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Questions about model designation in the US Army

Discussion in 'The Tanks of World War 2' started by Brutal Truth, Apr 8, 2021.

  1. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Member

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    The US Army in WW2 used (and still uses) M-numbers for the designation of equipment in service, followed by the variant (E at that time) and the class of equipment. On Wikipedia there is a list of military vehicles by M-number:
    List of U.S. military vehicles by model number - Wikipedia

    I find it very confusing. It would seem that different classes of tanks, for instance light, medium, and heavy, and other fighting vehicles like armored cars and GMC received their M-number independently. For instance there is a M3 medium tank and a M3 light tank. However there seem to be inconsistencies and gaps in the numbers that I cannot explain. For instance, the next light tank after the M3 is the M5, followed by the M22 and M24. After the M4 medium tank there is no M5. The T7 (T was the Trial or Test designation) was accepted as M7 medium tank but only a dozen were made. The Ordnance Department asked the T23E3 and the T20E3 mediums to be standardized as the M27 and M27B1 (they were rejected). The first heavy tank was the T1E1 but it was standardized as M6 not as M1.

    I cannot see the logic and the method behind it. Do any of you ppl have any explanation for this? What were the criteria followed in these designations?
     
  2. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Who knows what "logic" bureaucrats use! Perhaps the missing numbers were for design concepts that were never pursued.
     
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  3. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Member

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    Yeah, logic and bureaucracy are a bit of an oxymoron...;) But it cannot have been for design concepts because M-numbers were for vehicles accepted and standardized into service. Experimental/trial vehicles carried a T designation.
     
  4. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    It's complicated. The "M" number series was inconsistent. Only the "T" number system was really sequential.

    From my manuscript of For Purpose of Service Test:

    "An item recommended for standardization was designated as a “Required Type, Adopted Type, Standard Type” and was finally assigned an “M” (for “Model”) number. Ordnance assigned “M” numbers to Standardized items, which might or might not have been the same as its “T” number, regardless of its classification as Substitute or Limited Standard,. For a short while, the “M” number designated where the item fell in the sequence of acceptance for that type. For example, the Tank, Medium M4 was the fourth medium tank type accepted as Standard, even though the first of the series—Tank, Medium M1—standardized on 2 February 1928, lasted for only a few months before the War Department withdrew its standardization in spring 1928. Similarly, the War Department standardized the first of the light tank series, the Light Tank M1 from the Light Tank T1E1 on 24 January 1928, but revoked its standardization barely a month later, on 30 March.

    However, consistency was not always a strong suit with the Ordnance Department; the “M” series did not always remain sequential. Although there was an M1, M2, and M3 Light Tank and an M1, M2, M3, and M4 Medium Tank, there was no Light Tank M4 Light nor a Medium Tank M5 or Medium Tank M6. Instead, after the Medium Tank M4 and Light Tank M5, Ordnance simply assigned numbers sequentially for all tanks, heavy, medium, or light. Following the Light Tank M5 was the Heavy Tank M6 and after that the Medium Tank M7, which was initially designated a Light Tank. Then, adding to the confusion, after the Reconnaissance Vehicle T8 was not standardized, the Reconnaissance Vehicle T9 received the designation Light Tank M22 and Ordnance designated the next standardized tanks as the Light Tank M24 and the Heavy Tank M26, which both simply kept the same ‘T’ number when standardized. In the end, Ordnance did not use the designations M8 to M21, M23, and M25, nor T11, T12, T17, T18, T19, or T27, for any completed tank projects.[1]

    An alphanumeric code designated any major design changes incorporated into the item and followed the “M” number. When major modifications to a type were adopted “A1” designated it as the first major design subtype. “A2” designated the next adopted modified subtype, “A3” the third, and so on. For example, the Medium Tank M4 consisted of a number of major design subtypes, the M4, the M4A1, M4A2, M4A3, M4A4, M4A5, and M4A6.[2] A “B1” designation denoted the first type adopted “by alternate methods or from alternate materials”, “B2” the second type adopted by those means and so on. For example, the M36B1 and M36 B2 90mm Gun Motor Carriage both utilized hulls different from the original M36 90mm Gun Motor Carriage, but used the same turret.[3] If a subtype incorporated major engineering design changes, then an “E” number identified which changes were included. Thus, the M4A3E2 incorporated a set of changes that produced a heavily armored assault tank, while the M4A3E8 featured an improved suspension and track design, but both the M4A3 subtype was what they were based on.[4] Finally, an addition of a “C1” after an “M” number indicated a difference in a sight or sight reticle in a gun, so was normally only associated with them. For example the M1C Rifle was the standard rifle with a telescopic sight added. However, the addition of a “C” after an “A” number indicated an adopted engineering change. For example, when the muzzle of the M1A1 76mm Gun was threaded to accept a muzzle brake it became the M1A1C.[5]

    Note that under the Ordnance system there could be (and usually were) a large number of “M” and “T” items with similar designations, but different nomenclature. There was an M1 Helmet, an M1 .30 caliber Rifle, an M1 .30 caliber Carbine, an M1 155mm Howitzer, an M1 155mm Gun, an M1 8-inch Howitzer, an M1 8-inch Gun, and an M1 240mm Howitzer![6]"


    [1] Some projects may have received T numbers. See Appendix III and IV for an incomplete list of “T” and “M” numbers assigned by the Ordnance Department to tanks between 1920 and 1945.

    [2] In this case the M4A5 designation was actually given to the Canadian-built “Ram” tank, which utilized some M4 components and was similar in layout, Office of the Chief of Ordnance, Catalogue of Standard Ordnance Items, Volume I, Second Edition, (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Ordnance Technical Division, 1944), p. 19.

    [3] The M36 GMC utilized the hull of the M10A1 GMC, the M36B1 the hull of the M4A3 Medium Tank, and the M36B2 the hull of the M10 GMC.

    [4] Richard P. Hunnicutt, Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank, (Belmont, Calif: Taurus Enterprises, 1978), pp. 243, 289.

    [5] McCaskey, Role of the Army Ground Forces in the Development of Equipment, p. 108, n. 2.

    [6] There was also an 105mm Howitzer M1, standardized in 1928 as a design, but not manufactured. The design was modernized in 1933 and 1936, again without being produced and was then dropped in 1940 in favor of an entirely new design, that was then designated the M2.
     
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  5. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Do I remember wrong but was Panther G before Panther A in combat use?
     
  6. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Member

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    It's Army; it's FUBAR.

    Air Force ain't far behind with its plane designations either.
     
  7. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Panther was D, A G, F, II(2) - with F & Panther II never being completed.
     
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  8. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Member

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    Thanks, that's great info! Now I know why there was no M5 medium tank. But it's weird that they just skipped tank denominations from M8 to 21 arbitrarily. I could understand if they had avoided M13, because sometimes soldiers can be a bit superstitious and going to battle believing to sit in an "unlucky tank" would do no good for the moral.
     
  9. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    is this correct?
    ''''The first production Panther tank was the Ausf.D not the Ausf.A. This confuses many people. In the past German tank versions started with the letter A and then went on to B, C, D etc. In January 1943 M.A.N produced the first production series Panther Ausf.D tank. ‘Ausf’ is an abbreviation for the German word ‘Ausfuehrung’ which means version. The Panzer V Ausf.D Panther tank Fahrgestell-Nummer Serie chassis numbers range from 210001 to 210254 and 211001 to 213220.''
    https://tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/germany/panzer-v_panther.php
    Achtung Panzer! - Panther
     
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  10. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Member

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    There are several discussions dedicated to this little mystery, with most ppl unable to find an answer. The best I have found is this:

    First, you must appreciate that the Panther tank was constantly changing. There are several different variants inside each of 3 major versions (D, A, G). Also, all versions were used in parallel and it was not unusual that on repairs older models were fitted with newer parts creating even more confusing hybrids.


    Second, as you probably know the Panther tank was intended to be used in Operation Citadel e.g. attack on the Kursk salient on the Eastern front. As Panther was in the prototype and early production stage at the time many things got rushed, some requirements couldn't be made at all, some couldn't be made on time for the Citadel, some were unified etc...


    But the most common timeline of events goes something like this.


    The very first version vas actually Ausf A.


    This was the designation for so-called Null-serie of 20 prototype vehicles. They had weaker HL 210 engine, an earlier version of Kwk42 gun (single chamber muzzle brake) and maybe just 60 mm front hull armor (but some says it was already upgraded to 80 mm). They were never used in combat.


    Some designate this batch as A1 to differentiate them from later Ausf "A after D" versions. Some say that this batch was later redesignated to D1 - but read on.


    Ausf D


    Production apparently started on Dec 1942 and this was tank intended to be used at Kursk. First 250 vehicles were fitted with HL 210 engine. It has 80 mm hull front armor, standard gun (double chamber muzzle brake).


    This version got famous at Kursk for poor reliability.


    It is usually designated as D1 to differentiate them from later versions with the HL230 engine.


    Later Ausf D that some designates as D2 was fitted with final HL 230 engine and have many reliability improvements either on the production floor or in the field. Some designate as D2 only the variants with Schürzen side skirt upgrades. Production of this model was ordered stopped on July 1943 but last ones rolled off on September 1943.


    Ausf A


    That was the first actual production version. Production started on August 1943 with many reliability changes, redesigned turret, MG mountings etc... Some 2.200 vehicles were produced until May 1944 (or maybe even later)


    Now, the exact reason why it was designated as "A" instead of logical E is not known. But we can assume that this was intentional "political" decision and not some kind of error.


    Possible reasons might be:


    1. This model finally incorporated all the requirements dating back to the autumn of 1942 without shortcuts being made because of the Kursk deadline
    2. A bad reputation of Ausf D might be the factor to discard the whole "Ausf D" batch as a kind of prototype/experimental vehicles and to start over.

    Since the "Ausf E" is later skipped, my theory is that "Ausf A" was originally supposed to be "Ausf E".


    Some designate this variant also as Ausf A2.


    Ausf F


    This variant was linked to the Panther II project. It was started around Jan-Mar 1943 when Hitler requested to increase hull armor to 100 mm and that couldn't be incorporated into the original Panther design. Panther II project was dragged on and quietly shut down.


    It made several advances that wanted to be incorporated into the existing Panther design.


    Most major of this was Schmalturm or small turret. Basic idea was to create smaller turret with a minimized frontal area that would reduce weight but keep the same level of protection. It was never finished, and there were just a few prototypes but some other things from Panther II were later incorporated into Ausf G. There were also experiments of Ausf F powered with gas turbine (GT-101 version of BMW003 jet engine), ideas to mount Jagdpather's 88mm Kwk43/L71 gun and so on.


    As Panther II started in early 1943 and the earliest date for start of Ausf G project I could find was May 1943 (and this seems a little too early for me) the Ausf F was probably started somewhere during the spring of 1943.


    and finally


    Ausf G


    The most common, most known and most produced version that started the production on March 1944. I won't write about it here as it is easily found all around the internet.
     
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  11. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ...I'm guessing some nomenclature inconsistencies/etc were from there being a great multitude and variety of items to name....
     

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