The machine, which is originally made as an auxiliary and does not invest any revolutionary decisions in it, suddenly becomes the favorite car of soldiers. Conversely, truly outstanding constructions, which at the time of creation were a real breakthrough, disappeared as unnecessary at a specific time, and then turned into a base for completely new objects.
There are several cars in our store that were not supplied to us under Lend-Lease, but were loved in those countries where they were used during the Second World War. To miss the opportunity to touch, pull, climb under the bottom, we could not. Well, and, moreover, could not tell about these machines.
In short, the cycle about self-propelled guns is a logical continuation of our series about foreign vehicles from the Second World War, which our tankmen and gunners did not get to know for various reasons. And the first machine will be the M18 "Hell Cat", which successfully hunted the enemy Tanks and other armored vehicles. So, the 76-mm Gun Motor Carriage M18, Hellcat.
"Hellcat", according to most experts, was one of the best tank destroyers of the Second World War. A low silhouette, high power density, high mobility, a rational form of booking, high reliability and a well-made suspension made it possible to gain victories over the enemy with relatively small losses of his own.
Simply put, the car was so balanced that, probably, there was no crew who did not cherish their “cat” as well as a pet, after whom the car was named. Almost every ACS had its own name and even its own “coat of arms”. The machine responded to love with love. In a figurative sense of the word.
This, for example, the emblem on "our" copy. "Double problems" that should not scare the real fighters. And even more so, the crew of the Hell Cat will not be frightened by some hot girls and cold whiskey.
But back to the self-propelled gun.
The history of the creation of the machine is so interesting that it is impossible not to tell. To begin with, the American paratroopers and marines are to blame for the appearance of this ACS! Yes, even though it sounds amazing.
We often argue that the USSR and Stalin personally in every way delayed the war with Germany. We are trying to explain the Stalinist mistakes, unpreparedness for war, the loss of the first months. I bet hoarse. We tear vest on the chest.
But let's see across the ocean. The Americans did not want to fight against fascism in Europe so much that they didn’t even declare war on Hitler! But that would have to fight, in Washington understood. There was only one question: on whose side. To have time to divide trophies. The answer was given by Hitler himself. It was he who declared the US war.
The US military demanded to re-equip the army to wage war away from their country. The ocean has been and is still quite a good defense of the continental States. That is why the task was set in the first place to rearm the mobile units. Marines and airborne units.
In conditions when landing should not be made on islands where the use of land armored vehicles is limited, but on the continent, the question arose about the possibility of countering marines and paratroopers to armored vehicles, primarily enemy tanks. And even better, if the mobile parts get a good own tank!
In 1941, a competition was announced for the creation of a tank for paratroopers. A tank that would combine the possibilities of transferring not only ships, but also airplanes. And at the same time he was able to fight with enemy tanks. The projects of the tank were presented by three companies - GMC, Marmon-Herrington and Kristi.
Oddly enough it sounds, but the contest was won by an unknown, having released only two models of the tank (CTLS and CTLB), by the way, both failures, Marmon-Herrington. By the end of September, the T9 tank project was ready, and the start of serial production was expected.
And then something happened that turned the whole project in a completely unpredictable direction. The engineers and designers of Marmon-Herrington, who were developing the new tank, suggested creating an ACS at the same base. To support tanks. Only here it was proposed to equip the ACS with the same chassis, approximately the same tower and the same instrument! Looks crazy, but it's a fact.
However, this nonsense still had its continuation. Lungs SAU in the United States was not. The army was simply forced to consider this project as promising. The only thing that the military department succeeded in was to remove the requirement for ACS as an airborne assault. This meant that it was possible to increase the weight of the car and even change the suspension.
The new machine received an index T42.
The ACS was put on the Christie suspension, but they armed themselves with the same 37-mm gun. The project was ready by January 1942. Prototyping was supposed to be done not in Marmon-Herrington, where they could not start production of Т9, but in GMC. And again, a higher power intervened.
This time the role of higher powers was played by the British. Based on the experience of the war, the British questioned the effectiveness of the 37-mm cannon even for a light tank. As for the ACS with such a tool, then the British officers simply laughed in the face of American designers.
We must pay tribute to the reaction of the US military. Already 1 April designers received new requirements for the tank. The gun should be a caliber no longer 37-mm, and 57-mm. Machine speed must be at least 80 km / h. Reservations tower, forehead and side of approximately 22 mm. Crew 5 man.
The project is again a new car was ready ... for 19 April! They called the tank T49. Prototype production began almost immediately. The first cars were ready in July 1942. Strangely enough, with such a rush, when literally everything had to be “crammed and squeezed,” tests showed that, in general, the car was good. The only downside is speed. Instead of 80 km / h, the machine was able to squeeze only 61. Needed a new engine. Although in general, the result was not bad, and everyone seemed to be satisfied.
But the project was also monitored by anti-tankists! Tank fighter administration of the US Army as well as tank crews did not satisfy the speed of the machine. In addition, for SAU demanded another increase in the caliber of the gun. Now to 75-mm! That is, to put the one that was installed on the "Sherman", inherited from the "Lee".
Well, purely artillery whim - to remove the roof of the tower, so that the crew simply did not suffocate. Decently saving on exhaust fans. But I still had to splurge on a machine gun for melee combat, which was relevant specifically for the self-propelled guns of tank destroyers. The front has a front. The infantry is always near, including the enemy infantry.
And again providence intervened. And again, the American designers did not bother too much about the problem. Just put a tower on T49 ... from T35 (future ACS M10), which was already ready at that time. A frontal machine gun M2 transferred to the tower. This made it possible to increase the frontal armor to 25 mm.
The finished prototype of the new ACS under the symbol Т67 in October 1942 was sent for testing. And, lo and behold ... The car was driven to the required 80 km / h! Everything! Result achieved! And no ...
"Sherman" began to equip another gun! Now the tank was 76,2-mm gun M1A1. And tank destroyers demanded the same for their own vehicles. Moreover, the gun turned out well, a miracle, how good!
In addition, the gunners ceased to organize the suspension of Christie. By this time, it was outdated to such an extent that some designers said that such an ACS would, by its appearance on the battlefield, kill the enemy tank crews ... But not with the power of the guns, but with the appearance.
Appeared claims to the tower. The first was from the gunners. Fast car involves a fairly long autonomous battle. And for this you need ammunition. The tower simply did not have a place to accommodate the necessary number of shells. And the second, technological. The tower is too complicated to manufacture.
In short, again, the car went not to the assembly shop, but to the tables and the kulmanam of designers. And again, the designers showed the wonders of professionalism. The new machine under the index SAU T70 was ready in April 1943 of the year!
And again providence! The order for the production of 1000 ACS T70 transferred to the "Buick" even before the adoption of the machine for service! And this is in the USA. At the end of 1943, SAUs were already tested in Italy. And (rightly) the car received excellent reviews. Only after this, the T70 ACS in March 1944 of the year (released around 200 machines) was adopted under the designation М18.
And now let's feel the car with our hands. She is worth it. No wonder we so often mentioned the intervention of the providence in its creation.
So, the 76-mm self-propelled gun M18 Hellcat (76 mm Gun Motor Carriage M18, Hellcat) is made as follows. Office of management, transmission and drive wheels - in front of the case. Fighting compartment - in the middle. Power compartment at the back.
The tower is installed in the middle of the hull. The rotation is circular. Armament 76,2-mm gun M1A1 and 12,7-mm anti-aircraft gun. The elevation angle for the implement is + 20, and the declination angle is 9 degrees. Gun without muzzle brake. The initial speed of the armor-piercing projectile 686 m / s. For sifting projectile speed 1035 m / s. The rate of fire 4 shot per minute.
The tower, seriously, is not cramped just for the calculation of the four dwarfs. The real brave boars there do not feel very. But we must not just sit and do business.
The driver has a separate place.
In general, on every square inch there is something to cling to or about to crack your head.
Surprisingly for the American car, but to call the "Hell Cat" comfortable for the crew, the language does not turn. Very crowded, very little space for everything. And the crew usually placed their own belongings on the armor, so that the self-propelled gun was still in sight.
An interesting solution was found to repair the machine. In front and behind the car you can see special hatches. It is clear that these hatches are designed to facilitate access to the power plant or to the transmission. But not with Hellcat!
The fact is that both the engine and the transmission were not mounted directly on the body, but on special runners. For repair, it was enough to open the door on the stern and roll out the Wright Continental R-975 engine to the caring hands of mechanics and mechanics. For the repair of elements of powertrain units, a frontal hatch was opened and all elements were put forward in the same way!
Many are skeptical about booking this ACS and an open tower. Yes, the armor was light. But the location of armor plates at an angle significantly increases the protection. Shells often enough just ricocheting off armor without causing significant damage.
The open tower, in the absence of protection from shrapnel and bullets from above, gave the commander of the vehicle, the gunner (gunner), the radio operator, and the recharger with a fine view of the battlefield. So here the question is difficult. Plus a 4 shot per minute is a lot. It can absolutely so calmly suffocate in the powder gases.
As you will see the car today personally, at the end of the material a little bit about the tactics of the use of "Hell Cats." Americans call this tactic hit and run. In our translation, this is a bounce, rebound or withdrawal. Machines, with all the virtues, could not be at the forefront for a long time. In short, PT-ACS should be used only for its intended purpose and only for a limited period of time.
So, "Cats" during the tank attack jumped forward and began shelling bulky tanks. Speed and swiveled turret ensured their efficiency. When the enemy came to his senses from such arrogance and was ready to fight back, "Koty" was already calmly dumped under the cover of tanks, good, the speed completely allowed it.
Today it looks fantastic, but such attacks were quite effective. For example, here’s a report from the German tank division, which had to face the hit and run tactics of the Kotov. The division was equipped, among other things, with "Tigers" and "Panthers", which the 76-mm gun simply did not take.
“The 76-mm M18 caliber gun does not fully reveal its capabilities. Only in August 1944, the 630 th American battalion of tank destroyers, destroyed the 53 heavy tank, the 15 jet guns, losing 17 units of equipment.
Despite the relatively short period of participation in hostilities, the machines tried to modify. Three modifications did not become new "Hellish" pets, but still worth mentioning them.
Txnumx. 88-mm self-propelled howitzer. On the chassis M105 PBX decided to put 18-mm howitzer Т105. In essence, given the experience of the designers, the machine would have been completely accomplished. But in August 12, the war ended and the need for such SPGs disappeared. The project stopped.
Т41 (М39). Armored tractor (T41), or BRDM or BTR (T41Е1). The machines are completely identical to the “Cats”, but without a tower. Armament (12,7-mm machine gun) was installed in front of the hull. The tractor was designed to transport 76-mm guns PTM M6. Adopted at the beginning of 1945 of the year, but was released in a limited edition.
T86, T86EX1. Floating 76-mm ACS. Т86 sailed due to the work of the tracks. On the second version set propellers. Armament type M18.
Txnumx. 87-mm floating howitzer (as Т105). It floated like a T88, but had a shortened hull and special modified tracks of caterpillars. Showed good nautical qualities, but due to the cessation of hostilities, the project froze.
Well, the traditional tactical and technical characteristics of ACS M18 "Hell Cat":
Combat weight: 17 t
- length: 5300 mm
- width: 2800 mm
- height: mm 2100
Crew: 5 people
- 76,2-mm gun M1А1, b / c 43 projectile;
- 12,7-mm machine gun, 1000 ammo
- body front: 51 mm
- tower forehead: 51 mm
Engine type carburetor "Continental", type R 975
Maximum power: HP 400
Maximum speed: 72 km / h
Power reserve: 360 km
And at the end there is a small, but interesting story from the UMMC Museum employee Nikita Krutakov, a great real connoisseur of military equipment.