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German designs influential?

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by Walter_Sobchak, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

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    Quite often I see late war German designs such as the Panther and King Tiger described as "influencing postwar tank design." After giving this some though, I have to ask the question "is this true?" Other than sloped armor, a high velocity cannon and torsion bar suspension, most of the particular traits found in the late war german "cat's" were not incorporated in post war designs (and those three characteristics were by no means exclusive to the "cats"). For example, the "cats" had five man crews, front mounted transmissions, petrol engines, guns with a barrel to length ratio of 70 or more, overlapping or interleaved roadwheels. All these were qualities that were either never adopted in post war designs or were phased out after the first generation of post war tank designs. So the question is, were late war German designs trendsetters for the future or did they represent dead ends in tank design?
     
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  2. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Certainly with their high-velocity cannon and heavy armor they settled the question of whether or not such cannon and armor should be put on an MBT or not. Those cannon pretty much made sure that the design philosophy of the Sherman was laid to rest. New development in propellant allowed high velocity in somewhat shorter barrels after the war, but from WWII on every tank was designed with a gun that was supposed to destroy enemy tanks and with armor designed to stop high velocity rounds. We finally realized that the doctrine of Gen. Leslie McNair was a false one. However, the Germans have to share the honors with the Soviet designers.

    My money says that the German contribution was at the beginning of the war with having enough crewmen so that the tank commander wasn't overloaded, radios in every tank and of course, their tank doctrine. They won their early successes with these three things, even though their tanks had flaws in their armor and armament. Despite having the "cats" they lost because to a large extent the Allies (including the USSR) learned the lessons the Germans taught so well. (They charged a rather high tuition though!)
     
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Did it? How did the design philosphy of the Sherman differ from the Pershing or the Pattons? I see them as being closer than the latter are to the German tanks.
    The Sherman could stop most of the rounds at reasonable range of the tanks in service when it was designed, likewise it's gun was capable of destroying the opposing tanks in service when it was designed. Indeed it was arguably the best tank in the war when it was introduced (the T-34 being the other contender).
    Was it? My impression was that his "doctrine" was pretty much to give ground forces command what they wanted.
     
  4. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    I would say the Soviet T-34 was the main influence in tank design, which interestingly enough had roots in a US design that the US Army passed on.
     
  5. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    ...plus there's a certain snobbery in victory ;) "They lost...." so there's always a certain cloud over the technology that lost.

    Over recent years I've done a bit of work chasing down re-used German technology for certain discussions - and the lack of it is quite striking ;)

    There's the on-going spat over what exactly the antecedents of the AK-47 were, and the RPG range...isn't it strange that the party that perhaps faced these the most in sheer numerical terms I.E. the Soviets, were the ones to come up with something not unconnected with WWII-era German items?...

    But there's a distinct lack of German antecedents in anything fielded by any army in the West....except perhaps Germany itself and a certain general similarity between the Panther and the Leopard I ;) You have to move further up the scale to find anything mapping straight over - thinking now of the Loon (partly :p)-guided cruise missile, a direct remanufacture of the V-1 - but soon to be overtaken by the same team's work on the Regulus.

    The same general subject came up a few years ago on AHF - and I voiced the opinion that there was a distinct difference in how the Germans and the Western Allies "did" techology. This is what I mean...

    The Germans reached for technological solutions to "make the most out of less", as it were. They pushed the bounds of period technology to create strategic bombardment rockets, cruise missiles, tele- and radio-guided missiles etc....and pushed the boundaries of their own tank industry to create the "cats" as described here. In a way - they relied on pushing the boundaries to give them an edge - however temporary.

    The Allies didn't - they applied technology where it was needed...such as the VT proximity fuze ;) In other words - they looked at the solution they needed, and used technology only if necessary to get there. But if technology wasn't appropriate, if sheer numbers and mass production of a lower-spec item was going to do the job just as effectively - that's the solution that was adopted, with all the benefits of economies of scale when it came to mass production.

    Mix that attitude with the snobbery of victory I mentioned at the top of this post...and German tank technology etc. just wasn't going to get as look-in. The "cats" for instance didn't have anything like the influence of post-war tank design as the Centurion and the Pershing did - THEIR direct descendants are still with us today.
     
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  6. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I will agree that when it came out, the Sherman was quite good. That was basically due to the thin armor and weak guns of the German Mk IIs through the early MK IVs. However, the Sherman and Gen. McNair, who basically authored U.S tank doctrine, are interwoven threads in our use of tanks. As you probably know, McNair came up with the doctrine of "tanks don't fight tanks, that job is for tank destroyer force" which comprised tracked tank destroyers and towed AT guns. His theory was that the AT gun would dominate the battlefield. His baleful influence made sure that we didn't have a tank with a proper gun when we went into France. He felt the ONLY job for a tank was to engage pill boxes, bunkers, MG nests, towed AT guns and other "soft" targets. This doctrine was not resurrected after WWII.

    I would say that the Pattons and Pershings were probably closer to the Panther than either to the Sherman or the Tiger. The M1 Abrams seems to be based more on the Tiger concept (MUCH, MUCH better of course). You may remember that they up-gunned it from the American 105mm to the German 120mm smoothbore which was a much larger jump than from the 75mm to the 76mm in the Sherman.

    I stand by what I said.
     
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  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Actually I'm not at all sure of that. While the destruction of tanks was the pirmary job of tank destroyers there was never a "tanks don't fight tanks" doctrine. A link on the topic that indicates its a lot more complex than you (or I) suggest:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=IA...page&q=tank destroyer doctrine mcnair&f=false

    NO. The field forces didn't think that a bigger gun was needed. They thought that the Panther like the Tiger was a tank that would only show up in very limited numbers.
    Indeed and had he survived his trip to Normandy it's likely that he would have helped drive the stake into it himself. But he had little to do with the actual design of US tanks.
    I wouldn't. The suspension, transmission, and engine are clearly closer to the Sherman. As is the armor distribution. The 90mm gun is also not a specialized AT gun like the PzV carried.
    I don't see it. What aspects of the Tiger do you see in the Abrams? The engine is completely different, as is the running gear, likewise the armor and gun. Not to mention the reliability. I guess it is a bit of a fuel hog like the Tiger but that's pretty minimal.
    Not sure what import that has however. Note that the Sherman was also upgraded to a 105 and there were proposals to upgrade it to the 90mm gun used on the Pershing. If it had been realized how long the Pershing would take we probably would have seen 90mm armed Shermans in 45 if not sooner.
    That's your privledge but I don't see it.
     
  8. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    For the German After-War tank development the WW2 tanks played no greater role, except the engineers knew their mistakes from the war, as they where the same that developed the PantherĀ“s and TigerĀ“s. I think the the german desings at the Submarines ( Type XXI )and the aircrafts ( Horten H IX ) have been more influent for some after war projects.
     
  9. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    That isn't quite true, the US passed on Christie's overall design premise a fast tank. The Soviets implemented his overall design in their BT series (soon discarded), but transferred a modified version of his suspension to the T-34. Nothing else is "Christie", and even that doesn't utilize the most revolutionary concept of removable tracks and fast rubber wheeled propulsion. Just the unique coil and knee action which allowed for lower tank overall height, and decent hull ground clearance.
     
  10. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    It's a very good question you pose and one that could probably have a book all it's own.
    For the time, it's safe to say that tank for tank, there were none better then the German heavies. From 1942 onwards, the Germans realized they were in a battle for tank production they could never hope to match. So they had to build fewer, extremely good tanks with very well trained crews, and hope to trump the sheer number of American and Russian tanks by quality.

    Even though we all know how that idea turned out, it seems the West has more or less copied that formula - the M1 Abrams, German Leopard 2 and other western tanks are probably better then anything the Russians or Chinese are likely to field anytime soon (although there is no way to know that, since the Russians only show their SECOND best tanks to the world and keep the newest stuff secret until something better is made). So the Americans dropped their quantitative idea (lots of Shermans) for the concept of fewer, but better tanks as the Germans attempted to do. Meanwhile the Russians after WW2, have so far kept the idea of masses of smaller, cheaper tanks over-running the enemy by sheer numbers.

    Since WW2 the Arab-Israeli wars (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982), the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), and Gulf wars 1 (1991) and 2 (2003) completely demolished that concept as the cheaper Soviet-built tanks with half-trained crews, were chewed up by better Western tanks with better armor and longer-ranged, more accurate guns.

    So the German Panzer concept of fewer and better = Victory, did work, in almost every postwar tank vs. tank conflict in the twentieth century - for everybody EXCEPT the Germans.
     
  11. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    Hi Walter,
    I think you've hit on one of those 'epiphany' moments one comes across while getting seriously interested in a subject. One of those thoughts that makes one begin to approach almost any widely accepted view with a little more depth, and maybe some cynicism, until you feel you've grasped it to your own satisfaction.
    I had mine a few years ago when first discovering forums, on sister forum WW2T:
    German tanks as evolutionary dead ends. - World War 2 Talk
    And some more recent rambling on similar 'evolutionary' lines here:
    Churchill Tanks - World War 2 Talk

    The first thread never exactly took off, but the thought remains in my mind whenever I consider evolution of armour/MVs.
    Where are the interleaved wheels indeed...

    I haven't thought about this in any real depth for a while, so I think I'll shamble off and stew about it again, but I reckon I'll enjoy following this thread.

    ~A
     
  12. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Good thread guys. I like the good discussion.
     
  13. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

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    This is another thing I see mentioned quite often that I am not sure bears scrutiny. The Panther and the Leopard 1 are quite different vehicles designed to meet different criteria. They get compared a lot due to both being German designs, but they are quite different in design and philosophy. The Panther was intended to be a well armored, balanced design and was quite heavy by the standards of the day. The Leopard 1 (as well as its French equivalent, the AMX 30) was designed to sacrifice armor in favor of mobility and firepower. The general design of the Leopard 1 is much more in line with western tanks of its period than with the Panther, ei: british 105 gun, single roadwheels with return rollers, diesel engine with rear mounted transmission. Also, the Leopard 1 had a much larger turret, the panther had an unusually small turret compared to the size of its hull. For example, although the hull of the panther was considerably larger than the Sherman, it had a turret ring size that was 10cm smaller than the sherman turret ring. The Leopard 1 on the other hand has a rather large turret more in line with the size of the centurion or m48 turrets. People see a similarity between the Leopard 1 and the Panther because they want to, not because its actually there, in my opinion.

    Ironically, in some ways the Panther was more of a "MBT" than the Leopard 1 is. The Panther had the armor and firepower of a heavy tank with the mobility of a medium, qualities that would define the Main Battle Tanks of the post war era. The Leopard 1, while labeled a "MBT" was rather under-armored and it's curious as to how well it would have functioned as a MBT in combat conditions.
     
  14. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

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    I would agree with this sentiment but also add that the British also deserve a nod in this direction. While British WW2 tank design was truly horrible in many regards, they also recognized the importance of the three man turret and radios in each vehicle early on. In terms of doctrine though the British were way behind. The British were a curious case. It took them a while to figure out what a tank should be like, but once they did, they came up with the centurion, by far the best design of the immediate postwar period.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I'm not so certain about this. If all you take into account is armor and gun you are correct. Once you start considering the "illities" however the German heavies don't looks as good. Reliability, maintainabiity, operational mobility (as opposed to tactical mobility), and sustainability are all areas where they are less than optimal.
    This rather highlits a problem with this thread. We seem to be talking about two different things.
    1) The influence of the German designs on post war tanks
    2) The influence of the German design philosopy on post war tanks.
    I think the former was pretty minimal while the latter had more traction but I wouldn't call it dominant by any means.
    This is not quite accurate nor is it mostly due to the quality of the tanks. The quality of the crew in particular level of training would seem to be the more important factor from what I've read.
    Again I disagree. The post war MBT's had substantially less firepower than the contemporary heavies until that classification became extinct. The Panther was also somewhat lacking in the firepower arena against unarmored targets. The MBT's especially the western ones have all had a good HE round and usually a number of other types of rounds for use against light or unarmored targets. Soviet MBT's did concentrate more on the AT role.
     
  16. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    Against the Russians, tank quality was also very important factor and probably prolonged the war. Remember the Germans mostly fought the Russians with Panzer 3's and 4's - tanks that were inferior in quality to the T-34. The Germans did probably have the best and most carefully trained tank crews of the war - in particular, very few men got into a Tiger crew without extensive service in less powerful tanks first. But Russian tank crews operated under distinct handicaps, for example until the very end of the war only about 1 in 5 T-34 tanks had a radio. (Almost every German tank had a radio). This meant the tank with the radio got the orders, simply took off in one direction or another, and the rest simply followed him. This of course, was a very careless way to fight large tank battles with the expertly trained Germans! But the Russians had a shortage of "wireless sets" so that was how they were forced to fight.

    The Russians were often sloppy fighters and extremely careless of manpower losses. But the Soviets could afford their huge losses - the Germans couldn't afford their own.
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    A couple of quibbles.
    While I would agree about the PzIII some models of the PzIV were essentially on a par with the T-34. Depending on just what you consider (i.e. do the radios count as part of the tank?) perhaps even supperior.
    The Soviets were scraping the bottom of the barrel by the end of the war, saying they could afford those losses is while not exactly false still somewhat misleading. Certainly the Western allies with a much bigger population didn't consider that they could afford such losses.
     
  18. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    It's true as far as I wrote. I didn't say the T-34 was based on the Christie design, just that it had some roots there. Which it did with the suspension design. Similar to the way the Sherman had roots in the Grant/Lee designs.
     
  19. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    That could be a way to frame the statement, but the US Army didn't pass on Christies' design because of the suspension. They passed on his design because they didn't want a "fast tank", which was his whole design theory.

    Turned out the Soviets didn't want it either after they built some of their BT series, they used the suspension part from the Christie, the sloped armor theory of the French SOMA-35 (I think that was the model), but their real revolution was diesel power plants driving wide tracked low ground pressure tanks.

    Just my opinion of course, but the fine T-34 (both main gun models) only had the suspension design of Christie, nothing else.
     
  20. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    My impression is that the M-4 was much closer to the M-3 than the T-34 was to any of the BT designs. Indeed wasn't there a lot of part commanality between the M-3 and M-4?

    Back to the design philosophy part. I'm not sure you can legitimately give all credit the Germans with the quality over quantity philosopy. Quality was an issue in the design of weapons for most countries. Especially in the WWII era and later. Indeed in some ways the Sherman for instance was a higher quality design than the Panther. The difference was in what went into the quality determination equation. The Sherman seemed to have more factors built in where the Panther concentrated almost totally on tank vs tank performance.
     

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