about half a year ago (when I still wasn’t banned on EU forums), I wrote a post, dealing with the possibility to build an assault gun “derp” line for the Germans. My conclusion was that it’s hardly possible, as there are some serious gaps on mid-high tiers and the T9-T10 are problematic also. Well, some time has passed, let’s revisit that idea, shall we?
There are two basic essential problems with German AG branch: depression, and gun choices. Depression is obvious – most of the “derp guns”, just like some of their Soviet counterparts, were designed to fulfill the artillery role, with good elevation, but bad depression. That rules out a whole bunch of designs, which is a problem. This becomes even worse on high tiers, but there are still some vehicles, that would fit.
The second problem is worse. Basically, what you have is 70-ish mm howitzers for tier 2-3, then you have the 105mm L/28 howitzer (and its modifications) for tier 4-5, the 150mm StuH 43 for tiers 6 (maybe 7) and then there’s a huge gap, behind which are the real beasts, such as the French 210mm Beutemörser (captured mortar). This gap is found between tiers 7 and 8 as you can see, but again, it’s not something that cannot be overcome.
Overall, the characteristics of the branch would be: massive (for their level) HE-based guns with HEAT shells as their premium rounds, slow firing, inaccurate, but very high alpha. Lower tiers in general would be quite fragile, but from tier 6 onwards we have some pretty well armored vehicles and while not as durable as the heavy tanks of their tiers, these TD’s can take some real punishment. Of course, the speed in general won’t be stellar, but (apart from the biggest monsters) not that bad either.
What I am thinking, the whole line could look like this:
Tier 2 – Krupp LSK SPG
An SPG project from 1928, when Krupp Essen took a light LSK artillery tractor and armed it with a 75mm LeIG howitzer. The prototype was ready in 1930 and in 1931, the gun itself was added to the front of the vehicle. The only protection for the crew was a small gun shield. The vehicle weighted 8,9 tons and was tested from 1931 to 1933, but its terrain passability characteristics were bad, it was slow and completely unprotected. Therefore, the program was cancelled around 1934.
As you can see, it’s a first step. Very fragile vehicle, but it has all the things it needs, including some traverse and possibly depresion. Don’t worry, it gets better.
Tier 3 – SdKfz 165/1
Here it gets a bit more complicated. For tier 3, we need some sort of 105mm howitzer, but we can’t really have any Grille mutation (0 depression) and certain one-time conversions, because they were simply that – one time. What we need is something with a 105mm gun, but low protection and mediocre mobility, possibly with a turret, which can be “tweaked” by reducing the turret turn rate, so the vehicle doesn’t become OP.
SdKfz 165/1 is the Krupp first take on the (later named) Heuschrecke concept of mobile SPG. The design was started in 1941 and the vehicle was to use as many available suspension/hull parts as possible. In the end, the Panzer IV chassis was selected – it was shortened by one roadwheel (it’s NOT a Panzer III chassis, but a shortened Panzer IV hull), with an open-topped turret with a 105mm FH 18 howitzer installed. The gun had excellent elevation (40) and depression (-10) angles and the whole 17 ton vehicle was powered by a 180hp Maybach engine, allowing it theoretically to reach 45 km/h (but I am pretty sure this would be nerfed in the game). The armor was very, very thin – 20mm in the front and 14,5mm on the sides. 8 prototypes were made and they were even tested in combat on the eastern front. While the test results were not bad, in the end, the Wespe was selected to be the Germany’s 105mm mobile SPG, mostly because it was easier to build (it used only slightly modified Panzer II hull, while the SdKfz 165/1 was quite manhour-requiring to build).
As you can see, this could somehow work. The gun is not OP, the armor is non-existent and the vehicle is open-topped. Its mobility and turnrate could be tweaked for best results.
Tier 4 – Feldhaubitze FH 18/40 auf GW III/IV (Sfl)
At first I was thinking to use the classic Heuschrecke 10 here, but that thing has 0 depression, so it won’t do. We’ll go with the Rheinmetall prototype instead then.
In 1942, Rheinmetall proposed a SPG, that was to be the competition for Krupp’s Heuschrecke 10. It was again a 105mm howitzer, placed in a fully traverseable turret, but this time, the Panzer III/IV hull was used (the same hull that was used for the Hummel and Nashorn – there’s a possibility of a “bridge” from/to the 2nd German TD line here). The vehicle’s main feature would be the very comfortable -10 depression. Both the frontal armor of the hull and of the turret was 30mm (some sources state 20mm), so it’s a bit of an upgrade from the T3, the hull sides were 20mm thick and the sides of the turret were 10mm thick. One prototype was made in 1942, but – just like with the other Heuschrecke vehicles – it never made it past the prototype stage and the whole program was eventually cancelled in favour of the Wespe.
The vehicle weighted cca 25 tons and was powered by a 300hp Maybach 120 TRM engine. That means it’s relatively mobile (maximum speed 42 km/h). Could be a nice, yet fragile, T4 tank destroyer.
Tier 5 – StuH 42
This one’s a no brainer and it’s widely known, so there’s no need to describe it even further (after all, in one of its configurations, it’s already in the game). This is basically the StuG III with a 105mm gun. It often (but not necesserily) carried the Schürzen (side armor). What I think is that it could differ from the current T5 StuG by having less mobility, but more side armor, plus a different gunshield, as can be seen here:
Earlier, I was checking the sources for a 105mm-equipped StuG IV (that would fit better), but I couldn’t find any quite honestly. Also, the StuH 42 should represent the late model (80mm frontal armor) in order to keep the time continuity.
Tier 6 – Sturmpanzer IV “Brummbär”
Now we are getting to the 150mm area. Now, in my original proposal, I did “reserve” this spot for the SIG33B, because it was a historical vehicle – and pushed the StuPa IV on tier 7. With new vehicles appearing, that no longer seems to be the need.
The Sturmpanzer IV (by the way, it was never called Brummbär by the Germans) is a notoriously known vehicle, so I won’t go into its history too much – just a quick overview:
Based on the proven Panzer IV hull, it was developed as an urban combat vehicle to provide infantry, fighting in cities, with some short-range brutal firepower, while offering its crew very decent protection (open topped vehicles in particular were suffering in cities) and cca 300 were built from April 1943 practically to the end of the war. It proved to be quite successful in its role.
There were several models with a decent level of frontal protection (100mm), the vehicle was however quite nose heavy, which led to some breakdowns (this issue was never really fixed, despite numerous attempts). It weighted cca 28 tons and was able to go as fast as 40km/h with its 300hp engine. The depression and elevation were quite good (-8, +30) and the gun could traverse 20 degrees to each side. The frontal armor – as mentioned before – was quite good (100mm front), but the sides were weak (40mm hull, 50mm superstructure).
The gun is already represented in the game (HE/HEAT, PEN 75/185mm, DAM 680hp, ROF 2,55, ACC 0,78), just for comparison.
Overall, this could be a pretty decent T6 tank destroyer. The gun stats, of course, would have to be tweaked a bit. If the gun proves to be too powerful for its tier, it’s possible basically to “kick it up” to tier 7 and replace it with a more manageable (yet not very comfortable) SIG33.
Tier 7 – Sturmmörser Panther
This tier should be very, very interesting. There are two options (besides the abovementioned pushing of StuPa IV to T7): you can either have a Sturmgeschütz Panther, or the Sturmmörser Panther (the latter being better documented). I will quote from my earlier text:
Direct fire support high-caliber vehicles with proper armor and short, but heavy armament were in high demand in the German army, especially in the east. Such vehicles are quite useful when assaulting heavily fortified positions, or during city combat.
One of the ideas to convert a Panther into such a vehicle was to replace its main armament with something heavy. On 18.3.1944, there was an official demand (apparently from the Heereswaffenamt, along with WaPrüf4) to mount a 210mm mortar (of an unspecified type, but most likely a newly-developed weapon, not the French Beutemörser, which were considered years earlier for other platforms, but something like the 21cm GrW 69 “Elefant”, designed before 1944?). Krupp responded and on 23.6.1944, its representative handed over a first draft of a 150mm assault mortar (Sturmmörser) with the StuH 43/1 150mm gun mounted within the Panther turret (a modification of the gun the Sturmpanzer IV “Brummbär” used). The vehicle was to have new rangefinder, commander’s copula from the Tiger tank and optics intended for Maus.
In July 1944, Krupp was informed that all the development of heavy and superheavy weapons (including the Sturmmörsers) is to be stopped. A wooden mockup was made nevertheless and presented to Guderian. This still didn’t save the project – after August 1944, the work on it slowly halted and it was definitely scrapped around September 1944, including the 210mm variant.
So, what we have here is a Panther with a 150mm StuH in the turret. While its properties can only be speculated (it’s not very well documented), it will probably be less moveable than the regular Panther, with the same level of protection. The “comfort” is provided by the turret (it StuH 43/1 breech was shorter, allowing for better depression).
Another option would be the Sturmgeschütz Panther, but very little is known about it, only that it was considered. If you wondering what it would look like, imagine a Jagdpanther with a 150mm howitzer.
Tier 8 – Ferdinand mit 210mm Beutemörser
This is one of the more interesting vehicles in this tier. Yes, it is a Ferdinand with a 210mm mortar. Its history is very colorful. This is more like Zarax’s domain and he wrote an article about it, I will try to make a summary of it here:
Remember how me and Zarax argued that the GW Tiger P is unhistorical crap? Well, yes, it is, but there was a project this vehicle was probably based on. This info is from Spielberger’s book “Tiger and its variants” (Tiger und seine Abarten), so it’s quite reliable. Basically, one of the early ideas of what to do with the Tiger P hulls was to make a Ferdinand Sturmgeschütz with a captured French 210mm mortar. This idea was promoted by the Wehrmacht high command in September 1942, but in October 1942, Hitler (who – unfortunately for the Germans – liked to mess around with this stuff) stated that if the 150mm SiG can be mounted into the Panzer IV chassis (resulting later in Sturmpanzer IV), this program is no longer needed and it was scrapped.
In reality, the result wouldn’t be an artillery vehicle, but an assault gun in the real sense of the word: a heavily armored vehicle, intended for the same tasks as the StuPa IV. In World of Tanks terms, it’s simply a Ferdinand with a 210mm mortar. Naturally, such beast would probably be hard to balance, but give the fact WG is still considering the Sturmtiger, I think it’s manageable.
Oh, and about the picture: I made it with quick photoshop, it’s how it would have roughly looked, the gun is roughly in scale.
Tier 9 and Tier 10 – Sturmtiger Prototype and Sturmtiger
Yes, I know you waited for it and here it is, the mighty Sturmtiger. Much has been written on this vehicle and I know many of you expect it. The truth is, there are massive issues with its balancing (the 380mm rocket mortar being possible the most blatant one), but it will appear in the game at some point.
What we need to have a look at though is the “prototype” at tier 9. Historically, the first idea to build this kind of vehicle came actually from the Waffenamt as early as in 1942 (possibly early 1943). The first idea was to take the Tiger hull and mount a 210mm mortar on it. In real life, this was scrapped, because no such 210mm mortar was available and would have to be newly developed. This was considered to be too costly and the idea later came to replace the 210mm mortar with a 380mm marine rocket launcher. This was presented to Hitler at some point in 1943 (Spielberger states 5.8.1943), who loved it and voila, Sturmtiger is born.
The prototype of course would have to have a bit thinner armor and possibly differently shaped superstructure. All in all, it’s historical, but of course the exact numbers (like the prototype thickness of the armor) would have to be balanced by Wargaming.
Another solution would be simply to throw out the Sturmtiger prototype, move the Ferdinand 210mm to tier 9, the Sturmpanther to tier 8, Brummbär to tier 7 and make the SIG33B tier 6. I hope it doesn’t come to that however, as I am afraid the 150mm Sturmpanther would underperform at tier 8 (of course, a 210mm variant Sturmpanther was also considered but still).
And where the hell is the Sturmpanzer Bär?
Short answer: nowhere.
For those who don’t know: the Bär is a superheavy Krupp mortar project, based on (apparently) the Tiger chassis. Its development started on 4.3.1943 and it was to be equipped with a 305mm L/16 mortar, capable of firing 350kg shells, carrying 50kg of explosives. It was to weight 120 tons and was to be powered by a 700hp Tiger engine, reaching up to 20 km/h. Its development was stopped after the emeregence of the Sturmtiger (on 10.5.1943)
I guess I don’t mean to mention there are huge issues with this vehicle, when it comes to World of Tanks and there are numerous reasons, why I think it will definitely not make it to the assault gun branch (which, by the way, is still planned). Notably:
- 0 depression (good luck getting rid of facehuggers)
- atrocious mobility
- 0 camouflage
- unlike the Sturmtiger, this vehicle is HUGE, arties would love it
- balancing 305mm mortar for direct fire: good luck (the Sturmtiger is bad as it is)
Personally, I think it simply won’t appear in the game and if it does, it will be an artillery vehicle. One might argue that it’s too overarmored for the artillery role, but if you look at the tier 10 British arty vehicle, it won’t probably matter that much.
Well, this is it. I hope you like the branch. Personally, I’d love to derp around a bit.
Pejčoch – Obrněná technika
Spielberger – Panther und seine Abarten
Spielberger – Tiger und seine Abarten
Doyle, Jentz – Panzer tracts
Chamberlain, Doyle – Encyclopedia of WW2 tanks