Potential Hull Upgrades: Light tanks

In the RU forums Q&A thread, SerB gave an example of a hull upgrade for the T-54: 120 mm of front armour, or 100 mm, with higher top speed in return. I will take a look at what other upgrades potentially exist for Soviet tanks in-game. Since there is a great deal of them, the article will be split into parts. This part will discuss light tanks.

Let’s start from the top, the venerable MS-1. The tank was in service with the Red Army until the start of WWII, and was modernized several times. However, it did not undergo very notable hull changes, aside from a change between welded and bolted armour in 1930. Despite being a significant change in real life, it would only be cosmetic in game. Other visually interesting changes result from the MS-1a hull (T-26 suspension, simplified rear section of the hull) and T-18M (elements of the T-38′s suspension).

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MS-1a: MS-1 with elements of the T-26 suspension.

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T-18M: MS-1 with T-38 suspension elements and simplified rear hull.

Next, the T-26. The T-26 also spent a great number of years with the Red Army, fighting until the end of WWII. The T-26 also saw many modifications, and once again, the hull remained largely the same. Until the last one, that is. The T-26 model 1939. The previously vertical sides of the turret platform were now positioned at an angle. This hull upgrade brings a gameplay change: thickness of the front armour plate increased from 15 mm to 20 mm. For even more customization, consider the hulls produced during the Winter War, with additional armour plating of up to 40 mm. With 60 mm of (slightly) sloped armour in the front, even the mighty T18 would bow its head as the armoured king of tier 2. Fans of the Hotchkiss will like this modification, as it comes with a severe reduction in top speed.

T-26 model 1939. The slanted turret platform plates are clearly visible.

T-26 model 1939. The slanted turret platform plates are clearly visible.

Continuing the breadth-first traversal of the tech tree, we encounter the T-60. Its years of service were brief: it was born in 1941, and replaced with the T-70 in 1942. The last T-60 was assembled in 1943 from leftover parts. It was also produced with extra armour plates, although the change isn’t particularly noticeable visually. Gameplay-wise, the armour screen will make a difference: although it is only 10 mm thick, it is positioned at a very steep angle and slightly lifted off the armour, giving it a spaced armour bonus (watch out, HEAT firing seal clubbers!). The upgrade can be made more noticeable by swapping in the distinctive spindled road wheels.

T-60 tank with additional hull and turret armour plates, produced by factory #264.

T-60 tank with additional hull and turret armour plates, produced by factory #264.

Next, the BT-2. The tank was quickly replaced in the Red Army by the BT-5 (although, it fought until at least 1942 just the same). The tank’s BT-2-IS modernization in 1934 (not to be confused with the same engineer’ 1935 BT project) brought it a BT-7-like rear hull, in addition to improved propulsion: six drive wheels instead of just two. This modification provided increased off-road performance and suspension durability, as losing an entire road wheel was no big deal.

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BT-2-IS tank, showing off its ability to retain mobility despite missing a road wheel.

Moving up to the BT-7, I guess you could take the BT-5-IS or BT-7-IS project, but those are boring. The BT-SV-2 is unlikely, as the BT-SV is already in the game. Fortunately for us, up-armouring did not pass by BT-7s either, and resulted in a cooler looking, stronger BT-7 with 50 mm of front armour. However, its speed suffered, decreasing to 45 kph. A BT-7 that chooses to carry that weight will require some kind of compensation in firepower, which will be explored in a subsequent article.

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BT-7 with additional armour screens. The driver’s hatch had to be sacrificed in order to obtain superior frontal armour.

Panning back across the tree, we hit the T-70. The T-70 , like its predecessor, did not last long with the Red Army, being edged out by its SPG version, the SU-76. The tank initially disappointed the military with its one-man turret and armour identical to the T-60. The lower front plate was increased to 45 mm, but the suspension was too weak to support a two-man turret, resulting in a T-70 with an improved suspension (T-70M). However, the changes to the T-70M were focused on the suspension only, and did not touch the hull. The only possible option here is a downgrade: a stock hull that represents the T-70 that faced initial trials with a 35 mm lower glacis, and an improved T-70 (but not yet a T-70M) with a 45 mm lower glacis. The former option would reduce the mass of the tank, and result in superior mobility.

Continuing on, we hit the T-46. Meant to replace the T-26 as the Red Army’s infantry support tank, it failed at its job due to being too heavy. This was not a problem at first, as sturdier components were developed to carry the weight. Then, a more powerful engine, to keep up its speed. As a result, the upgrade to the T-26 cost nearly as much as a T-28, and a decision was made to continue using the T-26.

Nevertheless, 3 T-46 prototypes existed: T-46-1, T-46-2, and T-46-3 (Koshkin’s T-46-5, or 111, was a radically different vehicle). Only two of these tanks remain to this day. The T-46 we have in game is based on the one at Kubinka, but the tank at the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow has a slightly different looking hull. The different T-46 hulls did not significantly differ in function, so this is likely yet another cosmetic upgrade.

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T-46 at the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War.

Moving on to tier 4, we encounter the T-80. The T-80 is a logical progression from the T-70M, mounting the two-man turret that was desired by the army. However, by the time engineers figured out how to reliably increase engine power, the T-80 was no longer needed. The tank’s development was mostly focused on the turret. As such, no additional hulls were produced. It is unlikely that this vehicle will receive a hull upgrade.

The A-20 is next in line. However, unlike Koshkin’s favourite, the A-32, the A-20 didn’t get much love. This tank did not have any other hull options.

After that, there is the T-50. The T-50 already had an additional hull in the game, the Kirov Factory prototype (called T-50-2 in game). The Kirov prototype did not meet the requirements of the T-50 project, and, as such, was not put into mass production. Despite its shortcomings, the tank possessed superior speed (65 kph compared to Voroshilov factory’s 52), so with this upgrade, the T-50 could be worth playing again.

T-50 tank developed by the Kirov Factory in Leningrad.

T-50 tank developed by the Kirov Factory in Leningrad.

The final researchable Soviet light tank is the MT-25, which¬†doesn’t even have one constructed hull, let alone two.

That’s it for light tanks(until this Russian bias train gets rolling). Join me next time, as I explore available hulls for Soviet medium tanks.

30 thoughts on “Potential Hull Upgrades: Light tanks

      • Possibly for most German tanks this is doable. Its the other nations where things become complicated. I cant speak about France as I don’t know a lot on French tanks but anything is possible with American tanks but I don’t expect a large number to have hull upgrades of “note.” That is to say “have a large enough impact that it is used in game as an optional hull.”
        .
        That’s my 5 cents at least.

        • US
          M3 – Early model (as on Soviet M3 Light), current and M3A3 version. 1st two are cosmetic, 3rd has sloped glacis.
          M5 – M5 and M5A1
          M3 Medium – riveted and welded hulls.
          M4 – Cast and welded hull, later has early and late version that differed with armor and slope (later was thicker but with less slope).
          M4A3E8 – M4A1E8, cast hull with same suspension.
          T20 – T23 hull.
          M26 – M46 hull
          M46 – M47 hull
          T32 – later proposed hull w/o bow MG.
          M103 – M103A2 hull, which would bring diesel engine.
          M10 – M10A1 and M10A2 hulls
          M36 – either M36B1 (M4A3 hull) or M36B2 hull.
          M18 – post war suspension based on Chaffee tracks.

          French:
          H-35 – H-39 hull
          B1 – either original B1 or B1ter hull.
          BDR G1B – hull from other BDR project and rename it to just G1.
          AMX M4 (1945) – there were later proposals on this chassis, but if they will be hull upgrades or separate tank none knows ATM (other then possible devs).

      • From my understanding there will be, and would be gained from suspension upgrades. For instance, the IS’ current hull will be for the stock suspension, while the upgraded suspension with give it the IS-2 hull, which has better armor slope and removes the potential shot traps on the front of the hull. The Panzer IV’s hull upgrade would give it “Schurzen” (Sideskirts) which would act as a bit of extra spaced armor protecting the sides of the hull and the tracks.

          • It just misses the “Hitler upgrade”, who wanted to bring the armor to 100mm.
            He actually got his wish under the shape of Sturmpanzer IV.

            • Zarax, I actually have a question, there are pictures of a panzer IV model with sloped frontal armor, I believe this one is fake, however, why was something like this never done?

            • They are real. It was a design proposal. Several upgrades for Panzer IV were proposed in 1943/1944, but were never carried out, because the Panzer IV platform was scheduled for replacement by Panthers by 1944.

            • Was the PzIV with proposed Sloped frontal Armour designated on blueprints as the “Pz.kpfw IV Ausf. K”? Or was the name made up by modelers and the actual blueprint was never given a proper name?

            • would be a great tank in game armor wise if they ever add it (probably as a premium if they ever do)

              Pz IV could easily have a ton of hull options, armor for the various Ausf’s varied widely. but they will probably just have 2-3. 50/20/20 which would give more speed etc, the current 80/30/20 and then probably 80/30/20 with full side skirting which would cut speed but only by a limited factor I would imagine.

            • Maybe if they buff the upgraded suspension ingame could it appear ingame? Or the hull was too heavy and unbalanced?

            • It’s either ausf H or K, IIRC they have minor differences and a different drawing number.

        • Both IS-85 and IS-122 (IS-1 and IS-2 designations only appeared in early 1945) had stepped front version as on Soviet IS in game. IS-122 was produced with “straightened” glacis since 2nd half 1944., thickness was 100mm cast or 90mm RHA (later version is on Chinese IS-2 in game).

  1. I wonder if the M48 and M103 will have a Hull upgrade with the 1kW Xenon Tank light I mean it would make since being they had them..and it would go well with night battles having them actually be use-able..I’d love that dearly if it came true

  2. Awesome, I was wondering when something like this was gonna get posted. I’m really looking forward to the hull upgrades, and this will be a good indicator of what to expect.

  3. Well if I remember correctly, we got few of those uparmoured T-26s but we either disassembled them for spare parts or took of the extra armour off. Don’t remember which.

    Oh, and wans’t the uparmoured version called T-26E?

  4. After you go over the possible hull upgrades for Soviet vehicles, would you go over other nations?

  5. I doubt very much in”bolted” armor, Frank. Riveted, wasn’t it?

    To simulate it ingame you just need a mini spall liner effect added – like 10% less crew damage for welded hull (or more, for all riveted hulls already present).

    • Well there was a concept idea that some tanks could have some RPG -style inbuild abiltities to represent some tanks qualities (like riveted armor). Not bad idea really.

      • That’s a shame. Welded hulls offering better crew protection would make for a compelling hull upgrade on tanks that otherwise wouldn’t have anything to upgrade to.

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