domenica 31 marzo 2013

Aufklärungspanzer Panther - The industrialist recon tank

What happens when you involve an industralist and number cruncher in a tank design?
The answer isn't straightforward, however it usually involves production streamlining and cost savings.
In this particular case, the belief that the Panther design could be used in a swiss-army-knife role, along with economical considerations, made Speer push down in priority the more specialized tank design.

This happened in October 13, 1942 while discussing about producing the VK1602 Leopard scout tank.
A quite interesting project on its own, in 1942 the design was in debate between Hitler (who as always wanted an heavier, better armored design) and the Heer.
After a rather lengthy debate, Hitler was finally persuaded to approve the lighter 21.9 ton design, while using many existing Panther components to ease production.
Jumping on that, Speer said that the characteristics of the tank were so similar to the Panther that the latter could be used instead.

This resulted in a somewhat lightened Panther that used the much smaller Leopard turret (which is related to the wheeled Puma design) and the soon to be inadequate 5cm K.W.K 39.
Apparently the small matter of tank size did not seem to bother him:

Following on that idea, competition arose, leading Rheinmetall to offer its own interpretation on the design about a month later, an artillery observation vehicle with similar specification called the Panzerbeobachtungswagen Panther:

Despite the bulkier design, it used the same 5cm cannon in a dummy barrel resembling the 7.5cm L/70, all in all being an equivalent design to M.A.N.'s recon tank.
Soon enough, battlefield realities made both designs obsolete when it was apparent that the 5cm cannon was inadequate for its task unless shooting expensive tungsten ammunition and Panther testing itself showed the base chassis was far from being mature, leading to a quiet termination.

Ironically, Panther's chronically weak final drive and suspension would likely have been far more useful in a tank of about half the weight, which would end up being cheaper by using standardized components (an idea that would soon resurface with later Panther design and the paper E-series) and its armament could still have had a chance to either be refocused in a different role (20 and 30mm autocannons were still very useful against infantry and soft skinned vehicles) or recycled into a prime candidate for the 7.5cm PAK 50 gun project, which was an excellent way to transform 5cm cannons into low velocity 7.5cm howitzers using the 75mm L/24 ammo, useful both as HE round and decent against tanks with its HEAT warhead.

Despite several other recon tank projects in 1943-44, in the end the old Skoda 38(t) had to soldier on in the light tank role, while the wheeled sdkfz 234 Puma with a similar turret design showed the usefulness of a well armed and flexible recon vehicle.

sabato 30 marzo 2013

VK 7201 - Pasholok, history and why WG made a tier X Lowe

As EU Supertest has been closed I do not consider myself in conflict of interest with WG's NDA and this does not involve supertest leaks.

Rather, this is an invitation for WG to follow up on a supertest discussion about VK 7201.

Following a WG supertest tradition when it comes about discussing tanks in history, I shall post Pasholok's invitation sign:

Now, what is VK 7201?

TL:DR section on the bottom

Pasholok claims it's a 72 ton tank project stretched up to 120 tons based on these sources (provided by himself):

(special panzer variants, by Spielberger)

(Panzer Tracts 6-3, by Jentz & Doyle)

Now, if you search for VK 7201 what you will get is AchtungPanzer's page about the Lowe, where they claim this to be the Leichter Lowe model.
Being myself a history buff and a tank lover, I started a topic in supertest asking about potential inaccuracies with the tank stats, as it sported E-100s cannon and it could not penetrate itself, despite Lowe's specs topping at 140mm frontal armor:

Pasholok answer through another dev was the pics above and the statement that VK 7201 was not the Lowe.
As I was not fully convinced by the informations above, I asked a friend that owned "special panzer variants" to dig some more info and he kindly sent me the following:

In answer to this, Pasholok replied that Spielberger got confused and Jentz was the only reliable source.
The answer was baffling, especially as Jentz himself states that model is the Lowe!

In face of this evidence, I suggested consulting Doyle, the last available expert on the matter.
Pasholok cut communications saying I was wrong and nothing more.

I kept digging Panzer Tracts 6-3 (the mentioned "only reliable source") and aside from the vague referral to a 72 ton tank project being replaced by a 100 ton tank project there is no single mention of a VK 7201.
As stats were leaked, I tried digging for the armor numbers, and found out that those were cherry picked from another tank development: VK 100.01, aka the Maus specifications.


Basically, WG wanted a german tier X heavy tank and failing to find one they did "the next best thing": they made it up from very vague specs, E-50M style.
Ironically, they ruined an income opportunity for themselves (this could have been a very nice premium tank or used somewhere in the tech tree) and missed a much less controversial choice: Krupp Tiger-Maus design, the very first E-100 design that involved Tiger style suspensions,  a 15cm gun and a Maus-like turret:

Sure, it would have been a lot less original but at least historically accurate.

Your turn, WG.