martedì 2 aprile 2013

Wargaming missed opportunities: Paper Aufklärungspanzers and the quest for the ultimate light tank

After having dealt with the origins of the most overweight recon tank ever planned, I think it's proper to take some time to consider the alternative designs created by german engineers.

For the very few readers that came across this blog outside of world of tanks forum, here's their current german tank development tree:

Aside from other outstanding issues that are evident to the eye of those versed in german tank history, you can see the aqua green light tanks on the left side, starting with Panzer I and ending with VK2801 (to which will soon be added the Aufklärungspanzer Panther).

Most choices are ok and historical stretchings are all around more or less reasonable, while I wrote in my previous article about the upcoming successor.
Now, the question is: was the german army so short in light tank projects that WarGaming had to resort using such a clumsy light tank design?

In my opinion the answer is ironically Speer's approach on it: it's easy to create as most model parts were already there.
Yet, history shows that several other candidates are available:

Candidate 1: VK1602 Leopard Ausf M

While the Ausführung designation is not historical and stands for MIAG, the proposed tank was the discarded VK1602 design.

Hitler himself argued for an heavier armored recon tank which would have weighted 26 tons and basically be a smaller Panther tank.
At 26 tons and sloped 80mm frontal armor and slightly over 5m length, it basically was a medium tank roughly halfway in size between the lighter Leopard and the Panther.

Candidate 2: Panzer 38(d)

A late war project, this tank was the direct competitor of the lighter E-series.
Basically a germanized version of the Skoda Panzer 38(t), it featured a slightly larger chassis (slightly under 5.4m in lenght and 2.8m wide) with sloped armor similar to the Jagdpanzer 38(t) while using a planned simplified Panzer IV turret with hexagonal design.
At 16-18 tons with 60mm sloped frontal armor and decent armament would have made this a cheap yet effective design.

Candidate 3: Porsche Typ 245

Outshined (or maybe shadowed is a better way to describe it) by the heavier Porsche designs, this Porsche-Rheinmetall light tank is another pretty "original" design in line with most Porsche proposals.
Apparently supposed to double as AA tank and armed with a 55mm autocannon, it was planned to be equipped with a Porsche Typ 101 engine with an advanced hydraulic trasmission.
This 18 ton light tank was also well armored with a sloped 60mm glacis armor and interesting enough, it already was planned to use rubber-saving steel wheels, all in slightly under 5 meters lenght.

Of course, every single other candidate would bring its own question:

How much historical stretching would they need to fit in game?

This is a game we're talking about after all, for balance sake some compromises are acceptable within realistic limits and as they were mostly paper projects which were cancelled ofter very early during their development process.

All candidates would have at least one or two fictional guns from wermacht arsenal, likely one or two engines for grinding and possibly fictional turrets (although 38(d) could use the Kugelblitz 38 one).
As the road has been opened already one could speculate the use of larger 37 to 55mm flak guns, with the occasional uranium round as "gold ammo" (historically they were experimented in 3, 3,7 and 5cm calibers), while the 8H63 and 10H64 AT howitzers could also be considered as well as the 7.5cm PAK 50, which was a rebored version of the historical 5cm cannon.

What ties all of them is that they were all relatively advanced WWII light tank designs, all smaller than the typical medium tanks of the era and dedicated designs instead of jack-of-all-trades adaptations.

Again Wargaming, your turn.

9 commenti:

  1. Do you have further info on the PaK 50? I wonder whether it was only smaller than the old 7,5cm or actually improved otherwise.

  2. The Pak 50 was a prototype project aimed at reusing PAK 38 and 39 cannons.
    Basically they picked the 5cm barrels, thinned them out to fit 75mm ammo (they were quite thick!) and converted into low velocity howitzers with a huge muzzle brake, using the L/24 rounds.

    There is a post about them in the EU forum, look for "increased gun selection for in game tanks".

  3. Zarax, sorry to nitpick mate, but that M on the VK1602 (M) stands for MAN, not MIAG. The drawing is dated November 1941, MIAG only got design authority on the Leopard from January 1942.

    1. Are you sure that drawing FKo 252 is not the one that is shown without turret in Panzer tracts 20-1?

    2. pretty sure, as the legend says it refers to the armour arrangement as intended in November 1941, when the design was still in MAN's hands, and FKo 252 would be more like the drawings on the following pages.

      now, on the other hand, there is no reference to armour values regarding FKo 252(presented in late July 1942) in Panzer Tracts 20-2, so it could still have the same layout as this drawing. also, the first reference to a heavy version, implying the existence of a lighter variant, is dated June 1942. unfortunately, Jentz and Doyle don't say if the lighter variant was part of the original MAN proposal or if it was born after the design was handed to MIAG.

  4. Fair enough, I wrote that the asufrung designation was not historical anyway.
    Thanks for the pointer btw, are you a WOT player?

  5. yup, got to your blog through Silentstalker's. really enjoyed the VK7201 debunking.

    the german light tank branch, let's call it, "issues" are something that really interests me, if not because of the sentimental value attached to some tanks in that branch: Luchs was my first tier 3 and the Leopard was my first tier 4. while I get that Aufklarer Panther is somewhat historical, moreso than VK2801 or the RU251, its completely out of place in the light branch.

    now, if it was something like the churchill gun carrier, i.e., a jumping on/off point, but not in the main line it would make more sense.

  6. I had read before about the proposed German 5.5cm autocannon. It was an outgrowth of the automatic BK-5, but intended to have a more reliable and compact action. I don't recall off the top of my head why they wanted the slightly larger caliber.

    There was a lot of interest in hydraulic transmissions late-war in Germany, which is mentioned in this late-war document.

    Porsche type 245 sounds very interesting. Do you have more information on it?

  7. Well, I think the large caliber was to have a slightly better HE load against infantry and light tanks.
    The cannon in itself was not exactly high velocity IIRC so it's likely that they did not expect this tank to engage bigger enemies.

    On the other side there was a TD version of the tank that could have carried a larger cannon, possibly the 55mm FLAK planned for the Panther chassis?

    Panzer tracts 20-1, 20-2 and "Special panzer variants" got all the info on this tank.