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Cold War French Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Batignolles-Châtillon Bourrasque (Fake Tank)

Nation France (1940-70s)
Light tank – None built

From the 1930s to the 1950s, the French company of Batignolles-Châtillon, based in Nantes, on France’s western coast, had several tries at designing tanks for the French army. In the 1930s, the company produced a light infantry tank prototype as well as the DP2 amphibious light tank. After the end of the German occupation of France, the company again produced a light tank for the program which would result in the AMX-13 – this being the Batignolles-Châtillon 12 tons – and, ultimately, created the Batignolles-Châtillon 25 tons, a lightweight medium tank prototype, in the 1950s.

None of Batignolles-Châtillon’s tanks were adopted by any military, with their most notable influence on service French vehicles being experience gained in the 25t project being used for the development of the AMX-30. In recent years, though, Batignolles-Châtillon’s designs (though almost exclusively the post-WW2 ones) have received newfound attention due to the inclusion of first the 25t, and later the 12t, to Wargaming’s popular online game World of Tanks, with the 25t notably being praised for its peculiar gameplay for years.

Wargaming’s care about the historical accuracy of the Batignolles-Châtillon vehicle is, however, very lackluster to say the least, with the recent Bourrasque premium tank being the worst offender – combining real elements of the 12 tons project, of which development ended in September of 1951, with an inaccurately-modeled turret from the 1970s.

World of Tanks fake tank
A view of the Batignolles-Châtillon Bourrasque in the hangar within World of Tanks. Source: WIKIWIKI.jp

Bourrasque or 12T modèle 1954 ?

In December of 2019, a new premium French light tank was added to Wargaming’s supertest servers. It was then marketed as the “Bat.-Châtillon mle. 54”. After a few minor tweaks, the vehicle, identical in appearance, was added to all servers in May of 2020, under the new name of “Bat.-Châtillon Bourrasque”. This vehicle features a modified version of the GIAT TS90 turret used on vehicles such as the ERC-90 Sagaie, mounted on the hull of a Batignolles-Châtillon competitor to the project which would become the AMX-13.

The 12T modèle 1954 designation which was used at first, while it may seem in accordance with the French army designation system, is absolutely ahistorical. Development did not continue on the Batignolles-Châtillon 12T following the end of its trials in September of 1951, and seeing as AMX’s project ended up being adopted, becoming the AMX-13, continued developments on Batignolles-Châtillon’s hull would have been redundant.

Wargaming’s fake description of the Bourrasque:
“A project of a French tank developed by Batignolles-Châtillon. The vehicle was to receive a two-man turret upgraded to accommodate a 105 mm gun. Existed only in blueprints.”

The Hull: Batignolles-Châtillon 12t

Batignolle-Châtillon 12t hull
The Batignolle-Châtillon 12t hull which was actually manufactured. Though the suspension type it uses is different from Wargaming’s, the 12t hull present in WoT at least exists in blueprints. Source: Char-français

The hull used for Wargaming’s Bourrasque was taken straight from Wargaming’s already existing Bat-Chat 12t. It ought to be noted that, while a prototype of the 12t was manufactured, it does not match the one present in WoT; the 12t prototype used four large road wheels, two return rollers, and a torsion bar suspension.

Wargaming’s hull is instead based on one which existed only on paper, though it was projected both for a light tank and a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. This hull uses seven interleaved road wheels, in a fashion that reveals the considerable German influence on France’s first postwar designs. An idler and drive sprocket are also present, but there are no return rollers; the type of suspension used would most likely be torsion bars.

Bat-Chat 12t in the configuration used in WoT
The Bat-Chat 12t in the configuration used in WoT. This suspension type never left the drawing board. Source: char-français

The TS 90 Turret: Back to the Future

On this hull project, dating from the late 1940s and early 1950s, Wargaming decided to mount an absolutely unrelated turret; the GIAT TS90.

Introduced by GIAT in 1977, this is a welded two-man turret with a manually loaded 90 mm anti-tank gun, in its historical configuration. This fairly light turret (2.5 tons with ammunition but without crew) could theoretically be mounted on any vehicle that could accommodate a sufficiently large turret ring as well as weigh as least 7.5 tons; in practice, it is mounted on the ERC-90 for the French army and export, VBC-90 for the French gendarmerie and Oman, and on the AMX-10, creating the AMX-10P PAC 90 for export. A variety of other vehicles, such as the Mowag Piranha or even the M113, were modified to mount the turret, but never went beyond prototype stage with it.

In itself, the basic characteristics of the TS90 turret would likely make it compatible with a modified Bat-Chat 12t hull, but it is obviously highly anachronistic. The turret, as well as the CN 90F4 anti-tank gun that features as its main armament, were a 1970s development, using technologies that did not exist or were not widely in use at the time when the 12t was developed.

French Army ERC-90s
French Army ERC-90s on maneuvers in the Alps; the ERC-90 remains the most prolific vehicle using the TS90 turret. Source: Char-français

An Inaccurate Turret

However, while the turret Wargaming mounted on their “Bourrasque” is based on the GIAT TS90, it was added to the game in a modified form that obviously favors gameplay over historical accuracy.

In real life, the TS90 is a two-man turret with a manually loaded 90 mm gun. In this form, it is already quite cramped. Wargaming, however, swapped out the turret’s 90 CN-90 F4 for the older but larger 105 mm D.1504 or CN-105-57 – the 105 mm gun featured, for example, on the Israeli M-51 Sherman, the AMX-13-105 or the SK-105 Kürassier. This new gun is fed by a two-round autoloader, the type of which Wargaming did not care to specify. One could note that, while being older in comparison to the TS90 turret, this gun would still have been anachronistic if Wargaming kept the “mle 1954” designation, seeing as it was first introduced in 1957.

Wargaming’s 105 mm-armed version of the TS90 is visibly extended towards the rear, likely to model the 2-round autoloader that features ingame. Though the large turret extension towards the rear would likely be large enough for an autoloader, particularly a small 2-rounds one (though the type of autoloader has never been specified by Wargaming), the larger breech of the 105 mm CN 105-57 in comparison to the 90 mm CN-90 F4 would likely reduce the space available to the crew. Historically, there are no known projects that aimed to mount a 105 mm gun in the TS90 turret. Light vehicles contemporary with its development (though they would have to be somewhat heavier to mount such a turret) typically used the TK 105 three-man turret featured on the AMX-10RC. This turret mounts a more modern 105 mm MECA F2 L/48 low-pressure gun, a far more modern gun than the CN-105-57 featured on the Bourrasque.

view inside the TS90 turret of an ERC-90
A view inside the TS90 turret of an ERC-90. Source: World of Tank forums
Bat-Chat Bourrasque
A side view of the Bat-Chat Bourrasque in WoT; the turret has been extended towards the rear, and the position of the smoke dischargers has been changed accordingly. Source: MMOWG.net
French Army ERC-90
French Army ERC-90 Sagaie on parade, Bastille Day 2015. The turret is obviously smaller, with the rear compartment that likely models the autoloader in Wargaming’s turret being absent from the real one. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly enough, Wargaming does not call its turret by TS90 or a variation of this designation, such as TS105; instead, it is called “Panhard EBR S-105”. This likely is linked to the fact that the same fake turret was mounted in another French mish-mash present in WoT, the EBR 105; it misses the fact that Panhard rarely if ever designed turrets, with its vehicles instead using turrets from Fives-Lilles in the early Cold War and GIAT or Nexter after the 1970s.

A Theoretically Identical Weight

Officially, the Bourrasque does not have any specified weight; due to being a premium vehicle, it has a set of components with no need to progress and change some of them, and as such, the weight mechanic present in other WoT vehicles would be useless there. Nonetheless, seeing as we know the specified power of the Bourrasque’s engine as well as its horsepower-to-weight ratio, one can easily deduce the weight of the vehicle.

The Bourrasque has a 310 hp engine (A “Mathis 300-2”; though Mathis is an actual engine producer, no 310 hp model is known to exist, with the closest being either 200 or 500 hp engines), and a power-to-weight ratio of 25.8 hp/ton, giving it a weight of 12.01 tons – almost exactly 12 tons. It ought to be noted that the actual weight of the Batignolles-Châtillon 12t is unknown – even more so for the one using the same hull as Wargaming, seeing as it stayed on paper. However, it is quite likely that, equipped with the FL10 turret, it would have exceeded the requested weight of 12 tons, as did the AMX project that became the AMX-13. Fitted with an enlarged TS90 turret that features a larger 105 mm CN-105-57, it is impossible that the Bourrasque would realistically have a weight of almost perfectly 12 tons. The maximum speed achieved by the Bourrasque in WoT is 62 km/h.

Conclusion: Another Unhistorical Mish-Mash

In short, the Bourrasque featured in World of Tanks can be described as a mish-mash of a late 1940s-early 1950s hull, with a modified late 1970s turret that mounts a late 1950s gun. The historicity of such a combination is non-existent; even the turret and gun are not known to have ever been considered together, and mounting them on the hull of a vehicle that was out of consideration for years by the point they were developed could be described as nonsensical. As for why Wargaming created such a vehicle, while no official answer has been given, one could imagine that a very easy to make vehicle (seeing as both its hull and turret already existed within the game) that uses the name of Bat-Chat, which has quite the reputation in World of Tanks, may have seemed very attractive to Wargaming when they were considering a French high-tier premium tank.

The Bourrasque is far from the first fake vehicle featured in World of Tanks though; many such fabrications are present in the game. One could, for example, cite most Chinese tank destroyers, or the FV215b, Conqueror Gun Carriage and Caervanon Action X. France has not been spared either, with another fake mish-mash in the form of the EBR 105 that uses the same turret as the Bourrasque (though it can be argued as slightly less shocking, seeing as the EBR hull was at least used up to the 1970s and not discarded in 1951) as well as many vehicles been given very much unhistorical components, the famous AMX-40 being a notable example.

The fake marriage of the paper design of the Bat.Chat.12t, the ERC-90’s turret modified with an autoloader and an anachronistic 105 mm gun. Illustration by Ardhya ‘Vesp’ Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Specifications

Total weight, battle-ready 12.2 tonnes
Crew 3 (Driver, Gunner, Commander)
Propulsion 310 hp “Mathis 300-2”
Top road speed 62 km/h
Power-to-weight ratio in hp/tonne 25.8
Armament 105 mm D.1504/CN-105-57 main gun with a two-round autoloader (36 rounds)
Rate of fire 5 rounds per minute
Secondary Armament None featured in WoT specifications but possibly the same 7.62 mm AANF1 as on the standard TS90 turret
Hull Armor 20 mm (upper front)
40 mm (front)
30 & 20 mm (Iower front)
20 mm (sides & rear)
10 mm (bottom)
Turret Armor 15 mm (front & mantlet)
10 mm (sides & rear)
8 mm (top)
Turret rotation speed 55°/second
Total production None

Sources:

Char-français: http://www.chars-francais.net/2015/index.php/2-archives/engins/2642-1947-batignolles-12t
http://www.chars-francais.net/2015/index.php/engins-blindes/blindes-a-roues?task=view&id=782
Army-guide:
http://www.army-guide.com/eng/product3558.html
AMX30 Main Battle Tank Enthusiast’s Manual, Haynes editions, M.P Robinson & Thomas Seignon, 2020

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