Categories
Cold War Soviet Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

K-1 Krushchev (Fake Tank)

Soviet Union (1956)
Medium Tank – Fake

The K-1 Krushchev is a fake Soviet tank that was presented in an article titled “Russia’s Secret Weapons”, written by Donald Robinson and published in the June 1956 edition of the American magazine True, The Man’s Magazine. Only five pages long, the bulk of the article is dedicated to Cold War fear mongering, telling the American people of the enormous number of newly designed Soviet weapons which ostensibly vastly outclassed those used by the United States.

The image that led the article showed the then-newly revealed 180 mm S-23 cannon, which True presents as a 203 mm cannon expressly designed to fire nuclear shells. While the S-23 had a nuclear shell designed for it, its primary function was as conventional artillery. The assumption that the S-23 was 203 mm in caliber was not unique to True and was a mistake shared across all Western sources.

Other weapons briefly covered in the article, in mostly correct detail, include the AK-47 rifle, Yakovlev Yak-24 helicopter, 240 mm M240 mortar (which the article also presents as a pure-nuclear weapon, though in reality it was conventional with a nuclear option, as with the S-23), 130 mm KS-30 heavy anti-aircraft gun (which the article misidentifies as 122 mm), 57 mm S-60 medium anti-aircraft gun, and 14.5 mm ZPU-4 light anti-aircraft gun.

The third page of the article gives us a drawing and an illustration of what the magazine describes as a “Killer Tank”. A top-secret new medium tank that was being shown to the free world for the first time, thanks to many men risking their lives to smuggle the information out of the Soviet Union. The K-1 Krushchev [sic], named after First Secretary of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev, was said to outclass the American M48 Patton in every way. It had a more powerful engine and greater speed, wider tracks which gave it better flotation, twice the operational range of the M48, a shorter silhouette, at only 9 feet (2.7 m) tall, and it had a more powerful cannon — 100 mm, as opposed to the M48’s 90 mm. The only downside to the K-1 was that it did not exist.

“This tank is so hush-hush that not one photograph of it has ever appeared…” Source: True, The Man’s Magazine, June 1956 Issue

Buried Origin

Bad intelligence has produced a great number of fictional super-tanks, from the 100-ton Landships the Japanese believed the Germans and Soviets were using, to the British-imagined “Adolf Hitler Panzer”, with a casemate in the front and a turret in the back. Was the K-1 Krushchev just another case of hearsay and overactive imagination, or was it more deceitful? Based on the evidence available, or rather total lack thereof, and the fact that the K-1 only ever appeared in True and nowhere else, it is almost certain that it was fabricated for the magazine.

Most tank designs borne out of incorrect intelligence in the United States come from the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), not, as True claimed with the K-1, the Department of Defense (DoD). It is conceivable that intelligence information collected by the CIA could make its way through channels to end up at the relevant authority within the DoD (even though an official structure for this did not exist in 1956), but there is no record of this ever happening for the K-1. The CIA chose not to share with other branches, as far as we are aware, far more detailed intelligence items than a “super-tank” whose only specifications are “9 feet (2.74 m) tall, 100 mm cannon, operational range ~150 miles (~240 km)”.

We will likely never know the exact origin of the K-1 design. Based on the mostly factual information presented for the other weapons in the article, it does not seem likely that the K-1 was a deliberate fake meant to deceive. At worst, it was an earnest — yet incompetent — attempt to provide a glimpse behind the Iron Curtain. At best, it was a sensationalist rendition of a real design, most likely the Object 416, which was only known through rumor at the time. The artist of the drawing of the K-1 was Sam Bates, an employee of True. It is likely he who was responsible for the design, and did his best based on the information provided to him.

The Design

Source: True, The Man’s Magazine, June 1956 Issue

As practically no hard data was given for the K-1, not much can be said about the design other than from a visual perspective. It is a handsome design, with surprisingly few flaws as far as fake tanks go. It has the roadwheel spacing arrangement of the T-34, with a larger gap between the 1st and 2nd, and 2nd and 3rd roadwheels than between the rest, rather than the roadwheel spacing of the T-44 and T-54, which had a larger gap between only the 1st and 2nd roadwheels.

As it is a rear-turreted design, it would follow that the transmission is at the front, however, the sprockets at the front of the hull are mounted too far forward to be inline with the transmission, and could only be powered through unnecessarily spindly final drive units. The sprockets at the front of the tank are also smaller in diameter than the sprockets at the rear, which would indicate that they are idler wheels. The rear sprockets are better positioned to be the drive sprockets, but if this was the case, then the power from the engine would have to be transmitted to the rear-mounted transmission via a drive shaft running underneath the turret, which Soviet tank designers were averse to doing. Regardless of which was the drive sprocket, the drawing of the K-1 shows it to have a toothed idler wheel, a feature practically unheard of among Soviet tanks.

Visible at the rear of the tank is a set of exhaust pipes, the routing of which makes no sense for a front-mounted engine, which would exhaust over the side. The rear of the hull is unnecessarily flared, as it would be to provide ventilation for a rear-mounted engine. Finally, the location of the driver’s hatch places him right in the middle of the engine compartment, rather than behind or in front of it, as would be expected. We must be generous and assume the driver’s compartment is offset to the side, otherwise, there would be no space for the engine at all. With all of these peculiarities in mind, it is obvious that the person who designed the K-1 did not have an understanding of the automotive changes that must accompany a rear-turreted tank design. The K-1 seems to want to fit the engine and transmission in the impossibly small area rearward of the turret, and give the driver a bourgeois helping of legroom.

Atop of the fenders is the usual Soviet arrangement of stowage bins, and in the side-on illustration, a gun travel lock is shown mounted to the upper glacis. Uncharacteristic for a Soviet design, the front of the hull is rounded and apparently riveted. The presence of the line of rivets above the fender at the front of the hull serves no apparent purpose, other than possibly holding on a rounded sheet metal guard extension over the fender. The usefulness of such a feature would be negligible.

The turret of the K-1 resembles a combination of the turrets of the T-54 Model 1949 and M48 Patton. It is slightly taller than most Soviet turrets, which tend to be squat. It has at least one large coaxial machine gun. Literal interpretation of the images would indicate that it has two, one on either side of the cannon, as the drawing mirrors the illustration in almost all respects except for the antenna and smoke discharger. Having two machine guns would leave no space for the gunner’s optics, so we must assume there is only one. The machine gun would likely be on the right-hand (starboard) side, as Soviet tanks traditionally place the gunner on the left. This means that the drawn picture of the K-1 is the “correct” representation out of the two images.

Likewise, both images seem to place the commander’s cupola on the far side of the tank, and if taken in conjunction that places the cupola in the center, above the cannon breech. As Soviet tanks usually place the cupola on the left, the drawn picture is again a better representation. The cupola itself is a woefully outdated design with no vision blocks and a vertically-opening hatch that is sure to draw attention. On the left-hand (port) side of the turret is a 5-barrel smoke discharger in a “forward, backward, sideways” arrangement that would only deploy smoke to the direct left of the tank, not in front of the tank, as would be desirable. At the rear left of the turret is a radio antenna.

Based on the only measurement provided, namely the tank being 9 feet (2.74 m) tall, we can calculate rough measurements for the rest of the design. If from the bottom of the track to the top of the cupola is 9 feet, then the man shown in the illustration is 5 feet 11 inches (1.8 m) tall. The hull of the K-1 is 25 feet (7.63 m) long and 5 feet 7 inches (1.7 m) tall. The barrel of the cannon is 18 feet 10 inches (5.75 m) long, and the tank has an overall length of 34 feet 3 inches (10.44 m). The roadwheels are about 32.6 inches (830 mm) in diameter, the drive sprocket 29 inches (740 mm), and the idler wheel 23.6 inches (600 mm).

The K-1’s 100 mm cannon’s barrel is slightly longer than the standard D-10 family of Soviet tank guns, and with its pepperpot muzzle brake, more closely resembles the 100 mm T-12, however that gun only entered service in 1961 and was never mounted on a vehicle.

A political cartoon made by Victor Weisz for the 5 November 1956 edition of News Chronicle, a British newspaper. Nikita Khrushchev is depicted commanding a tank remarkably similar to the K-1. Is it possible that the artist of this cartoon was a reader of True and took inspiration from the next-generation Soviet super-tank.

Similar Real Designs

Although the K-1 was fake, there are a number of very similar real Soviet projects from the same era. In 1949, the OKB IC SV (Design Bureau of the Engineering Committee of the Armed Forces) produced several concepts for a heavy tank called the K-91, one version of which placed the turret in the rear. The K-91 shares almost no commonality with the K-1, and even the similarity in names is coincidental. The K-91 was a heavy tank with a very squat hull and numerous small roadwheels. It would have been armed with the 100 mm D-46T, a short-lived development of the D-10T (used on the T-54) that in turn gave rise to the D-56T (used on the T-62A).

K-91 rear-turreted version blueprint. Source: Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic Armored Vehicles of 1945-1965

Later in 1949, Factory No. 75 (Kharkov) began work on a light tank/self-propelled gun armed with a 100 mm M-63 cannon in a rear-mounted turret. The vehicle was designated Object 416, and a prototype was completed around the end of 1952. The Object 416 was too much of an oddball for the Red Army, and was passed over in favor of better designs for the role. If the K-1 Krushchev has any basis in reality, it was most likely inspired by the Object 416.

The Object 416 prototype, recently restored and on display at Patriot Park, near Moscow. Source

At the same time Factory No. 75 was wrapping up work on the Object 416 in 1953, another project was begun to design a replacement for the T-54. Kharkov’s offering for this project was the Object 430, during the early designing of which a rear-mounted turret was considered, but was not pursued.

Another submission for the program to replace the T-54 came from an engineer named Gremyakin. It is not currently known where Gremyakin was employed, though it is possible that he worked at Factory No. 75 and that his proposal and the rear-turreted Object 430 are one and the same. Gremyakin’s medium tank resembled the rear-turreted K-91, and was armed with a 122 mm D-25T.

The unifying feature across all of these projects was that they all placed the driver in the turret. Placing the driver within the turret ring has long been a dream of tank designers, as it saves a great deal of room in the hull and allows the entire tank to be made smaller. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the turret moves, a complex system is necessary to keep the driver’s seat facing forward, and even the most successful driver-in-turret designs do not prevent him from getting motion sickness. Were the K-1 a real Soviet design, the driver would likely be in the turret, as it was with all its rear-turreted brethren, and like them, the design would not have gone very far.



Illustrations of the K-1 Krushchev produced by Phantom_25_Sniper.

Sources

True, The Man’s Magazine, June 1956 Issue — Russia’s Secret Weapons by Donald Robinson

Categories
Cold War Soviet Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

K-91 World of Tanks Fake Version

Soviet Union (1949)
Heavy Tank – Fake

In the years that followed the end of the Second World War (Great Patriotic War), the Soviets designed a vast amount of armored vehicles. Some were mass produced in the tens of thousands, while some never left the drawing board and were buried in archives and drawers for decades. An example of the latter are the K-91 tanks designed by OKB IC SV (Design Bureau of the Engineering Committee of the Armed Forces) in 1949. These were only rediscovered in the late 2000s, and published in a magazine for the world to see in 2013.

When searching for vehicles to fill up a third line of medium tanks for their game World of Tanks (WoT), video game company Wargaming decided to take a controversial approach for their tier 10 vehicle, mashing up two different K-91 designs.

Background

There were three proposals designed simultaneously by OKB IC SV. Development started after the Council of Ministers of the USSR released decree No.701-277§ on 18th February, 1949, which requested the termination of all development and production of heavy tanks weighing 50 tonnes and above. This allowed OKB IC SV, headed by Anatoly Fedorovich Kravtsev, to design a set of vehicles aiming to take advantage of this opportunity. They were supposed to be lighter than 50 tonnes and be able to replace both existing and future medium and heavy tanks. Lead engineer was I.T. Levinov and the designer was Matyukhin. They designed three vehicles: a classical heavy tank, with a front mounted turret; a rear mounted turret heavy tank featuring an autoloader; and a rear mounted casemate self-propelled gun.

The front-mounted turret K-91 heavy tank.
Source: Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic armored vehicles of 1945-1965, page 34
Rear-mounted turret K-91 heavy tank, which had an autoloader.
Source: Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic armored vehicles of 1945-1965, page 35
K-91 SPG, which had a rear-mounted casemate.
Source: Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic armored vehicles of 1945-1965, page 35

World of Tanks Hybrid

In the summer of 2018, the company Wargaming announced a new line of Soviet medium tanks for their game World of Tanks. It started with the A-43 at tier VI, and moved up to the A-44, Object 416, Object 430 II and finally, at tier X, the K-91. This line was set to have as the main feature rear-mounted turrets. The Object 416 was, in fact, a tank destroyer (also called the SU-100M).

One of the biggest offenses present in this new line is the mashup of the K-91 variants. The vehicle is identical to the first K-91 variant, but has the turret moved to the rear, just like the second K-91 variant. Why this was done is bizarre, as the second K-91 variant would have fit well as the tier X vehicle.

The U.S.S.R. tech tree in WoT, showing the medium tank lines. Note the bottom line that leads to the K-91.
Source: WoT

Video Game vs Reality

World of Tanks provides a short paragraph on the supposed history of their K-91:

“The vehicle was developed by the Design Bureau of the Army Engineering Committee under the supervision of A. F. Kravtsev from March through August 1949. The tank was supposed to position a driver in the fighting compartment, as well as feature a 100 mm gun with an automatic loading system, and coaxial large-caliber machine gun. The plan was to mount the 12-cylinder opposed-piston turbo-diesel engine. The mounting brackets with ski-shaped supports were used as support rollers. Development of the project was discontinued at the blueprints stage in December 1949.”

While the text does not have any particular inaccuracies, it clearly describes the rear-mounted turret K-91 and avoids the fact that the vehicle is a mashup. They do state that the engine was turbocharged, which cannot be verified.

Wargaming’s K-91 mashup.
Source: WoT EU

Wargaming got the details and statistics right for the most part. Since there are very few drawings of the K-91s, and they were never built, it is hard to prove when something is accurate or not.

In-game, the K-91 has a 100 mm D-46T. This is historically accurate. The gun was intended as a replacement for the wartime D-10T. Development of the gun began on 28th May 1948 and two prototypes were ready by 1949. However, the program was canceled that same year. Its ammunition weighed between 16 to 17 kg and had a muzzle velocity of 1,000 m/s. In-game, however, it has a muzzle velocity of 1,700 m/s, and the tank can carry 50 of them. In-game, it has +20° of elevation and -9° of depression. In contrast, the real drawings show that it had +20° of elevation and -3° of depression.

Most of the model is a historically accurate render of the rear turret-mounted K-91 heavy tank. The turret matches the original blueprints, as in it has a conical shape, with a bulge for the driver that sat in the turret, to the right of the gun. The driver had a pivoting driving station, so that he would always face the front of the tank, regardless of the position of the turret. This does pose some mechanical problems, so it is unclear if the turret could fully rotate. This has been replicated in WoT, as the turret can only turn 110° in each direction. The loader is placed right behind the driver. On the left side of the gun is the gunner and the commander. The commander has a small bulge in the turret roof for better vision across the turret. A DShK heavy machine gun is mounted to the right of the gun and on the roof, as per the blueprints of the original K-91 with a frontal mounted turret.

The hull also matches the blueprints of the real K-91, but that with a frontal turret and not the rear-turreted one. A large sprocket drives the tracks, which are guided by a set of skids under the hull. The suspension is unique compared to other Soviet medium and heavy tanks. It features small steel-rimmed wheels, individually sprung by torsion bars. Only the first and last torsion bars have two wheels, with dependent suspension, via a pivoting bogie.

To move the turret to the rear, the designers at Wargaming had to make some slight changes to the hull. Mainly, the entire engine compartment was moved to the front, with a direct connection to the final drive, essentially a swap between the engine and turret.

Rear view of Wargaming’s hybrid.
Source: WoT EU

In terms of propulsion, Wargaming states that it used a V-64 engine outputting 860 hp. While the specific power of the V-64 is unknown, Wargaming’s claim is in the upper limit of what the engine could have given. The V-64 was a 12-cylinder boxer diesel engine. The term boxer comes from the layout of the pistons, which are placed horizontally. This allows for a shorter engine and a lower hull, but the engine is also wider.

The armor was significantly lightened from the real blueprint. In-game, the upper frontal plate is 140 mm compared to 200 mm, while the lower plate is 120 mm in-game versus 150 mm on paper. The turret is 160 mm at the thickest and 40 mm at the thinnest, while on paper it was actually 200 mm all around. This was most likely done to fit the medium tank narrative in the game, but the weight remains at around 45 to 50 tonnes.

Wargaming could have easily added the real K-91 rear turreted heavy tank, instead of the current mashup. While it did have a different hull and turret shape, it was very similar. The main difference was the use of an autoloader for the 100 mm gun. Wargaming already exploits a variety of autoloading systems within their game, and since there is no information on the speed of the autoloader, they could have easily played around with the rate of fire data, for a balanced vehicle in-game. This variant does also have slightly thicker armor, but Wargaming has already taken the freedom to downgrade the armor of the in-game K-91 compared to the real thing.

The historical rear-turreted version of the K-91 had a very peculiar hull shape, with a bullet-like shape when seen from above and no vertical angling. Wargaming completely did away with that, preferring to keep the more conventional hull from the front turreted K-91 proposal.

The K-91 with a rear-mounted turret, cutout view.
Source: Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic armored vehicles of 1945-1965, page 35

K-91-2

Strangely, Wargaming decided to add the real K-91 frontal mounted turret as a Tier VIII premium medium tank (premium tanks are tanks that can be bought with real money or alternative currency within their game) with a fully rotating turret. Fortunately, it is accurate to the real original design, and it is a good representation of what the real project might have looked like.

One of the real K-91s made their way into the game.
Source: WoT EU

K-91 PT

In March of 2021, Wargaming announced the introduction of the K-91 PT, which is the K-91 SPG variant. The acronym ‘PT’ comes from the romanized version of the Russian word ‘protivotankoviy’, meaning anti-tank. This is not entirely historical, as such vehicles were mostly called SU or SAU, from Russian ‘Samokhodnaya Ustanovka’, essentially meaning self-propelled gun.

The K-91 PT, with some bizarre additions, such as a superstructure-mounted machine gun.
Source: The Daily Bounce

Conclusion

While it is amongst one of the least offensive fake tanks in World of Tanks, the version of the K-91 in-game is still a fake that could have been relatively easily avoided if they just used the second historical K-91 version. Other than that, Wargaming kept the vehicle fairly historically accurate, with the exception of removing large amounts of its armor to make it a medium tank.

Reproduction of the K-91 fake tank in WoT by Pavel Alexe.

K-91 Fake tank specifications

Total Weight, Battle Ready 45 to 50 tonnes
Crew 4 (Commander, Gunner, Driver, and Loader)
Propulsion V-64 engine, 860 hp
Speed ca 50 km/h
Armament 100 D-64T
Armor 200 mm frontal turret, 140 mm turret cheeks
140 mm UFP
60 mm hull sides

Sources

Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic armored vehicles of 1945-1965
Yuri Pasholok on the Soviet STG – Status Report (ritastatusreport.live)
https://military.wikireading.ru/56371
K-91 – World of Tanks – tanks.gg
K-91 – Global wiki. Wargaming.net

Categories
Fake Tanks WW2 German Fake Tanks

Jagdpanzer E 100 (Fake Tank)

Germany (1944)
Tank Destroyer – Fake

The E 100 super heavy tank is one of the most fascinating tanks of Nazi Germany. While it does not have near-mythical combat legends of the Tigers or the sheer weight of the Maus, its partially built hull was impressive enough to cement it into tank history for decades to come. The obscurity and nature of the project have resulted in a vast number of speculatory conversions and what-if modifications. One of these gray areas is the Sturmgeschütz E 100, a short-lived plan of converting the E 100 into an assault gun. Unfortunately, there are no remaining blueprints of the layout, which has left the appearance of this vehicle up to much debate. The most well-known representation is that with a rear-mounted casemate, made famous by Wargaming’s game, World of Tanks (WoT).

Wargaming used the Sturmgeschütz to fill in their Tier X German tank destroyer line in WoT. Due to the popularity that the game enjoyed throughout the 2010s, WoT quickly became a centerpiece of information and an introduction to tanks for most amateur tank enthusiasts, making the wrongly-named Jagdpanzer E 100 what most think of when mentioning an E 100 based self-propelled gun.

History

WoT provides a short but somewhat inaccurate bit of historical information on the vehicle:

“The E100 was conceived as the basis for a self-propelled gun, an antiaircraft vehicle, and a tank destroyer. However, development was never started.”

There were never any plans to build an anti-aircraft vehicle based on the E 100 hull (or the Maus, for that matter). Many such designs have appeared online, but they are fake.

Likewise, there were never any plans to make an artillery self-propelled gun based on the E 100, although that fake vehicle also made it into the game in the form of the Geschützwagen E 100.

There was work made by Krupp and Porsche on an enclosed direct-firing self-propelled gun, but that particular vehicle was meant to be a Sturmgeschütz (an assault gun) and not a Jagdpanzer (tank destroyer). This was called the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf E 100 Fahrgestell (15/17 cm Assault Gun on E 100 Chassis). The project started on 9th May, 1944, when Porsche and Krupp representatives met to discuss the issue of a new heavy assault gun. Krupp showed plans for mounting either a 15 cm L/63 or a 17 cm L/53 gun inside a fixed casemate on a Maus chassis. This was in competition to what another firm, Adler, had planned, which was to mount these guns inside a fixed casemate, but on an E 100 chassis. The production quota officer, Obering Hendel, preferred the E 100 design over the Maus, as the Maus hull was significantly taller, and with a casemate mounted, would not fit through the standard railway tunnels of the time.

On 28th May 1944, it was requested that Krupp should build a 1:5th scale wooden mock-up of the E 100 chassis Sturmgeschütz, with both gun variants.

Unfortunately, the only surviving blueprints from this program is the one showing the 150 mm gun mount, leaving the position of the casemate to much debate.

The plans for mounting the 15cm L/63 gun on the E 100 chassis. Source: Warspot

The possibility that this program would have transformed into a Jagdpanzer E 100 is not at all lacking if the program would have continued. While the name is unhistorical, many German Jagdpanzers started their life as Sturmgeschütz, such as the Ferdinand, Jagdpanzer IV, Jagdpanther and Jagdtiger. The difference between a Sturmgeschütz and a Jagdpanzer was not a matter of construction or shape, but a matter of deployment and doctrine. However, the Sturmgeschütz E 100 project was terminated before the Panzerwaffe could steal it from the arms of the Sturmartillerie.

HD model of the Jagdpanzer E 100 in WoT. Source: FTR

In World of Tanks

In WoT, the Jagdpanzer E 100 has a large, thickly armored superstructure at the back of the hull, in a similar fashion to that of the Ferdinand, with the engine compartment being moved towards the middle of the vehicle. The crew consists of 6 men, a commander, a driver, a gunner, a radio operator, and 2 loaders. It is armed with a 17 cm Pak, most likely inspired by the real 17 cm Stu.K. L/53 gun. It can carry 24x 170 mm rounds and reload a shell in around 25 seconds. The engine is a “Maybach Neues Projekt” with a 1,200 hp output, allowing the 134-tonne vehicle to reach a maximum speed of 30 km/h. It is crucial to note that these numbers always change in attempts by the game developers to balance the vehicle within the game environment, and are often quite far from reality, but understandable from a gaming point of view.

The Maybach Neues Projekt name is most likely fictional, but there was actually a 1,200 hp engine for the E 100. This was called the HL 234, a supercharged variant of the HL 230. It was to be coupled to an 8-speed Mekydro transmission. However, with these components, Adler moved the transmission and drive sprocket to the back, meaning that, on the E 100 tank version, the turret was moved forwards, requiring a longer hull – a very different look to the original E 100. Sadly though, Adler destroyed their plans at the end of the war to avoid capture. A rear transmission would also make it incompatible with the rear-mounted casemate possibility for the Sturmgeschütz. On the Jagdpanzer E 100, the engine has been moved to the middle of the vehicle in order to make room for the superstructure at the rear.

At the rear left on top of the superstructure, a small turret was added, with what seems like a lower caliber autocannon or heavy machine gun. Within the game, it does not operate. Such an idea is sensible for a fixed casemate vehicle its size in order to protect the vulnerable rear and left side. On the side of the casemate, small pins can be seen. These would have held up track links. The 1,100 mm wide track links would be impossible to be mounted/dismounted by hand from that position. Therefore, a small crane would be required, often shown on different models.

The tank destroyer in WoT is extremely well armored, with 250 mm at the front of the superstructure, and 150 mm towards the sides and rear. However, this, along with the heavy gun breach and ammunition, would have placed considerable strain on the rear suspension. While the real armor thickness for the Sturmgeschütz are unknown, the surviving mantlet blueprints indicate that the rounded ball mount behind the mantlet was around 120 mm thick. The thick, angled frontal plate of the casemate would be around 200 mm thick. Side and rear armor of the casemate is up to speculation, but they would likely have been rather thin (around 80 mm) to keep the weight down and eliminate stress from the rear wheels, as was done on the real E 100 turret.

Jagdpanzer E 100 as seen is WoT, rear view.
Source: Ilya Lezhava

Armament

In WoT, the Jagdpanzer E 100 has a 17cm PaK, inspired from the 17cm StuK L/53 gun. Krupp wanted to avoid using this gun as much as possible on the heavy Sturmgeschütz design, mainly because of its weight, but also the size of the breech and ammunition, which required a large casemate. On 29th April 1944, General Heinz Guderian requested that the penetration should be 200 mm at 4,000 meters. Essentially, this would have meant being able to knock out even the heaviest of Allied tanks from 4 km! Unfortunately, because most of the information around the 17cm L/53 is based on salvaged papers, data about its performance and shells is scarce.

Mechanical aspects

The placement of a rear casemate on the E 100 would come with a host of mechanical challenges, none of which would be possible for Germany to manage at the time. According to former Wargaming historian, Yuri Pasholok, the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee (CIOS) claimed that the transmission and drive sprockets were moved to the rear.

Moving the engine to the middle of the tank would be a complex task, but not impossible.

The placement of a well-armored casemate so far back would have moved a great deal of weight towards the rear wheels, but due to the heavy gun and thick armor resting on the center wheels, this might have balanced out. This did have the advantage of shortening the overhang of the gun over the hull, reducing problems in narrow spaces, such as streets and forests. The Soviet SU-100, a much smaller vehicle, experienced such issues.

The heat from the engine would distort the view of the gunner and could potentially warp the gun, another issue found with many rear casemate tank destroyers.

There would be a host of mechanical changes to the E 100 hull that had to be made, increasing production time and cost. These would be adjusting transmission and drivetrain, adjusting the suspension to the different balance points, changing air intake and exhausts positions, etcetera.

This entire process had already been encountered in the Jagdtiger program. There was actually a proposal of having the Jagdtiger casemate in the rear of the hull and the engine in the middle, the Tigerjäger B, but the issues stated above, among others, led to a central casemate for the Jagdtiger to be chosen.

In recent years, model kit companies have even released models in 1:72 or 1:35 scale of the Jagdpanzer E 100, further cementing the rear-mounted casemate alternative as the most popular one.

Conclusion

Veteran historians and casual tank enthusiasts have been discussing this vehicle for years and we may never know for sure how a tank destroyer or assault gun based on the E 100 would have looked like. It remains one of the many fascinating and impressive projects to come out of Germany in the Second World War, alongside a similar project for the Maus and vehicles such as the Kugelpanzer. It is the simple fact that so little is known about it that allows one’s imagination to open up. The details that are known are also simply sensational, from the large gun to the heavy armor of the E 100. However, it should be remembered that, behind these impressive numbers, equally impressive mechanical and engineering problems lay, which were not solved by the Germans even for their lighter vehicles. The Sturmgeschütz E 100’s appearance in Wargaming’s video game, even under a false name, only boosted its fame within the tank community.

TheJagdpanzer E 100 as commonly represented. Illustration by Pavel Alexe.

Jagdpanzer E 100 specifications

Total Weight, Battle Ready over 134 tonnes
Crew 6 (Commander, Gunner, Radio Operator, Driver and 2x Loaders)
Propulsion Maybach Neues Projekt or HL 234
Speed 30 km/h
Armament 17 cm StuK L/53
Armor 250 mm max

Sources

https://wiki.wargaming.net/en/Tank:G72_JagdPz_E100
https://tanks.gg/tank/jgpz-e-100/model
https://warspot.ru/4351-sverhtyazhyolye-bumazhnye-istrebiteli-tankov
Frohlich, M. (2015). Schwere Panzer der Wehrmacht. Motorbuch Verlag, Germany
Jentz, T., Doyle, H. (2008). Panzer Tracts No.6-3 Schwere Panzerkampfwagen Maus and E 100.
https://warspot.ru/5659-bronetehnika-iz-taynyh-podvalov

Categories
Cold War French Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Panhard EBR 105 (Fake Tank)

France (1970s)
Armored Car – Fake

The French company of Panhard was and remains perhaps the largest provider of wheeled armored vehicles of the French military ever since the interwar era. The manufacturer of many of France’s most successful armored cars, such as the Panhard 178 or AML, one of the company’s most peculiar armored vehicles for its time was the 8-wheeled Panhard EBR. It was developed as a response to a program initiated as early as March of 1945 by the French Military, looking for a 75 mm armed, high-mobility, long-range wheeled reconnaissance vehicle.

Panhard’s vehicle was adopted in December of 1949 and mass-produced in two major variants all the way up to 1960. Notable for its quite heavy firepower for a wheeled vehicle (particularly the model fitted with the AMX-13’s FL-10 turret, produced from 1954 onward), 8-wheel configuration with two metallic side-wheels being used to improve the vehicle’s cross-terrain capacities (the vehicle using just the 4 front and rear wheels on good terrain), and dual driving post guaranteeing equal speed forward and backward, the EBR served as a mainstay of the French military’s reconnaissance force for most of the Cold War. The vehicle was finally retired in 1985.

In comparison to many other French military vehicles of the era, the EBR was long excluded from most popular video games focusing on armored vehicles, due to those, for a time, almost exclusively including only tracked vehicles. In recent years, though, the progressive diversification of these games, and notably Wargaming’s ‘World of Tanks’ (‘WoT’), has lead to the inclusion of French wheeled vehicles in WoT’s update 1.4, on the 6th of February 2018. As part of that upgrade, six French wheeled vehicles were added to the game; of those, one was Hotchkiss’ EBR prototype, the unlucky competitor to the Panhard EBR in the late 1940s, and two variants of the Panhard EBR: the EBR 90, and the so-called ‘EBR 105’, armed with a 105 mm gun in a turret that has never been seen on the EBR. (The model 1954 EBR, fitted with the FL-10 turret, would also be added a premium at a later date)

A render of Wargaming’s EBR 105. Source: Wargaming

Historical upgrades to the EBR’s firepower

Historically, the Panhard EBR went through two major upgrades to its firepower during its service.

A column of Model 1951 EBRs – the first production model – of France’s 8th Hussars Regiment during military exercises. Source: Char-français

As it first entered service, the EBR was fitted with the 75 mm SA 49 main gun; a medium-velocity 75 mm gun, offering anti-armor performances more along the lines of the 75 mm guns used in vehicles the likes of the Panzer IV during the Second World War – so quite outdated by the 1950s. This gun was fitted in the FL-11, a fairly small oscillating turret, featuring no autoloader but a manual loader instead.

The first concept for improving the EBR’s firepower was straight up giving the vehicle the FL-10 turret used on the AMX-13, which featured the longer 75 mm SA 50 with an autoloader, and was much larger and higher. This concept was first considered in 1951; an EBR prototype first received the FL-10 turret in 1952, and after an order in July of 1953, the first examples would be delivered in the last days of 1954. This model would be known as the EBR model 1954.

An EBR mle 1954 during cross-country exercises. The larger, heavier, and higher FL-10 turret gave the vehicle a much higher silhouette and center of gravity, though the 75 mm SA 50 main gun was vastly more potent than the original 75mm SA 49. Source: char-français

The 75 mm SA 50 offered much more firepower than the SA 49, but the addition of the FL-10 turret made the EBR heavier (from 12.5 to 14.9 tonnes) and higher (from 2.33 to 2.58 m). Therefore, the FL-10 armed model only supplemented the FL-11 armed one, with only about 280 FL-10 equipped EBR manufactured, while about 900 FL-11 equipped ones were produced.

The 1960s saw considerable evolution in anti-tank gun technology, and notably lower-pressure guns firing HEAT projectiles. These new guns could offer performances similar or even superior to older low-velocity guns at a fraction of the weight (albeit typically at a reduced maximum effective range). For the EBR, this resulted in the D.921A gun, the same as on Panhard’s lighter AML being adopted for the FL-11 equipped examples in 1964. With the Panhard EBR being out of production by four years at this point, 650 FL-11 equipped EBR were refitted with the 90 mm gun, and all remaining EBRs equipped with the FL-10 or FL-11 were phased out of service.

A 90 mm-armed Panhard EBR, with the side wheels retracted for road circulation. This model can be quite hard to differentiate with the original model 1951, seeing as the turret is the same and the main guns can be quite similar in length. Source: char-français

No major firepower upgrade appears to have been considered on the EBR following the refitting of the 90 mm D.921A, with the vehicle quickly appearing to be, by most measures, quite obsolete (lacking in NBC protection notably). While a replacement was considered as early as the 1960s in the form of the ERAC, its final development, the AMX-10RC, would only enter service in the late 1970s – leaving the last EBRs soldiering on until 1985 in France.

Wargaming’s EBR 105

In Wargaming’s World of Tanks, the EBR 105 stands as the pinnacle of French wheeled vehicles in the game, as a Tier X; it serves as the conclusion of the branch.

Wargaming’s description of the vehicle is as follows: “A variant of the Panhard EBR armored vehicle with more powerful armament. It featured improved suspension and the two-man GIAT TS 90 turret, upgraded to accommodate a 105 mm gun. The vehicle never saw mass production, nor entered service.

Nothing is mentioned in the way of dates, however, a quick examination of the vehicle would show the vehicle would at least be a late 1970s development, due to its turret being first mounted on an armored vehicle in 1977.

The inaccurately-modeled TS 90 turret

The turret mounted on the EBR 105 is a modified version of the NEXTER TS 90 turret, mounted on the old hull of the EBR.

Introduced by Nexter 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 tonnes with ammunition but without crew) could theoretically be mounted on any vehicle that could accommodate a sufficiently large turret ring as well as weigh at least 7.5 tonnes. In practice, however, 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 tracked chassis, 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 the prototype stage with it.

A French Army ERC-90, the most common user of the TS 90 turret, in maneuvers near a river. In comparison to Wargaming’s modified model, the smaller dimensions of the actual TS 90 turret are obvious. Source: char-français

However, Wargaming did not straight up take the historical TS 90 turret and mount it on the EBR. This would already be an unhistorical combination; by the time the TS 90 was around, the EBR was on its way out, with its straight-up replacement, the AMX-10RC, beginning to enter service; the sometimes more than 25 years old hulls were worn out by years of intensive use, and there was little will or need to keep using them for long. Wargaming designed its own heavily modified version of it. It is referred to as the ‘Panhard EBR 105’ turret.

In real life, the TS 90 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 M51 Sherman, the AMX-13-105 or the SK-105 Kürassier. This gun is manually loaded on the EBR 105, however, it ought to be noted that another fake vehicle produced by Wargaming, the Batignolles-Châtillons “Bourrasque” which uses the same modified TS 90 turret, is fed by a two-rounds autoloader.

Wargaming’s 105 mm-armed version of the TS 90 is visibly extended towards the rear, most likely in order to simulate the larger breech. Unlike on the Bourrasque, in which the presence of both an autoloader and the larger breech would likely make the turret extremely cramped, the EBR’s version of the modified TS 90 may be somewhat plausible in terms of internal space; however, this turret having a two-man crew means the commander would also assume the role of loader, for the fairly large 105 mm rounds used by the CN-105-57 – making his task more complex and harder to perform. Historically, there are no known projects aiming to mount a 105 mm gun in the TS 90 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 in 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 fictional EBR 105.

A view inside the TS 90 turret of an ERC-90. Source: World of Tank forums

Weight increase and mysteriously improved engine

Wargaming’s EBR 105 is stated to have a weight of 17 tonnes – whether the vehicle would actually feature such a weight with Wargaming’s fictional version of the TS90 turret is not known. This is, however, a considerable addition of weight onto the EBR, weighing slightly more than 2 tonnes more than the FL-10 equipped model 1954 EBR, and 4.5 tonnes more than the original, FL-11 equipped production model. While Wargaming does mention the vehicle as having a reinforced suspension in its short description, the EBR’s capacity to reasonably operate at such a weight is unknown.

What is almost certainly unimaginable though is that the vehicle received the tremendous upgrade in powerplant Wargaming gave the EBR 105. Historically, all models of the EBR used the Panhard 12H 6000S engine. This 12-cylinder air-cooled engine could produce up to 200 hp at 3,700 rpm, which was sufficient to give the EBR a quite admirable maximum speed for the time. The model 1951 FL-11 equipped model could peak at 105 km/h on a good road, and despite receiving no power plant upgrade, the heavier FL-10 equipped model 1954 was reported to be able to reach this speed as well.

The engine used in Wargaming’s EBR 105 appears to be a development of the original Panhard engine used in the EBR – being referred to as the ‘Panhard 12H 6000 X’, but it has been boosted to an implausible 720 hp. It is unlikely such a powerful engine could be derived from the 12H engine to begin with and combined with the idea that it may be fitted in an EBR hull is stretching the bounds of plausibility to the limit, seeing as this likely would result in a much larger power plant.

Wargaming’s EBR 105 did receive some notable changes to its design. Notably, the rear no longer features any form of driving post, but instead what appears more along the line of an engine compartment, which raises the question of where the vehicle’s fourth crew member, which Wargaming refers to as a ‘radio operator’, would be located. However, the idea that this hull change would be enough to fit such a powerful and likely larger engine is very unlikely (and in any case, nothing suggests the increased size of a largely boosted up version of the EBR’s engine was taken into account when designing the vehicle). This engine gives Wargaming’s vehicle a power-to-weight ratio of 42.35 hp/ton, far higher than the EBR model 1951’s mere 16 hp/ton. However, despite this, Wargaming’s EBR 105 is still appreciably slower than all other EBRs, at ‘merely’ 91 km/h. In general, all that surrounds its automotive capacities and upgrades can be described as quite nonsensical.

A rear view of the early render of the EBR 105; it is substantially different from that of a standard EBR, where the rear is very similar to the front in overall shape. However, it is unlikely this would be enough to accommodate the new 720 hp engine. Source: Ritastatusreport
A view of the general configuration of the EBR (though this is the FL-10 model, this can apply to all): with Wargaming’s vehicle featuring a likely very large engine at the rear, where the fourth crew member would sit is unknown. Source: char-français

Conclusion – Another kitbashed fake tank

The EBR 105 that Wargaming introduced into World of Tanks is obviously a fake vehicle. While it may take inspiration in the fact the EBR was mass-produced with two different turrets and received considerable firepower upgrades during its service life, this does not change the fact that, as it is presented, the vehicle makes little sense. The use of components such as the TS 90 turret would suggest the EBR 105 would have been a late 1970s project, and by that time, the far superior AMX-10RC would have been on its way to replace the EBR – 105 mm-armed or not. This is particularly underlined by the fact a vehicle such as the EBR 105 would have been very close to a complete rebuild; with a new engine, new turret, new hull rear, and reinforced suspension, there would, in the end, be little but the mere shell of the original EBR left, a most likely very costly upgrade.

The EBR 105 is far from the only fake tanks featured in World of Tanks; another French fake vehicle, the ‘Batignolles-Châtillon Bourrasque’, is quite closely linked to it, being a kitbash of the modified TS 90 turret modeled for the EBR 105 and the hull of the BatChat 12t light tank. It can be argued to be somehow even more nonsensical than the EBR 105, combining a modified version of a turret produced from the late 70s onward with a hull on which no developments are known after 1951. In general, WoT, particularly its higher tiers, contains a quantity of fake vehicles: one could, for example, cite most Chinese tank destroyers, or the FV215b, Conqueror Gun Carriage, and Caervanon Action X. As for unhistorical configurations of vehicles that did actually exist, those are legion, though some are more shocking than others; within French vehicles, the famous AMX-40 stands as a notable example.

French army AMX-10RCs preparing for a 14th of July parade in Paris in the late Cold War, with gendarmerie Berliet VXBs may be seen in the background. The existence of the AMX-10RC, which entered service in 1981 and was already at the prototype stage since 1973, makes any kind of significant upgrade of the EBR performed after this date redundant. By this time, the about 30-year old design would still be very much outdated, even with a more powerful engine and a completely new turret. Source: char-français
Wargaming’s mish-mash of EBR parts with an anachronistic, modified TS 90 turret. Illustration by Ardhya ‘Vesp’ Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

EBR 105 specifications

Total weight, battle-ready 17 tonnes
Engine 720 hp ‘Panhard 12H 6000 X’
Power-to-weight ratio in hp/tonne 42.35
Top road speed 91 km/h
Turning angle 33°
Main armament 1 x 105 mm D.1504/CN-105-57 main gun (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
Turret traverse speed 66 deg/s
Hull Armor 40 mm (front & rear), 16 mm (sides), 20 mm (bottom), 10 mm (roof)
Turret Armor 15 mm (front & mantlet), 10 mm (sides & rear), 8 mm (top)
Total production None

Sources:

Char-français:
http://www.chars-francais.net/2015/index.php/engins-blindes/blindes-a-roues?task=view&id=710
http://www.chars-francais.net/2015/index.php/engins-blindes/blindes-a-roues?task=view&id=708
http://www.chars-francais.net/2015/index.php/engins-blindes/blindes-a-roues?task=view&id=41
http://www.chars-francais.net/2015/index.php/engins-blindes/blindes-a-roues?task=view&id=782
http://www.chars-francais.net/2015/index.php/engins-blindes/blindes-a-roues?task=view&id=726
Army-guide
AMX30 Main Battle Tank Enthusiast’s Manual, Haynes editions, M.P Robinson & Thomas Seignon, 2020

Categories
Cold War French Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Batignolles-Châtillon Bourrasque (Fake Tank)

France (1940-1970s)
Light Tank – Fake

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

Categories
Cold War British Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Conqueror Gun Carriage (GC) (Fake Tank)

United Kingdom (1950s)
SPG – Fake

The British FV214 Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank was developed in the early 1950s in answer to the increasingly hostile Soviet Union, and its newly developed heavily armored tanks, such as the IS-3. The 120 mm gun-armed Conqueror was the first and last Heavy Gun Tank produced and operated by the British Army. It had a short service life of just 11 years, from 1955 to 1966. While the Conqueror was based on a hull that was designed to be adaptable, no Self-Propelled Gun was ever built using this hull.

Decades later, the popular online game World of Tanks (WoT) – published and developed by Wargaming (WG) – was preparing a new British tank line. Due to poor research or possibly completely intentionally, the top of the artillery tech tree appeared as the ‘Conqueror Gun Carriage’ or ‘GC’, a completely fictional adaptation of the Conqueror chassis which utilizes an archaic 9.2 inch (234 mm) ‘siege gun’ placed in a fixed superstructure.

That being said, elements of this tank did exist in one form or another.

The Conqueror Gun Carriage (GC) as it is presented in World of Tanks. Image: Wargaming.net

The WoT Representation

A small ‘History’ is provided for this vehicle by Wargaming:

“A proposal to mount a 234-mm howitzer on the chassis of the Conqueror. The power unit was placed in the front. Existed only in blueprints.”

– WoT Wiki Extract

Despite not being given its ‘Fighting Vehicle (FV)’ number, the Conqueror GC is presented as a vehicle of the FV200 series produced in the early 1950s, in the early years of the Cold War. The FV200s date back to the final stages of the Second World War, when the British War Office (WO) was looking for a ‘Universal Tank’. The ancestor of today’s Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), the idea of the Universal Tank was that one chassis would spawn many variants, thus reducing costs, development and making maintenance and supply far easier. The first in the series was the FV201. Despite a long development period, the FV201 project was canceled in 1949, with development moving onto the FV214 Conqueror. As such, only four vehicles of the FV200 series were ever produced and entered into service. These were the FV214 Conqueror and FV221 Caernarvon gun tanks, and the FV219/FV222 Conqueror Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARVs).

The ‘Conqueror GC’ as it appears in ‘World of Tanks’. While clearly fake, the vehicle is based on a real chassis. Photo: Wargaming.net

Self-Propelled Gun (SPG) variants of the FV200 were planned. These were based on the FV201. The SPGs were designated the FV206 and FV207. The FV206 was classed as ‘Self-Propelled Medium Artillery’ while the FV207 was ‘Self-Propelled Heavy Artillery’. While it is unknown what gun the FV206 would have used, it is known that the FV207 was to mount a 155 mm howitzer. Neither of these vehicles made it further than plans, and no drawings of them exist today.

A representation of the FV207 exists in World of Tanks, but as no official documents remain, it is hard to believe that this representation is in any way accurate. Neither the ‘blueprints’ mentioned in WG’s claim to the historicity of the vehicle ‘Conqueror Gun Carrier’ nor this FV207 have ever been publicly presented either. The FV207 appears to be based solely on the real FV3805 instead. Either way, there is no way to confuse the alleged and invented FV207 with an even more invented Conqueror GC.

The FV201-based FV207 as it appears in World of Tanks. Image: Wargaming.net

Cold War British SPGs

For much of the Cold War, the Royal Artillery – the part of the British Army responsible for this kind of vehicle – relied on one Self-Propelled Gun, the FV433 Abbot. The Abbot was built on the hull of the FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and was equipped with a 105 mm Howitzer in a fully traversable turret. The Abbot appeared in the late 1950s, but before this was in development, there were experiments with other SPG designs.

After the Second World War, the United Kingdom was still using the Sexton as its primary SPG. A long development program was launched to find a replacement and, while ultimately resulting in the Abbot, other vehicles also went through development. The design that came closest to completion was the BL 5.5 inch howitzer-armed FV3805 which was based on the Centurion. While this made it to prototype trials, it never entered service. The Abbot would serve as the UKs front line SPG until the early 1990s, when it was finally replaced by the 155 mm gun-armed AS-90.

Left, the FV433 Abbot and, right, the experimental Centurion-based FV3805. Photos: Author & Ed Francis

In-Game Design of the ‘GC’

‘Gun Carriage’ is a uniquely British term used to describe Self-Propelled Guns (SPGs). Although this fake one is labeled as being based on the FV214 Conqueror, the layout of the hull suggests that it is actually based on the FV215. The FV215 never entered service, but it was designed to be the Conqueror’s replacement and, while sharing many components, had a narrower hull, a rear-mounted turret, and a centrally mounted engine. This layout is shared by the fake ‘GC’ with a fixed fighting compartment at the rear and centrally mounted engine.

The FV214 Conqueror (left) and its intended replacement, the FV215 (right). Photos: Author & Tankograd Publishing respectively

This fixed compartment, or casemate, holds the 9.2 inch main armament. The design of the compartment seems to take a lot of cues from the FV3805, featuring the same cylindrical, ‘limited traverse turret’ and a similar layout of periscopes, sights, and hatches. There is also a large hatch and recoil spade installed on the rear of the vehicle. Real SPGs, as they are operated in pre-arranged fixed positions, usually operate with the large rear hatch, or ‘tail-gate’, open. It provides easy access for resupplying ammunition during a fire-mission and also, by being open to the elements, provides ventilation by letting smoke and fumes from the gun escape. The spade is used to transfer recoil forces from the chassis directly to the ground, easing the strain on the suspension. When the vehicle was in position, it would be lowered to the ground. When the gun is fired, the spade provides a back-stop by digging into the ground.

Left, the real FV3805 prototype. Right, the fake Conqueror GC. Note how similar the casemates are, as well as the layout of hatches and periscopes/sights. It is likely that the game designers took a lot of inspiration from the real vehicle. However, they added one more hatch than they needed to. The hatch closest to the gun, on the wall of the casemate, was for the driver of the FV3805. The hatch is also present on the ‘GC’, but as the driver is in the hull, this would be redundant. Images: Ed Francis & Wargaming.net respectively

Armor on the hull is listed as 130 mm (5.11 in) for the front of the hull, 50.8 mm (2”) on the sides, and 76.2 mm (3”) on the rear. This is not too far off the armor thicknesses of the Conqueror, however, it is tricky to pin-point the exact thickness of the hull armor due to conflicting sources. The upper hull was between 4.7 and 5.1 inches (120 – 130 mm) thick, sloped at 61.5 degrees from vertical. This would give an effective thickness of either 11.3 or 12.3 inches (289 – 313 mm). Side armor was 2 inches (51 mm) thick. This is not the same for the more similar FV215 however, with planned thicknesses of 4.9 inch (125 mm) sloped at 59 degrees on the upper glacis and just 1 ¾ (44.5 mm) on the sides and rear.

The crew is also closer to that of the FV215, being made up of a 5-man team. This consists of the commander, gunner, driver, and 2 loaders. It must be said though, that two loaders would be expected in a vehicle such as this due to the scale of ordnance. As with all FV200s, the driver of this fake SPG sits at the front right of the hull.

Mobility

Despite the closer similarity to the FV215 which would have used a Rover engine, this fictional SPG is listed as having the same engine as the Conqueror, consisting of the Rolls-Royce Meteor M120. This was a water-cooled, petrol-injection engine developing 810 horsepower at 2,800 rpm. It was a derivative of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, famous for powering the British Spitfire and American Mustang fighter aircraft of World War 2. In-game, this propels the SPG to a top speed of 34.3 km/h (21 mph) forwards, and 10 km/h (6 mph) in reverse.

The Rolls-Royce Meteor M120 engine installed in the Conqueror. User Handbook for Tank, Heavy Gun, Conqueror Mk. 1 & 2 – 1958, WO Code No. 12065

The Horstmann suspension of the ‘GC’ is one of the accurate parts of this vehicle. On the FV200s, the suspension system had 2 wheels per-bogie unit. The wheels would be made of steel, measuring approximately 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter, and constructed from 3 separate parts. These consisted of an outer and inner half, with a steel rim in contact with the track. Between each layer was a rubber ring. The Horstmann system consisted of three horizontal springs mounted concentrically, guided by an internal rod and tube. This allowed each wheel to rise and fall independently, although the system did struggle if both wheels rose at the same time. Four bogies lined each side of the hull of the vehicle, giving it 8 road-wheels per side. There would also be 4 return rollers, 1 per bogie. The drive sprockets were relocated at the rear of the running gear, with the idler wheel at the front.

Left, a schematic drawing of the Conqueror’s four Horstmann suspension bogie units. Right, this view of a Mk. 2 Conqueror being unloaded from a flatbed trailer shows how the suspension actuates. Sources: User Handbook for Tank, Heavy Gun, Conqueror Mk. 1 & 2 – 1958, WO Code No. 12065 & Rob Griffin

Archaic Armament

One of the most illogical choices in the design of this spurious gun carriage is its armament consisting of the BL 9.2 Inch Howitzer Mk. II. The BL (Breech Loading) 9.2 inch (234 mm) Howitzer was a ‘heavy siege howitzer’ designed in 1913. It saw service with the Royal Artillery in the First World War as a counter-battery weapon.

Period line-drawing of the BL 9.2-inch Howitzer Mk. II. Image: Landships.info

In its day, this howitzer was an extremely powerful weapon, firing a high explosive shell that weighed up to 290 pounds (130 kg). These shells could vary from 28 to 32 inches (71 – 81 cm) long, with a High-Explosive (HE) payload – of either Amatol, Lyddite, or Trotyl (TNT) – weighing anywhere from 25 – 40 pounds (11 – 18 kg). There were two versions of the 9.2-inch howitzer – the Mk. I and the Mk. II. It is the Mk. II that was chosen for this fake SPG.

Artist’s representation of the 28 & 32 inch (71 – 81 cm) long shells of the 9.2-inch (234 mm) Howitzer showing their scale against a 6-foot (1.83 m) man. Produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own Mr. C. Ryan.

With a 13 ft 3 in (4 m) barrel, the Mk. II appeared in late-1916 in response to a request for greater range. The Mk. I had a range of 5.7 miles (9.2 km) while the Mk. II had an increased range of 7.9 miles (12.7 km) with a muzzle velocity of 1,600 ft/s (490 m/s). The complete gun weighed around 6 long tons* (6.1 tonnes) and had a maximum elevation of 55-degrees. The in-game depiction limits it to 45 degrees, probably due to internal space limitations. On this fake SPG, the gun is mounted in a thinly armored cylindrical housing – known as a ‘limited traverse turret’ – that gives it a horizontal traverse arc of 60 degrees. The exposed parts of the gun, such as the recoil-buffer, are also covered in a representation of protective armor.

*Long tons are a unit of mass unique to the United Kingdom; for ease, it will be shortened to ton. 1 long ton is equal to about 1.01 metric tonnes, or 1.12 US ‘Short’ tons.

Just over 500 BL 9.2-inch Howitzers were produced. While there is no question that it was a powerful weapon, the howitzer would have been completely obsolete in the early-Cold War era that this vehicle is set in. The weapon was officially retired during the Second World War, and was replaced by much more accurate and advanced weaponry.

Head-on view of the Conqueror GC showing the large Howitzer in its armored cylindrical ‘limited traverse turret’. Note also the armor wrapped around the recoil buffer and the area above the barrel. Image: Wargaming.net

God Save the Truth

The Conqueror Gun Carriage is, without doubt, a fake vehicle. It is not the worst of Wargaming’s fake tank crimes, as at least a few of the components used in its design did exist in one form or another. In reality, there would not have been a need for this ‘Gun Carriage’. Had there been a need, it is highly unlikely that designers would turn to an almost-antique weapon to arm it, especially as the gun was officially retired almost 10 years before this vehicle would have ‘existed’.

Rear-view of the Conqueror GC showing the recoil-spade and rear ‘tailgate’. Image: Wargaming.net


Illustration of the fake Conqueror Gun Carriage (GC) produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

British Artillery Guns of WW2
arcaneafvs.com
wiki.wargaming.net
www.landships.info
Rob Griffin, Conqueror, Crowood Press
Maj. Michael Norman, RTR, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, AFV/Weapons #38, Profile Publications Ltd.
Carl Schulze, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, Britain’s Cold War Heavy Tank, Tankograd Publishing

Categories
Cold War British Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

FV215b (Fake Tank)

United Kingdom (1950s)
Heavy Gun Tank – Fake

The need for a heavily armed tank was highlighted for the British Army in 1945, when the Soviet Army unveiled its newly developed heavy tank – the IS-3 – at the Berlin Victory Parade. The Armies of Britain, France, and the USA realized they had nothing to counter this new threat. In later years, the IS-3 would prove to be a far less threatening tank than originally thought. At the time, however, these armies were concerned. In response, the US would develop the M103 while the French would experiment with the AMX-50. Great Britain would develop the FV214 Conqueror and FV215 Heavy Gun Tanks.

Decades later, the popular online game World of Tanks (WoT) – published and developed by Wargaming (WG) – was preparing a new British tank line. Due to poor research or possibly completely intentionally, the top of the tree appeared as the Heavy Gun Tank FV215b, a fictional marriage of a FV215 chassis with the FV214 turret and gun with a fictional engine. Fortunately, Wargaming has withdrawn this fake vehicle, although they replaced it with an equally questionable one.

That being said, elements of this tank did exist in one form or another, so those shall be explored.

In-game render showing a profile view of the FV215b. Image: Wargaming.net

The WoT Representation

A small ‘history’ is provided for the vehicle by Wargaming:

“A proposed plan for a heavy tank based on the Conqueror Mk. II. Unlike the production model, this modification featured rear placement of the fighting compartment. Never saw production or service.”

– WoT Wiki Extract

The FV215b is presented as a vehicle of the FV200 series. The FV200s date back to the final stages of the Second World War, when the British War Office (WO) was looking for a ‘Universal Tank’. The ancestor of today’s Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), the idea of the Universal Tank was that one chassis would spawn many variants, thus reducing costs, development and making maintenance and supply far easier. The FV215b is also presented as a variant of the planned FV215, or to give its officially long-winded title, the ‘Tank, Heavy No. 2, 183mm Gun, FV215′. This tank was set to be the replacement of the FV214 Conqueror (Tank, Heavy No. 1, 120mm Gun, FV214).

In-game render of the FV215b showing a top-down view. Image: Wargaming.net

Reality: Heavy Gun Tanks

The term ‘Heavy Gun Tank’ is a uniquely British designation. It refers to the size and power of the gun, not the size and weight of the tank. Heavy Gun Tanks were specifically designed to destroy enemy tanks and/or fortified positions.

Tank, Heavy No. 1, 120 mm Gun, FV214 Conqueror. The Conqueror was Britain’s answer to the Soviet IS-3. It served from 1955 to 1966. Photo: Author’s own

The Conqueror was the first and only ‘Heavy Gun Tank’ that Britain would build and put into active service. Based on the FV200 chassis, the Conqueror was an imposing vehicle. It measured 25 feet (7.62 meters) long – not including the gun, 13.1 feet (3.99 meters) wide and 11 feet (3.35 meters) tall. It weighed 65 long tons* (66 tonnes), had armor up to 13 inches (330 mm) thick and was armed with the powerful L1 120 mm gun. Firing Armor-Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS) rounds, this gun was able to punch through up to 17.3 inches (446 mm) of 55-degree angled steel armor at 1,000 yards (914 meters). Entering service in 1955, the Conqueror had a short service life, being retired in 1966 after just 11 years of service. It was replaced by the FV4201 Chieftain.

*Long tons are a unit of mass unique to the United Kingdom; for ease it will be shortened to ton. 1 long ton is equal to about 1.01 metric tonnes, or 1.12 US ‘Short’ tons.

The next step would have been the FV215. This was in development just as the Conqueror entered full-scale production. This vehicle used a modified chassis that was slightly narrower than the FV214 at 12 feet (3.6 meters) compared to 13.1 feet (3.99 meters). The FV215 would also have had a rear-mounted turret, and would have been equipped with a powerful L4 183 mm Gun. To accommodate the rear-mounted turret, the powerplant was moved to the center of the vehicle. It would appear that this fake ‘FV215b’ is based on the hull of the real FV215.

‘Tank, Heavy No. 2, 183mm Gun, Fv215’, the planned replacement for the FV214. Developed in the early 1950s, it was armed with the powerful L4 183 mm Gun. It never entered service. Photo: Rob Griffin, Conqueror

In-Game Design of the FV215b

The ‘FV215b’ is basically a rear-turreted Conqueror, although it is based on the real FV215 chassis as stated above. There was never a ‘b’ variant of any description planned for the FV215. In-game specifications record the vehicle as weighing 70 tonnes or 68 long tons. This is heavier than both the FV214 and the real FV215 by about 4 long tons (4.06 tonnes). Hull armor is listed as 152.4 mm (6 inches) on the front, 101.6 (4 inches) on the sides, and 76.2 (3 inches) on the rear. This is nowhere near accurate. On the real FV215 hull, armor was planned to be 4.9 inch (125 mm) sloped at 59 degrees on the upper glacis and just 1 ¾ (44 mm) on the sides and rear.

Despite errors like this, the FV215b does share some accurate parts of its design with both the FV214 and FV215 respectively. These include the 4-man crew (commander, gunner, loader, driver), Horstmann suspension system, the turret and integral ‘Fire Control Turret’, and the 120 mm L1 gun.

In-game render of the FV215b. Image: Wargaming.net

Engine

In-game, the FV215b is equipped with the Rolls-Royce Griffon. This is, in reality, an aircraft engine. While Rolls-Royce aero engines have been adapted for use in armored vehicles, there is no evidence at all to suggest that there was ever a plan to make an AFV variant of the Griffon. An example of a converted Rolls-Royce aero engine is the Meteor – as used in the Conqueror. This was an adaption of the Merlin, an engine famous for powering the British Spitfire and American Mustang fighter aircraft of World War 2.

The Griffon was a 37-liter, 60-degree V-12, liquid-cooled engine. It was the last V-12 aero engine built by Rolls-Royce, with production ceasing in 1955. It was used on such aircraft as the Fairey Firefly, Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Sea Fury. The engine produced over 2,000 hp in its plane configuration, but in game it is listed as producing just 950 hp. This is not far fetched, as converted aero-engines were often de-rated for use in armored vehicles. Meteor is an example of this. As the Merlin, it produced up 1,500 hp depending on the model. When de-rated as the Meteor, it produced just 810 horsepower.

The Rolls-Royce Griffon V-12 Aero-engine. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The real FV215 was set to be propelled by the Rover M120 No. 2 Mk. 1 producing 810 hp and propelling the vehicle to a top speed of just under 20 mph (32 km/h). In this fake tank, the installed Griffon engine is recorded as propelling the vehicle to a top speed of 21 mph (34 km/h). While faster than the real FV215, this is the same top speed as the Conqueror which was propelled by a less powerful engine. As with the real FV215, the engine is mounted centrally, separating the Driver (located in the right front corner of the hull) from the rest of the crew in the turret.

Suspension

The Horstmann suspension of the FV215b is one of the accurate parts of this vehicle. It has been used on all the FV200s including the Caernarvon and Conqueror, but also on the Centurion. On the FV200s, the suspension system had 2 wheels per-bogie unit. The wheels would be made of steel, measuring approximately 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter, and constructed from 3 separate parts. These consisted of an outer and inner half, with a steel rim in contact with the track. Between each layer was a rubber ring. The Horstmann system consisted of three horizontal springs mounted concentrically, guided by an internal rod and tube. This allowed each wheel to rise and fall independently, although the system did struggle if both wheels rose at the same time. Four bogies lined each side of the hull of the vehicle, giving it 8 road-wheels per side. There would also be 4 return rollers, 1 per bogie. The drive sprockets were relocated at the rear of the running gear, with the idler wheel at the front.

Left, a schematic drawing of the Conqueror’s four Horstmann suspension bogie units. Right, this view of a Mk. 2 Conqueror being unloaded from a flatbed trailer shows how the suspension actuates. Sources: User Handbook for Tank, Heavy Gun, Conqueror Mk. 1 & 2 – 1958, WO Code No. 12065 & Rob Griffin

Turret & Armament

Both the turret and main armament of the FV215b were taken straight from the FV214 Conqueror.

The main armament of the FV215b consists of the 120mm L1A1 ‘A’ gun. While there were two versions of the 120 mm Gun – the L1A1 and L1A2 – there was never an ‘A’ subvariant. Maximum penetration in-game is listed as 326 mm (12.8 inches).

To give it its full name, the ‘Ordnance, Quick Firing (QF), 120 mm Tank, L1 Gun’ was an extremely powerful weapon with dimensions to match. Muzzle to breach, it measured 24.3 ft (7.4 m) and alone weighed 2.9-tons (3 tonnes). The gun was designed to fire both Armor-Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS) and High-Explosive Squash Head (HESH) ammunition. The in-game penetration of 326 mm is far lower than that of the real gun. Firing the APDS round at a muzzle velocity of 4,700 fps (1,433 m/s), the L1 could penetrate up to 17.3 inches (446 mm) of 55-degree angled steel armor at 1,000 yards (914 meters). Elevation is listed as +15 to -7 degrees. This is accurate to the Conqueror, although a limiter prevented the gun from depressing past -5 degrees.

The impressively long 120 mm L1 gun, seen here on a surviving Conqueror Mk. 2. Photo: Author’s own

The turret is a fairly accurate representation of the one designed for the FV214 Conqueror. Even so, the armor values are way off. In game, it is listed that the turret is protected by 254 mm (10 inches) of armor on the face, 152.4 mm (6 inches) on the sides, and 101.6 mm (4 inches) on the rear. In reality, it is hard to pin-point the exact armor thicknesses on the Conqueror’s turret, thanks largely to conflicting sources. We do know that armor on the turret was between 9.4 – 13.3 in (240 – 340 mm) sloped at 60 degrees on the face, with a 9.4 in (239 mm) mantlet. The sides were 3.5 inches (89 mm) thick, while the rear was 2 inches (51 mm) thick.

A couple of features unique to the Conqueror turret also remain present. One of these is the Fire Control Turret (FCT) – located at the rear of the turret. This replaces the traditional commander’s cupola, and is a self-contained unit that can rotate independently of the main turret. The FCT features an integral range-finder for use by the commander. He would scan around looking for targets, range it, and then pass the data onto the gunner who would then engage.

The other feature is the hatch on the right wall of the turret. This hatch is the ejection port for spent main-gun casings. They were ejected from the turret via the troublesome ‘Mollins gear’, a piece of equipment that frequently broke down on the Conqueror.


In-game render of the FV215b showing the rear-mounted turret. Image: Wargaming.net

99.9% Non-Existent

The FV215b is, without a doubt, a fake vehicle. It is not the worst of Wargaming’s fake tank crimes, as many of the components used in its design did exist. In reality, there would not have been a need for this tank. The real FV215 was designed to replace the Conqueror and have more firepower, so a tank created by mating the FV215 and FV214 would have been completely pointless.

The Tank was introduced to ‘World of Tanks’ in 2014 just to fill the British ‘Tier X’ heavy tank role. In 2018, it was replaced by another less-than-authentic tank, the ‘Super Conqueror’, at least on PC. The FV215b remains in the console and Blitz versions of the game.

Quite remarkably, this photo of a Mk. 1 Conqueror with the turret traversed over the engine deck has often been mistaken for an FV215b. Such mis-identifications are a clear result of Wargaming introducing fake tanks and trying to pass them off as real. Photo: Profile Publications


Illustration of the fake FV215b Heavy Gun Tank produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

wiki.wargaming.net
Rolls-Royce Engines: Griffon
Rob Griffin, Conqueror, Crowood Press
Maj. Michael Norman, RTR, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, AFV/Weapons #38, Profile Publications Ltd.
Carl Schulze, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, Britain’s Cold War Heavy Tank, Tankograd Publishing
David Lister, The Dark Age of Tanks: Britain’s Lost Armour, 1945–1970, Pen & Sword Publishing


Categories
Cold War British Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Caernarvon ‘Action X’ (Fake Tank)

United Kingdom (1950s?)
Medium Gun Tank – Fake

The ‘Tank, Medium Gun, FV221’, otherwise known as ‘Caernarvon’, appeared in the early 1950s and was a mating of an FV200 series chassis and the turret of an Mk. III Centurion. It was designed as an interim vehicle to fill the gap while Britain’s first Heavy Gun Tank, the FV214 Conqueror, was in the final stages of development.

Decades later, in 2018, and despite the real FV221 Caernarvon already being present, the popular online game World of Tanks (WoT) – published and developed by Wargaming (WG) – was looking for a new premium tank (a vehicle bought with real money that provides special in-game benefits) to add to the British ‘tech tree’. The result was a ghastly blend of 4 separate parts (engine, turret, armor plates and hull), all to create a fake tank with a double fake name. It is known in-game as the Caernarvon ‘Action X’.

While all of the constituent parts used to make this tank did exist in one form or another, they were never put together in this way.

The ghastly ‘Caernarvon AX’ as it appears in ‘World of Tanks’. Photo: ritastatusreport

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The WoT Representation

A small ‘history’ is provided for this vehicle by Wargaming:

“A further development of the vehicles designed by the English Electric company under the “universal tank” concept (FV200). The project was discontinued in favor of the A41 tank (Centurion). No prototypes were built.”

– WoT Wiki extract

The Caernarvon ‘Action X’ is portrayed as a variant of the real FV221 Caernarvon, which is in turn part of the FV200 series of vehicles. Despite not being given its ‘Fighting Vehicle (FV)’ number, this fake is presented as a vehicle of the FV200 series produced in the early 1950s, in the early years of the Cold War.

The FV200 dates back to the final stages of the Second World War, when the British War Office (WO) was looking for a ‘Universal Tank’. The ancestor of today’s Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), the idea of the Universal Tank was that one chassis would spawn many variants, thus reducing costs, development and making maintenance and supply far easier. The first in the series was the FV201.

Despite a long development period, the FV201 project was canceled in 1949, with development moving onto the FV214 Conqueror, and in turn, the FV221 Caernarvon. As such, only four vehicles of the FV200 series were ever produced and entered into service. These were the FV214, and FV221 gun tanks, and the FV219/FV222 Conqueror Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARVs).

The Caernarvon ‘Action X’ in-game. Image: WoT player & TE Community member, Nisstro.

Reality: FV221 Caernarvon

In 1950, the gun and turret of the FV214 Conqueror was still in the development phase. The hull and chassis, however, were already in the final stages of development. The chassis was a simplified variant of the FV201 series. The main simplification was in the engine bay, where the power take-off for the additional devices that the FV200 series was to have been fitted with was removed. This simplification meant the tank was slightly shorter. Both of these factors reduced the weight and these savings in weight were reinvested in the tank’s frontal protection, with the glacis being thickened and sloped back slightly more.

With this part of the FV214 complete, the Tank, Medium Gun, FV221 Caernarvon project was launched. The aim of this project was to speed up the development of the Conqueror, while giving crews experience in the operation of the vehicle. The FV221 consisted of an FV214 hull mated with a Centurion Mk. III turret armed with a 20-pounder gun.

With an initial prototype built in April 1952, just 10 of these vehicles were built, the last one in 1953. These had a brief career, nonetheless, seeing extensive trial service in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and the Middle East Land Forces (MELF).

The FV221 Caernarvon, an amalgamation of the FV214 hull and Centurion Mk. III turret. Photo: Tankograd Publishing

In-Game Design of the Caernarvon ‘AX’

This fake tank is simply a fictional ‘upgrade’ to the FV221 Caernarvon ‘Medium Gun Tank’. As this vehicle is also equipped with a 20-pounder (84 mm) gun, it also fits the ‘medium gun tank’ designation. The term ‘Medium Gun Tank’ is a uniquely British designation. It refers to the size and power of the gun, not the size and weight of the tank. The role of a ‘Medium Gun Tank’ was to provide support for assaulting infantry by the sheer volume of fire and engaging lighter enemy armored vehicles. The role of engaging heavily armored vehicles and defensive positions fell to the ‘Heavy Gun Tank’, such as the Conqueror.

The hull armor for this vehicle is listed by WG as 130 mm on the hull front, 50.8 mm on the sides, and 38.1 mm on the rear. This is not too far off reality, however, it is still unclear as to just how thick the upper glacis of the tank was due to conflicting sources. That said, it is believed that the upper glacis is between 4.7 and 5.1 inches (120 – 130 mm) thick. The side armor is accurate, at about 2 inches (50 mm) thick, while the rear plate is actually around 0.7 inches (20 mm).

Despite the countless falsehoods present on this vehicle, the Caernarvon ‘AX’ does share some accurate parts of its design with the real FV221. These include the 4-man crew (commander, gunner, loader, driver), Horstmann suspension system, and the layout of the hull.

In-game profile shot of the Caernarvon ‘Action X’ showing the Horstmann suspension, one of the only realistic parts of this vehicle. Photo: WoT player & TE Community member, Nisstro

The ‘Action X’ Turret

The ‘Action X’ turret is where this mutated tank gets its name. In its own right, the ‘history’ of this turret is a comedy of errors but, nonetheless, it must be clearly stated that the turret, by itself, WAS a real project. Unfortunately, the history of this turret is long lost, leading historians to piece together its history from fragments of files. The following information has been compiled by amateur military historians and TE members, Ed Francis and Adam Pawley.

The first falsehood to tackle is the name ‘Action X’. The official name for this turret was the ‘Centurion Mantletless Turret’, so called because it was a design for a new turret for the Centurion. The name ‘Action X’ appeared in a book published in the early 2000s, after the author cited seeing the name written on the back of a photo of the turret. What he fails to mention is that this was written in the 1980s, and does not appear in any official material.

Centurion fitted with the Mantletless Turret undergoing trials in the 1960s. Photo: ritastatusreport

Evidence suggests that the turret was developed alongside the Centurion and Chieftain, as a means of creating a method for poorer countries to upgrade their Centurion fleets if they could not afford to invest in the Chieftain. Despite popular belief, its development had nothing to do with the FV4202 project. The design was quite different from the standard Centurion design.
Where the standard Centurion turret had a large mantlet that covered the majority of the turret face, this design was mantletless. A large sloped ‘forehead’ replaced the mantlet, with the coaxial machine gun being moved to the top left corner. The rest of the turret remained rather similar to the standard turret. The bustle stayed the same basic shape, the commander’s cupola remained at the back right, with the loader’s hatch on the back left. Unfortunately, the real armor values are currently unknown. In-game, they are listed as 254 mm (10 inches) on the front, 152.4 mm (6 inches) on the sides, and 95.3 mm (3 ¼ inches) on the rear.

Other than the fact that just 3 of these turrets were made, with 2 of them fitted and tested on Centurion chassis and 1 destroyed in a firing trial, little more official information remains on the project. One of these three originals still survives, and currently sits in the car park of The Tank Museum, Bovington, England.

The surviving ‘Centurion Mantletless Turret’ in the car park of The Tank Museum, Bovington. Note the position of the coaxial machine gun at the top left. Photo: Adam Pawley

Second to the name, the next error is the fact that this turret was never intended to be installed on any member of the FV200 series of vehicles. For one thing, this turret was developed almost a full decade after the FV221 Caernarvon. Another issue is the addition of the additional armor on the turret cheeks. The design of these has been taken straight from another WoT fake, the ‘Super Conqueror’. No such name was ever used. The tank was, in fact, a mere static test vehicle, a guinea pig that was pummeled by High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) and High-Explosive Squash Head (HESH) ammunition to test their effects on armored vehicles. For this, the vehicle was covered with additional 0.5 – 1.1 inch (14 – 30 mm) armor plates over its bow and turret cheeks. There was never any intention – or even a need – to place these plates on the ‘Mantletless Turret’. In the World of Tanks game, a single Browning M1919A4 .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun was also added to the commander’s cupola on the turret roof. This was known as the L3A1 in British service.

On the left, the real Conqueror target vehicle, on the right, the fake Caernarvon AX. Photos: themodellingnews and WoT player & TE Community member, Nisstro, respectively

The Caernarvon ‘Action X’ is not the only vehicle in WoT to use the false name. The other vehicle is the Centurion ‘Action X’, which is based on the Centurions which were tested with the ‘Mantletless Turret’.

Armament

The armament installed on this spurious vehicle is the Ordnance Quick-Firing (QF) 20-pounder Gun with ‘Type B’ barrel. There were two types of 20-pounder: the ‘Type A’ without a fume extractor, and the ‘Type B’ with a fume extractor. The gun is, at least, an accurate choice, as the ‘Mantletless Turret’ was tested with both the 20-pounder and L7 105 mm gun. The 20-pounder was the successor to the 17-pounder gun of the Second World War and had a 3.3 inch (84 mm) bore. A range of ammunition was available to it. When firing an Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot (A.P.D.S.) round at a muzzle velocity of 4,810 ft/s (1,465 m/s), the gun could penetrate up to 13 inches (330 mm) of armor at 1,000 yards (914 m). In-game, maximum penetration is listed as just 10 inches (258 mm).

The Caernarvon ‘AX’ in-game showing its ‘firepower’. Photo: Wargamming.net

Despite the accurate selection of a gun, there remains an error in the presentation of it in that there is a thermal sleeve around the barrel. Thermal sleeves are used to provide consistent temperature to the barrel, in turn preventing distortions due to thermal expansion caused by the temperature fluctuations around the tube. There were no such sleeves added to the barrels of the 20-pounder gun (either A or B) or the 105 mm until the 1960s.

The 20-pounder gun – both ‘A’ & ‘B’ types – was installed on multiple vehicles. It served on the Centurion from the Mk. 3 to the Mk. 5/2, after which it was replaced by the 105 mm L7. It was also the main armament of the FV4101 Charioteer Medium Gun Tank and, of course, the real FV221 Caernarvon.

The 20-pounder-armed Centurion Mk. 3 (left) and FV4101 Charioteer (right). Both of these are equipped with the ‘Type A’ 20-pounder. Photos: acemodel & peda.net

Erroneous Engine

As with the equally fake FV215b, the Caernarvon ‘AX’ is equipped with the Rolls-Royce Griffon. This is, in reality, an aircraft engine. While Rolls-Royce aero engines have been adapted for use in armored vehicles, there is no evidence at all to suggest that there was ever a plan to make an AFV variant of the Griffon. An example of a converted Rolls-Royce aero engine is the Meteor, as used in the real FV221 Caernarvon. This was an adaption of the Merlin, an engine famous for powering the British Spitfire and American Mustang fighter aircraft of World War 2.

The Griffon was a 37-liter, 60-degree V-12, liquid-cooled engine. It was the last V-12 aero engine built by Rolls-Royce, with production ceasing in 1955. It was used on such aircraft as the Fairey Firefly, Supermarine Spitfire, and Hawker Sea Fury. The engine produced over 2,000 hp in its plane configuration, but in-game it is listed as producing just 950 hp. This is not too far fetched, as converted aero-engines were often de-rated for use in armored vehicles. Meteor is an example of this. As the Merlin, it produced up 1,500 hp depending on the model. When de-rated as the Meteor, it produced just 810 horsepower.

The Rolls-Royce Griffon V-12 Aero-engine. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On the real FV221, the Rolls-Royce Meteor M120 No. 2 Mk. 1 produced 810 hp and propelled the vehicle to a top speed of 22 mph (35 kph). In this fake tank, the engine is listed as propelling this vehicle to a top speed of 36.3 km/h (22.5 mph).

Suspension

The Horstmann suspension of the Caernarvon ‘Action X’ is one of the accurate parts of this vehicle. On the FV200s, the suspension system had 2 wheels per-bogie unit. The wheels were made of steel, measuring approximately 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter, and constructed from 3 separate parts. These consisted of an outer and inner half, with a steel rim in contact with the track. Between each layer was a rubber ring. The Horstmann system consisted of three horizontal springs mounted concentrically, guided by an internal rod and tube. This allowed each wheel to rise and fall independently, although the system did struggle if both wheels rose at the same time. Four bogies lined each side of the hull of the vehicle, giving it 8 road-wheels per side. There would also be 4 return rollers, 1 per bogie. The drive sprockets were relocated at the rear of the running gear, with the idler wheel at the front.

Left, a schematic drawing of the Conqueror’s four Horstmann suspension bogie units. Right, this view of a Mk. 2 Conqueror being unloaded from a flatbed trailer shows how the suspension actuates. Sources: User Handbook for Tank, Heavy Gun, Conqueror Mk. 1 & 2 – 1958, WO Code No. 12065 & Rob Griffin

Fake, Pure and Simple

The Caernarvon ‘Action X’ is just one of a litany of convenient or lazy fakes by Wargaming. Not only do they erroneously mate a turret with a hull that was never intended to carry it, they also use a completely false designation for said turret. To cap it all, they then adorn the turret with false additions, such as the armor plate.

Had this tank ‘existed’, it would have been completely redundant. The turret itself was not developed until the 1960s, after the Caernarvons had all been retired or turned into Conquerors. By this time, the FV4201 Chieftain was in development, and the Conqureor was about to leave service, showing just how obsolete the chassis was, not to mention the 20 pounder gun.

The Caernarvon ‘Action X’ was released into ‘World of Tanks’ with this optional gaudy ‘Fearless’ camouflage scheme. A fake camouflage scheme for a fake tank. Photo: Wargaming.net


Illustration of the fake Caernarvon ‘Action X’ produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

Wargaming.net
WO 194/388: FVRDE, Research Division, Trials Group Memorandum on Defensive Firing Trials of Centurion Mantletless Turret, June 1960, The Tank Museum, Bovington
WO 185/292: Tanks: TV 200 Series: Policy and Design, 1946-1951, The National Archives, Kew
FV221 Caernarvon – Instructions for User Trials – REME aspect, September 1953, The Tank Museum, Bovington
Maj. Michael Norman, RTR, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, AFV/Weapons #38, Profile Publications Ltd.
Carl Schulze, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, Britain’s Cold War Heavy Tank, Tankograd Publishing

Categories
Fake Tanks WW2 German Fake Tanks

Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 (Fake Tank)

Germany (1940s)
Medium Tank – Fake

During World War Two, the German war machine created some of the largest and most powerful tank designs of that time.

Nonetheless, a design that is often incorrectly cited as being one of these is the ‘Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71’ (Eng: Panther II with 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71). Featured prominently in popular video games such as ‘World of Tanks‘- published by Wargaming – and War Thunder – published by Gaijin, the Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 has been fooling not only video gamers, but, for decades, many historians too.

The Real Panther II

The Panther II’s origins can be traced back to 1942. There were concerns that the Panther I did not have sufficient armor for protection against the anti-tank weapons that would be encountered on the Eastern Front in 1943. Of particular concern were Russian 14.5 mm anti-tank rifles, as they could penetrate the flat 40 mm lower hull sides of the Panther I at close ranges. These concerns lead to the development of a new Panther design, the Panther II, featuring a single piece 100 mm frontal plate and 60 mm side armor.


As revealed by a report from 22nd January 1943, the Panther II was originally to be identical to the Panther I except in armor and weight. Source: Jentz and Doyle.

At a meeting in Nuremberg on 10th February 1943, the chief design engineer of Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (MAN), Dr. Wiebecke, stated that the current Panther design (the Panther I) did not meet specifications derived from experience on the Eastern Front. Therefore, the Panther I would be thoroughly redesigned and incorporate components from the Tiger, such as the final drives. The suspension and turret would also be redesigned and modified. This newly designed Panther was to be the Panther II. A week later, on the 17th, it was decided that the VK45.03(H) Tiger III (later redesignated as Tiger II) would become standardized along with the Panther II.

A table drawn up by Thomas L. Jentz from a Wa Pruef 6 (the German ordnance department) report from 1st November 1943 comparing the armor thickness and angles of the Panther I and the Panther II. Source: Jentz and Doyle.

The Panther II would meet its end in May 1943, largely at the hands of 5.5 mm armored plates called ‘Schürzen’ (Eng: Skirts). Schürzen were fitted on the sides of German Panzers in order to provide protection against Soviet anti-tank rifles and these would be fitted onto the Panther I in April 1943. As Thomas Jentz and Hilary Doyle put it in their book Panther Germany’s Quest for Combat Supremacy, “the invention of Schürzen saved the Panther I. If the Panther I hadn’t been able to cope with anti-tank rifles, production would have been converted to the Panther II.”

With the fitting of Schürzen onto the Panther I, there was no longer much need for the Panther II and further development and work was largely ended. While no versuchs turm (Eng: experimental turret) for the Panther II was ever completed, a single versuchs Panther II hull was completed by MAN in Nuremberg. After the war, without access to supporting documents, when questioned if any Panther II were ever used in combat, MAN stated: Two experimental Panther 2 were ordered, although only one experimental chassis was completed. It is possible that this single experimental chassis could have been employed in combat.

As for the fate of this single versuchs Panther II hull, after the war, it was shipped to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, USA without a turret, just test weight rings. With these test weights still in place, the Panther II was sent to Detroit, Michigan, USA for testing, after which it was shipped back to Aberdeen Proving Ground where a turret from a Panther Ausf.G (Serial Number 121447) was mounted on the vehicle. The Panther II was then given to the Patton Museum in Fort Knox, Kentucky, USA. At the Patton Museum, the Panther II underwent a restoration which involved switching out the turret from Panther Ausf.G 121447 with that of Panther Ausf.G 121455. As of now, the Panther II is located at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA with the turret from Panther Ausf.G 12455.

A drawing of the only Versuchs Panther II hull by Hilary Doyle. Source: Jentz and Doyle
A photograph of the Versuchs Panther II hull with the Panther Ausf.G turret mounted. Source: Jentz and Doyle
A photograph of the Panther II at its current home at Fort Benning with the turret from Panther Ausf.G 121455. Source: Rob Cogan

 

The Real Panther mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71

In a meeting on 23rd January 1945, Oberst (Eng: Colonel) Holzäuer of Wa Pruef 6 reported that development of a Panther mounting the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun in a heavily modified Schmalturm was to be accomplished by Daimler Benz.

The Schmalturm (Eng: Narrow Turret) was a narrow turret design by Daimler Benz for the Panther Ausf.F designed to increase armor protection, provide a smaller target, and eliminate the shot trap of the previous curved mantlet design of the Panther.

Daimler Benz’s design called for a turret ring that was 100 mm larger than the current Panther turret ring to allow for the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun to fit. Ammunition stowage in this Panther would also decrease to 56 rounds due to the larger size of the 8.8 cm rounds as compared to the smaller 7.5 cm rounds. A wooden mock-up of the Daimler Benz design had been completed.

Krupp had previously drawn a sketch (drawing number Hln-130 dated 18th October 1944) of the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun mounted in a Panther Schmalturm with as little modifications as possible, the most notable of which was the moving of the trunnions for the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun back 350 mm, meaning the gun was moved forward 350 mm. This would allow for the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun to fit in the turret. Krupp had been awarded a contract by Wa Pruef 6 to develop this design further on 4th December 1944.

A cross-section of Krupp’s proposal for a Schmalturm mounting the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun as drawn by Hilary Doyle. Notice the distinct bulge in the front of the turret to account for the trunnions being moved. Source: Jentz and Doyle.

At a meeting on 20th February 1945 Wa Pruef 6, Wa Pruef 4 (a sister department to Wa Pruef 6 in charge of the development of artillery), Daimler Benz, and Krupp compared both Daimler Benz’s and Krupp’s 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 Schmalturm proposals. It was decided that a new proposal was to be developed that featured design aspects from both Daimler Benz’s proposal, such as increasing the turret ring diameter, and Krupp’s proposal, such as relocating the trunnions. Daimler Benz was put in charge of developing the turret and Krupp was put in charge of the gun.

However, by the war’s end, all that was completed was a wooden mock-up which was still located at the Daimler Benz assembly plant in August 1945.

The Fake Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71

The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 was born out of a mistake made by the German tank historian, Walter J. Spielberger.

In a report on the previously mentioned 10th February 1943 meeting, it was stated how experience on the Eastern Front had shown that the Panther I did not have sufficiently thick armor. Seeing how the Panther I had yet to make its famous debut at Kursk in July 1943, Walter J. Spielberger had thought that the report was misdated and should have read 10th February 1944. Missing crucial documents that had yet to be discovered, Walter J. Spielberger then made the assumption that the Panther II project was still very much active into early 1945 despite its cancelation in May 1943. This would lead him in making the claim that the Panther II project was linked with the Panther mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 project, ergo the Panther II was meant to mount the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 in a Schmalturm.

While there was a Panther II turret design in a Rheinmetall Borsig drawing (drawing H-Sk A 86176 dated 7th November 1943,) which showed a 7.92 mm M.G. 42 machine gun mount in a Panther II turret with a schmale blendenausführung (Eng: narrow gun mantlet model), this was completely separate from the Daimler Benz Schmalturm design for the Panther Ausf.F or the Daimler Benz Schmalturm design for the Panther mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 for that matter. Also of note was that this turret design came months AFTER the cancelation of the Panther II project in May 1943.

A drawing of Spielberger’s Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 by Hilary Doyle. Note that the turret used in this iteration would not have been capable of fitting the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun as no modifications have been made to it, such as relocating the trunnions and or increasing the turret ring diameter. Source: Walter J. Spielberger

The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 was essentially impossible, as the Panther II project was killed off in May 1943, whilst the earliest known drawing for a Panther fitted with an 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun is Krupp’s drawing (drawing number Hln-130) which was from 18th October 1944.

The Myth Spreads

Despite correcting his mistake in the 1999 edition of his book Panther and Its Variants, Spielberger’s Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 was still being touted as fact by some historians, for example, Thomas Anderson in his book Panther. The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 would further spread as a result of numerous modeling companies producing models of it, such as DRAGON, as well as its inclusion in the popular tank video games World of Tanks and War Thunder.

The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 as seen in the video game War Thunder. Note that the turret used in this iteration would not have been capable of fitting the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun as no modifications have been made to it, such as relocating the trunnions or increasing the turret ring diameter. This particular model is also fitted with German infrared devices such as the F.G. 1250 Ziel- und Kommandanten-Optik für Panther (Eng: Infrared Sight and Commander’s Scope for a Panther), a Kampfraumheizung (Eng: Crew Compartment Heater), and Schürzen, features that the real Panther II never had. Image: Gaijin

 

The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 as seen in the video game World of Tanks. This particular model is fitted with Krupp’s 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 Schmalturm, meaning that the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun could fit as the trunnions would have been relocated. Also of note is the external travel lock fitted onto the upper glacis plate for the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun, a feature the real Panther II never had. Image: Wargaming.net

 

The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 as modeled by the DRAGON model company. The turret used in this iteration of the Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 would not have been capable of fitting the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun, as no modifications have been made to it, such as relocating the trunnions and or increasing the turret ring diameter. Source: kingkit.co.uk

Conclusion

While having parts from very real German tank designs, the Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 is ultimately fake. This beast of a Panther tank was merely the result of a misunderstanding of a single sentence, not of any actual German design efforts. Despite the lack of evidence supporting its existence and its subsequent removal from further editions by Walter Spielberger, the one behind the Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71, the Panther II mit L/71 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 has been propagated repeatedly in media and literature.

Also, despite repeated attempts to clear this myth, its continued presence in games such as World of Tanks and War Thunder, in certain books, and in the shape of modeling kits that present it as fact will ensure that this fake will live for years to come.



The fake Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71. Note that the turret used in this iteration would not have been capable of fitting the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 gun as no modifications have been made to it, such as relocating the trunnions or increasing the turret ring diameter. Illustration produced by Andrei Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

Panther and Its Variants by Walter J. Spielberger.
Panzer Tracts No. 5-4 Panzerkampfwagen Panther II and Panther Ausfuehrung F by Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary L. Doyle.
Panzer Tracts No. 20-1 Paper Panzers by Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary L. Doyle.
Germany’s Panther Tank The Quest for Combat Supremacy by Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Doyle.
Thomas Anderson, Panther, Osprey Publishing


Categories
Cold War Italian Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Progetto M35 Mod. 46 (Fake Tank)

Italy (1946)
Medium Tank – Fake

The popular online game World of Tanks (WoT) published and developed by Wargaming (WG) has many tens of thousands of players and a wide variety of historical and semi-historical armored vehicles to play. It also has a few ‘fake’ tanks as well, that is, tanks that never existed in either drawings or material. The Progetto M35 mod.46 Medium tank is one from the latter category. The tank is very handsomely represented with a 3D model, but it is a fake, as the tank never existed. However, the vehicle in-game is not wholly fabricated, as it has a minuscule basis in fact.

WoT Representation

In WoT, the Progetto M35 mod.46 is, as might be expected from its name, represented as a project dating from 1946 for a 35 tonne (hence the ‘M35’) medium tank. There is even a short ‘history’ provided:

“Conceptualization of a draft design developed at the request of General Francesco Rossi who believed that only light vehicles weighing up to 35 tons would be effective in a new war. Such an innovative design was not approved; development was discontinued when Italy joined the Standard Tank project.”

WoT Wiki extract.

This ‘history’ is a half-truth at best.

Progetto M35 mod.46 as represented by Wargaming in its World of Tanks game. Source: Wargaming

In-Game, the Design is as follows

Engine

The engine for the Progetto M35 mod.46 in the WoT game is given as a 652 hp ID36S 6V CA engine. Although the manufacturer’s name is not provided, the Italian firm of Isotta Fraschini did make a series of engines known as ID-36. These were 9.72 litre marine diesel engines with 6 cylinders arranged in a ‘V’ shape (hence the 6V in the name for a V6 engine) and producing 500 hp. Measuring just 92.5 cm high, 92 cm wide, and 137.2 cm long, this engine weighs just 890 kg. In WoT, the engine module weight is given as 1,200 kg, more than the actual engine. With an output of 652 hp, the engine in-game it is also much more powerful than the real engine, although static-engine versions of the ID-36 are available which produce in excess of 700 hp, like the Fire-pump version (725 hp)

Isotta Fraschini ID-36 series marine diesel engine. The particular model produced 500 hp. Source: mfc-ve on ebay.it

The engines have only been around since the early 1980s, although the company itself dates back to the early years of the 20th century. Whilst the engine is neither for tanks and was not available in 1946, the engine is essentially genuine. They are still in use today for motorboats for example, as they are valued for their compact size and reliability. Their most notable use is in the Italian Lerici-class minesweeper ships of the Italian Navy. Other versions of this engine with 8 and even up to 16 cylinders are available producing up to 2200 bhp. The ‘CA’ added to the end of the WoT module in-game is simply to denote Carro Armato (tank use), although as already stated this engine was never used for tanks.

Suspension and Tracks

The suspension for the WoT Progetto M35 mod.46 is given in the game as ‘Progetto M35 mod.46’ suspension, although what sort of suspension this is open to question. With six evenly spaced road wheels on each side and a noticeable offset between the wheels on the left and right, it appears to be suggesting the adoption of torsion bar suspension for the tank. No such mention of this type of suspension or any other type of suspension is mentioned by General Rossi so this choice is entirely fictional/speculative on the part of WoT.

Secondly, the choice of tracks for the model is very odd too, as, with three rectangular rubber pads across each link, the tracks bear an uncanny resemblance to the British ‘hush puppy’ type of tracks as used on the British Centurion tank. There is no evidence that Italy ever operated a Centurion tank or the ‘hush puppy’ tracks for it either. Further, those types of tracks were not introduced on the Centurion until the 1960s in an effort to reduce the damage to paved roads. Therefore, even if Italy ever did get some of these tracks for some purpose, they would clearly be unsuitable to model on a tank from 1946.

Front view of the tracks on the Progetto (left) bear a striking resemblance to the British ‘hush-puppy’ (right) tracks. Source: WG WoT & Mark Nash

Armament

In WoT, the Progetto M35 mod.46 is shown using what is described as a 90/50 T119E1 main gun. This is a 50-caliber long 90 mm gun with a cylindrical muzzle brake/blast diffuser. The gun is a very interesting choice, as the history of the T119 gun makes it clear that it is entirely inappropriate as an option for this design.

For a start, the gun is American, not Italian. The T119 gun originated from the development of the US T42 Medium Tank which did not even reach the wooden mockup stage until March 1949. When it did, it was fitted with the M3A1 90 mm gun, but this was considered substandard and had to be improved with revised specifications for an improved pressure breech capable of withstanding 47,000 psi (324 MPa) instead of 38,000 psi (262 MPa). It was this revised 90 mm gun which became the T119.

T119 90 mm tank gun fitted with a single baffle muzzle brake. Source: Hunnicutt’s Patton

This T119 gun was able to fire the 90 mm ammunition of the M3A1 90 mm gun, but not the other way around, as it was a higher pressure (the cases were even modified to prevent an accident loading on the lower pressure gun with the higher pressure rounds).

The T119 gun fired the T33E7 AP-T shell (mounted in the T24 case) at 3,000 ft/s (914 m/s) as well as the M71 HE round (in the T24 case). At 177.15 inches (4,500 mm) in length, the T119 had a length of 50 calibers.

Manufacture of the T119 90 mm gun was not even authorized by the Ordnance Technical Committee for production at Watervliet Arsenal until 20th October 1948. This gun was still considered ‘new’ and experimental (hence the ‘T’ designation) in January 1950, when it was modified into the T119E1 and finally became the T125 gun (later standardized as M36) as part of the development of the M56 Scorpion (then the ‘Carriage, Motor, 90 mm Gun, T101). This T119 gun was originally fitted with a single baffle muzzle brake, but this was later replaced with a cylindrical blast deflector by the time it was mounted on the T42 Medium Tank. The gun on the Progetto M35 mod.46 is certainly a real gun, but it is neither an Italian gun nor in existence at the time of the vehicle. This is before even taking into account considerations of when a brand new and experimental American gun could even have got to Italy and certainly not an autoloader for that gun for Italy.

Other points of consideration for the Progetto M35 mod.46 include the armor. Data given by WoT states that the hull armor is supposed to be 60 mm thick frontally with 30 mm on the sides and rear for the hull, and 80 mm, 60 mm, and 25 mm on the turret front, sides and rear respectively. These figures are not based on any design but are purely a function of balance for the game.

Francesco Rossi

Having dissected the tank as claimed by WG, it is important to consider the man, General Franceso Rossi, claimed as the source and what he really wrote. General Rossi is certainly a real person. Born on 6th December 1885, Rossi was a professional soldier who was a Lieutenant Colonel by 1926. Through the 1930s, he rose through the senior ranks with appoints in Rome as Chief of Military Transport and then as the Commanding officer of various artillery regiments. By 1939, he was the Commanding Officer of an Artillery Corps and then Intendant of the Italian 1st Army. Through World War Two, he continued his rise going from the Commander of II Corps to Deputy Chief of the Army General Staff in March 1941. He was made a Lieutenant General in October 1942 and, in March 1943, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Chief of the Supreme General Staff of the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito – RE). It was in this capacity that Gen. Rossi was to play a crucial role during the Italian Armistice of September 1943 (the Armistice of Cassibile).

General Franceso Rossi. Source: Generals.dk

The Source of the Claim

The origin for the WoT claim is from a book written by Gen. Rossi, published in 1946, entitled “La Ricostruzione dell’ Esercito” – the reconstruction of the army. Written in 1946, this paper predates the Paris Peace Treaty of February 1947 and was outlining how a new Italian Army should be organized and the sort of equipment it needed. WW2 had been utterly devastating for Italy with a large but ill-prepared and usually rather poorly led army suffering severe defeats at the hands of the British and Americans. Germany, Italy’s ally in WW2, was not a particularly gracious ally at times either and, following the armistice with the Allies in September 1943, Italy basically collapsed into a civil war with some of the military remaining loyal to the Axis and the rest joining the Allies. This second half had suffered harsh reprisals from the Germans, who from then on had acted as an occupying power. Such a split in Italy required a lot of mending after the war. In this sense, Gen. Rossi’s short book was very well-timed. The Army was totally broken by the war and was still operating a few Italian vehicles left over from the war along with a mishmash of tanks and armored cars provided by the British and Americans. A total reorganization was certainly required. It is worth bearing in mind though, that Article 54 of the Paris Treaty of February 1947 strictly limited the Italian military to not more than 200 heavy and medium tanks and, through Article 61, a total of 250,000 personnel (Army and Carabinieri combined). The likelihood of authorizing the expensive and time-consuming development of a home-grown tank by Italy was simply neither likely nor realistic. It is hard to imagine that Gen. Rossi, from his senior position in the Italian military, would not have been aware of the parlous state of the Italian economy and military post-war.

Article 54 of the Paris Peace Treaty 1947 limiting Italy’s tank strength. Source: US Dept. of State

In his book, “La Ricostruzione dell’Esercito” Gen. Rossi wrote:

Italian Original:


“Accenno anche alle caratteristiche che dovrebbe avere un carro armato di produzione nazionale, unicamente per completare la visione dei mezzi meccanici, per il caso sia giudicato possibile ed opportuno, come io ritengo, procedere a studi ed anche all’approntamento del prototipo.”
“Carro armato veloce, ben corazzato, non mastodontico, perchè resti nei limiti consentiti dalle nostre ferrovie e dalle nostre opere d’arte, ma tale da tener testa ai più progrediti carri esteri: peso dalle 30 alle 35 tonn., cannone di calibro intorno ai 75 mm, motore di 5-600 H.P. di tipo appositamente ad iniezione per la minor facilità di incendio del gasolio rispetto alla benzina.
Dal carro armato potrà trarsi il cannone semovente, utilizzando lo stesso scafo per un cannone da 90, od un obice di calibro maggiore”

– La Ricostruzione dell’Esercito, 1946

English translation:

“I mention the characteristics a national production tank should have solely to complete the vision of the mechanic vehicles, if it is considered viable and appropriate, as I think, proceed to studies and the preparation of a prototype.
Fast tank, well armored, not too big and heavy [like an elephant], provided it stays within the limits allowed by our railway and artwork [bridges, tunnels, etc.], but able to stand up to the most advanced tank of foreign countries: weight between 30 to 35 tons, cannon of a calibre around 75 mm, 500/600 HP engine specifically of injection type due to lower risk of fire compared to a gasoline engine.
From the tank, a self-propelled gun might be derived using the same hull for a 90 mm cannon or a howitzer of a larger caliber”

General Rossi’s book and dust jacket cover binder, 1946. Source: Author

Despite the obviously weakened state of the Italian economy in 1946, Gen. Rossi was still hoping, perhaps vainly, for a new nationally produced tank at least to the level of the production of a prototype. To this end, he outlined the features it should have.

Firstly, powered by a fuel-injected diesel engine (due to the lower fire risk than a petrol engine) producing between 500 and 600 hp. The vehicle had to be quick, able to keep up with the most advanced foreign tanks. At the time of writing, the primary foreign tanks Rossi was likely familiar with would be the American Sherman, British Cromwell, Russian T-34-85, or even the German WW2 Panther with top speeds under ideal conditions of about 48 km/h, 64 km/h, 38 km/h, and 55 km/h respectively. Quite how much Gen. Rossi might have known about the most modern tanks from Britain, American, and Russian though is questionable, but he would certainly have been familiar with at least these WW2 tanks.

Weight-wise, Rossi was very clear, a tank of between 30 and 35 tonnes in weight and of sufficiently modest dimensions to be transported by rail. Armor-wise, the tank was supposed to be well armored yet not too large, hardly a thorough description but then that is because this was not a design – it was a concept of what tank Italy needed for a new army.

At 35 tonnes, this would still be heavier than the heaviest tank Italy produced during the war, the 26-tonne P.26/40 and around 10-tonnes lighter than the German Panther. The weight range given actually closely matches that of the American M4 Sherman. This is not the only similarity either. The gun called for by Gen. Rossi was one of a caliber of 75 mm or thereabouts. The British Cromwell was using the QF 75 mm gun, the American M4 used the M3 75 mm gun or the 76 mm M1A1 series. The British Comet had the 77 mm HV, whilst the German Panther had used the 75 mm KwK 42. Which, if any of these, Gen. Rossi might had been considering is unknown – perhaps he was considering an Italian gun in that caliber range, but he was clear on what he considered a suitable caliber – 75 mm or thereabouts. Bigger guns, like a 90 mm piece, were destined to be on a tank destroyer preferably based on the same chassis.

One of the more unusual elements of General Rossi’s book completely unrelated to its content is that the pages were actually printed and folded before being bound meaning that the majority of pages were still bound along at least one outer edge. Source: Author

That then, is literally ‘it’. There is no design, no model or plans and not a lot of specifics. This was 1946 too, so options were very limited for Italy. Gen. Rossi may have wished for a new tank to be produced in Italy- it would, afterall, be very good for Italian industrial rebuilding as well as for an independent army, but in 1946 this was wishful thinking. WoT’s “such an innovative design…” claim is simply false. There is no design and none of the features he mentioned were in any way innovative.

There was also no need at all for a new and expensive tank for Italy, especially a tank which, after all, would offer nothing that existing available and cheaper designs did not already offer. By the end of the 1940’s, the Italian Army had tanks and tank destroyers which matched what Gen. Rossi had been calling for in the form of Sherman tanks of various types armed with 75 mm, 76 mm and 105 mm guns, Sherman Fireflys armed with the British 17 pounder gun, and the American-supplied M36 Jacksons as tank destroyers armed with a 90 mm gun – a tank destroyer based on the chassis of a Sherman tank, just as Gen. Rossi had wanted back in 1946.

Conclusion

The Progetto M35 mod.46 is a fake. Not a completely made-up-from-nothing fake, but without doubt still a fake. The call from Gen. Rossi for a new tank made it clear that the 90 mm gun was not for this tank, but for a different vehicle. Not only that, but the 90 mm gun selected by WoT was simply not possible to be fitted to a tank in 1946, let alone one in Italy. The tracks, assuming they are ‘hush puppy’ tracks are neither Italian nor available in 1946. The engine certainly is a real thing, but it was not used in tanks and was not around in 1946. All this predated the attempts to develop a single tank as a ‘standard panzer’, sometimes known as the ‘Europanzer’ project.

Whatever Gen. Rossi might have been considering as a tank is unclear, but certainly what he wrote cannot be described as a design. The vehicle, as represented in the WoT game is simply not possible and purely invented.



Illustration of the Progetto M35 Mod. 46, produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

Agarossi, E. (2000). A Nation Collapses: The Italian Surrender of September 1943. Cambridge University Press, UK
Data Sheet ‘Motore termico/ciclo Diesel/a quattro tempi/6 cilindri a V a 90: Isotta Fraschini Motori
Dunstan, S. (1980) Centurion. Ian Allen, England
Estes, K. (2016). M50 Ontos and M56 Scorpion 1956-1970. Osprey Publishing, England
Hunnicutt, R. (1971). Pershing: A History of the Medium Tank T20 Series. Feist Publications, California, USA
Hunnicutt, R. (1984). Patton: A History of the American Medium Tank . Presidio Press, California, USA
Isotta Fraschini. (1985). Industrial Diesel Power for Military Applications by Isotta Fraschini (advert)
Pettibone, C. (2010). The Organization and Order of Battles of Militaries in World War II, Volume VI – Italy and France. Trafford Publishing, USA
Rossi, F. (1946). La Ricostruzione dell’Esercito. Editrice Faro. Rome, Italy.
Symth, H. (1948). The Armistice of Cassibile. Military Review, 28(7). Command and General Staff College, Kansas, USA
US Bureau of Naval Personnel. (1990). Manual of Navy Enlisted Manpower and Personnel Classifications and Occupational Standards. US Dept, of the Navy
US Dept. of State. (1947). Treaties of Peace with Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Roumania and Finland. US Dept. of State, Washington D.C., USA
World of Tanks Wiki
Biography of Lt. General Rossi