Military Review

The project of heavy reconnaissance tank Daimler-Benz VK 2801 (Germany)

After the failure to develop a light reconnaissance project tank VK 1602 Leopard, which could not be brought to the construction and testing of the prototype, Daimler-Benz decided to continue work in this direction. This time it was proposed to develop a heavy class reconnaissance tank. The project was stopped long before the possible construction of a prototype, but still is of some interest in the context of the development of German armored vehicles.

One of the main reasons for the rejection of the two VK 1602 projects created by Daimler-Benz and MAN / MIAG were insufficient characteristics. It was assumed that these machines will work in some combat formations with other tanks, including the newest "Tigers" and "Panthers". In this case, however, the reconnaissance vehicles in the proposed form lagged behind other armored vehicles in terms of protection. The 50-mm KwK 39 gun selected for their weapons did not, in turn, provide the required firepower. As a result, the further development of projects was considered inexpedient.

After the cessation of work on the reconnaissance tank VK 1602, before the end of 1942, Daimler-Benz decided to start developing a new project of a similar purpose. At this time, it was proposed to correct the main shortcomings of the previous project, and thus provide promising tanks great prospects. According to reports, the new project was developed without a corresponding order from the military, because of what did not receive an official designation. However, in foreign and domestic sources, it is often referred to as VK 2801 or VK 2801 (DB). Letters in brackets are used to eliminate confusion with a later similar project by Krupp.

The project of heavy reconnaissance tank Daimler-Benz VK 2801 (Germany)
A variant of the reconstruction of the appearance of the tank VK 2801 (DB). Figure

An analysis of the requirements and capabilities has shown that a new project, free from the shortcomings of the existing one, cannot be created by simple modernization. It was necessary to develop a new armored hull with enhanced protection characteristics, which led to the need for a new enhanced chassis, the use of a more powerful engine, etc. As a result, in its appearance, the VK 2801 tank should have been significantly different from the previously proposed vehicle. In addition, at a certain stage of development, there was a noticeable external similarity with some other tanks of the newest models.

It should be noted that the Daimler-Benz VK 2801 project was stopped at one of the early stages, which negatively affected the information about it. Thus, different sources provide different information. In addition, there are some problems associated with confusion and the same names of the two developments. Let's try to establish the appearance of the proposed tank.

VK 1602 proposed the use of frontal armor 50 mm thick, but in the middle of 1942, such protection was considered insufficient. Later it was proposed to strengthen the frontal protection of a reconnaissance tank up to 80 mm of armor with installation at an angle to the vertical. In the new project, the Daimler-Benz engineers decided to further increase the thickness of the armor. The upper frontal part, installed at an angle, should now have a thickness of 90 mm. In a proportional way, it was necessary to strengthen the protection of other parts of the machine.

Due to the impossibility of a simple update of the existing project with the use of thicker armor, the authors of the development had to start designing a new building. According to reports, the resulting unit had a great similarity with some other new German tanks. There was a sloping frontal sheet, connected with vertical sides and a horizontal roof. The upper part of the hull was expanded and formed large, nadgusenichnye niche, with the help of which increased the available volume to accommodate the necessary nodes. The stern leaf was inclined backward, giving the car an additional resemblance to some other specimens.

VK VK 2801 (DB) was proposed to be assembled in accordance with standard German ideas. In the front part there should have been transmission units, behind which was placed the office with the driver and radio operator. The central part of the body stood out under the fighting compartment with weapons and ammunition, and in the stern provided for the installation of the engine.

To ensure acceptable mobility, a prospective reconnaissance tank, differing from its predecessor by increased weight, should have received a more powerful engine. The Maybach HL 230 carburetor power 700 hp was proposed as the basis of the power plant. With the help of a cardan shaft, passing over the bottom of the case, he had to transmit torque to the front units of the mechanical transmission. The latter were associated with two driving wheels.

5 gun cm KwK 39 L / 60. Photo of Wikimedia Commons

Creating a new building of large dimensions and increased mass required the authors of the project to apply the new chassis. To reduce the ground pressure and improve the ride smoothness, the VK 2801 tank received eight large-diameter road wheels with an individual suspension on each side. In addition, the so-called. Knipkamp suspension with a checkerboard arrangement and partial overlapping of rollers. In front of the hull were driving wheels with pinching gear, in the stern - leading ones. The latter were partially overlapped by rear idler wheels.

On the roof of the hull it was proposed to install a tower with weapons. According to some reports, the tower was supposed to receive a rectangular frontal sheet and sides with the stern, made in the form of a single curved part. Above, there was a horizontal roof with hatches and viewing devices. The level of defense of the tower, apparently, should correspond to the similar parameters of the hull. On the gun installation, a mask of a complex form like Saukopf was located.

In the turret of the new VK 2801 (DB), the 5 cm KwK 39 L / 60 gun should have been installed, similar to that used in the VK 1602 project. This gun was equipped with 50-mm barrel length 60 calibers. It should be noted that for 1942-43 the use of such weapons on medium or heavy tanks it was no longer advisable. Thus, when using a Pz.Gr.40 projectile with an initial speed of 1180 m / s, the gun could penetrate 130 mm of armor only from a distance of 100 m. At a distance of 1 km, armor penetration fell to 38 mm. Perhaps, in the future, the prospective reconnaissance tank could have received a more powerful weapon that would meet the requirements of the time, but there are no data to that effect.

Additional armament of the tank was to consist of two MG 34 machine guns or MG 42 caliber 7,92 mm. One of the machine guns was proposed to be mounted on the same machine with the gun, and the second was to be placed in the embrasure of the front hull plate. There is no information about the possible use of smoke grenade launchers.

The crew of a prospective reconnaissance tank was to consist of four or five people. In front of the hull, a mechanic-driver and a radio operator shooter were placed, for whom, probably, their own hatches were provided for in the hull roof. The commander, the gunner and the loader were supposed to control the armament (according to some information, the commander should have been the gunner’s duties). Their places were placed in the tower and equipped with a set of hatches with viewing devices.

The reconnaissance mission of the new armored vehicle should have affected the set of onboard equipment. The radio operator should have several radio stations in place to communicate with other tanks and transmit data about the detected targets. In this regard, in some variants of the reconstruction of the VK 2801 look, there is a set of antennas providing communication with other tanks.

Another option is the appearance of the tank. Figure

The design of the new case with enhanced protection characteristics led to a regular increase in the size and weight of the structure. The total length of the VK 2801 (DB) tank was to reach 6,5 m, while the three-meter barrel of the 50-mm gun did not protrude beyond the hull projection. The width of the machine did not exceed 3 m, height - 2,8 m. Due to the powerful booking, the tank's combat mass reached 33 tons. The use of an 700-powerful gasoline engine gave a specific power of at least 21,2 hp. per ton, which allowed to count on good indicators of mobility.

Approximately at the end of 1942, or at the beginning of 1943, a new development, created on its own initiative, was presented to the military. The machine, created without ordering the army, was not interested in command. It can be assumed that this failure had several reasons. The main reason for the closure of the project could be the lack of a need for such a technique: if the army would really need a heavy reconnaissance tank, they would definitely have ordered it.

An additional reason for justified claims could be weak weaponry. The 50-mm KwK 39 cannon no longer allowed to contend with modern enemy tanks without significant risk to themselves. For the sure defeat of Soviet tanks, the VK 2601 machine would have to enter their defeat zone. This problem could be partially solved by enhanced booking, but the tank still needed more powerful weapons.

A noticeable increase in general characteristics could be facilitated by the use of a more powerful weapon, proposed even during the development of the VK 1602 project. Indeed, the reconnaissance tank VK 2801 (DB) with 80-mm frontal armor and 75-mm gun in terms of protection and firepower could be compared with the Pz.Kpfw.V Panther armored vehicle. However, this did not justify the new development, since the Wehrmacht did not need to duplicate an already existing tank.

For one reason or another, the Daimler-Benz VK project did not interest the potential customer and was closed as unnecessary. For several months of work, the design team managed to prepare a set of drawings, but the work did not progress further. Information about building a demo layout is missing. The prototype of the new machine was not built and was not even planned because of the early cessation of work. All project documentation has been archived. Some ideas later found application in new developments. In addition, an attempt was soon made to create a new armored vehicle based on some of the developments of the VK 2801 (DB) project. The development of this project with the same name was entrusted to Krupp.

Based on:
Baryatinsky M. Scouts battle // Model-designer. 2001. No.11. C.32.
Chamberlain P., Doyle H. Complete reference book of German tanks and self-propelled guns of the Second World War. - M .: AST: Astrel, 2008.
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  1. igordok
    igordok 18 May 2016 07: 20
    At the end of the Second World War, when we were advancing, we needed light (reconnaissance) tanks, but they were almost never released. But at the beginning of the Second World War, there were a lot of light tanks, but they were used as ordinary tanks, and almost all were lost.
    The Germans, LT at the beginning of the Second World War, also had a lot and used as ordinary. But by the end of the war, the Germans, RTs, including reconnaissance, are not needed in large quantities. Therefore, they did not bother.
    1. kugelblitz
      kugelblitz 18 May 2016 07: 50
      The surviving T-70s were used in the Su-76 batteries as commander ones. For intelligence, as I understand it, the BA-64 and the M3 armored personnel carriers were much more popular. Apparently, therefore, there were no orders for production.

    2. Volga Cossack
      Volga Cossack 18 May 2016 08: 02
      after the loss of mass of tanks at the beginning of the war - to establish the production of light tanks - t-40-60-70 - it was easier even at automobile plants, in particular GAZ t-70 produced ...... the question was in quantity .... yes and the infantry’s confidence that the tank didn’t increase .... after the launch of the evacuated factories, they could already produce t-34s in sufficient quantities .... and the production of light was curtailed
    3. The comment was deleted.
  2. Bigriver
    Bigriver 18 May 2016 08: 07
    For reconnaissance, at the end of the war, ours were very fond of "Valentines". True, as far as I remember, they were not used in the strike six of the tank armies.
    Company "V" was part of the staff of motorcycle reconnaissance regiments, individual TPs, were widely used in cavalry corps and KMG.
    1. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 18 May 2016 12: 13
      Quote: BigRiver
      For reconnaissance, at the end of the war, ours were very fond of "Valentines".

      Duc ... still would not like a light tank with a forehead reservation of up to 60 mm. smile
      Of the currently available armaments of the Red Army, tank equipment should be the American medium tank Sherman M4A2 with artillery. armament in the form of a 76,2 mm cannon of high power and the Canadian light tank "Valentine" MK-9 with a 57-mm tank gun limited rollback ...
      The indicated tank models compare favorably with the domestic ones in terms of ease of operation, significantly increased overhaul life, ease of maintenance and current repair, and at the same time their armament, armor and mobility make it possible to solve the whole range of tasks put forward by armored forces ...
      According to numerous reviews from tank units, these types of tanks can be considered the best for serving in peacetime, mastering military equipment ...
      I ask you to consider a set of measures for the speedy improvement of the design of domestic tanks, so that they can be compared with the best foreign models in terms of guaranteed mileage, ease of operation, repair and maintenance ...
      © Head of GABTU, Marshal BTV Fedorenko
  3. tchoni
    tchoni 18 May 2016 08: 26
    THERE IS ATTENTION TO KILL: what can you scout from a tank? Cars are heavy, noisy, a priori incapable of winding kilometers for a long period of time ... A heavy reconnaissance tank is the stupidity of a series: prima ballet-powerlifter with a bodybuilding bias
    1. Blondy
      Blondy 18 May 2016 08: 40
      Heavy reconnaissance tank project

      Indeed, it sounds like an oxymoron.
    2. Bigriver
      Bigriver 18 May 2016 09: 10
      Quote: tchoni
      THERE IS ATTENTION TO KILL: what can you scout from a tank? Heavy, noisy cars ...

      So, he is only one of the elements of a balanced reconnaissance group.
      Let's say: a platoon of tanks, a platoon of motorized infantry in the Ganomagi, a company of motorcyclists.
      You can scout a group for anything. Terrain conditions ahead of the main forces (divisions, corps), mark and character of the enemy’s defense, etc.
      1. tchoni
        tchoni 18 May 2016 14: 05
        Platoon of tanks in intelligence? What you said is not a reconnaissance group, but a division of the vanguard of a large compound.
        1. gladcu2
          gladcu2 18 May 2016 17: 31

          There is such a thing as reconnaissance in battle. Simulation of an attack to detect firing points. For such things they take companies and a battalion.

          Dangerous thing.
          1. tchoni
            tchoni 18 May 2016 22: 15
            Reconnaissance in battle is carried out by ordinary linear units armed with ordinary linear tanks .. And, to invent a special tank for this purpose is silly.
        2. Bigriver
          Bigriver 19 May 2016 06: 48
          Quote: tchoni
          Platoon of tanks in intelligence? What you said is not a reconnaissance group, but a division of the vanguard of a large compound.

          And they fought in small formations?
          Minimum TD and in the direction of the main attacks of the corps or army grouping.
          Yes, there were separate "Tigers" battalions. But, they were attached to strengthen the TC and TA.
          In general, the described tank is a TD reconnaissance tank.
    3. Forest
      Forest 18 May 2016 09: 42
      Sometimes very, very much - for example, to go in the forefront, walk at the front line of the enemy, without fear of small arms. Go to the rear and check the bridges and roads for the parts following it.
      1. tchoni
        tchoni 18 May 2016 14: 04
        All this can be done by an armored car. That armored car will not change tracks every 1.5-3 thousand km, it will use fuel very moderately, most likely it will be much quieter in movement.
        1. Forest
          Forest 18 May 2016 14: 12
          But then he will not be able to fight along with the main units. Yes, and patency BA times WWII left much to be desired.
          1. tchoni
            tchoni 18 May 2016 22: 12
            For this there is obt. or heavy and medium cars according to the classification of the WWII.
            1. Forest
              Forest 18 May 2016 23: 52
              They do not have sufficient maneuver and are quite large.
        2. Bigriver
          Bigriver 19 May 2016 06: 52
          Quote: tchoni
          All this can be done by an armored car. That armored car will not change tracks every 1.5-3 thousand km, it will use fuel very moderately, most likely it will be much quieter in movement.

          Above was the resource of the tracks at Nemchura. Both the "three" and "four" were quite quiet tanks, thanks to the petrol engine and pinch gearing.
    4. gladcu2
      gladcu2 18 May 2016 17: 28

      A reconnaissance tank is needed to identify foci of resistance. By its appearance, call fire on yourself to determine the enemy, go to a safe position.

      Accordingly, the performance characteristics.
      1. tchoni
        tchoni 18 May 2016 22: 10
        For this, the usual surround is very suitable. Only the capabilities of the MBT or heavy tank are an order of magnitude greater.
    5. PKK
      PKK 18 May 2016 19: 44
      I agreed that I expected this tank to have huge reconnaissance optics, the size of a barrel, a larger communication antenna, but received medium armor and mobility. I consider it a strange tank. In general, for VO, it’s a big luxury to take the place of some kind of unsuccessful product projects. There’s more important topics, one of them, where did the 105 million allocated from the Moscow Region go to military-patriotic education of youth? They gave an article, but there is no continuation. And apparently no one is working on this topic. We are waiting for information to whom, how much and the results.
      1. Signore Tomato
        Signore Tomato 8 October 2016 07: 53
        Quote: PKK
        .There are more important topics, one of them, where did the 105 million allocated from the Defense Ministry go to military-patriotic education of youth?

        105 million?
        Hmm The number of rural settlements in Russia is approximately 18650 units (this is a type of village council) plus 500 units of all kinds of city administrations (possibly more). This means that about 5000 rubles have been allocated for each administration. And what can be done for this money? A maximum of a couple of stands about how cool work is being done with young people in military-patriotic terms.
  4. AUL
    AUL 18 May 2016 10: 09
    And my question is - why did the Germans love Knipkamp's suspension so much? Its disadvantages are widely known (structural complexity, the complexity of repairs in combat conditions, clogged with mud and ice, etc.). And from the pros, I only know the increased ride. Who is in the know, enlighten!
    1. kugelblitz
      kugelblitz 18 May 2016 10: 11
      Good pressure distribution, combined the advantages of small-diameter rollers (quantity) and large (rolling resistance).