FCM F1 and superheavy artillery, part 1

Source: http://wot-news.com/main/fmsg/41942/18310/35
Author: alternatehistory

Hello everyone,

this article is based on the one linked above. It’s not a direct translation and I’ve added a few things I found interesting, but almost all credits go to the author “alternatehistory” and player “Giganaut” for his 2011 FCM forum thread and the renders. The original article title was “If there was no war” and it deals with the performance of superheavy tanks, such as the F1, including the analysis how they would have really performed in battle, were they ever built

As some of you might remember, the superheavy French tank FCM F1 was something, that was planned for World of Tanks a long time ago. Hell, even the model exists:


Also, an official description of the ingame vehicle was leaked some time ago:

In 1936 the French government requested design entries for a new heavy breakthrough tank, which would replace the Char 2C. Five companies proposed designs, the FCM company among them. A wooden prototype was constructed by 1940; it was destroyed in 1941.

This design is actually pretty interesting, but it wasn’t the only superheavy (multiturretted) vehicle concieved by the French (and I am not talking about the ill-fated Char 2C). Superheavy vehicles (well, for their time at least) were in fact a popular category before the war – monsters such as the Char 2C, British Independent or Soviet T-35 turned however to be a blind development branch: they were unreliable, huge, unwieldy, unreliable, had way too large crews and were almost useless in combat: they mostly served for propaganda purposes. The last of these monsters was the testament to Hitler’s megalomania, the Maus. However, it was deemed impractical and after this category of tanks disappeared (only to reappear 50 years later in computer games and in the minds of science fiction authors).


As I mentioned before, the FCM F1 was one of such tanks and one of three competing designs from three companies (FCM, ARL and AMX) in the superheavy program. Let’s have a look at it, from backwards though – we’ll start with the chassis.

The F1 designation belonged to the chassis design, that wasn’t very original. It was based on the B1 design as just like on Char B1, it had many support rollers and and the track design was also almost unchanged (strangely enough, despite all the research and technology development, this track type emerged again on the ARL-44 after the war, quite an anachronism at that point). Early in the development, it was also clear that the 75mm howitzer won’t do any good against durable German fortifications – because that was the original goal for its development, the assault on and destruction of German heavy fortifications on the Siegfried line. That’s why it was proposed for the vehicle to be armed with a high-powered 90mm or even 105mm guns. As engines, two Renault 550hp V12 KGM diesels were proposed – the goal was to implement a diesel-electric propulsion system the way Porsche proposed it for his later designs. Quite innovative for its time. It turned out to work well actually and allowed the 140 ton heavy behemoth to roll around as fast as 24km/h.


It was planned for the first prototype to be finished by Summer 1940, and by the end of 1941, the mass production of super heavy tanks was scheduled. As usual in tank development, these plans proved to be too optimistic, but the company Schneider recieved a contract for producing 4 experimental turrets as early as in January 1940 for the F1, the ARL tank and the AMX “Tracteur C” – two with 90mm guns and two with 105mm guns. The 90mm turrets were never completed, but the 105mm ones were ready on 4.3.1940. FCM showed a wooden mock-up of its F1 proposal 8 days later (12.3.1940) and the two other companies did quit the competition altogether, leaving the F1 as the winner.


The vehicle had some serious flaws (it bogged down too easily on soft grounds, had zero terrain passability and the weight was way too much), but despite all that the technical committee evaluating the project approved it for production and made an order for 12 vehicles, with first being built in May 1941 and after that the production was to continue with 3-4 vehicles per month. In real life, no prototype was ever made and when France fell, the mock-up was destroyed later on.

And, this is where the history of the superheavy F1 ends. Or at least, it should end by all means. But we’ll make an assumption here: what if the war never happened? How would the production have looked?

From this point on, the text deals with alternate history, a speculation of how this vehicle would have performed.

As some of you might know, the company FCM was primarily a shipbuilding company. And, as we also know, marine scales are a bit different than the land ones – and it were these scales that the company used in the F1 building and development, there were even some sort of “dry docks” used in their construction. In this case, the company was also risking a debacle, when agreeing to build 12 vehicles instead of the first prototype (we all know how well this worked for Porsche Tigers). Apparently, the reason for this decision was the dread of another imminent war with the Germans. The metallurgical department of the company provided the armor of sufficient thickness, Schneider hurried to provide the remaining turrets with 105mm guns and Renault also delivered the engines, despite the fact the FCM engineers already proposed an alternative propulsion system with marine diesels. There was also a practical reason for all the haste: it was almost Autumn and there was no way the superheavy vehicle would pass the tests in Fall mud.

The war and necessity always provided the best incentives for development and where the French previously spent years drawing, re-drawing and designing, they could have managed in this case to build the prototype in 5 months. The main issue was the smaller turret for the 47mm gun, that would go thru several evolutions, until it would finally be considered useless and its constuction was given up for now. And so, the vehicle would pass the October 1940 tests (5 months from May) without one of its turrets.

Despite the army being skeptic, the superheavy vehicle would show its better side. The dieselectric transmission allowed the 140 ton vehicle to turn on the spot and the 1100hp engines propelled the leviathan quite well, even on quite steep slopes. And the 105mm gun was simply insane. In parallel to the tests, the 120mm armor plates (that simulated the vehicle frontal and side armor) were also tested on the proving grounds. They could not be penetrated even by the most advanced French 75mm guns! Of course, there were issues too, especially with the suspension and the fact the vehicle was too heavy. The design of the tracks was also far from ideal and other flaws concerned the periscopes and other devices allowing the crew to look out (insufficient) – the list of problems was in fact very long, but the main goal was reached: the superheavy assault tank was accepted in service and the order for 12 vehicles was confirmed.

To be continued…

78 thoughts on “FCM F1 and superheavy artillery, part 1

    • “As some of you might remember, the superheavy French tank FCM F1 was something, that was planned for World of Tanks a long time ago.”

      A very long time ago indeed.

        • 24 kph top speed, 120mm frontal armor, a long 105mm gun… as long as you dont get stuck in mud this thing would be comparable to something like the Tiger II in terms of performance, so quite well for a 1940 design. And if they fixed the tracks and suspension to accomendate the immense weight it wouldve made a decent tank.

          • 120mm front and side armor maybe? or the 2 rather large turrets? Or is it the mere size of this behemoth?

            correction. I wasnt thinking, its not on the same level as a Tiger II, but it roughly matches the ARL44s performance

            • 120mm sloped front, 100mm sides. Around May ’40 the commission overseeing the developement requested 120mm all around, which was projected to hitch the total weight to 145 tons and lower top speed to 20km/h. Recommended reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FCM_F1
              Alas, even Chars-Francais.net had no information on the planned turret armour. :/

    • That’s what people said about the T-34 and yet you didn’t see anyone whining about how ugly it looks when it was used in war.

      • SS, is the multiturret system really coming? Haven’t heard anything “reliable” about this..

          • E-25 with a functional 30mm MK108 would be pretty nasty to scouts. Too bad it won’t receive it because it’s premium.

            Lee and B1 however would get very good(I refuse to call them bad) with both the hull gun and turret.

            Or are multiturret (F1, t-35), multiple gun(maus, ST-II, Nbfz) and hull&turret guns(lee, frech TDs, Churchill I) different developments with all having different “when it’s done it’s done” dates. Asking for a clarification because correct terms are rarely used by WG (eg cassette loader vs mechanical loader).

            • MK108 has 0 penetration. It was not able to penetrate aluminum skin on Spitfires. (Which does not mean that the Spitfire was able to withstand the hit, the explosion blast just teared off large piece of thin aluminum sheets, effectively killing the plane.) Mk108 fires big thin skinned HE shells detonating on impact. Very effective against infantry and supply trucks. Absolutely no effect on armored vehicles.

            • Over twice the weight and lenght of the MK108, good luck fitting that in the same mountings. Anyways, AP shells were developed for the MK108 too although the Luftwaffe unsurprisingly had little use for such; given the rather low muzzle velocities (Wiki cites 540 m/s versus 860 m/s for the 103′s HE shell, and the latter used reduced charge to boot) and small propellant charge (108 cartridge lenght 98 mm, 103′s 184 mm) I wouldn’t expect stellar armour-piercing performance…

            • Yea, MK 103 has 95 pen ingame (as it fires a type of APCR as standard- even though it’s labeled as AP- with uranium rounds as prem ammo :D), so that would easily damage scouts. But the E 25′s miniturret only holds a 20mm.

            • Except the MK103 is not even the gun used in the Pz. 1 C. The E.W. 141 also fires a 7,92x95mm extremely varied version of the rounds used in their anti-tank rifles.

    • Yes, and if they’d implement multi-turret control instead of dicking around with stupid shit nobody over the age of 13 wants (esports), we might actually see it in the next year.

    • Ya know, this thing is actually even heavier than both tanks you’ve mentioned.

      KV-4 is almost 100 tons while ToGII is 81 tons and FCM F1 is 140 tons

      Interesting from where did they got so much weight

      • Considering it looks to be 4 meters tall. and long as heck. I imagine the weight is just fine.

        • KV-4 has also unhistorically buffed armor but it didnt receive any weight increase. Patch after its release they buffed its armor pretty much.

      • XBAWKS HUEG and quite heavily armoured at that, plus for its assorted merits the problem with the petrol-electric drivetrain is that all the extra machinery adds a fair bit of volume and weight – one reason the Maus is so much bigger and heavier than the E-100 of nigh-identical armament and protection.

  1. With the current French 105mm guns, it would fit on T6. 300 dmg, reasonable pen (169), quite good armored (120mm @ slope) but slow and huge as fuck. On T7 it would be to easy to pen…

      • There’s also HP as pure balance parameter. Devs could toy with that to fit it on either tier 6 or 7

        • I don’t think the 120mm armor (unless nerfed) would be viable at tier 6, unless the rest of the tank is ridiculously crap (and I mean 47mm gun crap).

          • The rear turret is huge and has flat armor. That alone might be enough to keep it at tier 6 although that could depend on if there are any turret upgrades. I’d actually like to see this without the forward turret since the 47mm gun would be useless. A French 45.02 ausf B would be fun though…

      • On T7 it will be like TOG II*: Current guns only allow DCA 45 @ 212 pen @ 240 dmg OR SA47@ 232pen @ 300 dmg. Second gun would have to much penetration and would be unhistorical, so i doubt that WG will add that one. And 120

        Or WG implements it with ARL v39 topgun and premammo as normal ammo. This would provide enough pen and dmg for a superheavy tank that is playable – 223 pen and 330 dmg. Rof would be quite low, compensated by high hitpoints.

        Im curious, what is the proposed turret armor? Paper like ARL, or more?

        • Rather it would fit quite well, as the at-2 is a (semi-) comperable large, well armored tank at that teir, and the turret armor being rather unknown, means weakpoints should be easily found. It would work well at six or seventh tier.

  2. You might want to put a big red “From here on in this is speculation” warning in the text. Otherwise someone Will quote you as proof, and another internet rumour will be born.

  3. My guess would be that the FCM F1 might be introduced after the multi-turret feature was in place

  4. maybe u can maker shorter another time u post :) Is possible that WE WILL CONTROL MACHINEGUNE sometime ?? like for detracking the tank or somethink

      • I tested the Pz1C’s machine gun against the E-100′s track in the training room with a friend. He was able to track my E-100 after about 3 full clips of pew-pew. We didn’t test it thoroughly, just for shits and giggles, but I was immensely surprised it was possible.

    • Most machineguns in tanks does no harm to other tanks except for the big 50. caliber and 12.7mm machineguns they could damage view ports and range finders but that’s about it.

      Also the servers would be overloaded when everyone went around firing their machineguns like morons.

  5. Hehe why not… This could work as a TOG on tier 7 with the 105mm gun and the HP of a T9 heavy. Like 1800 HP for example.

    Iam sure that it will apear sooner then some might think. This thing in a platoon with a huge amount of HP would go trough enemy lines like TOGs on steroids.

  6. “FCM was primarily a shipbuilding company”
    As was Harland and Wolff who did the detail design work on the prototype that became the Churchill tank. They also had a same light touch when it came to building tanks.

    • My kinda man. Also the Char 2C… if they released it in WoT then WG can have all my money.

  7. And this is why SS and FTR must still exist :o) Great article, nicely written. Would be great to see some multi-turret options in-game (imho). Thanks for another great article.

  8. “the goal was to implement a diesel-electric propulsion system the way Porsche proposed it for his later designs. Quite innovative for its time.”

    Not really, the French had already previously used the setup succesfully enough in the old Saint-Chamond “landship” of WW1 fame – that thing could go almost as fast as a Whippet despite being nearly twice as heavy.

      • Well, nearly. Cited max speed was 12 km/h, the Whippet’s something like 13-14. The Chamond sucked for trench warfare mainly due to the retarded hull overhang but turned out to be a pretty good assault gun after the belt was breached and warfare became (relatively) mobile again.

  9. Germans Stukas would have made the process short with these giants on the battlefield..

    • Because highly specialised and every expensive “strategic weapons” (in the sense that just getting them to the intented battlezone is a major operation) like these totally wouldn’t have priority for fighter cover or anything right?

        • Well we’re already in fantasy land where they actually were able to build and deploy these monster tanks. So let’s add a competent air force to that as well, why not?

        • Serial production was scheduled to start in early ’41. By that time the Armée de l’Air would have caught up with the Luftwaffe a while ago already, given that serial production of sufficiently high-performance fighters to take on the Me 109 on equal terms had begun already shortly before or very soon after the formal start of the war. (For some reason the English Wikipedia is giving “Page Not Found” atm so I can’t look up the exact details.)

          You know, one reason the Germans were so desperate for a quick “knock-out” in the West (and why a do-or-die gamble like the Sedan offensive got the go-ahead) was specifically because they knew perfectly well that once the French and British began to seriously gear up for war it wouldn’t take them long to evaporate the lead (mainly numerical superiority) the Germans had wrecked their national economy gaining since the mid-Thirties.

          • I totally agree with you in the respect that the French would’ve had more time to prepare and might be technologically equal to the Luft. Skill-wise, overall the Luft was superior by 1940 as many of them had already seen action in Spain BUT the French had quite a few spectacularly skill pilots which definitely would’ve made more of a dent in the Luft if they had the time (the Wiki said the French lost 750 planes to the German’s 850. These are “official” numbers and also from Wikipedia so must be taken with a grain of salt). I think the French, technologically/skillfully, were much better matched than many people realize against the Germans but the extreme lack of talent in much of the high command as well as (in hind sight) an antiquated military doctrine would’ve made a French victory still far-fetched. The French tried really really hard to win the next war… which they thought would be a trench war and in that they probably would’ve been successful.

            As a side note, their ideas about trench warfare spilled into every aspect of their military so even if they realized that it wasn’t the best strategy I believe they would’ve found it difficult to adapt their existing equipment to a faster paced sort of war.

            • Forgot to mention, I think you’re very right about why Germany wanted to end the war quickly. They took a big gamble and it paid off.

              Also, in relation to my comments about the French preparing for trench warfare. I wanted to add that everyone was pretty much expecting a trench war where fortifications and infantry support tanks would play a big role (artillery as well in the French/British case) and that it irks me when people say their strategy was antiquated at the time. It was antiquated… after the Germans invaded. Trench warfare had still been thought of as the standard in war, no one was really expecting the “Blitzkrieg,” even despite what happened in Poland only a few months earlier.

            • The Entente never intented to fight a short war in the first place; they had no need to as the longer it dragged out the weaker the position of the “continentally blockaded” Germans would become – IRL the latter were actually beginning to run low on *grain* already in like ’41 or early ’42, in spite of systematic appropriation of French produce. The basic Franco-British “grand plan” was to check and hold the Germans, let them stew and starve while they themselves built up an overwhelming reserve of materiel, and then pretty much steamroll all the way to Berlin if need be.
              The Germans could divulge as much from basic economic figures and common sense (as well as bitter Great War experience), and were for lack of better options obliged to resort to a desperate high-stakes gamble in an effort to forestall it (mainly succeeding because the opposition royally fucked up).

              On another note, the French were actually pretty fast learners organisationally. Eg. when they found out during Fall Gelb that their original tactical doctrine of maintaining a continuous unbroken frontline didn’t quite work in practice they summarily dumped it; by Fall Rot their defensive deployement was based on mutually supporting “hedgehog” positions which came as a very unpleasant surprise for the Germans and which took quite a bit of time and lives to breach. On similar vein the hard-pressed air force was quick to absorb the lessons learned in actual combat.

            • That’s the thing about the French: they win battles, but they never really seem to win wars.

  10. Thank you SS, for this article. i really looked forward to a non-german tank article. and french tanks are really interesting.

  11. I’ve been a big fan of the FCM F1 for years, I absolutely can’t wait until they add it into the game and when they do I’ll be picking it up day one!

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