Saturday, April 6, 2013

American Prototype Light Tanks Post-WWII Part 2

To follow my last article the US still tried to develop a light tank to replace the M41 Walker Bulldog after the L Series of proposals. In June of 1954 a new Question Mark Conference, the 3rd of its kind, was held to discuss what new light tank design will join the US arsenal. Six designs were proposed, the TS-8, TS-10, TS-26, TS-32, TL-3, and TL-8. I will not discuss the TS-26, TL-3, and the TL-8 since they would use 105 mm recoilless rifles instead of a conventional tank gun, so it is easy to say you won't see them in WoT. A little info on the names: The S and the L in the designation denoted whether the design was meant to be a short-term or a long-term project.

The TS-8 and TS-32 were both conventional designs using the same 76 mm gun as the M41. The engines would be the AOI-470 and the AO-470, both would have around ~15 hp/t and should have some agility. These designs were very compact and should be very small. Frontal armor is only 12.7 mm thick.

The TS-10 was stranger. The TS-10 had a remote-controlled turret/gun pod with a 76 mm autoloader with 20 rounds in a magazine(The crew had to reload the magazine externally). The crew was dropped to 3 crew members from 4 in the TS-8/TS-32 tanks. Mobility should be similar to the other projects. The TS-10 should have some of the most comfortable gun depression values as well due to the gun pod design.

None of these designs from the 3rd Question Mark were chosen for development. In 1955 Cadillac designed 9 conceptual light tanks. Here, I will discuss the vehicles that were proposed with conventional armament  the TLC, TLD, TME(c), TME(b), and the TMG. 

The TLC was 14 ton vehicle that was to use a 76 mm gun in an oscillating turret. The TLD was a 16 ton vehicle that was planned with a 90 mm main gun in a conventional turret. Both had no effective armor but would have good mobility. An early form of a light based(called Optar) range finder was also intended for use on the TLD.

The TME tanks would share a common chassis and weighed around 20 tons. The turrets would be a conventional turret(for the TME(c)) and an oscillating turret(for the TME(b)--note Cadillac called oscillating turrets balancing turrets, therefore you get the (b) in the name). Both were armed with a 90 mm gun. Optar was to be used on both tanks.

The TMG wasn't really a light tank. It's weight of 30 tons might designate it as a medium. The gun on the TMG would be a 105 mm gun in an oscillating turret. Speed wouldn't be too quick but the TMG would still be very mobile. The same Optar range finder was to be used on the TMG as well.

I really want these little models.

I would now like to discuss the General Motors tank called the X-Weapon for the ASTRON project. ASTRON lasted from 1953-55 and was to find a new medium tank for the future. General Motors decided that armor would be useless and decided a very fast, lightweight tank would be better than a slower but more heavily armored vehicle(which were proposed by other teams working for the ASTRON project). The X-Weapon was armed with a non-stabilized T208 90 mm smooth bore main gun. Top speed should be ~80 km/h and it should weigh ~26 tons. The ASTRON X-Weapon was more-or-less the spiritual successor to the Hellcat, an ultra-fast vehicle with no armor and a good weapon. In 1955 the ASTRON program became intertwined with other US tank programs such as the T95 tank, the Rex tank proposals, and others which eventually led to the Abrams. I find this tank to be very smexy and should be very comfortable to play in WoT if the gun isn't an issue. 
Why did they choose a smooth bore? Why? Why couldn't they use a regular gun?
This tank is so beautiful.

I would really enjoy if WoT ever adds any of these designs. Most of them fit all the requirements to be implemented in WoT. The TS-8 and TS-32 look like solid tier 6/7 designs. The TS-10 would very interesting, would be best at tier 7 IMO. The Cadillac designs could almost create a new line of vehicles, personally I believe either the TLD or the TME(c) should be the tier 8 light after a tier 7 M41 Walker Bulldog. If I was to choose, I would have the TLD become the tier 8 after the M41. The TMG could be a faster and more comfortable T54E1 at tier 9. The ASTRON poses a problem because of the smooth bore, it would be a great addition if WG replaced the gun, but it shouldn't be expected. 


- driver's hatch on IS-7 does not count as external module, but as armor
- it was considered to reduce the scale of shell penetration decay with distance
- M551 Sheridan is "not planned for now"
- PT-76 is not planned until bigger maps allow for amphibious tanks
- the aim spread after moving the gun/turret is not influenced by gun length or gun weight or other hidden parameters, but by gunner skill
- no composite armor will be implemented
- it's not yet decided, whether parts of client physics will be switcheable off, or just the physics as whole - experiments are in progress
- XP is awarded for first enemy module destruction (eg. chaindetracking will give you XP for destroyed tracks only once)
- devs are discussing the idea that old replays could be converted to new format
- upcoming Maus buff is confirmed, but it's not know when will it happen and it will not be significant
- WoWs has the tank drawing distance removed (or rather, it's much longer), but tanks won't have it removed, the parameters of both projects are different
- 8.6 will bring the sound engine overhaul (SS: unknown what it means)
- Leopard 1 might be too high, it will be rechecked
- acceleration is a balance parameter, eg. the acceleration of Leopard 1 doesn't have to be historical
- the +/-25 percent random factor came to be thru experience, in the beginning, it was 50, it won't be reduced to 10
- Leopard 1 might get better accuracy on the move
- new sounds (of shell impact) might come until autumn, but no promises
- dynamic garage tank stats are planned for distant future
- the Leopard 1 Bundeswehr cross is an exception, there won't be post-war insignia for (for example) US and Chinese tanks
- the tank icon indicator on the top of the screen won't get (apart from classes as it is now) also tier designations, it would be too much
- a mechanism is planned for all the "collecting" archievements (medals) to display, what do you have left to do, will come around 0.8.8
- in 0.8.5, only the most obvious objects (fences, walls) were fixed in order not to reduce the speed of a tank too much when running them over (thru them), the rest will be fixed in time

LTP (Tanque 39)

This vehicle platform (the best known variant thereof being the light tank serving under the Czech name LT-38 or German Panzer 38(t)) had many offshoots, usually specifically designed for the customers who ordered them (Lithuania, Sweden, Iran and others). The LTP is one of the more interesting and exotic ones.

LTP means "lehký tank, peruánský" (light tank, Peruvian) and it was built by ČKD/Praga specifically to satisfy the needs of the army of Peru. Basically, what happened was - the first "predecessor" of the whole series was the THN. It was a rather successful design, made for Iran, produced between the years 1935-1937. Of course, its success attracted other potential buyers. Peru was one of them and certainly one of the most distant ones, if not THE most distant one.

A picture of one Tanque 39. It was named after the region, which participated financially in its purchase 

The negotiations were held between 1936 and 1938 and were led by Col. José Tamayo from Peru. The most important demand of the Peruvian army was that the vehicles would be able to operate independently and without problems in high altitudes. Peru is a country with many mountains and the low air pressure in high altitudes could pose a serious problem. To compensate for this, the Praga engineers increased the air intake to the engine while using better compression ratios. The result was good - the vehicle could operate in any altitude up to 4500m above sea level without any performance reduction. The vehicle would also have to be light (mountains are no place for heavy or even medium tanks, at least back then they were not), with reasonable firepower and adequate protection for its time. Naturally, there was a question of who the vehicle would have to fight. Peru did not need a battle tank designed to take on hordes of incoming Panzers, rather than a nimble quick vehicle with enough firepower to knock out enemy infantry strongpoints and of course to serve as a COIN vehicle (counter-insurgency). 

LTP offered a perfect blend of those parameters.

The performance characteristics were following:

Crew: 3
Weight: 7,3 tons
Hull (front/sides/back, mm): 25/15/12
Turret (front/sides/back, mm): 25/15/12

(keep in mind that the rebels and enemy states the vehicle had to fight rarely had any armor at all apart from tankettes, let alone anti-tank rifles and anti-tank guns, Ecuador, that waged a limited-scale war with Peru in 1941 acquired its first Stuarts and Marmon-Herrington tankettes a year later)

Engine: Scania Vabis 1664, 125k (power measured at low sea level)
Maximum speed: 40km/h
Range: 190km
Armament: 37mm Škoda A3, 2x 7.65mm machineguns (ZB-53, ZB-30).

After roughly two years of negotiations, an agreement was reached and 24 vehicles were ordered (plus the prototype) and brought in service under the Peruvian designation Tanque 39. Along with the negotiator, José Tamayo, first vehicles were transferred to Peru in Lima under the supervision of captain Hector Cornejo (technical supervisor) and his two assistents (one of who was a native American).

The technical trials in Peru were the place where the LTP legend was born. The prototype vehicle worked perfectly. In internal ČKD archives an incident was mentioned where - during the trials in the mountains at 3700m above sea level in September 1938, the vehicle driving on a mountain road next to a slope slipped from the slope and fell 5 meters, tipped on the turret. The tank proved to be extremely resilient - the damage was minor and the vehicle was repaired by ČKD technicians overnight - next day, the trials continued. This incident actually spawned a whole legend about the vehicle. It was told many times by many people and in time, people started to believe that the tank was tipped back on the tracks after the fall and continued running without any repairs. While a gross overstatement, these rumors contributed to the excellent reputation of Czechoslovak tanks in South America.

By the time the trials ended and Peru decided to order some vehicles, a full mobilisation was taking place in Czechoslovakia (it was the time when people still thought there would be a war with the Germans) and the vehicles, currently manufactured for Peru, were confiscated by the Czechoslovak army. After the mobilisation was cancelled, they were returned and in November 1938, first 6 serial vehicles were sent to Peru. 24 were made in total and the last vehicles arrived in Peru on 27.2.1939.

Apart from the vehicles, Peru ordered a large amount of spare parts, ammunition (and weapon components) provided by Škoda, a Praga T-6 artillery tractor, a mobile repair workshop mounted on a truck trailer, one Praga AV staff car and one Praga RV support vehicle.

The tanks saw action for the first time on 19.2.1939 against a group attempting a coup d'etat. Their debut was a success and in June they were officially presented during a military parade in Lima. During the Peru-Ecuador border war in July 1941, the vehicles were successful again (12 were operating against Ecuador as a part of "Group North").  In 1946, more vehicles were ordered from ČKD, but that order was never fulfilled - only a certain amount of spare parts was sold to the Peruvian army in 1950.

And so the tanks continued to soldier on. In 1970's, they were used to fight the maoist rebels from the "Shining Path" movement and the last two remaining vehicles in operation were used until 1988 for patrol duties near Callaa. By that time they were completely worn out however and they were taken out of service to be used as military monuments. One of the tanks was recently sold back to the Czech Republic and is currently located in Prague military museum.

Tank being transported to the museum in Prague (27.9.2012)

My own photo of the vehicle (it's in very poor shape)

Weapons of Victory: T-34 (English subtitles)

Weapons of Victory: IS-2 (English subtitles)

Weapons of Victory: SU-152 (English subtitles)

Tanks From Sweden