today, we are going to look at one of the last pieces of the Henschel/Krupp puzzle, the VK6501 (also known as Panzerkampfwagen VII or Henschel SW). In World of Tanks terms, it’s a tier 5 heavy tank candidate, that might yet be implemented.
VK6501 (a 65 ton design, as the name suggests) was born in early 1939 (January, to be specific), when the German army decided it’s a good idea to develop even heavier breakthrough tanks, specifically something from the 30t to 65t category, armed with a short 75mm L/24 within roughly the same turret dimensions as the Panzer IV (heavier armament was considered, but scrapped in favour of additional armor protection). The vehicle was to have a (very strong for that time) 80mm thick frontal armor for its weight of 65 tons and it was supposed to go roughly 20-25km/h.
The order to project and build mock-ups went to Krupp, who was tasked with building a turret for this vehicle with three possible armament options: 75mm L/24, 75mm L/40, 105mm L/20. The mockup was ready in March 1939. The 105mm armament was however scrapped very soon (June 1939): the turret was to resemble the Durchbruchswagen turret, it was quite cramped and manipulating with the massive 105mm shells was deemed too uncomoftable. In the end (in March 1940), the turret selected was practically identical to the DW turret and carried the 75mm L/24.
While the turret was designed by Krupp, the suspension and hull was to be designed by Henschel and it carried typical Henschel elements and shapes (especially the suspension). It was big however – too big to fit on any of the railway wagons. Therefore Henschel decided to design the hull as breakable into 3 pieces. A powerful engine was envisaged by the Henschel company: the 600hp Maybach HL224, that could make the 65 ton vehicle go as fast as 20km/h.
In September 1939, it was decided to produce the initial 0-series batch. Waffenprüftamt awarded the contract for that to Krupp in February and March 1940 to produce certain armor components and to assemble the turrets with guns, while the hull was to be produced by Henschel, which was to also perform the final vehicle assembly. First turrets were however planned to be produced as late as in 1942.
After the Battle of France, it was however decided by the Waffenprüfamt that vehicles over 30 tons are not practical because of the bridge weight restrictions. The armor components contract was cancelled in August 1940 and the turret contract was cancelled in October. Apparently, one soft-steel hull was completed nevertheless in 1941 (and possibly even tested in Sennelager), but by that time the VK450X program (what would later become the Tiger) already had higher priority and by the end of 1942, Henschel was ordered to scrap the already produced parts.
Weight: 65 tons
Armor: 80mm all around, DW turret (80mm mantlet)
Engine: 600hp Maybach HL224
Maximum speed: 20km/h
Armament: 75mm L/24, 75mm L/40, 105mm L/20
In World of Tanks
As you can see, it’s a perfect tier 5 heavy tank. For tier 6, it’s too underarmed I think. Actually, it was quite surprising that Wargaming decided to downtier the VK3001H, instead of implementing this tank, as it would have been nearly ideal for the tier 5 spot. Either way, there is a chance we’ll see it in WoT one day.
Doyle – Panzer Tracts 20-1