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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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  #16  
Old 29 Sep 17, 14:51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
Somua S35 in 39-40.
Problematic, but there is a way to jury-rig it into a better tank;
The 3rd crewman sat right next to the driver, and only had a radio to keep him busy. I would have made HIM the Commander, but he would need a much better view. Rig up a pivoting periscope for him, one with a couple of magnification settings. If he can see what's going on to the left, right and forward reasonably well, he can do the job... somewhat.
He still has no hatch. The guy in the turret doesn't have one either, he has to pop out the back of the turret to see what's going on.
You can always tell a S-35 in German service, they replaced the vision-dome with a good hatch.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
T-34 in 41-2.
Best choice at the time (1941) but still a design with many flaws that needed to be worked out.

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Originally Posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
M4 in 42-3.
Everyone's favorite, until a tank with a better gun shows up...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
IS-2 in 44-5.
Already got that one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
M26 in 45.
Well... this is another one that seemed to show the way... huh, why didn't I think of this one?

Funny how this one was called (and used as if it was) a heavy tank, even in Korea, where it really wasn't one anymore.
But all you have to do is look at it, and see the direct line from it to the M-47 and M-48, and from there to the M-60.

That was most certainly not the case with the Sherman.
Yeah, I think we have a winner here.
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  #17  
Old 30 Sep 17, 05:47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
Which tanks could actually have been an effective Main Battle Tank in WW2 if the doctrine had been there?

[SNIP]

What other tanks could actually have been successful MBT's in WW2?
It might be worth considering a definition of MBT as the starting point for discussion

Just for starters, there is Wikipedia:

".. a tank to have the firepower of a super-heavy tank, armor protection of a heavy tank, and mobility of a light tank all in a package with the weight of a medium tank."

I'm not sure this definition works, as many post-war tanks considered MBTs did not have the armour protection of a heavy tank (Leopard I, Centurion, M60 etc.)

Still, you could argue that a WW2 MBT would require
  • Most powerfull anti-tank gun available (HE is a secondary consideration in an MBT)
  • Mobility equal to the most mobile tanks around at the time
  • Frontal armour sufficient to defeat most common threats (no MBT has side, rear, top and bottom armour that can succesfully defeat serious anti-tank weaponry)
  • Weight no higher than common medium tanks

As Nick says, T-34 is the obvious candidate for 1941-42, Sherman fills the bracket in 1942.

Both tanks begin to fail with the arrival of heavier tank and anti-tank guns in 1942-43 (like the PaK and KwK 40).

The Panther is an obvious candidate from 1943-1945. It is somewhat heavy, but on the other hand it showed the way medium tanks were going - by 1945 they were all growing in the 40-ton class. M26, obviously, and Centurion, if you consider it a WWII tank.

The only Panzer IV variant that could be considered would be the Ausf. G for a breif period in 1942-43.
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  #18  
Old 30 Sep 17, 06:50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbo View Post
It might be worth considering a definition of MBT as the starting point for discussion

Just for starters, there is Wikipedia:

".. a tank to have the firepower of a super-heavy tank, armor protection of a heavy tank, and mobility of a light tank all in a package with the weight of a medium tank."

I'm not sure this definition works, as many post-war tanks considered MBTs did not have the armour protection of a heavy tank (Leopard I, Centurion, M60 etc.)
... <snip> ...
I share your doubts regarding the Wiki definition.
Neither the term "Main Battle Tank" nor the concept seem to have appeared in print until the 1970's at the earliest.
Indeed, perfectly reputable publications on tanks, dating from the late 1960's and early 1970's, were still talking about Medium Tanks and Heavy Tanks, with no mention anywhere in their pages about "Main Battle Tanks".

From my reading, I have gained the understanding that the classification and role of Main Battle Tank was created when the two roles and classifications of Medium and Heavy were combined into a single class.
This seems to have happened over a number of years and at slightly different times for the various major tank producing countries.
Thus, during the final quarter of the 20th century most of the World's leading tank nations began fielding MBTs classified as such, with the terms Medium and Heavy (or their equivalents) respectively disappearing both from the orders of battle and from all later references.

However, I have noticed that some designs which were deemed to be at the upper end of general effectiveness for Medium (or simply continuing to serve in large numbers) were re-classified as MBTs; which might be confusing for some.

What we seem to be talking about in this thread, is which of the WW2 designs would have been most suitable to fulfil the role of an MBT, if that classification - and the doctrine that goes with it - had existed between 1939 and 1945.

Interesting basis for discussion, even if ultimately fruitless.
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  #19  
Old 30 Sep 17, 08:38
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In 1941 the Russian KV-1 (below) was just as tough as the T-34 but not as fast, so it never achieved the same fame-

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  #20  
Old 30 Sep 17, 10:54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Exorcist View Post
The 3rd crewman sat right next to the driver, and only had a radio to keep him busy. I would have made HIM the Commander, but he would need a much better view. Rig up a pivoting periscope for him, one with a couple of magnification settings. If he can see what's going on to the left, right and forward reasonably well, he can do the job... somewhat.
He still has no hatch. The guy in the turret doesn't have one either, he has to pop out the back of the turret to see what's going on.
You can always tell a S-35 in German service, they replaced the vision-dome with a good hatch.
.
The third crewman acted as loader as well as radio operator. The S35 is described in French studies as having a "1 1/2 man turret", an odd description but one that takes into account the role of this crewman during actual combat when they became 'turret' crew by default. See the Trackstory History on the tank by Pascal D'Anjou. His books on French armour are probably the best references in English out there.

Your description of the hatch issue is very accurate and illustrates one of the characteristics of early WW2 tank warfare the Germans understood better. Their tank commanders tended to fight 'unbuttoned' for better situational awareness, feeling the increase in casualty risk to personnel was outweighed by the combat advantage and ultimately the greater survivability of the vehicle itself. German tactics and design recognized this fact and incorporated it sooner. Until tank optic design caught up to operational need, visibility access from the turret hatch was an essential design feature.

I'll note that there is a lot of misinformation about French armour kicking around the internet. Getting to read information by French historians has been eye opening for me in dispelling some myths from the English language sources.
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  #21  
Old 30 Sep 17, 10:56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Poor Old Spike View Post
In 1941 the Russian KV-1 (below) was just as tough as the T-34 but not as fast, so it never achieved the same fame-

It also suffered even more so from reliability issues with its drive train.
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  #22  
Old 30 Sep 17, 14:00
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichardS View Post
I'd vote for the Comet as a MBT of WWII. I don't remember recalling any vices with it and it has speed, firepower and size that doesn't betray it.
A34 Comet
I was about to dismiss the Comet, mainly for its lack of armour. However, when compared to the IS-2, it does have the same turret front thickness (4") and its hull sides are often spaced, giving better protection vs HEAT.
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  #23  
Old 30 Sep 17, 14:07
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The next contender I would suggest is the King Tiger. It was actually fairly reliable and obviously a big tough hitter.

Possible contenders so far ?

Somua S-35 in 39-40.
T-34 in 41-2.
M4 in 42-3.
IS-2 in 44-5.
King Tiger in 44-5.
Comet in 45.
M26 in 45.
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  #24  
Old 30 Sep 17, 19:50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by panther3485 View Post
Neither the term "Main Battle Tank" nor the concept seem to have appeared in print until the 1970's at the earliest.
Indeed, perfectly reputable publications on tanks, dating from the late
FWIW, the term dates at least to 1957, when the US Army Ad-hoc Group on Armament for Future Tanks or Similar Combat Vehicles completed its study. One of its recommendations, approved in August 1957 by Army Chief of Staff GEN Maxwell Taylor (of pentomic division fame), was a development program that would reduce the number of future tank types to two: a light airborne reconnaissance/airborne assault vehicle which would emerge as the M551; and a main battle tank, which Hunnicutt says "was a universal or all purpose fighting vehicle capable of performing the functions of both the medium and heavy gun tanks. It was to have firepower and protection sufficient for the assault role as well as adequate mobility to perform as a medium tank."

The desirability of the MBT was echoed in 1957 when the Fourth Tripartite conference between the US, UK, and Canada also recommended, as Griffin says, "that medium and heavy gun tanks should be embodied in one class of vehicle, to be known as the 'main battle tank'."
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  #25  
Old 30 Sep 17, 21:55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DogDodger View Post
FWIW, the term dates at least to 1957, when the US Army Ad-hoc Group on Armament for Future Tanks or Similar Combat Vehicles completed its study. One of its recommendations, approved in August 1957 by Army Chief of Staff GEN Maxwell Taylor (of pentomic division fame), was a development program that would reduce the number of future tank types to two: a light airborne reconnaissance/airborne assault vehicle which would emerge as the M551; and a main battle tank, which Hunnicutt says "was a universal or all purpose fighting vehicle capable of performing the functions of both the medium and heavy gun tanks. It was to have firepower and protection sufficient for the assault role as well as adequate mobility to perform as a medium tank."

The desirability of the MBT was echoed in 1957 when the Fourth Tripartite conference between the US, UK, and Canada also recommended, as Griffin says, "that medium and heavy gun tanks should be embodied in one class of vehicle, to be known as the 'main battle tank'."
Indeed, I have no doubt.
Somewhere, somebody must have been thinking about this idea, and intending to introduce it, for quite some time before it was implemented in practise, and then reflected in standard use and official classifications (which is what I was referring to).
That some sort of consensus was reached between a number of nations (in this case, NATO countries) seems perfectly logical too. +1
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  #26  
Old 01 Oct 17, 13:33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DogDodger View Post
FWIW, the term dates at least to 1957, when the US Army Ad-hoc Group on Armament for Future Tanks or Similar Combat Vehicles completed its study. One of its recommendations, approved in August 1957 by Army Chief of Staff GEN Maxwell Taylor (of pentomic division fame), was a development program that would reduce the number of future tank types to two: a light airborne reconnaissance/airborne assault vehicle which would emerge as the M551; and a main battle tank, which Hunnicutt says "was a universal or all purpose fighting vehicle capable of performing the functions of both the medium and heavy gun tanks. It was to have firepower and protection sufficient for the assault role as well as adequate mobility to perform as a medium tank."

The desirability of the MBT was echoed in 1957 when the Fourth Tripartite conference between the US, UK, and Canada also recommended, as Griffin says, "that medium and heavy gun tanks should be embodied in one class of vehicle, to be known as the 'main battle tank'."
That sounds reasonable. AFAIK, earlier discussions like the British talking about a "Universal Tank" had more to do with merging infantry support tanks with medium tanks/Cruiser tanks.
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  #27  
Old 02 Oct 17, 14:16
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Other than the Comet there was also the M26 Pershing and the M36 Jackson which could be viewed as among the first MBTs along with the Russian JS2 and the German Tiger, Panther and King/Royal Tiger.
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  #28  
Old 02 Oct 17, 14:32
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The M36 Jackson had a big hole where the roof was supposed to be, making it a Tank Destroyer. They were basically an M4 with new turret. The armor was never thick enough to qualify as a MBT. They did have a nice road speed as result of thin armor. Tank Destroyers were very vulnerable to Mortar Fire.

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  #29  
Old 03 Oct 17, 03:05
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Montgomery wanted a single 'battle' tank type as early as January 1943. He was calling this concept a 'capital' tank by 1944 latest. Prior to D-Day, he thought the Sherman could successfully fulfill both roles 'cruiser' and 'infantry', and he was almost certainly correct. He certainly did not like Churchills at that time. In fact, he probably never did, since he wanted to at least rename tank brigades, to armoured brigades, which happened in 1945. The difference between an armoured brigade and a tank brigade is one of tactics. Tank brigades are there to support infantry, ie infantry is the significant element. With armoured brigades, the tank is the significant element, the other units are there to support it. This implies a far more mobile brief, and perhaps in a shift in his methodology of greater offense and battlefield initiative. OTOH, it may just be a reflection that by 1945, tank brigades were simply not needed.

Next tank on my list is the Churchill, models IV onward. It was designed for the first phase of the battle, and imho no other tank really comes close to being overall better in that role from 1943. More importantly, even the heavy VII, the Churchill was as reliable as the Sherman, and a had better range than the Sherman V in British units. What prevents it being the perfect tank is a lack of road speed, and long range AT weaponry.

Possible contenders so far ?

Somua S-35 in 39-40.
T-34 in 41-2.
M4 in 42-3.
Churchill 43-45
IS-2 in 44-5.
King Tiger in 44-5.
Comet in 45.
M26 in 45.
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Last edited by Nick the Noodle; 03 Oct 17 at 11:26.. Reason: Typo
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  #30  
Old 04 Oct 17, 14:28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
The next contender I would suggest is the King Tiger. It was actually fairly reliable and obviously a big tough hitter.

....
It would have remained a serious threat well into the 1970s, but nobody even tried to keep it in service after 1945.
There is a limit to the complications modern soldiers will put up with.

Fun Fact; the 100mm gun of the T-54 could penetrate 185mm of armor. The maximum thickness of a Tiger II's armor was 180mm.
I sometimes wonder just how much of a coincidence that was...
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