saw action in the Iran-Iraq war. The Iraqis managed to capture a few M36s and M36B1s which also were deployed in the 1991 Gulf War. Other operators included the Philippine Army (until the 1960s) and Turkey (222 donated, now long deactivated). Many surviving vehicles were maintained in running conditions and some found their ways into museums and private collections around the world.
South Korean M36B2 or modernized M36, South Korean Army (Seoul Museum, Flickr)
South Korean M36B2 or modernized M36, South Korean Army (Seoul Museum, Flickr)

Sources

The M36 on Wikipedia
Tankdestroyer.net
US Tanks destroyers in Combat – Armor at War series – Steven J. Zaloga

M36 specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 5.88 without gun x 3.04 x 2.79 m (19’3″ x 9’11” x 9’2″)
Total weight, battle ready 29 tonnes
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Ford GAA V-8, gasoline, 450 hp, 15.5 hp/t
Suspension VVSS
Speed (road) 48 km/h (30 mph)
Range 240 km (150 mi) on flat
Armament 90 mm M3 (47 rounds)
cal.50 AA machine gun(1000 rounds)
Armor 8 mm to 108 mm front (0.31-4.25 in)
Total production 1772 in 1945

Rare restored footage: TD Boot Cam color 1943

Gallery

Various references from the web, for modellers inspiration: M36 and M36B1 and B2 from Yugoslavia, Croatia or Bosnia, Serbia, Taiwan, Iran, and Iraq.
Various references from the web, for modeller inspiration: M36, M36B1 and B2 from Yugoslavia, Croatia or Bosnia, Serbia, Taiwan, Iran, and Iraq.

M36 Jackson, early type in trials in UK, summer 1944.
M36 Jackson, early type in trials in UK, summer 1944. Notice the muzzle-less gun and absent add-on side armour plates
Regular M36 Jackson in Belgium, December 1944.
Regular M36 Jackson in Belgium, December 1944.
M36 Tank Destroyer camouflaged in a winter livery, west bank of the Rhine, January 1945.
M36 Tank Destroyer camouflaged in a winter livery, west bank of the Rhine, January 1945.
Mid-production M36 Pork Shop, U.S. Army, 2nd Cavalry, Third Army, Germany, March 1945.
Mid-production M36 “Pork Shop”, U.S. Army, 2nd Cavalry, Third Army, Germany, March 1945.
Late Gun Motor Carriage M36, Belgium, December 1944.
Late Gun Motor Carriage M36, Belgium, December 1944.
M36B1 in Germany, March-April 1945.
M36B1 in Germany, March-April 1945.
French M36B2 Puma of the Régiment Blindé Colonial d'Extrême Orient, Tonkin, 1951.
French M36B2 “Puma” of the Régiment Blindé Colonial d’Extrême Orient, Tonkin, 1951. Notice the extra cal.30.
Iraqi M36B1 (ex. Iranian), 1991 Gulf War
Iraqi M36B1 (ex. Iranian), 1991 Gulf War
Croatian M36 077
Croatian M36 077 “Topovnjaca”, War of Independence, Dubrovnik brigade, 1993.

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Categories
Cold War US Artillery Vehicles Modern US Armor

M109 Paladin

US tanks of the Cold War USA (1963) – Self Propelled Howitzer – 7,700+ built

NATO’s universal mobile howitzer

The M109 was, is and will be probably for years still, the most prolific self-propelled howitzer outside the Soviet Union. Although its first drawings and specifications dates back from 1959, it was upgraded to such extent that it is still today in service, upgraded time and again and integrating the best technologies each era had to offer. It was sold to about 40 countries worldwide, including several NATO’s members. Its best equivalent in popularity was the Soviet 2S1-2S3 family. It also left a durable imprint on the genre, a standard upon which other SPHs were compared in the Western bloc. A veteran of Vietnam, it saw action in the Yom Kippur War, Iran-Iraq war, the gulf war and invasion of Iraq until 2014.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

Origins of the program

Self-propelled howitzers have been in use with the US Army in abundant types during ww2. The best-known was the M7 “Priest”. But alongside, self-propelled heavy howitzer in the 155 mm to 203 mm range were also built in small quantities. Their main problem was their complete lack of protection. In the 1950s a program geared towards the modernization of the type was launched. The M109 became the medium variant of a common chassis to be adopted for all self-propelled artillery types and calibers.
Ultimately the light version M108 Howitzer was built and tested in the Vietnam War, but failed to impress and was discarded. Meanwhile, the XM109 was tested and improved, leading to the model developed by the Ground System Division of United Defense LP. The first production model standardized as the M109 was accepted in 1963, and since more than 7,700 had been delivered and improved through the years.
The name “Paladin” corresponds to the actual version in service in the US (and previous reference upgrade program), M109A5+ or A6. The regular army designation always has been officially “M109 self-propelled howitzer”. In medieval times, the Paladin was a noble bodyguard (originally Charlemagne’s fabled twelve peers) later revived in the Arthurian cycle.

Design of the M109

General design

The hull was entirely custom-built but shared many components with the M108, while both shared these with the M113. It is of prismatic shape at the front, but boxy with side and rear flat plates. The driver is located to the front left, have its own sliding hatch and three vision blocks (central IR one). The engine is located to the front and therefore plays as a buffer in case of a direct line of sight hit for the crew at the rear. The fighting compartment is right below the turret which represent 3/5 of the total length of the vehicle. The turret itself which provides the howitzer a full 360° has a rounded front section, but is boxy in shape all around.

Protection and crew

Armour is made of reinforced Rolled 5083 aluminum alloy (like the M113) assembled by Welding. Its thickness varies from 1.25″/75° (32 mm) on the upper and lower front, but also sides, rear, top and floor of the hull and same on the turret (angled 22° front and sides). The crew of six comprised the section chief, driver, gunner, assistant gunner and two ammunition handlers. In operation, the gunner aims the cannon traverse only while the assistant gunner aims the elevation (quadrant). This crew was reduced to only four on the M109A5 due to some automation which only the gunner and ammunition loader. NBC protection was individual up to the M109A4 variant where it became collective with sealed hatches and overpressure. Air climates were also introduced early on.

Armament

The main gun is an M126 155 mm howitzer L/39 caliber with breech interrupted screw and separate loading, bagged charge. It is fitted with both a double-baffled muzzle brake and gas chamber bore evacuator (which changed in type and performance over time) to reduce recoil. Maximal elevation for the gun is a good 75° (later improved). It goes down to a -3° depression with a hydraulic and manual backup system. Maximum fire rate is 6 rpm and Sustained 3 rpm (that too was improved with the M109A5). Max traverse speed was 11°/sec. and max elevation speed was 7°/sec.
Open breen of the Howitzer
Open breech of the howitzer
The effective firing range was 18 km in the standard configuration (11 mi), but was improved with the arrival of the long barrel and enhanced ammunitions like the RAP: 30 km (19 mi). Some of the ammo improvements of the canceled Crusader program may pass in even greater range self-propelled guided ammunitions in the near future. Crucially, the howitzer was upgraded to the long barrel M126A1 (A1), M185 (A2/A3/A4), and eventually M284 (A5/A6) howitzer. Due to their size and separate propellants, only 28 rounds were carried, of the HE type, stored inside the walls of the hulls. For this reason, a mobile supply carrier was designed, the M992 FAASV.
Secondary armament comprises a cal.50 (12.7 mm) Browning M2HB installed on a pintle arm welded to the base of the commander’s cupola. It was supplied by 500 rounds in boxes. In alternative a Mk.19 Mod.3 40 mm Automatic Grenade Launcher, a 7.62 mm M60 light MG, an M240 machine gun or L4 Light machine gun could use the same pintle mount.

Mobility

The M109 engine was originally a General Motors diesel 8V71T 8 cylinder in vee, 2 cycle, supercharged. It gave a net horsepower of 345hp @2300rpm and gross HP of 405hp @2300rpm and net torque of 895 [email protected] It was coupled with an Allison XTG-411-2A transmission with 4 ranges forward, 2 reverse, and mechanical steering wheel (clutch-brake 1st, 2nd, 1st reverse; geared steer 3, 4, 2nd reverse) and multiple discs brakes. Later it was upgraded to a Detroit Diesel 8V71T which developed 450 hp (335.56 kW) for a Power/weight of 18.7 hp/t.

Spanish Marines M109A5 landing, exercise Bright Star 2001
The hull rests on seven roadwheels per side, of the stamped standard model of the M113, like the drive sprockets and idlers. These are suspended by torsion-bars, while two additional shock absorbers took place in addition at the front and rear, on the first and last of the roadwheels. Tracks were of the T136/137 type, with 79 center guide, double pin, steel with detachable rubber pad links, 15″ in width (38 cm), with a 6″ (6 cm) pitch, and a full contact length of 156″ (3,96 m).
Operational range is about 216 mi (350 km) and top speed 35 mph (56 km/h).
Field performances tests shown that the M109 could climb a max grade of 60%, cross a trench 1.80 m wide, climb a 53 cm high obstacle, of ford 1.10 m deep of water without preparation. It was made amphibious but necessitated flotation screens and extensive preparation.

Variants

M109 (1963)

The first original version produced in 1963 by the Cadillac Motor Car and Allison Divisions of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. It has the first M126 howitzer type (short barrel) on an M127 Howitzer Mount. It also had stabilization spades on each corner of the hull rear.

M109A1 (1973)

The main difference was the long barrel M126A1 howitzer to provide a far greater effective range. It shares however the same M127 mount and ammunition (still 28). For export solely an improved variant was designed on the M109A1 basis, with the M109A1B designation. It was one ton heavier (24 vs 23 tonnes).

M109A2 (1976)

Integrates 27 Reliability, Availability, and Maintainability (RAM) mid-life improvements. The most important were the replacement of the Howitzer by the M185 cannon and the M178 gun mount. other major improvements were the panoramic telescope ballistic protection, the counterbalanced travel lock, and optional M140 alignment device. Ammo stowage was raised from 28 to 36 rounds.

M109A3

This is the designation for the retroactive upgrade of the M109A1/A1B to the M109A2 standard.

M109A4

Emphasis was put on protection with the NBC/RAM programme (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical and Reliability Availability, Maintainability). Including air purifiers and heaters were installed as well as the Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear. The traverse mechanism goes to hydraulic rather than electric with a manual override. An additional hydraulic filter was also added. The Engine starter was also improved, allowing an emergency start.

M109A5 (1985?)

The A5 is the last cold war version of the M109, with a new M182 mount and 155 mm M284 39 cal. cannon for an effective max range of 23,5 km in standard, but 30 km with Rocket Assisted Projectiles (RAP Rounds). The main engine was also upgraded to a Detroit 440hp diesel. The A5+ was introduced in the 1990s with a wide range of improvements, notably electronics and more modern FCS (by BAE Systems), aimed at export. This was also proposed as a conversion for regular M109A5.

M109A6 Paladin (1992)

The modern version of the M109, manufactured by BMY Combat Systems and United Defense L.P. This one includes add-on armor, improved M284 cannon and M182A1 mount, safer internal ammo storage arrangement (and three more rounds), plus engine and suspension upgrades. For the first time, an inertial navigation system was introduced whereas the gun received sensors to detect the main gun alignment, improved wind and temperature sensors but also a fully automated laying system. There is also an encrypted digital communication system, with counter ECM (electronic warfare) system, grid location and data transmitted to the battery FDC. The Paladin is able to stop and fire within 30 seconds with the same accuracy as before but largely improved when properly set up. Survivability as a whole is much improved on a tactical level.
BAE PIM upgrade
BAE Paladin Integrated Management M109A7 upgrade (2013)

M109A7 (2013)

Due to the cancellation of new programs like the Crusader and Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon, the former M109A6 Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) was reactivated and extended to a full-blown modernization. A commonality of components with the Bradley IFV such as the engine, transmission, and tracks was part of this upgrade for costs-savings in production and maintenance personnel. The on-board power systems are completely overhauled with a much faster electric drive system for the turret traverse, better automatic rammer (1 rpm, max 4 rpm) and better accuracy overall.
There is also an additional power for future upgrades with a 600-volt on-board system. It is also 35 tonnes (4,5 tonne heavier) but the engine improvements meant it can travel 38 mph (61 km/h) and is more maneuverable, even than a Bradley. By 2013 after testing of prototypes, production was approved with a procurement of 580 M109A7 and M992A3 ammunition support vehicles. The FY 2014 budget called for $340.8 million ($14.4 million per vehicle) The test phase is not yet even closed. The full-rate production decision is therefore planned for February 2017. BAE started a low-rate delivery April 2015.

M109 KAWEST
Swiss M109 KAWEST

KAWEST (1995)

This is the Name for the Swiss 224 M109A1 fully upgraded ((lit. Kampfwertsteigerung = upgrade of combat capabilities). Ruag created a Swiss-designed L47 155 mm gun which had an increased firing range of up to 36 km. It was given the Bison inertial navigation and positioning system, a new gun-laying system and increased ammunition stowage, a new electrical system, a fault-finding diagnostic system. The crew was reduced to 6 whereas the rate of fire is about 3-round bursts within 15 seconds or one rpm in saturation, sustained fire. Gears and engine were improved as well as the day and night operations capabilities. A better fire suppression system was installed for crew protection along with upgraded NEMP and EMP systems. In Swiss service, they are known as the Panzerhaubitze 79/95 and PzHb 88/95.

Other variants

The M109L52 (2002) is a joint Dutch-German upgrade programme for their respective M109s. This version integrates the PzH 2000 main gun and its MTLS ammunition (35 rounds) for an extended operational firing range and automated loading system. Therefore, providing a 9–10 rds/min rate of fire.
The K55/K55A1 is the South Korean version, produced locally under license by Samsung Techwin since the 1980s. It is based on the A2 but integrates local improvements such as the NBC protection, automatic fire extinguishing system, and modified ammunition reception module to be used with the K56 automated supply vehicle. The K55A1 appeared more recently with FCS improvements such as the Samsung Thales modern digital ballistic computer and FCS and multifunctional data display/controllers, Gas well as a modern GPS inertial navigation/positioning systems aand target acquisition system, plus wireless datalink equipment among others. Later on, many improvements of the K9 Thunder SPG were passed onto the K55A1.

ROKS M109A2 in an exhibition – 2011 Songshan Air Force Base camp opening event.

Operators

Europe

-Austria received 80 A2 later upgraded to the A5Ö standard.
-Belgium received 64 A4BE and 127 A2 (upgraded to the -A4BE standard the remainder now decommissioned or sold to Brazil)
-Denmark ordered 12 A2/A3 later upgraded to M109 A3DK standard.
-Germany had 570 A3GE A1/A2 (phased out 2007) replaced by the PzH 2000.
-Greece ordered 51 M109A1B, but also 84 M109A2, 50 M109A3GEA1, 223 A3GEA2 and 12 A5 still in service today.
-Italy ordered 221 M109A2 later updated as the M109EL with an Italian made 155 mm/39 calibre barrel
-Netherlands had 126 A2/90 now phased or replaced by the PzH 2000
-Norway ordered 14 M109A3GNM
-Portugal ordered six M109A2 (1981) now used for training and 18 A5 (2002) including former A2 upgraded.
-Spain ordered six M109A2 for the Spanish Marines and have 96 M109A5 for the Army.
-The British Army replaced its 140+ M109s (some sold to Austria) with the AS-90.
-Switzerland as seen above ordered 224A1 upgraded to M109 KAWEST from 1995.

Americas

The U.S. Army was without surprise the main customer for this tank, although today it counts only around for 929 upgraded M109A3-A6 and A7 on the grand total produced. The U.S. Crusader and the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon programs were both abandoned by the Congress and therefore the Paladin remains the main type in use for the U.S. and it is assumed will still be in the foreseeable future.
Outside the US, Chile has 48 vehicles, among which twenty-four modernized ex-Swiss vehicles (KAWEST), plus twelve A3 and 12 A5+ Paladin; and Peru acquired 12 M109A1, while Brazil purchased 40 M109A3 formerly Belgian and 36 surplus ex-US M109A5 in the process to be upgraded to the A5+ Paladin configuration.
Canada purchased 76 M109 from 1967. They were phased out in 2005. All the vehicles had been modernized to the M109A4B+ standard in the 1980s and used mostly by the 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in Germany.

Middle East

-Iran had 390 M109A1 from the time of the Shah (before 1979). No information about their service readiness.
-Iraq purchased (for the new Army) 24 A5
-Israel purchased 600 A5 in all.
-Jordan received 235 A2 and 121 A2-90 from Netherlands
-Kuwait had five M109A1B
-Oman had 15 M109A0 in service
-Lebanon purchased 12 M103A3 and also had 22 TBD
-Turkey: Had some M109s in service, never modernized. Probably phased out by now.
-Saudi Arabia purchased 60 A2s currently upgraded to A5s, 36 A5 and 300 A6
-The UAE had 40 M109A1 from Switzerland.

Africa

-Djibouti had 10 M109A1 in service
-Egypt purchased 400 M109A2 and 201 M109A5
-Ethiopia purchased 17 M109A1
-Libya operated some M109s, without much precision.
-Morocco still operates 44 M109A1B, 78 M109A2, 22 M109A3, 40 M-109L47, 4 M109A4 and 60 M109A5 (total 248)
-Tunisia received 19 or 20 M109A2

Asia

-Pakistan purchased 150+A2 now upgraded to M109A5 standard and 115 A5.
-Taiwan operates 225 A2/A5
-Thailand purchased 20 A5
-South Korea (Republic of Korea) purchased the A5 under license, 1,040 K55/K55A1 had been produced.

The M109 in action

The list of wars and military operation includes the Vietnam war (1965-73), the Yom Kippur War (1973), the Iran-Iraq War (1980-89), the Western Sahara War (Morocco vs Polisario 1975-91), the Gulf War (1991 in service with many Coalition nations), the Iraq War (2002-2014) and the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen (2015). This score is not close.

Links & references

The M109 on Wikipedia
XM2001 Crusader video (cancelled replacement program)
Article about the A7 upgrade (Defence Industry Daily)
More comprehensive specs on afvbd
Schematics and additional info (inetres.com)

Specifications

Dimensions 9.1 x 3.15 x 3.25 (30 x 40.4 x 40.8 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 27.5 tons
Crew 6 (driver, cdr, gunner, assistant gunner, 2 loaders)
Propulsion Detroit Diesel 8V71T 450 hp (335.56 kW) P/w 18.7 hp/t
Suspension 7 Torsion bars, 4 shocks absorbers
Speed (road) 56 km/h (35 mph)
Range 350 km (216 mi)
Armament 155 mm howitzer L/39, 1x M2HB HMG
Armor 32 mm overall (1.25 in)
Total production Approx 7,700

Guest Photo

M109A7
M109A7 at the Yuma Proving Ground, courtesy from Mark Holloway

Gallery

M-109A6_Paladin_firingM992A2_FAASVPanzerhaubitze_M109_A3_BosniaLoader_M-992_interiorNowegian_M109A3GNMM109_Paladin_from_B2-82FAR_1st_CavDiv_fires_from_Camp_Taji_IraqM109_IDF_Artillery_Corps_Fires_PracticeDutch PaladinIsraeli Doher in pale olive green liveryIDF_M109_self-propelled_howitzerA6 Paladin of the national guard UTARNG 2004M109A6_Paladin-convoy_IraqEgyptian_M109_during_Operation_Bright_Star_2005M109-beyt-hatotchan

M109 Vietnam
M109, early production, US Army Vietnam, 1965 or later.
M109 MERDC
M109 MERDC, late 1970s.
Spanish M109A1
Spanish M109A1, of the Regimiento Artilleria de campana numero 11.
M109 Paladin
British M109A2, 2nd gulf war, 2003.

American M109A3, 1991 (1st) Gulf War.
M109A3 national guard
M109A3 of the national guard
M109 Paladin
Canadian M109A4 – CFB Valcartier, Quebec, Canada gate guardian repainted with a fictional camouflage and markings.
M109A5 Morocco
M109A5 of the Moroccan army
Bundeswehr M109A5
German Bundeswehr M109A5D
M109A5 Doher
Israeli Defence Forces M109A5 Doher
M109A5 Egypt
Egyptian M109A5
M109 Paladin
Swiss Panzerhaubitze M109 88-95 (ex.A1) Kampfwertsteigerung (KAWEST) modernized by Ruag from 1995.
M109 Paladin
M109A6 BAE PIM in evaluation. The illustration will be soon updated, showing the proper hull.