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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > World War II > Armor in World War II

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Armor in World War II Discuss all aspects & disciplines of World War II Armor here.

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  #1  
Old 18 Oct 16, 19:17
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Lightbulb Did tank drivers usually angle their hulls to the enemy to increase armor thickness?

I started playing World Of Tanks about 3 years ago, and although I haven't played in 15 months, I learned aspects of that game that should definitely carry over to real armored combat. The game is designed to be as realistic to real tank combat as possible when it comes to ballistics vs armor.

This seems like such an obvious concept, but prior to playing the game, I'd never considered it. When tank designers finally began designing angled tank armor, they were able to increase armor thickness, without increasing armor thickness...... Just by angling armor plate, you make it thicker when an armor piercing shell hits it straight on.

But during WW2, there were many tanks without angled armor. As I mentioned earlier, the WOT game mechanics are such that they effectively mimic ballistic reality, and angled armor is factored into the equation. For that reason, they recommend that a player should try to always angle the hull diagonally facing the enemy(with most tanks) to effectively increase the armor thickness and decrease odds of penetration with any AP, APCR, APCBC or even sabot rounds.

Those game mechanics would also work in real life, and would have benefited German tankers in Panzer IV and Tiger tanks. But it would also help any tank with flat plate. I've tried googling "do tank commanders angle their hull to increase armor thickness", and other searches, but I get nothing on this topic.
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Old 18 Oct 16, 19:38
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Presumably would only work if you knew exactly where the enemy AT gun was
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Old 18 Oct 16, 20:50
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What would also help is if you can position a tank right behind the crest of an elevation. Someone firing from below would probably hit the terrain and would have to try for a hit on the Turret. If you go back a little you can also take a reverse slope position.

A Tank with a greater main gun depression angle shows a smaller percentage of the Tank than a Tank that has a smaller depression.

Israeli Tanks in the 1967 War used this very effectively in the Golan Heights where Centurions and Shermans were able to fire downward against Soviet designed Tanks.

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Old 18 Oct 16, 22:26
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Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
What would also help is if you can position a tank right behind the crest of an elevation. Someone firing from below would probably hit the terrain and would have to try for a hit on the Turret. If you go back a little you can also take a reverse slope position.

A Tank with a greater main gun depression angle shows a smaller percentage of the Tank than a Tank that has a smaller depression.

Israeli Tanks in the 1967 War used this very effectively in the Golan Heights where Centurions and Shermans were able to fire downward against Soviet designed Tanks.

Pruitt
That brings up another WOT tactic that also carries over to real life; Hull down positioning. The Iraqis tried this in Desert Storm and more often in 2003. They would dig large depressions in the desert, then park their tanks inside the depression so that only their turret was partially visible to enemy tanks. Unfortunately for them, a lot of these tanks were taken out by attack planes and bombers from above, or by guided rockets with top down warheads.

Its hard to say how many of these tanks were taken out by American or British tanks, but with modern APFSDS ammo, and modern targeting systems, this particular hull down tactic may have been defeatable with relative ease, but it depends on which tank the Iraqis were using in that particular hole. I don't know the answer.

But in earlier times, like WW2, a hull down position should definitely give an advantage, provided your tank hull was hidden, and your turret had decent armor. Plus it doesn't require digging a huge hole to accomplish it. Even if you have a low rise, or uneven terrain, you could park your tank on one side of a small rise in the terrain so that only your turret was showing to the enemy.

Those are common things to look for in World of Tanks, and I am curious if ww2 tank commanders/drivers had the situational awareness and training to look for these different advantages such as terrain effected hull down positions and hull angling.
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Old 18 Oct 16, 22:37
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Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
What would also help is if you can position a tank right behind the crest of an elevation. Someone firing from below would probably hit the terrain and would have to try for a hit on the Turret. If you go back a little you can also take a reverse slope position.

A Tank with a greater main gun depression angle shows a smaller percentage of the Tank than a Tank that has a smaller depression.

Israeli Tanks in the 1967 War used this very effectively in the Golan Heights where Centurions and Shermans were able to fire downward against Soviet designed Tanks.

Pruitt
Oh yeah, another comment on your tactic; It would also require that your tank have adequate gun depression to be able to aim downward on enemy tanks below. In WOT, most Russian tanks have notoriously poor gun depression, often due to their low turrets. Don't know if that was true for real life Russian tanks from early 40s to modern times, but probably more or less. That would prevent them from being able to depress their guns more than a few degrees, negating the ability to use this tactic. But other tanks have nice gun depression.
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Old 18 Oct 16, 23:27
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Soviet Tank designs after the JS II, in particular the ones with "frying pan" turrets did not have enough room inside the turret to depress far. I believe the T-34-85 had more depression. Still the Soviets did well in using their basic design for a long time. The tanks were smaller and were able to put more weight into their armor. American Tanks did not follow the trend to flatter turrets until the M-1 came out.

Right now it seems that all modern tank designs use the flat turret design.

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Old 19 Oct 16, 00:08
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The tactic definitely helps in tank vs tank "duels", but those were pretty rare in WWII. World of Tanks recreates a type of combat that pretty much didn't occur. (I don't think they've added AT guns and Infantry since I last watched some gameplay videos for amusement.) I'd call it an effective tactic for situations that rarely developed in WWII, so there was little or nothing lost by not adopting it.

Hull down positioning was much more useful. It's harder to spot you before you fire and you're a smaller target once you are spotted. It also protects the tracks from the weaker AT guns trying to immobilize you because they can't penetrate the armor. Soviet tanks could not depress their guns as much as other countries' tanks, so they have a harder time finding a good HD position.
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Old 19 Oct 16, 01:43
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This was definitely tried in North Africa. I don't know if it had any great effect on the outcome of any particular battle, but I'd doubt it.
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Old 19 Oct 16, 02:35
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The tactic definitely helps in tank vs tank "duels", but those were pretty rare in WWII. World of Tanks recreates a type of combat that pretty much didn't occur. (I don't think they've added AT guns and Infantry since I last watched some gameplay videos for amusement.) I'd call it an effective tactic for situations that rarely developed in WWII, so there was little or nothing lost by not adopting it.

Hull down positioning was much more useful. It's harder to spot you before you fire and you're a smaller target once you are spotted. It also protects the tracks from the weaker AT guns trying to immobilize you because they can't penetrate the armor. Soviet tanks could not depress their guns as much as other countries' tanks, so they have a harder time finding a good HD position.
When using combined forced in a mobile attack, you are right in that youd be driving your tank forward, albeit slowly most of the time, hopefully supported by infantry and hopefully some forward air power taking out a lot of their tanks, TD's, towed guns and artillery.

But if you were in situations where your 'mobile blitzkrieg' came to a halt due to effective enemy defenses(like Kursk or Africa), and your tanks had to hold position and fight for a little while against enemy positions and tanks, then taking the 5-10 seconds to turn your hull to an optimum angle to maximize armor thickness would seem like a good idea.

But the proper angle to turn your hull towards the enemy wasn't consistent on every tank. Some late war to post war Russian tank designs had hulls that were already angled both horizontally and vertically, so keeping it straight would have been best(IS-3 and IS-7 as I recall). Some other tanks would be best angled at only maybe 20 degrees, while others at 45 degrees, depending on side armor thickness.
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Old 19 Oct 16, 03:01
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This seems like such an obvious concept, but prior to playing the game, I'd never considered it. When tank designers finally began designing angled tank armor, they were able to increase armor thickness, without increasing armor thickness...... Just by angling armor plate, you make it thicker when an armor piercing shell hits it straight on.

But during WW2, there were many tanks without angled armor. As I mentioned earlier, the WOT game mechanics are such that they effectively mimic ballistic reality, and angled armor is factored into the equation. For that reason, they recommend that a player should try to always angle the hull diagonally facing the enemy(with most tanks) to effectively increase the armor thickness and decrease odds of penetration with any AP, APCR, APCBC or even sabot rounds.

Those game mechanics would also work in real life, and would have benefited German tankers in Panzer IV and Tiger tanks. But it would also help any tank with flat plate. I've tried googling "do tank commanders angle their hull to increase armor thickness", and other searches, but I get nothing on this topic.
Not sure it would be such a great idea. At least not if your tank has thin side armour and thick front armour.

To make it work, you would need to know where the firing gun is. With this knowledge, you could choose to turn your tank so it faced the threat, taking advantage of the thick frontal armour. Or you could place your tank at an angle, increasing the protection of the front armour, but also exposing your side armour.

If you look at a Panzer IV, it becomes a choice between facing the threat with 80mm of near vertical armour or exposing the 30mm sides to the threat. In my rough-and-ready calculations, angling the tank would increased the resistance of the front armour to equal about 145mm of armour, but you would also expose the side, which would only be equal to 45mm of armour (all assuming a 76mm gun is firing at you).
It then depends on whether the attacking gun can penetrate your 80mm frontal armour, but not you 145mm armour. Which again means that you need to know not only the location, but also the performance of the gun shooting at you.
At which point I think it all becomes highly speculative and rather "gamey"

If your side and front armour were of equal strength, like the T34, then it might make sense. But in a tank like the Panther, I doubt the gamble would pay off.

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Old 19 Oct 16, 03:17
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Even though this really works well only if you have an unrealistic degree of knowledge (the exact position of the enemy, the type of gun firing at you and its penetration figures, etc.), the fact is that German tankers were trained not to move at a 0 angle towards a known enemy position they were to attack, but, rather, to approach it with a (slight) zig-zagging course, of maybe 10.

That would give a small advantage in the case of a front armor hit. It would also mean that the exposing of the much thinner side armor wouldn't be such a dangerous liability, because at an 80 angle of impact the chances are the round will glance off and ricochet away anyway.

In addition, if you advance straight on towards the firing gun, you have a 0 km/h lateral speed, which again helps the enemy in hitting you; if you have a bit of lateral speed, that makes aiming a bit more difficult.

A final bonus is that if the tactical situation shows that the known enemy position is isolated, i.e. it has a weakness on a flank, you can just continue angling away on one of your zig-zags and begin outflanking it.
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Old 19 Oct 16, 05:36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
What would also help is if you can position a tank right behind the crest of an elevation. Someone firing from below would probably hit the terrain and would have to try for a hit on the Turret. If you go back a little you can also take a reverse slope position.

A Tank with a greater main gun depression angle shows a smaller percentage of the Tank than a Tank that has a smaller depression.

Israeli Tanks in the 1967 War used this very effectively in the Golan Heights where Centurions and Shermans were able to fire downward against Soviet designed Tanks.

Pruitt
Hull down positioning was first used in 1918 in the second tank V tank battle of WW1 which was between British Mk V tanks and German Mk IV Beutpanzers (captured and re-gunned British tanks)
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Old 19 Oct 16, 05:48
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I started playing World Of Tanks about 3 years ago, and although I haven't played in 15 months, I learned aspects of that game that should definitely carry over to real armored combat. The game is designed to be as realistic to real tank combat as possible when it comes to ballistics vs armor.

This seems like such an obvious concept, but prior to playing the game, I'd never considered it. When tank designers finally began designing angled tank armor, they were able to increase armor thickness, without increasing armor thickness...... Just by angling armor plate, you make it thicker when an armor piercing shell hits it straight on.

But during WW2, there were many tanks without angled armor. As I mentioned earlier, the WOT game mechanics are such that they effectively mimic ballistic reality, and angled armor is factored into the equation. For that reason, they recommend that a player should try to always angle the hull diagonally facing the enemy(with most tanks) to effectively increase the armor thickness and decrease odds of penetration with any AP, APCR, APCBC or even sabot rounds.

Those game mechanics would also work in real life, and would have benefited German tankers in Panzer IV and Tiger tanks. But it would also help any tank with flat plate. I've tried googling "do tank commanders angle their hull to increase armor thickness", and other searches, but I get nothing on this topic.
The first thought that came to me was that it would most likely be an optimistic hope that it would cause a ricco: rather than increase thickness. lcm1
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Old 19 Oct 16, 13:02
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Even though this really works well only if you have an unrealistic degree of knowledge (the exact position of the enemy, the type of gun firing at you and its penetration figures, etc.), the fact is that German tankers were trained not to move at a 0 angle towards a known enemy position they were to attack, but, rather, to approach it with a (slight) zig-zagging course, of maybe 10.

That would give a small advantage in the case of a front armor hit. It would also mean that the exposing of the much thinner side armor wouldn't be such a dangerous liability, because at an 80 angle of impact the chances are the round will glance off and ricochet away anyway.

In addition, if you advance straight on towards the firing gun, you have a 0 km/h lateral speed, which again helps the enemy in hitting you; if you have a bit of lateral speed, that makes aiming a bit more difficult.

A final bonus is that if the tactical situation shows that the known enemy position is isolated, i.e. it has a weakness on a flank, you can just continue angling away on one of your zig-zags and begin outflanking it.
Good point. Which reminds me.... when the Germans were experimenting with casemate tanks (Kasemattpanzer - turretless tanks) in the 1970ies, they developed a method of tactical driving called "Wedelfahrt". Basically a fast, irregular and small zig-zag movement. This makes the vehicle difficult to hit but does not compromise its own hitting ability unduly if - of course - it can fire on the move. It is apparently still taught in the Bundeswehr.

In a WWII context, it is debatable whether the tanks had the enginepower, speed, and steering capabilities to make this work. And of course they had to stop at some point to shot at the enemy. The few WWII tanks I've seen moving about does not seem to have the necessary capabilities to make such tactical driving a real advantage.
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Old 19 Oct 16, 20:31
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Not facing enemies head-on was recommended in the Tigerfibel. See this link starting on p.84.
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