Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

France develops a new arsenal

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by SOAR21, Mar 13, 2009.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. SOAR21

    SOAR21 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Messages:
    554
    Likes Received:
    43
    Well, this is a different sort of what-if. In 1940, the French survive. How is not important, just that they do.

    Now, the real what-if. Considering the impossible situation above, but try to get over that part. The state of French armor at 1940 was not all that far from the Germans. The -35 group of tanks showed some promise, but not the Char series. Historically, during the war, a group of secretive French tank designers designed the ARL-44 during occupation years. It wasn't too hot.

    If the French continued on, with most of their industrial capacity and research capacity still available, how do you think their future tanks would have compared to tanks such as the Panther and Tiger? Early on, would they have followed the mass-produced, quick and reliable tanks like the Allies, or would they have gone toward the heavies? Could French designs potentially have compared with the T-34 or such?
     
  2. BWilson

    BWilson Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2009
    Messages:
    337
    Likes Received:
    60
    Hard to say. Technically, the French were up to it. IIRC, some of the French designs had advanced features like relatively high-powered optical sights. Their tank doctrine, though, may have remained an impediment to the design of medium tanks that could both fight other tanks and support infantry effectively. Issues of doctrine strongly impacted tank design in both Great Britain and the U.S. and it wasn't until the very end of the war that both nations turned out tanks that were comparable to German designs of the same period (I'm thinking of the Centurion and M-26).

    Cheers

    BW
     
  3. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2000
    Messages:
    8,386
    Likes Received:
    884
    Location:
    Jefferson, OH
    I agree that it is a difficult question to answer. Pure speculation on my part but I believe they would obviously take what they could from the German designs. Specifically the use of radios and mobility. The tanks they had were good in protection and in the size of guns. Their handicap was in tactics. The tanks were used to support the infantry and not used enmasse. I do not think they could have come up with something like the T-34 but something along the lines of the Grant. I think they would have gone with a combination infantry support tank with the ability to go after tanks as well. Again, this is only a guess.
     
  4. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    81
    Here is a link to the array of French tank designs from 1930 to 1940. It includes the prototypes in the design shops in 1940. Some of them were obviously dead ends and near or past cancelation. Others were slated for production ASAP and would likely have been in combat in 1941

    http://www.chars-francais.net/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1202&Itemid=99

    One just entering production was the B1ter. A continuation of the B1 & B1bis desigins it had even better armor, a more rational gun aiming system, and a reliable drive train/transmission. The B1 designs were intended as assualt vehicals, with a tactical role similar to the Soviet SU type vehicals.

    http://www.chars-francais.net/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1202&Itemid=99

    On the drawing board was the Char B40 which illustrates a further refinement of the assualt armor comcept.

    http://www.chars-francais.net/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=788&Itemid=36

    Larger and less practical were the superheavies. Continuations of the old 1918 Char C design an whole series of monsters were proposed and fiddled with during the 1930s.

    The Char RX BL. ARL Char Lourd, FCM Char Lourd, FCM F4, AMX Tractuer C, AMX Tractuer B, are some of the designs considered and shelved. The ultimate of these was the FCM F1. The most interesting feature is the 90mm high velocity gun. I dont have much info on this weapon, but development of a gun of that caliber before 1940 was a step ahead of everyone else when high velocity guns of 50mm German, 57 British, and 45mm Soviet were considered cutting edge.

    http://www.chars-francais.net/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=19&Itemid=36

    More practical than the superheavies were the artillery vehicals at the edge of production. The SAU 40 and ARL 40 were not armored assualt guns like the StgIII or the SU vehicals. They were capable of indirect fire & to be equipped with the appropriate gunsights, communications, and trained crews. One of the prototypes was designed specifically for the use of the battery commander for forward observation. It had ita gun replaced with extra radios and the turret was to have a stereo optic range finder and the surveyor quality direction and location sights.

    http://www.chars-francais.net/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=792&Itemid=36

    http://www.chars-francais.net/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=54&Itemid=36

    The medium and light cavalry and battle tanks were also to be rplaced with new models. The AMX 40 40 & AMX Char Moyen are typical of these. While they continue the the small crew philosophy of the other light & medium models the armor is even better than the existing models and the 47mm AP gun as good or better than anything else contemplated for 1941-42.

    There were several support AFV nearing production. The SOUMA CODER was a vehical for placing a short bridge over small streams and anti tank ditches.

    http://www.chars-francais.net/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55&Itemid=38

    The Lorraine 37 antichar and Laffley W 15 TCC were experiments aimed at fileding a mobile protected AT weapon or tank destroyer.

    http://www.chars-francais.net/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=108&Itemid=38

    http://www.chars-francais.net/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=107&Itemid=38

    There were some larger capacity tracked and armored cargo vehicals in development as well.

    However the most interesting design was the G1. The few fuzzy photos of a wooden enginers model show a squat thing with a dome shaped turret much like the Soviet T54 fielded over a decade later. The specifications include armor similar or better than the Soviet T34, the US M4, a four man crew, radios, and a 75mm high powered gun. Production was proposed for late 1941. The G1 represents a shift in French thinking about tank design and the general concept is of a main battle tank. The armor layout anticipates the battle inspired forms of the German Panther or the US T20-T25 series (M26 Pershing) that begain design in 1942. I suspect that the battle experince of 1940 would have caused the French to lean towards somethinbg like the G1 with production of the B1 series, the S35, and the light tanks fading into limited nubers by 1942.

    A final indicator is the ARL44. This was a clandestine design of the Vichy army during 1941-43. Post war about 60 were built. Although the apperance is a bit clunky the armor, gun, crew layout, ect... are similar to the late war designs like the Centurion, US T26. Soviet T44, or the unbuilt German follow on to the Panther.

    http://www.chars-francais.net/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=678&Itemid=41

    The bottom line here is French AFV design was not stuck in the 1920s and was clearly progressing. While the exact selections for production cant be certain the option for several superior designs was available. Best case would be selecting the G1. Drawing on the combat experince of 1940 that might have become a excellent MBT superior to either the US M4 or Soviet T34 in 1942. The continuation of the refinement of the B1 like the B1ter or the S35 with a 75mm gun would have been as good as anything the Germans could field as a MBT in 1941-42.
     
  5. SOAR21

    SOAR21 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Messages:
    554
    Likes Received:
    43
    Judging by the tanks in their arsenal, I think, that at the time of the invasion, they still viewed tanks as two separate lines. One was the cavalry type tank, the S-35, and the other, was the infantry tank, like the B1 bis. My guess is that, shown the German success, their infantry tank section might even be completely disbanded. After all, the S-35 packed more firepower and thicker armor than any tank the Germans had to offer at the time. The Germans showed that how a tank was used would determine the next generation of warfare.

    Another big problem: the -35 series all had one common problem, that the turret housed the commander, who also had to operate the main weapon, exponentially decreasing effectiveness.

    Eventually, their designs could have become Sherman-esque, because the German tanks leaped a generation in firepower, with the Tigers and Tank Destroyers. The problem would be a lack of industrial power to put out enough of these tanks.

    So my guess is that they would end up like the British, using American weapons. Their own developments would probably also center around tank destroyers, packing much more firepower, able to fend off the German armor. Either that, or, like France historically in the later 1940s, they would turn to copying or outright using captured German tanks. The first post-war attempt at a French main battle tank bore an uncanny resemblance to the Panther.

    Armored Doctrine would probably end up being different from Guderian's ideas, purely because of the fact that it could not be accomplished using the tanks available at the time, and that France was not trying to conquer, it was trying to defend.
     
  6. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    81
    I cant see why. The US light tanks, the Stuart series, were no better than the French light tanks. In 1941 all the US had offer was the M2 medium tank, a nearly obsolete thing with thin armor and a mere 37mm gun. The US M3 medium, the Lee/Grant, was inferior to the B1ter & that model was entering production over year before the US M3 passed prototype status. Something derived from the G1 design would be rolling off the factory floors well over a year before the US M4 Sherman. It would make more sense for the French to order tanks to their own specs from the US automotive industry in 1941

    And again why? The German examples of 1940-42 were inferior in firepower, armor, and cross country mobility to the latest models of the French. By the time the French see a Tiger tank or capture one their own heavy tank projects are likely to be just as far along. That is assuming the French dont realize the dead end the superheavy tank represents. With high powered 75mm & 90mm gun development already well underway it is not clear the Germans would have much to teach the French.
    The first post-war attempt at a French main battle tank bore an uncanny resemblance to the Panther.

    The French strategy was to begain Large scale offensive operations around 1942, when they expected Germanys economy to be well down the tubes, and the combined French/British weapons production to far outstrip Germanys. The tank designs under development look like offensive weapons.

    Beyond tanks the French production and purchases of aircraft from the US focused on bombers. The trend looks much more like a plan for a offensive airforce. Applying the situation of 1940 to 1941 & 1942 or beyond rather misses the original question of this thread.
     
  7. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    81
    For small arms I'm not well educated and someone else will have to weigh in. My copy of Smiths 'Small Arms of the World' shows the 1938 MAS submachinegun as being distributed in 1940. Although there were semiautomatic rifles fielded back in WWI Smith does not show anything similar in production in 1940. Ditto for machine guns.

    Radios needed a lot of improvement. The problems of the tank radios are well known. What might have changed there I cant say. Again I'm iggnorant of the French electronics industry.

    Automotive transporation was actually superior to the Germans. A much larger portion of the French army used truck transport, vs the less effcient horses. ie: approx 40% of the French artillery used auto transport vs a bit over 20% of the German artillery. In this the French had the advantage of acess to US industry. Like the huge aircraft orders placed in the US all the trucks the French wanted could have been ordered from the US.

    The artillery had a upgrade program underway, but the venerable 75mm field gun did not have a replacement on the horizon. Rather the intent seems to have been to supplement it with several modern 105mm & 155mm guns and howitzers. The overall trend in cannon was to increase to already large corps artillery groups with the modern weapons superior to the German in both quantity and range. As I noted earlier there was a advanced design for a selfpropelled armored artillery weapon entering production. These would probablly have repalced all the 75mm towed cannon in the armored divsions during 1941.

    The French artillery doctrine had been focused on speed in massing fires. The practice since the mid 1930s had been to concentrate battalion and multibattlaion fire groups on a target as rapidly as a single battery could. This valuable skill was negated in part by the doctrine of the 'methodical battle' and the practice of attacking according to detailed and extensive written plans. So the requirement to fire large and complex scheduled fire plans prevented artillery commanders from using their technical ability to full advantage.

    The question of doctrine is where the French army would truly change from the practices up to 1940. The focus on the doctrine of the 'methodical battle' left the French leaders at all levels unable to fight a high speed battle. Their staff were unskilled at writing coherent fragmentary or mission orders, or acting on them effectively as the German officer or NCO could. They were trained to write and execute detailed written battle plans that "coodinated" all aspects. There had been disatisfaction with this doctrine, but naysayers had little impact. But, the example of Poland, and the results of large scale field exercises in the French Army had clearly illustrated the need for change. Combat experince in 1940-41 would push the French officer corps along the path of adaptation. It is likely the Frnch would begain revamping their doctrines before 1940 was over.

    What is not certain is that the new methods would all be superior or equal to the Germans. Every army, including the Wehrmacht makes wrong guesses and while the French would certainly change their capabilitys might not improve across the board.

    Hand in hand with revamped doctrines and tactics would be a change in senior leaders, starting with Gamelin. Daladier the minister of defense had been increasingly disillusioned with Gamelin from the previous winter. By late March he had determined to replace him, but accomplishing the necessary political preperation took time and Daladier was ill thru much of April. By the second week of May he was ready to demand Gamelins replacement. The start of the German attack on 10 May gave Gamelin a brief reprive, but by June he was long gone. The question then is what Daladiers choices would have been. Huntzinger was on his short list, as were a few other army and Army Group commanders. But the performace of so many senior generals and marshals in May and June looked bad. Several other such as Billotte were either dead or captured when the gunsmoke cleared. The upside is the battle of May/June allowed several others to shine. If Daladier had any sense he would have begain quickly moving the best performers upwards from his corps and divsion commands.
     
  8. neverseperat

    neverseperat Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2009
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    it depends on wheather or not you think they would be able to go thourgh the final 5 years of WW2 without being taken over
     
  9. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2008
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    90
    What small arms were french infantry armed with? Was it the usual bolt action rifles + Bren type LMG at the section level? And were their HMGs hotchkiss MGs?
     
  10. BWilson

    BWilson Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2009
    Messages:
    337
    Likes Received:
    60
    Bolt action rifles, IIRC, of types 8-mm (and 7.5-mm) Berthier and 7.5-mm MAS 36.

    Squad LMG was the magazine-fed 7.5-mm FM 24/29.

    Medium machine guns were 8-mm Hotchkiss M1914.

    Cheers

    BW
     
  11. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    81
    So far I've limited my thought here to the possibilites for two years, to late 1942. The long term prospects are worse for Germany than for the Allies. The combined industrial production of Britian and Frnce was expected to pull well ahead of Germany. Plus they were ordering large quantities from the US.

    Germany cash reserves were too small in 1940. Gold reserve, bank credits, and any surplus income from the sale of industrial goods would likely be gone by the end of 1940. France had a fairly hefty gold reserve and it credit was in much better shape than Germany. Ditto for Brtian. Both Allied nations had large empires from which they could squeeze a bit more finacial and material resources. Germany had Poland and the former Cezchoslovakia, from which it had already looted any sigificant financial value. The financial consideration were one reason France proposed to go over to a large scale offensive in 1942. They expected Germany to be experincing similar conditions to 1917-1918 by then. Their rearmament program was planned for completion by then as well.

    This of course does not exclude a second sucessfull offensive by Germany later in 1940 or in 1941. Exactly how throughly the Allies halt the German offensive in May/June 1940 has a lot to do with what happens later. If the Allies barely hang on the possibilty of defeat later still exists. If the Wehrmacht suffers badly then the Allied strategy can suceed.

    After 1942 the likely condition is all participants are effectively bankrupt, Germany is beset by price inflation, draconian rationing, and a nasty blackmarket. Resenmet against the nazi government would have to be suppressed by a expanded Gestapo. If the USSR intervenes then Germany situation goes completely doen the drain. The USSR would not even have to take military action. Just cutting off the transfer of grain and raw materials would be catstrophic. On the Allied side rationing, price controls, shortages, and black markets would place downward pressure on morale. As bank and government credits were exahusted, cash reserves long spent, and the markets for raw materials from the colonys increasingly distorted a global economic depession would be very near or underway.
     
  12. SOAR21

    SOAR21 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Messages:
    554
    Likes Received:
    43
    All you are saying makes sense, Carl, thanks.

    Seeing as how France and Britain are separated by only 40 miles of seawater, I also presume that the German sub warfare would have become useless. Would they then concentrate on building a stronger surface fleet? Or would all available industry be tooled toward the ground war? And France, would their outdated and faltering navy be upgraded or expanded? My guess is that they will be too hard-pressed, and leave the naval stuff to the RN.
     
  13. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    81
    I dont hink German submarine warfare would have been completely useless, but less effective than historically, at leeast thru 1940-41. Perhaps the Germans would have begain building larger longer range subs. A German surface fleet would far too expensive. Perhaps they would replace some of the many ships lost in the Norwegian campaign. A continuation of the program of surface raiders would happen, but without Atlantic ports the payoff would be even less.

    The French had a plan for renovating its fleet. I'd guess that would slow down as credit ran low. The primary use of the French fleet would be to watch the Italians, second to aid the Brits vs the German submarines and surface raiders, third to watch the Japanese.
     
  14. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    81
    A couple side questions are Italy and Japan.

    If Italy sees that France is not collapsing and stays out of the war then Germany does have another nuetral conduit around the British blockade. The Italians may also extend a bit of bank credit to Germany, but they probablly did not have a lot to lend. Probablly any bank credits would be provided only for items purchased from Italy so the money would simply shifted from one account to another in the Italian banks. What elese happens is anyones guess. Mussolini had a reputation as unpredictable.

    If the Italian did declare war on the Allies they are screwed. A intact French fleet would make it easy for the Allies to pin the Italian fleet in port, or sink it. Italys airforce would have some intial effect, but aircraft production was so low losses could not be made up. With a larger Allied naval force and airbases in Tunisia there would be question of the Axis holding onto Lybia, let alone attacking British or French colonies.
     
  15. SOAR21

    SOAR21 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Messages:
    554
    Likes Received:
    43
    not to mention that a belligerent france would mean an invasion of libya from both sides.
     
  16. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    81
    Precisley. Tunis is less than 100 km from the border and just a bit over 200km from the French railroad terminal in Tunisia. A big difference from the 1500+ miles from the British rail head in Egypt to Tripoli.
     
  17. BEARPAW

    BEARPAW Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    2
    Assuming some type of peace is reached between Germany and France and France continues to build its arsenal... and the Germans forget about Briton and attack Russia...

    The Panther and Tiger tanks were influenced by the Eastern front... the French would have to up armour there existing tanks in response to German and Russian developments.

    The French would have to develop new 'jet' aircraft in response to the ME 262 and Arado 234 aircraft.

    And... new counter measures in submarine warfare would have to be developed in response to Germany Walter Type Electric U-Boats.
     
  18. SOAR21

    SOAR21 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Messages:
    554
    Likes Received:
    43
    This would be way into ww2. Germany could not have really fully taken on Russia, if France remained there on the border, a significant threat. Not to mention any little raw materials and other resources that Germany historically used from France would not be available.

    And if Germany does not concentrate on Russia, within two or three years Russia would press Germany as hard as historical '44-'45. Thus, the Germans would once again be short of any materials, oil, and production capability to be able to counter France, no matter how bad their tanks might be, or how slow their planes might be. The Germans simply would not be able to produce enough tanks or jet fighters.
     
  19. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    81
    Its clear from the links I posted above that French tank development anticipated larger and better tanks. The 75mm & 90mm high powered tank guns and larger and better armored tanks being tested would be apace with the German developments of 1942-44, if not a step ahead.

    Jet engine development was preceding just as fast in Britian and the US. No reason why France would not have benefited from its Allies research. Perhaps France would have had a even better design Britan dealt with the German submarines well enough. France need not have had a crisis over the 'Uboats'
     
  20. SOAR21

    SOAR21 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Messages:
    554
    Likes Received:
    43
    Aye, the English Channel is thirty miles wide. Supply lines are secure enough. Not to mention that U-boats now did not have the benefit of using French ports like Cherbourg, Brest, and Bordeaux. Their range would be limited to the area around the Isles, which would significantly decrease effectiveness. But, back to topic, this is starting to seem like a "What if France survived" thread.

    Here is an even harder question, Carl. What about any potential SPA guns or assault guns? Do you think the French would be impressed by the StuG? How about tank destroyers?
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page