mercoledì 17 aprile 2013

Extending the WOT german tech tree - artillery branch

By Zarax

This is a purely speculative article that takes into account WOT german tech tree and uses historical tanks to speculate possible new tank additions.
While trying to keep the articles faithful to history some room for inaccuracy is allowed within these rules:

1) No tank or tank part will be 100% made up, at least a mention about tank role and vague specs are needed

2) Components not planned for the tank are allowed, provided it wouldn't create grotesque inaccuracies like putting a gun that would obviously cripple a tank under its weight

3) This will be limited to WWII plans, anything post war risks to be too arbitrary to properly balance

No serious expectation of anything listed to appear in WOT as described is applied, but as we're discussing about implementing history into an arcade game some items will be controversial.
This is unavoidable as WOT tech tree rules need a tank to be better than the previous one and ergonomics are not exactly cared about, meaning that most designs are over-performing their real counterparts.

In this article we will tackle the most controversial WOT tank class: artillery.
Right now there is a full branch spanning from tier II to tier VIII, however we do already know that WG will extend it to tier X, rebalancing tanks in the process.

Starting from this, we'll try to guess how this will happen:

Tier II: Sturmpanzer I

No radical changes are expected other than minor tweaks.
WOT made its gun unhistorically weak and used it as low tier artillery, while in reality, the SIG 33 was a quite powerful gun made for infantry companies.

The heaviest gun in its class, it was a very powerful howitzer, although inferior to rivals of similar bore due to low range. The short barrel was the price to pay for having a high caliber howitzer manageable by non motorized troops, which made it powerful but short ranged.
It ended up being replaced by a copy of the russian 120mm mortar, which offered only slightly inferior firepower in a lighter and longer ranged platform.

The very first attempt to motorize the gun was based on the obsolete Panzer I chassis, but it resulted in an extremely overload vehicle.
Somewhat compensating this was the fact that the original mount was kept, making the gun easily dismountable should the chassis break down (as it often happened).

Tier III: Sturmpanzer II

No radical changes are expected other than minor tweaks.
WOT made its gun unhistorically weak and used it as low tier artillery, while in reality, the SIG 33 was a quite powerful gun made for infantry companies.

Historically, WOT configuration was only moderately more successful than its predecessor.
Production was pretty limited and most Panzer II chassis were converted to use the 105mm L/28 field gun.

Ironically, the Sturmpanzer II with SIG 33 was found to be most effective in a direct fire role, with the 15cm shell angled in a way that made it ricochet over soft ground and explode in mid air, becoming deadly against infantry.

Unfortunately the vehicle was still under powered for the weight and its weak engine ran hot in the African climate, resulting in the following report in late October 1942:

The weapon has proven itself to be very effective, especially when using ricochet fire.
The Panzer II chassis is insufficient and didn't proves successful.

Tier IV: Grille

Unlike its predecessors, the Grille has been upgraded beyond historical parameters.
In WOT it's a tank both loved and hated: it packs a strong punch for its tier, yet the limited traverse makes it difficult to use.

We can also speculate that MM will be made slightly easier and the tank itself nerfed, but how?
Going into a stricter realism path, the 10.5cm LeFH 18 is the closest option in weight and would basically make the tank a faster-firing Wespe (which would be likely rebalanced by lower ROF as well).

A less likely but still possible alternative would be to use the 12cm GrW 42, which actually is a mortar, but it has a preceding case in WOT already (crusader's howitzer was a mortar) and would allow the tank to retain a reasonably stronger punch than the Wespe.

Tier V: Heuschrecke 10

Su-26 OP! Nerf it!
I'm sure most of you read that sentence at least once in WOT.
The Heuschrecke (Grasshopper) 10 was a prototype tank that brought both the concept of self-propelled gun and german over-engineering to new levels.

Not only the 10.5cm LeFH 18M cannon was supposed to be in a fully revolving turret, but it was also planned that it would be dismountable and used as a separate field gun:

Don't be fooled by the pic above, firing while on board was in the specs, which of course made them complicated enough to produce that it never went beyond prototype stage.
The GW Panther in WOT  that many players love is part of the same family of vehicles.

Let's talk specs: 
The base gun would be a slightly improved version of the 105mm L/28 used on the Wespe (and on many tanks in the german tree) and historically an improved (L/35) version was proposed by Krupp.
This would give it lowish alpha for tier V, but one has to consider the advantages of a turret and the fact that MM spread will be lower in a full tier configuration.

Unhistorical but possible options would be the 12cm GrW already discussed for the Grille or the 15cm STUH 43, used historically on the Brumbarr:

This would be a powerful gun, balanced by lower ROF and shorter range.

Tier VI: Skorpion

After planning a turreted SPG on Panzer IV chassis as Heuschrecke 10, an Heuschrecke 12 based on the Panther chassis was discussed in 1943.
Krupp and Rheinmetall both proposed different designs, respectively called "Grille" (which was part of a planned line from 10 to 21, with the numbers being the cm of gun caliber to be carried) and "Skorpion".

The pictured design, classified as Gerät 5-1213 is very close to the original Panzer IV based concept, while carrying a 128mm cannon capable of indirect fire.
This was a variant of Jagdtiger's gun, which was extremely accurate even in indirect fire, to the point that it was often pressed into the counter-battery role.

Again, this would be a design with a lowish starting alpha but decent upgrades.
The starting gun could be the top one of the previous tank (as often with artillery), with a 128mm L/55 as first upgrade.

As top gun, I'd like to consider two options:

The first would be the historically planned 15cm SFH 43, aka Hummel's gun. This would entail a very short grind for seasoned players and give a familiar gun in a very powerful platform.
A less realistic but still not impossible in WOT would be to follow Rheinmetall guns and use their long 128mm (aka Sturer Emil's gun) cannon as alternative.
This would give a very flat trajectory gun with excellent range and short travel time, although with less punch than a 15cm howitzer.

Tier VII: Hummel

No radical changes are expected other than minor tweaks.
Historically the Hummel was  born as an interim solution to the necessity of a self-propelled mount to the 15cm heavy howitzer.

In WOT the tank is portrayed as a well-rounded mid-tier artillery and fulfills its role pretty well with its historical gun.

Tier VIII: GW-Panther

No radical changes are expected other than minor tweaks.
The Heuschrecke 15 (known in-game as GW-Panther) was the natural follow-up of previous Panther-based proposals.

The design in WOT was made by Krupp and classified as Gerät 5-1528.
It was initially designed to use a fully enclosed turret, but as this would have made the design too heavy, a partially open superstructure was chosen instead and use of the Panther II chassis was planned for production.

Gun-choice wise, it was planned to use a 15cm howitzer, just like the Hummel.
A 21cm mortar (21cm GRW 69?) was discussed but it's likely the chassis would have needed to be redesigned for the purpose (plus it would be OP in game or balanced by horrible accuracy and travel time).

Tier IX and X: GW-Tiger and GW-E

No radical changes are expected other than minor tweaks.
Historically the GW-Tiger in WOT is the Grille 17 and 21 designs mixed in one tank.

The project started in mid-1942, where an heavy self propelled gun based on Tiger components was requested.
It was then delayed in order to be redesigned for the use of Tiger II/Panther components and the first prototype was to be expected in mid-1944.
The allied bombing campaign however caused further delays, with the single prototype not yet complete in early 1945, when work on it was ordered to be ceased.

There were plans to extend the Grille series to 30 and 42cm heavy mortars (likely related to the sturmpanzer Bar project, which will be covered later on), but those were eventually abandoned in favor of rocket artillery like the Sturmtiger or railroad cannons, while the Karl-Gerät covered the self propelled siege mortar needs.

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