Categories
China Pre-1950

Panzer I Ausf. A (Chinese Service)

republican flag Republic of China (1937)
Light Tank – 15 imported

Chinese Panzers!

Facing a number of external threats in the 1930’s, the Chinese began to procure weapons from abroad in order to modernize their army. One of the many vehicles that Chiang Kai-shek’s government obtained was the Panzer I Ausf.A from Germany. Fifteen arrived in June 1937, with barely enough time to train the Chinese crews for them to take part in the defense against the Japanese that began a month later. Outnumbered, outgunned, and out-performed, the Chinese Panzer I’s served at the Battle of Nanjing (Nanking) in December 1937, but were either destroyed or abandoned during the short battle.

Context: Arming the Chinese

The Chinese had an army that was inferior to foreign counterparts such as Japan, the UK, USSR, and USA for almost a century – it had needed modernization since the First Opium War (1839-1842). Following various attempts since then, in the 1930s, the Nationalists began a major military modernization campaign as they were beginning to see that a war with Japan was almost inevitable. One particular problem that China faced was its lack of AFV’s.
Provincial governments had some improvised AFV’s (some also had a handful imported from abroad), but the Nationalist’s National Revolutionary Army only had some Renault FT’s bought from France during the Northern Expedition, and some captured from the independent warlord Zhang Zuolin or, perhaps, inherited from his son, Zhang Xueliang, who secretly swore allegiance to the KMT after Zuolin’s assassination in 1928. The exact circumstances are unclear.
Some of these FT’s were armed with Manchurian 37 mm (1.46 in) guns which might have been able to destroy Japanese light tanks, but not the Type 89 Yi-Go medium tank, as used in the Battle of Shanghai. Essentially, these FT’s were outdated compared to Japanese tanks, and they were certainly not numerous enough (let alone potent enough) to defend against a possible Japanese onslaught.
As part of a broader military modernization campaign, the KMT hired German military advisors headed by General Hans von Seekt. These advisors convinced Chiang Kai-shek to buy as many arms as possible from Europe – no doubt, a money-making scheme by the German advisors, as China bought plenty of German-produced equipment including Panzer I’s, Sd.Kfz.221s and 222s, field guns and artillery pieces, and even large numbers of the Stalhelm helmet.

Characteristics

Fifteen Panzer I Ausf.A’s were sold to the Kuomintang in mid or late 1936, but they only arrived in June 1937 because the Chinese ordnance department was so poorly organized. The Chinese paid 1.03 million Reichsmarks for the tanks (about US$25 million in today’s money), but they were shipped poorly and were not protected from the elements.
The damage was reported by a Krupp representative, Herr Habermas, from Nanjing, 26th November, 1937:

  • Water, 2-4cm deep, had collected in the hull of the tanks.
  • Lots of parts had rusted, including the gun mounts, the telescopic gun sights, and steering brakes.
  • The electrical components were heavily damaged by the warm and humid air.
  • The cooling fans for the brakes were non-operational without serious cleaning.
  • The batteries for the electrical components were ruined due to heavy oxidization. A representative from Bosch in Shanghai stated that the contact material on the magnetos and voltage regulators was not suitable for tropical environments.
  • Some tool boxes, cloth components, and operation manuals were also partially ruined.

Japanese photo of Panzer I #312 showing the engine. Even from such a poor quality image, the state of disrepair of the tanks is obvious
Japanese photo of Panzer I #312 showing the engine. Even from such a poor quality image, the state of disrepair of the tanks is obvious.
As a result, the KMT accused the Germans of selling used models, which is not what they agreed, but there was little time to dispute this, as war with Japan broke out only a month after the arrival of the Panzer I’s.

Paint Scheme

Regarding their paint schemes, the Panzer I’s were almost certainly pre-war three-tone as they would have been painted by the Germans, as opposed to the later Panzer gray scheme. Photos seem to show them to be a single color, but this is likely due to the paint fading / being worn, the tank being very dirty, or an inherent problem with black and white photos – especially poor quality prints or digital renderings of them.
A three-digit serial number was added on the front and rear of the hull.
A small KMT emblem is often depicted on the side rear of the vehicle, just below a viewport, but this might be a Japanese addition or an apocryphal post-war artist’s addition.

Combat Performance

The tanks were highly unsuitable to the Chinese climate when they were operational. Herr Habermas also reports:

  • The tanks were very prone to overheating, and temperatures inside the tank could get as high as 60 degrees Celsius in the summer, even with all hatches open.
  • Hand and foot levers could hardly be operated as a result of the intense heat, making driving even more hazardous.
  • On a march of any length, the front of the tank had to be ventilated by opening the brake adjustment hatch.
  • Due to the threat of the electrical equipment overheating, the engine compartment had to be ventilated during long marches.
  • Due to the overheating issue, after a long march the gunner could not fire the machine guns when the tank was buttoned-down (IE with all hatches closed).
  • Off-road use of the tanks was unimaginable because the tracks were not wide enough for muddy rice fields (especially anywhere north of the Yangtze River). Essentially, the tracks got stuck in the mud, and the tank threw the track. Off-roading on completely dry fields was possible if the driver was careful.
  • Even in suitable fields, often the dykes that separated rice fields were around 1.5 meters tall, and the Panzer I had trouble clearing those.
  • The only positive for the Panzer I was that it was considered rather roomy when compared to the Vickers tanks sold from Britain 1933-1936.

According to some photos, some Panzer I’s were rearmed with Soviet DP-29 machine guns. Herr Habermas suggests that the Chinese felt that a tank weighing over 5 tons should have an armament consisting of a 20 mm (0.79 in) or 37 mm (1.46 in) gun, or, at very least, a powerful belt-fed machine gun (like the Vickers Mark E Type B and Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tanks), which may go some way to explain this replacement. It may also be the case that the German machine guns were damaged beyond repair, or that the Chinese felt there was only sufficient ammunition to arm a handful of Panzer Is with German machine guns. In any case, photos seem to show more Panzer Is with DP-29s than any other gun.
Interior of a Chinese Panzer I after the Japanese had captured it, as viewed from the turret ring, following the turret's removal. Various parts have been removed, including the original generator for the radio.
Interior of a Chinese Panzer I after the Japanese had captured it, as viewed from the turret ring, following the turret’s removal. Various parts have been removed, including the original generator for the radio.

Context: The Battle of Nanjing, 1937

The Japanese had successfully taken Shanghai by late November 1937, and thus moved onto nearby Nanjing. Chiang Kai-shek, head of the Chinese government, decided that it would be better to try to defend Nanjing than performing a tactical retreat on the basis that if the Chinese could show that they could defend the city, then they might receive aid from the ‘great powers’ (France, UK, USA, etc). Thus, from 20th November, the Chinese began preparing the city’s defense by barricading and bolstering the city’s Ming-era wall, and preparing lines of defense outside the city.
On paper, the Chinese seemed to have an advantage, with an estimated 100,000-150,000 defenders, including three elite divisions which had been trained by the Germans, compared to only 50,000 Japanese attackers. However, the bulk of these defenders had just retreated from the Battle of Shanghai, and were exhausted, low on morale, and low on supplies. Worse still, the Japanese had tanks superior in quality and in number, and they had also enjoyed air superiority since September 1937.
The Japanese march on Nanjing started in late November, and they managed to reach the last line of defense before the city by 9th December. The Japanese were only slowed by overstretched supply lines. Similarly, as a result of the rapid Japanese advance, the Chinese defense was not properly prepared in time and could, therefore, be smashed with ease.
10th December saw fierce fighting at the Nanjing’s walls, and by the evening, Japanese engineers had breached a hole in the Guanghau Gate in the east of the city but were pinned down by Chinese counter-attacks which included tanks (which were, presumably, but not certainly, Panzer I’s).
On 11th December, Chiang Kai-shek ordered the city’s defense to be abandoned, unbeknownst to the Japanese.

Fate of the Panzer I’s

Most of the Panzer Is appear to have been destroyed in Nanjing, with some few being sent to Japan for testing or propaganda displays. Thanks to interviews with former soldiers, the story of vehicles in Nanjing has become somewhat less unclear.

Du Yuming’s account

The following is based on an interview with Du Yuming (Du Lu Ming), a KMT general who would later make a name for himself in the Burma Campaigns (1942-1945), and later in the Chinese Civil War (1946-1949). After the war, Du Yuming was captured in the Chinese Civil War, and released ten years later. He then found a position in the Communist government.
On November 9th, 1937, the Shanghai defense army suffered great losses on all fronts. My army only had one motorized unit, which was the Army Motorized Corps. Inside the Army Motorized Corps, we had three battalions consisting of tanks, recon vehicles, and armored cars. We were given the order to retreat to Hunan. The three battalions all fought at Shanghai, and now retreated to Nanking. At the time, we decided to follow the road from Nanking leading to Hunan. The AFVs were transported via trains to Changsha (the capital of Hunan).
However, Chang Kai-shek did not have a retreat plan. Therefore, there weren’t enough trains and fuel to transport the AFVs. As a result of this, all 3 battalions stayed in Nanking. Just before the Japanese army reached them, they managed to get a bit of fuel. They sent what they could away while the rest stayed. Some vehicles were disassembled and put onto the trains. While awaiting orders (approximately at 10PM on November 20th), He Ying Xing (another commander) suddenly told me: “It’s now decided that Tang Sheng Zhe [another commander] will stay in Nanking. The chairman [Chiang Kai-shek] orders that all German AFVs stay in Nanking to defend.”
Although the German AFVs were excellent, we had nearly no ammunition, and only had 15 vehicles [thus, these were presumably the 15 Panzer I’s]. So, I disagreed with the order. I believed that it would be better if we left the British amphibious vehicles and artillery vehicles in Nanking instead. I thought that because first, Nanking was near water; therefore the amphibious vehicles would have better use here, and if the battle here was lost, they can simply swim across the river and head to North. He Ying Xing said “Don’t even think about retreating to the North. You will defend Nanking to death.” He was adamant about the order to leave the Germany AFVs here instead. Seeing how angry he was, I wouldn’t dare speak out against him again. I was still pretty confused as to why we are using the German vehicles instead of the British.
The Defeated Armored Company
The armored car battalion sent out its last vehicles out of Nanking on December 4th [these were likely the Sd.Kfz.221s and 222s]. The other two companies that stayed in Nanking were all wiped out by the Japanese. On December 13th, Nanking completely fell to the Japanese. But what fate did the vehicles and men belonging to the two Companies meet?
It was only until the 20th December did we see some survivors of the two companies. They told us that from the 5th onward, their orders was to join in on the battle. They told us that most of the men were killed in the fight and that all the German AFVs were lost. It was only a few survivors that made it out of the city. [The following lines refer to events in Liushu Wan’s account – see below]. When the survivors made it to Xiaguan harbor, they saw that the 36th Group were about to leave. When they tried to board the boats, they were denied. Because of that, they tried to swim across the river. Most of the survivors died while trying to swim across, and that is the fate of the Armored Company.
Two True Heroes
The Chinese forces were ill-prepared for the Battle of Nanjing. They had no retreat plan so they were doomed. Knowing this, the morale and motivation of the Chinese forces reached the lowest point possible. One of the survivors [of the Battle of Nanjing, whom Du Yuming presumably met after the battle] told his story about Nanjing. He said that he and another soldier (he described himself and the other soldier as the sons of China) couldn’t handle the shame of losing the battle. [According to the soldier’s story, their] company commander already retreated from the front lines, so they had no leader. [Thus], they took it upon themselves to hide in a destroyed vehicle. They did so until 4PM, when the Japs came. Seeing the Japanese forces approach, they came out of the tank and threw grenades at the Japanese soldiers. The survivor recounted hearing his friend shout “Motherfuckers! I will trade my life for 10 of yours!” while throwing grenades. They then quickly scavenged the Japanese soldiers for their guns and held their positions for many hours. Around dusk, the two soldiers exhausted all their ammunition and decided to escape. One of the soldiers, unfortunately, died during the escape and the other soldier escaped successfully and told his story to me.
After I heard his story, I simply congratulated him. I was still doubting the authenticity of his story. However on November 15th, 1939, during the battle of Kunlun Pass, we wiped out an entire Japanese company headed by Zhongcun Zheng Xiong. While looting the defeated company, we found a Japanese war log. Inside the war logs, it accounted the details of the Battle of Nanjing. While I was reading the logs, I stumbled upon a detailed accounting of an ambush of Japanese troops by two Chinese soldiers hiding in a destroyed AFV. This was the time when I realized that these two soldiers were truly heroes of China [and that the survivor’s story was true]. I set out to look for the surviving soldier who told me the story. However, I learned that he had sacrificed himself in action during the Battle of Kunlun Pass while attacking an enemy position. These two heroes are truly the sons of China. With overwhelming odds, they held their grounds to fight the more well trained, well equipped Japanese forces. They are the roses and pride of the country and a true son to the people of China.

Liushu Wan’s account

Liushu Wan was a soldier serving with the Second Battalion.
On the afternoon of December 12th, 1937, I retreated with the armored company down the Xiaguan riverside. The right side of the pier was stacked with the armored company’s 5 gallon gas tanks along with other supplies. Because everyone had the “Ke Luo Mi” medal (unique to the company), they naturally stuck together. The platoon leader told me “We are currently negotiating with the ferry to let us cross.” Because of the fact that I was the highest ranking there, everyone was willing to be under my command.
Around 9PM, dozens of houses in Xiaguan were on fire. The only thing we could do was rally near the docks. Around this time, the ferry towed some smaller boats near the docks. We began negotiating with the owner of the ferry. What we did was we tied two of the smaller boats together and put planks of woods onto them. We then drove the armored vehicles onto the boat. Because the boats were so small, they were unbalanced, and thus they would tip over in the water when the armored vehicles drove on them. We tried many times, but weren’t able to get the tanks onto the boats. Not even the smaller vehicles would work.
It was about midnight when the tow ferry started to rush us. The only thing I could do now was to gather up the tankers and discuss how to get rid of the armored vehicles and cars. Some of the ideas included blowing them up or placing grenades under the motor (so when the enemy steps on the gas pedal, they would blow up). After a bit more discussing, we chose the second option. After we loaded what we could onto the boats, we all embarked. Before we disembarked, two drivers and two tankers approached me. They told me “We four have decided to stay and fight the Jap devils.” I replied with “Our mission from Command was to head to Puzhen.”
“No! We’re here to fight Jap devils! The enemy is here – we should fight them first.”, the driver insistently said. At the same time, the two tankers also said “We still have weapons on our armored vehicles. We might as well give the Japs a good fight if we’re going to destroy the vehicles.” “Where is your platoon leader? Go ask them. I cannot make this decision.” I replied. I wanted them to go with us, but the two drivers became impatient and said “We will take responsibility. We’re leaving.” I then said hastily “Alright. Choose your weapons, and enough ammo. But your main duty is to make sure all these vehicles get destroyed.” I then told my superiors to leave them 10 days worth of food, some money and two Mauser rifles. They then jumped off of the boat and disappeared into the dark.

Other accounts

According to a Japanese newspaper report, on 9th December, four Panzer I’s engaged four Japanese war correspondents from Ashahi News, but were rescued by the Japanese Army in a battle that lasted twenty minutes. Three of the Chinese tanks were destroyed, and one retreated.
As the memoirs tell us, and according to Benny Tsang (a Chinese armor historian), the remaining Panzer I’s (possibly around ten) were abandoned in Xiaguan District (in the south of Nanjing) at night time on 12th December. Crowds of civilians and soldiers went to Xiaguan’s harbor in order to escape the Japanese and abandon the city. They were blockaded by barrier troops (who were there to stop mass desertions), but a tank unit made up of Panzer Is burst through them and drove onto the harbor. When they arrived, they found that there were few ships in the harbor to escape in, and the tanks were subsequently abandoned.
Civilians and deserting military personnel alike tried to board the last ships, but these last few ships were so overcrowded that they sank in the Yangtze River. Japanese gunboats had been sailing up the river in order to surround the city as part of the Japanese invasion plan, and as a result, further river-borne retreats were made impossible.
After 9th December, there was little chance of escape for those left in Nanjing. Realising this, tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers left in the city began removing their uniforms and deserted en masse.
The Rape of Nanjing, also known as the Nanjing Massacre, commenced the following day.

Panzer I’s sent to Japan

From 8th to 15th of January 1939, a display of Japanese tanks and captured Chinese weapons was put on in Tokyo. Several Panzer I’s were put on display, but were recorded on plaques as being Soviet-made, for political reasons. These were presumably the ones abandoned in Nanjing, as opposed to any of the destroyed vehicles.
At least two Panzer I’s (possibly from the aforementioned three) were put on display at Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan around February 1939. These are likely to have been also used for performance testing by the Japanese.

Conclusion

The Chinese Panzer Is were inevitably going to see a short service life. When they arrived, they were in poor condition, and regardless of their condition, their Chinese crews were poorly trained and facing a superior Japanese force at Nanjing. Some German-supplied vehicles (namely Sd.Kfz. 221s and 222s) managed to escape the battle and went on to form part of the 200th Division in late 1937 (or, officially, January 1938) – the first formal mechanized division of the NRA. The KMT procured weapons from the USSR to replace their losses at Shanghai and Nanjing, and to fill up the ranks of the 200th Division (most of the AFVs were T-26s). In any case, Chiang Kai-shek’s flirtation with German military hardware had come to an end.

Panzer I Ausf.A in KMT service
Panzer I Ausf. A in KMT service, Battle of Nanjing, 1937. The vehicles would have been sent in tri-color camouflage, but photos show that the paint appears to have faded.

Chinese Panzer I Ausf. A’s with DP machine guns, abandoned in Nanjing, December 1937.Chinese Panzer I Ausf.As with DP machine guns, abandoned in Nanjing, December 1937.
Chinese Panzer I Ausf.A’s with DP machine guns, abandoned in Nanjing, December 1937. The soldiers do not seem to fit with the rest of the photo, meaning that this is likely to be a contemporary propaganda photo based on this original image.
Chinese Panzer I, reportedly captured on December 9th, 1937.
Chinese Panzer I, reportedly captured on December 9th, 1937. According to one source, this tank, along with three others, engaged four Japanese war correspondents for Ashahi News, but these were rescued by the Japanese Army in a battle that lasted twenty minutes. Three of the Chinese tanks were destroyed, and one retreated. This particular tank is armed with Soviet DP-29 machine guns.
A Nationalist Renault FT, two Panzer Is (armed with Soviet machine guns), two T-26s (missing their armaments and mantlets), and just in shot, a Vickers Mark E Type B on display in Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan, February 1939.
A Nationalist Renault FT, two Panzer I’s (armed with Soviet machine guns), two T-26s (missing their armaments and mantlets), and just in shot, a Vickers Mark E Type B on display in Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan, February 1939.
A photo taken by the US Army showing a Chinese Panzer I bogged down during training around June 1937
A photo taken by the US Army showing a Chinese Panzer I bogged down during training around June 1937.
Undated and unlocated image of a Chinese Panzer I, having been captured by the Japanese.
Undated and unlocated image of a Chinese Panzer I, having been captured by the Japanese.

Different view of the Panzer I’s captured at the harbor, circa December 13th. Japanese flags have now been attached to the tanks.
Several Chinese Panzer Is on display in Tokyo, January 1939.
Several Chinese Panzer I’s on display in Tokyo, January 1939.
Panzer I on display in Japan, January 1939. The KMT Sun on the hull is likely a Japanese addition to make it clear that the tank was captured and is not Japanese.
Panzer I on display in Japan, January 1939. The KMT Sun on the hull is likely a Japanese addition to make it clear that the tank was captured and is not Japanese.

Panzer I during Japanese testing. Note the new Japanese Imperial star added next to the driver’s vision hatch.
Panzer I during Japanese testing. Note the new Japanese number plate.
Panzer I during Japanese testing. Note the new Japanese number plate.

A Japanese assessment of the Panzer I turret interior.

Different view of the above, showing the gun sights.

Different view of the above.

Different view of the above.

Japanese newspaper, showing an article regarding the Battle of Nanjing.

Sources

Benny Tsang provided many documents relating to Panzer I’s in China that can be reproduced upon request.
Correspondence with Guillem Martí Pujol regarding the camouflage scheme of exported Panzer I’s.
Defense of Nanking – The Diary of the RoC’s Battle Against the Japanese (南京保衛戰—原國民黨將領抗日戰爭親歷記)” edited by the Committee of Historical Material of the People’s Republic of China (載中國人民政治協商會議全國委員會文史資料硏究委員會), 1987. Special thanks to Leo Guo for translating and interpreting the text.
Panzer Tracts No.1-2 Panzerkampfwagen I” by Thomas L. Jentz.
AFV Collection No. 1: Panzer I: Beginning of a Dynasty” by Lucas Molina Franco

Categories
China Pre-1950

Vickers Mark E Type B (Chinese Service)

republican flag Republic of China (1934-1937)
Light Tank – 20 imported

Chiang Kai-shek’s Armored Might

The Vickers Mark E Type B (or Vickers 6-ton) was a huge export success, being sold to various nations across the world in the 1930s. With Japan occupying large parts of China (notably Taiwan and Manchuria) and German advisors suggesting that they should buy European weapons, the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang / Guomindang – KMT / GMD for shorthand) began to procure weapons from abroad.
The British company, Vickers, was one of a few sources of Chinese AFVs (Armored Fighting Vehicles) in the early 1930s, supplying 60 light tanks of three different types to the KMT. With its low velocity 47 mm (1.85 in) gun, the Vickers Mark E Type B was China’s most potent tank until they were all destroyed in 1937.
Standard Vickers Mark E Type B in Chinese Nationalist service. Date and location unknown - likely before 1937
Standard Vickers Mark E Type B in Chinese Nationalist service. Date and location unknown – likely before 1937.

Arming the Chinese

Given that a war with Japan was almost inevitable and the Chinese Communist Party was still on the loose, the Nationalists began a major military modernization campaign in the 1930s. One particular problem that China faced was its lack of AFVs.
Provincial governments had some improvised AFVs (some also had a handful imported from abroad), but the Nationalist Army only had some Renault FTs bought during the Northern Expedition from France, and some captured from the independent warlord, Zhang Zuolin, or perhaps, were inherited from his son, Zhang Xueliang, who secretly swore allegiance to the KMT after Zuolin’s assassination in 1928. The exact circumstances are unclear.
Whilst some of these FTs were armed with Manchurian 37 mm (1.46 in) guns which might be able to destroy Japanese light tanks, but not the Type 89 Yi-Go medium tank, as used in the Battle of Shanghai. Essentially, these FTs were outdated compared to Japanese tanks, and they would certainly not be numerous enough (let alone potent enough) to defend against a possible Japanese onslaught.
As part of a broader military modernization campaign, the KMT hired German military advisors headed by General von Seekt. These advisors convinced Chiang Kai-shek to buy as many arms as possible from Europe – no doubt, a money-making scheme by the German advisors, as China bought plenty of German-produced equipment including Panzer Is, Sd.Kfz.221s and 222s, field guns and artillery pieces, and even large numbers of the Stalhelm helmet.

Imports

Taking the advice of the Germans, the KMT began seeking out arms contracts. Eventually, the Nationalists imported 60 tanks from Vickers between 1930 and 1936 and are as follows:

  • 1930: 12 Vickers Mark VI Machine Gun Carriers with six trailers and spare parts.
  • Early 1933: 12 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tanks were sold to the Canton (Guangdong) Provincial Government. (Possibly unarmed). These were presumably appropriated by the Nationalist Army, as the total number of tanks fielded by the KMT in Shanghai numbers to about 60, and excluding these 12 VCL Light Amphibious Tanks, the number bought by the KMT is only 48. The figure of 60 also presumably excludes the Vickers Dragon, an armored gun tow tractor which was sold in small numbers (possibly a dozen) to China.
  • Late 1933: 1 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tank.
  • Early 1934: 12 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tanks, 12 Vickers Mark B Type Es (with 3200 47 mm rounds). Delivered to Nanking/Nanjing between 29th September – 13th November 1934.
  • Mid 1934: 4 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tanks, 4 Vickers Mark B Type Es (with 2860 47mm rounds, and plenty of spare parts). Delivered between 11th March – 10th May 1935.
  • Late 1935: 4 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tanks, 4 Vickers Mark B Type Es (with 2400 47mm rounds). The Mark B Type Es had extended turrets equipped with Marconi G2A radios. Delivered 21st October 1936.

Organization of the Chinese Vickers Mark E Type Bs

All 20 Mark E Type Bs were assigned to the 1st and 2nd Armored Companies. In total, these Companies had 30 tanks each – the 40 other vehicles were almost certainly the other types sold from Vickers.
These companies were assigned to defend Shanghai in 1937 against the Japanese.

Context: The Second-Sino Japanese War

In its most basic terms, the Second-Sino Japanese War’s immediate cause was an escalation of a fairly common local exchange of gunfire between a Chinese garrison and the Japanese garrison in Beiping (Beijing). Chiang Kai-shek was concerned that this was evidence of the Japanese intention for further expansion into China. Chiang began moving his troops from central China up to the north in order to be ready for further Japanese aggression, but the Japanese saw this as a threat, and by late July, both the Japanese and the Chinese were mass-mobilizing for war. In a preemptive strike, Japan sent the elite Kwantung Army (along with local allied armies) into Beiping and Tianjin on July 26th, and both were under Japanese control by the end of the month.
Fighting escalated in the Hubei province and the Chinese defense was left to local military commanders such as Song Zhueyan. After various meetings within the Kuomintang, Chiang decided to defend against the Japanese invasion in Shanghai.
Chiang used his best troops to defend the city – the 87th and 88th Divisions, which were trained by the German advisors. An estimated 200,000 Chinese soldiers from across China poured into the city and took up defensive positions, including all of the British tanks that China had imported. In early August, the Japanese began landing in Shanghai from the Cruiser Izumo. The Nationalists attempted to destroy the Izumo through a daring aerial attack on 14th August, but this alerted the Japanese to the importance of Shanghai to the Nationalists.
Japan began to deploy large numbers of troops (around 100,000 troops by early September, just shortly into the battle), including an estimated 300 tanks of various classes (according to photographs, this included many Type 89 Yi-Go tanks). The city was heavily bombed by the Japanese air force, in order to soften up resistance, but early attempts to capture the city by the Japanese caused stalemates along the narrow streets, and both sides began to dig-in. It was at this point that the Chinese began using their Vickers tanks.

Combat: Shanghai Noon

There are few details on the exact combat performance of the Mark E Type Bs, but it seems as though all of the KMT tanks were lost early on in the battle, probably during the First Phase (August 12th – 22nd) in urban fighting, as evidenced by photographs. The Vickers Mark E Type B’s gun was a relatively high caliber one for that time and should have had no issue in dealing with Japanese fortified positions.
Japanese SNLF behind a barricade face off against what appears to be a Vickers Mark E Type B. Given the position of the photographer, this is almost certainly a staged propaganda photo
Japanese SNLF behind a barricade face off against what appears to be a Vickers Mark E Type B. Given the position of the photographer, this is almost certainly a staged propaganda photo.
Peter Harmsen reports that two Armored Companies (presumably the 1st and 2nd) were put at disposal of the 87th Infantry Division, and all of the tanks were lost. Despite being Chiang Kai-shek’s elite soldiers, the defenders of Shanghai were inadequately trained. Some of the tanks had only just arrived from Nanjing, and the crews were not trained for coordinated attacks, nor had they been able to establish a rapport with local troops. The two Armored Companies were, therefore, unaided by infantry, which left the tanks vulnerable to enemy AT fire (interestingly, the Japanese had the very same problem).
An important point to note is that even with Shanghai’s sometimes narrow streets, all of the Vickers tanks sold to China were fairly small, and would have no issue traversing in Shanghai. However, the streets of Shanghai would be the end of the Vickers tanks. When deploying their tanks, the Chinese neglected to seal off streets adjacent to the tanks, meaning that the Japanese could flank and destroy them.
Photographic evidence indicates that the vehicles were knocked out by Japanese AT guns or tanks, which could punch straight through the Mark E Type B’s turret. With only a mere 25.4 mm (1 inch) of riveted armor, it is no surprise that they were no match for the IJA (Imperial Japanese Army).
However, this is not the full story. Harmsen reports an incident on August 20th, 1937, on the Yangshupu front. General Zhang Zhizhong was inspecting an unknown number of tanks and got talking to a young tank officer. The officer complained that enemy fire was too fierce, and that infantry could not keep up with the tanks. Shortly after this discussion, the tanks started an assault, but they were all wiped out by shells fired mostly from the Japanese vessels anchored on the Huangpu River.
The rest of the Vickers tanks at Shanghai, armed only with machine guns, appear to have suffered a similar fate.

Aftermath

After the battle had ended, at least one (but possibly more) Vickers Mark E Type B was recovered by Japan. According to photographic evidence, it was put on display at Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan, February 1939, along with various other KMT tanks, including two Panzer Is (armed with Soviet DT or DP machine guns), two T-26s (with their guns removed) and a Renault FT armed with a machine gun. The Panzer Is were likely captured in Nanjing (where the majority of German and Italians supplied AFVs were fielded and lost).
According to one source, a photograph may show several Vickers Mark E Type B in PLA service, as training vehicles in north China in Xuzhou, 1949. There may be as many as 14 that were captured during the Civil War, but evidence of use of Vickers Mark E Type Bs by the KMT after the Battle of Shanghai (1937) is lacking. If the source is to be believed in its claim (a claim which they note as speculative), then the vehicles may have simply been captured by the PLA from the Japanese, who presumably kept the vehicles in storage. However, Dr. Martin Andrew notes that the uniforms in the photograph appear to be pre-war, the Vickers tanks were destroyed at Shanghai, and there were plenty of other tanks that could have been used for training by that time, such as Stuarts.

Specification

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.55 m x 2.32 m x 2.21 m
(14ft 11in x 7ft 7in x 7ft 3in)
Total weight, battle ready 9.6 tons
Crew 3
Propulsion 4-cyl gas flat air cooled Armstrong-Siddeley, 90 bhp
Speed (road/off-road) 31/16 km/h (19.3/9.9 mph)
Range (road/off road) 240/140 km (150/87 mi)
Armament 47 mm (1.85 in) gun
Armor 6 to 15 mm (0.24-0.59 in)
Track width 28 cm (11 inches)
Track link length 12.5 cm (4.9 inches)
Total imported 20

Chinese Vickers Mark E Type B, Shanghai, 1937.
Chinese Vickers Mark E Type B, Shanghai, 1937.
Chinese Vickers Mark E Type B with Marconi G2A radio
Chinese Vickers Mark E Type B with Marconi G2A radio, Shanghai, 1937.
Vickers Mark E Type B, presumably being inspected by locals in Shanghai, 1937
Vickers Mark E Type B, presumably being inspected by locals in Shanghai, 1937.
One of the four Chinese Vickers Mark B Type Es with an extended turret - this was in order to fit the radio.
One of the four Chinese Vickers Mark B Type Es with an extended turret – this was in order to fit the radio. Japanese soldiers are inspecting the vehicle, which appears to have sustained light damage. It is unclear whether the crew escaped. Battle of Shanghai, 1937.
Knocked out Vickers Mark B Type E with an extended turret being inspected by Japanese officers.
Knocked out Vickers Mark B Type E with an extended turret being inspected by Japanese officers. The damage to the rear of the turret is an exit hole from a shell fired by a Japanese tank or AT gun. It seems likely that the shell punched straight through the front of the tank’s turret. Battle of Shanghai, 1937.
Standard Mark E Type B, apparently knocked out. Battle of Shanghai, 1937
Standard Mark E Type B, apparently knocked out. Battle of Shanghai, 1937.Mark E Type B, Battle of Shanghai, 1937.
Vickers Mark E Type B, Battle of Shanghai, 1937.

Different view of the above.

Different view of the above.
A Nationalist Renault FT, two Panzer Is (armed with Soviet machine guns), two T-26s (missing their armaments and mantlets), and just in shot, a Vickers Mark E Type B on display in Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan, February 1939
A Nationalist Renault FT, two Panzer Is (armed with Soviet machine guns), two T-26s (missing their armaments and mantlets), and just in shot, a Vickers Mark E Type B on display in Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan, February 1939.
A Japanese soldier poses on a Vickers Mark E Type B with his flag. It appears as though the vehicle had sustained a small penetration in the middle of the hull, as well as an AT gun hit on the coaxial machine gun, and another on the right of the main gun.
A Japanese soldier poses on a Vickers Mark E Type B with his flag. It appears as though the vehicle had sustained a small penetration in the middle of the hull, as well as an AT gun hit on the coaxial machine gun, and another on the right of the main gun.

Sources

Correspondence with Dr. Martin Andrew regarding Chinese AFVs. He had checked Vickers factory archives and had compiled a list of Vickers arms sales to China.
The Tank Division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1945-1955” by Zhang Zhiwei
Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze” by Peter Harmsen
China’s War with Japan 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival” by Rana Mitter

Categories
Syrian Armor

T-72 Shafrah

Hello dear reader! This article on the T-72 Shafrah has not been updated since 19th March 2018, meaning that the article may be out of date, considering that the Syrian Civil War continues.

Syria (2017-Present)
MBT – Estimated 11-17 converted

New armor kits for the SAA

The T-72 Shafrah was originally a testbed for a new type of armor made by the Republican Guard’s 105th Mechanized Brigade (first seen used on bulldozers in October 2016). This upgrade was supposed to resist all forms of anti-tank rockets. Throughout the Civil War, Syrian tanks have been highly vulnerable to RPGs (Rocket-Propelled Grenades) and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs), and successful missile attacks against SAA tanks in Damascus are often filmed and used for enemy propaganda.
Initially, the Shafrah package did not appear to be sufficient for the SAA’s needs, but it seems as though more vehicles were upgraded to the Shafrah standard throughout 2017 and 2018, each bringing design improvements making the armor more resilient to missiles. Now, with anywhere between 11 and 17 T-72 Shafrah tanks, the package has a proven record of its success.
The name ‘Shafrah’ means ‘razor’, a joke originating from @withinsyria blog, referring to the armor looking like a shaving razor. This name has stuck with the tank and is apparently used in SAA propaganda.

T-72 Shafrah I, posted online on 27th February 2017.

T-72 Grendizer?

Whilst the T-72 Mahmia (also known as the T-72 Adra) upgrade of the SAA 4th Armored Division was successful at defeating RPG-29 hits, it was not consistent at defeating ATGMs. In late 2016 / early 2017, it seems as though tank upgrades were slowly being centralized by the Syrian Arab Army, with the intention of making a new type of upgraded T-72 that is invulnerable to all missile types.
Around late 2016, a tweet from @syrianmilitary, referred to a mystery T-72 upgrade dubbed “T-72 Grendizer” (which refers to a popular Japanese cartoon show that was popular in the Middle East in the 1980s – children of that era now being the tank crews of today) and was suggested to be “the T-55 Enigma reborn”.
The Shafrah may actually be this project. It has, in some sense, composite armor like the T-55 Enigma.

Basic outline of the armor

The T-72 Shafrah’s armor is quite distinct. Essentially, numerous brackets are placed on the tank’s turret, which have a number of angled plates welded onto them. Some tanks have sideskirts (most appear to at least have sideskirt mounts consisting of two metal beams above road-wheels), which follow a similar pattern, but the welded plates are not angled.
WithinSyria blog reported that the armor plates are made of RHA (1.5 mm – 2 mm thick), tungsten, and glassfiber. It is further rumored that the tungsten part refers to 1 mm thick tungsten copper plates. If this is true, then this armor package, therefore, seems as though it is designed to be a form of composite armor which, like the T-55 Enigma, should be able to stop ATGMs.
However, with an alleged budget of $5,000-10,000 US per month, the Republican Guard is unlikely to be able to use tungsten on a wide scale due to the material being too costly. As such, it is equally valid to believe that the plates are made purely from steel until further evidence is available.

SAA propaganda showing T-72 Shafrah III, probably not long after it was built, around June 19th 2017. The extent of the uparmoring can be seen clearly in this photo.

Identifying Individual Vehicles

Identifying each individual T-72 Shafrah tank has proven difficult due to a lack of sources available. The tanks are identified in this article by assigning them a designation based on their base vehicle (in this case, T-72 (Urals), and T-72AVs exclusively). T-72 Urals have a plain turret, but T-72AVs have ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) bricks on the turret, making the two models distinct. The base designation is followed by a number denoting when they were first photographed (importantly, this does not necessarily mean that vehicles with lower numbers were built first). Separate vehicles are identified by comparing their Shafrah features – mostly armor layout schemes.
This system has its flaws. For example, tanks may lose parts of the armor during the course of battles, or armor brackets might be replaced or removed entirely. Therefore, some tanks may appear differently at different points in time, meaning that they are mistaken for two separate vehicles. The upshot of this is that this article may overestimate the number of Shafrah vehicles in existence. Similarly, relying on only photographic evidence may mean that it underestimates the number because some Shafrah tanks may not have been photographed. Also consider that photos sometimes surface months after being taken, thus making a chronological typology difficult (see T-72AV Shafrah VI for an example of this – photos taken on 3rd November 2017 only surfaced along with photos of the tank on 4th March 2018).
With these limitations in mind, the T-72 Shafrah tanks can be divided and described as thus (in a roughly chronological order based on when they were photographed):
T-72 Shafrah I has the fewest number of welded plates on its brackets – typically, two large plates. There is a single plate with no welded plates on the right of the gun (as if facing the vehicle). The vehicle was hit by an ATGM in Eastern Ghouta, on 27th February 2017. The turret ring was damaged and the driver was wounded, likely meaning that the brackets were repaired and/or replaced, which complicates identifying the tank. This tank originally had sideskirts, but these appear to have been eventually removed after 22nd March 2017, where it was believed to be seen at the Qaboun offensive (still with sideskirts on the 22nd however). (Again, identifying this particular tank has proved difficult due to both a lack of photos and the ATGM hit meaning the brackets were likely repaired. As such, it is possible that some photos believed to show the vehicle actually show different and separate Shafrah upgrades). It is believed that this tank was also seen in Eastern Ghouta, circa 4th March 2018, having sustained significant combat wear and tear. The front spotlight has been shot out, and the turret plate right of the gun appears to have been replaced.
T-72AV Shafrah I has no sideskirts, but does have two welded beams between its road-wheels to mount a sideskirt. The turret has seven or eight brackets, each with six or seven short plates welded on. The right side of the front bumper also appeared damaged and bent out of shape when seen at the Qaboun offensive on 22nd March 2017. That bumper section may likely be missing now. It is believed that it was this vehicle which was hit by an ATGM around 30th September 2017 at Hawsh Dawahirah.
T-72AV Shafrah II has no sideskirts, but has the welded beams for their mounting. It also appears to have only four turret brackets, each with five or six welded plates. It has a single plate on the right side of the gun acting as the protective bracket in that area. It also has Viper 72 thermal sights (see sidenote III below). This tank was first seen on 25th March 2017, possibly at Qaboun, originally mistaken for T-72 Shafrah I.
An unidentified T-72 Shafrah (whether Ural or AV is unclear) was knocked out on 16th April 2017 at Qaboun. It was originally thought that this was T-72AV Shafrah II, but that tank was seen as late as July 2017. It appears to be missing some brackets and cannot be identified as a result. (See below for more).
T-72 Shafrah II has no sideskirts, but the two welded beams for mounting them. It has seven turret brackets, six of which have three welded plates. The seventh, on the right of the main gun (as if facing), is made of two plates, with a section cut out to avoid the gunner’s optics / LRF being obstructed. This tank was first seen at Qaboun on 6th May 2017. The front bumper was later mostly broken off.
T-72 Shafrah III has sideskirts consisting of three brackets. The turret has roughly eight brackets, each with four welded plates, except the bracket on the right of the main gun, which has only two to avoid the gunner’s optics /LRF being obstructed. The tank was photographed before it saw any combat at all on 19th June 2017.
An unidentified T-72AV Shafrah was seen at Ein Tarma, Qaboun, 21st June 2017. The tank has no sideskirts, and six turret brackets with four welded plates on each. The bracket on the right of the gun has only two plates. It is possible that this is the same Shafrah destroyed at Qaboun on 16th April 2017, but this photo of it (apparently in tact) was taken before that date, and only posted online in June 2017. This remains to be proven.
T-72AV Shafrah III has damaged sideskirts made of three brackets. The left side (facing) is missing the rear bracket, and the right side is missing the bracket. The turret has many brackets (seven to nine), each with five to seven welded plates, except the bracket on the right of the gun, which has only two, to avoid the gunner’s optics /LRF being obstructed. The tank was first seen on 19th November 2017, crossing a bridge over the River Euphrates via Hawijat Kati island at Deir ez-Zor.
T-72 Shafrah IV is the most heavily armored Shafrah built so far. It has sideskirts split into three sections, with missile damage on the middle section of the left side (this section is likely to be replaced or repaired). The turret brackets strangely look as if they are made from one continuous bracket, rounded to fit the turret’s shape. The bracket has eight to ten sets of three welded plates (again, only two welded plates on the right of the gun to prevent obstruction to the gunner’s optics). The plates on the left of the gun have a small cut out so that the coaxial machine gun is not obstructed. This tank was first seen in Eastern Damascus, 7th January 2018, trying to reach Harasta vehicle base.
T-72AV Shafrah IV has no sideskirts, and no mounting bars for it between its roadwheels. Its turret has seven to nine brackets, each with four welded plates (the bottom welded plate is taller than the rest), and only two welded plates on the right of the gun. This tank was first seen at Eastern Ghouta, 3rd February 2018.
T-72 Shafrah V has a distinctive dark grey / brown colour. It has sideskirts, probably in three sections. The turret has eight brackets (the direct rear bracket is missing), each with four welded plates (again, except the bracket on the right, which has two plates). The tank was first seen around mid-February (a few days before the 19th, perhaps) preparing for the Eastern Ghouta offensive.
T-72 Shafrah VI has no sideskirts and roughly five brackets making up the turret (leaving a large gap at the rear of the turret). The brackets all have three plates each, but the half-plate below the gunner’s optics has only two. The tank also has no uparmoring on the engine deck. The tank was first seen around mid-February (a few days before the 19th, perhaps) preparing for the Eastern Ghouta offensive.
T-72AV Shafrah V has sideskirts and seven turret brackets with four plates each making up the turret armor (with a single plate below the gunner’s optics, like T-72AV Shafrah II). The sideskirts are split into three sections, and the rearmost section on the tank’s right side appears to be falling off. It was first seen in a montage of footage from offensives at Qaboun, Ghouta, Ein Tarma and other areas on 26th February 2018. The vehicle was likely first put into action at a much earlier date, most likely late 2017. It is likely that it sustained damage in the Eastern Ghouta offensive in early March 2018, leading to a loss of its rear right sideskirt section, and a rear turret bracket section, but the photo showing this cannot be confirmed to be T-72AV Shafrah V with certainty.
T-72AV Shafrah VI originally had sideskirts (see photos from 3rd November 2017 at Ein Tarma) but when photographed on March 4th, 2018, it does not have sideskirts. The turret is likely made up of seven brackets (a rear one is missing) with only several plates on each. Unlike most recent Shafrah tanks, it has several plates below the gunner’s sight which are tightly spaced, and are also shaped like trapeziums. There is also a cutout section on the left of the main gun for the turret machine gun to remain unobstructed. Photos from 4th March 2018 show that the right mudguard is missing, and the front bumper has snapped off in front of both tracks. The tank also has a registration plate painted on in black on the lowest hull Shafrah plate: ٣٨٣٠٨٣, and on the lower glacis plate in sand-yellow. The tank is also an AV, but strangely has no ERA on the turret, but the bolts where the bricks were are still there. The vehicle was first photographed on 3rd November 2017. It was later sighted at the liberation of Beit Nayem, Eastern Ghouta on 4th March 2018.
T-72 Shafrah VII (unclear model – this will be updated when known for certain) has no sideskirts (interestingly, the remains original mudguard sections are mangled out of shape), and has an estimated seven to nine squat turret brackets, each with three Shafrah plates, except on the right of the gun, which has two. A distinguishing feature is the narrow turret bracket on the left of the gun. The tank may also not have any rear uparmoring. It was first seen at the town of al-Muhamadyia on 7th March 2018.
Accounting for the potential errors with this methodology, and that there may also be unseen Shafrah tanks, there are an estimated 11-17 Shafrahs that have ever existed, probably 16 (thirteen known tanks, plus two unidentified tanks, plus the possibility that photos thought to show T-72 Shafrah I actually show two separate tanks).

Combat

T-72 Shafrah I hit by ATGM at Eastern Ghouta, 27th February 2017

T-72 Shafrah I was first documented in combat in Eastern Ghouta, on 27th February 2017. The footage below shows that the vehicle was hit by an ATGM. As a result, the driver was wounded and the turret was damaged, but the vehicle was not destroyed. Crucially, there was no internal fire, which was a common problem with the T-72 Mahmia.

T-72 Shafrah I being hit by an ATGM. The footage is cropped, and the vehicle was not destroyed.
It was later photographed being transported back to the workshop on the back of a lorry. The photograph was dated 1st March 2017.

T-72 Shafrah I and T-72AV Shafrah II at Qaboun, 22nd March 2017

The T-72 Shafrah tank was next seen in combat along with the T-72AV Shafrah, and a third, lightly modified T-72 on 22nd March 2017 at Qaboun, in the north of Jobar, in east Damascus. The fighting took place near a fabric factory. The source (a tweet with two videos) suggests that 150 rebels were killed in the assault, which was supported by infantry.

T-72 Shafrah I in combat at Qaboun, Jobar, Eastern Damascus, March 22nd, 2017.

T-72AV Shafrah I in combat at Qaboun, Jobar, Eastern Damascus, March 22nd, 2017.

Unknown T-72 Shafrah destroyed at Qaboun, 16th April 2017

On the 16th April 2017, a photo was posted online showing an unknown T-72 Shafrah having been knocked out at Qaboun. The photo shows the vehicle’s turret on fire, with multiple armor brackets missing. Reports suggest that it was hit by an AT mine which destroyed a track, but caused no damage. The crew escaped, but several soldiers are reported to have been killed or wounded in the attack.
The vehicle was finally set on fire by the rebels, to stop any chance of recovery, and it is now probably wrecked beyond repair. Ahrah al-Sham have claimed responsibility for the vehicle’s destruction.
It was initially believed that this was T-72AV Shafrah I or II, but these tanks have been seen operational after April 2017.
A T-72 Mahmia was alongside the unknown Shafrah during the attack. The T-72 Mahmia took an RPG-29 hit, which did not penetrate the tank. However, the commander sustained significant injuries.

The unknown T-72 Shafrah, destroyed by rebels at Qaboun, 16th April 2017.

Rebel footage after the tank was set alight.

T-72 Shafrah II at the Qaboun Offensive, May, 2017

In an offensive that lasted from 18th February to 29th May, T-72 Shafrah II was photographed fighting again on the 6th and 8th May, and had likely been fighting throughout the offensive from mid-March.
On May 7th, an agreement between rebel forces and Government forces led to the eventual evacuation of rebels from the district. Evacuations took place until 13th May, by which time the government had captured all of Qaboun. A new evacuation deal led to further rebels and their families leaving the district, and by May 15th, the government had total control over the district.

T-72 Shafrah II at Qaboun, 6th May, 2017.

A different view of the above.

Video of T-72 Shafrah II at Qaboun, 6th May, 2017.

T-72AV Shafrah II at Jobar, June 2017

T-72AV Shafrah II was photographed in late June fighting in Jobar along with a ZSU-23-4 Shafrah, and at least one other regular T-72. Reports indicate that the 105th Republican Guards were attacking Ein Tarma (near Jobar) from the southwest and made some gains.

T-72AV Shafrah II, Jobar, 21st June, 2017.

T-72AV Shafrah I hit by ATGM, circa September 2017

Footage dating to around late September 2017 shows what appears to be T-72AV Shafrah I being hit by an ATGM fired by Jaish al-Islam at Hawsh Dawahira. The vehicle likely survived the hit, as it can be seen driving backwards for a few frames before the camera cuts to another scene.

T-72AV Shafrah III crossing the Euphrates, November 2017

On 19th November 2017, four photos were posted online of T-72AV Shafrah III and other armor crossing a bridge over the River Euphrates via Hawijat Kati island at Deir ez-Zor.

T-72AV Shafrah III behind a T-72AV near a bridge crossing at Deir ez-Zor (circa 16th November 2017). The rear third of the skirt (on the left) is actually missing from the tank. Notice also that the turret also has more brackets, and each bracket has more armor plates compared to earlier Shafrah-upgraded T-72s. This is likely in response to earlier models being too poorly armored.

Different view of the above.

T-72AV Shafrah IV filmed up close by rebels, 3rd February 2018

Rebels of Jaish al-Islam filmed T-72AV Shafrah IV up close around 3rd February 2018 at Eastern Ghouta. The rebels do not appear to have any AT weapons, hence they merely shot at the vehicle’s optics. The rebels were later forced to retreat due to their lack of AT weapons.

T-72 Shafrah V and VI, preparing for the Eastern Ghouta Offensive, mid-February 2018

Compilation SAA propaganda footage shows T-72 Shafrah V and VI preparing for the Eastern Ghouta offensive circa mid-February 2018 (probably around the 16th-19th). The video shows a column of vehicles including a T-72M1, a handful of BMP-1s, and two ZSU-23-4s preparing for or beginning an assault in Eastern Ghouta.

Front: T-72 Shafrah V. Rear: T-72 Shafrah VI. Eastern Ghouta, circa mid-February 2018.

Front: T-72 Shafrah VI, with two turret brackets missing covering the rear. Note that the rear engine deck of the tank is not uparmored. Background: T-72 Shafrah V, showing it to be missing a single turret bracket. Eastern Ghouta, circa mid-February 2018.

T-72 Shafrah V (left) and a T-72M1 with an improvised turret bracket (right). Eastern Ghouta, circa mid-February 2018.

SAA propaganda footage of T-72 Shafrah V and T-72 Shafrah VI as part of a column in Eastern Ghouta, circa mid-February 2018.

T-72AV Shafrah VI at the liberation Beit Nayem, Eastern Ghouta, 4th March 2018

T-72AV Shafrah VI was photographed after fighting in Beit Nayem, as part of the SAA’s major Eastern Ghouta offensive, along with other T-72s (one of which is an AV featuring an improvised turret cage). An estimated twenty rebels were killed in the attack on the village, and others are reported to have fled. Another vehicle, a BMP-1 with a ZU-23-2 enclosed in an improvised superstructure was also photographed, which also features Shafrah-style sideskirts.

T-72AV Shafrah VI after the liberation of Beit Nayem, 4th March 2018.

T-72AV Shafrah VI after the liberation of Beit Nayem, 4th March 2018. This photo confirms beyond all doubt that it is an AV model. Note the registration plate – ٣٨٣٠٨٣. Also note that it has no ERA bricks on the turret, but the bolts are still there

BMP-1 with a ZU-23-2 enclosed in an improvised superstructure also featuring Shafrah-style sideskirts. The addition of a ZU-23-2 is a common enough feature, but the Shafrah sideskirts appears to be fairly new. Previous BMP-1/ZU-23-2 conversions have notably featured sideskirts made from thin metal cages. The turret superstructure is also a significant improvement on previous designs. 4th March 2018, Beit Nayem.

Different view of the above. Note the Shafrah armor on the front of the vehicle, and additional visor for the driver.
On 6th March 2018, one photo taken at Beit Nayem also shows that T-72 Shafrah III and T-72 Shafrah I were present at least after the village’s liberation.

T-72 Shafrah III (background left, the second tank from the right. The four plates on the left-side turret bracket indicate it to be T-72 Shafrah III) and T-72 Shafrah I (in the center, covered by the soldiers. The single plate on the bracket behind the man furthest left is the indicator), Beit Nayem, circa 6th March 2018.

The Eastern Ghouta Offensive Continues, 7th March 2018 – Present

T-72 Shafrah VII was seen at the town of al-Muhamadyia on 7th March 2018 along with a BMP-1 during scant shelling operations.

T-72 Shafrah VII  at al-Muhamadyia on 7th March 2018. Credit: SANA
T-72AV Shafrah VI was shown by RT Arabic on 8th March 2018 to be continuing to advance in Eastern Ghouta, having presumably moved on from Beit Nayem village.

This still reveals that T-72AV Shafrah VI not only is missing a rear turret bracket, but also has no ERA bricks. al-Muhamadyia, Eastern Ghouta, circa 8th March 2018. Credit: RT Arabic.

T-72 Shafrah I in Eastern Ghouta, 8th March 2018.

T-72AV Shafrah VI bursting through a wall,  Eastern Ghouta, circa 9th March 2018.

T-72AV Shafrah VI at Mesraba, circa 10th March 2018.

T-72AV Shafrah VI at Jisreen, having travelled south from Mesraba, 10th March 2018.
T-72AV Shafrah VI was seen circa 11th March 2018 attacking at the farmlands near Jisreen.

T-72AV Shafrah VI at Kafr Batna, 19th March 2018.


T-72AV Shafrah II at Qaboun(?), 24th March, 2017.

T-72AV of the Republican Guard, for comparison.

T-72 Mahmia, for comparison.
T-72AV Shafrah in combat at Qaboun, supported by infantry, on 24th March 2017
T-72AV Shafrah I in combat at Qaboun, supported by infantry, reportedly on 24th March 2017.
The T-72AV Shafrah with the new armor layout on 25th March 2017. Bars originally holding on the sideskirts can be seen just in front of the first wheel and between the second and third from the front.
T-72AV Shafrah II on 25th March 2017. Bars originally holding on the sideskirts can be seen just in front of the first wheel and between the second and third from the front. Rows of angled armor plates can also be seen on the hull.

T-72AV Shafrah II and a T-72AV with their crews, 23rd March 2017.

T-72AV Shafrah II and other vehicles. Unknown date.

T-72 Shafrah I. Posted online, 1st April 2017, meaning this is its post-repair state.

T-72 Shafrah V, in its distinctive brown / grey colour, and T-72 Shafrah VI. Circa mid-February 2018.

T-72 Shafrah II at Qaboun, 6th May, 2017.

A still from up-close footage of T-72AV Shafrah IV, taken by rebels of Jaish al-Isla at Eastern Ghouta, 3rd February 2018.
T-72 Shafrah IV Eastern Damascus, circa 7th January 2018, trying to reach Harasta vehicle base. A black hole in the middle of the side skirt is likely an ATGM hit that did not penetrate the armor. There may also be an RPG hit to the turret, as indicated by a black burn mark.

T-72AV Shafrah III behind a T-72AV near a bridge crossing at Deir ez-Zor (circa 16th November 2017), showing the other skirt to be missing its front third.

Different view of the above, showing the rear of the tank to also be significantly uparmored. The SAA crossed the River Euphrates via Hawijat Kati Island.

T-72AV Shafrah V. Still taken from a montage of SAA ‘archive footage’ posted online on 24th February 2018, as propaganda for the Eastern Ghouta offensive.

T-72AV Shafrah V. Still taken from a montage of SAA ‘archive footage’ posted online on 24th February 2018, as propaganda for the Eastern Ghouta offensive. The damaged sideskirt is a particularly useful identification method of this tank.

Unidentified T-72AV Shafrah. Behind is a T-72M1, and in front is a ZSU-23-4 Mahmia, and a T-72 Mahmia. Unknown date, probably Qaboun, late April / early May 2017. This may be T-72AV Shafrah II, but no other photos of that tank show it to have sideskirts, and an in-tact front bumper. The tank is unidentified because its technical features are not totally clear enough to confirm it to be a new T-72AV Shafrah, and the images lack any confirmed dates to make this more difficult.

T-72AV Shafrah VI at Ein Tarma, 3rd November 2017. In this photo, it has sideskirts, but photos from March 4th 2018 show that they have been removed.

What is believed to be T-72 Shafrah I in Eastern Ghouta, circa 4th March 2018, having suffered significant combat wear and tear.

Unknown T-72 Shafrah, circa 3rd March 2018, Otaya, Eastern Ghouta. The tank is almost certainly T-72AV Shafrah V, but a lack of photos make it hard to confirm. If it is T-72AV Shafrah V, then this photo indicates that the right rear sideskirt section has fallen off (it was previously hanging loose on one mount), and a bracket at the rear of the turret has fallen off or been removed (as with T-72AV Shafrah III). This photo showing T-72AV Shafrah V after combat damage makes sense, as it is clear from the dirt on the tank that it has seen significant combat.

T-72 Shafrah VII  at al-Muhamadyia on 7th March 2018. Credit: SANA

Sidenote I-a: Shilka Shafrah tanks

So far, at least two ZSU-23-4 ‘Shilka’ tanks have been upgraded with Shafrah armor, in various configurations. The first is similar to the regular Shafrah upgrade, but another (dubbed the ‘Shilka Super Shafrah’) deviates from the standard Shafrah design). ZSU-23-4s are actually used for supporting vehicles in urban combat, as their guns can hit enemy positions which are high up in tall buildings. Therefore, the tanks need to also be protected from ATGMs and rockets. A Syrian tank crewman reports that there are locally-built munitions for the Shilka which copies a Russian design, and that such munitions are plentiful. Furthermore, he reports that these munitions are so strong, there are even rumours that a single round has been known to demolish concrete walls. Rebels fear the Shilka due to its massive firepower, stopping power, and fairly good protection.
Following the same typological method as identifying the T-72 Shafrahs, the following can be deduced about the ‘Shilka Shafrah’ tanks:
On March 26th, footage showing Shilka Shafrah I was posted, probably at Jobar. Note that the photo shows it facing the rear. Strangely, the guns have also been given single Shafrah plates. The sideskirts also appear to have gaps in them, probably to allow access to the Shilka’s regular exterior fixtures.

Shilka Shafrah I, in Jobar, posted online on March 27th, 2017. The photo was probably taken on 26th March, 2017. The vehicle may have been built up to a week earlier, however, it seems odd that it has not been seen in combat earlier, if that is the case. Footage can be viewed here.


Shilka Shafrah I, some time in March 2017, unknown location. Probably somewhere in East Ghouta.

Shilka Shafrah I at Jobar, 21st June, 2017.
Eventually, the most of sideskirt on the left of Shilka Shafrah I was removed, probably because of a need to access the vehicle’s side ports, as can be seen in an unlocated photo dating to 12th October, 2017. It is also possible that it was simply lost due to poor driving.

Shilka Shafrah I, 12th October, 2017. Unknown location. Note that the sideskirts have now been partly removed on at least one side (the other side seems to still have the sideskirt).
Shilka Shafrah I was also seen on 6th March 2018 at Beit Nayem, just two days after its liberation. It is unclear if it took part in fighting.

Shilka Shafrah I can be seen in the background left (6th March 2018 at al-Muhamadyia). Credit: RT Arabic

Shilka Shafrah I after the capture of Mesraba, circa 10th or 11th March 2018. The left sideskirt is still on, but the right one has been removed (see above photos).

Sidenote I-b: ‘Shilka Super Shafrah’

A new type of ZSU-23-4 Shafrah was seen in February 2018 (a fitting nickname may be ‘Shilka Super Shafrah’). This version is apparently a significant evolution to the design, with rows of vertical bars protecting the turret of the vehicle. The sideskirt is also apparently a single piece, and each welded plate is encased on the ends of the skirt, as opposed to them being roughly left open (see the turret for a contrast). The driver’s hatch also appears to be substantially up-armored. Most curiously of all is the rocket attached above the guns, likely for anti-urban infantry use, where the machine guns are not sufficient to penetrate buildings.

Shilka Super Shafrah was also seen circa 7th March 2018 at the Eastern Ghouta Offensive.

Shilka Super Shafrah, circa 7th March 2018 at the Eastern Ghouta Offensive. Credit: RT Arabic

Shilka Super Shafrah, now with the frontal bar armor removed. Believed to be at Mesraba, circa 10th March 2018.
Shilka Super Shafrah was videoed fighting alongside T-72s on the Mesraba axis on 11th March 2018.

Shilka Super Shafrah fighting on the Mesraba axis, circa 11th March 2018.

Different view of the above.

Different view of the above.

Sidenote II: Bulldozers with Shafrah armor

The Shafrah armor package originally appears to have been given to bulldozers, around October 2016. One was reportedly captured by Jaish al-Islam in October 2016.

Bulldozer with Shafrah armor, captured by Jaish al-Islam in eastern Ghouta, October 2016.

Other view of the bulldozer with Shafrah armor, captured by Jaish al-Islam in eastern Ghouta, October 2016.
Another bulldozer with Shafrah armor was also used by the 105th Brigade at the Siege of Wadi Barada, January 2017.

A bulldozer with Shafrah armor of the 105th Brigade at Wadi Barada, January, 2017.
Another bulldozer, probably a third was seen on 30th March 2017, probably at Qaboun with the 105th Mechanized Brigade.

A Republican Guard bulldozer with Shafrah armor. Posted online on 30th March, 2017.
The most recent sighting of a Shafrah bulldozer is in November 2017. A video shows a Shafrah Bulldozer at the Jobar front being damaged (by IED or rocket is unclear, presumably the latter).

Still from footage of a Shafrah Bulldozer at the Jobar front, seconds before an explosion.

Still from SAA ‘archive footage‘ showing a Shafrah bulldozer in action alongside ground troops. Possibly at Jobar, late 2017.

Sidenote III: Viper-72 thermal sights

T-72AV Shafrah III is fitted with Viper-72 thermal imaging sights, and it is likely that others are, too. This can be seen on the turret, just behind the regular gunner’s optics.
Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, tanks, especially those with complex technologies, have fallen into disrepair. This means that regular night vision sights and infra-red lamps are either no longer functioning, or have been specifically targeted by rebel small arms fire in lieu of engaging them with AT weapons, which rebels do not always have. (For an example of the latter, see T-72AV Shafrah IV, with its broken optics and lights.)
As a way around this, the SAA has fitted some of their tanks with Viper-72 thermal imaging sights, which do not require any infra-red lights. This is quite ingenious, as it allows not only effective aiming from 1.5 km – 2km (0.9-1.2 miles), but also the ability for the tank crew to see enemy snipers behind cover.

Image showing the difference between a T-72AV with (right) and without (left) Viper 72 thermal sights.

Sources

The author would like to extend his thanks to @Mathieumorant
Within Syria blog / Twitter
WithinSyriaBlog
southfront.org

Categories
China Pre-1950

Gongchen Tank & Chi-Ha (Chinese Service)

Chinese PLA (1945-1959)
Medium Tank – 100+ captured

The PLA’s First Tank

The Gongchen Tank (“Heroic Tank”, 功臣號) refers to a specific Chi-Ha Shinhoto captured by the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) in 1945. The story is part of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) folklore and its fine details seem somewhat fantastical. Nevertheless, the Gongchen Tank appears to have survived the Civil War and has been on display in a museum in Beijing since its retirement in 1959.
Large numbers of Chi-Ha and Chi-Ha Shinhoto (along with various other types of ex-Japanese tanks) were used extensively by the PLA, (and many were also used by the KMT – Kuomintang, the Chinese Nationalist Party). When the Japanese left China, following the end of WWII, they left behind their military equipment – the disarmament being left to the USSR. Fortunately for the PLA, the Soviets were sympathetic to them and armed the PLA with ex-Japanese weapons. However, according to the story, the Gongchen Tank was captured without Soviet involvement.
The Gongchen Tank on display in the main hall of the military museum in Beijing. The red writing does not appear to be faithful to the original scheme.
The Gongchen Tank on display in the main hall of the military museum in Beijing. The red writing does not appear to be faithful to the original scheme.

Gongchen Tank (功臣號)

The story of the Gongchen Tank is a little fantastical and textual evidence seems a little sketchy in some places. The story may have been significantly embellished by the CCP for propaganda purposes. To add to this, certain details of the story appear in one source, but not another. As a result, the story told here is a composite based on various texts and photographs.

Cornered in Shenyang

In 1945, the Communist forces in Shenyang (Liaoning Province, northeast China) discovered two Chi-Ha Shinhoto tanks which they designated “101” and “102”. Confusingly, one source suggests that they had modifications to the turret and had their main guns replaced with 47 mm (1.85 in) guns, but this only appears to mean that they were Shinhoto models (also consider that the Gongchen Tank in the Beijing museum is a Shinhoto).
The KMT was advancing upon Shenyang, so the Communists tried to quickly repair the tanks and escort them back to CCP-controlled areas. They forcibly enlisted the help of Japanese engineers for the repairs1 and scavenged for spare parts in order to speed things up.2 The Japanese engineers eventually revolted and sabotaged “101”, leaving Communist forces with only one functional tank (which would later become known as the Gongchen Tank).1

On December 1st, 1945, the Northeast Special Tank Brigade (東北特縱坦克大隊) was formed in Shenyang, with “102” (the only tank in the brigade) and thirty soldiers. The Communists then decided to retreat from the city, so the tank smashed through a KMT blockade and drove into the safety of a CCP-controlled area.
After the escapade, the vehicle became part of Tonghua Artillery School in Liaoning Province. Several other tanks (of unknown models) joined shortly after.2
Post-civil war propaganda photo of the Gongchen Tank
Post-civil war propaganda photo of the Gongchen Tank.

First Combat

The Gongchen Tank’s first combat is reported to be in Suiyang County (now Suiyang Town) in Heilongjiang Province, northeast of Shenyang Province.
The four tanks from Tonghua Artillery School were brought into Suiyang County via train. However, they were delivered too close to the battle, which meant that the train was shelled, creating a “sea of fire” (火海). Fortunately for the Communists, the tanks were not damaged from the fire. The source reports that the tanks went on to quickly kill 3000 KMT soldiers,no doubt an exaggeration.
Any further details on the battle are lacking.

Battle of Jinzhou, 1948

In October 1948, “102” saw urban combat at the Battle of Jinzhou, in the Liaoning Province. Jinzhou was defended by 100,0002 (in fact, probably more) KMT soldiers led by General Fan Hanjie (范汉杰).
The North China Tank Brigade had 15 tanks by this point. “102” had also become very respected, and earned itself the nickname “Old Man Tank” (老头坦克), a name which implies the vehicle to be dated but respectable, and still sturdy.
Several tanks (of an unknown model) were damaged early on in the battle when crossing a river and were unable to continue fighting.
Thus, “Old Man Tank” led a charge with Communist infantry into KMT positions,1 and sustained several hits, which blew a political officer’s fingers off,2 who was presumably inside the tank. As a result, the advancing infantry no longer had any tank fire support. Knowing the situation was critical, the driver, Dong Laifu (董來扶)1,2 got out of the tank, made some hasty repairs under enemy fire, and got the tank operational again.1
After the battle, Dong Laifu and the tank’s machine gunner, Wu Peilong (吳佩龍), were commended as first class, and the tank was renamed “Gongchen Tank” (meaning “Heroic Tank” 功臣號).2

Post Civil-War Career

Gongchen Tank had the honor of leading the victory parade on 1st October 1949, at Tiananmen Square. Dong Laifu was also given the title “Tank Fighting Hero” (坦克战斗英雄) in August 1950 by the Central Military Commission.2
The Gongchen Tank was finally retired in 1959.
Gongchen Tank leading the victory parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949
Gongchen Tank leading the victory parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949.

Other Chi-Ha Tanks in PLA Service

The Chi-Ha and Chi-Ha Shinhoto were used extensively by the PLA. In fact, parade photos show that large numbers of the Chi-Ha, Chi-Ha Shinhoto, (and the Ha-Go, for that matter) were in service in 1949. One photograph even shows at least 35 Chi-Ha Shinhotos!
Chi-Ha Shinhotos are reported to have received some modifications in PLA service, such as the replacement of the original engines with 500hp Kharkov V-2 engines. Unfortunately, tanks on display in museums in China have had their engines removed and it is difficult to verify this.
Their exact combat history is hard to judge without first-hand accounts, but one photograph shows regular Chi-Ha tanks advancing into Shenyang, Liaoning Province, in 1948. It could be the case that the majority of the PLA’s Japanese tanks were captured in and saw service in the northeast. Evidence is rather lacking on specific usage during the Civil War, aside from the Gongchen Tank’s story.
Four (apparently regular) Chi-Ha tanks advancing into Shenyang, Liaoning Province, 1948.
Four (apparently regular) Chi-Ha tanks advancing into Shenyang, Liaoning Province, 1948.
The exact numbers of Japanese tanks in PLA service are not available. Any Japanese vehicle left behind in China following their withdrawal could have been used by the PLA. It is estimated that the PLA used at least 100 Chi-Ha and Chi-Ha Shinhoto tanks.
According to Dr. Martin Andrew, most Japanese tanks in PLA service were phased out following Soviet arms sales, 1950-1955.

Kuomintang Chi-Ha Tanks

In May, 1946, the KMT is reported to have the following Japanese tanks in service: 67 Type 97 Chi-Ha Shinhoto, 71 Type 97 Chi-Ha, 117 Type 95 Ha-Go, and 55 Type 94 TK.
It is possible that the KMT used any of the IJA’s AFVs that they could get their hands on. However, the USSR took control of Japanese disarmament, and most of the IJA’s equipment seems to have gone to the PLA. In any case, the KMT captured a large variety of Japanese tanks.
A Kuomintang Chi-Ha Shinhoto. The white sun emblem appears to have been hastily painted over the original Japanese camouflage scheme.
A Kuomintang Chi-Ha Shinhoto. The white sun emblem appears to have been hastily painted over the original Japanese camouflage scheme.

M3A3 (Stuart) and several Chi-Ha tanks in Kuomintang service. Undated, unlocated, possibly (according to an inference from the source) Northeast China, circa 8th February, 1946.

The Gongchen Tank in its
The Gongchen Tank in its “October 1st” colors – as seen on the victory parade, October 1st, 1949.
The Gongchen Tank in museum colors - a People's Liberation Army Chi-Ha Shinhoto.
The Gongchen Tank in museum colors – a People’s Liberation Army Chi-Ha Shinhoto.
Chinese Nationalist (Kuomintang) captured Chi-Ha Shinhoto. Apparently original Japanese colors with a KMT sun painted on top
Chinese Nationalist (Kuomintang) captured Chi-Ha Shinhoto. Apparently original Japanese colors with a KMT sun painted on top.
Photograph showing at least 35 Chi-Ha Shinhotos on parade, presumably 1st October 1949
Photograph showing at least 35 Chi-Ha Shinhotos on parade, presumably 1st October 1949. These had white serial numbers, several PLA stars (one on either side of the turret, one on the rear), and a white band around the turret ring. Numbers that are clearly visible are: 31242 (right foreground), 31244 (left foreground), and 31247 (top right).
PLA Chi-Ha Shinhoto 34458 and 34457 on parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949
PLA Chi-Ha Shinhoto “34458” and “34457” on parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949.
Pair of Chi-Ha Shinhoto tanks on parade, Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949
Pair of Chi-Ha Shinhoto tanks on parade, Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949.
Chi-Ha Shinhoto 3435x (at least one number, probably two, are covered by a man), with tank crews enjoying some downtime.
Chi-Ha Shinhoto “3435x”, with tank crews enjoying some downtime.
Two PLA Chi-Ha Shinhotos and their crews, presumably during downtime
Two PLA Chi-Ha Shinhotos and their crews, presumably during downtime.
PLA Chi-Ha Shinhoto in a strange livery. The writing says Heroic Tank, but unlike the Gongchen Tank, this is written in Simplified Chinese, which means this is not an original camo scheme.
PLA Chi-Ha Shinhoto in a strange livery. The writing says “Heroic Tank”, but unlike the Gongchen Tank, this is written in Simplified Chinese, which means this is not an original camo scheme. The red and white roadwheels are also suspect. The number “006” is likely not original, as is the strange box added to the turret.
The Gongchen Tank, as discernible by the writing on the side, outside in the Beijing museum. This paint scheme appears faithful to the original.
The Gongchen Tank, as discernible by the writing on the side, outside in the Beijing museum. This paint scheme appears faithful to the original.
The Gongchen Tank, on display in the open
The Gongchen Tank, on display in the open.
A regular PLA Chi-Ha, on display at the Beijing museum.
A regular PLA Chi-Ha, on display at the Beijing museum.
18 PLA Ha-Go tanks on parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949
18 PLA Ha-Go tanks on parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949.
Ha-Go 31414 of the PLA
Ha-Go “31414” of the PLA.

Sources and notes

1 – According to an article from “Weapons Tactical Illustration Magazine” (兵器戰術圖解雜誌) July 2004.
2 – According to “Our Army’s First Tank” by Yin Guowang, article in “Knowledge of Weapons” (or Ordnance Knowledge – its official English title) (兵器知识) magazine, February 1996.
The Tank Division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1945-1949” by Zhang Zhiwei
The author would like to extend his thanks to Dr. Martin Andrew, and a translator (who wishes to remain anonymous) for helping with sources.

Categories
Irish WW1 & after WW1 British Armor WWI British Armored Cars

Daimler-Guinness Armoured Lorries

United Kingdom United Kingdom (1916)
Improvised APC – 5 built

The first APC?

The Daimler-Guinness Armoured Lorries were a little known, lightly-armored truck series that saw service in Ireland in 1916, during the Easter Rising. This is, of course, an unofficial name, as the lorries were just referred to as “Armoured Lorry”, “Armoured Car”, “Boilers”, and other vague names in primary sources, thus creating confusion, especially in the later part of the Rising as to whether sources are referring to a Daimler-Guinness or a different armored car.
The Republican rebels, who held down strategic positions in occupied buildings, were causing massive casualties to the British army. Knowing this, what is perhaps the first APC in the world was built in order to protect soldiers en route to objectives and heavily defended areas. It was made from locomotive parts and donated lorries from the Guinness Brewery.
The Daimler-Guinness can actually stake a claim to being the first armored personnel carrier, or at the very least, the first improvised APC, depending on which paradigm one chooses to define what constitutes an APC. Other vehicles that appear to be APCs were being built around 1916, most notably the Locomobile Armored Car (which was in service with the New York National Guard), but they are arguably not an APCs, and were also not fully enclosed. It is also unclear which month it was built (and therefore which one was made first), but the Daimler-Guinness certainly saw service before the Locomobile.

Context: The Easter Rising

The Easter Rising was an attempt by Irish Republicans to establish an Irish Republic separate from the United Kingdom. Irish Republicanism was a long-standing ideology, which long predates The Troubles (1968-1998). Britain’s engagement in World War I provided an excellent opportunity for Republicans and Nationalists to start a rebellion. The Supreme Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood met on September 5th, 1914, a mere month after Britain joined the war, to discuss the possibility of a rising. By May, 1915, military plans were being drawn up by a newly formed military committee of intellectuals and Republican leaders.
On the morning of Monday April 24th, 1916, an estimated 1200 Republicans from the ICA (Irish Citizen Army), IV (Irish Volunteers), and Cumann na mBan (The Irishwomen’s Council) rose up and occupied various strategic locations across the city, such as Liberty Hall and the General Post Office. The number of rebels was greatly diminished due to the IV’s cancellation of plans (because a weapons shipment for the rebels from Germany was intercepted), thus meaning that Irish Rebel numbers at first matched British military numbers. On the first day, sporadic firefights broke out across the city, mainly involving occupation of buildings from both sides. The rebels did not capture Dublin’s train stations, meaning that an estimated 15,000 more British reinforcements could arrive by the end of the week.
One of the freshly recruited British regiments, the Sherwood Foresters, from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, was engaged in battle on April 26th at Mount Street Bridge – a location which would become notorious for the heavy casualties suffered by the British.
Seventeen rebel snipers occupied a few buildings, having fortified them since the beginning of the Rising. The Sherwood Foresters were spotted by the rebels, and as they reached the junction of the road, were fired upon. The British took heavy casualties, as they lay down in the middle of the open road, and were unable to return fire – they had no munitions, having just returned from maneuvers. Ten lay dead by the end of the engagement, and many more were wounded. The Sherwood Foresters regiment was exceptionally inexperienced, having had to be shown how to load and fire their weapons only once they got off the boat at Dublin. They also did not bring their grenades or Lewis guns, which meant that they could not lay down any heavy fire on occupied buildings. Two days later, more British troops would arrive with heavy reinforcements, including machine guns and artillery in order to capture the bridge.
The warfare experienced by the British was a warfare that they had not been trained for. It was brutal, gritty, and slow-moving urban combat, featuring guerilla warfare from rebels who knew their surroundings. Worse still, the Rising was, for the most part, unforeseen by the British…

Production

The British were seeking to acquire vehicles in order to keep their military effort flowing efficiently throughout the city streets. However, also knowing that heavy casualties were being taken in incidents such as the Battle of Mount Street Bridge (although that battle may have happened after the Daimler-Guinness concept was created), Colonel Bertram Portal at the Curragh Camp (the British rural stronghold in Ireland) decided that improvised armored vehicles would have to be built in order to protect soldiers. They were, essentially, flatbed delivery lorries with locomotive smokeboxes bolted onto the rear, with some armor added elsewhere to the vehicle.
Roughly twenty lorries were donated to the British army by the Guinness Brewery. This included five Daimler-Milnes delivery lorries, which would be converted into Daimler-Guinnesses at Great Southern & Western Railway Company, Inchicore Works. There is a debate as to whether or not the lorries were donated by Guinness or simply ‘appropriated’ by the British Army. However, it is highly likely that the trucks were, in fact, donated. In a letter from General John Maxwell (Commander-in-chief of British forces in Ireland) addressed to A.E. Guinness, dated 17th May, 1916, it is stated:
At this moment when the lorries you have so generously put at our disposal are being returned to you, I would like to take this opportunity of thanking you personally, and your firm, for the splendid spirit you have displayed in coming to our aid during an extremely critical period. I can further assure you that the assistance given to us by your lorries practically saved us from a breakdown in our transport arrangements, and enabled us to get through without a hitch. I should like to bear testimony to the pluck and loyalty with which your drivers have attended to their lorries throughout the late rebellion. It is impossible to speak too highly of their qualities, and I consider they are an honour to their firm and to their country.
The letter is quite clear. In a private letter, Maxwell has no need to lie about the situation – If the lorries were stolen, and if the letter was to be viewed by the public, then, and only then, would Maxwell need to lie. However, even the Republican newspaper “An Phoblacht“, in a 2013 article about Guinness’s loyalism states that there are conflicting reports about how these lorries got into British hands. Notably, thirty-three drivers from the Guinness Brewery also volunteered to drive the donated trucks, and, presumably, drove Daimler-Guinness conversions too, as most soldiers did not know how to drive. Many workers who refused to aid the British when asked were also dismissed, which further suggests that Guinness was a willing collaborator.
There is a suggestion that the smokeboxes used for the conversion were boilers taken from the Guinness Brewery, but it seems as though this is just a misconception. It appears as though they were actually locomotive smokeboxes, as they have features indicative of this such as the double-barred hinges (see photos).
Fairly little is known about the vehicle’s construction at Inchicore, and it is unclear when exactly they were built and when the concept was made. It is likely that the vehicles were constructed at some point between late Monday and early Wednesday. It is believed that the construction of one vehicle took roughly a full workday. The diary of Colonel Bertram Portal would reveal substantial information, but, unfortunately, it was up for auction in 2013, and no transcripts have been released to historians (see Sidenote II below).
It is also likely that the men who built the vehicles wished to remain anonymous, and did not tell their stories, as they collaborated with the British – something which would prove to be an incredibly unpopular move. In a letter from the Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Office at the Inchicore Works addressed to a former secretary at the Bureau of Military History, Dublin, dated November 15th, 1951, it is stated:
Rising of Easter week, 1916. Our Secretary has forwarded me your letter of the 5th November, together with leaflet, and I have gone into the matter very fully and contacted existing members of the staff who were in this Department in 1916, and whilst there is recollection of events at that time, I am afraid there is very little in the way of documentary evidence which would be of assistance to you. It is, for instance, common knowledge that we did under direction of the British Army Authorities, through their Army Ordnance, construct “armoured” vehicles by mounting locomotive boiler barrels on road lorries, as shown on the photographs herewith, but there is no record of the number so turned out, and the only record I can trace is an entry in our Accounts Ledger which reads as follows:- “Half Year Ending 30th June 1916. Works Order A. 282. Military Account, War Office. “Armouring Motor Cars £365*” The wording of the entry and the amount expended would go to show that there was more than one vehicle turned out. This work was carried out by Works employees, chiefly Boilermakers. Having regard to the time that has since elapsed, it is not now possible to produce documents of any kind beyond the ledger Record quoted above. I am also enclosing a group of photographs showing an armoured train, and armoured cars constructed at Inchicore in 1922 which may be of interest.” (*£33,523 in today’s money, 2016)
A recent article from ansionnachfionn.com, reports some dubious and unsubstantiated claims. Firstly, it is reported that Sir William J. Goulding, the owner of the Great Southern and Western Railway (GS&WR), authorized the donation of twelve locomotive smokeboxes to the British for the conversion. There is no evidence to substantiate this claim, and, it appears as though only ten smokeboxes were actually used, as one Type 1 Daimler-Guinness (which is believed to be the first conversion) featured only two smokeboxes. These were larger than the other smokeboxes used on the other Type 1 Daimler-Guinnesses, but it still appears slightly shorter than the others. Secondly, the article reports that the work was carried out by military engineers from the 3rd Reserve Calvary Regiment. In reality, photos appear to show that it was mostly civilians present at the construction of the vehicles, and the above letter from 1951 suggests that it was mainly the boilermakers themselves who carried out the work, only under the direction of British army ordnance. The final dubious claim is that some vehicles had rear-facing Lewis guns. Whilst there is a pistol port notably larger than others (in fact, clearly large enough to mount a Lewis gun) at the rear of the vehicle, the actual use of it by a Lewis gun is not proven to the satisfaction of the author. (See Sidenote IV below)
There were three types of the vehicle:
Type 1 – The most commonly seen version, featuring cylindrical locomotive smokeboxes bolted together and placed on the rear of the vehicle, with a small area of the flatbed extending past the smokeboxes (presumably for ease of access).
Type 1a was made from two long smokeboxes, with four gun ports, and seemingly only two dummy ports painted on each side. The passenger / fighting compartment was slightly shorter than the ones seen on Type 1b and 1c.
Type 1b and 1c were made from four shorter smokeboxes. Type 1b and 1c can only be differentiated by small details, such as the layout of their pistol ports, and support bars on the cab roof. 1c also had substantially more dummy ports painted on than 1b. These are also the most commonly photographed Daimler-Guinnesses.
Type 2 – A box-shaped version with a fighting compartment adjoined to the driver’s compartment. It appears to have been made from steel plates. It has a rectangular rear which appears to be made from two water tanks riveted together. Only one photo is known to exist.
Type 3 – Somewhat similar to the Type 2, but with a V-shaped prow, probably for deflecting bullets. Only two photographs are known to exist, thus meaning further information is unavailable.
As revealed from photographs, Type 1s had holes in the roof for chimneys (smokestacks) sealed up with metal plates, which would be necessary to avoid grenade attacks or rebels firing down into the passenger compartment from above. There was a door at the rear of the vehicle, for entry and exit – for the Type 1, this was the smokebox hatch. It is unclear what kind of hatches the Type 2 and 3 vehicles had. Usually four small pistol ports were added to each side of the smokeboxes, and dummy ports were painted on to confuse snipers – although looking closely at even poor quality photographs, it appears somewhat obvious which are which. Steel plates were also added onto the cab of the vehicle, as well as the engine compartment for protection.

Combat and tactics

Daimler-Guinnesses are most well known to reverse up against entry points to a building, allowing soldiers to enter with minimal casualties from snipers, but they actually performed many roles such as scout, APC, gun-truck, artillery tractor, and general transport of military goods. They could carry an estimated 15-20 soldiers, but there were only four pistol ports on either side, and according to Sergeant Sam Cooper of B company, 2/6th South Staffs, firing from inside was uncomfortable due to the space being too small and enclosed. However, there are reports of the Daimler-Guinness being used to broadside rebel positions, which shows that it was not too uncomfortable. Cooper also recalls that every bullet that bounced on the vehicle’s armor left his ears ringing.
The idea of painting on dummy pistol ports was truly inspired, but its actual effectiveness was dubious. They were quite obvious, and, above all, if weapons were poked out of the pistol ports, it would be clear which ones were real. However, there are no credible reports of snipers ever hitting a soldier who was inside the vehicle. The vehicles were likely to be, for the most part, bulletproof.

Combat at the GPO

All sources agree that the Daimler-Guinness first saw action on Wednesday the 26th. By combining the information as given in AFV news, Caulfield’s “The Easter Rebellion“, and a statement from Volunteer Joseph Sweeney (a sniper on the GPO’s roof), its first engagement is fairly well detailed.
On Wednesday night, a Daimler-Guinness was supporting the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment. They crossed the Liffey over the Butt Bridge, moved along Gardiner Street, turned left onto Parnell Street, and moved up to Moore Street. Then, in order to reassess rebel strength, the vehicle turned off Parnell Street and onto Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street), and stopped in front of the Gresham Hotel. It was spotted by Volunteer Joseph Sweeney, who stated that he, Volunteer Reilly, and three other rebel snipers fired at the vehicle with rifles. All of their bullets ricocheted. Then, Sweeney (and possibly Reilly) decided to fire at the driver’s slits, with the aim of killing the driver in order to disable the vehicle. Between three and five shots were fired by Sweeney, and the vehicle stopped. The vehicle then attempted a restart, but it failed, and lay motionless until later that night. Once dark enough, and when all the lights were all out, it was towed away, reportedly by another Daimler-Guinness.
It is highly unlikely that the vehicle was damaged by, or that the driver was killed by, rebel fire – it seems as though the vehicle suffered from an untimely mechanical failure.
Another engagement at the GPO is reported just before 3pm on Thursday the 27th. According to an account from Max Caulfield’s “The Easter Rising“: “There were constant alarms that the military had begun their attack. Once almost the entire garrison rushed to the northern side of the building, with a few craning dangerously out of the windows to see, after someone had reported an armored car coming down Henry Street. From the roof of the warehouse in Henry Street, Volunteer John Reid and his comrades opened fire on the monster. Bullets bounced harmlessly off its plating, until somebody tossed a bomb and stopped it.” Men were then lined up in the main hall shortly after 3pm, and Patrick Pearse announced the destruction of the vehicle. This may be the only time a Daimler-Guinness was knocked out by rebels.

Combat near the Four Courts

Wednesday – Shortly after 5pm, the Sherwood Foresters, under the command of Colonel Portal marched out of Dublin Castle towards Grattan Bridge. They were pinned down by rebel fire from the Four Courts building, just over the Liffey. A Daimler-Guinness brought sixteen sharpshooters to the Church of the Immaculate Conception opposite the Four Courts building across the river. From behind tombstones, they began to return fire on the rebels, but to no avail. The Daimler-Guinness then towed an 18-pounder gun to Grattan Bridge, and commenced fire with four hits to the east wing, which allowed the Sherwoods to continue their advance.
This account does not appear to be substantiated outside of AFV news. (See Sidenote IV below)

Combat at Capel Street

Wednesday – During the advance up Capel Street, presumably in the evening at some point before 8pm, an unknown number of Daimler-Guinnesses (possibly two), were used to secure buildings. They did this by the typical method of reversing up to building entry points. It is unclear which unit the Daimler-Guinnesses supported.
This account does not appear to be substantiated outside of AFV news. (See Sidenote IV below)

Combat at North King Street

Wednesday – A Daimler-Guinness was spotted by rebels on Bolton Street (north of Parnell Street), but no further details (such as exact time) are available.
This account does not appear to be substantiated outside of AFV news. (See Sidenote IV below)
Thursday – The first well-documented usage of a Daimler-Guinness near North King Street was in fact not in combat. Captain Edmunds of A Company, Sherwood Foresters, was in charge of a sector between Capel Street and Coles Lane. He found a large supply of sacks in a factory in his sector, and unspecified armored cars were used to deliver sandbags filled with earth to be used as barricades at strategic points on Abbey street, west of the GPO, and possibly elsewhere.
Friday – In the early morning, an unspecified armored car was used for reconaissance (presumably a Daimler-Guinness), which took light fire from Mauser bullets. This followed an incident on Thursday in which a Red Cross ambulance attempted to reach the Richmond Hospital, but was fired upon from the rebel barricade.
Despite such minor roles, it was on Friday evening and Saturday morning that the Daimler-Guinness saw its longest and most brutal fighting. North King Street housed a major rebel stronghold known as “Reilly’s Fort“, and the rebels were dug-in deep. Nevertheless, General Maxwell ordered an attack; an encirclement with three battalions was planned. Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Taylor of the 2/6th South Staffs, was given orders to press westwards from Capal Street to join up with the 2/5th South Staffs, who were advancing eastwards from Queen Street. From the Sherwood Foresters, he learned that North King Street was too strongly held for an unsupported infantry assault, so at some point after 5:45pm, an armored car arrived to support the attack. The vehicle slowly drove up the road, and soldiers followed closely behind, firing at all the houses along the street. They broke into houses, occupied them, and tunneled from building to building using pickaxes. In the early stages of the battle, civilians were guided back to the Bolton Street Technical Schools, Taylor’s base of operations.
Two hundred yards up the road, rebel Volunteers Frank Shouldice, Thomas Sherrin, William Murphy, William Hogan, John Williamson, and John Dwan held positions on an iron stairway outside Jameson’s Malt House. They were spotted and the armored car slew across the street and fired broadside at them, thus indicating that this almost certainly a Daimler-Guinness and not another type of armored car. Unharmed, the rebels returned fire, but to no effect. The armored lorry continued to back up against the front doors of houses, to allow infantry to disembark with relative safety. However, this tactic did not negate all casualties. According to Sergeant Sam Cooper of B company, 2/6th South Staffs, one soldier was found dead below a window, probably hit by a sniper shortly after he disembarked from the armored lorry.
The Daimler-Guinness later came close to Sherrin’s position and hailed the Volunteers with bullets. They returned fire and, most importantly, threw grenades at the vehicle, causing it to withdraw. None of the Volunteers were hit in the exchange.
There is a misconception that the Daimler-Guinness smashed through the rebel barricade, but this does not appear to be the case. According to Caulfield, the rebel barricade was still in tact by midnight, and the South Staffs had made very little progress in the battle. This meant that the British had to turn to guerilla tactics…
Saturday – By 2am, the Daimler-Guinness slowly struggled towards the barricade. It came within thirty yards, and stopped to allow a party of soldiers with crowbars and pickaxes to disembark. They broke into House No. 172, owned by Mrs. Sally Hughes, where twenty other families were taking refuge. Hughes recalls that “about thirty soldiers” entered, although this might be an exaggeration. They ransacked the house, then led two civilian men upstairs and shot them dead. The rebels retreated once they heard the pickaxes hammering at the walls.
Songs were heard being sung from the rebel barricades, this astonished the South Staffs to the point where they stopped firing whilst each of several songs were sung. As daylight began to cast over Dublin, the South Staffs stopped tunneling and stormed over the empty rebel barricade, where they took fire from Reilly’s Pub. Seeking cover, the soldiers dashed off into Beresford Street, where Frank Shouldice shot them all dead, one by one, from his iron stairway. By 7am, the rebels began to run out of ammo, and were exhausted. By 9am, Shouldice took a vote with his men; they decided to run from their positions. Soldiers fired on them once they were halfway across the street, but it seems as though they all made it to safety.
By circa May 17th, 1916, all of the remaining Daimler-Guinnesses were in the process of being dismantled. The lorries and smokeboxes were returned to their owners.

Overall significance

The Daimler-Guinness is normally treated as a footnote in history, however this is not because it was a ‘bad’ vehicle with minor significance. As Maxwell stated in his letter to Guinness, the trucks that were given to them were a true help to the British military effort, and this is no exaggeration. In fact, even a simple assessment of its short combat history reveals that the Daimler-Guinness not only allowed the British to adapt their tactics for guerilla warfare, but also preventing the number of British casualties from being so high. If British soldiers had remained unshielded from enemy snipers, the rebels may have even been able to hold out much longer. The artillery barrages from the Gunboat Helga were fairly ineffective against buildings such as the GPO. Even the fearsome 18-pounder guns, with their incendiary rounds, caused few direct casualties. However they did cause plenty of collateral damage, such as effectively gutting the GPO after a roof collapse. It was the soldiers with rifles and machine guns that caused casualties, and the eventual surrender of rebel forces which ended the Rising.
The author notes that the Daimler-Guinness has also probably not become such a renowned symbol because it was, frankly, a British vehicle. Whilst there is much attention pointed at glorifying the Rebel side of the Rising, until recently there has been little on the British side of the story, and if it were a rebel vehicle it would be, without doubt, glorified. The Daimler-Guinness tends to be little more than a footnote in modern sources (particularly museums in Dublin); although a contemporary painting by Archibald McGoogan entitled “After the Bombardment” showing both a Type 1 and 2 Daimler-Guinness is currently on display at the National Library of Ireland’s “Rising” exhibition in Dublin. It can be viewed here. Around Easter 2016, some articles about the Daimler-Guinness have sprung up on the internet; they have provided excellent information and have contributed invaluably to this article.
Originally published on 9 February, 2016.
Sources:
The Easter Rebellion” by Max Caulfield
British Use of Armoured Vehicles During the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Ireland“, article from AFV News Volume 35, No.1, January, 2000.
Revolution in Dublin, a photographic history 1913-1923” by Liz Gillis
Courage Boys, We Are Winning, an illustrated history of the 1916 Rising” by Michael Barry
The Rising, 1916” Newspaper publication, 2016
A Terrible Beauty, 1916“, a docudrama directed by Keith Farrell, 2016
The GPO: Witness History Interpretive Exhibition Centre“, the GPO, Dublin, as visited by the author on 31st March, 2016
Proclaiming a Republic”, Exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin – Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks, as visited by the author on 3rd April, 2016
A letter from General Maxwell to A.E. Guinness, dated 17th May, 1916, as seen in “Courage Boys, We Are Winning, an illustrated history of the 1916 Rising” by Michael Barry
A letter from the Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Office at the Inchicore Works addressed to a former secretary at the Bureau of Military History, Dublin, dated 15th November, 1951, accessible from the Buereau of Military History
ansionnachfionn.com (provides much detailed information, as well as enhanced photographs. Note: there is no apparent source citation on this article, and it does sometimes offer dubious information)
forum.ipmsireland.com (provides many additional photos, some not seen in this article)
Thejournal.ie
Anphoblacht.com
tcd.ie
Irisharmour.blogspot
railwayprotectionrepairandmainten.blogspot.co.uk
eamonnmallie.com
Historyofireland.com
Easter Rising on Wikipedia
BBC.co.uk/history
Irishconstabulary.com
hmvf.com
Longstreet.typepad.com
Irishvolunteers.org
RTE.ie
TheWildGeese.com
TheIrishHistory.com

Daimler Guiness


Rendition of the Daimler-Guinness Type 1b by Tanks Encyclopedia.

Daimler-Guinness Armoured Lorry by Arkhonus

A British soldier sits on the rear of the Daimler-Guinness Type 1b near the Granville Hotel (now the Savoy Cinema), Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street), north of the River Liffey. The smokebox door allowed troops entry and exit, and, reportedly, the ability to be placed against windows and opened, allowing soldiers to storm a building. The two barred hinges can be seen clearly in this photo, which is more typical of a locomotive smokebox than anything else. A large pistol port is seen just above the lower hinge bar, which is clearly larger than the other pistol ports, and a dummy port is seen just above the top hinge bar. This larger port was reportedly for use of a Lewis gun. Source
Possibly on O Connell street
Daimler-Guinness Type 1b, location unknown, possibly Sackville Street. Source
Another view of the Daimler-Guinness Type 1b. Exact location unknown, possibly Sackville Street, or nearby. SourceDaimler Guinness with a crows
Daimler-Guinness Type 1b surrounded by a crowd of civilians on Sackville Street. Source
Daimler Guinness type 1b other view
Believed to be the same vehicle as in the view above, roughly at the same time. Source
boiler
Daimler-Guinness Type 1b from an unknown film, presumably a newsreel, probably from British Pathe. Footage of the Daimler-Guinness can be found in “A Terrible Beauty, 1916“, a docudrama directed by Keith Farrell, 2016, both real and reenactment.
MS 2074
Daimler-Guinness Type 1b, possibly shot from a second story window. Exact location unknown, possibly near to the Four Courts building or the GPO. As taken from Elsie Mahaffy’s scrapbook available here.

HD soldiers with daimler guinness probaly sackville street
Front view of the Daimler-Guinness Type 1c on Sackville Street. The engine compartment and cab have been armored up for protection. Judging by the layout of the painted on pistol ports, this is not the same vehicle as in the above photos. Source

Daimler-Guinness Type 1c, believed to be on Sackville Street. Source

Redacted photo of the Daimler-Guinness Type 1c from 1951, believed to be taken at Kingsbridge Station (now Heuston Station). This is a rare photo of rifles shown poking through the pistol ports. Despite some claims, firing from inside the vehicle was probably not such an uncomfortable experience. Source

Unaltered version of the above photo. Most men appear to be civilians, that being the case, it is likely that the men were airbrushed out because they (or their families) did not wish to be associated with their allegiance to the British. However, it is suggested that military engineers performed the work. A drawing or edited version of this photo was included in  “Popular Mechanics Magazine”, November, 1916, and can be viewed here. Source
more builders of the daimler guinness
Daimler-Guinness Type 1a photographed with its builders. This one seems to be perhaps the rarest Daimler-Guinness, and does not appear to have many dummy ports painted on. The passenger compartment appears to be shorter than other Daimler-Guinnesses, and was seemingly made from only two smokeboxes (which appear wider than other smokeboxes seen on other vehicles, however).
Source


Daimler-Guinness Type 2 at the junction of Sackville Street and Bachelors Walk. The O’Connell monument can be seen in the background. This type was supposedly built when no more smokeboxes could be acquired. This is the only known photograph of it (although other, digitally enhanced versions exist). It may look fake, but this is because the background is out of focus and it is one of the poor quality versions of the photograph. It has been suggested that perhaps two metal water tankers and a few additional steel plates were made for this conversion, which is a very likely explanation. Source

Drawing of a Milnes-Daimler truck. Whilst this one does not belong to the Guinness Brewery, nor is it the exact model, it is very similar to what the Daimler-Guinness armored lorries would be based on. Source

A train built in 1902 at Inchicore. The steambox at the front is incredibly similar to those used on Type 1b and 1c Daimler-Guinnesses. However, it seems as though most of the handles were removed for the conversion, their boltholes still visible. The chimneys, too, were removed and the holes were covered with steel plates. Source

Sidenote I: Other Improvised Armored Vehicles, 1916

Several other improvised armored cars made in 1916 in other workshops at Inchicore, the Guinness Brewery, and another unknown workshop are also reported in “Improvised Armour, From the British Army 1916, to the Islamic State 2016“, an article by ansionnachfionn.com, and AFV news. The only one described in detail in the articles is a QF 3-pounder (it is unstated whether this was a Hotchkiss or a Vickers 3-pounder) mounted on the rear of an armored truck. It was driven on Wednesday 26th to Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire), and on Thursday, it bombarded the rebel 3rd battalion’s position at Boland’s Mill from a firing position at Mount Street Bridge. The rebel 3rd battalion was headed by Eamonn de Valera. de Valera ordered a large, green flag to be hoisted on an empty building three or four hundred yards away. When this was done the British adjusted their fire to the empty building instead. Later that day, the 3-pounder SPG was taken by the Sherwood Foresters to the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham, to an unknown fate. It is unclear why such a modification would be made, presumably it was for providing rapid access to indirect (and possibly direct) heavy fire.

Sidenote II: Colonel Bertram Portal’s Diary

Another reason as to why so little is known is known about the construction of Daimler-Guinness trucks is because the diary of Bertram Portal (who came up with the concept) was lost until 2013, where it was found in a charity shop. It was then up for auction for £28,000 ($39,700). No notes were allowed to be taken, and it seems as though no transcript has been made available to historians. Viewing the transcript would almost certainly reveal invaluable information. According to the auction house, it was unsold and returned to its seller.

Sidenote III: Other Armored Cars at Inchicore, 1922

Between 50 and 150 armored Lancia trucks were supplied to the British, many of which were sent to Ireland. Whilst in service with the Free Staters in 1922, at least 50 were given armored roofs at Inchicore, and another 7 were converted to drive on railways as a result of IRA activity on the railways. Some even had a machine gun turret. These conversions took place between September 1922 and April 1923. More is known about these vehicles than the Daimler-Guinness; there is even newsreel footage from British Pathe (which can be accessed here) showcasing the up-armored Lancias. These vehicles strongly resemble the earlier Pierce-Arrow, as well as other vehicles made in India and Mexico.

This armored Lancia was used as an artillery tractor by the Free Staters during the Irish War of Independence in 1922. Seen here at the junction of Dame street and Georges street in Dublin, looking towards Trinity college. Credit: National Library of Ireland, photographic archives Source.

Sidenote IV: Unsubstantiated Claims

Some information in this article has been noted as potentially unsubstantiated or not proven to the satisfaction of the author. Most primary sources, such as photos, eyewitness accounts, and newsreel footage are available online from the National Library of Ireland Archive, and the [Irish] Bureau of Military History Archives. The two main sources which gave the author trouble with cross-referencing of events are “British Use of Armoured Vehicles During the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Ireland“, an article from AFV News Volume 35, No.1, January, 2000, and “Improvised Armour, From the British Army 1916, to the Islamic State 2016“, an article from ansionnachfionn.com. It is possible that claims and accounts from both AFV news and ansionnachfionn.com have been written using primary sources and accounts from Irish archives which have not seen by the author of this article due to the vast number of accounts that would need to be trawled through.
That being said, neither of these articles state their sources, and some select claims cannot simply be cross-referenced with archives (for reasons stated), nor can they be corroborated by any of the other sources used to write this article – most worryingly, Max Caulfield’s highly regarded “The Easter Rebellion“. Published in 1963, Caulfield was able to interview many survivors of the Easter Rising, which makes it a highly useful source, although some exaggerations may have been made in the euphoria of the coming 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising (in 1966). The role of the Daimler-Guinness in the shelling of the Four Courts by the Sherwood Foresters on Wednesday, as claimed in AFV news, is particularly difficult to substantiate; troubling, as that would be a fairly noteworthy event. Smaller claims, as made by ansionnachfionn.com, such as the use of a rear-mounted Lewis gun are not too unreasonable to assume to be true, there is just a lack of primary evidence.
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Syrian Armor

T-72 Mahmia

Hello dear reader! This article is in a constant state of update, given that it is a contemporary tank. We are also aware that some sources used in this article may be unreliable / untrustworthy. Updates will be made when more reliable information is available.

Syria (Circa 2014-2017)
Main Battle Tank – 8-10 converted (as of March 2017)

Forged by Civil War

T-72 Mahmia (meaning “shielded/protected” in Arabic) is an unofficial name for up-armored T-72s from the Syrian Civil War. These tanks are Syrian Arab Army (government forces) T-72s that have been fitted with additional armor – mostly cages, chains, and spaced armor (reported by an SAA source to actually be some type of simple composite) – in order to protect the tanks from RPGs and missiles. They were first seen in combat in 2014 at Jobar, a suburb of Damascus, and have been seen commonly since. Various combat footage and photographs show that the upgrades are somewhat reliable against RPGs, but are often no match for modern ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles). The vehicle is perhaps more commonly known as “T-72 Adra“, but this is a western name, and the name “Mahmia” has been chosen, as Syrian sources refer to the vehicle as “Shielded tank“.
Other tank models have been upgraded in a similar fashion, such as the ZSU-23-4, but the Mahmia upgrades are mostly given to T-72s. Tanks with much more hasty armor upgrades, such as spent shell cases fastened to the turret and hull, and tanks with bricks replacing lost ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor), are not included under the unofficial designation “T-72 Mahmia“, as they are either precursors or separate upgrades.

Fairly typical early-production T-72 Mahmia with the usual balls and chain armor. This chain armor proved ineffective at stopping missiles.

Context: T-72s in Syria

An estimated 700 T-72s are believed to have been delivered to Syria in four batches. The first two batches came from the USSR. The first, in the late 1970s, consisted of 150 T-72s (the initial production type, the Object 172M, AKA T-72 “Urals”) and the second batch, consisting of 300 T-72As, came in 1982. The T-72As were a very rare export, as these were not even sold to Warsaw Pact countries under the USSR. The 300 T-72As were divided between the Republican Guard and the 4th Armored Division, and were all eventually upgraded into T-72AVs, featuring Kontakt-1 ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor).
The third batch of T-72s consisted of 252 T-72M1s, which were ordered from Czechoslovakia, of which only 194 were delivered in 1992 due to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Slovakia eventually delivered the remaining T-72M1s in 1993, in what can be considered a fourth batch.
Between 2003 and 2006, 122 T-72s, of all types, were upgraded with Italian TURMS-T FCS (Tank Universal Reconfiguration Modular System T-Series Fire Control System) and tanks upgraded to this standard had the letter ‘S’ added onto their designations. ‘S’ stands for “Saroukh“, meaning “Missile“, which refers to these tanks being able to fire the 9M119(M) guided AT missiles from their guns. An estimated 100 of these upgraded vehicles are in service as of 2014, mostly in service with the Republican Guard. Some were lost in Damascus in 2013 during the early stages of the Civil War, but the remainder are believed to be held in reserve thus far, because T-55s and T-62s are in such large supply.
Syrian T-72M1 with TURMS-T Fire Control System
Syrian T-72M1S, a T-72M1 fitted with TURMS-T Fire Control System.
An estimated 300 T-72s, of all types, remain in service as of 2014. 19 T-72s (13 T-72 Object 172Ms, and 6 T-72AVs) are operated by ISIL, and 8 (2 purchased from a corrupt officer, and 6 captured, of which 1 is a T-72M1S) are in use by Jaish-Al Islam. The rest are still operated by government forces.
Oryx blog gives an excellent overview of T-72s in Syria, which can be viewed here.

Design Process

Thanks to social media, the history of the design of the T-72 Mahmia has been fairly well documented. According to the Oryx blog, the T-72 Mahmia was the result of experiments by the Syrian 4th Armored Division, an elite unit of mostly career soldiers, often regarded as Syria’s most elite force. However, this was not the first attempt by the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) at providing additional protection for tanks.

Precursor: Bricks and spent shell case armor

All too common are photos of battle-worn T-72AVs fitted with exceptionally crude armor upgrades. These come in two distinct types. The first is mesh baskets on the turret (presumably made from thin metal pipes or similar commercial materials such as wall insulation mesh) which are filled with building bricks and rubble in order to replace Kontakt-1 ERA which has been lost. This was a modification usually done to the turret, but some examples show mesh sideskirts made from a similar material. For the sake of clarity, the unofficial name of “T-72AV Labna” (meaning “brick”) will be used to designate these. Tanks upgraded in this fashion still appear today, with new innovations such as sandbags being used instead of rubble. It is reported that this was a design first introduced by the 4th Armored Division.
The second type of improvised uparmoring is spent shell cases being strapped to the vehicle’s hull and turret, often with a similar mesh basket / cradle as seen on T-72AV Labna tanks. Various types of vehicles use this type of uparmoring, including T-72s and T-55s.
A T-55 fitted with spent shell cases as spaced armor. The effectiveness and reliability of this upgrade is very questionable, but was a precursor to the T-72 Mahmia.
A T-62 fitted with spent shell cases as spaced armor. The effectiveness and reliability of this upgrade are very questionable but was a precursor to the T-72 Mahmia.
It seems likely that these upgrades were an attempt to stop missiles and RPGs from penetrating armor, but without a doubt, the real combat effectiveness of these improvised and crude up-armoring ideas is negligible. Whilst they might cause an RPG to explode a short distance away from the armor, it is probable that the rubble or thin shell cases would not absorb the impact, and the projectile may still damage the vehicle in some manner.
In short, these crude upgrades were simply not up to the task, but the idea of up-armoring was sound enough to receive further attention.

A precursor of the T-72 Mahmia, the “T-72AV Labna” (“brick”), again, another unofficial name. It appears as though these were T-72AVs with their lost ERA replaced by bricks. Credits: Oryx blog.

Precursor: Early 4th Armored Division Experiments

The elite 4th Armored Division realized the potential of spaced armor as an effective means of stopping RPGs, and as a result, began experimenting with more conventional designs on their T-72s, and possibly BMP-1s. Two distinct types of experimental T-72 upgrades were trialed.
The first type had three metal sheets strapped to the turret with sandbags filling in the gaps, a long metal sheet strapped onto the side of the hull as a sideskirt, and spent shell cases added to the top of the new sideskirt. Some also had shells strapped vertically to the front of the hull.
T-72 upgraded with a long sideskirt, sandbags behind metal sheets on the turret, and T-72 shells above the sideskirt and on the front hull.
T-72 upgraded with a long sideskirt, sandbags behind metal sheets on the turret, and T-72 shells above the sideskirt and on the front hull. This was one of the later prototypes eventually leading to the iconic T-72 Mahmia.
A second experiment was made by giving T-72 Urals with the TURMS-T upgrade sets of all around cage armor. This type was only seen at vehicles operating near Aleppo. Some may have had additional sandbags placed behind the turret cage armor.
Two examples of the second type of experimental T-72 upgrade, featuring slat armor, and possibly additional sandbags in the turret.
Two examples of the second type of experimental T-72 upgrade, featuring slat armor, and possibly additional sandbags in the turret. Near Aleppo, circa early 2014.
It is unclear how these vehicles fared in combat, but without doubt, both types of upgrade had potential, and it seems as though in the summer of 2014, the two designs were combined to make the T-72 Mahmia.

1st Generation T-72 Mahmia

From August 2014, the 4th Armored Divison began to upgrade T-72M1s, as well as military bulldozers, and at least one ZSU-23-4 “Shilka” from their workshop in Adra (north of Damascus). This has earned them their unofficial name of “T-72 Adra“, but primary sources (such as tweets and Youtube videos from Syrians) refer to them as “Shielded T-72s” or “Shielded Tanks“, hence the name “T-72 Mahmia“, meaning “shielded“. It is highly likely that the 4th Armored Division may have a specific, but unofficial, name for these T-72s.
The “1st generation” (or initial production) T-72 Mahmias have cages with what appears to be spaced armor bolted and welded onto the tank with support beams. Chains with steel balls, similar to those seen on Merkava tanks, were added to new hull side-skirts and below the turret’s cage armor. The only gaps in the cage were a small, rectangular hole to allow the gun to elevate, and a gap for the rangefinder. These armor packages appear to be fairly standardized, although some design differences do exist. The front of the hull typically had a thin girder with chain armor attached to it.
The armor would serve the job of stopping enemy rockets and explosives from penetrating the tank’s hull or turret. RPGs, especially, would hit the cages and explode some distance away from the tank’s armor, thus not being able to penetrate the vehicle, and ultimately, causing damage only to the cage at best.

It is commonplace for T-72 Mahmia to have a new, typically two-tone, camouflage, as opposed to typical sand or green liveries. This is a key indicator as to whether a vehicle has been upgraded in the field or at the Adra workshop, as new liveries only appear to have been given by the 4th Armored Division.
The first batch of upgraded tanks were three T-72M1s, which were sent to Jobar, in the northeast of Damascus. More conversions followed soon after.

Spaced or Composite Armor?

An SAA source reports that the armor seen on T-72 Mahmias are not, as many people think, merely spaced armor. The armor boxes, especially on the front of the hull, are actually a type of composite armor, which are in fact filled with an unknown material. The source refuses to inform us of the material.
The source reports: “[the armor] is not spaced. The boxes are not empty as people think, at first, yes, it was, but not now. It’s not like a secret, it’s just people will make fun from it [sic], and no one will care for the fact that it is useful and the budget is low. For me, it’s a great hack, I will not publish it, just so no one will make fun of these guys’ effort. It stopped many RPG-29s, and it’s a great result. We are using something extremely unusual... …I’ve heard the armor weights around 10 tons. I personally believe it’s between 10-14 tons.

Changes over time

The T-72 Mahmia’s design has gradually changed over time. It appears as though some T-72 Mahmias have had field modifications. It is difficult to identify these from photographs, but one appears to concern heightening the turret cage armor with additional commercial materials, such as thin metal wall insulation meshes.
It appears as though the success and failure of certain field modifications (taking place outside of the Adra workshop) have filtered back to the workshop, and have created a new generation of T-72 Mahmia. Given that these changes were gradual and happened over time, various hybrid T-72 Mahmias exist, showing examples of the 1st and 2nd generation vehicles.
Nevertheless, these hybrids are few, and therefore, the T-72 Mahmia can be generally understood as currently being in two generations.

2nd Generation T-72 Mahmia

The 1st generation of T-72 Mahmia has two major flaws. Firstly, the cage armor does not protect the vehicle from above, and a well-aimed RPG shot from a window is likely to knock the tank out. Secondly, the ball and chain armor do not appear to have been able to stop RPGs, let alone ATGMs.
These are clearly well-known limitations and have been addressed in recent months. In 2016, photos and reports began flooding in showing a new standard of Mahmia upgrade. The key differences are the use of thicker girders to hold appliqué and cage armor to the vehicle, the removal of ball and chain armor, the inclusion of a larger hull bumper (apparently some were made from I-girders) with spaced armor added onto it, the cage armor being heightened, and more, apparently thicker, spaced armor being added to the glacis plates.
The heightened cage armor on the turret would provide optimum protection with minimal obstruction to crew hatches, but this would endanger the crew. They may not be able to quickly abandon the tank, as it appears as though they would have to scramble over the cage to escape the vehicle.
The larger and strengthened bumper with its spaced (or, indeed) composite) armor may also provide some actual protection against RPGs and small missiles, whereas early type T-72 Mahmias with thin bumpers with chain armor would not. Similarly, the use of thicker girders would make the additional armor more sturdy as a whole, and would perhaps make the armor less likely to be damaged by careless driving.

T-72 Mahmia, second generation, with heightened turret cage and armor added to the glacis plate. There is space left for the gun to elevate, and such a design would allow better protection for the turret when fighting on uneven ground, but it would still obstruct the crew from quickly bailing out.

Miscellaneous Field Modifications

Not all field modifications were successful. There are some photos of some T-72s having substantial amounts of cage armor, particularly with cages enclosing the turret completely from above. At least two examples of this type are known, but did this does not appear to have become a widespread upgrade. Firstly, such an upgrade would significantly increase the vehicle’s weight. Secondly, the vehicle would have its size and silhouette significantly increased, making it an obvious target. Thirdly, it might have taken up too many resources to upgrade all tanks like this. Finally, if the crew needed to abandon the tank in an emergency, the cage would prevent them from easily escaping.
T-72 Mahmia with total protection for the turret. This was seen on at least two examples, but is not likely to have been a successful upgrade, due to it causing the crew trouble with bailing out in emergencies.
T-72 Mahmia with total protection for the turret. This was seen on at least two examples but is not likely to have been a successful upgrade, due to it causing the crew trouble with bailing out in emergencies.
As the civil war rages on, it is almost certain that a new generation of T-72 Mahmia will be seen. Due to attempts by the SAA to improve their T-72 armor upgrades, the Mahmia, as it is known, may cease to be built ever again, and may be replaced with new projects (see below).

Combat

Combat evidence, mainly photos and videos, show that the T-72 Mahmia could only resist RPGs consistently, and had only some potential to resisting ATGMs. The most common problem appears to be internal fires caused by ATGMs, but crew abandonment is a close second. Social media provides almost daily updates on the Syrian Civil War, and from this, it is easy to find a variety of case studies with which to build up a picture of the T-72 Mahmia’s combat effectiveness.

Jobar

The first ever produced T-72 Mahmias at Jobar had very mixed results – of the three sent to combat, only one appears to have survived. One appears to have been damaged, set alight, and abandoned by its crew near the Kamal Masharaqah Barracks. Another was totally destroyed, apparently from a major interior explosion, given that the entire hull was blown open, the cage armor was strewn around the wreckage, and the turret was blown off. The third seems to have survived.

Resisting ATGMs?

However, these vehicles may not have been destroyed by a single ATGM hit. There is some evidence to suggest that the T-72 Mahmia could withstand at least one hit:
On 8th October, 2016, the Syrian Army reported that a T-72 Mahmia was hit twice by a Malyutka ATGM. The first hit, apparently, did not destroy the tank, but caused the crew to abandoned the vehicle. However, the second hit appears to have caused an internal fire to break out, which destroyed the vehicle. It is unclear if the first hit dislodged any armor or not, or whether it caused any major damage, and the photograph provided gives no clues.
T-72 Mahmia hit twice by Malyutka ATGMs, October 8th, 2016.
T-72 Mahmia hit twice by Malyutka ATGMs, October 8th, 2016, near Damascus.

Careless driving damage?

Some photographs of reportedly battle-damaged T-72 Mahmias show that the cage armor has been twisted out of shape or totally dislodged and needs replacing. It remains unclear if this is as a result of bad driving, or the vehicle being able to resist large explosives. The photograph below is one of these examples and is rather inconclusive.
Damaged T-72 Mahmia, 1st generation. It is unclear what has caused this damage to the vehicle.
Damaged T-72 Mahmia, 1st generation. It is unclear what has caused this damage to the vehicle. It may be from an ATGM impact, but it may also be a case of bad driving. There are no apparent scorch marks on the vehicle’s remaining armor, with the possible exception of the bent turret cage armor.

Wadi Barada

Around 17th January 2017, another T-72 Mahmia at Wadi Barada, was destroyed by an internal fire, probably having been hit by an ATGM.

Footage of the T-72 Mahmia, destroyed at Wadi Barada, 17th January, 2017.

Resisting RPG-29 hits

On 23rd March, 2017, a T-72 Mahmia was hit by two RPG-29s. The first hit damaged the additional armor, but did not hit the original turret. A second RPG-29 was deflected by the vehicle’s additional armor. The tank merely needed a section of its additional armor to be replaced.

T-72 Mahmia, having taken a hit to its armor by two RPG-29s, 23rd March 2017. The damage appears superficial.
On April 16th, 2017, a T-72 Mahmia was hit by an RPG-29 at Qaboun. The RPG hit the vehicle but did not penetrate the tank. However, the shockwave injured the commander, who is reported to have sustained internal bleeding, and some broken bones from the shock. The vehicle was put back into service on April 17th. The T-72 Mahmia was hit alongside the T-72AV Shafrah, which was immobilized by an enemy AT mine, and later burned by rebels to prevent recovery.

Resisting IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices)

On 18th April 2017, a T-72 Mahmia was hit by a Free Syrian Army IED directly underneath the driver’s compartment at Qaboun. The driver, Mohammed Abdu Allah was killed, but the commander and gunner managed to escape. The vehicle was set alight by the Free Syrian Army shortly after, in order to prevent recovery.

T-72 Mahmia, hit by an FSA IED on 18th April, 2017. The driver was killed, but the commander and gunner escaped. The tank was burned by the FSA after it was abandoned, in order to prevent recovery.

The T-72 Mahmia, hit by an IED on 18th April, 2017, after the fire had died down.

Conclusions on combat

Unfortunately, without further evidence, it remains only likely that the vehicle could resist ATGMs in rare instances. It is also unknown if the T-72 Mahmia has engaged in tank-on-tank combat thus far.
Video footage shows that T-72 Mahmias are, in recent times, being used in a combined arms effort. Footage from an assault at Deir Al Khaimah, western Ghouta, near to Damascus, shows that the T-72 Mahmia is used in an infantry support role in urban areas. This is in contrast to non-shielded T-72s, which are typically dug in and used alongside field guns. Thus, there should be little doubt that T-72 Mahmias are being used for urban assaults, and not just general purpose upgrades.

T-72 Mahmias deployed in an a combined arms assault at Deir Al Khaimah, western Ghouta, near Damascus.

A fairly typical initial batch T-72 Mahmia
A fairly typical T-72 Mahmia, 1st generation. The 1st generation designs featured chain armor, thin support beams, and only some pieces of spaced armor.
Later type T-72 Mahmia, with removed chains, and additional steel plates
Second generation T-72 Mahmia. These vehicles had additional steel plates, and heightened cage armor, but did not feature ball and chain armor, as the balls and chains were ineffective at stopping enemy missiles. The cage armor is also slightly taller than usual, and the front bumper is made from a thick I-girder.
Early type T-72 Mahmia. Notice the hole in the cage armor for the rangefinder
Early type T-72 Mahmia with chain armor on the front hull attached to a small bumper. Notice the hole in the cage armor for the rangefinder.
Another example of a T-72 Mahmia with total cage armor protection. This one appears to be much large than other examples, and whilst it may provide better protection, it would, no doubt, make the vehicle much heavier, unwieldy, and it would possibly take up too many resources per tank.
An example of a T-72 Mahmia with total cage armor protection. This one appears to be much large than other examples, and whilst it may provide better protection, it would, no doubt, make the vehicle much heavier, unwieldy, and it would possibly take up too many resources per tank.
Transitional T-72 Mahmias. These have been field converted to include more steel plates, but still retain some steel chains and balls
Transitional T-72 Mahmias – whilst they still feature chains on the turret, the hull fronts have not been fitted with chains, and instead have spaced armor on enlarged bumpers. The one on the right appears battle damaged or, more likely, poorly driven, as it is missing many steel chains, and the spaced armor is bent out of shape.

Different view of the above.
T-72 Mahmia, probably from the same batch as the above. It shows signs of battle damage, or, more likely, careless driving, as it is missing some chains, and the cages and fenders are bent out of shape.
T-72 Mahmia, probably from the same batch as the above. It shows signs of battle damage, or, more likely, careless driving, as it is missing some chains, and the cages and fenders are bent out of shape.
T-72 Mahmia, which appears to be a little battle worn. There is an additional thin screen over the turret cage, likely a commercial wall insulation mesh.
T-72 Mahmia, which appears to be a little battle worn. There is an additional thin screen over the turret cage, likely a commercial wall insulation mesh or some type of fencing. This is likely a field modification, although it is unclear why it has been added. It may be a field repair to the damaged turret cage, or possibly a means of heightening the cage armor.
T-72 with a huge amount of additional steel plate added to the hull. This would, no doubt, significantly increase the vehicle's weight. It is unclear how thick the plate is, or if it is solid.
T-72 Mahmia with a huge amount of additional steel plate added to the hull. This would, no doubt, significantly increase the vehicle’s weight. It is unclear how thick the plate is, but it clearly is not solid as it is welded on and buckled in places. It is likely a rather thin sheet of probably mild steel, which is why small rockets (top right, and above the left tow hook) have become physically embedded in it. The remnants of the brown blob of the new paintwork can be seen where the missile hit.
T-72AV with crude cage armor. This was a precursor to the T-72 Mahmia, and often was used to replace lost ERA bricks with construction bricks
T-72AV Labna with crude cage armor. This was a precursor to the T-72 Mahmia, and often was used to replace lost ERA bricks with construction bricks. The effectiveness of the upgrade is questionable.
One of two initial experiments from the 4th Armored Division. This is an example of the type featuring long sheets of metal as sideskirt armor, some plates added to the turret, and spent shell cases fitted above the sideskirt.
One of two initial experiments from the 4th Armored Division. This is an example of the type featuring long sheets of metal as sideskirt armor, some plates added to the turret, and spent shell cases fitted above the sideskirt.
ZSU-23-4
ZSU-23-4 “Mahmia” of the 4th Armored Division. This vehicle would likely be used for heavy anti-infantry purposes, particularly for engaging rebels in tall apartment blocks. It is believed that there are multiple ZSU-23-4s upgraded to the Mahmia standard. Close inspection reveals that these are actually modular armor boxes, which can be removed. These are also reported by an SAA source not to be mere spaced armor, but some type of composite armor, the make-up of which is being kept secret; however, the source does report that the make-up is very simplistic, but effective.

Bulldozer of the 4th Armored Division upgraded to the Mahmia standard.
Bulldozer of the 4th Armored Division upgraded to the Mahmia standard. This particular one is reported as being destroyed in December, 2014, at Jobar. It was immobilized, having been hit by numerous times by RPGs, and anti-materiel rifles. Afterwards, rebel fighters tunneled to the vehicle and detonated a satchel charge beneath it, causing an internal fire. The armor boxes are also modular and likely composite armor.

Further Developments

T-72 Grendizer

It seems more than likely that thicker armor will be developed in order to resist ATGMs. The possibility of seeing composite armor is highly likely. According to a tweet by SyrianMilitaryCap., a new vehicle, the “T-72 Grendizer” is being developed. The short tweet states that this will be a “T-55 Enigma, reborn“, likely indicating the use of composite armor.
The T-55 Enigma of Iraq, circa 1989, was a T-55 that was given modular composite armor blocks. It was a crudely built design, as evidenced by the plentiful and poor quality weld beads on the armor upgrade package. It is believed to have been built with fairly similar production capacity to the Mahmias in Syria, as sources suggest that Iraqi arms production was restricted to workshops with fairly limited industrial capabilities (with the possible exception of the Asad Babil and Saddam MBTs, the existence of which is still in debate).
However, the key difference is that the design of the T-55 Enigma was, from the outset, and by no coincidence, able to resist ATGMs.
A seemingly much more advanced application of military science was used in the construction of the T-55 Enigma compared to the T-72 Mahmia, given that the upgrade concerned giving the vehicle composite armor, not basic cage and spaced armor. The T-55 Enigma had modular armor boxes that had seven layers of steel plate and rubber sheeting inside, spaced apart by roughly a centimeter. What this meant for the T-55 Enigma is that it was able to resist ATGM hits, as evidenced in the Battle of Khafji (1991).
Diagram explaining the T-55 Enigma's composite armor
Diagram explaining the T-55 Enigma’s composite armor.
The T-72 Grendizer, should the vehicle ever appear, likely comes as a result of two factors. Firstly, the T-72 Mahmia is somewhat unreliable, if not ineffective, at resisting ATGMs. Secondly, it appears as though uparmoring T-72s and other vehicles has become standard practice in the SAA, with resources being reorganized for mass upgrades of all types of AFVs.
Without doubt, a lot of resources would be required if the Enigma upgrade is to be replicated in Syria, and there is a major question as to whether or not the 4th Armored Division has the manufacturing capability, or the necessary resources to replicate the Enigma upgrade.
The fact that it has been over four months since the T-72 Grendizer has been announced may point towards the Syrians not having the capabilities to make such a vehicle, but only time will tell. Perhaps the key difference between the Enigma’s and the Mahmia’s production is that the Enigma appears to have been a major military project backed by state resources. Given that uparmoring of tanks seems to have become nationwide practice in Syria, it is not unreasonable to expect the T-72 Grendizer to appear soon.

T-72AV Shafrah

Since the original publication of this article in February 2017, new info has come to light. The T-72AV Shafrah (“Sharp Knife”) is claimed to be a testbed for a new set of armor designed for the future T-72 Grendizer. The Shahfrah has been seen in combat consistently from February 2017. It is essentially an attempt to develop spaced armor that is more resistant against ATGMs.
The owner of the Within Syria blog reports that the armor is composed of plates angled at various inclinations (40-60 degrees) of 1.5-2 mm RHA, tungsten, and glass fiber, welded to a bar frame on the turret and side of the hull. The tungsten part is rumored to consist of 1mm thick copper-tungsten. However, with a budget of $5000-10,000, the 4th Armored Division is unlikely to be able to use tungsten. The vehicle also received very thick plates on top of its front glacis.
The source reports that 8-10 T-72 Mahmia tanks have been built, but there are far more T-72s approved for the upgrade. However, these might actually be upgraded to the Grendizer standard once the project is finalized. It is also claimed that the upgraded T-72s are only needed in and around Damascus, due to the dangers of urban combat.

The T-72AV Shafrah, likely a testbed for the T-72 Grendizer’s armor.

Sidenote: T-55 cage upgrades

Photos ranging from mid-2015 to February, 2016, seem to show T-55 tanks upgraded to a Mahmia-like standard. These seem to incorporate typical 2nd generation T-72 Mahmia upgrades, such as slat armor (but no chains), and a new large fender. However, there are some differences. Firstly, there is no additional spaced or composite armor. Secondly, the cages are not bolted onto the vehicle with large support beams, but rather are fitted directly onto the turret, and are curved. Thirdly, the turret-mounted DShK is commonly covered by a shield for the commander. Finally, the front of the hull also has a cage, which is not seen on T-72 Mahmias. It seems highly likely that these are standardized workshop upgrades.
A T-55 fitted with cage armor, similar to the above. A new fender can be seen on the far right of the front of the hull. Additional munitions are clearly stored in the turret cage.
A T-55 fitted with cage armor, similar to the above. A new fender can be seen on the far right of the front of the hull. Additional munitions are clearly stored in the turret cage.
Commentators will suggest that T-55s are in large supply to the Syrian Arab Army, with some reports suggesting that T-55s and T-62s are being supplied to Syria from Russia. Thus, they go on to suggest that T-55s are somewhat expendable enough to not require up-armoring, unfortunately for their crews. Despite this, it seems inevitable that all vehicles will be uparmored in some manner.
A T-55 upgraded in a manner similar to the Mahmia. The armor differs from, even if it resembles, a T-72 Mahmia's armor
A T-55 upgraded in a manner similar to the Mahmia. The armor differs from, even if it resembles, a T-72 Mahmia’s armor.

T-72 Mahmia and a VT-55KS assaulting near Daraya.

Sources

Correspondence with an SAA source, regarding the uparmored tanks in Syria.
T-72 Main Battle Tank 1974-1993” by Steven J. Zaloga
southfront.org
southfront.org 2nd page
armyrecognition.com
spioenkop.blogspot
spioenkop.blogspot 2nd page
syria.liveuamap.com
sturgeonshouse.ipbhost.com
ar15.com forums
otvaga2004.mybb.ru
bellingcat.com
timesofisrael.com
menadefense.net

Syrian early T-72
Syrian T-72 Ural in a rare three-tone camouflage.

Syrian T-72B
Syrian T-72AV of the Republican Guard. T-72s of the Republican Guard were painted in a sand livery, whereas the 4th Armored Division’s tanks tended to be green.

T-72 Mahmia, early type with chain armor.
T-72 Mahmia, early type with chain armor.

All Illustrations are done by Tanks Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Categories
Iraqi armor

T-55 Enigma

Iraq (Circa 1988-1990) Main Battle Tank – Estimated 5-8 Converted

A Real Enigma

The “T-55 Enigma” (or Enigma, for short) is the unofficial name for an upgrade standard applied to a few Iraqi T-55s. According to some Iraqis, the official name was “Al Faw”. As the western name suggests, very little is known about the T-55 Enigma aside from what can be ascertained from models captured during the First Gulf War (1990-1991) by Coalition forces. In short, the upgrade concerned giving the vehicle a huge amount of crude, but effective, composite armor. However, Enigmas suffered from one major flaw – being based on an outdated chassis. As a result, in their short combat history, Enigmas were simply no match for Coalition forces, even if the vehicles could (sometimes) resist AT missile strikes. It is estimated that no more than eight (but no fewer than five) Enigmas ever existed (based on photographs), with at least four (possibly five) on display in museums today.
T-55 Enigma, serving as a gate guardian for the 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion, Aberdeen Proving Ground.
T-55 Enigma serving as a gate guardian for the 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion, Aberdeen Proving Ground. The turret DShK has been removed, but the mount is still there. The example at Bovington, too, has this mount, but some other Enigmas do not appear to have been fitted with DShKs at all.

Design

The Enigma appears to be little more than a T-55 with a crude armor upgrade. Essentially, large armor boxes have been fitted to the turret and front and sides of the hull. These are held in place mostly by bolts and brackets. These armor boxes are composite armor – inside the steel boxes are four plates of steel and rubber which are spaced apart by a few centimeters, although at least two captured Engimas did not use rubber sheeting.
It seems likely that the idea was to try to create an armor upgrade that can resist HEAT shells (High Explosive Anti Tank) and ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles). This was no doubt a lesson hard learned in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), in which both sides used missiles such as the BGM-71 TOW, AGM 65 Maverick, and similar missiles in an anti-tank role to devastating effect. Post-capture testing by Coalition forces has also proven that the armor is resistant to HESH (High Explosive Squash Head) shells.

T-55 Enigma armor thickness diagram.
The Enigma has a total of thirty-two armor blocks added. Eight blocks of armor are mounted on either side of the hull mounted on brackets, two large boxes are riveted to the upper glacis plate (with two small boxes above the front mudguards to cover an otherwise bare area), eight blocks are fitted to the turret (two with hinges to allow the driver to enter and exit his hatch unimpeded) on brackets, and four thin boxes are fitted to the rear of the turret on a counterweight rail.
As a result, the weight of the tank was increased to an estimated 41 t, compared to the T-55’s 36 t, no doubt making the tank a lot less agile.

How crudely built were the Enigmas?

The Enigma was evidently a crude and cheap upgrade package. Visible examples of the design’s crudeness include the low-quality materials used in the armor boxes, the fact that the armor boxes are hardly standardized (with few being the same exact size), the sheer number of poor quality weld beads, and some of the armor being only bolted or bracketed onto the vehicle. Worse still, the armor has numerous gaps (compared to something such as the T-90AM, with no gaps in its Explosive Reactive Armor) that a missile could easily slip through – for example, the gun mantlet has had no further uparmoring.
Having said this, Enigmas were not exactly hasty improvised conversions as seen in recent years, such as in the Syrian Civil War (2011+). In fact, some clear planning had gone into the design with examples of this including:

  • The turret armor box above the driver’s hatch can lift up to allow access the driver’s hatch.
  • A turret armor block on the far right of the turret can lift up, most likely to allow access to the engine. This would mean that the turret would be traversed to the right, and the armor box could be lifted out of the way of the engine access hatch.
  • The two upper glacis plate boxes have rectangular holes in them to allow access to the towing hooks.
  • The inclusion of the turret counterweight.
  • All of the vehicle’s external lights have been carried over from the T-55 before conversion, and have been rewired and mounted onto the new armor.
  • Most photos show the vehicles looking very worn, often with chipped paint and sometimes even rust. Keep in mind that these photos are of the vehicles after combat, as opposed to ‘factory fresh’. Similarly, the T-55s used for the conversion were also at least a few decades old, anyway.

All in all, the Enigma upgrade should not be seen as hasty, improvised, or poorly thought out, but rather cheaply done with crude materials.
Closeup of the turret rear of the Enigma at Bovington.
Closeup of the turret rear of the Enigma at Bovington. Credits: Vladimir Yakubov, SVSM.org

Likely History

The design history of Enigma is unknown, but some details can be worked out from the context.
The first Enigma was actually based on a Type 69-II and was presented at the Baghdad Arms Fair in 1989, but this does not mark the start of the project. The start of the project is likely to be closer to the later Iran-Iraq War.
The actual production run of the Enigmas has been narrowed down to between 1988 and 1990. This is because Enigmas were first encountered in First Gulf War at the Battle of Khafji (29th January – 2nd February, 1991), and because the first Enigma package (the Type 69-II at the Baghdad Arms Fair was possibly even a prototype) was first seen in 1989. Assuming this to be true, it can generally be assumed that the project started, at earliest, towards the end of the Iran-Iraq War. Given that Enigmas were encountered in January 1991, this only gives an approximate three-year window for the conversions to have taken place – 1988-1990.
Of course, it is also possible that the Type 69-II was not a prototype as such, but a demonstrator tank using the most modern hull available to show off to visitors.
The reasons as to why the Enigmas were created seems fairly obvious. As mentioned earlier, it can be generally assumed that the conversion was a means of stopping modern missiles, but with a very small budget. Around this time, many cheap and crude conversions were made by Iraq. These include, but are not limited to, the T-55QM2 (which was actually a Type 69-II with a T-72’s 125mm smoothbore gun, and apparently a prototype only), the T-55/130 (a one-off crude SPG using a 130mm field gun based on a T-55 chassis), T-55/160 (a small number, estimated 18, of self-propelled mortar carriers on the T-54/55 chassis mounting a 160mm mortar), and the OT-62 Cascavel (an OT-62 with an EE-9 Cascavel turret mounted, also likely a one-off).
These vehicles (and some other much more obscure conversions) were likely built in anticipation of combat with a markedly technologically superior force. However, it is also possible that they were made as a cheap and quick means of rebuilding Iraq’s armored forces. Many Iraqi tanks were knocked out in the Iran-Iraq War and needed replacing. Iraqi arms production at this time was believed to be limited to local workshops and small-scale factories, which produced conversions such as the T-55 Enigma, assembled cheap tanks such as the Asad Babil, and made copies of Soviet and Chinese field guns.
Iraq’s economy was devastated by the Iran-Iraq War, partly from buying so many foreign arms, but also from the fact that the country had been in a devastating war for eight years, with high casualties.
Importing foreign arms was hardly a likely solution, either. Iraq was in serious debt to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia following the Iran-Iraq War. Demands for the debts to be forgiven were denied, and this would be a factor that led to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The invasion of Kuwait prompted the adoption of United Nations Security Resolution 661, which led to serious economic sanctions on Iraq, including the prohibition of arms deals to Iraq, which had effectively propped up the Iraqi army during the Iran-Iraq War.
Given the context, it seems more than likely that the Enigmas existed as the absolute best that the Iraqis could produce to bring their AFVs closer to a modern standard.

Combat

The T-55 Enigma was first encountered in the First Gulf War by Coalition forces during the Battle of Khafji (29th January – 2nd February 1991). Using occupied Kuwait as a base of operations, Iraqi forces invaded the Saudi border town of Khafji, northeastern Saudi Arabia. There, the Iraqis engaged the Coalition forces of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the USA.
Involved in the battle were the Iraqi 1st Mechanized Division, 3rd Armored Division, and 5th Mechanized Division, who fielded BMP-1s, BRDM-2s, T-72s, T-62s, Type 69s, and T-55s (some of which were Enigmas). However, it remains unclear which Division the Enigmas operated, and how many there were. Enigmas are believed to have been operated as command tanks for battalions. Iraqi Armored and Mechanized Divisions were made up of three brigades, with each brigade having up to four battalions. No official Iraqi military documents confirm the Enigma’s use as a command tank, but judging by how they were fielded, this seems a likely conclusion.
Coalition forces fielded AMX-30s, LAV-150 Commandos, and LAV-25s. They also, crucially, had strong air support from AC-130 gunships.
It is reported that during the battle, the Enigmas could survive hits from MILAN AT missiles, although this was probably not a consistent occurrence. Photographs of knocked out Enigmas show that armor blocks would be sent flying by missile impacts, and the reliability of the armor at blocking missile hits is questionable due to the crude and somewhat unstandardized design.
Similarly, the tank was not completely covered by the composite armor boxes. For example, one photograph shows that a missile hit the tank’s main gun, leaving a gaping hole, and an armor block was also dislodged by the explosion. Having said this, evidence suggests a direct hit to armor block was likely to be non-fatal in at least some instances.
T-55 Enigma knocked out during the Battle of Khafji. It appears to have rammed into a Type 59
T-55 Enigma knocked out during the Battle of Khafji. It appears to have rammed into a Type 69 or T-55. Credits: AR15.com forums user “USMC Tanker”.

Whilst it is generally accepted that Enigmas could survive some hits from ATGMs, they could, however, not survive hits from AMX 30s, or an AC-130 gunship strike:

  • On January 29th, a column of Iraqi T-55s (some of which may have been Enigmas) drove to the Saudi border, signalling an intention to surrender. As Saudi forces approached, the T-55s opened fire. An AC-130 responded to the incident and destroyed thirteen vehicles.
  • On January 30th, a platoon of Iraqi T-55s (some of which may have been Enigmas) engaged a Qatari Tank Company of AMX 30s to the south of Khafji. Several T-55s were knocked out, and a fourth was captured.

Unfortunately, primary sources and eyewitness accounts do not distinguish between the T-55 and the T-55 Enigma, partly because it was a near-totally unknown vehicle outside of military intelligence, but one must also consider that soldiers are not necessarily tank experts.
Five T-55 Enigmas were recovered from the battle by Coalition forces, and are on display in museums:

  • One was put on display at the Armor Center’s Patton Museum at Fort Knox in 2002.
  • One is reportedly at Aberdeen Proving Ground, USA, but it is actually the gate guardian for the 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion, who are based at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, USA.
  • One is located at Bovington Tank Museum, UK. This is the most famous Enigma with “Jeanne” graffitied on the side.
  • One is located at Mourlemon-le-Grand, France.
  • One Enigma is also reported to still exist in Kuwait.

Post-combat photos from Coalition forces (mostly, if not exclusively, US soldiers) show that the Enigmas were gratified with the names of passing soldiers – most typical of this is the Enigma at Bovington. Secondary armaments, particularly the AA mount DShK, appear to have been removed shortly after the battle ended.

Conclusion

The T-55 Enigma was a cheap upgrade to an outdated tank. Whilst, indeed, the crude composite armor was sometimes able to fulfil its role, it did not make the T-55 Enigma comparable to its coalition counterparts, such as the AMX 30. The Enigma upgrade was done in a very particular context – The Iraqis needed to defend against modern AT weapons and also needed to rearm themselves after the decimation of their tanks in the Iran-Iraq War, but had very little means of actually doing so. The Iran-Iraq War had devastated the Iraqi economy, and almost exhausted Iraqi military production capacity (with the exception of low-quality local production workshops). The 1990 invasion of Kuwait also prompted the adoption of United Nations Security Resolution 661, which meant that no modern arms could not be bought from abroad. In this context, the T-55 Enigma was quite an ingenious solution to these problems.
Crude spaced armor and composite armor upgrades are all too common in desperate times and can be seen in various other conflicts such as the Yugoslav Wars, Libyan Civil War, and the Syrian Civil War. Outdated Soviet and Chinese tanks are still operated by many Third World countries, and it is almost certain that similar upgrades to T-55s, Type 59s, and similar vehicles will be seen in the future.

Standard Iraqi T-55 with DShK, Iran-Iraq War.
Standard Iraqi T-55 with DShK, Battle of Al-Amarah (1984), Iran-Iraq War.

T-55 Enigma with DShK, Battle of Khafji (1991), First Gulf War.
A T-55 Enigma knocked out during the Battle of Khafji.
A T-55 Enigma knocked out during the Battle of Khafji. Pieces of armor boxes appear to be strewn around the ground, and were most likely knocked from their brackets after being hit by another tank.
T-55 Enigma Jeanne Chris at the Bovington Tank Museum. The armor box above the driver's hatch has been lifted up, which the driver would need to do to get in and out of the vehicle.
T-55 Enigma at the Bovington Tank Museum. The armor box above the driver’s hatch has been lifted up, which the driver would need to do to get in and out of the vehicle. This is a fairly famous vehicle, given its distinctive graffiti. Credits: Vladimir Yakubov, SVSM.org

Different view of the above.


Type 69-II Enigma at the 1989 Baghdad Arms Fair. This appears to have been a one-off conversion, featuring more advanced technics than the T-55 Enigma, including improved headlights, and smoke generators. The two tone camouflage is likely dark green on sand.
T-55 Enigma at Mourmelon-le-Grand, France. The glacis armor boxes are missing.
T-55 Enigma at Mourmelon-le-Grand, France. The glacis and side hull armor boxes are missing. The vehicle has also probably been painted since its capture. Credits: John Thomas Rembert, primeportal.net

T-55 Enigma the at Armor Center's Patton Museum at Fort Knox in 2002. The paint had, by this point, rusted.
T-55 Enigma the at Armor Center’s Patton Museum at Fort Knox in 2002. The paint had, by this point, rusted. It appears to be missing its side hull armor boxes, but their mounting brackets are still clearly visible. The lack right glacis armor box was likely shorter than the left one in order to stop the driver’s view from being impaired. Credits: John Charvat, AMPS-Armor.org

T-55 Enigma, serving as a gate guardian for the 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion, Aberdeen Proving Ground. The turret counterweight is clear in this image.
T-55 Enigma, serving as a gate guardian for the 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion, Aberdeen Proving Ground. The turret counterweight is clear in this image. Notice also that the side armor boxes are not the same height.
Knocked
Knocked out T-55 Enigma at Khafji. It appears as though no armor boxes are missing, but the driver has most likely bailed out.
Closeup of a T-55 Enigma knocked out during the Battle of Khafji, which has rammed into a Type 59.
Closeup of a T-55 Enigma knocked out during the Battle of Khafji, which has rammed into a Type 69 or T-55. This was some time after the battle, according to the amount of graffiti on the vehicle.
Different view of the above.
Captured T-55 Enigma, possibly in Kuwait, post-Gulf War.
Captured T-55 Enigma, possibly in Kuwait, post-Gulf War. All of the original T-55’s lights are on the vehicle.

Entry hole of a Maverick missile in the back of an Iraqi T-55 that was destroyed in 1991. Simply put, this is why the Enigmas were built. Judging by the condition of the tank’s paint and rust, this photograph was likely taken after the Gulf War had ended.

T-55 Enigma specifications

Dimensions (L,W,H) 9m x ~3.99m x 2.4m (29.5ft x 13.1ft x 7.87ft)
Total weight, battle ready 41 tons (41,000 kg)
Crew 4
Propulsion V-55 Diesel, 520hp
Speed (road) Estimated 45km/h (28mph)
Range (road) Estimated 300km (186.4 miles)
Armament 100mm D-10T2
1x Coaxial 7.62mm machine gun
1x 12.7mm DShK, AA mount (Optional)
Armour Up to 120mm plus additional composite armor blocks
Total production Estimated no more than eight

Sources

T-54 and T-55 Main Battle Tank 1944-2004” by Steven J. Zaloga
Unheeded Warnings: The Lost Reports of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Volume 2: The Perpetrators and the Middle East” by Richard J. Leitner and Peter M. Leitner
Military Industry and Regional Defense Policy: India, Iraq, and Israel” by Timothy D. Hoyt
military-today.com
Iraqi T-55 “Enigma”.pdf by Jakko Westerbeke
AMPS Review of the T-55 Enigma Tamiya Model Kit
Forum.rcpanzer.com
smallarmsoftheworld.com
guide.superava.it
ar15.com forums

Categories
WW2 Soviet Prototypes

ISU High Power Gun Projects

Soviet Union USSR (1944-1945)
Heavy Tank Destroyers – 5 prototypes

Dedicated Beast Slayers

In mid-1944, the Red Army recognized that it might need tanks that could consistently and reliably destroy the Wehrmacht’s most well-armored tanks. The Red Army fielded few tanks that could destroy the King Tiger, Elefant, and Jagdtiger reliably from medium-long ranges. Although it is true that the ISU-122, ISU-122s, ISU-152, and IS-2 were capable of destroying German heavy tanks, their combat results were not consistent enough. As a result, starting in June of 1944, five “BM” (“High Power” – Russian: “высокой мощности”) guns were developed for the ISU chassis. The resulting vehicles were: Object 243 (ISU-122-1 with the 122mm BL-9 gun), Object 246 (ISU-152-1 with the 152mm BL-8 gun), Object 247 (ISU-152-2 with the 152mm BL-10 gun), Object 250 (ISU-130 with the 130mm S-26 gun), and Object 251 (ISU-122-3 with the 122mm S-26-1 gun). More gun projects were being developed at this time, but no others appeared to be mounted onto a chassis. The guns proved capable, on paper, of destroying tanks such as the Jagdtiger, but testing showed that they were simply not practical. Moreover, these projects took well over a year to refine, and seeing as though the war ended before they were complete, they were all dropped.

A table with comparative statistics is provided at the bottom of the article.

Context: Soviet guns against German armor

Mythbusting: The SU-152 and ISU-152 were “Beast Killers”
Soviet wartime propaganda suggested that the SU-152 and ISU-152 (SU being based on the KV chassis, ISU being based on the IS chassis) were “Beast-Killers” because they could destroy Panthers, Tigers, and Elefants. The ISU-152’s 152mm ML-20S howitzer was, indeed, capable of destroying heavy German armor, but this required a direct hit with a High Explosive (HE) shell. Such a direct hit could do one of three things to disable the tank: destroy the vehicle’s drive systems, kill its crew, or blow the turret / casemate / hull open (or even clean off, in the case of turrets). Armor Piercing (AP) and Concrete Piercing shells were developed, but these were expensive and complicated to make, hardly more effective than HE rounds, and thus were scarcely supplied – even at Kursk! However, the ISU-152 was not a dedicated tank destroyer – it was an assault gun designed for bunker busting and indirect fire. Needless to say, using an assault gun as a tank destroyer was risky business.
Firstly, the gun would need to be fired at short ranges against enemy tanks. This is because the ML-20S was a fairly low velocity howitzer, which would simply not be accurate enough to engage tanks from distances. Consider also that the vehicle had a maximum of 90 mm of armor, which meant that it whilst it was adequately protected from some German guns at long ranges, it simply was not thick enough to protect the vehicle in the short ranges it would need to operate in as a tank destroyer. For example, the 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48, as mounted on StuGs, Panzer IVs, and Jagdpanzers, could penetrate 97 mm of armor at 500 m, and 87 mm of armor at 1000 m, at 30 degrees (the ISU-152 casemate was barely sloped at all). Also consider that the vehicle was simply not mobile enough to be engaging more nimble German tanks, and could probably be outmaneuvered anyway.
Yet another major issue of using the ISU-152 as a tank destroyer was that it could only manage 1-3 rounds per minute (depending if it had one or two loaders, and how experienced they were). This meant that in any type of ‘duel’, the ISU-152 would not only need to fire first, but also guarantee a hit, or practically any opposing German tank could get numerous shots off against it – as mentioned early, likely knock-out blows. Having said this, it did not seem to be a consideration taken into account when making the “BM” projects, as the guns all had equally as poor rates of fire.
In conclusion, the ISU-152 did not live up to its legendary name. Other Soviet field guns and tank destroyers had somewhat better results compared to the ISU-152, although the results were still not quite satisfactory.
Mythbusting: The 122 mm A-19S and D-25T / S were sufficient
It is a commonly held belief that the 122 mm D-25T / S and A-19S were sufficient at destroying the heaviest German armor. This belief is somewhat problematic, given the weight of the evidence.
According to a Wa Preuf 1 (a Wehrmacht weapons research facility) report from October 5th, 1944, the 122mm A-19 (the A-19S being used on the ISU-122, the latest Soviet SPG at that time) could not penetrate the upper glacis of a Panther. However, it could penetrate the lower glacis from a distance of up to 100 m, the mantlet from 500 m, and the side of the turret from 1500m. This was still somewhat wanting, as the Red Army would prefer to engage such tanks from longer ranges, to prevent heavy losses of their own tanks.
The improved 122mm D-25T (which was used on the IS-2, the D-25S was essentially the same, and was used on the ISU-122S) seems to have fared much better against German armor. Testing of the gun on the IS-2 platform in Kubinka in 1944 suggests that a King Tiger’s turret (likely the side) could be penetrated from up to 1000-1500m. The welds of front hull seams could also be penetrated from 500-600m. Whilst these penetration statistics might make the D-25T sound more promising, they must be taken with some caveats.
Firstly, to score such hits would require a very skilled and very experienced gunner – especially to score a hit on the turret from a range of up to 1500m. Secondly, similar to the ML-20S, the D-25T could only manage up to 3 rounds per minute. Thirdly, the validity of these statistics has been called into question, because they come from Soviet sources. In the past, these statistics were often exaggerated for propaganda purposes. Finally, the very fact that the ISU “BM” projects were put into production suggests that the Soviets knew that the D-25T would not give consistently reliable results in AT duties.
Whilst, indeed, the D-25T was, in theory, capable of destroying the heaviest German armor, it was perhaps not as reliable as it needed to be in the field. Of course, it is true that penetrations were not required to disable the tank or kill the crew (both in the case of the ML-20S and D-25T), but one could not simply rely on non-penetrating hits to, in some manner, disable the tank.
As a result of these relatively unsatisfactory Soviet AT capabilities against the Wehrmacht’s heaviest tanks, in June 1944, Zavod Nr. 100 began developing new, high velocity 122 mm, 130 mm, and 152 mm guns to be mounted on the ISU (and perhaps IS and KV) chassis.

Object 243 (ISU-122-1)

Object 243 (ISU-122-1) with the 122mm BL-9
Object 243 (ISU-122-1) with the 122 mm BL-9. This vehicle is distinguishable as its gun has no muzzle brake, and looks like an elongated A-19S. However, the gun replicator has been angled (see the rectangular plate on the mantlet below the gun), unlike a regular ISU-122.

  • The Object 243 featured the 122 mm BL-9 gun – one of the infamous BL guns made at OKB-172. The vehicle can be distinguished by its gun and mantlet. The gun essentially looked like a longer version of the A-19S. The mantlet also had some tweaking to fit the longer and heavier gun – most notably, the tip of the gun replicator has been angled to one side (just below the gun).
  • It could penetrate 204 mm of armor at 1000 m, with 2 rounds per minute.
  • The gun’s muzzle velocity was 950 m/s with an 11.9kg AP shell.
  • It had a range of 10,700 m, compared to the 6000 m range of the 152 mm ML-20S of the ISU-152 and SU-152.
  • It could carry 20 AP rounds, the same as the ISU-152.
  • Like the other “BM” guns, the BL-9 was likely too powerful for its mountings, which caused mechanical issues.

Object 246 (ISU-152-1)

Object 246 (ISU-152-1) with the 152 mm BL-8
Object 246 (ISU-152-1) with the 152 mm BL-8. This vehicle is distinguishable by its slightly longer gun than the Object 247 (15 cm, or 5.9 inches), but the same muzzle brake, and its unchanged gun replicator.

  • The Object 246 featured the 152 mm BL-8 gun. This vehicle can be distinguished by its distinctive muzzle brake, and unaltered gun replicator.
  • It could reportedly penetrate 203 mm of armor at 90 degrees from up to 2000 m away (dubious) 1, with 3 rounds per minute.
  • The gun had a muzzle velocity of 850 m/s with a 43.56 kg HE shell.
  • It had a maximum range of 18,500 m.
  • It could carry 21 rounds.
  • Whilst these results sound excellent, trials in December 1944 showed that the crew found operating the gun difficult, the muzzle brake and breech block were unreliable, and the barrel strength and angle of horizontal guidance were unsatisfactory. Consider also that the very long gun would limit the maneuverability of the vehicle, much like the D-25S on the ISU-122S limited its maneuverability. As a result, the 152mm BL-10 was developed…

Object 247 (ISU-152-2)

Object 247 (ISU-152-2) with the 152 mm BL-10
Object 247 (ISU-152-2) with the 152 mm BL-10. This vehicle is distinguishable by the length of its barrel (it was slightly shorter compared to the BL-8), its muzzle brake, and its altered gun replicator.

  • The Object 247 fitted the 152 mm BL-10 gun, an improvement of the BL-8. This vehicle can be distinguished by its muzzle brake and slightly altered gun mantlet, whereby the rectangular tip of the gun replicating system had been angled, unlike the original ISU mantlet.
  • It could penetrate 205 mm of armor from 1000 m.
  • The gun had a muzzle velocity of 851 m/s with a 43.56 kg HE shell.
  • It had a maximum range of 17,000 m.
  • It could carry 20 HE shells.
  • Testing revealed that barrel integrity and angle of horizontal guidance were poor.
  • It was eventually deemed that there was no need for this work to continue, mostly because the war was over, and there was no need to combat heavily armored German vehicles.
  • Consider also, that whilst the barrel length was a little shorter than the BL-8, it, too, would still suffer from maneuverability issues as a result.

Object 250 (ISU-130)

Object 250 (ISU-130) with the 130 mm S-26
Object 250 (ISU-130) with the 130 mm S-26. This vehicle is distinguishable by its unique muzzle brake.

  • The Object 250 (ISU-130) was built in autumn, 1944 and featured a 130 mm (5.12 in) S-26 gun. This gun is sometimes referred to as a naval gun, but this is not entirely accurate – the S-26 derived from a naval gun and featured a rectangular muzzle brake and horizontal wedges.
  • It could penetrate 196 mm of armor from 1000 m.
  • It had a muzzle velocity of 702 m/s, firing a 33.4kg HE shell, with 1.5-2.5 rounds per minute.
  • It had a range of 15,000 m.
  • It could carry 25 shells, which were smaller than 152mm shells, meaning that it provided similar ballistic results to the 152mm BM guns, but could carry more shells.
  • In October 1944, the ISU-130 underwent factory trials, and the following month, trials were held at the Polygon.
  • A major concern came from the caliber – 130mm. The issue was that the army would have to make special arrangements for the 130mm naval shells to be supplied to the army, and thus it was decided that a gun using current army-issue 122mm or 152mm would be preferable.
  • Testing of the ISU-130 ended in 1945, and the gun was sent to the TaSKB for completion, but the war was over, and the project was disbanded.
  • The ISU-130 is currently preserved at the Kubinka Tank Museum.

The ISU-130 preserved at Kubinka.
The ISU-130 preserved at Kubinka.

Object 251 (ISU-122-3)

Object 251 (ISU-122-3) with the 122 mm S-26-1.
Object 251 (ISU-122-3) with the 122 mm S-26-1. This vehicle is distinguishable by its round gun mantlet and its unique cylindrical muzzle brake.

  • The Object 251 was derived from the ISU-130. It featured essentially a 122 mm version of the 130 mm S-26, which was designated the S-26-1. It had a round muzzle brake, different components, but the mantlet was the same shape.
  • It could penetrate 204 mm of armor from 1000 m.
  • It had very similar ballistics to the BL-9, but had a muzzle velocity of 1000 m/s, firing a 25kg shell.
  • It could fire a disappointing 1.5-1.8 rounds per minute.
  • It underwent field tests in November 1944, but according to sources, something (probably the mantlet and / or gun mechanism), was simply not strong enough to withstand firing the gun.
  • The gun project was totally completed in June 1945, but was abandoned due to the war’s end.
  • (Note that the ISU-122-2 was the ISU-122S with the 122 mm D-25S, hence the skip from ISU-122-1 to ISU-122-3).

Conclusion

The “ISU High Powered Gun Projects” were, in many respects, a failure. True, the guns were incredibly potent, particularly in the case of the S-26-1, which could penetrate 204 mm from 1000 m. They also had a very long range, only limited by the elevation of the ISU mantlet. However, they were simply not practical and mechanically reliable enough for their intended purpose, which was to knock out the thickest armored Wehrmacht tanks consistently, and from long ranges.
Even if the vehicles were put into serial production, how often these tanks would face off with the most heavily armored vehicles of the Wehrmacht is questionable. With Jagdtigers, King Tigers, and Ferdinands being so rare, the war was more likely to have ended before the ISU High Powered Projects saw combat with the vehicles they were designed to destroy. What had ultimately put the nail in the coffin for these guns was that the war had ended, and they were no longer necessary.

Sidenote: Designations and identification through photos

In the writing of this article, it has been exceptionally difficult to pin down which photos correspond to which project. Indeed, some sources only mention four (in some cases, only three) High Powered Gun Project vehicles. It has been the author’s conclusion that there were five such High Powered Gun Projects mounted onto ISU chassis, as outlined in Solyankin’s book “Советские тяжелые самоходные артиллерийские установки 1941-45″. Most online sources, particularly non-Russian language sources, are incredibly inaccurate. Gun statistics were mostly provided by a Soviet data set as provided by Tankarchives.blogspot. However, these statistics sometimes differ with Solyankin.

Notes:

1 – Note 1 – Most data has been obtained from this Soviet data set. However, certain statistics have not been given and have been obtained from alternative (potentially dubious) sources. Where necessary, statistics provided by Solyankin have been used, but these are questionable.
2 – Note 2 – Experienced crews were able to load much faster. Consider that the BM guns were likely tested by experts in test ground conditions, thus likely making their rounds per minute data higher than would be in the field, by more typical tank crews.
3 – Note 3 – Obtaining the ISU-122S’ ammo capacity has been difficult. It is reported that with a crew of four, instead of five (IE, one loader instead of two), then ammo capacity was increased, but the only given figure is 30, presumably with two loaders.
Sources:
Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy”, by Thomas Jentz
Sturmgeschutz & Its Variants”, by Walter J. Spielberger
“Советские тяжелые самоходные артиллерийские установки 1941-45”, by A.G. Solyankin
battlefield.ru
battlefield.ru (second page)
forum.axishistory.com
tankarchives.blogspot
tankarchives.blogspot (second page)
tankarchives.blogspot (third page)
armchairgeneral.com forums
WW2 AT Penetrations.pdf
alternatewars.com
alternatewars.com (second page)
ftr.wot-news.com
3.bp.blogspot

BL-9

BL-8

BL-10

S-26

S-26-1

ML-20S

D-25S

12.8cm PaK 44 L/55

Chassis Object 243 Object 246 Object 247 Object 250 Object 251 ISU-152, SU-152 ISU-122S Jagdtiger
Caliber 122 mm 152 mm 152 mm 130 mm 122 mm 152 mm 122 mm 128 mm
Penetration@90 deg 204 mm from 1000 m
157 mm from 1500 m
155 mm from 2000 m
203 mm1
from 2000 m (Dubious)
205 mm from 1000 m
202 mm from 1500 m
160 mm from 2000 m
196 mm from 1000 m
184 mm from 1500 m
156 mm from 2000 m
204 mm from 1000 m
157 mm from 1500 m
156 mm from 2000 m
125 mm from 500 m 147 mm from 500 m
138 mm from 1000 m
and 129 mm from 2000 m
200 mm from 1000 m
30 degree angle
PzGr.43 shell
Rounds per Minute 2 3 1 No data 1 1.5-2.25 1.5-1.8 1-3 2
(crew dependent)
1-3 2,3
(crew dependent)
2
Muzzle velocity 950m/s1(AP)
700 m/s (HE)
850 m/s (presumably HE) 1 826 m/s (AP)
851 m/s (HE)
898 m/s (AP)
702 m/s (HE)
1000 m/s (AP and HE) 600 m/s (HE) 800 m/s (HE) 950 m/s (AP)
Range 10,700 m 18,500 m 1 17,000 m 15,000 m 1 15,000 m 1 6000 m 5000 m 24,410 m
Shell Weight and Type 11.9kg AP 43.56kg HE 43.56kg HE 33.4kg HE 25kg HE 43.56kg HE 25kg HE 28kg HE
28.3kg AP
Ammo Capacity 20 21 1 20 25 24 20
(ISU-152)
30 1, 3 38-40
Overall length, chassis included 11.15 m (36.58 ft) 11.82 m (38.78 ft) 11.67 m (38.29 ft) 11.42 m (37.47 ft) 11.26 m (36.94 ft) 9.18 m (30.12 ft) 9.85 m (32.32 ft) 10.65 m (34.94 ft)


Illustration of the Object 247/ISU-152-2 armed with the 152mm BL-10 gun by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Categories
WW2 British Other AFVs

Bison Mobile Pillbox

United Kingdom United Kingdom (1940)
Improvised Self-propelled Pillbox – 200-300 built

Make do and Mend… To the Extreme

Amid fears of a German invasion of British soil in 1940-1941, Britain began preparing for the worst. The fear was, in particular, the capture of airfields by German paratroopers – a fear that would come true in the Battle of Crete, May, 1941. Recognizing the danger, tanks and other AFVs were seen as an effective means of defending airfields, but due to the loss at Dunkirk, there was no real means of equipping airfields with AFVs. The ‘Bison Mobile Pillbox’ was the ideal solution. The idea was to take available trucks and place concrete bunkers on the rear, thus making a mobile pillbox. As many as 300 were built, with one, and the remains of another, still in existence today.

Design process

The idea of a concrete bunker came from Charles Bernard Matthews, the owner of Concrete Limited, and his commercial partner, John Goldwell Ambrose. They had both previously served in the Royal Engineers during WWI, thus meaning that they had serious expertise in designing concrete bunkers. 24 old trucks were bought for testing, and a prototype was made to be shown to local military officials. After some minor design changes, production began in Stourton, Leeds. The name “Bison” was chosen, as it was the company trademark at the time. Due to the sheer weight of the concrete, only heavy lorry chassis could be realistically suited to the conversion. Nevertheless, lorries of all types and ages were used in the production of the Bison, and each Bison varies from the next, but there appear to have been three main types.
Type 1 was a fully armored cab and a small fighting compartment with a canvas roof. Type 2 had an armored cab with a separate concrete pillbox on the rear. Type 3 was a fully armored cab and adjoining fighting compartment, fully covered in concrete.
The bodywork was stripped from each vehicle and replaced with wooden formwork, and some expanded metal was placed in between the new structures. Fast setting concrete was then poured on to create the armor, which was up to 152mm (6 inches) thick. Roofed versions had a pre-cast roof. Some were also built on steam-wagons, which were not self-propelled due to their boilers being removed, but could be towed.
Type 3 fully enclosed Bison, government photograph circa 1940/1.
Type 3 fully enclosed Bison, government photograph circa 1940/1.

Combat capabilities

Bisons were primarily intended to defend airfields, but also reportedly saw service with the Home Guard. Testing revealed that the concrete was resistant to Bren guns and armor piercing rounds, and this would certainly be sufficient defense against German paratroopers. However, this protection was not a calculated trade-off. They could hardly be described as ‘mobile’ pillboxes due to the weight of the concrete, poor radiator cooling, and poor driver situational awareness. They were, therefore, towed or abandoned after breakdowns.

Surviving examples

One full type 2 Bison semi-replica was reconstructed at Bovington Tank Museum using remaining Bison parts and a Thornycroft 3 ton 6×4 truck, military type (although it is suggested that a military lorry would probably not be handed over for these purposes). A hatch has been cut into the lorry’s decking for access to the pillbox, and the cab is open-topped, access being granted through climbing over. The pillbox design is a late-type – the sloped design saved on weight, whereas earlier designs were rectangular. A small steel plate has been placed to protect the engine and radiator, but would be insufficient to protect against small arms fire.
Parts of a Bison stand at Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Center today. This particular Bison had originally been used by the Home Guard to defend RAF Digby. Later in the war, airfield protection at Digby was not needed, and the vehicle was stored, only defending a roadblock on the A15 (a major road) near Sleaford. Before the war’s end, it was abandoned, vandalized, and the chassis was used as a farm trailer. In 1988, the Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group found out about the vehicle and on 22nd March 1991, the remains were taken to the museum.

Sources

Vehicles of the Home Guard” by Martin Mace
The Times”, 10 December 1940, Newspaper article entitled “Mobile Concrete Pill Boxes – Easy Construction
The Bison on Wikipedia
Warwheels.net
Warwheels.net  (A walkaround of the replica Bison at Bovington)
Pillbox-study-group.org.uk
Preserved Military Vehicle Registry Project

Bison, Type 2. This type featured a separate fighting compartment.
Bison, Type 2. This type featured a separate fighting compartment.

Bison, Type 3, late model. As seen in a government photo from 1940/1.
Bison, Type 3, late model. As seen in a government photo from 1940/1.

Type 2 Bison at Bovington. Some parts are original, but the truck chassis is not one that would originally have been used
Type 2 Bison at Bovington. Some parts are original, but the truck chassis is not one that would originally have been used.
Small type 3 Bison, early model, as shown by the rectangular type. The engine handle crank is seen below, as well as two ventilation slits for the engine.
Small type 3 Bison, early model, as shown by the rectangular type. The engine handle crank is seen below, as well as two ventilation slits for the engine.
Remains of a Bison on display at Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Center. Whilst they may look like meaningless, unimpressive slabs of degrading concrete, their historical significance is considerable.
Remains of a Bison on display at Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Center. Whilst they may look like meaningless, unimpressive slabs of degrading concrete, their historical significance is considerable.
Originally published on 26 April, 2016.

Categories
WW2 Soviet Prototypes

SU-100Y

Soviet Union (1940) Heavy self-propelled gun – 1 built

A competitor for the KV-2

The SU-100Y was a development based on the T-100 prototype. It was designed in some respects as a competitor to the KV-2, as a means of destroying Finnish bunkers and other tank obstacles.
The SU-100Y as preserved at the Kubinka Tank Museum, Russia
The SU-100Y as preserved at the Kubinka Tank Museum, Russia

Development and design

In December, 1939, there was a demand that Zavod 185 in Leningrad develop a multi-role vehicle based on the T-100. They requested it to be an SPG, bridge-layer, explosives transport, and ARV. However, during development, there was a sudden proposal to mount a high velocity 152mm gun in order to destroy fortifications.
With the suggestion of the plant manager at Zavod 185, two different high caliber guns were proposed – a 100mm and 130mm naval gun. On January 8th, 1940, the proposal was accepted and the T-100 chassis was shipped over to the Izhorsky Factory. A boxy superstructure was built, and a 130mm naval gun was added. It was designated the SU-100Y, and construction of a prototype began shortly after February, 1940.
SU-100Y at Kubinka Tank Museum
A large armored casement was fitted around the gun to protect the crew. It had a very large profile so made it easy for the enemy to see and target.

Trials by fire

The vehicle performed tests in March, 1940, but did not see combat due to the Winter War’s end. The SU-100Y was then transferred to Kubinka in mid-1940.
Mass production never commenced, mainly due to the termination of the T-100 project, and seeing as though the KV-2 project was a ‘success’ (the term is used loosely, but compared to the SU-100Y, production was more than likely simpler and cheaper).
However, it was taken out of storage in November, 1941 for the defence of Moscow, along with the SU-14 prototypes, as part of a special independent artillery division. No further information on their combat is known. The SU-100Y (along with a SU-14 prototype) stands today in Kubinka Tank Museum.
SU-100Y
SU-100Y prototype armed with a 13cm naval gun 1940

SU-100Y specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 10.9 x 3.40 x 3.30 m
35’9″ x 11’2″ x 10’10” ft.inch
Total weight, battle ready 60 tons
Crew 6 (Cdr, driver, 2 gunners, 2 loaders)
Propulsion GAM-34BT diesel 850 hp (630 kW)
Suspension Torsion bars
Speed (road) 32 km/h (20 mph)
Range 210 km (130 miles)
Armament 130 mm/50 caliber B-13 pattern 1936 naval gun
3× 7.62 mm Degtyaryova Tankovy DT machine guns
Max Shell Range 25,597m (25.5 km or 16 miles)
Armor 65 mm max

Sources

Ed Francis article on the SU-100Y
The SU-100Y on Wikipedia
The SU-100Y on Tank-Hunter.com

SU-100Y at Kubinka Tank Museum
The SU-100Y as preserved at the Kubinka Tank MuseumThe Soviet SU-100Y was fitted with a 13cm Naval Gun B-13
The Soviet SU-100Y was fitted with a 13cm Naval Gun B-13.SU-100Y tracks
To cope with the weight of the SU-100Y it had eight double bogie road wheels and a wide track.
The driver position on Soviet SU-100Y prototype was in the middle of the vehicle
The driver position on Soviet SU-100Y prototype was in the middle of the vehicle. He had very limited vision. No hull machine gun was fitted.
Red Army SU-100Y prototype assault gun
The people in this photograph give you a sense of the size of this Red Army SU-100Y prototype assault gun
ww2 soviet armour
ww2 Soviet Tanks PosterSU-100Y
Tanks Encyclopedia rendition of the SU-100Y