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.
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
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

Jagdpanzer 38 (Hetzer)

nazi germany Nazi Germany (1944) Tank hunter – 2,827 built

Škoda’s tank hunter

When Nazi Germany ruthlessly seized the industrial jewels of Czechoslovakia prior to the war, it also acquired a treasure of tank manufacturing skills that was to provide the Nazi war machine with more than 5,000 extremely reliable tanks during the war. The whole family was derived from a single model: the Škoda/Praga Lt vz.38, or Panzer 38(t) in German service, a light tank which was used until 1943-44, but also gave birth to one of the most prolific German tank hunters of the war, the Jagdpanzer 38(t) or, as it is commonly known today, the Hetzer.

G13 modified to look like a Hetzer on display at the Overloon War Museum in the Netherlands.


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!


Compared to this vehicle, 2nd/3rd generation tank hunters were based on mediums or heavy tank chassis. The nimblest of these was the StuG III Ausf.G, based on the now obsolescent Panzer III chassis. Light tanks had served to develop the first generation of tanks hunters, improvised in 1941-42 with bulky, tall superstructures, while the AT gun was just basically welded on. But, overall, the main goal of this new tank hunter was to be readily available in larger quantities, cheaper, and with a proven chassis to avoid the problems observed with the more ambitious and complex designs derived from the “big cats”.
The very reliable Panzer 38(t) chassis already served as a basis for the prolific Marder III, declined into three major types. In 1943, the StuG III provided the bulk of German tanks hunters, and was quite a success due to its low profile. However, engineers could do even more in terms of protection, low profile and cost-efficiency, and the Hetzer did exactly this, belonging to the late war, third generation of German tank destroyers. It was, of sort, the “little brother” of the Jagdpanzer IV. Moreover, it was produced in Czechoslovakia, relatively spared at the time by the Allied bombings, although that was to change.

Inspiration: The Romanian Mareșal

Among the early inspiration sources for the casemate shape and light tank accommodation, the Romanian Mareșal is often cited. It was developed by the Ateliere Leonida. This vehicle was born after the Romanian encounters with the Russian T-34 in Ukraine, which radically changed their opinion on armor and especially the possibilities of sloped armour. From there a project was born, which tried to create a tank hunter that would be extremely well-protected over an existing, readily available captured light tank chassis (the T-60), while keeping the weight down. It was achieved by giving the hull an extremely sloped, all-side armour. This resulted in the 50 mm (1.97 in) armor plates offering 100 mm (3.94 in) of effective protection against direct fire, which provided this small tank destroyer with the heavy tank protection level.
Six prototypes were built (M-00, M-01, M-02, M-03, M-04, M-05) between December 1942 and January 1944, but, after the 23 August coup d’etat, the plans and the remaining prototypes were seized by the Soviet army. Its main armament was a 7.5 cm (2.95 in) DT-UDR Resita Model 1943 and secondary ZB-53 7.92 mm (0.31 in) machine gun. It was propelled by a Hotchkiss H-39 120 hp engine (10 hp/t) and transmission. It was based on a modified T-60 chassis, but with Rogifer suspensions, comprising four stamped roadwheels per side. The top speed was 45 km/h (28 mph) on flat and 25 km/h (15 mph) cross-country.

Development

Although the development of the Mareșal and the Hetzer advanced in parallel in 1943 (it was even estimated that common production would take place in the future), the Germans were quick to have a finished prototype ready for production. The first wooden mock-up was ready in January 1944, presented and accepted by the Waffenamt. A decision was made to mount the 7.5 cm Pak 39, shared with the early versions of the Jagdpanzer IV. Oberst Thomale signed an agreement for the delivery of the first three prototypes in March 1944, for pre-production trials. Development then went at breakneck speed -in fact it remains a record- the prototypes were built, but since they were based on an already well proven chassis, the model was accepted into service without a pre-series or further testing.
Wooden mock-up of the Jagdpanzer 39(t) Hetzer
Wooden mock-up of the Jagdpanzer 39(t) Hetzer with muzzle brake.

Production

On 18 January 1944, Hitler signed an order for the production of 1000 vehicles even before the final blueprints were delivered. A very optimistic schedule was defined, which required growing production capacity from BMM and, later, Škoda, revving up from 20 vehicles in April, to 200 in July and 500 in March 1945. It should be noted that, together, the factories never delivered as much as 300 vehicles monthly. The maximal output was performed by BMM, 155 in a month.

Another G13 modified to look like a Hetzer on display at the HMG Wheels and Tracks exhibition, Vienna, 2010.
Nevertheless, the first production Hetzers were delivered in March 1944, as scheduled, and accepted by the Waffenamt in early April. The first 20 were demonstrated in front of Hitler on April, 20. However, production goals were significantly hampered by the delivery of the gun mounts. There were a few corrections to be made also, quickly detected in the first batches: leaking gaskets, deficient air filtration, carburetors, governor, incorrect spark plug types and the layout of the connecting lines between the fuel tanks.

Design

Despite its appearance, the Hetzer was not built directly over the Panzer 38(t) chassis. The latter had to be widened and lengthened in order to support the weight of the casemate, and had modified suspensions with an up-rated engine. It had the same combination of large roadwheels and improved leaf spring suspensions units (two pairs), but only one return roller per side. The drive sprockets were at the front and idlers at the rear. The latter were later simplified, with six drilled holes, although most of the production vehicles used the standard model.

Details up close, rear.

Mobility

The engine was the new 160 hp@2,800 rpm (118 kW) Praga AC/2 6-cylinder, connected to a Praga-Wilson gearbox with 5 forward and 1 reverse gears. Along with the reinforced suspension, in order to cope with the weight of the new 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, this engine compensated for the overall weight increase, which went from 9.5 tonnes on the original light tank to the 15.7 tonnes of a Hetzer in battle order. Top speed was apparently still 42 km/h (26 km/h), which appears optimistic, since the power to weight ratio fell to only 10 hp/tonne, compared to 13.15 hp/tonne on the Panzer 38(t). Cross-country speed was probably no more than 15 km/h (9 mph) at best, like the model it was based on. It was far short from the original specifications.

Protection

In terms of protection, the big advantage of the Hetzer was its highly sloped casemate, with a 60 mm (2.36 in) thick plate on the front, which was inclined 60 degrees from the vertical, and therefore offered around 120 mm (4.72 in) of effective protection. Needless to say, Allied tank guns had a hard time penetrating it, except for the fabled British 17-pounder. The lower part of the hull was still of the same thickness and sloped (hardened steel E22), but the sides were only 20 mm (0.79 in) thick and made of low quality alloy, but inclined at 40°. The roof was only made of an 8 mm (0.31 in) thick plate, proof only against shrapnel. The belly was 10 mm (0.39 in) thick.

Accommodation and crew

Due to the limited area defined by the narrow chassis/hull width and highly sloped casemate, internal space was very cramped. The driver, gunner and loader were all placed on the left side, in a row. The only escape hatch there was a small trap below the loader, barely accessible by the two others. Due to the main gun being positioned on the far right of the hull, the loader had to work in an awkward position, which was not practical and obliged him to reach under or across the gun and into the recoil path of the gun in order to access the safety lock or the ammunition, whereas the commander, installed in a niche at the rear, was cutoff from the others.
Vision was generally poor, there were twin periscopes of the driver in the front plate (it was later discovered they formed a shot trap), the main slf ZF sight for the gunner, a periscopic sight for the machine-gun, another for the loader, plus the SF14Z scissors periscope for the commander. The vehicle was literally blind on the right side, which was especially problematic since protection there was minimal. Attempts to correct this with a fully traversing periscope (Starr) for the commander never took place.
Tooling stowage was external and comprised a jack, jack wooden block and wire cutter stowed on the right track guard and wrecking bar on the left. 8 spare track links were often attached on the rear deck, while 6 others and two towing cables were fastened on the rear back plate.

Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer crossing a village next to loaded horses/mules, KBZ Army Group South, Ukraine

Modifications

The first series was equipped with horizontal mufflers and standard twelve hole idler wheels. They also featured a narrow main gun mantlet and flat plate side armor skirts hooked on welded brackets. Also, on the earliest vehicles, both fuel tanks were filled via the same fuel port, located on the left side. This was among the first things corrected, but the main problem was the Hetzer was critically nose heavy (which is why it never received a muzzle brake).
Fixes during production
– Modified exhausts with a vertically oriented tube and flame arrester (replacing the muffler)
– Wider mantlet for the main gun (to give slightly more traverse), but lighter
– Improved elevation/traverse mechanisms
– Inwards angled side skirt corners (to avoid snagging vegetation)
– Better filler port
– Gratings over the air intake openings (to avoid vegetation being sucked into the engine compartment)
– Mechanical pump (instead of electrical)
– Riveted road wheels instead of boltened (and later welded).
– Strengthened leaf spring suspension packs (9 mm thick leaf bands)
– Improved heating arrangements in the fighting compartment (winter batteries)
– Double arm mount for the commander’s own observation telescope, hatch in two pieces
– Better ammo storage (for five more rounds)
– Hand grips welded on the ceiling of the fighting compartment over the driver’s seat
– Better final drive assemblies
– New simplified idler wheel with 10, 6 or 4 drilled lightening holes.

Variants

Hetzer “Starr”

The Starr was characterized by a rigid mount for the main gun. It was tailored for simplified mass-production, and therefore the gun recoil system was entirely eliminated. The recoil had to be absorbed by the chassis and suspensions. Aiming was entirely performed by the same transmission, but coupled to a new Tatra 8 cylinder diesel engine in development. Also, in order to cope with poor vision, the commander received a rotating periscope. Ultimately 10 were built, but later seven were converted back as standard Hetzers after the war because the Starr tubes had worn out. The Jagdpanzer 38 Starr was also meant to receive later a longer L/70 gun, but it came too late to see action.

Jagdpanzer 38(d)

This final, transitional version had a wider hull, better side protection (50 mm/1.97 in), same rigid gun mount as the Starr, but with the L/70 gun, and the new 8-cyl Tatra engine. It was an even simpler version of the Starr and another step towards the planned E 10. At least 10,000 were expected to have been produced by BMM before the fall of 1945.

Flammpanzer 38(t)

The German army needed more flame-throwing tanks for their December 1944 winter offensive in Ardennes, Operation Watch on the Rhine and the Operation North Wind in Rhineland-Palatinate, Alsace and Lorraine. Twenty Jagdpanzer 38(t) tank hunter chassis were fitted with a 14 mm Flammenwerfer flamethrower gun, instead of its normal 7.5cm PaK 39 anti-tank gun. A tube was installed on the front of the flamethrower to make the vehicle look like the standard Jagdpanzer 38(t) in an effort to confuse the enemy.

Bergepanzer 38(t)

A light recovery vehicle created especially for the Hetzer and light vehicles of its class. Between 64 and 106 (even 120) were converted until the end of the war (chassis numbers 321001-323000-323001), equipped with jack handbars, winch, steel cables, wooden support planks and a rear hydraulic leg for a better grip. Its only armament was a single 7.92 mm (0.31 in) Rheinmetall MG 34 or 42 mounted on the front arm.
Panzer 38(t) variant the Bergepanzer 38(t)
Panzer 38(t) variant the Bergepanzer 38(t) with dozer blade deployed

Befehlspanzer 38(t)

The standard command variant. Nothing really special except for a 30W FuG 8 radio set and extra whip antennas. It was still armed the same way as regular Hetzers, making it even more cramped inside.

Jagdpanzer 38(t) of 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer, Hungary, 1944 – Credits: Bundesarchiv.

Bergepanzer 38(t) mit 30 mm MK 103 autocannon anti-aircraft gun

A number of Bergepanzer 38(t) light armoured recovery vehicles were converted into anti-aircraft flakpanzers. They were fitted with a 30 mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MK 103 autocannon. The letters MK are an abbreviation for the word ‘Maschinenkanone’.
AA Bergepanzer 38(T)
In the background you can see a Bergepanzer 38(t) mit 30 mm MK 103 autocannon anti-aircraft gun with its gun raised.
This weapon was originally designed to be mounted in German combat aircraft and intended to have a dual purpose as an anti-tank and air-to-air fighting weapon. This gun was also used on the five prototype Flakpanzer IV “Kugelblitz. If necessary the gun could also be used in a ground support roll against enemy troops and vehicles.
AA Bergepanzer 38(T)A Bergepanzer 38(t) mit 30 mm MK 103 autocannon anti-aircraft gun

Other experimental variants

The most daring propositions were a model of assault gun with a 105 mm (4.13 in) StuH 42 or a 120 mm (4.72 in) mortar for infantry support. Another “long” version was given the 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70 gun from the Panther. There was also an AA variant with a 20 mm (0.79 in) KwK 38 Flak turret. The war ended before any of these were put into production.
Waffentraeger Krupp-Ardelt: 88 mm (3.46 in) PaK 43 tank hunter which borrowed the suspension and roadwheels from the Hetzer. One real size mockup built (July 1944). Production was expected to start in October, but the program cancelled.
12.8 cm Waffentraeger 38(d): Was meant to use the lengthened and strengthened Panzer 38(d) chassis.
Vollkettenaufklarer 38(t) (Kätzchen): A reconnaissance APC/IFV heavily tested, but never produced. Several prototypes of the regular model armed with 1 or 2 2cm Flak 38 guns and several of the Kätzchen APC were built and tested in late 1944.
Flakpanzer 38(t) Kugelblitz: A proposition to mount the twin Flak turret from the Panzer IV Kugelblitz on the Jagdpanzer 38(t) chassis.
Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) mit 7.5cm KwK L/48 (Pzkpfw IV) Turm: A reamed Panzer 38(t) (reinforced and stretched out) armed with the Panzer IV turret.
7.5 cm Stu.Kan. auf Pz.Kpfw. 38(t): Tank hunter prototype (one photo), possibly used on the Eastern front (Panzer Tracts No. 7-2)

The Hetzer in action

It was originally planned to test the vehicle as early as April 1944, but delays ensured the first batch of Jagdpanzer 38(t)s reached the ordnance depot in May. They were tested by Wa Prüf 2 and joined training groups in the summer, until July. The first 45 entered service with the Heeres Panzerjäger-Abteilung 731 on 4-13 July 1944 (Army Group North, Eastern Front, later Mitte). One of the first engagement occurred in Warsaw in August 1944, during the famous uprising. At least one was captured, renamed and restored by Partisans, but never used (“Chwat”).
Other units that received it were the 741st (September), 561st (January 1945) and 744th (February). The 741st was eventually split in two, one half being shipped to the Western Front for operation Wacht am Rhein. They were organically attached to infantry divisions and issued to Jäger, Kavalerie and Grenadiers corps within the infantry, rather than independent units. By late 1944, each company was given 14 Hetzers, but, after February 1945, this number fell to 10.
In the Ardennes, no less than 18 companies participated in the offensive (295 in all). On 30 December, only 131 were reported operational. Other independent units also received Hetzers instead of other, more powerful, tank hunters, mostly due to production delays, namely the 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division, the Abteilung Jüteborg and Schliesen, FHH PZd and PZGd, even the StuG Brigade 266. There was also plans to deliver these to Allies, but while Romania never received a single one, Hungary got 75, which arrived by train between December 1944 and January 1945. They fought in support of Heeresgruppe Sud.
An interesting experiment began with the the constitution of the mixed independent Pz.Jagd.Brigade 104 as a hunter-killer unit on the Eastern Front, but it was short lived. The tank hunters were scattered around in order to plug holes in depleted units all along the Eastern Front. By March 1945, only 359 Hetzers were reported operational, out of 529 still in the registry.
From German reports, kill/loss ratios were excellent. Early on, one of the first units engaged claimed 20 kills with no loss. Another unit, also on the Eastern front, reported 57 kills without losses, engaging IS-2s at 800 m (880 yd) and more. It was also reported that the whole unit reached its objective, 160 km (100 mi) from its base, without a single breakdown en route. Crews were also delighted by the frontal protection and remote “Rundumsfeuer” machine gun.
Little known, however, were the Hetzers deployed in Northern Italy. Four companies operated 56 Hetzers there in 1945. At the same date, they reported only 37 operational Panzerjagers, while only 137 were still enlisted on the Western front. This was, noticeably, one of the highest operational percentage of all German tanks units. Later in the war, however, officer mismanagement of the Hetzer and poor training took their toll on units.

Abandoned Hetzer inspected by US troops, Belgium, winter 1944-45.
Generally speaking, the Hetzer was a good generic tank hunter. It was well armed and well protected from the front, presenting a small silhouette and narrow target. It could be concealed quite easily and was difficult to spot even after firing and, crucially, was also very reliable. However, it had shortcomings too, that were only partially compensated by its great availability. From 1944 and until the end of the war, it became the most current German tank hunter, not counting the heavier StuG III. In October 1944, Wa Prüf 1’s report on penetration values showed that it could be defeated by the Cromwell’s and Churchill’s 75 mm (2.95 in) gun from up to 2500 to 3600 m (1.5-2 mi) from the sides and rear. However, it could be penetrated by the late M4 76(W) Sherman’s M1A1 gun from 800 m (880 yd) from the front and from closer than 100 m (110 yd) through the cast mantlet. But it could defeat most versions of the M4, Cromwell and Churchill at any angle from as much as 1,700-1,800 m (1900-2000 yd).
The Hetzer was also slow and completely blind from the right side, which was a liability in urban combat. Many were captured this way and it was never really corrected.

Hetzer stuck at a barricade, Warsaw Uprising, August 1944.

Soviet Army capture the factories

When the Red Army liberated Czechoslovakia they conducted a stock take of what was in production at the Škoda factories at the time they came under ‘new management’. A report was filed on the possibility of completing the vehicles found at Škoda factories. The auditor found 1,200 unfinished Jagdpanzer 38(t) tank-destroyers “G-13” chassis. It was worked out that 150 of them could be finished from the parts available. The remaining 1,050 vehicles were 45%-60% percent completed and had only 78 main guns available between them. This report showed that production of the Hetzer chassis was outstripping the manufacturing capacity to build the main gun in sufficient quantities.

Other operators

Swiss G13

After the war, Switzerland obtained from Czechoslovakia no less than 158 post-war built Praga ST-II/III, and, after extensive modifications, they were renamed G13. Differences included the muzzle brake fitted on the main gun, loader and commander positions swapped, rotating MG optics (commander’s cupola) and external MG mount on the rear deck. About two thirds received a Swiss Saurer diesel engine in 1952-53 and the vehicles were maintained in service until 1970. After being phased out, most were purchased by museums and private collectors, mostly converted/painted back as German Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzers. At least four are in running conditions today.

Czechoslovakian ST-1

The Czech Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzers (several dozens were captured in and around Budapest in 1945) were designated ST-1, for Stihac Tanku or “Tank Hunter”. 249 were pressed into service. There was also a school driver version designated ST-III/CVP (50 vehicles), the Praga VT-III armored recovery vehicle and the PM-1 flamethrower tank. 50 existing Hetzers were to be modified with a flame thrower turret, but the program was cancelled.
Czech Hetzers
During the Prague uprising 5th-9th May 1945 freedom fighters captured this German Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer. It did not have a gun fitted but in its place it was armed with a German anti-tank Panzerfaust. (photo capture taken from the film called ‘Květnová revoluce v Praze 1945’ held in the Národní filmový archive)

Romanian Maresal tank hunter
Romanian Mareșal, 1943.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Jagdpanzer 38(t), the first command model built with Fgst.nr.321001 radio.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Jagdpanzer 38(t) “Chwat” (Daredevil) captured by Polish insurgents. An early production tank, Warsaw, August 1944.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Hungarian early type Jagdpanzer 38(t), 1944.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Early type Jagdpanzer 38(t) “Black 233”, western front, one of the earliest captured by the Allies.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Hungarian Jagdpanzer 38(t), winter 1944-45.
Hungarian Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer 1944
Hungarian Hetzer, 1944.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Hungarian Hetzer, 1945.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Unknown unit, Bohemia, spring 1945.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Jagdpanzer 38(t) of the 11th SS Panzerdivision “Nordland”, winter 1944-45.
Ambush camo
Jagdpanzer 38(t) with the spotted ambush camouflage, Germany, April-May 1945.
Czech Hetzer
Czech Hetzer, in service by May 1945 with the Russian Liberation Army (Русская освободительная армия)
Lake Balaton
Hungarian Jagdpanzer 38(t) “Mokus” tank destroyer, Lake Balaton battle, 1945.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Hetzer captured by the Russian army, Czechoslovakia, 1945.
Hetzer Italy 1945
Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer of an unknown Panzerjäger unit in Italy, 1945
Czech insurgents Jagdpanzer
Hetzer captured by Czech insurgents, Prague, May 1945.
Bulgarian Jagdpanzer-38
Bulgarian Jagdpanzer 38(t), March 1945.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Unknown unit, ambush camouflage, Germany, April-May 1945
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Unknown unit, Bohemia, 1945.

Variants

Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Befehlspanzerjäger 38(t), 741st Antitank Battalion, Eastern Front, 1944.
Flammpanzer 38(t)
Flammpanzer 38(t), 352nd Panzer-Flamm-Kompanie, Army Group G, Belgium, December 1944.
Jagdpanzer-38 Starr
Jagdpanzer 38(t) Starr (1945). Being rather disappointing, the six built of this much simplified versions were converted back as regular Hetzers.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Panzerjäger 38(t) mit 75 mm L/70.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Swiss G13 in 1960, notice the spare roadwheel should be on the other side. For identification only.

Derivatives

Bergepanzer 38
Bergepanzer 38(t).
Aufklarungspanzer mit 7,5 cm KwK-37 L/23
Another, more common type of Aufklärungspanzer mit 7,5 cm KwK-37 L/23.
Aufklarungspanzer mit 7,5 cm KwK-37 L/23
Rare Jagdpanzer 38(t) mit 7,5 cm KwK-37 L/23, Battle of the Bulge, winter 1944-1945.
Vollkettenaufklärer 38(t)/Kätzchen APC (1945)
Vollkettenaufklärer 38(t) prototype.

Was it called the ‘Hetzer’ during WW2?

It is often stated that first use of the name Hetzer was in a letter from Heinz Guderian to Hitler. In it he stated that the name had spontaneously arisen from the crews manning the vehicles. This is what most historians base their naming on in their works, and state that the vehicle was never identified as such in official German Military documents. That last part is NOT true. Look at this wartime report dated April 1945 the word Hetzer is used.
Hetzer used in WW2 document
In the eighth line down you will see the entry Jg.Pz 38 t Hetzer. It is strange why this SS Officer listed one Jg.Pz.38t in short term repair as a “Hetzer”, but later listed ten Jagdpanzer 38(t) SPGs as just Jg.Pz.38t and did not include the name. Seven of those ten are shown as operational, one in short term repair and one in long term repair. (Source German Archives)
In a monthly HWA report on German weapons in early 1944 it was called StuG n.A. mit 7.5 cm Pak 39 L/48 auf Fgst Pz.Kpf. Wg 38(t) (StuG n.A. = Sturmgeschütz neuer Art – assault gun new version). The German term ‘neuer Art’ is exclusively used during design, it was not used for a production vehicles. It does not get called the usual Jagdpanzer 38 mit 7.5 cm Pak 39 L/48 auf (Sd.Kfz.138/2) until November 44.
monthly HWA report on German weapons in early 1944
Monthly HWA reports on German weapons in March 1944 and November 1944. (Steven Zaloga)
To summarise, the Jagdpanzer 38(t) was not officially called the Hetzer during WW2. It is believed that the crews used this nickname for this anti-tank self-propelled gun during the war. Although most official wartime documents do not use the word Hetzer, as can be seen in the first of the two documents, a few did.

Did the Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer have a muzzle brake?

The answer is yes, no, then yes. A muzzle brake is designed to increase the life expectancy of a gun barrel by direction some of the explosive force of the shell gasses side ways rather than just forward. The wooden mock up of the prototype was fitted with a muzzle brake. The early production Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer’s were fitted with a muzzle brake but these were removed by crews and later production vehicles did not have them fitted. It was found they produced too much dust and smoke which gave away their ambush position. This was often fatal. The post war Swiss G-13 version had a muzzle brake fitted.
Early production Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer with muzzle brake.Early production Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer with muzzle brake.

The G-13 name

G-13 – It is just the internal manufacturer’s code name for the Jagdpanzer 38(t) in the Skoda Factory. A WW2 wartime Skoda Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer was called a G-13 in the factory and on all internal documentation.
G = tank destroyer, 1 = light, 3 = model i.e number 3.
G-11 was Panzerjaeger I,
G-12 was Marder III.
Postwar – the 75 mm PaK 40 with a muzzel brake was used instead of the 75mm PaK 39 on Jagdpanzer 38 (t). The Skoda Factory did not have access to PaK 39 guns and used the PaK 40. In the Swiss Army this tank destroyer was known by the factory code G-13 rather than the Jagdpanzer 38(t) or Hetzer name.

Gallery


A ST-I tank destroyer, practically a Czech post-war production Hetzer, in running condition at an exhibition at Lešany, Czech Republic.

Swiss G13, Steel Parade, 2006. The G13 was kept in service right into the 1970s.
Chwat, polish insurgent

Video about German assault guns

Jagdpanzer 38(t) specifications

Dimensions (L W H) 4.83m (without gun) x 2.63m x 1.87 m (15’10” x 8’7.5″ x 6’1″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 15.75 metric tonnes (34,722 lbs)
Armament 75 mm (2.95 in) PaK 39 L/48, 41 rounds
7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34, 1,200 rounds
Armor 8 to 60 mm (0.3 – 2.36 in)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Praga 6-cyl gas. 160 hp@2,800 rpm (118 kW), 10 hp/t
Speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Suspension Leaf springs
Range 177 km (110 mi), 320 l
Total production 2,827

Links and resources about the Hetzer

The Hetzer on Wikipedia
Pfahrer, Swiss website about the Hetzer
Article about the Hetzer Starr
The Hetzer on Achtung Panzer
The Shadocks – Surviving Hetzer/G13s (pdf)
Osprey New Vanguard: The Jagdpanzer 38(t) (Doyle/Jentz/Badrocke)
Panzer Tracts 7-3, Panzerjägers (Doyle/Jentz)
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
Cold War American Artillery Vehicles Modern American armour

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.

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 ft-lb@1600rpm. 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.

Categories
WW2 British Tank Destroyers

Sherman VC Firefly

UK/USA (1944)
Tank hunter – approx. 2000 built

Turning the Sherman into a killer

From the hedgerow of Normandy, France, to the hills of Italy and the plains of Netherlands, the Firefly was one of the few Allied tanks the Germans learned to fear… Among the most potent Allied conversion of the war, and certainly one of the deadliest version of the Sherman, it was a clever -although risky and improvised- move to try to keep up with the latest German tank developments. At that time, the “basic” M4 Sherman equipped the Allies almost exclusively, from the US to the British, Canadian, ANZACS, Free Polish and Free French forces, and its limitations were well known before 1944.
Its basic 75 mm (2.95 in) gun was excellent to deal with other tanks at reasonable ranges and against armor up to 75 mm (2.95 in), or against fortifications and infantry. But facing the latest versions of the Panzer IV, the Panther and Tiger, it was woefully inadequate. However, the British Army had just received the superlative 17 pounder, which proved itself able to nail any known Panzer. Mated with the Sherman, this stopgap combination (before the new generation of Allied tanks could enter service) became lethal, and added its own weight to the Allied effort to secure victory.
Preserved Sherman Firefly, as seen in 2008
Preserved Firefly, showing its camouflaged barrel, as seen in 2008.

Adoption

The idea of putting the 17 Pounder (76.2 mm/3 in) on a Sherman was long opposed by the Ministry of Supply. It finally happened largely due to the efforts and perseverance of two officers, British Major George Brighty, with the help of Lieutenant Colonel Witheridge, an experienced veteran of the North African campaign and wounded at Gazala. Despite reports and refusals, they managed to pursue the project by themselves and eventually get the concept accepted. Massive delays also began to appear in the development of the official projects which were meant to mount the new gun. Brighty had already made attempts of the conversion at the Lulworth Armoured Fighting School in early 1943. This first version had the whole recoil system removed, locking in effect the gun in place, while the tank bluntly absorbed the recoil. Witheridge joined Brighty due to the doubts of the A30, Cruiser Mark VIII Challenger being ready in time and lobbied actively for the same idea, providing his assistance and solving the recoil problem.
They received a note from the Department of Tank Design to cease their efforts. However, thanks to Witheridge’s connections, they eventually convinced the head of the Royal Armoured Corps. They then won over the Director General of Weapon and Instrument Production, and the Ministry of Supply, who ultimately gave them full support, funding, and an official approval. In October-November 1943 already, enthusiasm and knowledge about the project grew. In early 1944, before the new delays of the Challenger and inability of the Cromwell turret ring to receive the 17 pdr became known, the programme was eventually given the ‘highest priority’ by Winston Churchill himself in preparation for D-Day.
Ex-Dutch Firefly preserved at the Amersfoort Cavalry Museum
Ex-Dutch Firefly preserved at the Amersfoort Cavalry Museum

About the 17 pounder

This legendary piece of ordnance was the first of the many ROF (Royal Ordnance Factory) cannons which came to fame postwar. These included the rifled L7 105 mm (4.13 in) and later the L11 120 mm (4.72 in) gun that was given to the Chieftain and Challenger. The 17 pounder was a 76.2 mm (3 in) gun with a length of 55 calibres. It had a 2,900 ft/s (880 m/s) muzzle velocity with HE and HEAT rounds and 3,950 ft/s (1,200 m/s) with APDS or Armor Piercing Capped, and Ballistic Capped. These figures allowed it to defeat armor in the range of 120-208 mm (4.72-8.18 in) in thickness at 1,000 m and up to 1,500 m with the APDS.
The design of the gun was ready in 1941 and production started in 1942. It proved itself time and again in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy, with the first action in February 1943. So the idea to have it inside a tank turret was a priority, since the QF 6-pdr was found inadequate by 1943. However, the 17 pounder was long and heavy. It therefore needed much reworking and compromises to have it installed in a turret, and intermediary solutions had to be found. By 1944, the Archer used it, as well as the Achilles (M10 Wolverine), the Challenger, and later the Comet.
17 pdr ammo rounds being loaded into a Sherman Firefly
17 Pounder ammo rounds being loaded by the crew of a Sherman Firefly. Notice the camouflage nets around the turret, mantlet and gun barrel

Conversion design

The work of genius was that of successfully cramming the heavy gun into a turret it was never designed for. By doing it, W.G.K. Kilbourn, a Vickers engineer, allowed the quick conversion of the most prolific Allied tank. This ensured that no changes in maintenance, supply and transport chains were needed. These were quite critical factors after D-Day.
There were a few changes made to the chassis, most of which were Mk.I hybrids (cast glacis) and Mark Vs, except for the modified ammo cradles and the hull gunner position being eliminated to make room for more ammo. The turret interior was also completely modified. The rear was emptied to allow the gun to recoil and a counterweight was added to the rear to balance the long barrel. This “bustle” now housed the radio, formerly at the back of the turret, and could be accessed by a large hole in the casting. The mantlet was also modified, 13 mm (0.51 in) thicker than the original. The loader also had his position changed. A new hatch had to be cut into the top of the turret over the gunner’s position since the size of the new gun prevented the gunner from using the normal hatch.
But the 17-pdr itself still had a one-meter long recoil course, and the whole recoil system was completely modified. The main recoil cylinders were shortened while additional new cylinders were added to take advantage of the turret width. The gun breech was rotated 90 degrees to allow the loader to sit on the left. The gun cradle also had to be shortened, which caused stability concerns. These were solved by the adoption of a longer untapered section at the base of the barrel. Therefore, the Firefly had it’s custom tailored version of the 17 pdr.
Sherman Firefly at Namur, in Belgium, in 1944
Polish Sherman Firefly at Namur, in Belgium, in 1944

Main Gun penetration figures

Official British War Department test figures show that the 17pdr anti-tank gun firing armor piercing AP rounds would penetrate the following thickness of homogeneous armour plate and these distances: 500 yrds. (457 m) = 119.2 mm; 1000 yrds (914.4 m) = 107.3 mm and 1500 yrds (1371.6 M) = 96.7mm. When firing armor-piercing capped (APC) rounds at face-hardened armor plate these are the test results: 500 yrds. (457 m) = 132.9 mm; 1000 yrds (914.4 m) = 116.5 mm and 1500 yrds (1371.6 M) = 101.7 mm. When fired at sloped armour it was estimated there would have been 80% success at 30 degrees’ angle of attack.

The Firefly in Action

The Firefly was ready in numbers and filled the 21st Army Group’s Armored Brigades in 1944, just in time for D-Day. This was fortunate because Allied intelligence did not anticipate the presence of enemy tanks, of which the numerous Panthers were formidable adversaries for the Sherman.
Ken Tout summed up his impressions about the Firefly, then at the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry:
“The Firefly tank is an ordinary Sherman but, in order to accommodate the immense breach of the 17-pounder and to store its massive shells, the co-driver has been eliminated and his little den has been used as storage space. … The flash is so brilliant that both gunner and commander need to blink at the moment of firing. Otherwise they will be blinded for so long that they will not see the shot hit the target. The muzzle flash spurts out so much flame that, after a shot or two, the hedge or undergrowth in front of the tank is likely to start burning. When moving, the gun’s overlap in front or, if traversed, to the side is so long that driver, gunner and commander have to be constantly alert to avoid wrapping the barrel around some apparently distant tree, defenceless lamp-post or inoffensive house”
British Firefly crossing a bridge, Operation Goodwood
British Firefly crossing a bridge, Operation Goodwood
Fortunately, the Firefly was also present. The British and Commonwealth units had to face over 70% of all German armor deployed during the Battle of Normandy, including the much-feared SS Panzer units, in particular around Caen. In turn, the Germans learnt to recognise and respect the Firefly, which often became their #1 priority target in most engagements. Such was the damage they inflicted. In response, the crews usually painted the protruding half of the barrel with an effective countershading pattern to try to disguise it as a regular Sherman. A common tactic was to place the Fireflies in good hull-down positions in support of other Shermans, covering them in the advance each time an enemy tank would reveal itself, at least in theory.
Their effectiveness rapidly became legendary, as testified by the most enviable hunting scores of all Allied tanks. On 9 June 1944, Lt. G. K. Henry’s Firefly knocked-out five Panthers from the 12th SS Panzer Division in rapid succession during the defense of Norrey-en-Bessin. Other Shermans were credited with two more, out of a total of 12, successfully repelling the attack. On June 14, Sgt. Harris of the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards destroyed five Panthers around the hamlet of Lingèvres, near Tilly-sur-Seulles, changing position in between. Even the most feared German top ace tank commander, Michael Wittman, was presumably killed by a Canadian Firefly. This famous action was credited to Ekins, the gunner of Sergeant Gordon’s Sherman Firefly from the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry, A-Sqn. He destroyed three Tigers in a row, one of which was presumably that of Michael Wittman, near Cintheaux, in August 1944.
Fireflies of the Irish Guards group, operation Market Garden
Fireflies of the Irish Guards group, operation Market Garden
In total, the 1900+ Fireflies were used by the 4th, 8th, 27th, 33rd Armored Brigades, the Guards Armoured Division and the 7th and 11th Armoured Division in Normandy and north-western Europe, including the Netherlands and Northwestern Germany. In Italy, it was deployed with the British 1st and 6th Armoured Divisions. The Canadians had Fireflies with the 1st (Italy) and 2nd Brigades and in the 4th and 5th Canadian Armoured Divisions, mostly in north-west Europe in 1945. The 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade operated 36 Firefly 1Cs during the siege of Dunkirk in 1944. The 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade had some during the Italian campaign, as did the Polish 1st Armoured Division (NW Europe) and 2nd Armoured Brigade (Italy), and the 6th South African Armoured Division in Italy. After the war, Fireflies were still used by Italy, Lebanon (until the 1980s), Argentina, Belgium and the Netherlands (until the late 1950s).

Gallery

British Firefly at the Bovington Tank Museum in 2014
British Firefly at the Bovington Tank Museum in 2014
Belgian Firefly preserved in BruxellesFirefly of the 7th Armoured Division in Hamburg, 4 May 1945A row of rare Firefly Tulips, fitted with two RP-3 rocketsFireflies of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division assisting the 49th infantry Division to clear Germans from the Ede woods, 17 April 1945Firefly of the 1st Polish Division used as a monument, as seen in 2008Fireflies of the SA Pretoria regiment in Italy, 1944Lebanese Militia Firefly destroyed by the Hezbollah around Beirut in the 1980sThe upgunned Sherman M4A1(76)w was in many ways inspired by the Firefly. It arrived en masse in time for the battle of the Bulge.

Sherman Firefly specifications

Dimensions (L/w/h) 19’4” (25’6” oa) x 8’8” x 9′ (5.89/7.77 oa x 2.64 x 2.7 m)
Total weight, battle ready 37,75 long tons (35.3 tons, 83,224 lbs)
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Multibank/radial petrol engine, 425 hp, 11 hp/ton
Suspension HVSS
Top speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Range (road) 193 km (120 mi)
Armament ROF OQF 17 Pdr (3 in/76.2 mm), 77 rounds
Roof cal.50 (12.7 mm) Browning M2
Coaxial cal.30 (7.62 mm) Browning M1919, 5000 rounds
Armor 90 mm (3.54 in) max, turret front
Total production 2000+ in 1944-45
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Links, Resources & Further Reading

The Firefly on Wikipedia
Firefly Gun barrel camouflage
Firefly reconstruction in the Netherlands

British Tanks of WW2, including Lend-Lease
British Tanks of WW2 Poster (Support Tank Encyclopedia)


Firefly Ic hybrid from a Polish armored unit, Italy 1944.


British Sherman Firefly Ic, East Riding Yeomanry, 27th Armoured Brigade, Normandy, 6 June 1944


Firefly Ic, 29 Armoured Brigade, 11th Armoured Division, Normandy, summer 1944.


Firefly VC, 14th Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, 33rd Armoured Brigade, July 1944


Firefly, VC 3rd County of London Yeomanry, 4th Armoured Brigade, Normandy, summer 1944.


Firefly VC, 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, 3th Armoured Brigade, France, 1944.


Firefly Mk.VC “Dopo voi”, New Zealand 15th Armoured Regiment, 4th Armoured Brigade, Trieste, Italy, May 1945.


New Zealander Firefly VC “Peacemaker”, 15th Armoured Regiment, 4th Armoured Brigade, Adriatic front, Italy, 1945.


Rare Mk.Ic composite Firefly Tulip, the ultimate tank hunter. It was given RP-3 rockets also used by the Hawker Typhoon.

All Illustrations are by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.


Tank-It Shirt

“Tank-It” Shirt

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American M4 Sherman Tank – Tank Encyclopedia Support Shirt

American M4 Sherman Tank – Tank Encyclopedia Support Shirt


Give ’em a pounding with your Sherman coming through! A portion of the proceeds from this purchase will support Tank Encyclopedia, a military history research project. Buy this T-Shirt on Gunji Graphics!


David Lister General War Stories

By David Lister

A compilation of little known military history from the 20th century. Including tales of dashing heroes, astounding feats of valour, sheer outrageous luck and the experiences of the average soldier.

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Categories
modern Russian armor

T-90

Main Battle Tank (1992)
Russia – 2260 built

The 3rd generation Russian MBT

In a sense, the T-90 is the first “Russian” MBT and even the first non-soviet tank ever, as back in 1914-1915 in Tsarist Russia neither the giant Lebedenko (Tsar) tank, the equally giant but more conventional Mendeleev or the small, snail-like Vezdekhod light tank had been pressed into service. In between, there was the Soviet era, with a history of building tanks spanning from the early 1920s with copies of the Renault FT to the T-80 MBT in the 1980s. An entire history of tank designs, which after 1941 confounded itself with the survival of the country in the “Great patriotic war”. An immense country which wide, unencumbered steppes providing an ideal terrain for tanks warfare, but at the same time climatic conditions which pushed mechanics to the extremes.


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!


T-90A at the may 2008 Moskow victory parade rehearsal
After the turmoil of the end of the USSR and the creation of the Russian Federation, and the reconstruction of the army, the T-90 just had to probe into this wealth of experience, engineering, industrial capabilities, and proud legacy. However, with the opening to the west, a wealth of technical information were also available about the real capabilities and technologies used on Western, 3rd generation MBTs. So it was obvious the new tank had to be on par with other western competitors, and on comparable assets. This led to a composite but very efficient model which constitutes the bulk of the Russian armored division today, soon to be gradually replaced by new the T-14 Armata. The elite divisions are equipped with the even costlier T-80s.

Genesis of the T-90

The T-72BU

Back in the 1970s, the T-72 set a new standard for MBTs in USSR, a success story that saw many variants, license production abroad and countless export derivatives. By the 1980s, it was still by far the best and most current soviet proposition for an MBT of reasonable cost and technological level, compared to the T-64/T-80. It was also an excellent base for improvements, and an export success. The T-72B was considered, back in 1983, the very best of the series, and served for gradual upgrades, like the T-72BA fitted with the 227 “Kontakt-1” ERA, T-72B obr.1989g (Kontakt-5 ERA) and obr.1990g from which was derived the T-72BU, the direct ancestor of the T-90. This does not prevent two more upgrades to be brought in the post-soviet era, the T-72BM “Rogatka” in 2006 and the T-72B3 in 2013, basically a T-72B upgraded to the T-90 standard.
T-90 MBT

The T-80U

The other crossing which inspired the conception of the T-90 was the T-80U, the very elite MBT of the Russian army. The paradox was that it was costlier than the T-72, much ended to be built (5400) than the T-90 which was seen at first as a simple evolution of the T-72B, at first called the T-72BU. The T-80 itself was a derivative of the controversial, revolutionary T-64 back in the 1960s. This “elite” lineage came from the Ukrainian KMDB design bureau and led later to build a purely Ukrainian variant, the T-84. It must be recalled that the T-80 was the first Soviet MBT fitted with a turbine, in addition to its regular diesel engine. The latter was rushed out and caused much turmoil and reliability issues, which had to be fixed on the long run. However thanks to this, the T-80 was the fastest Russian MBT ever.
The T-80U appeared in 1985 and was given a full Kontakt5 explosive reactive armour set, along with an improved gunsight and the brand new 9K119 Refleks gun missile system. Five year after its introduction it was given a 1,250-hp engine. It was on this base that the T-90 was partially modelled: Although the core of the T-72B was kept, many components came from the T-80U. By this, engineers Kartsev and Venediktov from the Uralvagonzavod design bureau tried to create a “universal tank”. We know how often these prospects have failed by the past. Indeed the T-90 did not met all the expectations placed in it but was overall more reliable and cheaper to built, maintain and operate than the T-80.
T-90/

Development history

In 1992, came out a crucial decision from the Russian Ministry of Defence that Russian culd not afford anymore to manufacture, maintain and upgrade two main battle tanks in parallel. However both the T-80U and T-72B production were seen as essential for the local economy of the manufacturers, and the government was found forced to maintain small orders. Indeed, the Omsk plant delivered only five T-80Us while Nizhny Tagil had fifteen T-72s in the meantime, but both expected further orders to came, or eventually to be chosen for the unique MBT projected. The only common ground found then was their third generation add-on ERA armour set called Kontakt-5, shared between the two MBTs.
T-72BU MBT
T-72 BU MBT
Among considerations involved were the export policy of the Russian tank industry that leaned strongly towards the T-72 as its champion. but at the same time it was chosen to give it the T-80U sophisticated fire control system, resulting in the T-72BU variant. In the end, the BM was renamed BU after 1990 modifications, and then known as the T-90 program, further developed by the Kartsev-Venediktov Design Bureau (Uralvagonzavod) in Nizhny Tagil. The resulting production hybrid in 1992 was to be built chiefly in Nizhny Tagil, but with components manufactured at Osmk, a plan that seemed to reach general agreement between the state and parties involved.
Basically, the production model was unveiled in 1992 as the T-88 prototype, featuring a 830 hp (620 kW) diesel engine. The preserie was launched in 1993. It also featured an upgraded version of the Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armour on the hull and turret, but had overall the conventional layout of the well-proven T-72. However every single system and sub-system aspect of the T-72 saw improvements, so the general final T-90 product of 1994 could be seen as a well-upgraded variant. One of these modifications also includes the the main gun.
rear view
T-90 rear view.
After the start of a mass-production, the T-90S was chosen as an export model, with the usual downgrades. The T-90 was also remarked for its singular “three-tiered” protection level, comprising composite armour (turret), Kontakt-5 (Mark II) ERA and Shtora-1 countermeasures system with a set of evolved smoke mortars and other refinements. This combination really sets apart the T-90 from the previous T-72 MBTs and really incarnates the 3rd generation MBT concept in Russia. The production had eventually ceased in 2015, after the T-14 was first revealed and its own production was scheduled to start in early 2016. By then, around 2260 had been built, which was the lowest production observed for any Russian/Soviet MBT, at a unit price tag of $2.5 million (1999), equivalent to 4.25 million USD in 2011. The T-90MS price was evaluated to 4.5 Million $.
T-90 MBT in 2012
T-90 MBT in a public demonstration in 2012

Design of the T-90

Mobility

The first production version was given basically the same engine than the T-72BU a proven V12 V-84MS diesel giving an output of 840 hp. It was coupled to a 1 kW AB-1-P28 auxiliary power unit which served several subsystems on board, without starting the main engine. This was enough for this 46 tonnes MBT to reach speeds up to 60 kph and around 45 kph cross-country, due to a power to weight ratio of 18.1 hp/tonne (13.5 kW/tonne). The transmission was manual, with 7 forward gears and 1 reverse. This power was passed onto the ground by the same drivetrain than the T-72B, six doubled cast roadwheels per side, and three return rollers, resting on torsion bar suspensions.
12 cyl diesel T-90
Range was around 550 km with internal capacity of 1.200 L + 400 L auxiliary. Ground pressure was 0.91 kg/sq.cm. Performances were as follows: Fording depth 1.2 m on the move without preparation, and up to 5 m with full preparation and OPVT (snorkel). It was capable to cross a trench 2.8 m wide, a vertical obstacle 0.85 m high, climb a maximum gradient of 30° and stay stable with a maximum tilt of 30°. Like all previous Soviet MBT the T-90 had a simple engine smoke generator. There was also the traditional beam attached to the rear, used for extra grip on the most muddy/snowy terrains. With the addition of additional armour and equipments, the weight rose to 1-2.5 tons and new engines were developed like the 1,000 hp V-92S2 diesel, and eventually the 1,250 hp V-96, giving a 26.3 power-to-weight ratio. Top speed was around 65 kph (governed) but acceleration and torque were much improved.
T-90/
T-90 in a demonstration of its Snorkel.

Protection

Kontakt-5 ERA, 3rd generation at ET 2010
T-90 at ET-2010, Kontakt-5 ERA 3rd generation
The T-90 rested on a three levels protection. First, there was the original T-72 hull, made of welded steel RHA and 50-150 mm strong in direct line of sight. Second, there was a composite level, integrated into chiefly the turret front and sides, well known by the Western experts “Dolly Parton”. It was extremely efficient as proved by tests made in the early 1990s. However it was not enough for the latest generation of “sabot” rounds, super-high velocity APFSDS ammunitions. Therefore in the 1980s was developed the Kontakt Explosive Reactive Armour suite made of explosive bricks. The T-90 adopted the latest ERA suite, Kontakt-5 of the third generation in 1993. At the end, the protection provided against APFSDS was equivalent to 550-650 mm RHA with the basic composite armour, which rose to 800–830 mm with the Kontakt-5 ERA. Against HEAT it was 1,000 mm, but reached 1,150–1,350 mm with Kontakt-5.
T-90/
Also, there was a supplementary “active” form of protection with the mandatory smoke mortars, using 2×6 81mm electric dischargers, firing a wide variety of 3D17 smoke grenades, acting like decoys against enemy infrared sights and ATGM guidance systems. Most importantly, the T-90 was given the Shtora-1 electro-optical jammer. This system jams semiautomatic command to line of sight (SACLOS) for antitank guided missiles, laser rangefinders and target designators. The Shtora was found most effective when used in combination with a hard kill system such as the Arena. The Shtora is also used by the T-80U/UK and the T-84.
T-90/Turret front view

Firepower

It rested on the 125mm 2A46M-2 and later 2A46M-5 smoothbore main tank gun. The latter was assisted by a 2E42-4 Zhasmin two-plane electro-mechanical stabilization system, and could fire 6-8 rounds/min. Ammunition storage consisted in 43 rounds, 22 ready-rounds in the carousel below the autoloader system and the others into the hull. The autoloader is basically of the same model developed for the T-72B and allowed to reduce the turret size considerably. There is an autoselector which can rapidly select APFSDS, HEAT and HE-Frag rounds depending of the threat. There is also a hunter-killer mode, the commander can instantaneously passed the target coordinates to the gunner/ballistic computer that lays the gun while concentrating on the next target. The estimated FCS performances are a very high first hit capability on the move at 30 kph off-road, and ranges of up to 5,000 m, including low visibility.
The ammunition were also news for the most, here is the detail:

  • 3BM-44M APFSDS (range 4,000 m)
  • 3BK21B (DU liner), 3BK29 (800 mm RHA equ.), 3BK29M (Triple-tandem charge)
  • 3OF26 HE-FRAG with the Ainet fuse setting system

This fuse allows to detonate this ammunition at a specific distance by the laser rangefinder for maximal impact on low-flying helicopters and infantry. In indirect mode, this round has a practical range of 10,000 m.
The gun was also made capable of firing also ATGMs, the 9M119 Svir and 9M119M Refleks-M (AT-11 Sniper-B). This is a 16.5/17.2 kg projectile with a 4.5 kgs Tandem hollow-charge warhead and an effective range of 4,000/5,000 m. it can fly at 350 m/sec for a maximum of 17 seconds, and is capable of defeating up to 900 mm of RHA equivalent. It is compatible with the 2A45 Sprut sb gun. The Svir/Refleks is also used by the Serb M-84AS, T-80, T-84 and is licence-built for the Chinese PLA Type 98 and the next generation of Indian MBTs. Now it is replaced by the improved 9M119M1 (Invar-M).
T-90s Kord Heavy machine gun remote control mount

The secondary armament comprised the usual roof-mounted 12.7 mm Kord Heavy machine gun, which was however remotely-controlled on an AAMG mount Utjos NSVT, with 300 rounds in store. The coaxial armament was the 7.62mm PKMT light machine gun, with ammunition box carries 250 rounds, and a total of 2000 rounds in store. The main gun was conceived to fit and to be retired from the turret through the mantlet without lifting the turret itself up, quite an advantage on the battlefield.

Equipments

The hull is equipped with the collective full NBC protection system, with a slight overpressure. In addition there is a GO-27 NBC recon system, and for safety the 3ETs13 Inej automatic fire extinguisher. In option, the T-90 could receive a self-dig-in blade the OPVT deep fording equipment, KMT-7 or KMT-8 mine sweeps kits and optional air conditioner for use in the middle east and for the export versions.
The fire control systems count a 1A45T Irtysh computerized system. Night vision systems comprised the TO1-KO1 Buran-PA main sight with the TPN-4-49-23 passive/active II with an effective range of 1.2/1.5 km. In late production models, this system was replaced by the ESSA (Thales Optronique Catherine-FC TI), also shared by the Leclerc MBT.
interior of TC compartment
The gunner sight is the 1A43 rangefinder, coupled with the 1G46 day sight, the 9S517 missile guidance system for the ATGMs. The turret/gun sensor that feed the 1V528-1 ballistic computer is the DVE-BS wind gauge. The tank commander is given a PNK-4S system, comprising the TKN-4S Agat-S day/night sight (range 800/700 day/night), while the driver is given the TVN-5 IR night/low visibility sight. In addition to the already powerful Shtora countermeasures system, there is a “Nakidka” thermal/radar/optical shroud. Radio equipment comprised the R-163-50U emiter/receiver, while a R-163-50U and a long range R-163-50K are installed on the command type T-90K. For navigation, there is a TNA-4-3 for the command tank T-90K inertial system, replaced in later batches by a TNA “Gamma” GPS/GLONASS system.

Evolution

The T-90 was called T-72BU until the arrival of the T-90A. This first production was supplemented by the T-90K (Command version) equipped with an extra R-163-50K radio set and the TNA-4-3 navigation equipment. The T-90E was the first export version, downgraded accordingly. However no order was placed.
The T-90A appeared in 1999. For the first time, it featured a fully welded turret of the Object 187 experimental MBT; forever breaking the long tradition of cast turret in MBT design. It is called “Vladimir” in honour of T-90 Chief Designer Vladimir Potkin, died the same year. Details of the new protection provided by this configuration (most probably composites) has not been undisclosed. In addition, this version received the new Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant’s 1000 hp V-92S2 diesel engine and a modern Thales ESSA thermal viewer. The T-90AK is the usual command version.
T-90AT-90A MBT firing.
The T-90S is the export version, produced by Uralvagonzavod. They receive the 1,000 hp (750 kW) engine but were in effect deprived of the Shtora-1 passive/active protection system. They also have apparently two different turret armour arrays. In cyrillic, it is shown T-90C. The T-90SK command version was also proposed to export with upgraded radio and navigation equipments, plus the Ainet remote-detonation system for HEF rounds. The T-90S “Bhishma” is a modified T-90S with Indian specs.
The T-90AM is the latest occurence (2010s), featuring a complete rebuilding of the turret, equipped with the new advanced FCS “Kalina” completed by a new ballistic computer and integrated combat information and control systems with digital displays for updated battlefield awareness. There is also a new automatic loader, safer and with a faster reloading rate, coupled to an upgraded gun 2A46M-5 main smoothbore gun. The T-90AM is also the first MBT to receive as secondary armament a dedicated rapid-fire remote-controlled anti-aircraft gun “UDP T05BV-1”, of 20 mm caliber. It is capable to engage helicopters and low flying aircrafts.Protection is also upgraded wioth the new ERA set Relikt, replacing the old Kontakt-5. Lastly, it is equiipped with the latest iteration of the venerable deseil, the V96 1130 hp engine. The turet receive extra diital cameras and captors for an enhanced environmental control system especially tailored for urban combat, and a completely upgraded satellite navigation system.
T-90SM at RAE 2013
T-90SM at RAE 2013
The T-90MS is the export version of the latter, comprising a PNM Sosna-U gunner sight, UDP T05BV-1 RWS remote-controlled 7.62 mm LMG, GLONASS inertial navigation system and ERA (undisclosed type). The turret also includes a new removable turret bustle (additional storage for eight rounds).
T-90S MBT
T-90S MBT, the export version

Variants

  • BREM-72 Armoured recovery vehicle.
  • MTU-90 Bridge layer tank with MLC50 bridge.
  • IMR-3 Combat engineer vehicle.
  • BMR-3 Mine clearing vehicle.

MTU-90 AVLB in action
MTU-90 AVLB in action

Exports

T-90/
Azeri T-90 in a parade in Baku, 2013.

Algeria

The only country in Maghreb (North Africa) to operate the T-90SA. The army took delivery of 305 T-90SA tanks in a 2008 first batch was delivered, followed by a second by 2013.

Azerbaidjan

The newborn republic adopted naturally the T-72UMG and the T-90SA as their main battle tanks. 100 T-90SA are currently in service, 100 others are in option.

India

The Indian army not only adopted the T-90, it was also built under licence as the T-90AM Bhishma. As for 2015, 862 T-90S were procured in three separate orders, in 2000 and 2006 (300+300). The third order was locally built by Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF) at Avadi. 24 tanks were delivered by the plant in 2009-10, 51 in 2010-11, and 50 in 2012. Total order is 1,000 by 2020. There is an additional purchase of 354 T-90MS to equip six tank regiments facing the Chinese border. The grand total expected by 2020 will be around 2011 T-90s of all types. The well-upgraded, 3rd/4th generation MBT T-90MS is also called locally Bhishma II.

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan operates forty T-90S, delivered in 2010 (10) for approximately $30 million followed by another batch of thirty.

Uganda

The only black African country to operate this cutting edge, placed an order for 100 T-90S in 2010 ($340 million contract).
T-90/
T-90M Bhishma in exercises. Notice the three different liveries.

Active service

In 1995, the Russian Defence Ministry decided to favour the T-90 over the T-80. The latter was indeed was faster and more advanced but also was much more expensive to maintain, with a complicated, delicate and fuel-hungry gas turbine engine. In addition T-80BV performed poorly in during First Chechen War urban combat phases. In September 1995, 107 T-90 had been produced so far and were stationed in the Siberian Military District and Far Eastern Military District the next year. The 1999 T-90A or “Vladimir” was the first with fully welded turret entered service. The T-90A saw combat action in the 1999 Chechen invasion of Dagestan. According to official army reports, one T-90A survived seven RPG hits. Publications of the time argues that the T-90 is the best protecting tank, comparing the effectiveness of the combination of passive/active protection with the overlapping Shtora and Arena systems.
By 2007, 334 T-90s were in service with 5th Guards Tank Division stationed in the Siberian Military District, while seven T-90 served in the Navy. In July 2008, Rosoboronzakaz (the defence contracts federal service) announce the introduction of the T-95 in 2009, however to budget cuts, the program was shut down and cancelled in may 2010 as it was decided to proceed on the T-90 upgrade and the T-14 program instead. As of today an estimated 930 T-90A. Earlier models had been upgraded to this standard. Only a few T-90AM were built but its not known if it will impact the upgrade of the earlier models until 2020. However it sis much likely that the T-14 Armata being much costier and too cutting edge to be exported, T-90MS and its future iterations would be the main export Russian MBT in the next future.
T-90/
Russian Arms Expo 2011 – Some T-90s and IFV firing heat decoys.

T-90 related links

The T-90 on Wikipedia
On armor.kiev.ua

Video Documentary about the T-90 (Ru)

T-90/A/M specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 6.55(9,530 oa) x2.32 x2.04 m (21.4 x7.6 x6.7 fts)
Total weight, battle ready 45.7 Tonnes (91,400 lbs)
Crew 3 (TC, driver, gunner)
Propulsion See notes. V-84/92/96 12-cyl. diesel 840/940/1250 hp
Power/weight 18.1/20.4/26.3 hp/ton
Top Speed (dep. of engine) 42-65 km/h (37-40 mph)
Range (dep. of engine) 550-700 km (340-430 mi)
Armament Main: 2A46 125 mm sb gun + ATGM
Secondary: 12.7mm Kord Heavy machine gun, 7.62mm PKMT
Armor See notes. Dolly Parton+ERA Kontakt 5+Shtor
Total production Approx. 2,260

Gallery

T-90/ Moskow 2013 Victory day parade
A T-90/ in Moskow, may 2013 Victory Day Parade or the red Square.
cutaway view
Cutaway view of the T-90. Origin unknown (from the web)
T90A at the 2012 Engineering Technologies day2A46M1 smoothbore gunT-90S BhishmaT-90A at the 2013 tank bihatlonT-90A in the 2009 victory paradeT-90 courtesy of army-recoignition.netT-90A 2012 paradeT-90S TurmenistanT-90MS at RAE 2013T-90MS at the 1012 Engineering Technologies dayT-90S BhishmaT-90S BhishmaT-90A at ET 2012T-90A at the victory parade RehearsalT-90 in may,9, Moskow paradeT-90/T-90S export version at ET 2010T-90A at ET 2012T-90, rear view 2012

T-72B MBT
Soviet T-72B with Kontakt-1 ERA in the late 1980s, for comparison.T-80 MBT
The T-80B, also for comparison. Some elements like the FCS were shared with the T-90.T-76BU
T-72BU MBT in 1992.
T-80U
T-80U for comparison
T-90
T-90, early production version, with the 850 hp engine.
T-90
T-90 at the Omsk VTTV Exhibition of 1999.
T-90
T-90 of the Russian Army in 2003.
T-90
T-90, 19th motorized brigade, North Caucasus District.
T-90
T-90, 27th separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade, motorized military district of Moskow.
T-90K
T-90K, command version.
T-90A
T-90A MBT, unknown unit.
27th Sep Guards Moskow District
T-90A, 27th Separated Guard Rifle Brigade Moskow Military District.
19th Motorized Rifle Brigade, Caucasus Military District
T-90A, 19th Motorized Rifle Brigade, Caucasus Military District.
T90A desmonstrator
T-90AS “Eagle” demonstrator.
T90A
T-90A, unknwown unit, 2000s.
Azeri T90S
Azerbaidjani T-90S .
T90 Bhishma
Indian T-90S Bhishma.
T-90MS
T-90MS, the modernized export version (2014).
Categories
Cold War American APCs

Armored Personnel Carrier M113

U.S.A. (1961) – Armored Personal Carrier – 80,000 built

The legendary Armored Personnel Carrier

Probably since ww2 and the Universal Carrier, no armored transport has been produced to the extent of the M113, and this remains a record until today at least for a tracked vehicle. Of both vehicles, the Universal carrier (also called “Bren Carrier”) was even more prolific (113,000) but never approached the second in terms of versatility and overall performances. The M113 was a true modern “battle wagon”, amphibious, NBC protected, and offering a full protection to its crew while the second was a light, cheap open-top tankette which left the crew largely unprotected. The M113 is no longer in use as an APC in the United States Forces and US Marines, but in specialized variants, now largely superseded by the M2/M3 Bradley IFVs.

It is still in use however in perhaps 50 armies worldwide, and will probably be still around in the next twenty years, not always as an APC as one of the numerous variants and derivatives of the model, also built under license or copied. It should be noted that the absolute record is now held by the practical successor of the Jeep and classed now as a wheeled APC, the Humvee and its 280,000 vehicles built.

Such production levels, still, are unusual for a Western tracked Armoured Vehicle. It is due to a concept validated over time by the Food and Machinery Corporation, and which was good overall in its basic version to be adapted in a large variety of configurations. It was bloodied in dozens of conflicts due to its large availability, and named “The Green Dragon” by the Viet-Cong, during the Vietnam war, where it became as familiar and iconic as the Huey helicopter. However contrary to the opinion of some, it was never, neither officially or unofficially called “Gavin”. GIs used to call it simply the “one-one-three”, “track” or “ACAV” by generalization in Viet-Nâm. The Australian called it the “bucket” and “Bush taxi” and the Germans the “bathtub” or “elephant shoe”, which the Greek nicknamed it the “Ducklings”.

Development history

The recipe for its success lay paradoxically in the relatively failed previous products of the Food Machinery Corp (FMC). The M75 was heavy and expensive, which prevented amphibious capability or prevented air transportation while the second was the opposite, too lightly armored to protect the crew with efficiency and tradeoffs in production due to cost savings caused reliability issues. The third APC addressed all these issues in a single package, called the “Airborne Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle Family” or AAM-PVF.

It was already in project in the 1950s when the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Co. was approached to design a suitable hull, offering both weight-savings and protection. Two versions were engineered in 1959, the aluminum-skinned T113 and the steel T117. They were demonstrated to the US Army Ordnance and eventually the T113 was chosen and modified as the T113E1 in 1960. At the same time, the truncated nose was modified as a straight sloped front plate, which became its trademark. It was later standardized as the M113 the same year, mass-produced and pressed into service in 1961.

T117
FMC T117 prototype
The M113A1 diesel was tried in 1964 and supplanted in production the Gasoline version of 1960. The series will be battle tested soon in Vietnam (1962) and widely used from 1964 to 1973, including the well-known ACAV variant. In 1979 a major upgrade came with the M113A2, which improved mobility and protection in several points. The M113A3 appeared in 1987, aimed at improving its general survivability.

Design

Hull

The hull is built of 5083 aircraft-quality aluminum alloy, 0.47–1.50 in (12–38 millimeters) thick, giving the same strength as steel but at a slightly reduced weight. This weight-savings (40% of vehicle components are manufactured from these light alloys) without compromising protection. A solution that addressed the major heavy M75 issue, to be not air-transportable. This allows better amphibious performances as the vehicle could swim effectively. Indeed, the M113 weighted 12.3 tons compared to 18 on the M75, and the M59, 19. The frontal protection was capable in theory to defeat 20 mm autocannon AP rounds, and HMG hits all-around.
The hull is fully enclosed and rear apertures sealed off by rubber lids, allowing also a full NBC protection to be applied (although this came later). All in all, it should be noted also the M113 was much smaller than the two earlier APCs (60-70 cm shorter, 60 cm lower), without sacrificing too much interior space, which was better rationalized. The engine compartment, transmission, and fuel tanks indeed only occupied 1/5 of the internal space. Seen from above cutaway view, the crew & cargo bay compartment occupied almost two third the vehicle.

Although the prototypes had a truncated nose which made them look rather stubby, the definitive one, for ease of production, more internal space and better protection, had a sloped nose from top to bottom, but a much reduced truncated lower part. The base configuration was straightforward, as there was no revolution compared to the previous APC in the internal arrangement: The driver was located to the left-hand side, and engine to the right-hand side, while the main compartment was at the rear, with two rear doors for access and exit. There were two banks for 11 equipped infantrymen in total. A cupola for the commander/gunner was located in the centerline, behind the driver and engine.
M113 at Fort Meade 1965M113 early production in exercise at Fort Meade, 1965.

Performances

These significant weight savings allowed to use a relatively compact first batch Chrysler 75M petrol engine delivering 209 hp, coupled to a General Motors TX-200 manual gearbox. It was replaced by a Detroit 6V53 V6 two-stroke diesel engine of 318 cubic inches (5,210 cc) which developed 275 hp, coupled to an Allison TX-100-1 three-speed automatic transmission. Because of a favorable power-to-weight ratio of 22.36 hp per tonne, the M113 could reach 42 mph/68 kph on flat, slightly less than the M75 (43 mph/69 kph) but much better than the M59 at 32 mph (51 kph). The M113 was tested at the FMC testing grounds, and for the Army at the Aberdeen proving grounds, which it was shown capable of climbing Gradients up to 60%, side slopes of 30%, a vertical step of 23 in (0.6 m) and a trench 66 in (1.7 m) wide.

Due to its buoyancy, the M113 could swim at 3.6 mph (5.8 km/h). As mentioned before, it could be air-transportable by heavy-duty carriers (like the C-5 galaxy, Globemaster and C17) as well as helicopters like the CH-53 Stallion, Chinook and Tarhe flying crane. This diesel engine was sober enough to provide sufficient autonomy for 483 to 500 km, on internal fuel alone. Jerrycans could be carried for extra range. All this power was passed to the ground through a five stamped, doubled and rubberized roadwheels drivetrain, no return rollers, and suspended by torsion bars.
The rear idler and front drive sprockets were specific to the model, relatively small in size for better handling compared to previous models that re-used standard heavy standard components of tank chassis. There were single-pin tracks, with hard and soft steel parts and rubber shoes. The upper part could be protected by a rubber side skirt and the front and rear had mudguards.

Armament

The M113 is considered as an APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier) because its base armament is “light”. In fact, the standard issue Browning cal.50 M2HB heavy machine gun nicknamed “Ma Deuce” was a quite capable weapon both in reach and impact, and could deal with infantry, buildings, low-flying aicraft and helicopters, as well as soft skin and lightly protected vehicles in general. This HMG was located on a turret ring in the centerline, manned by the commander, which doubled as a gunner. The latter was seated in a rotatable turret basket, in the middle and above the seated infantrymen, five per bank, facing each others. There was no pistol ports but a large hatch in the rear part of the roof, right behind the cupola.

The armament variety is limited by the structural stiffness of the vehicle and stability, but the most common weapon (which made in an Infantry Fighting Vehicle or IFV) was the 20 mm autocannon, but a large range of guns up to 105 mm were developed for close infantry support and defense against other light armoured vehicles. In addition, a 40 mm Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher could be swapped instead of the standard cal.50 mount.
The M113 also could receive ATGMs (Anti Tank Guided Missiles) like the BGM-71 TOW or the lighter M47 Dragon which could also be swapped for the cal.50. This weapon system was indeed contemporary to the first M113A1, making it an early tank hunter, organic to infantry units. With such versatility, the vehicle was reputed also a reliable and sturdy, stable platform, and really became a cheap “jack-of-all-trades” with much-reduced maintenance costs due to standardization. See variant details notes.

Production & main variants

M113 (1961)

The base version (1961). Much similar to the following versions in appearance, it was propelled by a 209 hp (156 kW) Chrysler 75M V8 gasoline engine. Among other things, this version was designed to swim without deploying flotation screens, only deploying their front trim vane and propelled and changed direction by using their tracks. This version was further tested in Viet-Nâm and the reports helped to create the modified M113A1.

M113 ACAV (1963)

This version was developed during the Viet-Nâm war, much in response to casualties observed with the exposed gunner/commander, and losses observed at the ambush of Ap Bac (January 2, 1963). ACAV meant “Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle”. This was at first an improvised field modification by the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) in 1963, later generalized to the American M113s in service. In priority, the commander and cargo hatch positions were better protected. The former in particular received a set of armor shield protection surrounding the gunner. Quite rapidly the early soft and scrap metal used by the ARVN was replaced by hard steel for better protection when the type was standardized.
Gun shields were created in Okinawa for the cal.50 in the center and the rear aft and starboard M60 gun positions manned by the crew. In 1965, the ACAV kits were standardized and mass-produced in the US and ended with a fully circular turret armor for the commander/gunner. In some cases, the rear M60 mounts were replaced by an M106 mortar carrier. Apart from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment which trained in the USA with its ACAV kits, most were installed in the field. Also, an add-on armor was frequently added under the belly for better mine protection.

M113A1 (1964)

The biggest change was the use of a much sober 6V-53 Detroit Diesel engine which was also more powerful and gave it a much-extended range and reduced the fire hazard issue to the much higher ignition point of the diesel. The “A1” was also used on all variants equipped with the diesel engine in general. Other modifications were minor.

M113A2 (1979)

After the Viet-Nâm war, reports helped to improve the model rather than design a new one (although a proper IFV, the future Bradley program was initiated). This led to the A2, which encompass a whole range of modifications, including better engine cooling by swapping the position of the fan and radiator, higher-strength torsion bars for a higher ground clearance, fitted in addition with shock absorbers for smoother rides. For extended range, armored fuel tanks were fitted externally on both sides of the rear ramp (a significant recognition element).
This also helped to free 16 cubic feet of internal space for other uses. The M113A2 overall weight, however, rose to 25,880 lbs (117 kgs) more which possibly altered a bit its amphibious characteristics, but it was still capable of swimming well. A 2×2 Smoke grenade launcher was added in complement to the usual cal.50 for self-concealment. Many earlier vehicles and versions were also upgraded to this standard.

M113A3 (1987)

Although the M113 showed its age by the end of the 1980s it was still irreplaceable, a program was launched to extend its service life for the next twenty years, called “enhanced (battlefield) survival” or RISE. A yoke for steering replaced the old of laterals and a more powerful 6V-53T Detroit Diesel replaced the older powerplant (which helped reclaimed the performances losses after the introduction of the heavier A2), extra external fuel tanks were added whereas internal spall liners were fitted for better crew and infantry protection.

The A3 also became an upgrade for older vehicles therefore production figures are ellusive. This was the last upgrade of the M113, still in service with some units of the US Army and Marines. Large parts of the stocks were also sold abroad with the end of the cold war, scrapped, or sunk as artificial reefs. Many M113 replaced the ageing M551 visually modified (vismod) simulating Russian-made T-80 or BMPs at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. These have in addition the advantage of still allowing an infantry squad to be carried in the simulated BMP-2 contrary to the M551s.

Upgrades

Since the early Vietnam War era ACAV kits has been used in many occasions, the latest of whaich was Iraq for standard M113s in service by the time of Operation Desert Shield (1991). The caliber .50 gun shields were modified and the rear port and starboard gun stations deleted. Most served for convoy escort duties and urban combat. Early on, the relatively weak armour was augmented by add-on steel plates (IDF started this out).
Reactive armor and slat armor were also added for efective protection against RPGs, especially useful in the 2003-2013 war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Windowed gunshields were also developed by a local armorer in Iraq which recalls the M1A2 Abrams‘s TUSK set. Discreet rubber band tracks are used by Canada and others for stealth night operations but like the RISE package, helped to decrease road damage, while allowing for higher speed, better grip and mobility, and easier maintenance by much reducing the level of vibrations.

M113A4 or MTVL (1994)

Also called the M113A3+ this post-cold-war project was an attempt to modernize the APC basic design in several directions. Also called the “mobile tactical vehicle light” (MTVL) it saw a chassis lengthened 34 inches with an additional road wheel and built by private venture as a “production-tooled demonstrator” by the United Defense group. The US Army wasnt interested but it was copied by Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt as it just needed a sight retooling of their local M113 manufacturing plants. Canada and Australia, also used stretched-out M113 versions: In total Canada ordered 183 vehicles to be converted to this new standard. These vehicles are also equipped with the compact Cadillac-Gage one-man power assisted 12.7 mm (.50 cal) turret.

Other modifications includes increased power and improved suspensions, not much increased ground pressure despite a 4 tons more in weight gain. Optional bolt-on steel armour could be added. The armament comprised also two C6 7.62 mm light machine-gun (LMG) and two banks of four electrically fired 76 mm multi-purpose grenade launchers (smoke, white phosphorus, frag rounds). Another variant uses the Protected Weapon System [PWS] instead of the turret, a remotely- controlled weapon station with a 7.62 mm C6 LMG.

In addition a digital night observation sight is given to the driver and a light intensification sight for the commander. The “M113A4” (standard chassis) is also produced by FNSS of Turkey in 11 versions, all modernized. In another register, the M113 is also used by NASA (for emergency evacuation of astronauts during a launch pad emergency), and some police SWAT units.

American M113 variants

The M113 as it was stated above, showed an extraordinary capability for transformation. More than a hundred variants and sub-variants are known internationally, and there will be all covered here. Some only concerned a few vehicles while others contributed to produce an all-new mass-produced specialized vehicle all by itself. Some of these at least in the USA, like often with specialized vehicle, are still in service today whereas the APC variant is no more.

M58 Wolf

A specialized vehicle equipped for laying a smoke screen, with internal tanks and a generator. Much of the cargo area is occupied by this system.

M48 Chapparral SPAAML

Anti-aircraft (missile) variant with the rear section entirely modified to carry a launcher for four MIM-72A/M48 Chaparral missiles and reloads inside.

M106 Mortar Carrier

The standard mortar-carrier version. The M30 mortar is mounted on a turntable in the rear cargo bay, open by a three-part circular hatch. The mortar also had the capability to be loaded off and fired dismounted. The US Army uses now the M1064A3, (upgrade to the A3 standard) which uses a M121 120 mm mortar. The M106 led to a sub-variant, the M125, similar but armed with a lighter M29 81 mm mortar (and carrying more ammo). The XM106 Self-propelled Mortar was originally known as the T257E1 before standardization. The M106A1 had the diesel engine, while the M106A2 was to the A2 standard.

M132 flamethrower

The flamethrower variant, equipped with the latter in a turret and carrying an M10-8 flamethrower and coaxial M73 machine gun, fuel and pressure tanks in the rear of hull. They have been partly upgraded to the A1 standard (M132A1). They served in Vietnam.

M150 TOW Tank Hunter

Tank hunter (ATGM) variant equipped with a single TOW missile launcher installed right before the rear crew hatch, with a set of missiles in reserve inside. Secondary armament is still the cal.50 at the usual position. Also used by several countries or developed as a kit. A sub-variant was later developed with two TOW missiles.

M163 SPAAG

SPAAG version (Self propelled Anti-Aircraft, Gun), armed with a 20 mm M61 Vulcan autocannon in turret installed on a M168 mount, on a M741 carrier. This Vulcan Air Defense System (VADS) had rapid fire capabilities, and is very accurate up to a 2 miles range. Like all SPAAGs it could also be used against land targets with deadly efficiency.

M548 Cargo

The unarmored cargo carrier equipped with a modified heavy duty rear cargo bed.

M577 Command

Command & control vehicle, with a completely modified after section, housing new surveillance equipments, operators, a map table, additional long-range radios and a generator. A recent sub-variant is the M1068 Standard Integrated Command Post System Carrier (SIPSC), equipped with the latest US Army automated command and control systems. It was used as a tactical operations center (TOC) with a rear hull compartment raised to 74.75 in (189.9 cm).
The commander’s hatch was simplified and a deployable tent was carried to provide extra work space on the field. Th latter comprised map boards, folding tables, radio, computer terminals for a comprehensive C&C suite. Includes also an additional fuel tank in the right rear of the compartment, hand-cranked extendible long range antenna and 4.2 kW APU which can be dismounted and sandbagged to avoid excess noise.

M579 Fitter CEV

A Combat Engineering version, with a fitter and repair equipments, like a crane. Although never accepted in US Army service, it was largely exported.

M806 ARV

Repair and recovery vehicle equipped with an internal winch, two earth anchors mounted on the rear hull.

M113 MBT (Vismod)

This Vismod (“Visual Modification”) version is disguised as a Bradley IFV, equipped with a fake turret with false ERA blocks, MILES gear, MGSS/TWGSS system, which is used for training. Also called M113 OSV (OPFOR Surrogate Vehicle or “OSV”) in force-on-force training.

Other variants

  • M113 AMEV (Armored Medical Evacuation Vehicle) armored ambulance
  • M125 Mortar carrier (similar to M106 but with 81 mm M29 mortar).
  • M474 Carrier for the Pershing I nuclear missile. Also called M113 TEL (Transporter erector launcher), Programmer Test Station and Power Station carrier and Radio Terminal Set carrier.
  • XM546 Guided missile carrier/launcher MIM-46 Mauler SAM.
  • XM548/M548 six-ton cargo carrier.
  • XM548E1 carrier/launcher of the MIM-72 Chaparral SAM M54, later Redesignated XM730.
  • M667 MGM-52 Shillelagh ATGM carrier.
  • M688 transport and loader vehicle for the latter, based on the M548.
  • XM696 ARV (Recovery vehicle based on the M548).
  • M727 carrier/launcher for the MIM-23 Hawk SAM.
  • M730/A1/A2 (RISE) carrier/launcher for the MIM-72 Chaparral SAM of the M54 system.
  • XM741/M741 supply Carrier vehicle for the M163 VADS SPAAG.
  • M752 identical to the M667 but for the MGM 51 Shillelagh.
  • XM806/XM806E1 ARV (Armored recovery vehicle) with internal winch.
  • M901/A1/A2/A3 Improved TOW Vehicle (ITV) with dual M220A1 TOW launcher and TOW2 M220A2 (A1).
  • M981 FISTV (Fire Support Team Vehicle) Artillery forward observer vehicle (retired).
  • M1015 Tracked Electronic Warfare Carrier.
  • M1059/A3 Lynx Smoke Generator Carrier (SGC).
  • M1064 mortar carrier with M121 120 mm mortar.
  • M1068 Standard Integrated Command Post System Carrier (Modified M577).
  • XM1108 Universal Carrier.
  • M113-1/2 Command and Reconnaissance (Lynx). Based on M113A1 but four roadwheels pre side, rear engine, employed by the Netherlands and Canada

Prototypes

  • XM45/E1: M548 based servicing and refueling vehicle for the M132.
  • XM546E1 Lengthened chassis XM546 with six road-wheels.
  • XM734 Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle (MICV) prototype.
  • T249 Vigilante 37 mm SPAAG.

M901 HammerM901 Hammer TOW tank hunter.

Foreign users and variants

Australia (around 700 in service now)

The Australian Forces were among the first users of the M113A1, rapidly bringing them into action in Vietnam in the early 1960s. Modernization and improvement packages were quickly applied to the series, like the addition of a AN/VIC-1 com set, large dust filters, removal of crew compartment heaters, 600 kgs of belly armour added for mine protection, and heavy steel tracks. Also, most turned out as heavily armed APCs, with the addition of the Cadillac-Gage T-50 turret (cal.50 +cal.30 or twin .30), or heavier turrets in the case of the following variants:

M113A1 FSV

This variant was a practical IFV. FSV stands for Fire Support Vehicle. These were vehicles modified to receive the Alvis Saladin turret, armed with a short barrel 76 mm. it was used in the early 1970s by the Royal Australian Armoured Corps which named it the “Beast”.

M113A1 LRV/APC

This light reconnaissance APC was equipped with the V150 Cadillac-Gage T-50 turret always with the cal.50/cal.30 configuration. They were used by the recon units of both Cavalry regiments and Armoured regiments. They usually carried a crew of 3 (commander, driver, operator/observer) but usually carried additional stores and ammunitions rather than troops. They were used in Vietnam, some equipped at the beginning with the Model 74C Cupola/Command Station.

M113A1 MRV

MRV stands for Medium Reconnaissance Vehicle. These were pretty much similar to the FSV but equipped with a more capable Alvis Scorpion turret. The great difference was the use of its image Intensifier night sight. Amphibious characteristics were enhanced by the fitting of a light sheet metal foam filled trim vane and side pods for extra buoyancy. The drivers hatch was also changed for safety. These were affected generally to Cavalry medium reconnaissance regiments.
Now only part of the fleet is still in operational order while most were in the late 1980s. Many were converted as utility variants like the M113 Fitter ARV fitted with a HIAB roof crane, but also the modernized M113AS3 and the six-wheeled M113AS4 armed with a Tenix Defence HMG turret.

Belgium

Belgium replaced its former M75 and M59s by a new M113 locally-built M113A1-B from 1982 on. Sub-variants were the basic M113A1-B-ATK, M113A1-B-Amb (ambulance), M113A1-B-CP/M113A1-B-TACP (Command Post), M113A1-B-ENG CEV (Combat Engineering), M113A1-B-TRG (driver trainer), M113A1-B-MIL Milan tank hunter, M113A1-B-Mor 120 mm mortar carriers, M113A1-B-MT/MTC maintenance vehicles, M113A1-B-Rec (ARV wih internal winch), M113A1-B-SCB battlefield surveillance vehicle, M113A1-B-VW forward artillery observer vehicle. Initially Belgium operated 500 vehicles, now all replaced by the Pandur.

Canada

Canada adopted the A1, and later A2 and A3 and some were modified and derived in the 1980s and later. Canada had 289 vehicles in service now out of 1,143 purchased from the mid-1960s. Among these variants are the MTVE (Mobile Tactical Vehicle Engineer) CEV (plough blade+ rear auger, hydraulic hoses), the MTVR (Mobile Tactical Vehicle Recovery) ARV with 20 tons wich and crane, the M577A3 Command Post (“Queen Mary”), TLAV (Tracked Light Armoured Vehicle) – Cadillac turret or RWS. These are still in service contrary to the M113A2 TUA (TOW Under Armour) tank hunter, M113A2 EVSEV (CEV), M113A2 Mk.1 DAREOD (Damaged Airfield Reconnaissance Explosive Ordnance Disposal), MRT/IS MRT, ROFCS.
In more recent times, the ADATS Carrier (1988), an air-defence variant was operated within the coalition forces in 1991 gulf war. It was based on the A2 and featured 8 ADATS missile launchers and turret with a X-band radar for tracking. In addition 341 M113A2s were modified under the Armoured Personnel Carrier Life Extension (APCLE) program, 183 of these in the 6-wheeled stretched version. Both have in common a set of upgrades consisting of a 400HP Allison diesel engine, upgraded suspension, bolt-on steel armour plates, steel cage armour, and Cadillac-Gage turret/Nanuk Remote Controlled Weapon Station. These were used in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2013. Some reformed vehicles were converted for civilian uses as tracked log skidders.

Denmark

50 Danish M113A2 Mk I DK were modified and rebuilt between 1989 to 1993 by E. Falck Schmidt in Odense. Armed with a 25 mm Oerlikon-Contraves autocannon and coaxial 7.62 mm MG03 LMG mounted in an Italian Oto Melara turret and thermal sight. During IFOR/SFOR operation in former Yugoslavia, some received extra add-on armour and spall liner. These were deactivated or reconverted in civilian use in 2009.

Germany

West Germany received hundreds of M113G and M113A1GE later standardized as the A2G which replaced older models and were declined into multiple local variants. The M113A2 EFT GE A0 received an improved SEM-80/90 radio set. and under a modernization program, the MTU engine, new steering and brake systems. The G vehicles receive a bank of eight 76 mm smoke grenade launchers and Rheinmetall MG3s LMGs. The standard APC was known as the Mannschaftstransportwagen.
Variants included the Fahrschulpanzer (Driver trainer), FlgLtPz forward air controllers (FAC), RiFuMuxPz Direction finding station, SchrFuTrpPz VHF-HF Signals vehicle, TrFzRechnVbuArt Artillery computer vehicle, FüFlSt Fire direction center for artillery units, BeobPzArt Artillery forward observer vehicle, FltPzArt Artillery fire direction vehicle, FltPzMrs Fire direction vehicle for mortar units, FüFuPz Signals and command vehicle, KrKw Ambulance, PzMrs Mortar carrier, TrFz ABRA DR-PC 1a RATAC radar vehicle, TrFz Green Archer artillery location radar, and Waran 6-wheeled APC variant. Most of the above are now replaced or discharged.

Egypt

Egypt receive M113 in the 1980s and locally produced improved copies known as the  SIFV equipped with an upgraded armour kit, designed to resist 23 mm AP rounds and the 25 mm KBA-B02 turret.

Israel

IDF was a prolific user of the M113 since the early 1980s. Its fleet was numbered as high as 6000+ vehicles in the 1990s, of the A1/A2 and A3 types. Many have been already upgraded or converted for special duties. It remains by far the most common vehicle in use by the IDF, pioneering early urban warfare modifications in Lebanon. The M113 was commonly referred to as Nagmash. Among variants are the Zelda APC with the distinctive Toga armor suite of perforated steel plates mounted on a frame covering the front and sides of the vehicle. The Nagmash pikud is a command APC. The Zelda 2 received ERA plus armored shields around hatches (1990s) but was judged too heavy for service.
M113 ZeldaArtillery Corp M113 Zelda in training, Cadets Competence Day.
The Nagmash has the Toga suite plus a protective “aquarium” around the commander’s hatch and hatches shields. The Kasman is a dedicated urban warfare/counterinsurgency vehicle with Toga suite and a massive superstructure around hatches. The Kasman Magen/Meshupar receive a modified superstructure and external fuel tanks. The Giraf is a TOW tank hunter while the Hovet is the equivalent of the M163 VADS (20 mm M61 Vulcan SPAAG), later upgraded as the Machbet with 4-tubes FIM-92 Stinger. The Hatap is the field repair and support vehicle. The Mugaf is the local M577 command post, the Keshet a 120 mm mortar carrier, the Alfa is the M548 cargo carrier, the Shilem a mobile EL-M-2310 artillery radar, the M113 AMEV an ambulance, and the IMI/Urban Fighter a modification including upgraded “Iron Wall” armor.

Italy (3000+)

The M113 became also Italy’s main APC, with modifications such as the Arisgator, built by Aris, a full Amphibious version resembling the LVTP-7. The VCC-1 based on the A1 is an improved APC with rear and side sloped armor, firing ports, Browning M2 shields and smoke-grenade launchers. About 6-800 were produced, replaced by the upgraded VCC-2 without rear sloped armor and carrying 11 crew (1100-1300 produced), the VTC-9 (M113 CESV) and the SIDAM 25 SPAAG for AA purposes.

Lebanon (1300+)

Lebanon’s regular forces, South Lebanon Army, Kataeb Regulatory Forces, Progressive Socialist Party (Druze), Marada Brigade, Army of Free Lebanon, Lebanese Arab Army, the Amal Movement, the Hezbollah and Christian Militias were armed with (captured sometimes) M113s of various versions and some were rearmed locally with tailor-built turrets armed with ZU-23 and ZPU-4 quad mounts as SPAAG/IFVs.

Norway (around 900)

The M113A2s were in service by numbers in the 1980s most as the NM209 (Panservogn, personnel), and declined as the NM135 (Stormpanservogn) A1 equipped with a local 20mm Rheinmetall MK2020 autocannon, 7.62mm coaxial LMG in turret. The NM135/142/196/198/200/201/202/205F1/F3 were all additional spall-liners versions of the APC or specific variants, the NM142 (Rakettpanserjager) was the tank hunter with Kvaerner Eureka Armoured Launching Turret and TOW-2 and coaxial LMG. The NM194/195 (Ildlederpanservogn, luftvern) is an air-defense command vehicle, the NM196 (Hjelpeplasspanservogn) an ambulance/medivac variant of the M577A2 and modified NM196F3 and NM198 (command variant).
The NM197 (Replagspanservogn) is a maintenance vehicle, the NM199 (Transportpanservogn) a modified M548A1, the NM200 (Ambulansepanservogn) is the regular Ambulance version, others like the NM200F3 have an upgraded driveline, caterpillar engine, add-on armor and redesigned interior. Other versions comprised the NM201 (VINTAQS artillery forward observer), the NM202 regular Command variant, NM203 and NM204 are the local M125A2 mortar carriers, the NM205 is the regular CEV, and the NM216 a Signals vehicle.

Philippines

The M113A1 was adopted very soon, from 1967 onwards. It was declined into at least 5 variants including the M113A1 Fire Support Vehicle (FSV) FV101 Scorpion turret variant, M113A1 Mortar Carrier, M113A2 (EDA) from US stocks from 2012 onwards some with Elbit Systems upgrades, the M113A2 FSV (Scorpion turret) and some reequipped with the Elbit remote controlled 25 mm cannon or RCWS 12.7mm machine gun. Four are converted as M113A2 ARV.

Portugal

Operates since the 1970s 150 A1/A2s and variants including 107 mm mortar carriers, M730/M48A3 (Chaparral) SAMs, M901 ITV (M901/TOW) tank destroyers, M577A2 M/85 ambulance, M577A2 (M577) command and communications variants, M577A2 M/81 ACP command vehicles. Around 180 A1/A2 APC, 4 M901 ITV, 30 M48A3 Chaparral, 47 M577A2 (36 in service as command vehicles and 3 ambulances).

Singapore

Known to operate regular and M113A2 Ultra IFV variant (M113A1 upgraded to A2 with ST Kinetics cupola twin remote controlled 40mm AGL/0.5-inch HMG or Rafael OWS M242 Bushmaster 25 mm autocannons and improved armor, the M113A2 Ultra Mechanised Igla (SAMs) for short range (SHORAD) and completed by the IFU variant equipped with an advanced fire control radar in the Singapore Air Force.

South Vietnam

Improvised M113 w/M8 turret conversion, rearmed with M8 Greyhound armored cars turrets before the defeat of the ARVN in 1973.

Switzerland (400 vehicles)

Outside the regular M113A1 obtained (Schützenpanzer 63), developed locally modified versions such as the Schützenpanzer 63/73 (A2 front float panel) and Swedish Hagglunds Oerlikon 20 mm Kan 48/73 turret, Schützenpanzer 63/89 (ddon passive armor, 76mm smoke grenade launchers, RISE), Kommando Schützenpanzer 63 and 63/89 (Command vehicles), Kranpanzer 63 (M579), Feuerleitpanzer 63 (Artillery fire control center command vehicle) and improved Feuerleitpanzer 63/98 (INTAFF), Geniepanzer 63 CEV/dozer, Minenwerferpanzer 64 and upgraded Minenwerferpanzer 64/91 mortar carriers, Minenräumpanzer 63/00 (Mineclearing vehicle) and Übermittlungspanzer 63 Signals vehicle.

Taiwan

The Republic of China Army operated 675 M113A1s and also built its own local variant, known as the CM-21 with different engines and transmissions and produced from 1982 to 2009 (over 1000), declined into the CM-22/23 Mortar carriers, CM-24/A1 Ammo carrier, CM-25 TOW launcher, CM-26 Command, and CM-27/A1 Artillery Tractor.

United Kingdom

Since the UK had developed its own APCs, only the RAF base-protection Tracked Rapier (quad SAM launcher) used the M113A1 chassis as a basis.

Other operators

The list includes Afghanistan (173), Albania (130), Argentina (500), Bahrain (239 est.), Bangladesh (10), Bolivia (50), Bosnia-Herzegovina (80), Brazil (584 Army +29 Marines), Cambodia (210, now 20) Chile (427), Colombia (120), Democratic Republic of the Congo (12), Denmark (632 PMV), Ecuador (20), Egypt (2,950), El Salvador (20), Ethiopia (110), Germany (east-German -ex-captured ARVN, West-German 4,000 units, deactivated since 2010), Greece (2,500), Iran (200), Iraq (173+ 440 refurbished A2s & 1,026 M113A2s bought June 2013), Indonesia (2), Israel (6,131), Italy (3,000+), Jordan (1300), Kuwait (80), Lithuania (210), Morocco (1,200), Republic of Macedonia (30), Netherlands (60), New Zealand (120, now replaced with NZLAV-111), Norway (900), Pakistan (1,600), Peru (130), Philippines(120 A1, 114 A2), Poland (35), Saudi Arabia (3,000), Singapore (1,200), Spain (860), Republic of China/Taiwan (675), South Korea (400), Thailand (385), Tunisia (140A1-334A2), Turkey (3,000+), United Nations (6), United States (6,000), Uruguay (24), Vietnam (750), Yemen (670). France only operated civilian versions for mountain firefighters and Sweden evaluated one M113. The United Kingdom only operated for the RAF the well-modified

Users and battle records

The M113, because of its extremely long service lifespan and very large production plus massive exports worldwide, saw an impressive number of conflicts and wars throughout the century and beyond, perhaps only matched by the T-54/55. Since even the US did not consider to retire its modernized A3s and variants until 2030, let’s guess that it will be in service for much longer in many other countries, including in those producing enhanced copies as these lines are written. That would not be surprising to find direct evolution of the M113 still running around in forty years from now.

The M113 in Viet-Nâm (1963-72)

For the United States, the Vietnam war saw the opportunity to test new warfare concepts, like heliborne warfare and true mechanized infantry operations, which used the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier as their main “battle taxi”. In addition, Armored Cavalry squadrons in Vietnam also largely consisted of M113s, replacing the ill-fated M114. Armoured battalions also used M113s organic with their headquarters companies, in each section (maintenance, medical, recovery, mortar, reconnaissance). U.S. Army mechanized infantry units consisted of one headquarters company, three line companies (around 900 men).
The first operational deployment of the M113 came right with the beginning of the implication of US instructors with the ARVN in 1965, and n all ten mechanized infantry battalions and one mechanized brigade were deployed until 1972. The first to arrive was the Company D, 16th Armor (D/16th) 173rd Airborne independent brigade which consisted of three platoons of M113s and a platoon of SPATS (Self Propelled Anti-Tank Systems), reinforced by a fourth line platoon prior to its deployment for close indirect support, equipped M106 4.2 in mortar carriers. Towards the end of its deployment, the SPAT platoon was re-equipped with regular M113s (late 1966) and the mortar platoon deactivated in early 1967.
At the same time unit was re-equipped with the new M113A1. Late 1968, these were standardized with three machine guns per vehicle (The regular cal.50 + two side mounted M60 machine guns). The D/16thy conducted search and destroy missions but also security around firebase perimeters and road patrols. Its largest engagement took place on 4 March 1968 at Tuy Hoa (North), attacked by an estimated 2 enemy battalions (85th Main Force (VC) and the 95th NVA Regiment). Captain Robert Helmick (Company Commander), was awarded the DSC, and other awards were earned by privates for valor. The same year the unit was deactivated and the vehicle restored and distributed to E Company, 17th Cavalry, 173rd Airborne Brigade (F/17th).
M113 at My Tho Vietnam
M113s and M577 at My Tho, Vietnam, Têt Offensive, 1968
ACAVs were seen in action massively for the first time with US Forces of the 3rd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry during Operation Cedar Falls. They used the herringbone formation that gave the vehicles optimal all-around firepower in case of jungle ambushes. In general, M113s were used in Vietnam to conduct Reconnaissance In Force (RIFs) missions as well as the famous Search and Destroy operations, as well as large incursions beyond the border, like in Cambodia (1 May 1970) and Laos (Lam Son 719 in 1971) against the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
These vehicles became the primary workhorse for all units involved and a familiar sight of the conflict, on par with the Huey helicopter. When part of armored units, they were seen as part of units comprising also M48 Patton and M551 Sheridan tanks or with modified gun trucks and V-100 armored cars for convoy escort missions. The USAF also used M113/M113A1 ACAV for its Security Police Squadrons for advanced air base defense.
The ARVN (Souh Vietnamese Forces) was the first non-American army to operate the M113. These forces rapidly found the commander too vulnerable and improvised shield protections later adopted by US Forces and standardized as the ACAV. The most notable unit was the 3d Armored Cavalry Squadron which earned the Presidential Unit Citation. The Cambodian Khmer National Armed Forces were also equipped with these vehicles, fitted with a turret and recoilless M40 105 mm gun. Eventually, the Australian Army deployed in 1970 received M113s and quickly devised their own variant of the ACAV before make a standard of the Cadillac-Cage T-50 turret cal.30 + cal.50 or twin cal.30. Some even mounted a Saladin armored car turret (short barrel 76 mm gun) called the or FSV (infantry fire support). The latter was replaced by the MRV (medium reconnaissance vehicle) fitted with a Scorpion turret which had, in addition, an improved fire control and passive night vision.

Modern deployments

Grenada Invasion (1983)

The last deployment of the M113 during the cold war was for Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada which took place between the 25 October to 25 December 1983. The operation was aimed at restoring the pre-revolutionary regime and evacuate American students possibly to be taken as hostage. It was a joint deployment of Marines, US Army regular infantry and paratroopers, and Special Forces. Most mechanized units used the M113, and some were paradropped in the early stages of the operation without difficulty. M113s were also deployed in Operation Just Cause (dec. 1989) for the invasion of Panama against Manuel Noriega.

First gulf war (1991)

Norman Schwarzkopf conducted Urgent Fury and was still at the head of the Coalition Forces that were unleashed against the Iraqi Army following the invasion of Kuwait. Operation Desert Storm (January 1991) saw M113A1/A2/A3s and specialized variants in nearly all mechanized infantry units of US Forces but it was also the dominant APC in the coalition forces.

Afghanistan and Iraq (2001-2013)

M113s were also deployed in force (Still the sole tracked APC alongside Bradley IFVs and wheeled Hummers) for the 2003-2011 operations in Iraq (Enduring Freedom) and throughout the operations directed against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. However, the vehicle began to show its age. Most had been upgraded to the RISE standard (increased reliability and selected equipment) as well as the addition of external fuel tanks and 200-amp alternator with four batteries.
M113s also received slat armor, add-on armor packages against RPGs, and TUSK-inspired equipment like additional thermal cameras, reworked commander turret or remote-controlled weapon stations optimized for urban warfare. Since speed was important, however, many missions had been taken off by Stryker APCs which took advantage of their wheeled configuration in the flat, dry landscape and roads in both countries. M113s were more useful in the mountainous terrain of the Afghanistan.
M113 Operation Iraq Freedom 2003
M113A3 in Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003.

Israeli M113s

The Israeli defense Forces took advantage of the M113, receiving very large supplies of it in the late 1960s, replacing the aging M3 Half Tracks still in service under many variants. The total fleet was 6000 vehicles of this type, cumulating all variants. M113s were seen in action in the 1973 Yom Kippour war, and in the 1980s in Lebanon. More recently they had been seen in action in the second Intifada and 2006 Gaza and Lebanon Wars (as far as 2014’s Operation Protective Edge). The IDF found these vehicles vulnerable to modern ATGMS, RPGs but also IEDs and devised many protection variants and upgrades. Due to budget constraints these are still equipping the bulk of mechanized infantry regiments as of today. Experience with this vehicle led to design the Namer APC.

Other conflicts

Due to its widespread availability, the M113 saw also action in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and 1971 (on the Pakistani side), Lebanese Civil War, South Lebanon conflict (1985–2000), Iran–Iraq War, Kosovo, Waziristan, Libyan Civil War, Syrian Civil War and ISIS war.

Replacement

The M113 is a 1960 vehicle as of 2015, meaning it has a 40 years service span, which is quite comfortable for any US Army vehicle. It is excellent in its basic configuration of tracked APC, but not totally devoid of small issues, and in the meantime tactical concepts changed to the point of seeking new catergories of versatile wheeled APC or better armoured ACs optimized for urban combat. Because fo this, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) program was launched to replace the initial two programs, one to replace the basic M113 called the BCT Ground Combat Vehicle Program and one to replace all derivative variants called the GCV Infantry Fighting Vehicle. First deliveries were scheduled for 2018 but budget reduction will possibly have the program delayed.
2,897 in total are ordered for five mission roles at the brigade level and below, within armored brigades. Both BAE Systems with the Bradley and General Dynamics with the Stryker will fill intermediary niches, completed by Navistar Defence’s Maxxpro MRAP. So the future tracked APC will be part of a combined array of vehicles, a real departure over the mass production philosophy of the cold war, more adapted to asymmetric warfare, urban warfare and new threats in general. 12 brigades are to be equipped with the AMPV until 2020, but the M113 will be maintained at least until 2030, making it the longest service armoured vehicle in the history of the United States.

Local production

The M113 was also built outside the USA. Given how the design was successful, and that the park of actual M113 and variants needed repairs and maintenance on a large scale, three countries at least developed their own manufacturing plants. These were either clones or enhances version by the way. Pakistan for example revealed the Talha which shared a lot of parts in common with the M113. Turkey produces the ACV-300 (based on the AIFV, itself an evolved version of the M113). Egypt produces also the M113A4 as well as many of its variants.

M113 APC links & resources

The M113 APC on Wikipedia
Variants of the M113 (wikipedia)
The M113 on Military-today
The M113 on FAS.org
The M113 and variants on globalsecurity.org
Some interesting facts & figure and point of view about the M113
Walkaround photos of the M113A2

M113 APC specifications

Dimensions (L-w-H) 4.86 x 2.68 x 2.50 m (15.11 x 8.97 x 8.2 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 12.3 tonnes (24,600 lbs)
Crew 5 (Commander, Driver, 11 infantry)
Propulsion Detroit 6V53T, 6-cyl. diesel 275 hp (205 kW) P/w 22.36 hp/tonne
Transmission Allison TX-100-1 3-speed automatic
Maximum speed 42 mph (68 km/h) road/3.6 mph (5.8 kph) swimming
Suspensions Torsion bars
Range 300 miles/480 km
Armament Main: cal.50 12.7 mm (0.5 in) Browning M2HB MHG, 800 rounds
Sec: 2 portable M60 0.3 in (7.62 mm) – see notes.
Armor Aluminum alloy 12–38 mm (0.47–1.50 in)
Production (all combined) 80,000

FMC T117 prototype USA 1949.
Early prototype FMC T117.
M113 APC, USA 1961.
M113 APC, first gasoline version, with the trim vane erected, 1961.
M113A1, 1964
M113A1, early production, 1964.
M113 A1 ACAV, Viet Nam 1966.
M113A1 ACAV Vietnam 1966.
M113A1 ACAV, US Air Force VN.
M113A1 ACAV of the US Air Force in Vietnam.
M113A1 ACAV with M40 Recoiless gun.
M113A1 ACAV with a M40 105 mm recoiless gun in Vietnam.
M113 ACAV VN.
M113A1 ACAV “Ball Love” of the 1st Squadron 11th Armoured Cavarly Regiment 1960s.
M113 Australian Vietnam 1970
Australian M113A1 in Vietnam, 1970.
M13A1 Vietnam 1969
M113A1 in Vietnam, location unknown, 1969.

M113A1 of the US Marines at Da Nang, 1970.
M113 BD 4th Batallion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
M113A1 ACAV “Blue Devil” 4th Batallion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, 1980s
M113A1 camouflaged in the 1980s
M113A1 camouflaged of a support armoured division in exercizes, 1980s
Philippine M113A1
Philippine M113A1 in the 1980s
M113A2 US Army, 1970s
M113A2 if the US Army, 1970s.
M113A2 ambulance 1980s
M113A2 ambulance, 1980s.
M113A2 desert livery.
M113A2 in desert livery 1980s.
M113A2 RAF 48th tactical
M113A2 in 1990, EOD unit – 48th Tactical Fighting wing RAF Lakenheath.
M113A2 Gulf War
M113A2 with rear external tanks mounted, 2003.
M113A2 Bosnia IFOR
M113A2 with IFOR in Bosnia 1995.
Egyptian M113A2
Egyptian M113A2.
Brazilian M113A2
Brazilian M113A2.
Greel M113A2
Hellenic Army M113A2.
Jordanian A2 SOFEX 2008
Jordanian M113A2 a SOFEX 2008.
M113A2 HOT Lebanon
Lebanese M113A2 HOT.
M113G
Bundeswehr M113G with manoeuvers provisional markings, 1970s.
M113A3 MERDC livery.
M113A3 apparently without its external fuel tanks, in MERDC livery, 1980s.
M113A3 in Iraq.
M113A3 Operation Desert Storm 1991.
M113A3 Gulf War.
M113A3 from the recce element of the Mechanized Infantry Batallion, 3rd Infantry Division, Iraq, 1991.
M113A3 in Iraq 2000s.
M113A3 with slat armour and urban combat modifications, Iraq, 2000s.
M113A3 with add-on armour
M113A3 with add-on armour, Iraq, 2000s.

M557 Command Post
M557 Command Post, US Army in Vietnam, 1969.
M106 Mortar Carrier
M106 Mortar Carrier, Viet nam, 1970s.
M163 SPAAG
M163 SPAAG Vulcan in the 1980s.
M901A1 Hammer
M901A1 Hammer TOW launcher Tank Hunter
Australian armoured division organic recce FSV/Scimitar turret (1970)
Australian M113A1 FSV/Alvis Saladin turret
Late Vietnam Era (1972-73) APC armed with the CGC cal.40/Cal.30 turret
Australian M113A1 LRV/APC with the V150 Cadillac-Gage T-50 turret
FSV Australian cavalry organic recce batallion were composed in the 1980s of MRV/Scorpion turret.
Australian M113A1 MRV in the 1980s (Scorpion Turret)
IDF M113 ZELDA
Israeli M113 ZELDA
M113 IDF Zelda Toga
M113 IDF Zelda Toga.
Arisgator
Italian Arisgator (off scale). A LVTP-7 inspired floatation kit for improved amphibious performances, developed by the Aris company
M113 TOW ROKS
Taiwanese Army M113A2 TOW tank hunter.
CM-21 ROKS
Taiwanese CM-21 APC.
Canadian TLAV PWS
Canadian TLAV PWS (Protected Weapon System) in Iraq, 2010s.
Canadian M13A2 TUA, 22th regiment, 4th Mechanized Brigade
Canadian M113A2 TUA SAAM, Royal 22nd Regiment, 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, Germany
M548A1 Bundeswehr
German Bundeswehr M548A1 Skorpion minelayer
"YPR
Dutch YPR 7651A Infantry Fighting Vehicle, IFOR, Bosnia, 1995.
M113 Fitter ARV
M113 FISTV Fitter ARV.


Original FMC M113 Blueprint for the US Army Ordnance.
Former M59 APC T113M113 at Fort Jackson 1966 M113 in Patrol preparing defensive positions M113 ACAVs near Tam Ky march 1968 Early M113 ARVN M113 ACAV advancing in VietnamM113 4.2 M113 Herringbone formation VN ACAV in Vietnam M113 ACAV in Vietnam M88 ARV recovering a M113 in Vietnam M113 ACAVs and M48 Pattons in Vietnam ACAVs in Vietnam M113 in ArtIraqi 1st armoured division M113A2 cupola closeup Exercize M113 M113 in Samarra Australian M113A1 M113 cap Taji Iraq M113A2M113 A1 at Latrun IDF M667 Lance M727 Hawk M163 VADS at Fort Bliss M901 TOW Hammer at Latrun museumM901 HammerM113 Ambulance M113A1 Zelda at Latrun Museumex-IDF M163 VADS Hatzerim M113 FSV at PuckapunyalCaptured M113 SaigonGreek M113Detroit Diesel CloseupLeft Drive Shaftright side brake and gear couplingDriver compartmentDriver compartmentSaudi column M113sM113A4 ADATSM113 KaunasTaiwanese M113German M113s in a convoy exercize Reforger 85Swiss Army M113 Swiss 120 mm mortar carrierPz 63 APCArgentine M113Interior M113Interior view of the M106Spanish M113Argentinian M113 and M106sBrazilian M113Armed Forces Day South Korea 1973Danish M113A2Dutch YPR-765 in AfghanistanSouth Korean K200A1 IFVLebanese M113 with ZPU-4M113s as gate guardiansPolish M113 MPSO in 2005Swiss Panzer 68Norwegian mine rollers M113M113 Zelda in 2005 IDF M113IDF M548M113 Beyt HatotchanM163M667M667 Rear viewIDF M113 Nagmash Gaza 2014 M113 FitterUp armoured M113 Zelda Toga Nagmash TogaNagmash CEVs in a batallion drillNagmash Pikud near GazaM811 in AfghanistanM577M113A2 Igla SAMM113 Ultra IFVM113 Ultra IFVM901 TOWMortar carrierM132M163 VADSM730 Chapparal IDFAustralian M113 FSV ScimitarAustralian M113 MRVAustralian M113AS4M113 ADATS 4ADM113 TUAM113 used by SWAT team

Categories
Cold War West German MBTs

Leopard 2

Western Germany (1978)
Main Battle Tank – 3480+ built

Genesis

With the Leopard in 1965, Krauss-Maffei had already succeeded in providing the Bundeswehr and nearly all of Western Europe, except France and the UK, with a stunning main battle tank, the de facto “Europanzer”. But even as the latter entered service, its replacement was in full development. Fifteen years after, when the Leopard 2 was unveiled, this was a sensation, which has not been challenged since. The new one was bought not only by customers of the previous Leopard, but a cohort of new customers joined in. The Leopard 2 remains, as of today, for most defense experts, the #1 MBT in Europe and, for many, the #1 worldwide, with a perfect balance between firepower, protection and mobility.

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Development

Early development started right after the Leopard came into production in 1965. At that stage, new intelligence reports stated the Soviets, who had already presented the 115 mm armed T-62, were about to start building the 125 mm (4.92 in) armed T-64. In response, Rheinmetall was already working on the L44 120 mm (4.72 in) gun, which was to be used on an upgraded version of the Leopard. The MBT-70 “super-tank” joint project was initiated by the USA and Germany, and studies were already well underway. Therefore, it was given high priority. However, issues soon emerged, born from many growing divergences in specifications, measurements, and dissents over the general direction of the project. Although revolutionary, the project had large cost overruns, to the point that overpressure from the Bundestag caused the government to withdraw West Germany from the project in 1969. The USA later canceled the project itself and pursued the development of a simpler MBT, which would eventually lead to the M1 Abrams.
At that stage, Krauss-Maffei started in 1970 a new project called “Keiler”. This had a long development line, going through the Experimentalentwicklung and the earlier Vergoldeter Leopard, or “gilded Leopard”. In 1971, the new tank was called Leopard 2, and the former was renamed “Leopard 1”. No less than seventeen prototypes were ordered, but only sixteen hulls were built and trialed between 1972 and 1975. Specifications, other than carrying the new gun, was a maximum 50 metric tons in weight overall.

KampfPanzer 70 firing at max depression, showing the capabilities of the hydraulic suspension system.

The Experimentalentwicklung KPz (1969)

Since the late 60s this the MBT-70 (Kampfpanzer 70) complex development was running, and according to the terms of the agreement, Western Germany was not allowed to officially start its own battle tank development. Nevertheless, in order to operate the whole project, a contract was concluded for an experimental development. An agreement was signed between the MoD and Krauss-Maffei AG, finalized on 07 November 1968. In October 1969, the chassis development of the Experimentalentwicklung began. It was propelled by a 10-cylinder diesel of the MB 872 1100 type rated for 1250 PS. It was coupled with a ZF 4HP400 transmission newly and specially tailored for it.

Kampfpanzer-70 at the Munster Panzer museum

The Kampfpanzer-70 and Keiler (1970)

In 1969, the whole joint MBT 70 program became apparent in jeopardy. Thereupon, the development of the now modified main battle tank with a driver installed conventionally in the hull (In the KPz 70, he was installed in the turret) under the name of “Keiler” (“wild boar”) was pushed further. The official end of the MBT 70 program came in the early 70s, largely due to skyrocketing cost overruns. The then defense minister Helmut Schmidt decided further development, based on the data gained from the experimental Keiler, and renamed the program “Leopard 2 battle tank”. A total order of 17 prototypes was granted (ten with 105 mm smoothbore guns and seven with 120 mm smoothbore guns). On these prototypes, engineers had to use the already fully developed engine of KPz 70, the MTU PT873 with a ring cooling system and a Renk HSWL 354 transmission. Therefore the alternative powerplant project for a The Daimler-Benz MB 872/ZF transmissions 4HP400 was discarded.

Kampfpanzer Leopard-2 Prototype or Keiler with the smoothbore 120 mm cannon

The Leopard 2K (1972)

This new pre-series project ultimately adopted was renamed “Leopard 2K”, and work started to test two different suspension systems. The first was based on the experimental torsion bar suspension with friction dampers developed for the Keiler and the second was based on the MBT 70 more complex hydro-pneumatic suspension. The two prototypes were abundantly tested and compared at the Bundeswehr proving grounds 41 near Trier. After this process, it was decided to reject the second one, the hydro-pneumatic suspensions systems being believed not to be mature enough for mass production at that stage.

Kpz ExperimentalEntwicklung

The Erprobungsserie (1972)

The extensive testing of the sixteen prototypes took place between 1972 and 1973. The first chassis or PT3 models (turret-less) was transferred to the end of May 1972 on the 41 proving grounds near Trier for mobility testings. The first completed pre-series test vehicle with a turret started operation in June in 1972 on the 91 test site in Meppen. At the same time trials with infantry started in Germany, but also in Canada (Winter 1973/74), as well as in Arizona/USA to test extreme mid-summer temperatures. This helped to identify the main problem in compliance with the specification, which was to be below the maximum of 50 tons. Efforts have been made, the turret, for example, was redesigned to save 1.5 tons. Leitz completely redesigned the external envelope, which enabled a more favorable turret shape but also future armor upgrades as well.

Erprobungsserie, 1973 (preserie).

Protection upgrades and MLC 60 protection specification (1973)

It was discovered after the 1973 Yom Kippur War that the armor protection was to be given a significantly higher priority. Thus, it was decided the weight saved for the turret could be used for extra armor. Meanwhile, the USA showed interest in the Leopard 2 project and purchased one of the prototypes, which significantly influenced the development of American prototype XM1 (M1 Abrams), but at the same time criticized the inadequate armor protection of the Leopard 2. Krauss-Maffei introduced at that time a concept with improved armor but it became clear for the teams involved that the 50-tons requirement could no longer be sustained, therefore an agreement was reached on the MLC 60 specification in 1973 as the upper weight limit for development.

The Keiler (“Wild Boar”) prototype in the late 1960s.

The Alternative upgraded Leopard 1 project

In parallel, different proposals came from companies as an alternative to the weight problem of the Leopard 2, designed to comply with the very strict MLC 50 specifications. One way was to improve the combat efficiency of the Leopard 1 in three stages, producing in three variants:
Option 1: 105 mm smoothbore gun with ammunition and uprated improved armor protection
Option 2: New engine rated at 1200 or 1500 hp in addition to 1
Option 3: Option 2 but with a 120 mm smoothbore gun.
Depending on the British government approval, a new type of casemate armored battle tank was designed and named 3/80 MBT. None was chosen in the end since the weight problem with the Leopard 2 was solved in the meantime.

The American Leopard (2AV)

Due to the interest shown by the USA to purchase or start a local production of the Leopard 2, Krauss-Maffei embarked in a series of modifications aimed at meeting the American specs. For this, the A2V was considered an “Austere Version”. It featured an improved armor in compliance with the MLC 60 spec, but a simplified fire control system, a reviewed ammunition stowage protections and management, a mine-protected belly, the elimination of the auxiliary generator, and replacement by eight vehicle batteries, and the accommodation of the entire electronics and hydraulics in the turret rear (for a better access for maintenance and repair).
But the story of the American Leopard was not over yet. Once the two A2V prototypes were shipped and bring to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, they underwent extensive trials between September 1976 and March 1977, and for comparative testings against the two American prototype XM1 from Chrysler and General Motors. Since both were equipped with the 105 mm, both A2V were rearmed with the Leopard 1’s 105 mm gun L7 A3. The comparison in 1977 showed that only a 120 mm cannon could match future threats leveraged by experts and shown all its superiority over the 105 mm. So despite the XM1 won at the end, the irony was that the Abrams was indeed modified in the mid-1980s to accommodate the very same 120 mm Rheinmetall smoothbore cannon, retrofitted in the US from the actual Leopard 2.

Design of the Leopard 2

Externally, the Leopard 2 was not a revolution compared to the Leopard 1, the chassis was improved but remained largely identical, although emphasis was put from the beginning in protection. Therefore the most obvious difference came from the turret, which was not only tailored for the new Rheinmetall 120 mm smoothbore cannon but also for extra composite armor compartment. Estimated protection figures (up to the 2A5) are 590–690 RHAe on the turret and 600 RHAe on the glacis and lower front hull.

Chassis and hull

According to data from the Entwicklung series, the front glacis was 50 mm at 15° then 35 mm at 8°, equivalent to 90 mm of welded steel RHA with a hardened upper layer. The lower face of the beak was 59 mm at 35°. The bottom front plate (from the beak to the rear of the turret) is 19 mm and 14 mm under the engine compartment while the rear plate was 25 mm thick at 15-20°. The engine deck is 20 mm thick. All in all, this was no way superior to that of the Leopard 1 chassis, however, the compartments above the main drivetrain received new cofferdams of composite armour storage bays and are flat rather than sloped on the previous Leopard on which all the tooling was fastened externally. The driver is located to the right hand side. He is given a sliding hatch (to the right) and three periscope vision blocks before him.

The central one could be swapped for an IR thermal vision device. Compartmentalization is straightforward, with the driving compartment, followed by the fighting compartment, and the engine compartment at the rear, separated from the crew by a fireproof bulkhead. The driver’s station is protected from fire by four 9 kg Halon fire extinguisher bottles (on his right), which are activated when the temperature rose above 180° Fahrenheit with a manual backup. Another 2.5 kg Halon fire extinguisher is located beneath the gun, inside the floor of the crew compartment for better safety. There is a collective NBC system, which provides up to 4 mbar (0.004 kp/cm²) of over-pressure. In addition recently, Leopard 2A4M and 2A6Ms received an additional mine protection plate for the belly, especially efficient against mines and IEDs.

Austrian Leopard 2A4 with its MTU powerpack on display

Mobility: The MTU Engine

The Leopard 2 beating heart is the MTU MB 873 Ka-501 diesel engine. This powerful unit provides 1,500 PS (1,103 kW) at 2600 rpm of output, and the block is four-stroke, 47.6 litre, 12-cylinder multi-fuel. Its exhaust is turbo-charged, and it is liquid-cooled. Estimated fuel consumption is around 300 liters for an average of 100 km on flat but 500 liters for the same distance cross country. The transmission is the Renk HSWL 354 hydro-kinetic planetary gearbox which have four forward, two reverse gears. This automatic transmission has a torque converter. Therefore the Leopard could turn on the spot, whatever the speed is. This transmission automatically changes gear within the range pre-selected by the driver. The cooling air outlet grille is prominent over the rear plate and was reinforced and better protected after the 28th vehicle in production. In addition, an automatic fault detection system probe for any technical malfunctions and is monitored by the driver in real time.
Leopard 2 MTU diesel powerpack
Leopard 2 MTU diesel powerpack.
The engine is fed by four fuel tanks (1,160 liters in total) for a maximum road range of about 500 km. The MB 873 is a 6.12 tons engine and can be changed in the field in just 15 to 35 minutes depending on the conditions and crews skills. Power is provided by eight 12-volt/125 Ab batteries plus a 24-volt electrical system.
Performances: Top road speed 68 km/h (limited by law to 50 km/h during peacetime), top reverse 31 km/h ( mph). The Leopard can negotiate 30° slopes, climb one meter high vertical obstacles, a three meter wide trench, or ford water 1.20 m deep without preparation, and up to a depth of 2.25 m (deep wading) with a short preparation or 15 minutes with special equipment for proper underwater driving, at 5-6 m of depth. In this case, a 3-piece snorkel is fitted above the commander’s cupola for guidance. The EuroPowerPack which developed 1,650 PS (1,214 kW) MTU MT883 undergone trials in the 1990s but was not adopted so far for production although it remains an option.

Leopard 2A4 in deep wading gear, showing its snorkel

Drivetrain

The Leopard 2 used a torsion bar suspension with advanced friction dampers. They served seven dual rubber-tired road wheels (same type and diameter as the Leopard 1) and four return rollers per side. The the idler wheel is at the front and drive sprocket at the rear. 570F tracks are made by Diehl, rubber-bashed with end connectors, and possessed removable rubber pads. Each track is composed of 82 links. Up to 18 rubber pads could also be replaced by grousers for extra grip on the mud and snow, usually stored on the vehicle’s bow. Three large side skirt panels are protecting the wheeltrain upper part, whereas the first two road wheels and idler are covered by three smaller side skirt panels.

Turret design

The particular turret design of the leopard 2 which is its most obvious feature looks slab-sided, but is probably four or five times better protected by the original turret due to the adoption early on of massive multi-layered composite armor blocks. Seen from above this turret is simple in design, with flat sides and a sloped front. The mantlet is relatively large and boxy. Handling bars are welded on the front and sides, to help the crew to climb onto the roof, which receive anti-skid coatings. Three towing eyes are also welded, on in the front, centerline, and two other on the rear corners for lifting. The commander and loader’s cupolas are side by side roughly in the middle of the turret, driver on the left hand side and commander on the right. Both are given direct vision blocks for an unobstructed peripheral view and a rail mount for a MG3 or other type of light machine gun. There is a built-in niche on the right side of the turret front for the gunner’s sight.

Technical Diagram of the EMES 15-09 sight inside the turret of a Leopard 2A1 (credits: KMW).
Active protection relies on two groups of four Wegmann 76 mm smoke mortars, mounted on either side of the rear of the turret sides. They can be electrically fired as single shots or in salvos depending of the threat. They could create usual white concealment smoke cloud but also flares and IR-disruptive smoke. Dutch models have a different configuration with only two banks of three pairs of mortars and the Swedish Strv 122 that uses the French GALIX system also shared by the Leclerc.
Modifications following the introduction of the 2A5/A6:
Both models received additional armor added to the turret front, up to 920–940 RHAe on the turret, 620 RHAe on the glacis and lower front hull against kinetic projectiles. Spall liners are standard. The Canadian Leopard 2A6M CAN were given slat armor in complement against RPGs.

Armament

Main gun

The very essence of the Leopard 2 is centered around its Rheinmetall 120 mm smoothbore gun, of the same type also used on the M1 Abrams today. Basically up to the 2A4 it is known as the L44 and after (2A5/2A6) the “long barrel” L55 variant, that adds 1,30 m of extra barrel length. The latter of course adds an extra speed to the fired ammunition, thus enabling a far greater range and better penetration power. Both are fully stabilized, allowing fire on the move, with a +20° to −9° elevation/depression. The L44 and L55 has a bore evacuator and a glass-reinforced plastic thermal sleeve for regulating the temperature of the barrel. The barrel itself has a chrome lining for extra durability.

Ammunitions

This gun can fire the German DM43 APFSDS-T anti-tank round, (penetration value 560 mm (22 in) at 2,000 meters (2,200 yd)), and the German DM12 multipurpose anti-tank projectile (MPAT). The L55 gun could fire a specially developed APFSDS-T round, the DM-53, which has a penetration value of 750 mm at of 2,000 meters. 27 rounds are stored inside a special magazine in the forward section of the hull, left of the driver, while 15 rounds more are stored in the left side of the turret bustle, separated by an electric door for safety. Indeed, in case of hit, blow-off panel vents off most of the blast upwards, preserving the fighting compartment. In addition Rheinmetall developed an upgrade for the barrel, allowing it to fire the LAHAT ATGM. The missile can engage targets well out to a range for an normal ammunition, in the order of 6,000 metres (20,000 ft).
Leopard 2A4 ammunitions storage
Leopard 2A4 ammunition storage.

Secondary armament

Two light machine guns are fitted as standard, the coaxial and the external auxiliary mounted on the TC ring mount. On German models, these are Rheinmetall MG 3 7.62 mm machine gun (developed from the WW2 MG42), whereas on the Dutch and Singapore models, these are replaced by FN MAG General Purpose Machine Guns (GMPG), of 7.62 mm calibers, and locally-manufactured MG 87 on the Swiss Leopard, of 7.5 mm caliber. 4750 rounds are carried on board to supply those.

Fire Control System

The eyes of the Leopard 2 are improved compared to the former. The standard FCS is the German EMES 15 primary sight which has a dual magnification and is fully stabilized, had an integrated neodymium yttrium aluminium garnet Nd:YAG laser rangefinder, with a 120 element Mercury cadmium telluride, HgCdTe (also known as CMT) Zeiss thermographic camera. Both systems are linked to the tank’s fire control ballistic computer. As a backup there is height magnification auxiliary FERO-Z18 gunner’s scope mounted coaxially. The commander has his own independent Rheinmetall/Zeiss PERI-R 17 A2 periscope which is stabilized and designed for day/night observation and target identification. It is fully traversing. The thermal image is then displayed on a monitor in front of the TC. Temporarily the first batch only possessed a PZB 200 low light TV system (LLLTV).
This fire control system provides up to three range values for each 4 seconds and the data is transmitted to the computer, which in turn calculate in real time the firing solution. The laser rangefinder isalso integrated into the gunner’s primary sight, and therefore the gunner is able to read directly the digital range measurement. The computer deals with environmental condition (wind, temperature, humidity) chooses the right ammunition and automatically lays the gun to the correct trajectory. The maximum range of the laser beam is short of 10,000 m. Its measuring accuracy is less than 20 m at this range. The Leopard 2 can engage moving targets at up to 5,000 meters whilst being on the move over rough terrain at full speed and in all visual conditions. This system also enables a hunter-killer mode.

Camouflage and liveries

Due to NATO standards and the theaters of operations where the Leopard 2 operates which are mostly temperate, Europeans, all are normally factory delivered with an olive green primer. Early tanks, Danish, Belgian and Spanish Leopards were left in this primary livery. In the 1980s however, NATO standard introduced the regular three-tone camouflage used by continental tank, made of dark green and light maroon wavy spots on the primer. In winter, a provisional washable white paint was applied for maneuvers, in wavy striped and spots. More recently, the Greek 2A6 showed by far the most singular camouflage, made of light reddish maroon, beige, olive green, and black. More recently, KMW released the 2A7+ intended for the middle east and painted with a beige primer, pink and light olive spots. Another one was designed for urban warfare, equipped with a dozer blade and painted with the dedicated checkerboard pattern of light blue, dark grey, pale and medium grey, and pinky beige.

Production of the Leopard 2

In 1977 the decision was made under the MoD to procure 1,800 Leopard 2 main battle tank to the Bundeswehr. Krauss-Maffei AG was chosen as the general contractor, but in addition, Krupp-MAK in Kiel was involved for 45% of production, as well as all their sub-contractors and suppliers. In the spring of 1977, comparative testings of the two eligible FCS (Fire Control Systems), the American Hughes and the German AEG-Telefunken were compared. Both were found technically on the same level but at the end the decision was favorable to the Hughes system for the series vehicles. On 11 October 1978, the first definitive pre-series vehicle was delivered, and three more followed in the first half of 1979. This early first batch was characterized by a newly designed operator’s platform and modified tracks (longer glacis plate and a new arrangement for the return rollers). Tests led to the adoption of further modifications into the first batch. The fourth of the series was handed over on October 24, 1979 with an official ceremony and live demonstration with infantry. This was the only one in service, while the first three remained at the testing ground for further testings.
From the 29th vehicle the cooling air outlet grilles were strengthened. Mass production was now at a full swing, and Krauss Maffei was ready to establish the definitive series from these 30 vehicles. The next batches were height in total although five were initially planned.
The first batch of 200 (October 1979 – March 1982) comprised these items, which were upgraded on the next ones:
– EMES 15, main periscopic sight with integrated night vision.
– Laser rangefinder
– PERI R17 TC panoramic day view periscope
– FERO Z18 turret main gun sight for the gunner
– WNA H22 electro-hydraulic gun laying and stabilization system (Waffennachführanlage)
– Hugues Fire control system
– Cross-wind sensor on the turret roof
– RPP 1-8 ballistic computer and tester
– Image Intensifier PZB 200 (Thermal imaging not yet available)
– Side-mounted side skirts
Until 1992, the Krauss-Maffei eight batches represented no less than 2,125 Leopard 2 in different versions (from A0 to A4) for the German army. MaK was responsible for the final assembly of the Leopard 2 under supervision of Krauss-Maffei. Blohm + Voss built the main hull and compartment cells, Henschel Defence Technology (now Rheinmetall Landsystems) built the turret, but Rheinmetall DeTec and Wegmann & Co. (today KMW) were charged of the 120 mm gun and the turret sub-assemblies and fittings. ZF Friedrichshafen, MTU and Diehl Remscheid were in charge of the powerplant, gearbox and tracks. The fire control system and main target sight came from STN Atlas Elektronik in Bremen while Carl Zeiss provided the tank commander peripherical periscope.

Variants

Leopard 2

The basic version, this model is sometimes designated “A0”. This first batch of 380 was built from October 1979 to March 1982 (209 by KMW and the others by MaK). These were characterized by the followings:

  • Electrical-hydraulic WNA-H22 system
  • Fire Control System & Ballistic computer
  • Laser rangefinder
  • Wind sensor
  • General purpose EMES 15 periscopic sight
  • Panorama periscope PERI R17
  • Turret roof main sight FERO Z18
  • Computer controlled tank testing set RPP 1–8
  • 200 of the vehicles had a
  • Low-light enhancer (PZB 200) rather than a thermal imaging for 200 of these

Leopard 2A1

Second batch, of 450 vehicles (248 by Krauss-Maffei (Chassis Nr. 10211 to 10458) and 202 by Mak (Chassis Nr. 20173 to 20347)), with deliveries starting in march 1982, until november 1983. The Gunner’s thermal sight installation was modified and improved as well as the ammunition racks (identical to those in the M1 Abrams) and redesigned and optimized fuel filters (for faster refuelling). Another batch of 300 (165 by Krauss-Maffei and 135 by MaK) followed between November 1983 and November 1984, including minor changes, later retrofitted to the earlier models.

Leopard 2A2

This designation was only given to the upgraded first batch brought up to the standard of the second and third batches (2A1). The PZB 200 sights were replaced by Thermal sights EMES 15, filler openings and caps (forward fuel tanks) to do separate refueling, deflector plate for the periscope, and cover for the NBC protection system. New 5 m steel towing cables were also added and relocated. This modernization lasted from 1984 to 1987.

Leopard 2A3

This fourth batch comprised 300 vehicles (165 by Krauss-Maffei and 135 by Mak) delivered between December 1984 and December 1985. They are only marked by the addition of the SEM80/90 digital radio sets (also retrofitted on the Leopard 1), and the ammunition reloading hatches welded shut.

Leopard 2A4

The most important variant in quantity and amplitude of changes. It surpassed by far all other variants by numbers alone, with more than 1,800 built in eight batches between 1985 and 1992. This became also the new standard for upgrade for former version. By 1994, more than 2,125 German Leopard 2 in service were of this type, including former series upgraded to this standard.
Among these changes are the addition of an automated fire and explosion suppression system, all-digital FCS (which can preset the new ammunition types), as well as armor modifications on the turret, with improved flat titanium/tungsten sets in standard. An additional batch of 445 tanks was also produced for the Netherlands. It was also manufactured under licence in Switzerland. However after the end of the cold war, important stocks of German and Dutch Leopard 2A4s were sold, which is why this is the most well-known and common version internationally, and several modernization packages and programs were made for it until recent years.

Leopard 2A5

The 2A5 (introduced in mid-1998) is externally the easiest to distinguish from previous versions, introducing a wedge-shaped spaced add-on armor covering the frontal area and forward sides of the turret. These modules can defeat a hollow charge before it reaches the base armor, as well as deflecting and eroding kinetic-energy penetrators. The shot-trap effect was studied and evaded due to the first layer which does not deflect the penetrators on sensitive areas, including angle calculations and the material used for the most outer skin. The gun mantlet was therefore redesigned to to fit in. In addition the whole armor composition was upgraded.

Spall liners were introduced into the crew compartment to reduce fragmentation, and the frontal section of the side skirts was upgraded and made stronger. The turret traverse and systems were all made electric to save weight and simplify maintenance and reliability. The TC sight was moved behind the hatch, and an independent thermal channel was added. The gunner’s sight was also moved to the turret roof (in former versions it was integrated into the cavity in the front turret armor). The driver’s hatch was also modified.
Since this version was prepared to be upgraded to the new L/55 120 smoothbore main tank gun developed by Rheinmetall, the whole gun braking system was improved in advance. It already enabled to fire more powerful ammunition on the L/44 gun like the DM-53 APFSDS.

Leopard 2A6M from the Bundeswehr

Leopard 2A6 and 6M

Also named the “long” Leopard 2, it is essentially similar to the 2A5 but integrates the new Rheinmetall 120 mm L55 smoothbore gun. Much longer, this version enable not only to fire heavier ammunition but also increased muzzle velocity, range and accuracy. Otherwise there are only minor upgrades.
The Leopard 2A6M introduced an enhanced mine protection system under the belly, and internal enhancements to improve crew survivability.

Leopard 2PSO

The PSO was developed by KMW as a specialized urban-combat proven vehicle (The PSO stands for Peace Support Operations), urban warfare, after the experience of deployment in the Middle east. The PSO package aimed at a more effective all-around protection. There is a secondary (remote) weapons station, better awareness due to multiple close-range cameras, a bulldozer blade, a shorter gun barrel as well as non-lethal armament and a searchlight as well as some minor armor change to protect against unusual angles (specific to an urban environment). Some of these features are reminiscent of the American TUSK system. It was displayed at Eurosatory 2008 and the following years but no order came.

Leopard 2PSO at Eurosatery 2010

Leopard 2A7 & 2A7+

The Leopard 2A7 concerned only a total of 20 vehicles provided by Canada (Former Dutch A6NL returned from Canada to Germany). This was an upgrade to the A6M level in coordination with Canada and comprising an air-conditioning system, Steyr M12 TCA auxiliary power unit, Barracuda camouflage system (heat transfer) IFIS digital combat system, onboard network optimization (ultracapacitors stored in the chassis and turret), SOTAS IP digital intercom, upgraded fire suppression system and TC’s Attica thermal imaging module. On December 10, 2014, the first were received at the Munich base, 14 for the Tank Battalion 203, and the others to the Armoured Corps Training Centre and Technical School for Land Systems/Technology of the Army.
Leopard 2A7+ at Eurosatory in 2010
Leopard 2A7+ at Eurosatory in 2010
The Leopard 2A7+ (first shown at Eurosatory 2010, was tested by the Bundeswehr as the UrbOb (urban operations) concept. It is designed to operate in low intensity conflicts which can degenerate into high intensity. The protection includes new modular armor modules, frontal protection (dual-kits) and all-around protection against RPGs, mines and IEDs. The A7+ can fire programmable HE munitions. The MG3 was replaced by a remote-controlled and fully stabilized FLW 200 weapon station. The mobility and situational awareness were also upgraded to the same lines as the 2PSO. No order has been recorded yet for this model.

Leopard III/Leopard 2-140 (project)

Back in the fall 1980s Rheinmetall developed a 140 mm smoothbore cannon for future needs as it was expected that the next-generation Soviet main battle tank would be armed with a 135 mm/152 mm main gun. This program came also as a possible future replacement for Leopard 2 and modernization program. Called KWS III this program called for the development of a new turret compatible with the 140 mm smoothbore cannon, with the addition of an automatic loader, complete with a lateral loading system and therefore the main gun offset to the left. The 32 rounds were stored in a large ammunition storage which covered all the turret rear. Protection level was to be at least equivalent of better than on the Leopard 2A5 and command and control improved by the latest iteration of the ISIS battle system. Although this program was not chosen development on the gun resumed, with live trials with a modified Leopard 2, with the smoothbore gun just fitted with counterweights. Although tests shown an undeniable hitting power, difficulties erupted soon with the handling and the lack of autoloader did not helped.
Leopard III prototype
Leopard III prototype, armed with a 140 mm smoothbore cannon

Derivatives

Bergepanzer BPz3 Büffel (1988)

Studies for a recovery vehicle intended to salvage the Leopard 2 commenced in 1986. it was to succeed to the Bergepanzer 2A2 based on the Leopard 1 in 1977. Three prototypes has been built in 1987, followed by the definitive version in 1988. The ARV (Armoured Recovery Vehicle) version includes an hydraulically-assisted bulldozer blade at the front, plus a crane with integral winch of 30 tons capacity placed on a jib that can traverse 270°, and to its left hand side, the superstructure for the crew of two (driver, TC) with an extra seat. There was also a MG3 machine gun for self-defense, plus a set of smoke grenade launcher for self concealment. Other particulars are identical to the Chassis (NBC, amphibious capabilities, night sights, fire extinguishers…).
Bergepanzer Büffel
This model entered service with the German Bundeswehr (75) in 1990, the Netherlands (25 Bergingstank 600 kN Bueffel – The Netherlands participated in its development), Austria, Canada, Greece (12), Singapore, Spain (16 Leopard 2ER Buffalo), Sweden (14 modified Bgbv 120), and Switzerland (25). production was shared between MaK Systemgesellschaft mbH in Kiel, the main contractor (55) and karuss-Maffei (45). The Buffel is a 54 tons tanks, and a towing capacity of 62 tons. It can speed up to 68 kph with a range of 680 km. Its components are also shared with the South Korean K1 ARV, and French & UAE Leclerc ARV.

Panzerschnellbrücke 2

MAN Mobile Bridges GmbH developed an armoured vehicle-launched bridge on the Leopard 2 tank chassis. It is of the folding mobile bridge system, quickly “launched” across any river and sturdy enough to support the crossing 70 tons vehicles. The bridges are simply hooked up and re-stowed after usage. This model serves with the Bundeswehr but was ultimately replaced by the more versatile Leguan.

Panzerschnellbrücke Leguan

Also called Modular Bridge System (PSB2), this impressive vehicle was developed for the Netherlands and German Armies by MAN Mobile Bridges GmbH. The Leguan is holding three bridges and their modules, 9.7 meters each. Several different combinations of bridges are therefore possible on the spot. There is a crew of two, the driver and operator that could laid the bridge in 5-6 minutes on average. Each bridge section is 4 m wide of 65 cm in height 5 tons. Their maximal carrying capacity is intended for the MLC 70 Standard and MLC 100 in caution Crossing for wheeled vehicles. 35 were delivered to the German Bundeswehr and 14 for the Netherlands Royal Army.

Pionierpanzer 3 Kodiak

This CEV (combat engineering vehicle) Kodiak or Pionerpanzer 3 is a conversion of the Leopard 2 chassis used by Swiss, Dutch army and Swedish armies. They share a bulldozer blade powered by hydraulic arms, an excavator, and dual 9 tons capstan winches for a maximal towing capacity of 62 tons. the Pionierpanzer 3 relies upon a Remote Weapon Station with the MG3 LMG for self defense. It has a crew of two (driver/operator) inside a built-up forward superstructure. The Kodiak can be used for clearance of obstacles, mine warfare, building of structures, relief in disaster areas. The Dutch version have an additional bomblet protection to protected the crew compartment. 24 more are intended for the Spanish Army, converted from retired surplus Leopard 2A4 hulls.

Others

Other conversions includes a driver Training Tank (Fahrschulpanzer), non-armed, turret-less, but with a weighted and fixed observation cab; but also the Leopard 2R Heavy mine breaching vehicle (developed by Patria for the Finnish Army), Leopard 2L Armoured vehicle-launched bridge (KMW and Patria also for Finland), and the WISENT 2 Armoured Support Vehicle developed by Flensburger Fahrzeugbau, consisting of a fast conversion kit from an ARV to a CEV and vice versa.

Exports: The “Euro-Leopard”

Future historians will probably see the first European MBT as being the Leopard, adopted by all nations but the two, ironically that pioneered the concept: Great Britain and France. Although Italy locally produced the Leopard 1, it was later derived into the national MBT Ariete. The Leopard 2 was equally succesful in this matter, and even more than the 1st of the felines (16 and perhaps soon 18 versus 14). The very same countries that adopted the first, purchased the second (but Australia).

Europe

Austrian Leopard 2s:

114 Leopard 2A4s were acquired from surplus and one turret for training. In 2014 only 56 remained still in service due to drastic budget cuts and the remainder possibly re-sold to KMW.

Denmark:

57 Leopard 2A5DK (same as the Leopard 2A6 but with the L44 gun, along with several small modifications) and 6 Leopard 2A4 for spares.

Finland:

124 2A4s purchased from surplus stocks in 2003, 12 later converted into bridge layers and ARVs. 12 disassembled for spares. 15 more 2A4s for spare parts were purchased in 2009. 139 total. Plus order for 100 2A6NL more to the Netherlands in jan. 2014.

Greece:

353 Leopard 2 in all: 183 ex-German 2A4s and 170 new Leopard 2A6 HEL for export. The Leopard 2 Hel was tailored for Greece as a derivative of the 2A6, ordered in 2003. 170 tanks were delivered between 2006 and 2009 plus 140 more built in Greece by ELBO, starting in late 2006.

The Netherlands:

445 Leopard 2s were ordered and operated, of which 330 updated to the 2A5 standard in 1993, and 188 of the the latter were upgraded to the 2A6 standard (2A6NL). On April 2011, the Dutch Ministry of Defense announced the dissolution of the last remaining tank division and the remaining tanks sold. Possible customers included Indonesia (blocks by the parliament) and Bolivia (in 2013, disqualified due to logistical complexities.), but Finland signed a deal in January 2014 for €200 million with deliveries planned from 2015 to 2019. In early 2015 however the Dutch government back down and decided to maintain at least an instruction tank company of 18 tanks.

Norway:

The Norwegian Army operates 52 (ex-Dutch) Leopard 2A4s, known as the A4NO, and being upgraded to the 2A5 standard.

Poland:

128 Leopard 2A4s were already ordered in the 2010, with a further 14 2A4 and 105 2A5 in March 2013. In March 2013, it was decided to establish a second brigade with the same composition. Upgrades to the Leopard 2PL standard are just started. The First eleven Leopard 2A5s were in service by May, 16, 2014.

Portugal:

37 ex-Dutch Leopard 2A6s were purchased in the 2010s and are currently in service.
Spanish Leopard 2E

Spain:

The Ejercito Real operates 327 Leopard 2s in total, among these 108 2A4s from German stocks and 219 purpose-built 2A6+ which are known as the Leopard 2E. Comparative tests were be conducted by the Peruvian Army with these but the deal was declined in 2013. The Leopard 2E is known to have a greater armor protection than the 2A6, developed under a joint German-Spanish development program decided in 1995. For this, 108 Leopard 2A4 were detached for five years from the German Army, later extended up to 2016, with a full acquisition afterwards. A contract for 219 Leopard 2Es was accompanied by 16 Leopard 2ER Bufalo ARVs plus 4 training tanks. Santa Bárbara Sistemas is responsible for the upgrades, integrated logistical support, training for instructors and maintenance personal as well as simulators (2004 – 2008).

Sweden:

The Swedish Army acquired 120 Leopard 2(S) also known locally as the Strv 122. 160 2A4s were also leased by the German Army as the Strv 121, but these are no longer in service. The Leopard 2(S) are an export variant of the Leopard 2A5, also locally designated Strv 122. It is based on the “Leopard 2 Improved” featuring increased armour on the turret top, front hull, but also improved command & control and FCS. In addition is received the French GALIX smoke dispensers, reworked storage bins, and reinforced crew hatches. The Strv 122B variant is equipped with the modular AMAP composite armor (manufactured by IBD Deisenroth) providing an all-around protection against EFPs, RPGs and IEDs. This package add some 350 kg (770 lbs) to the armor.

Switzerland:

380 2A4s (known locally as the Pz 87 were purchased). On this total only 35 were purchased from Germany while the remainder were built locally under license. 134 were modernized in 2006, 42 were sold back to Rheinmetall and 12 converted into mine-warfare and CEVs. Others are in storage. The Panzer 87WE (for “WertErhaltung”) is a protection improvement that comprises the new 2A6M mine protection kit, a thicker front glacis, and Swiss-developed titanium alloy composite modules on the turret. Smoke grenade launchers are also redesigned, turret electric drive is similar to the Leopard 2A5, there is a driver rear-view camera, independent weapons station for the loader, plus improvements on the C&C and FCS. The latter uses a Carl Zeiss Optronics GmbH PERI-R17A2. In option, a remote-controlled, fully stabilized Mg.64 12.7 mm (0.5 in) HMG could be fitted onto the roof. The Pz 87-140 was the equivalent of the Leopard 2 prototype with a 140 mm gun and tested the additional armour later adopted.

The rest of the world

Canada:

100 Leopard 2A4 were acquired from the Netherlands. In 2007, twenty 2A6M were leased by Germany to support the Canadian operations in Afghanistan, along with 2 Bergepanzer 3 Büffel. 15 more Leopard 2A4 tanks were purchased for spare parts and 12 ex-Swiss Pz 87 were purchased in 2011, and stocked for conversions. The actual Canadian Leopard 2s park consists of 59 1A4s, 2A4M CAN and 2A6M. The first is and upgraded local version of the ex-Dutch Leopard 2A4 and specially designed for Afghanistan theater of operation. Deliveries started in October 2010, 5 being deployed at end the year, operating with success until July 2011. These tanks retained the “short barrel L44” as being more compact for use in urban conditions. Slat armor was added in some places only, with the addition of applique armor (close to the one use on the Leopard 2A7+).

Chile:

132 Leopard 2A4s were purchased in 2007 and later upgraded to the 2A4CHL standard (and 8 for spares), all from German stocks. In April 2013, after negotiations, Chile began to acquire 100 Leopard 2A5s from surplus German stocks and modernization kits for its 2A4s. The 2A4CHL is basically an upgraded 2A4, with new electronics, better sighting, sensors, data and battlefield digital management, up to the level of Leopard 2A6. In addition the suspension system is improved and the L55 version of the gun is also adopted as well as two remote weapon stations over the gunner and commander hatches (MG3 & HK GMG). The roof and side turret armour is improved.

Indonesia:

The army obtained to purchase 103 ex-German 2A4s, along with 4 Büffel ARVs, 3 Leguan AVLBs and 3 Kodiak AEVs. Rheinmetall proposed and obtained in addition a contract for the upgrade of 63 2A4s to the 2A7+ Revolution standard, along with the delivery of 50 Marder 1A3 IFVs, with deliveries starting in September 2013.

Qatar:

Negotiations with countries in the middle east has been tricky due to the severe restrictions over weapons exports from the parliament, depending on the nature and actions of the regimes. Negotiations with Saudi Arabian are landlocked since 2013 (62 and later 200 Leopard 2A7+). However for Qatar, the German Bundessicherheitsrat ratified the agreement, and 62 Leopard 2A7+ are to be delivered from 2015 to 2018.

Singapore:

The Singaporean Army purchase 96 ex-German stocks Leopard 2A4s, including 30 for spares. Upgrades with AMAP composite armor in 2010 were also obtained, by IBD Deisenroth and ST Kinetics. These new Singaporean tanks were renamed Leopard 2SG in October 2010. 182 Leopard 2A4s in total had be delivered as of 2013.

Turkey:

The Turkish Army ordered and received 354 Leopard 2A4s in several batches from German stocks. Since then, a wide modernization program is currently under development by the local company Aselsan. These are of the same level as the Leopard 2NG (for New Generation), which also used IBD Deisenroth add-on armor packages seen on the Singaporian 2SG. This upgrade is privately funded by Aselsan (Turkey) including the application of modular composite armour (AMAP), upgraded optics, overhauled turret mechanics and a new FCS also developed for the local Altay MBT and for the modernization of the Turkish Leopard 2A4s. Both the engine and L/44 gun are kept, although the overall weight rose to 65 tonnes.

Operational History

Ex-Yugoslavia (1995-1997)

The Leopard 2 entered service in 1979 and rapidly replaced older tanks, including the earlier versions of the leopard 1. The only operational deployment of the tank was in Kosovo in the late 1990s for peace keeping operations with IFOR/SFOR. All German tank battalions of the “crisis intervention forces” are equipped with the A6s. Nowadays Germany operates around 2,350 Leopard 2s of all versions. But in order to reduce maintenance costs with the end of the cold war, nearly 90% of the leopards in reserve were sold reconverted, stored or scrapped, which left around 250 Leopard 2s in service as of March 2015. The Dutch Leopard 2s were also deployed in ex-Yugoslavia (Bosnia-Herzegovina), stationed in Bugojno, Novi Travnik, Sisava, Knezevo, Maslovare and Suica as a deterrent.

Afghanistan (2008-2013)

However the Canadian Leopards were the only ones deployed in an active combat zone, in Afghanistan in 2003 (ISAF). This was Operation Medusa, where alongside older Leopard C2s, a contingent of 20 Leopard 2A6s and three armored recovery vehicles directly leased from Germany were deployed in late 2007. The Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) unit was the first deployed. One Leopard 2A6M survived an IED explosion and several others dealt actively with Taliban ambushes. These tanks were fitted with a driver “Dynamic Safety Seat” for extra protection against mines.
Denmark also deployed some of its 2A5 DKs in the same theater of operations in the same period, the Jydske Dragonregiment (Jutland Dragoons Regiment) supported by M113s. These Leopards were fitted with Swedish-made Barracuda camouflage mats that protected from the sun and reduced their HEAT signature at the same time. These tanks stopped a Taliban flanking maneuver in January 2008 when in support near the banks of the Helmand river, in co-op with British Infantry there. One tank was hit in February by an IED and had to be recovered and repaired. The driver was a fatality. In another case, there were no fatalities at all, and in both, the tanks were able to move out of harm’s way. By December 7, 2008, Operation Red Dagger showed these Danish Leopards firing 31 rounds in support of Coalition troops in the process of securing the Nad Ali District. By 2013 when these tanks were retired official British reports were dythirambic about their efficiency and accuracy.

Sources/Links about the Leopard 2

The Leopard 2 on Wikipedia
The Leo 2 on fprado
Krauss Maffei official Leopard 2 page
The Leopard 2 on Panzerbaer (German)
The Leopard 2 (German)
About the Leo 20-2A4 protection

KMW official promotional Video

Leopard 2 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 9.66m (7.72 without gun) x 3.7m x 2.8m
(31’7″ (25’3″) x 12’1″ x 9’1″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 62.3 tonnes ( ibs)
Crew 4 (Driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion MTU MB-837 V8 diesel 2.9L 1800 hp (368 kW)
Suspension Independant torsion bars
Speed (road) 70 kph (43,5 mph)
Range 385 km (239 mi)
Armament Main : Rheinmetall xxx L/44 120 mm
Sec. 2 x 7.62mm MG3 machine guns
Armor 50 mm front and sides (?? in) A4
Total production Current. 3850 since 1978.

Gallery


2A4NOPolish Leopard 2A5Büffel CEVMBT-70Camouflaged Austrian 2A4Austrian 2A4Kampfpanzer 70 technical drawingKampfPanzer-70Guilded Leopard

Xp Entwicklung KPz Keiler
Experimental Entwicklung KPz Keiler or “Guilded Leopard” (1969). This was the first prototype of the future leopard 2
KPz 70
KampfPanzer 70 in 1970. The German version of the joint and ambitious US-German MBT-70 was cancelled due to skyrocketing costs.
Leopard 2 Erprobungdserie
Erprobungsserie (pre-serie), 1st batch, first three tanks. These were never fielded to any operational units but kept for tests at KMW.
Leopard 2 early serie
Leopard-2A0 of the first batch in 1979. Notice the PZB 2000 image intensifier mounted over the mantlet. There was also a wind sensor but not yet any thermal imager.
Leo 2A1
Camouflaged Leopard 2A1 in the 1980s.
Leo 2A2
Bundeswehr’s Leopard 2A2, first modified batch, 4th kompanie, 33th batallion.
Canadian leopard 2A2
Canadian Leopard 2A2.
Leopard 2A3 winter paint
Bundeswehr Leopard 2A3 in winter manoeuvers with provisional winter paint.
123 Pz Bat 12th PanzerBrigade 1990
Leopard 2A3 of the Bundeswehr, Panzerbattalion 123, Panzerbrigade 12, October 1990.
Danish Leopard 2
Danish Leopard 2A4DK. Some actively supported British troops during various operations in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2013.
214 Pz Bat 7th Div
Leopard 2A4 of the Bundeswehr (7th batch), 214th Panzer Batallion, 7th Panzer Division, CMTC Hohenfels, October 1990.
Swiss Panzer 87
Swiss Panzer 87 (This version includes a Swiss-built 7.5 mm Mg 87 LMG, specific communications equipment, improved NBC. Up to 380 are in service as of today.
Polish Leopard 2A4
Polish Leopard 2A4, from the 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade based in Świętoszów.
Netherlands Army Leopard 2A4
Leopard 2A4 of the 41 NL TankBataljon, 41 lichte brigade Weser-Emsland june 1993.
Leopard 2A4 NO
Leopard 2A4NO, Norwegian Leopard in winter manoeuvrers.
Leopard 2A4HEL
Leopard 2A4 HEL, Greek Army Leopard.
Finnish Leopard 2A4
Finnish Leopard 2A4
Leopard 2A5 of the BundesWehr
Leopard 2A5 of the Bundeswehr. Released in 1990, right at the end of the cold war, its tank-to-tank armour capabilities were far superior to any design worldwide at that time. In addition from 1998, 225 former Leopard 2s were upgraded to this new standard. Both the Rheinmetall L44 and FCS are widely improved.
Polish Leo 2A5
Polish Leopard 2A5
Swedish Strv-122
Swedish licence-built Strv-122
Danish Leo 2A5DK
Danish Leopard 2A5DK. This version is upgraded to the 2A6 level but retained the same gun.
Leo 2A6
Leopard 2A6 of the Bundeswehr. Unveiled in 1998 but entering service in 2001, it is equipped with the long barrel Rheinmetall L/55 120 mm smoothbore cannon, and received an improved FCS, updated protection, battle management systems, and a modern hunter-killer capability. The new gun helps to improve both accuracy and range through muzzle velocity, and is a significant advantage over the Abrams. Experts agrees that this version outperforms the latter, but also beats the Challenger and Leclerc in all three summits of the “magic triangle” and therefore could be considered as the world number one MBT.
Spanish Leo 2E
Spanish Leopard 2E, a locally-built version (2010)
Greek Leo 2A6HEL
Greek Leopard 2A6HEL as of 2014.
2A6M CAN designed for urban warfare
Canadian 2A6M, improved for urban combat, as tested in 2008 to 2013.
2A5PSO optimized for urban warfare
Krauss Maffei 2A5PSO (Peace Support Operations) optimized for for urban combat, as desmonstrated at Eurosatory 2008.

Categories
WW2 British Cruiser Tanks

Cromwell, Cruiser Mk.VIII, A27

United Kingdom (1942)
Cruiser tank – 3066 built

The most renowned British Cruiser tank

The Cromwell is arguably the best known, most produced and most successful of the cruisers lineage started in 1936, at least until the arrival of the Comet in late 1944. Its genesis goes back to 1941, and the choice of the gun and engine proved to be crucial matters. War priorities spawned three tanks sharing the same design but different engines. The A24 Cavalier used the Nuffield engine and most components from the Crusader, the A27L Centaur was a transitional model still fitted with the Nuffield Liberty L12 engine but Cromwell components (only to be replaced by Rolls Royce engine at the end of the production). The Cromwell, propelled with the Rolls-Royce Meteor (painfully adapted from the Merlin, the Spitfire’s engine), was a league forward both in mobility and reliability. It was the only one of the three to see active service in Europe, the two other being used for training and as special purpose tanks, especially with the Royal Artillery.
Front view of a Cromwell at the Bovington tank museum.
Crowmell, face view, Bovington Tank Museum

Early development

All three tanks originated in the A24 Cromwell (a name that was approved early on, named after the Parliamentarian and Puritan victor of the Mid-1600s English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell) first drawn from a General Staff specifications to replace the Crusader. The latter was seen as a good tank in 1940 but became rapidly obsolete both in terms of protection and firepower. Designs were submitted in early 1941. In early 1942, Rolls-Royce was chosen to develop the engine, as the Nuffield V12 showed its age, lack of power and reliability. However, development delays meant a first model, the A24 Cavalier, then known as “Cromwell I”, was produced. It was built by Nuffield and rushed out mostly with Crusader components, although the hull, turret design, drivetrain and general configuration were new. The Cavalier was disappointing because the superior weight of the armor was combined with the same engine as before. In the same timeframe, Leyland and Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon (BRC&W) produced an improved version of the Liberty engine, with the intervention of the General Staff.

The A27 Cruiser

The General Staff A27 included the Rolls Royce engine and, more importantly, the QF 6 pdr gun (57 mm/2.24 in), which was the best AT gun of the Allies at that time. It was expected to enter service in mid-1942, but delays forced some interim solutions. Firstly, the Crusader was rearmed with this gun (at the expense of one crewman) and, secondly, the Cromwell Mark II built at Leyland Factory with the Nuffield Liberty came out as a stopgap measure. It had better armor, better gun, but most of the mechanical parts of the Crusader and a slightly tweaked engine, but still insufficient in power. The A27L, or Cromwell II (for “Leyland”), is almost considered a clone of the A27M, with everything in common but the engine. The cooling system, for example, was way better than on the Cavalier. To avoid confusion, the General Staff decided to rename the A24 (Cromwell I) “Cavalier”, and the A27L (Cromwell II) “Centaur”, while the Cromwell III became the A27M Cromwell.
Cromwell memorial, 7th Armoured Division Desert Rats near Ickburgh, Norfolk.
Cromwell used as a Memorial for the famous 7th Armoured Division (“Desert Rats”) near Ickburgh, Norfolk

From the Merlin to the Meteor

The Merlin engine is a legend. Not only because it propelled the Spitfire, the emblematic fighter that saved Great Britain in the summer of 1940 and soldiered on until the 1950s (more than 20,000 were produced and declined in more than twenty-four variants), but also because of its inherent qualities. This new generation of compact and lightweight aircraft engines was quickly found suitable for the new tanks urgently needed by the Royal Armored Corps in 1941.
Indeed, Rolls-Royce was famous for the legendary quietness of its engines, so carefully hand-built that practically no vibrations were felt, hence the name of its luxury sedans and coupés (Shadow, Ghost, Cloud). These engines were also credited for a very high degree of reliability that contributed to the reputation of the company, which also produced naval engines. The Schneider Cup, the most famous hydroplane race in the 1930s, was a sandbox where aircraft designers and engineers tried out engines and streamlined, aerodynamic fuselages to house them. Macchi and Supermarine were among the best, rivals that would ultimately pass all this experience onto their fighters. The Rolls-Royce Merlin itself was legendary for its raw horsepower that far surpassed other engines in terms of power-to-weight ratio. The Meteor was the version intended to be used on tanks.
The RR Meteor was an V12 water-cooled gasoline engine that was heavily adapted by Chief Engineer W.A. Robotham at the development division in Belper, starting with the Merlin III as a base. Robotham, despite his young age, was made Chief Engineer of Tank Design and joined the Tank board. He also designed the Cruiser VIII (A30) Challenger in 1943, the first tailored design to use the QF 17-pdr (3 in/76.2 mm) gun.
In order to be adapted, the Merlin III had to loose its supercharger, reduction gear and other equipment removed from its camshaft, to ensure simpler construction. It was provided with cast pistons, and de-rated to around 600 bhp (447 kW), while running on much lower-octane gasoline instead of usual aviation fuel, for more safety and easier fuel supply. The most expensive light-alloy components were replaced with steel components (starting with the Meteor X). By all standards, it seemed as a downgraded version of the Merlin. In 1943, due to part shortages, dismantled surplus old Merlin blocks were used for Meteor engines. Although it occupied as much space and had the same 1,650 in³ (27 litre) displacement as the earlier Liberty, the Meteor was way more reliable and doubled the power available.
Leyland initially got an order for 1,200 Meteor engines, but persisted on their own design and expressed serious doubts about being able to provide the cooling system. Eventually, Meadows was contracted, but by then the manufacturer also declined the order, due to over-capacity. Later the Rover Company, which worked with Rolls Royce, took over the bulk of the production, as did Morris (Coventry). For this reason, it is also sometimes called the Rover Meteor. Originally, the order of 1,000 was given to Rolls-Royce, that asked the government for an open credit of £1 million. But development was slow and Ernest Hives, who took over the project, obtained a trade from Spencer Wilks of Rover, exchanging the W.2B/23 production facility at Barnoldswick for the Rolls-Royce tank engine factory in Nottingham. Final production was officially started on 1st April 1943, although the first trials began in September 1941 at Aldershot, with a roughly modified Merlin in a Crusader (which topped 50 mph/80 km/h on its first test run!). These manufacturing delays explained why active units on the front had to content themselves with Shermans and obsolete Crusaders until early 1944.

Design

Hull

The hull frame consisted of riveted beams, but later production versions resorted to welding. The armor plates were bolted to the frame, particularly on the turret, which left large characteristic bosses on the outside. The chassis stood on five large roadwheels, with front idlers for tension and rear drive sprockets. The suspension was of the Christie type, with long helical springs angled back to keep the hull down and low. Four out of the five road wheels (rubber-clad) had shock absorbers. There were no track return rollers. The hull sides were two spaced plates with the suspension units between them, the outer plate being cut out to allow movement of the roadwheel axles. Side skirts were provided to protect the upper sides, but they were generally omitted and only the fore and aft mudguards were left in practice.
The front armor comprised a three part beak with 50 mm (1.97 in) plates and a flat front armor plate, 76 mm (3 in) thick. From it emerged the driver’s visor, a thick glass block protected by an opening “gate” (right-hand side), and a ball mount for the hull Besa machine-gun on the left-hand side. The driver had a one-piece hatch opening to the right and two built-in day periscopes. He was separated from the hull gunner by a bulkhead. The latter had access to ammunition racks and had his own No.35 telescope and a one-piece hatch. The ball mount gave 45° of traverse and 25° of elevation, connected through a linkage to a handle for firing. A bulkhead with access doors separated the front compartment from the central fighting compartment. On later models, protection was increased, with 3.1 in (79 mm) welded plates (Mark IVw/Vw), then to 4 in (102 mm) on the Mark VII.

Turret & main armament

The boxy turret sat directly above the central fighting compartment, isolated both from the front and engine compartments. The turret was of hexagonal shape, with a 76 mm (3 in) thick front and 50 mm (1.97 in) flat sides and an internal mantlet. The main gun and coaxial Besa protruded from the front plate opening, mated on the same axis. This opening was around 60 cm (2 ft) large and 40 cm (1 ft 3 in) high, with rounded corners. All six plates were made of cast hardened steel. There was a porthole for spent rounds on the rear faces, that could also be used as a pistol port. The gunner operated both the main gun and the 7.92 mm (0.31 in) Besa machine gun and had his own periscope and main visor. The main gun was, at first, the 6-pounder QF (57 mm/2.24 in), modified to fit inside the turret and fitted with a muzzle brake. This gun was only present on the Mark I and all other Marks had better guns.
Starting with the Mark II, the Cromwell swapped the QF 6-pdr for the ROQF 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, which was an adaptation of the 6-pounder design to fire the ammunition of the US M3 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, including a better HE round for use in infantry support. This adaptation also meant that the 75 mm (2.95 in) used the same mounting as the 6 pounder and the crew and internal management of the turret remained essentially unchanged. There was already a large supply of ammo of this caliber, both of American and French origin, in North Africa. In fact, with the introduction of Shermans in British service in North Africa at the end of 1942, a consensus was reached about the use of guns firing powerful HE shells against infantry. This was something that previous models armed with the 2-pounder couldn’t do, not even the so-called “CS” versions armed with a 95 mm (3.74 in) gun, mostly reserved for smoke rounds. Therefore, it was decided to standardize this caliber and, at the same time, the reliable and cheaper Sherman became the first tank in service by numbers and would remain so until the end of the war. This ROQF 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, though able to fire a useful HE shell, was not as effective against armor as the 6-pounder or the Ordnance QF 17 pounder gun. In addition, a 2 inch (51 mm) “bomb thrower” angled to fire forward was fitted into the turret top, with thirty smoke grenades carried.

Propulsion

A second bulkhead separated the fighting compartment from the engine and transmission compartment. The cooling system drew air in through the top of each side and the roof. Hot gasses were exhausted to the rear louvers. Fording preparation (up to 4 ft/1.2 m deep) imposed the move of a flap to cover the lowermost air outlet. Another air flow to the engine sucked air from the fighting compartment or the exterior, through oil bath cleaners.
The Meteor engine, in its first version, developed 540 hp at 2,250 maximum rpm, limited by a governor built into the magnetos to avoid reaching speeds that the suspensions could no longer manage without damage. It was shown indeed that the pilot tanks could easily reach 75 km/h (47 mph), something unheard of for a British tank, but the Christie suspension (later reinforced by adding more tension) simply could not cope with these speeds. It was therefore decided to govern the engine maximum RPM and, thus, the top speed. But the torque was there, available both for mobility and traction. The gearbox had five forward and one reverse gears. Fuel consumption (on “pool” 67 octane petrol) per gallon ranged from 0.5 (off-road) to 1.5 miles (road) for a total 110 gallons of internal capacity. Off-road speed was 65 km/h (40 mph) with 3.7:1 final reduction drive and around 25 mph (40 km/h) off-road. Later on, armor was added and the engine was re-rated to 600 hp to cope with the additional weight. To face muddy terrain or snow encountered in Northern Europe, later versions were given 14 in wide (36 cm) or even 15.5 in wide (40 cm) tracks. In all cases, ground clearance was 16 inches (40.6 cm).

Production

Several British firms besides Leyland contributed to the production of the Cromwell and Centaur, including LMS Railway, Morris Motors, Metro-Cammell, Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company and English Electric.
In all, 3066 A27M Cromwell were built, but when adding the A27L (950), the entire A27 class was 4016 tanks strong. This was still way below the total of Shermans used by the British Army and the Commonwealth and, for the sake of standardization, first line regular units were preferably equipped with the Sherman, while the Cromwell was mostly used for special (elite) units and more specific purposes.

Cromwell I

A virtual duplicate of the Centaur I with the early V12 Meteor engine and 6 pdr (57 mm/2.24 in) gun. Only 357 were produced.

Cromwell II

This prototype had increased track width and the hull machine gun was removed to increase storage.

Cromwell III

Centaur Is upgraded with the early Meteor V12 engine. Only 200 were so converted.

Cromwell IV

The first major production version, it also comprised Centaur Is and IIIs upgraded with the latest Meteor engine. Over 1,935 units were produced with several hulls types and the new 6-pdr re-chambered as a 75 mm (2.95 in) gun. By far, it was the most common version of the Cromwell.

Cromwell IVw

A version upgraded with the new Meteor engine, and all welded hull (“w” stands for welded).

Cromwell Vw

A production version using, from the start, a welded construction and 75 mm (2.95 in) gun.

Cromwell VI

Specialized CS (Close Support) version armed with 95 mm (3.74 in) howitzer and carrying with smoke and HE rounds. Only 341 were produced.

Cromwell VII

These were upgraded Cromwell IV/Vs with additional armor (100 mm/3.94 in front flat plate), fitted with the wider 15.5 inch (40 cm) tracks and and some gearbox changes. Around 1,500 were so upgraded and produced relatively late in the war.

Cromwell VIIw

Cromwell Vw upgraded to the Cromwell VII standard or built as such from the start.

Cromwell VIII

Cromwell VI upgraded to the standard of the Mark VII.

Identification issues

The Cromwell and Centaurs were nearly impossible to tell apart visually. Only the identification plates, cross-linked to the specific factory delivery lists can give a clue, since some manufacturers built the A27(L) rather than the A27(M). Centaurs, more often than not, had the raised vent on the engine deck. However, English Electric, that produced the “vented Centaur”, received an order for around 1200 Centaurs, but swapped from the Liberty to the Meteor engines after 130 units, these being Cromwells. However, these vehicles were still essentially built like Centaurs, with weaker suspension springs and proper internal track adjustment features. To add some more confusion, production hulls varied over time and factory adjustments.
Type A hull: Both the driver and hull gunner had lift-up hatches.
Type B and C hulls mostly had a slightly different internal arrangement.
Type D/E hulls: Reworked engine deck panel arrangement.
Type F hull: Swing-out hatches for the hull crewmen, extra stowage bins on the turret sides, fender bin on the driver’s side removed.
Welded hulls (around 100+ built): Applique armor on the front hull and turret sides, “Vauxhall” driver’s hatch.

Variants

Cromwell Command

The main gun was removed and two N°19 (High & Low Power) wireless sets were carried. Used by brigade and divisional headquarters.

Cromwell Observation Post

Cromwell IV, Cromwell VI or Cromwell VIII keeping their main gun but fitted with extra radio equipment (2 x No. 19 and 2 x No. 38 portable radios).

Cromwell Control

These were fitted with two No. 19 Low Power radios and kept their main gun. Used by regimental headquarters.

Excelsior

An experimental design intended to replace the Churchill infantry tank

FV 4101 Charioteer

The Charioteer was a postwar derivative fitted with a new turret housing the QF 20 pounder (84 m/3.3 in) gun.

The Cromwell in action

The A27Ms were already available in the beginning of 1944, but none left the British soil. They were all kept for training, and the series was refined until D-Day. Since Shermans formed the bulk of British and Commonwealth armored units, Cromwells were used only in the armored brigades of the 7th Armoured Division, as well as the armored reconnaissance regiments of the elite Guards Armoured Division and the 11th Armoured Division, which all served in North-western Europe. In June 1944, the Cromwell saw action for the first time, during Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy. The Normandy campaign, however, especially at the beginning and until the Falaise pocket battles, showed the Cromwell struggling with the narrow lanes and hedgerows of the Normandy countryside. Hedgerow-cutters were hastily welded to the beak of some tanks, but losses were generally high. At Villers Bocage, on June 13, 1944, an entire column was ambushed and wiped out by a few Tigers commanded by Michael Wittmann of the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. Most of the 27 tanks, lost in less than 15 minutes, were Cromwells. However, after August, the terrain once more favored mobility and speed, and the Cromwell showed all its qualities, despite a much less resolute opposition.
The Cromwell was also used by Allied units of the 1st Polish Armoured Division (10th Mounted Rifle Regiment) and 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade, which soldiered in the Netherlands and Germany until V-day in May 1945. Their career did not end in May 1945. Some saw service in the Korean War with the 7th RTR and the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars. Modified Charioteers saw extensive service until the 1960s in Great Britain and much later in other countries like Finland, Austria, Jordan and Lebanon. The A27M was also used by the IDF in the War of Independence (1948–1949). Others were purchased by the Portuguese Army and maintained in service until the 1960s.
Reception of the new tank by the crews was mixed. Being must faster than the Sherman and favored by a lower profile, they also had a thicker frontal armor plate and a good gun. But, at the same time, it was soon discovered that neither the armor nor the firepower was a match for the Tiger and Panther that were already one step further. Like the Shermans, the Cromwell needed to maneuver in order to get a better angle, which was even easier because of their excellent mobility. The Rolls Royce was a wonderfully engineered piece of machinery but needed much more maintenance than the Sherman engines. Reliability was a discovery for British crews, accustomed to previous generations of Cruisers equipped with the Liberty engine. This resulted in a far greater rate of availability for any given operation.
The next step was to install a 17-pdr (76.2 mm/3 in), the only gun that could take on any German tank at the time. But the turret of the Cromwell was never tailored for it, and a small number of Challenger and Firefly tanks were provided instead. By the end of 1944, British engineers upgraded the Cromwell, which was at last given a new turret able to house the 17 pdr. But it was too little too late and the Comet did not change the face of events. The Comet would eventually lead to the Centurion in 1945, the world’s first MBT and one of the most successful tanks ever designed. At least seven Cromwells are on display throughout the world today.

Links on the Cromwell

The Cromwell on Wikipedia
Additional photos on Wikimedia Commons
The story of the Clan Foundry Belper, where the engine trials took place
The sound of a V12 Meteor engine

Cromwell Mk.I specifications

Dimensions 20.1 x 9.6 x 8.2 ft (6.35 x 2.9 x 2.49 m)
Total weight, battle ready 27.6 long tons
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, loader, bow gunner)
Propulsion Rolls Royce Meteor V12 Petrol, 27 l, 600 hp (447 kW)
Suspension Christie system
Top speed 40 mph (64 km/h)
Range (road) 170 mi (270 km)
Armament QF Vickers 6-pdr (57 mm), 64 rounds
2x 0.303 (7.9 mm) Besa LMGs, 2950 rounds
Armor From 15 to 76 mm (0.5 to 6 in)
Total production 3066

Centaur Mark III
A Centaur Mk.III, for comparison.
Cromwell Mark I, early 1944, Great Britain.
Cromwell Mark I, early 1944, Great Britain. This version was only kept for training, being equipped with the early V12 Meteor and 6-pdr gun.
The Cromwell Mk.III was essentially a re-engineered Centaur with a Rolls-Royce Meteor engine
The Cromwell Mk.III was essentially a re-engineered Centaur with a Rolls-Royce Meteor engine. Here is one from Normandy, 1944.
Cromwell Mark IV, unknown unit, Normandy, summer 1944.
Cromwell Mk.IV, unknown unit, Normandy, summer 1944.
Cromwell Mk.IV, Type F hull, 1st Regiment, Czech Independent Armoured Brigade Group, Dunkirk, May 1945.
Cromwell Mk.IV, Type F hull, 1st Regiment, Czech Independent Armoured Brigade Group, Dunkirk, May 1945.
Cromwell Mark IV, 1st Royal Tank Regiment, 7th Armoured Division, Germany, May 1945.
Cromwell Mark IV, 1st Royal Tank Regiment, 7th Armoured Division, Germany, May 1945.
Cromwell Mark IV, 13th Mounted Rifle Regiment, 5th Polish Division, Normandy, August 1944.
Cromwell Mark IV, 13th Mounted Rifle Regiment, 5th Polish Division, Normandy, August 1944.
Cromwell Mark IV with hull Type F, 1st RTR, 7th Armoured Division, Germany, 1945.
Cromwell Mark IV with hull Type F, 1st RTR, 7th Armoured Division, Germany, 1945.
Cromwell Mk.IV Agamemnon with rubber stripes, 3rd Northamptonshire Yeomanry, 11th Armoured Division, Normandy, 1944.
Cromwell Mk.IV “Agamemnon” with rubber stripes, 3rd Northamptonshire Yeomanry, 11th Armoured Division, Normandy, 1944.
Cromwell Mk.IV, 3rd Welsh Guards Armoured Division, Germany, April 1945
Cromwell Mk.IV, 3rd Welsh Guards Armoured Division, Germany, April 1945
Cromwell Mark V CS. This model was up-armored, with an add-on welded plate raising the front to 101-102 mm (3.98 in).
Cromwell Mark V CS. This model was up-armored, with an add-on welded plate raising the front to 101-102 mm (3.98 in).
Polish Cromwell Mark VI, 3rd Squadron, 10th Mounted Rifle Regiment, France, August 1944.
Polish Cromwell Mark VI, 3rd Squadron, 10th Mounted Rifle Regiment, France, August 1944.
Cromwell Mark VII of the 7th Armoured Division, the
Cromwell Mark VII of the 7th Armoured Division, the “Desert Rats”, Korea, October 1950.


Variants

The A30 Cruiser Mark VIII Challenger (1943) was a derivative of the Cromwell, and the only one fitted with the massive 17-pdr (3 in/76.2 mm) gun.
The A30 Cruiser Mark VIII Challenger (1943) was a derivative of the Cromwell, and the only one fitted with the massive 17-pdr (3 in/76.2 mm) gun. Here is a tank from the Czechoslovak Independent Brigade, 1st Armoured Battalion, Prague, May 1945.
The FV4101 Charioteer (1950) was a Cold War recycling of the hull, fitted with a new turret housing the 20-pdr (84 mm/3.3 inch) gun, first intended for the Army Reserve Territorial units.
The FV4101 Charioteer (1950) was a Cold War recycling of the hull, fitted with a new turret housing the 20-pdr (84 mm/3.3 inch) gun, first intended for the Army Reserve Territorial units. Around 400 were built and also exported, seeing service until the late 1980s in Lebanon.

Video documentary about the Cromwell

Gallery

Artist impression of a Cromwell, boxart, Airfix.
Artist impression of a Cromwell, boxart, Airfix.
A Welsh Guards A27M in a speed display at Pickering, Yorkshire, March 1944.
A Welsh Guards A27M in a speed display at Pickering, Yorkshire, March 1944.
A Cromwell Mark VI, the close support version equipped with a 95 mm (3.74 in) howitzer.
A Cromwell Mark VI, the close support version equipped with a 95 mm (3.74 in) howitzer.
two Cromwell CS tanks
The vehicles of ‘B’ Squadron, 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars, included two close support Cromwells with 95 mm howitzers (in foreground). Behind them can be seen a regular Cromwell armed with a 75 mm cannon. The photograph was taken in the low ground between the Dortmund-Ems Canal and the Teutobergerwald.
Cromwell VIIw, the welded hull variant.
Cromwell VIIw, the welded hull variant.
Artist impression of a Cromwell with hedgerow cutters, Revell boxartAnother artist impression of a Cromwell with hedgerow cutters, Revell boxartCromwell Mark VII at the Kubinka MuseumBritish Army Cromwell carrying wounded soldiers, North-West Europe, 1944-45Cromwell of the 15th-19th Kings Royal Hussars, 11th Armoured Division, Uedem, Germany, 28 February 1945.Centaur IV tank of H Troop, 2nd Battery, Royal Marine Armoured Support Group, 13 June 1944.Cromwell IV at the Bovington tank museum.Cromwell Mark I at PuckapunyalCromwell Mark I at PuckapunyalEx-IDF Cromwell at the Latrun Museum, Israel.Ex-IDF Cromwell at the Latrun Museum, Israel.Ex-IDF Cromwell at the Latrun Museum, Israel.Cromwell VI at Gold Beach, June 1944.Cromwell destroyed at Villers Bocage, 13 June 1944 - Credits: Bundesarchiv.Another Cromwell destroyed at Villers Bocage, 13 June 1944 - Credits: Bundesarchiv.English Electric A33 Excelsior prototype (1944)English Electric A33 Excelsior prototype (1944).
British Tanks of WW2, including Lend-Lease
British Tanks of WW2 Poster (Support Tank Encyclopedia)

Categories
WW2 German Assault Guns

Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär

Nazi Germany (1943) Heavy assault gun – 303-316 built

Development of the Sd.Kfz.166

In 1942, Albert Speer placed an order for a howitzer mounted on a tank chassis to keep up with the Panzer Divisions. Alkett received the order to design the new vehicle, which would be known as the Sd.Kfz.166, Sturmpanzer, or Sturmpanzer 43. Although commonly referred to as the Brummbär, this was the nickname given to the Sturmpanzer 43 by Allied intelligence, not by the Germans. They referred to it casually as the Stupa 43.

Design

The chassis was the one of the reliable, mass-produced Panzer IV. Above it, Alkett fitted a massive 15 cm (5.9 in) Sturmhaubitze (StuH) 43 L/12 developed by Škoda, which had common ammunition with the standard siG 33 howitzer in German service. 38 rounds with their separate propellant cartridges were carried, stored in the casemate and the hull. However, these massive rounds had a combined weight of 46 kg (38 kg/84 lb for the High Explosive shell itself and 8 kg/18 lb for its propellant cartridge), which made manual loading especially arduous on some elevations. The gunner set up the trajectory and aimed the gun using a Sfl.Zf. 1a sight.


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The howitzer was protected by a casemate with sloped sides and thick armor plates. Indeed, this thickness was 100 mm (3.93 in) at a 40° angle on the front, 40 mm/12° (1.57 in) for the front hull, 50 mm/15° (1.97 in) for the side superstructure, 30 mm (1.18 in) for the side of the hull and 30 mm /25°/0° (1.18 in) for the rear of the casemate and 20 mm /10° (0.79 in) for the back of the hull. The top and bottom were protected by 10 mm (0.39 in) of armor at 90°. Outside the main howitzer, a single MG 34 machine gun could be fastened to the open gunner’s hatch, in the same way as for the Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.G. In addition, early vehicles carried a MP 40 sub-machine gun intended to be fired through the two firing ports on each side of the superstructure.
The driver was located forward, slightly in front of the casemate, and was given the Tiger I Fahrersehklappe 80 sight. Ventilation of the casemate’s fumes and heat was provided by natural convection, exiting through two armored covers at the back of the roof. By the time these vehicles were ready, spaced armor became the norm and Schürzen plates were factory-fitted. The first production vehicles proved their superstructure was way too heavy for the chassis, and experienced breakdowns of suspension elements or the transmission. The second series corrected this issue with a newly shaped, lighter casemate. The decision was taken in October 1943 and after the redesign, 800 kg (1,800 lb) of steel were spared, including from the gun mount itself on the third series. This new series was named StuH 43/1. Also, the Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating was factory-applied until September 1944.

Production & variants

Sources conflict as to how many were built, either 306 or 313. There were four series built as follows, all using variants of the Panzer IV chassis.
– Series 1: April 1943 60 built by Vienna Arsenal, with 52 using Panzer IV Ausf.G and 8 using rebuilt Ausf.E chassis.
– Series 2: December 1943-March 1944 60 built at the Vienna Arsenal using Ausf.J chassis.
– Series 3: March-June 1944 Built at Vienna Arsenal.
– Series 4: June 1944-March 1945 Built at the Deutsche Eisenwerke on Ausf.J chassis.
Because of the weight of the gun, there were problems with the suspension of the Brummbär. With Series 4 a new, lighter gun eased the problem considerably; in addition, a MG 34 was mounted for close defense. Previous models had a MG 34 mounted on the commander’s cupola.
The only variant of the Brummbär was a command vehicle, Befehlsturmpanzer IV. It had extra radio capacity. Krupp also built one prototype of a proposed Jagdpanzer IV with a 8.8 cm Pak 43 L/71.

The Sturmpanzer IV in action

The Brummbär primarily saw service in 4 battalions, Sturmpanzer-Abteilungen 216, 217, 218, and 219.
Sturmpanzer-Abteilung 216 first saw action at Kursk, when it formed the 4th battalion of Panzerjaeger 656, where it got as far as Ponyri. Afterwards, it withdrew to defensive positions to repel the Soviet offensive around Orel. As an independent battalion, it next saw service at Anzio in Italy, and from then to the end of the war it withdrew north until the battalion was forced to destroy its remaining vehicles and surrender in the Po valley.
Sturmpanzer-Abteilung 218, raised in August 1944, fought against the Warsaw Uprising, then remained on the Eastern Front until destroyed in East Prussia, in April 1945.
Sturmpanzer-Abteilung 219 fought against the Soviets in the Budapest area. At least two companies of Brummbär-equipped units are known: Sturmpanzer -Kompanie z.d.V. 218 took part in crushing the Warsaw uprising, then incorporated into the Sturmpanzer Abteilungen noted above. Sturmpanzer-kompanie Z.B.V. 2.-/218 was transferred to the Paris area on August 20th 1944, nothing more is known of this unit.
During the battle of Normandy in the summer of 1944, short barrelled 15 cm Sturmpanzer IV ‘Brumbärs’ (Sd.Kfz. 166) were deployed to assist in street fighting in the villages and deal with enemy units in fortified locations. They were part of the 217.Sturmpanzer-Abteilung (assault tank battalion). It was formed of three companies of fourteen Sturmpanzer IVs and three additional vehicles used by the command company.
On 24 June 1944 it was ordered to move from Grafenwöhr in Germany to Normandy. On 18 July 1944 the battalion reported that it had reached the area of Condé-sur-Noireau/Le Bény-Bocage and Vire in Normandy. Not all of the Sturmpanzer IVs had completed the journey. Some had suffered mechanical problems.
On 23 July 1944 the 2nd Company was attached to the 21.Panzer-Division. It reported it had eleven working vehicles with two being repaired. On 29 July 1944 it was transferred to the II.SS-Panzer-Division LAH and the next day reported that it now only had nine working vehicles with two in repair.
The 3rd Company had been attached to the II.SS-Panzer Korps. On 30 July 1944, the 3rd Company was transferred to the LXXIV Korps.
On 6 August 1944, Thirteen Sturmpanzer IVs from the 217.Sturmpanzer-Abteilung were reported to be supporting the 89.Infantry-Division. Things changed because on 9 August 1944 ten of these Sturmpanzer IVs were in action with the SS-Panzer-Divison Hitlerjugend on only one was left with the 89.Infanterie-Division.
Some wrecked Sturmpanzer IVs locations were noted following Operation Totalize 8/9th August around the Normandy village of Cintheaux on the Caen-Falaise main road. One was found 1.5 km north west of Cintheaux in the field south east of the junction of the D23 with the road, now track, called La Maisonnette by the cross roads. Two were found near each about 750 m south west of Cintheaux along a track that runs south west from the town limits sign on the D183. A fourth was reported in a field to the west of the D167 about 1 km south south west of Cintheaux.
On 10 August 1944, only five of the ten vehicles were reported in a working condition. The situation was the same the next day. On 11 August 1944 the 1st Company, 217.Sturmpanzer-Abteilung was reported attached to the 271.Infanterie-Division.
On 16 August 1944 the 217.Sturmpanzer-Abteilung reported that between 1 to 15 August 1944 the battalion had lost ten men killed, twelve were missing and thirty-five were wounded. Only seventeen Sturmpanzer IVs were combat ready. Fourteen were under repair and predicted to be ready in less than three weeks.
The Battalion’s remaining Sturmpanzer IVs continued to see action supporting the SS-Panzer-Divison Hitlerjugend and the 89.Infanterie-Division. Both units fought on the same front in Normandy.
Those that escaped the Falase pocket were reformed and saw action during the battle of the bulge, Ardennes offensive. It reached St. Vith, but got no further. The unit was finally captured in the Rhur pocket in April 1945.

Sources

Objective Falaise by Georges Bernage
Sturmpanzer-abteilung 216 by Attilios on Panzer-central, World War II German Army Research, Historyofwar.org, Achtung Panzer
The Sd.Kfz.166 Brummbär on Wikipedia
Sturmpanzer IV article

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.9 m x 2.8 m x 2.52 m
(19ft 5in x 9ft 5in x 8ft 3in)
Total weight, battle ready 28.2 tons (62,170 lbs)
Armament 15 cm (5.9 in) StuH 43 L/12 (Series 1), StuH 43/1 L/12 (series 2-4) (38 rounds)
7.92 mm Machinengewehr 34 (external machine gun)
Armor 10 mm to 100 mm (0.39 – 3.93 in)
Crew 4-5 (commander, driver, gunner, 2 loaders)
Propulsion Maybach HL120TRM V-12 watercooled, gasoline, 300 bhp (221 kW)
Speed 40 km/h (25 mph) road, 24 km/h (15 mph) off-road
Suspension Leaf springs
Range 210 km (130 miles)
Total production Approx. 316

Sd.Kfz.166 Brummbär, July 1944, Normandy
Early Brummbär from the Sturmpanzer Abteilung 217, Caen area, Normandy, France, July 1944.
Sd.Kfz.166 Brummbär, Warsaw
Early Sd.Kfz.166 from the St.Pz.Abt.218 in Warsaw, August 1944.
Brummbär, Italy, 1944-45
Sturmpanzer Abteilung 216, Italy, fall 1944.
Sd.Kfz.166 Brummbär, Zimmerit
Late production Sd.Kfz.166 Brummbär with Zimmerit paste and metallic rim roadwheels, now preserved at the Saumur Museum.
Sd.Kfz.166 Brummbär, Schürzen, Germany, 1945
Late production Brummbär with the “ambush” type camouflage, Eastern Germany, 1945.

Gallery

Brummbär at Saumur
Late type Brummbär at the Saumur tank museum, covered with Zimmerit.
Brummbär, front, Saumur museumBrumbär in Italy, Anzio-Nettuno area Brummbär, Deutsch Panzermuseum MünsterFront view of the BrummbärFront right view of the BrummbärBrummbär track detailBrummbär drivetrain detailBrummbär drivetrain detail - leftBrummbär, Aberdeen proving groundsBrummbär next to a Tiger in the Anzio-Nettuno area

Video about the Brummbär


Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

Panzerjäger Tiger (P) Ferdinand

ww2 German TanksGermany (1942) Heavy tank hunter – 91 built

Background: Porsche’s losing Tiger

When the Tiger project was first announced in May 1941, Porsche did not take long to submit a very personal and original design, at first as a blueprint, then ordered as the prototype VK 45.01(P) and built at the Nibelungenwerk factory in Sankt Valentin, Austria. Porsche was placed in competition with Henschel after 21st May 1941, also asked to submit designs for a 45 ton heavy tank, later known as the famous Tiger. The VK 45.01(P) made its debut trials before being carried at the Kummersdorf testing grounds for the official trials headed by Hitler in April 1942. The Henschel prototype, the VK 45.01(H), fared way better than the Porsche vehicle, that suffered breakdowns. However, initially, the Porsche was given as the favorite. But the technical choices made, especially the two engines that powered the petrol-electric drive, which had accumulated too many teething problems, led to the cancellation of the Porsche project, in favor of the more conventional Henschel proposition. However, after an order from July 1941, 100 chassis had already been manufactured. There was no way they could be equipped with Krupp’s Tiger turret, as these were reserved for the Henschel vehicles. Porsche was left then with these chassis, and proposed to convert them to SPGs, at first as heavy howitzer/mortar carrier.


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Elefant at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds

Conversion as a tank hunter

Eventually, on September 22nd of 1942, an official order came to convert the chassis into heavy tank hunters, armed with the latest version of the 88 mm (3.46 in) anti-tank gun, the L/71, also known as the StuK 43/1, still in development at that stage. It was a conversion inspired by the Hornisse, which was to use the same gun. The new vehicle was also meant to replace the older Marder II and IIIs in service on the Eastern Front. In comparison, the regular Tiger was equipped with the “short” version of the 88, the KwK 36 L/56. Performance was such that the maximal effective range in direct fire was estimated to be 4500 to 5000 m (2.8-3.1 mi). This was way beyond anything the Red Army possessed at the time.

Development

Of the existing chassis, 91 (chassis number 150010 to 150100) were prepared to be completed as tank hunters, with the ordnance designation Sd.Kfz.184. The new design was ready on November 30, 1942, submitted to Hitler and approved. The trials of the first prototype began in March 19, 1943, when it was presented to Hitler at Ruegenwalde. The Fuhrer was impressed and requested that production be sped up. The conversion process eventually took place between March and May 1943, just in time for the summer campaign on the Eastern Front. It was designated Schwerer Panzerjäger Tiger(P). It was soon nicknamed Ferdinand, to honor “Ferdy” Porsche, the CEO, founder and historical figurehead of the Porsche company.
Elefant front view

Design of the Ferdinand

Hull

By all standards, the Ferdinand was a beast, even heavier and longer than the Tiger, coming in at 65 tons after receiving additional armor, six more metric tons than the original Tiger(P). At first, it was propelled by a pair of engines placed in the middle of the hull. Despite the fact the powerplant was completely overhauled, the ventilation apparatus was relocated further to the front, while a casemate, constructed by Alkett, was relocated to the rear to house the gun and servants, which became the immediate recognition trademark of the Elefant. The casemate itself was made of slightly sloped plates slotted in and welded together. The whole superstructure weighed 15 tons. In addition to the original armor, which was 100 mm (3.94 in) at the front, 60 to 80 mm (2.36-3.15 in) elsewhere, 4.5 tons of additional appliqué armor were bolted on, raising the figure to 200 mm (7.87 in) at the front, the strongest protection seen on any tank at that time. This weight, however, took its toll on the duplex engine transmission. It should be noted that the front engine added an extra layer of safety for the crew, which will be repeated with the Merkava MBT years after.
A detailed breakdown of the armor thickness follows:
Superstructure front: 200 mm (7.87 in) @ 20°
Superstructure side: 80 mm (3.15 in) @ 30°
Superstructure rear: 80 mm (3.15 in) @ 20°
Superstructure roof: 30 mm (1.18 in) @ 4°
Front plate: 100+100 mm (3.94+3.94 in) @ 10°
Hull front: 100+100 mm (3.94+3.94 in) @ 30°
Lower front plate: 80 mm (3.15 in) @ 45°
Side & rear: 80 mm (3.15 in) @ 0°
Engine deck: 30 mm (1.18 in) @ 90°
Belly: 20-30 mm (0.79-1.18 in) @ 90°
Ferdinand drivetrain
The driver was located in the front hull left hand side, with a one-piece hatch opening rearwards. On the right side was positioned the radio operator and his FuG transmitter/emitter. On the casemate roof there was, on the right side, a forward sliding periscope aperture for the gunner and a hinged hatch that could be used for escape by the gunner. The commander’s two-piece hatch (not cupola) was located to the right, and the two-piece loader’s hatch to the left, in échelon towards the rear, with a mushroom-shaped ventilation cap in between, center lined. There were two periscopes for the loaders at the corners of the rear armored roof. Access inside the casemate was granted by a large round hatch at the rear, with a cartridge ejection port in the middle. There were two other pistol ports in the rear part of the casemate on either side, that could be used either with a MG 34 or MP 40 for close combat. One distinctive aspect of the assembly was the forward attachment plate securing the fighting compartment to the hull.

Engines & performance

The original configuration called for two Porsche Typ 101/1 petrol engines mated to a common Siemens-Schuckert 500 VA generator, which in turn powered the two Siemens 230 kW electric motors. This arrangement was by far too complicated, necessitating careful maintenance and prone to overheating. But they provided a drive ratio of 15:1 directly to the drive wheels, which was unheard of at the time. Nevertheless, these were changed with more reliable engines and relocated further to the front-middle, with the ventilation sets further to the front. The replacements were two Maybach HL 120 TRM (245 hp@2600 rpm), which drove two Siemens Schuckert K58-8 generator sets, supplying two Siemens electric motors producing 230 kW @1300 rpm connected to the rear sprockets. Performance was as follows: Top speed of 30 km/h (19 mph), sustained speed of 20 km/h (12 mph), 150 km (95 mi) range with a full tank of 950 liters and a power-to-weight ratio was 8.16 hp/ton. Cross country, the speed was reduced to 10 km/h (6 mph) and the range to 90 km (55 mi) on average. On the testing grounds, it was shown capable to climb a 30° slope, 0.78 m step, cross a 2.78 m trench or ford 1.20 m of water. Ground clearance was 50 cm, track pitch 64 cm, and track width 2.70 m, for a contact length of 4.15 m. Roadwheel diameter was 70 cm and ground pressure 1.23 km/cm.
The Ferdinand at Kubinka

Drivetrain & suspensions

The drivetrain comprised three two wheel bogie assemblies – with doubled steel-rimmed roadwheels that, in addition, were relatively small. Porsche believed that they would give more amplitude for the suspension and the steel rimming could bear more weight. But the most innovative aspect was their semi-internal longitudinal torsion arms, three sets per side, which were not interchangeable. Indeed, this system allowed, in theory, to free internal space, contrary to the standard torsion arms.
Each unit comprised a rocker arm, fitted on the main hull pivot, and a horizontal torsion bar casing arranged beneath the rocker arm and hinged to it at one end. Beneath the other arm, a rubber block was attached, resting lightly on the top of the torsion bar casing when the vehicle was idle. One bogie wheel axle is fixed on the torsion bar casing at a short distance from its free end, while the other is located to the pivotal axis between the casing and the rocker arm and serves as the hinge pin between them. This axle is also fixed to the rocker arm and carried in bearings in the torsion bar casings. A short radius arm is splined on this axis, and maintains a fixed angle with respect to the rocker arm. The torsion bar is anchored at one end by a splined intop at the free end of its casing, where it is secured by a nut and a lock nut. The other end is splined into a sleeve which is journalled in the torsion bar casing and extends back around to a point some distance beyond the end of the axle radius arm. A second radius arm is splined to the torsion bar sleeve beneath the first radius arm and a thrust member is collected by ball and socket joints between the ends of the two arms. (British technical intelligence report).
Each bogie was 1.15 m long. In practice, this system seemed to collect mud and debris under the belly. So, a solution was devised. A cleaning fixture (which resembled a hook, or small curved blade) was attached just behind the idlers, bolted to an “L” bracket.
The single-pint tracks were tensioned by idlers at the rear, while the drive sprockets were located to the front. Because the links traveled so close to the fender belly, protective “horns” were welded to the underside of the hull to help guide the tracks.

Armament

The core of the Ferdinand was its 88 mm (3.46 in) PaK 43/2 L/71 gun, a development of the AA version with an even longer barrel, but less recoil and a completely overhauled breech and loading mechanism, tailored to be fitted on armored vehicles. It was supplied with 50 rounds, stored, for the most, inside the casemate. This gun had a traverse of 30°, elevation and depression of 18°/-8°.
There was no secondary armament, a miscalculation which translated as one of the most costly engineering burdens on the battlefield. Instead, two pistol ports could be served by either a MP 40 machine-pistol or a single 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34. Ammunition supply was 600 rounds for the MG 34 and 384 for the MPs. After the 1944 modifications, a ball-mounted MG 34 was added to the left right side of the driver’s position, manned by the radio operator.

Equipment

These included the sets of sights for the crew, a Zeiss Sfl.FLa periscopic sight for the gunner, a commander “cupola” table with seven vision blocks and one SF14Z scissors periscope, one periscope for each corner loader, three periscopic sights for the driver and a KZF2 periscopic gun sight for the radio operator. Radio equipment comprised a transmitter/emitter FuG-5, an intercom and a telegraphic communication set between the driver and commander.

Another view of the Ferdinand at Kubinka

Production

Production of the original “Ferdinands” took place at Nibelungenwerke, and the St. Valentin facility in Austria did the final assembly. It needed, however, a whole range of modifications to increase reliability. The hull armor was welded by Krupp, Essen, but eventually, after cancellation of the Tiger(P), they were reworked at the new facility at Eisenwerke OberDonau Linz, Austria. The gun and breechblock mechanism was produced by Dortmund Hoerder Hutten Verein in Werk Lippstadt (Amp), and final assembly performed at Krupp. The main engines were manufactured at Maybach in Friedrichshafen and the electric generators at Siemens-Schuckert Berlin (Azg). On May 8, 1943 (end of production), Ferdinands also left the factory without the protective shield around the gun mounting, but there was an all-time inadequate number of these, as some Ferdinands never received them.

Modifications

After Kursk, and according to numerous reports, the surviving vehicles were pulled out of the Eastern front and entirely overhauled at Nibelungenwerke in Austria. A proper commander cupola was welded in place over the roof’s simple hatch (with 7 vision blocks), a ball mounted MG 34 was added for the radio operator, and Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste was applied. The nickname was officially changed to “Elefant”. It was proposed in November and ratified by the OKH in February 1944, but both names were used in reports throughout 1944. It had become a practice to call “Ferdinands” the surviving ones that did not receive modifications, but it never became official.

The Ferdinand/Elefant in action

The whole batch of 89 vehicles was sent to the Eastern front in two heavy tank hunter companies (schwere Heeres Panzerjager Abteilung 653 and 654, with 45 vehicles each) between May and June 1943, where they trained, waiting for Operation Zitadelle, the reduction of the Kursk bulge. There, the Ferdinands first saw combat, and their actions proved their might, just like the Panther and Tiger, but it was not enough. Tactically, their units were committed to destroy Soviet T-34s and 76.2 mm (3 in) anti-tank guns from behind the front lines, at a 3 mile (5 km) range and more. In this role, they performed admirably, according to plan. However, when advancing more in depth in the Soviet defensive lines, a variety of flaws were soon discovered, like the lack of peripheral vision blocks, or a machine gun as secondary armament. The pistol ports were not efficient when moving, and firing was done blindly. Accordingly, the Soviet infantry quickly learned from this and simply hid in their trenches and foxholes until the Ferdinand passed their lines, and then swarmed it with grenades and Molotov cocktails. Most of the losses experienced by this formidable tank hunter where indeed provoked not by enemy tanks, but by simple infantry devices and tactics.
Ferdinand destroyed at Kursk
The other significant issue experienced at Kursk was mine damage and mechanical failure. Indeed, damage to the suspension or tracks imposed a repair sortie for the crews on the field, making them easy prey for snipers. Also, the components were extremely heavy. The other option was to wait for the standard ARV of German service at the time, the Bergepanzer IV, which was insufficient for this category of vehicle. Three were needed to tow a disabled Tiger I, but five for the Ferdinand, linked in tandem. Despite of this, in the initial stages of the battle, sectors were cleaned and secured enough to allow field repairs and recovery in relative peace at night. But once the tides had turned and the German forces were found on the defensive, Ferdinands disabled even with minor damage had little hope of recovery and the crews were forced to destroy these.
Elefant in Italy
In March 1944, the reconstituted Schwere Jagdpanzer Battalion 653 was detached to Italy, and the units were deployed at company level, sub-divided into platoons accompanied closely with infantry to protect their flanks and rear. They saw action at the Anzio pocket. The unit saw a mix of modified and non-modified vehicles, but still, their mobility was a problem in Italy, where their weight forbade attempts to cross most bridges. Mechanical breakdowns and lack of spare parts still proved disastrous.
Disabled Elefant in Italy
Another company saw action during the Soviets’ January 1945 Vistula-Oder offensive in Poland. The remnants of the unit were seen in combat at Zossen during the Battle of Berlin. However, the Elefant impressed by their kill ratio, according to reports. This reached an average ratio of approximately 10:1. For example, at the Battle of Kursk, the 653rd Heavy Tank Destroyer Battalion claimed 320 enemy tanks destroyed for the loss of 13 Ferdinands. This was the advantage of both a very long range gun and impregnable protection, which was paid dearly in return by an excessive weight. Despite of this, Hitler still wanted to see these behemoths as proof that quality matched quantity on the battlefield, and subsequently pressed for the new Königstiger and the Jagdtiger to be ready in 1944. The latter (also called Panzerjäger Tiger Ausf.B) was indeed produced by the same manufacturer, Nibelungenwerk (Steyr-Daimler-Puch) to similar numbers (88), proved even heavier at 71 tons, but of dubious military value due to a mobility deliberately sacrificed on the altar of firepower and protection. However, in the meantime, both the Elefant and the Nashorn, which used the same gun, were superseded by the Jagdpanther, mounting a similar gun but with better protection, performances and a lower profile.
As of today, there are two surviving vehicles. One Ferdinand was captured by Soviet forces at Kursk and is now on display at Kubinka, outside Moscow and the other one, captured at Anzio by the Americans, is now in the Army Ordnance Museum’s collection at Fort Lee, VA, restored in display condition in 2007–2008.

Links and resources

The Panzerjager Tiger(P) on Wikipedia
The Elefant on Achtung Panzer
Thomas L.Jentz & Jeffrey McKaughan – Museum ordnance special 4 Elefant (Darlington prod. Inc.)

Tank Overhaul series – The Elefant

Gallery

Ferdinand armor schemeFerdinand after restoration

The Ferdinand in Italy

After Kursk the surviving Ferdinands fought various rear-guard actions in 1943 until they were recalled for repair, modification and overhaul, partially based on battle experience gained. They returned to the Nibelungenwerke factory in Austria, on 02 January 1944. Due the Allied landings in Anzio, OKH ordered 656 Schwere Panzerjäger-Regiment to prepare a Ferdinand company for despatch to the front. Only 11 vehicles were available, and these were assigned to 1st company 653 Schwere Panzerjäger battalion. The company was placed under the command of Leutnant Helmut Ulbricht and organised as below.
Stabs Co: Gun numbers 101,102;
1.Platoon: Gun numbers 111,112,113,114;
2.Platoon: Gun numbers 121,122,123,124;
3.Platoon: Gun number 131;
It was also assigned one recovery Ferdinand and various support units.
At the beginning of Feb 1944, it was despatched to the front arriving in Rome between the 16th and 24th Feb. Here it was assigned to 508th Tiger battalion. This unit went into action under the command of Parachute Panzer Division Herman Goring and in the opening days of combat lost 2 guns.
On 1 March 1944 – 114 (commander Uffz. W. Kuhl) bogged down on the Cisterna – Nettuno Road.
On 2 March 1944 – 131 (commander Obfw. G. Koss) mined and was destroyed because it proved impossible to recover.
On 1 May 1944 the order to rename the vehicle as Elefant was issued and from May 19th they are described as Elefants in 14th Army documents. They return to action on 24th with Leutnant Grupe destroying 4 Shermans but lose another vehicle.
On 24 May 1944 – 102 (commander Hptm. H. Ulbricht) is abandoned after catching fire on the road Cisterna-Cori.
On 25 May 1944 – 113 (commander Fw. E. Roos); thrown track hit, received damage to the chassis.
After this action the Elefants retired North suffering losses all the way. On the 2/6/19 an air raid hits the motor pool, destroying vital recovery half-tracks and wheeled vehicles. One of the two Pz III ammo carriers is also destroyed.
On 6 June 1944 – 123 (commander Obgf. Lassig); was destroyed near Via Aurelia as a result of an attack by American aircraft.
On 7 June 1944 – 121 (commander Lt.W. Grupe); was destroyed when the bridge between Monte Fiascone and Orvieto collapsed under the weight of the vehicle.
On 10 June 1944 – 122 (commander Fw. R. Schlabs); destroyed near Orvieto by the US Air Force.
On 10 June 1944 – 112 (commander Fw. A. Schmitt); was mined by the crew in Ficulle after breaking down and with no possibility of recovery.
In July 1944 – 124 (commander?) was abandoned due to mechanical problems near Viterbo.
On the 2 August 1944 the remaining 2 Elefants and the recovery Elefant loaded onto a train and were evacuated to Vienna.

Sd.Kfz.184 Elefant specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.97 (8.14 oa) x 3.38 x 2.97 m (26.8 x 11 x 9.9 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 65 tons (143,000 lbs)
Armament 88 mm (3.46 in) Pak 43/2 L/71
7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34 (1944)
Armor 60 to 200 mm (0.6 – 7.87 in)
Crew 6 (driver, commander, radio, gunner, 2 loaders)
Propulsion 2 × Maybach HL 120 petrol 600 hp (442 kW), 9.23 hp/t
Speed 30 km/h (19 mph)
Suspension Longitudinal torsion bar
Range and consumption (road/off-road) 150 km (93 mi)/ 90 km (56 mi)
Total production 91

Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

The VK 45.01(P) or Tiger(P)
Porsche’s VK 45.01 prototype in 1942. It was given as a favorite, before problems with the complex powerplant emerged.
Ferdinand
Early production Ferdinand, Panzerabteilung 653, summer 1943.
Ferdinand on the Eastern Front
653rd Panzer-Abteilung, Eastern front, winter 1943-44.
Ferdinand at Kursk
Ferdinand of the 654th Panzer-Abteilung, Kursk, summer 1943.
Another Ferdinand at Kursk
Ferdinand of the 654th PanzerJäger Abteilung, Kursk, Eastern front, 1943.
Elefant in Italy
Sd.Kfz.184 “Elefant” of the 1st company, 653rd Schwere Heeres Panzerjäger Abteilung, Anzio-Nettuno, March 1944.
An Elephant fighting in Ukraine in 1944
Tiger(P) Elefant (late type) from the Abt.653 HQ Company, Brzherzhany, Ukraine, July 1944