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

half track

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by denny, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. denny

    denny Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2013
    Messages:
    611
    Likes Received:
    47
    Location:
    USA, CA, Solano County
    Sorry if this has been asked a bunch.....
    With a Half Track, what was the advantage to having a tracked vehicle that had "normal" front wheels for steering.?
    Easier/Cheaper to build.?
    Easier to turn, maneuver.?
    Thank You
     
  2. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Messages:
    13,980
    Likes Received:
    2,407
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
  3. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,239
    Likes Received:
    1,865
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    Cost (& complexity).

    Full-tracked machines could be considered ideal for maximum off road ability, but they are expensive, and complex - largely because of the sophisticated transmission required, but the strain placed on Engines, Fuel, and other components is also substantial in a full-track, so components have to be more hefty for a given amount of off-road ability. (So weight goes up, more power required, etc. etc.)

    Half-tracks can ('could' might be a better term, given that they eventually lost the cost/off-road engineering battle to increasingly sophisticated wheeled vehicles) have a much simplified tracked drive, and even rely on pretty standard off-the-shelf automotive components/designs for the front wheels, steering etc.

    In most all German Halftracks of WW2, the drive/steering was very simple.
    The front wheels did all of the steering until full lock was reached, which then engaged a straightforward brake steering system on the tracks.
    Compare that to what full-tracks require in Transmission/steering terms (Google Merrit-Brown gearboxes and Electric Drive for examples) and the Interest in Half/semi-tracks as a compromise was understandable.

    Other halftrack approaches did use more complex systems for the steering, with somewhat more sophisticated transmissions, but the steering focus essentially remains on the wheels.

    Perhaps the example of the cost/ability/track equation which illustrates these things best is the German series of Maultier hybrids.
    Essentially a Carden-Loyd track set (in it's earlier incarnations) that could be supplied crated & bolted to standard trucks by field engineers without special tools or equipment:
    German wheeled lorries having mobility problem (welcome to the Russian Winter) - remove rear axles - bolt on some tracks and connect to drive-shaft - mobility increased for a fraction of the cost of any other solution using technology of the day. Not perfect, far from it, but expedient & cost-efficient.

    ~A
     
  4. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Messages:
    13,980
    Likes Received:
    2,407
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I KNEW one of our armor experts would reply. Well done, Adam.
     
  5. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2007
    Messages:
    17,674
    Likes Received:
    2,212
    Location:
    Alabama
    Nerd.
     
    Dave55 and von Poop like this.
  6. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,239
    Likes Received:
    1,865
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    S'me.

    Been thinking about Half-tracks quite a bit of late. :shifty:
    The shame.
     
  7. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2007
    Messages:
    17,674
    Likes Received:
    2,212
    Location:
    Alabama

    There are like steam engines, exciting to look at.
     
  8. denny

    denny Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2013
    Messages:
    611
    Likes Received:
    47
    Location:
    USA, CA, Solano County
    10-4 V P.
    Thanks
     
  9. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2002
    Messages:
    13,578
    Likes Received:
    1,487
    Location:
    London, England.
    I keep meaning to getting around to asking Adam a similar question about those German eight-wheeled armoured cars.....:confused:
     
  10. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,239
    Likes Received:
    1,865
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    Ask away, mate - we like Acht-Rads - but for gods sake don't direct it at an individual.
    Pet hate of mine on Fori is the 'Question for Usernamexxx' sorta post.
    Kills the 'open' potential of a query I reckon.

    (Not that I think you would post like that... just half a bottle of Zubrowka triggers comment.)

    ~A
     
  11. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2011
    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    11
    From what I have read, the idea behind a half track was to build a transport that had better off road mobility than an all wheeled truck, yet without the cost or complexity of a completely tracked vehicle. The half track was supposed to drive like a truck, therefore requiring no special training for the soldiers, as well as providing some interchangeability of parts with conventional trucks. Three countries seriously explored the idea, Germany, France and the USA. Some of the earliest work on half track design was done in France by Citroën. The French army was equipped with a number of Citroën halftracks at the beginning of the war, but since France was defeated early in the conflict, these designs were not developed any further. The US had been interested in half track design for a while, particularly as an armored troop carrier. This concept materialized into the M3 Half track, which was built in the tens of thousands. The M3 was essentially an enlarged 4x4 White scout car, with a larger rear compartment and the rear wheels replaced by a set of tracks. Both the front wheels and the tracks were powered, and all steering was provided by the front wheels. The track was fairly short, which helped with steering. The relatively short length of track that made contact with the ground offered less resistance to turning as a longer track would have.

    The Germans were the ones that really embraced the half track concept, using it for armored troop carriers, prime movers and transports. Unlike the American M3, the German half tracks did not have powered front wheels. The front wheels were only for steering, and in this they were only partially effective due to the longer length of the track on German designs. On the German designs the track length is roughly 2/3 or more of the overall vehicle length, as opposed to the US M3 with a track to vehicle length ratio around 1:4. This meant that to effectively steer the vehicle, a system was put in place to allow for track breaking on sharper turns. While this led to a little extra complexity, the trade off was that the longer the track would theoretically provide lower ground pressure and better mobility.

    According to a US report done after the war (referenced in Osprey Publishing New Vanguard 11) between the M3 and the German "Hanomag" (Sd.Kfz. 251) found that the "Hanomag" had marginally better armor than the M3 but 20% less internal space. Also, the report criticized the Sd.Kfz 251 for having inferior mobility due to the lack of a powered front axel and 25% less horsepower than the M3. Also, the M3 was quieter and had a much simpler, thus easier to repair suspension. However, I have also read other accounts saying that the 251, while being slower on roads than the M3, had superior mobility in rough terrain due to it's longer track and ability to skid turn. It's fair to say the two vehicles were close in both performance and versatility, being two of the most iconic troop transports of the war. The half track concept fell out of favor after the war due to advancements in wheeled vehicle designs and a doctrinal shift in most armies toward fully enclosed and tracked troop transports. However, the M3 continued to serve for decades after the war in various armies, most notably in the Israeli defense forces, and was even redesigned and marketed as a APC as late as the 1980's by Chile as the "Alacran."
     
    Slipdigit likes this.
  12. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,239
    Likes Received:
    1,865
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    Not just those three.
    Repeating myself from WW2T, but some British experimentation with assorted indigenous types and imports below:



    Germany had little choice but to embrace the half/semi-track. Their own indigenous truck designs (and plant for manufacturing them) being essentially inferior to the routes being taken in the US & UK.
    German Military Lorries were mostly 'militarised' Civilian machines, while those other two states were really getting somewhere on wheeled off-road transport.
    That's not to say that they (Germany) didn't eventually have success with halftrack-ed designs, but the other nations really saw less need for them, even during the war. Though having said that, there was still a certain amount of experimentation going on in the UK - from the Matador halftrack conversions to a direct copy of German designs in the Bedford Traclat.

    Matador:
    [​IMG]

    Traclat:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    PzJgr and Slipdigit like this.
  13. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2011
    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    11
    Perhaps I should have said that France, Germany and the USA were the only countries that developed half-tracked AFV's and issued them to their ground forces. It should also be noted that the USSR produced several thousand copies of the ZIS-42 half tracked prime mover.
     

Share This Page