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  • How would you design a WWII tank?

    Perhaps it could be entertaining to fantasize a bit. Imagine that you went back in time to WWII, knowing what you know now about tanks, and were put in charge to design a tank, or tanks, what would you do?

    Here's my idea (trying to be a bit outside the box):

    For a medium tank, I'd place the turret at the rear, driver in the middle, and engine and transmission at the front. This allows the engine/transmission to give some additional protection for the crew, while the glacis-plate will be as steeply angled (and long) as possible, perhaps sloping over the entire length of the tank, up to the turret, to glance off hits. Driver's hatchers sits on the sides of the tank, which allows the turret's front to be extended and very steeply angled. Instead of a hull-machine gun, the commander's cupola is a rotating machine-gun turret. Transmission should be easily removable like on a Sherman. Ammunition should be placed as low as possible in the tank's hull, with a ready-rack in its own compartment at the rear of the turret behind protective doors, so that if it explodes the crew compartment is protected. Suspension would be like a Sherman HVSS: easily replacable and doesn't take up space in the hull.

    As for a heavy tank, I'd try to make a design as similar as possible to the medium tank, at least from the outside. This allows it to use the same advantage as the Sherman "Jumbo's" had: the enemy mistakes them for regular medium tanks when they attack and opens fire too early, thinking they can penetrate the armor, and give away their position.

    I would also try to look into some kind of system for protecting infantry around the tank... I read that the German's tried to use an improvised invention with the Ferdinand's during Kursk, where they dragged "rafts" by wooden plants behind them while soldiers were supposed to lie on them behind some kind of protection. I wonder if there's any use for a system like that... if so, I'd try to make some sort of platform on wheels, dragged behind the tank and on its sides, with very good armor and a low silhouette for infantry. It should also be easily deployed and re-attached on the battlefield.

  • #2
    I would start with a few basics. What size engine do we have that can power the tank? What width can we use on the vehicle? Some countries (UK) have narrow flat cars because they go through tunnels. A narrow vehicle means a small turret ring. What kind of artillery can we fit? Most countries went with whatever antitank gun they were using. A regimental field piece might also be available. How do we move the turret around? Do we go human or maybe some kind of electric motor?

    Definitely we have coaxial machine gun and a MG on the roof.

    Angle of armor depends on the state of the industry. Good welding equipment allows angled armor. Cast armor also can be used if there is a good iron industry.

    Pruitt
    Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

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    • #3
      I would start by making the vehicle an all-rounder. No particular need for a medium or heavy, but simply one that could fill both roles. That means starting off it gets a gun of about 90 to 100mm in size (88 to 105mm). The gun wouldn't be optimized for tank killing but rather for good performance against a variety of targets. Penetration needs to be around 100 to 120 mm at 1000 meters more or less with a relatively flat trajectory to that range.
      The gun mount would allow for good elevation and depression, and sufficient elevation it could be used for indirect artillery fire when desired.

      On armor, the front should be 100 to 120 mm thick and heavily sloped on the hull in particular. The sides should be 60 to 75mm and have at least some slope on the turret, possibly some on the hull. The hull should also be shaped on the sides and bottom to be more mine resistant. The turret would be designed to present a minimal frontal area.

      The vehicle profile should be as low as practical, the hull not extending much above the tracks.

      Ammunition storage should be entirely in the hull with good protection from ignition like the US wet storage was.

      Torsion bar suspension would be used to give a good cross country performance. This would be used with medium sized road wheels and return rollers, centerguide track using a rubber bushed double pin connector system as used on US tanks later in the war.

      The drive train would be rear drive, and feature either a pre-selector manual or automatic transmission with torque converter. The engine and transmission would be designed specifically for ease of access and maintenance.

      A separate electro-hydraulic power traverse system would be installed for turret traverse, as well as rough gun laying.

      There would be a crew of 4 with the usual assistant driver eliminated along with the hull machinegun. In addition to a coaxial machinegun, two or three pintle mounts would be available with machineguns for the crew to use from open hatches.

      There would be multiple vision devices for the crew to use to detect and locate targets. The commander would have a low rise cupola and there would be a second power control for the turret he could use to slew it onto targets. The gunner would get a good low light reasonably high magnification gunsight along with a wide view periscope to pick up targets quickly and get traversed and rough laid on them as fast as possible.

      The turret would have a full basket and would give the crew ample room to move to do their jobs. A compressed air system or fume extractor would be included to force fumes out of the gun barrel.

      The intercom and radio system should be highly reliable and easy to use so the commander can operate it without a high workload. An external telephone would be installed on the back to allow accompanying infantry to talk to the crew.

      There would be roomy hatches for most or all of the crew to enter and exit the vehicle, particularly in an emergency.

      A fire suppression system would be installed for both the crew and engine compartments.

      Speed would be around 25 to 30 mph, with a ground pressure of around no more than 15 psi. The engine and transmission would be sized to that with a 60% slope and good vertical obstacle clearance.

      Total weight should be somewhere between 35 and 45 tons.

      The vehicle should have the ability to make a rapid smoke screen when necessary. Attachment points for a bulldozer blade would be included.

      There would also be a means provided to easily reload ammunition other than through hatches on top of the turret.

      Well, that's for starters.

      Comment


      • #4
        I'd start by asking questions. What do you want tanks to do? Is the cruiser idea really right? Do you need to differentiate between this and infantry support?. Is a tank merely a very expensive way to kill other tanks? etc etc. Only when you have a clear idea of what the real requirements are is it sensible to start the technical design. Most modern systems/design failures are down to a failure to do a proper analysis of what is needed before diving into an analysis of the solution needed before diving into technical design - just like WW2 and the previous posts in this thread.
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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        • #5
          Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
          I would start by making the vehicle an all-rounder. No particular need for a medium or heavy, but simply one that could fill both roles. That means starting off it gets a gun of about 90 to 100mm in size (88 to 105mm).

          On armor, the front should be 100 to 120 mm thick and heavily sloped on the hull in particular. The sides should be 60 to 75mm and have at least some slope on the turret, possibly some on the hull. The hull should also be shaped on the sides and bottom to be more mine resistant. The turret would be designed to present a minimal frontal area.
          100 to 120mm armour with a 90+ mm gun?
          that's a heavy tank

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          • #6
            Originally posted by oldngruff View Post

            I would also try to look into some kind of system for protecting infantry around the tank... I read that the German's tried to use an improvised invention with the Ferdinand's during Kursk, where they dragged "rafts" by wooden plants behind them while soldiers were supposed to lie on them behind some kind of protection. I wonder if there's any use for a system like that... if so, I'd try to make some sort of platform on wheels, dragged behind the tank and on its sides, with very good armor and a low silhouette for infantry. It should also be easily deployed and re-attached on the battlefield.
            I read in one battle this was done by the U.S. Army. They made up metal sleds and dragged them behind the tanks with the troops laying flat on them.



            Apparently didn't work out because they didn't do it again
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Freebird View Post

              100 to 120mm armour with a 90+ mm gun?
              that's a heavy tank
              Not by 1944 it isn't. That's what's becoming a medium. The M4 Sherman was an excellent tank in 1941 - 42 when it entered production just as the Pz III was very good for 1938.

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              • #8
                No need to reinvent the wheel - there were some excellent designs already in existence. I would work very hard to get the kinks out of the Panther, give it the larger turret that was projected and the 88mm gun planned for that and turn it loose. Wth it's mechaical problems solved it woud have been formidable.

                Otherwise I would upgrade a T34/85 , give it a radio and a synchromesh transmission, make it bit more comfortable and take it from there, or do pretty much the same thing with the IS series of Soviet heavies. The IS series were good designs for the type of fighting in WWII and very well armored to begin with, and we know the T34's were very capable, especially the later up-gunned versions.

                At least one MG for anti-personnel and one heavy duty 12.7/.50 dual purpose MG mounted on top for either AA or anti-personnel work.

                Diesel engines. Safer all around.

                As for infantry, the Soviets already solved that problem with ride-along troops. Towing troops across terrain is impossible - they would be tossed off almost immediately.
                Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                • #9
                  If you want a all-rounder for the majority of the war then something like the T23 would be it.



                  This vehicle could mount turrets with a 75mm, 76mm, or 90mm gun, had the desirable low profile, and decent armor. The suspension and drive train were reliable and upgradable.
                  The Soviet T44 comes in a close second



                  The Panther Pz V has some serious shortcomings that make it less desirable.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                    If you want a all-rounder for the majority of the war then something like the T23 would be it.



                    This vehicle could mount turrets with a 75mm, 76mm, or 90mm gun, had the desirable low profile, and decent armor. The suspension and drive train were reliable and upgradable.
                    The Soviet T44 comes in a close second



                    The Panther Pz V has some serious shortcomings that make it less desirable.
                    T-44 was never used in combat in WW2, thus we'll never know how capable it might have been. Given that it was not available until mid 44 earliest, it would not have been a 'best' ww2 base tank design either.

                    OTOH the T23 is one of those tanks that looks good on paper, but totally failed. It was not accepted for service because it could not be maintained in the field, making the Panther G appear a really decent piece of kit in comparison. Its cross country mobility was also suspect. Hunnicutt has more info on this matter, p72-93, plus the fact that the first production pilot was not available until October 1943, making it too late a design to be considered useful as a base. Further, the T23 offers very little improvements over the M4A3, namely a little more armour overall, but lots to be desired when compared to that excellent model of the Sherman. If you are going to pick up Hunnicutts book on the Pershing (which also includes the T23), I would strongly recommend you pick up his Sherman book as well.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post

                      T-44 was never used in combat in WW2, thus we'll never know how capable it might have been. Given that it was not available until mid 44 earliest, it would not have been a 'best' ww2 base tank design either.

                      OTOH the T23 is one of those tanks that looks good on paper, but totally failed. It was not accepted for service because it could not be maintained in the field, making the Panther G appear a really decent piece of kit in comparison. Its cross country mobility was also suspect. Hunnicutt has more info on this matter, p72-93, plus the fact that the first production pilot was not available until October 1943, making it too late a design to be considered useful as a base. Further, the T23 offers very little improvements over the M4A3, namely a little more armour overall, but lots to be desired when compared to that excellent model of the Sherman. If you are going to pick up Hunnicutts book on the Pershing (which also includes the T23), I would strongly recommend you pick up his Sherman book as well.
                      I have Hunnicutt. The problem with the T23 was the electrical transmission system. This was complex and expensive to produce. It likely would have worked fine with a more conventional engine-transmission system. Putting something like the GM CD 850 series cross-drive transmission in it was the way to go. As it was, the drive train because of the choice of electric drive was not going to be accepted (interestingly the US came to the same conclusion the Germans did with Porsche's electric drive tanks), and it was not better enough than the Sherman to warrant switching production.

                      This would be more of the variant I'd be recommending:



                      That's actually a T20E3. It has the torquematic transmission and a Ford GAN engine. Even the T23E3 would have likely worked. That the drive train was considered less than desirable (but not unreliable), is a separate issue.





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                      • #12
                        If you can do reclined driver positions and the resultant lower silhouettes, smaller frontal glacis with the technology of that day then .. yeah do that. Make heavy tanks just a heavy version of your mediums as far as that's possible while trying to achieve a range of 150 km and weight of 40-45 tons. Make a much more equal numerical split between them and mediums than was the case, hopefully so that the bigger part of first echelon units can have heavy tank batallions/brigades supporting them during breakthrough operations.

                        Delete light tanks. In their place make some super low silhoutte, turretless vehicles with just enough armor to shrug off machine gun fire and equip it with just mg and maybe a mortar/grenade launcher/smoke dispenser.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post

                          I have Hunnicutt. The problem with the T23 was the electrical transmission system. This was complex and expensive to produce. It likely would have worked fine with a more conventional engine-transmission system. Putting something like the GM CD 850 series cross-drive transmission in it was the way to go. As it was, the drive train because of the choice of electric drive was not going to be accepted (interestingly the US came to the same conclusion the Germans did with Porsche's electric drive tanks), and it was not better enough than the Sherman to warrant switching production.

                          This would be more of the variant I'd be recommending:



                          That's actually a T20E3. It has the torquematic transmission and a Ford GAN engine. Even the T23E3 would have likely worked. That the drive train was considered less than desirable (but not unreliable), is a separate issue.




                          The T20E3 is certainly a better tank than the T23, However, on P58 Hunnicutt states the transmission was faulty, and therefore cancelled 1944. Even if it had been proved satisfactory, the completed pilot model in July 1943 makes it a very late design for use as an afv base imho. Further comparing the T20E3 on p205 in Pershing, and the M4A3 on p546 in Sherman, does not reveal many potential benefits of the T20E3 over the thoroughly combat proven and immensely reliable M4A3.
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                          Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by oldngruff View Post
                            Perhaps it could be entertaining to fantasize a bit. Imagine that you went back in time to WWII, knowing what you know now about tanks, and were put in charge to design a tank, or tanks, what would you do?

                            Here's my idea (trying to be a bit outside the box):

                            For a medium tank, I'd place the turret at the rear, driver in the middle, and engine and transmission at the front. This allows the engine/transmission to give some additional protection for the crew, while the glacis-plate will be as steeply angled (and long) as possible, perhaps sloping over the entire length of the tank, up to the turret, to glance off hits. Driver's hatchers sits on the sides of the tank, which allows the turret's front to be extended and very steeply angled. Instead of a hull-machine gun, the commander's cupola is a rotating machine-gun turret. Transmission should be easily removable like on a Sherman. Ammunition should be placed as low as possible in the tank's hull, with a ready-rack in its own compartment at the rear of the turret behind protective doors, so that if it explodes the crew compartment is protected. Suspension would be like a Sherman HVSS: easily replacable and doesn't take up space in the hull.

                            As for a heavy tank, I'd try to make a design as similar as possible to the medium tank, at least from the outside. This allows it to use the same advantage as the Sherman "Jumbo's" had: the enemy mistakes them for regular medium tanks when they attack and opens fire too early, thinking they can penetrate the armor, and give away their position.

                            I would also try to look into some kind of system for protecting infantry around the tank... I read that the German's tried to use an improvised invention with the Ferdinand's during Kursk, where they dragged "rafts" by wooden plants behind them while soldiers were supposed to lie on them behind some kind of protection. I wonder if there's any use for a system like that... if so, I'd try to make some sort of platform on wheels, dragged behind the tank and on its sides, with very good armor and a low silhouette for infantry. It should also be easily deployed and re-attached on the battlefield.
                            \that rather sums up the advanced Shermanmated to a Merkava!

                            One limitation on World war two tanks was shipping weight- the other was volume and railroad flatcar carriage maximum weight.
                            the ideal tank for Guadalcanal was the M2- because it could be slung on to a lighter using the freighter cranes available.

                            \we had these interesting discussions at the AHS where pundits would propose invading Iraq by the Axis - on the Haifa RAILROAD.
                            Tight curves, narrow tunnels- 3'6" narrow gauge with fifty pound rails-- and they are shipping Panthers......
                            Last edited by marktwain; 08 Oct 19, 21:21.
                            The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post

                              The T20E3 is certainly a better tank than the T23, However, on P58 Hunnicutt states the transmission was faulty, and therefore cancelled 1944. Even if it had been proved satisfactory, the completed pilot model in July 1943 makes it a very late design for use as an afv base imho. Further comparing the T20E3 on p205 in Pershing, and the M4A3 on p546 in Sherman, does not reveal many potential benefits of the T20E3 over the thoroughly combat proven and immensely reliable M4A3.
                              Yes, Allison did have some issues with the early torquematic cross-drive transmissions. The biggest issue was the torque converters kept detonating into little pieces of ruined junk (even if it all stayed in the housing).

                              As for dates, I was going off the original post and designing what I felt would be a very good WW 2 tank.

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