Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Buff My Tank: T-34

The T-34 used to be a solid tier 5 medium tank, but premium ammo for credits left it in the dust, behind the 105 mm howitzer M4 and PzIV crew. Let's see what historical resource exists to bring it up to speed, through the current power creep.

First, the gun. The ZiS-4 is really the only choice as the "top" gun on the tank, and the Chinese iteration admits as much. The alpha on it is pitiful, so the peek-and-poke (for massive damage) playstyle of other swift and unarmoured tanks (pretty much every French tank comes to mind) does not apply. The slower loading and harder hitting 76 mm guns increase alpha by a tiny amount, at an unacceptable cost to every other stat. Since many tanks in the game get guns that go anywhere from just being mentioned on paper to absolute fiction, why not give the T-34 a gun it actually was tested with, the 85 mm S-53. Sure, the reload rate would be slower than the same gun on the T-34-85, but a different playstyle would be viable. Or, maybe, the T-34 could get a derp gun of its own. A project for a 120 mm breach loading mortar using the F-34's recoil system existed.

Speaking of the gun, the Soviet developed a vertical stabilizer for the T-34 (STP-34), T-34-85 (STP-S-53), and M4A2 Sherman. If vertical stabilizers were based in history and not in balance, the T-34s would get one of those (as well as the M4 and T-26).
Diagram of a T-34-85 vertical stabilizer STP-S-53
Now that the gun is set, let's look at the armour. The T-34 has 45 mm of sloped armour in the front. More than enough against short 37 mm and 75 mm guns in 1941, but it lacks any sort of oomph when faced with opponents above tier 4. In 1941 and 1942, when the Germans started deploying APCR in larger amounts for their 50 mm guns, the Soviets increased the armour of the T-34 from 45 mm at 60 degrees to 60 mm at 60 degrees, by bolting or welding on additional 15 mm armour screens. However, since the use of APCR was much less widespread than expected, this modification was not widely adapted. When the idea of upgradeable hulls was floating around, SerB mentioned going from a 45 mm to a 60 mm hull as one of the upgrades.
T-34 with additional armour. From Amour Protection of Medium Tank T-34 1941-1945, Postnikov.

Now that the tank itself has been spruced up a little, let's spruce up the crew. The main drawbacks of the T-34 Model 1941, the lack of commander's cupola and the commander's dual role, were well known to the Soviets. In early 1942, a project to solve these problems was initiated, the T-34S. The T-34S was more or less the same as a T-34, except for a 3-man turret and a commander's cupola. This allowed the gunner to focus on gunning, the commander to focus on commanding, and the loader to curse whoever thought it was a good idea to stick another person in there. The T-34S was not accepted into mass production, but elements of its construction were used in subsequent Soviet tanks (the cupola and the 3 man turret). Another five-man crew tank, the "T-34 with commander's cupola" was tested, but also not accepted.

Images of the T-34 with commander's cupola and T-34S, from Soviet Medium Tanks 1941-1945, Solyankin et. al. To a casual observer, these tanks are indistinguishable from the T-34 Model 1942.
In game, the bonus to the gunner would lead to faster aim time and a more accurate gun. The commander would give larger view range. While the loader's cruel fate might reduce the ROF just a bit, a T-34S crew layout would turn the T-34 into a capable sniper. 

17.04.13.

- apparently Japanese tanks will come before the second Soviet medium branch
- special "duel" mode won't be implemented on test servers
- there won't be a 3rd test of 0.8.5
- the Chinese 59-16 light tank can't mount a stabilizer "for several (a complex of) reasons" 
- there won't be any special gameplay stabilizer effect specifically for sniper mode
- a high caliber gun shot demasks a tank much more than a small gun
- cross-nation camouflages are not planned (SS: German camo for US tank etc.)
-  there won't be a special Mac OS WoT port, but WG is working on a "multi-platform client" (without any details)
- according to SerB, there will be less arties in top tier battles with the introduction of tier 10 arties
- there is currently no plan for American tier 10 medium tank with an autoloader
- the amount of ingame reports is limited because of the spam
- apparently no extra reward for killing all the tanks in the game archievement are planned
- apparently, the Highway map won't be rebalanced
- Batchat155-55 will be tier 9, won't have an autoloader
- the multiturret mechanism will be implemented eventually, has nothing to do with BigWorld
- Wargaming implementation of XVM mod will happen, but it doesn't have high priority
- arty hull can be moved in artymode only by mouse, but TD's intentionally don't have this, as the controls would be uncomfortable
- if I understand this correctly: when you fall onto an enemy tank and get destroyed by the damage, your hull will still keep on destroying the enemy tank. This is not a bug.
- the armor quality coefficient (SS: some tanks had bonus to armor strength for "quality armor" and vice versa) was cancelled, because some tanks had combined type of armor and because for example if King Tiger will get a "nerf" for defectively manufactured armor, the devs would have to do that with all the tanks and that's crap.
- special tier 10 tanks for other nations (apart from Failowe, Object 907 and M60) are not planned for now
T24 tank destroyer was removed from the game for now
- theoretically, Sturmpanzer Bär could make it into the game
- SU-152 "Taran" won't be implemented into the game
- alternative Soviet TD branch consisting with SU-100P and SU-152P? "No comment"
- post mortem arty mode where you'd see where your allied arty is aiming is not planned for now
- alternative Soviet medium branch has problems with top tier tanks
- the credits gained by penetrating with the shell are not always bigger than the cost of the shell itself (for example when a Jagdpanzer E-100 oneshots a MS-1, it will lose credits)
- apparently, the premium account WILL be buffed somehow ("Storm was just tired")
- arty hardcap will be removed when the arties get balanced
- tier 7-8 arty repair costs will most likely be rebalanced
- SerB states that the "Klein Tiger" is some sort of fake tank (SS: never heard of it)

- according to SerB, the Löwe doesn't have a bigger chance to catch on fire

British High Tier Vehicles

Conqueror, Centurion Mk7 and Chieftain tanks.


As a rather... biased player of British Vehicles I want to make a case for a couple of replacement vehicles, or alterations to existing tanks. I've got a couple of ideas, mainly for end-tier tanks within the British tree.

For starters, for better or worse, the first Tier 10 tank of mine was the FV4202.

Perhaps not the best idea? Not the most awful tank at T10, but its lack of an “effective” gold round hampered my play and made me a laughing stock within my clan at my inability to properly engage heavy tanks. My second T10 (the FV183) has some of them cringing and others curiously asking me.

“Just what were the British thinking?”

This isn't helped by the mostly fictional FV215b (120mm), either, which received a buff that seemed to hurt, rather than help it.

First, a little bit of education on British doctrine, then, some suggestions for some vehicles and some changes to existing tanks.

The British Doctrine – Post WW2 Era

The British and the Germans seemed to switch doctrines post-war (or, more accurately post-Korea) Where the ultimate second world war German design of a medium included a powerful gun and decent armour (as seen in the Panther or mythical E50 design), the British chose the more lightly armoured Comet and Centurion tanks.

European powers after the war (particularly Germany and France) did not believe that armour protection was as important as speed and firepower and saw the rapid increase of armour penetration (including HEAT rounds and anti-tank guided missiles) as the death of armour. The assumption was that armour could never be developed as fast as the guns and ammunition that could defeat it.

The British experience couldn't have been any more different. Experience in Korea showed that tanks absolutely should be sufficiently armoured, for fear of being knocked out by light or medium artillery, or tanks that may have been many generations behind. During early development, the British had a specific request that the new tank could be able to defeat hits from “medium artillery” (one could assume in the range of 105mm-120mm) with suitably thick frontal armour at extreme angles to provoke deflections and maximize the armour’s effectiveness. They also demanded that gun depression should be no less than -10 degrees, and elevation at least +20- experience also gained in the hills of Korea.

The Chieftain Tank


Early Production Leopard (left) and Prototype Chieftain (right)

An important note was that the British felt during that time frame that the best weapon to kill a tank is, in fact, another tank (this should be done at range, with a tank that is markedly superior to it's competition) while the Germans considered the best killer of tanks to be a highly specialized vehicle, either a self-propelled gun such as the Jagdpanzer series or a vehicle carrying missiles.

A mock up for the FV4201. This extremely early prototype would make a good T9 tank



120mm Gun. A Pike nose. Low Profile. What's not to like?
  

Many of the techniques required to build the FV4201 were tested in the FV4202, such as the reclined “supine”driver's position and the mantlet-less turret. With it's strange, tiny turret, 120mm gun, and an almost Russian-looking pike nose, it would make an interesting tank.



This is the only armour scheme I've been able to find. The listed 120mm of armor may be just the “pike” on the nose of the tank, much like other British vehicles. I believe this to be the earliest 1959 production chieftain.

Armour effectiveness, if the 72 degree angle is taken into account, with a 120mm thickness, would be as high as 388 or, if the listed 85mm is true, a still respectable 275mm thickness from line of sight. And while it has a well angled upper frontal plate, its lower plate is 76mm at 45 degrees- barely enough to protect it from low-tier threats. Upper plate would be 100% autobounce. Its engine would most likely be an early version of the Leyland L60, which was plagued with faults, poor horsepower and the tank's rapid increase in weight only made this worse.
An early prototype of the Chieftain. Note how low the suspension is.

The early prototype of the Chieftain would be an interesting vehicle. With well angled frontal armour, an angled and sloped turret, low overall profile and respectable gun, early Prototypes were armed with the L1A1 gun, later with the improved L11 gun. It would have a rather unimpressive engine, a top speed of 40 kph
(governed, as normal) with a rather unsatisfactory HP out of it's engine and poor power-to-weight ratio.

The actual Chieftain is not actually outside of what is allowed in world of tanks, particularly the early versions. It has no composite armour, it still has a rifled gun, traditional gun sighting systems (not too dissimilar from the Centurion) and is powered by a rather conventional multi-fuel engine.  Prototypes P1-P6 were built in 1959 and onwards and data was assembled from these vehicles to produce the production Chieftain.




FV215b (120)

This vehicle is actually a disaster. I'm sure this isn't news to most people but it's a mostly fictional vehicle. The 215b programme was designed to mount the massive 183mm gun onto a chassis for testing purposes, and the rear-mounting was required to balance the weight of the huge gun across the chassis. What sense is there in rear-mounting the Conquerors turret onto the rear when it fits in the centre just fine?

It's current armour isn't historical and was simply added by wargaming to make the tank feel more like a heavy. Perhaps the tank's model shouldn't be wasted as it isn't outside the realm of possibilities, considering the mere existence of the Caernarvon.

My suggestion is a gameplay based one, mainly. Speaking from a game design standpoint, the problem with the current FV215b is that it doesn't have a niche. It just doesn't do anything that the T110E5 does better- aside from a tiny bit more DPM, inferior armour, poor gun layout and engine fires, I suppose. I think perhaps moving the vehicle as a Future T10 Tank Destroyer for a possible Turreted line would be best.

Return it's armour to pre-buff levels, flip it's gun stats with the current Tortoise's gun. You could lower it's health to 2200 – 2300. You'll have an interesting T10 TD that relies not on alpha (like many of the TDs), and yet, not an autoloader. Rather, you'd have a TD that can reliably hit a target every 6 seconds for a reasonable amount of damage with good soft stats (accuracy on the move, turret rotation accuracy, gun accuracy, penetration, etc.).

Much like the 183 is a TD that seems exclusively designed for close range “blooping” of targets, the 215b (120) would ideally be specialized in long range plinking, weak armor and a poor turret layout and lowish health would balance out the good DPM, Penetration, Accuracy, and Aim-time.

But, what would replace it in the current “heavy” slot? I've got a proposal, but not nearly enough detail.


FV4202

FV4202 was mainly a testbed vehicle for the Chieftain.


The FV4202's problem in game is twofold. It is absolutely underwhelming in every bit of it's hard stats. It's gun, armor, speed, camo value and otherwise. There are tanks that do what this vehicle does better at every turn.

For starters, I do not have an understanding of where, exactly, wargaming has figured that the FV4202's speed was governed to 40 km, like the Centurions' was. Perhaps it was an assumption, of course, given the standard British doctrine- but with a 20 hp/tonne ratio, one could imagine that the extra horsepower and lightened weight could have been easily used to increase the speed of the tank anywhere from 45 – 50 kmh. If someone has proof that the 4202's speed had a governer, I'd love to see it, but in my research, it wasn't. In fact, I've failed to find the actual listed top speed of the tank. It seems wargaming may have simply copy-pasted the governor from the Centurion.

The second problem with the 4202 is the gold round. HESH on the 183 is extremely good because it has relatively high penetration numbers and a huge damage pool, neither of which it has on the 4202. Most player reviews and subjective testing has shown that it is simply an ineffective choice, it's poor penetration and unremarkable damage pool makes it a poor choice to use over the standard armour penetration round. This could be easily solved with a buff that might be a bit unhistorical- increasing the armour penetration of the HESH round to 250-270mm would make the round a lot more consistent. A further increase of it's damage to perhaps 500-520 damage would help as well.

Two small changes could easily make the 4202 a wonderful, effective vehicle and maintain its usefulness during clanwars as well as pub-matches without simply slapping a HEAT round on as a gold.

New arty in 8.6 unveiled

AMX Obusier automoteur de 105


BatChatillon155 (1955)

GW 10.5 CM Mk.IV(e) - yes, that's a 105mm howitzer built into the British Mk.IV light tank, captured in some numbers after the battle of Dunkerque from the expeditionary force.

Pz.Sfl.IVb - the Heushrecke, or at least one of its prototypes

GW 21cm


SU-122A

SU-14-1

M44

M53/55