How dinosaurs died out - the last heavy tanks (part of 6)

How dinosaurs died out - the last heavy tanks (part of 6)


Experienced and experimental heavy tanks of western countries.


After adopting the M103 tank in the US, and the difficulties associated with this fact, the question arose of a radical modernization of the tank, or of a possible replacement. Quite an interesting solution to this problem with "little blood" was proposed by the Rheem Manufactured Company.
Here it is necessary to make a small digression and note that at that time in the USA and Great Britain tanks belonged to one or another class not by their weight, but by the caliber of their weapons. Those. there were “heavy cannon tanks”, “middle cannon tanks” and “light cannon tanks”. The caliber of "light" guns did not exceed 76,2mm, the "medium" guns had a caliber up to 83,2-90mm (in the UK and the USA respectively), guns with a caliber over 105mm were considered "heavy". Since a heavy tank (i.e. armed with a 105mm caliber and higher, not necessarily having a large mass) was considered primarily as a long-range fighter for tanks, its superiority over the likely enemy’s tanks in firepower and the accuracy of the defeat of the first shot at great distances. It was assumed that the tanks would fire primarily from the spot, being in the second line, so the M103 did not have a weapon stabilizer (the Conqueror's gun of the FV214 heavy tank stabilized only in the vertical plane). To ensure decisive superiority, it was also necessary to increase the rate of fire, since even the use of a stereoscopic rangefinder in conjunction with the first ballistic computer models did not guarantee the 100% chance of hitting a long firing range. In addition, the durability of the defense increased when the attack was carried out by superior enemy forces (especially many times superior, as was the case when the USSR confronted NATO countries in Europe).


T57 tank mockup.


Based on these considerations, a heavy tank T57 was proposed. The tank hull was borrowed almost unchanged from the M103, but the turret ... The turret consisted of two molded parts, hinged together. Bottom relied on roller shoulder strap and provided horizontal guidance weapons, as in traditional constructions, but the upper part, which actually was a tower and contained weapons, workplaces for three crew members and part of the ammunition kit was performed swinging on a horizontal transverse axis, to ensure vertical guidance. The next feature of the project was the presence of a loading mechanism, consisting of a unitary shots drum on the 8, which was inclined directly under the breech of the gun, and a hydraulic rammer in the stern niche of the tower, behind the gate.


the sequence of the loading mechanism.


For loading, the projectile was first removed from the store back and up into the dispenser tray, then the tray was brought into the loading position, coaxially with the barrel bore, and the shell was sent to the breech. The magazine, the rammer and the gun swayed together, so there was no need to bring the barrel to a certain position and the loading process did not depend on the angle of vertical guidance.

The gun was a 120mm threaded gun Т123Е1, but modified to use unitary shots. Unusually was the rigid attachment of the gun of such a large caliber in the tower, without any recoil devices. Therefore, to open the shutter was used hydraulic actuator, automatically triggered after the shot. The role of the loader was to replenish the store from stacking in the body containing additional 10 shots, thus providing ammunition to 18 units.
The location of the crew seats in the turret is standard for American tanks — the gunner is to the right of the gun, the tank commander behind him and the loader to the left of the gun. Above the commander's position is a small turret with six prism T36 surveillance devices and a turret for the 12,7mm anti-aircraft machine gun. The second hatch is designed for loader. Both hatches are mounted on a large slab that made up the middle part of the roof of the tower, which could be opened with a hydraulic lift to facilitate access to the mechanisms of the tower. The workplace of the driver remained unchanged.
Considering the innovativeness of the project, the work was progressing slowly, and by the time the two towers were ready (one of them was installed on the Т43Е1 chassis) interest in the project had cooled. Changing priorities in favor of developing small, airborne tanks led to the cancellation of the project in January 1957, before the prototype reached operational status and could be tested. Not a single photo of the assembled prototype has been preserved.


mock heavy tank T57



sections of the turret of the heavy tank T57.


Already in 1950, it was suggested that T43 and T57 tanks armed with 120mm guns would be unable to withstand Soviet heavy tanks, and at the October conference, in 1951, it was recommended to start developing a new tank with an 155mm gun. Initially it was planned to install the T80 gun, with a high initial speed, however, the choice of cumulative and armor-piercing high-explosive shells with a crushing body as the main armor-piercing shells allowed the use of a lighter gun. The final choice fell on the modified 155mm gun T7, previously tested on an experienced heavy tank T30.



T58 tank prototype.


Thus, the tactical and technical requirements for the T18 new heavy tank were determined for 1952 January 58, and an order was issued for the production of two complete towers to be installed on the T43Е1 chassis. After the approval of the project, the contract for the development and construction was won by United Shoe Machinery Corporation. Conceptually, the new tower repeated the T57 project, with the only exception that the gun was installed with conventional anti-recoil devices (but adjusted to a smaller rollback length). The modified gun received the designation T180, from the T7 the main differences were: the vertically sliding wedge of the bolt, the ejector and the modified muzzle brake. In addition, the walls of the barrel in the vicinity of the chamber were thickened, and the chamber itself was lengthened by one inch to allow the use of new shots of separate loading with a protruding plastic stopper on the barrel of the cartridge.


diagram of the loading mechanism of the T58 tank (visible drum rotation handle).


Behind the cannon, in the niche of the turret there was a six-round drum-type magazine. To replenish the store, the loader first placed a sleeve in an empty cell, and then using a mechanized styling projectile. The charger chose the requested type of shot by rotating the magazine, after which the sleeve and the projectile were charged in one step. After the shot, the sleeve was thrown back into the cell from where it was removed, and was placed by the loader back into the stack. The fire control system did not differ from the M103 and T57, it consisted of the stereoscopic rangefinder commander T50X1, the T184X1 gunner's periscope sight, and the T30 ballistic computer, but it was not installed on the prototype. The reserve telescopic sight T170 also had to be mounted on serial tanks, but was absent from the prototype. The T43EX1 chassis used on the prototype was modified to give the swinging tower a maximum elevation angle, first of all it touched the roof of the engine compartment, but in general the differences were minimal.


longitudinal section of the turret T58.


Work on the creation of prototypes was delayed, and simultaneously with the cancellation of work on the project Т57, were discontinued. This design of the tower was developed and tested, including for medium tanks, as it made it relatively easy to solve the problem of loading automation, but was soon abandoned for many reasons.
In parallel with the work on the Т43, Т57 and Т58 projects, the Question Mark conference series discussed the development of more efficient heavy tanks. The main task of the conferences was to bring together both developers and users of armored vehicles, so that they could communicate directly with each other and learn more about each other’s requirements and at the same time develop the concept of promising models of armored vehicles.


H1, H2 and H3 layouts and sketches


At the first conference, held in Detroit on April 1952, three heavy tank concepts were presented. Two of them differed only in weapons (120mm gun T123 or 155mm T7) and was a tank with a crew of four, located completely inside the rotating tower. Of interest is also the shape of the bow - with a reverse slope in 60 ° and a flat roof (i.e., the tank lacked the upper armor detail, the role of which was performed by the lower 127mm thickness extended to the horizontal hull roof). The third prototype differed weapons from 175mm guns in a large tower, which is intermediate between conventional and swinging (the tower itself, with crew crews and most of the equipment are stationary with the vertical guidance of the gun, which, together with the tower loading mechanism and stern niche, is made swinging). The driver was located in the building, the frontal booking of which was carried out similarly to previous projects. All three concepts that received the H1, H2 and H3 indices, respectively, combined the use of a tower chase increased in diameter to 2743,2mm (108 inches). As shown by preliminary studies, this allowed not only to increase the volume to accommodate more powerful weapons and / or loading mechanisms, but also to book a tower with large tilt angles. Later on the test site in Aberdeen, the correctness of the conclusions was proved by firing samples of the towers. In June, the 1954 of the year at the third conference (the second was devoted to the issues of self-propelled artillery) Question Mark presented several models of advanced heavy tanks. All of them were divided into projects that do not require much time for implementation (up to two years) and long-term perspective projects. The former were called “TS”, while the latter received the “TL” index (from the words Short and Long, respectively). In the first category presented the following concepts:

Tank with a smooth-bore 105mm gun T210 - TS-2


Assault tank (self-propelled installation with a tool in a fixed wheelhouse) TS-5 with a similar weapon.


Tank with a threaded 120mm gun T123 - TS-6


Assault tank (self-propelled installation with a tool in a fixed wheelhouse) TS-31 with the same 120mm tool.


In addition to weapons, all the concepts presented differed in layout, power units and armor. As a result, the TS-31 project was chosen as the basis for the development of an assault tank to replace the T43, in case the T43-2 project is not crowned with success. The two long-term projects presented were:

TL-4 - classic-style tank, with a smooth-bore 105mm T210 gun in a rigid installation without recoil devices


TL-6 - rear assault tank with the same weapon


The choice fell on the TL-4, and soon a contract was signed with the Ford Motor Company to develop and build a tank that received the registration number 105mm gun tank T96. As work progressed in this direction, it became clear that the T96 tower is quite suitable for installation on the chassis of an average T95 tank, which was being developed at the same time. To save effort, the projects were merged, and from the lists of promising models of heavy tank T96 was deleted.



The program to create an assault tank on the concept of TS-31 was assigned to Chrysler Corporation, and the tank received the designation 120mm gun tank T110. A step-by-step review of the initial concept revealed a number of weaknesses, and the project went through several revisions successively until the customer, in the person of the Detroit arsenal and Chrysler, arrived at the final version. Now Т110 was a self-propelled artillery installation, made according to the classical scheme, with the rear location of the engine compartment and the central fighting compartment, but the driver was located in the wheelhouse. His place was in the front right part of it, while the gunner was located on the left. Behind, to the right and to the left of the breech of the gun were two loaders, and in the rear of the cabin, in the center the workplace of the tank commander was completed, with a rotating commander's turret armed with a 12,7 mm machine gun.


heavy tank schematic T110


The 120mm T123EX1 gun without wheel chocks was mounted in a cardan-type installation, the guidance was carried out with the help of the T156 gunner's telescopic sight. Further studies of the project confirmed the fears that the placement of the gunner and the driver in the wheelhouse will not allow the execution of its frontal armor with large tilt angles, which in turn will require a significant increase in thickness to comply with the required protection. It was also assumed that it was possible to create a tank with a rotating turret, free from the above-mentioned disadvantages, in the mass and dimensions specified by the project. The new project was very similar to the M103, and as a whole was superior to only the more advanced MSA based on the use of the Optar optical rangefinder, which could be used by both the tank commander and the gunner. After successful tests М103А1, interest in the car disappeared and all work on it was stopped.


wooden layout and sketch of a heavy tank T110 with a rotating turret.


Speaking about the American heavy tanks of the post-war period, it is impossible to ignore such an interesting project as “The Hunter”. This extremely unusual type of combat vehicle, as the name suggests, was supposed to “hunt” enemy tanks, completely certain tanks of a completely certain enemy — USSR heavy tanks.


projection of the tank "The Hunter".


In this compact machine with a mass of 45 tons everything is unusual - from the layout to the arms and chassis. The progress of cumulative ammunition allowed the creation of 90-105mm caliber shells, which can penetrate any conceivable tank armor. For a shot such a projectile does not need a high initial speed - its armor penetration does not depend on the kinetic energy at the time of the meeting, and therefore remains constant throughout the distance.


mock tank "The Hunter".


In connection with these features, the idea of ​​a cannon-launcher for missiles with a cumulative warhead was born, which will make the barrel and bolt very light, and at the same time sharply increase the rate of fire. A pair of such 105mm caliber guns made up the “Hunter” armament, they were each supplied with an 7 shots shop, and they could empty it at a fantastic pace - 120 shots per minute! Such a high rate of fire was needed to compensate for the low accuracy of missiles, especially at long ranges, at which it was intended to conduct battle with enemy heavy tanks. Additionally, the tank was armed with a pair of 7,62mm machine guns, paired with guns and located on the outside of their barrels. In addition, the commander's turret could have a pair of 12,7mm anti-aircraft machine guns, or other weapons (one large-caliber and one machine gun rifle-caliber - the final composition of the weapon was not determined). Total ammunition was 14 shots in gun shops and 80 shells in the body, i.e. 94 shots.


layout scheme "The Hunter".


The layout of the car as a whole is close to the classic one, but only in the sense that the control compartment, the fighting compartment and the engine-transmission compartment are arranged sequentially along the length of the machine. The driver was sitting in the front part in the center of the car, behind him was a small turret with a gunner sitting in its center, and guns were placed on the sides. Behind this detachment, the commander’s (right) and loader’s places were exceeded, but since this part rose above the front, shelling in the stern was limited and ensured only with the maximum elevation angle of the barrels. The stern housed the power plant and hydraulic transmission, but unlike the traditional tanks, each wheel of the Hunter was leading. This made it possible to use a lightweight reinforced rubber track. It is noteworthy that composite armor was used in the project - at that time research was going on to improve protection against cumulative ammunition, and one of the solutions was the so-called “glass” armor, or “siliceous core”. With an actual thickness of 6,5 inches (165mm), the armor consisting of three layers gave the same protection as the same thickness of the monolithic, but weighed as the whole 4,6 inch (117mm). The front parts of the hull armor and the Hunter Tower were supposed to be made from such armor, increasing their stamina. Another feature of the tank was the presence in addition to the traditional hatches for the crew of a single lifting panel of armor, covering the top of the office commander with a gunner and the engine-transmission. If necessary, she lifted the hydraulic cylinder and provided either excellent access to the power plant and ammunition compartments, or cover the crew when leaving the car on the battlefield.


longitudinal section of the tank "The Hunter".


But due to the change of priorities in the direction of light technology, the “Hunter” did not leave the sketch stage, although it was well developed. At this point, consideration of American heavy tanks can be completed, since the projects of heavily-armed tanks proposed at subsequent Question Mark conferences (that is, with 120mm and 152mm guns) were essentially light, with a curb weight of up to 30 tons.
After the release of the FV214 Conqueror, the United Kingdom noticeably cooled down to heavy tanks, and light vehicles, including armed guided weapons, were considered as enemy tank destroyers. And the project, which eventually gave the Chieftain with a curb weight of 52 tons and 120mm gun, began as a medium tank development, to replace the Centurion.
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