welcome to the sixth part of the European Tree series, showing you the vehicles, that could appear/fit in the possible European tree. Today, we are going to talk about Poland.
Of the major EU server communities (GER, CZ, PL), Poland is the largest, but also the most problematic, when it comes to their own tanks. Poland certainly has its place in the tank development history, but if we are to be completely honest – Polish tank development before and right after the war cannot match the Hungarian or the Czechoslovak one. This was caused by the historical factors, including:
- Czechoslovakia being an industrial superpower (literally, in the early 30′s, it was the biggest arms exporter in the world), inheriting most of the Austro-Hungarian industry potential
- insufficient armor production capabilities (manufacturing thick and hardened armor is actually quite complicated and only a few countries in the world had the capability to do so)
- importance and influence of other branches of the military
One of the most common armored vehicles in pre-war Poland (apart from armored cars) were the notoriously known TK tankettes, including those equipped with a rather powerful 20mm cannon. While Czechoslovakia experimented with tankettes as well in early 30′s, we got rid of them rather quickly after the infamous Tančík Vz.33 disaster – for some reason, tankettes prevailed in Poland.
If you think these things were ridiculous, think again – they could mess up any early Panzer and they indeed did so, Roman Orlik’s action being the best known case. There were several experimental variants, including one with a 47mm cannon:
Overal, these tankettes are very light (3 tons), have very thin armor (4-6mm) and a rather weak engine (cca 62hp), but the horsepower was sufficient. Lowtier tankettes could appear on tiers 1 to 4 or so, possibly as sort of “tank destroyers” (since they lack turrets). The improved versions (apart from the 47mm one) included the 37mm TKS-D (3,1 tons, 46hp engine, 4-6mm armor, 37mm Bofors gun with cca 55mm of penetration (44mm at 500m)):
Two of the prototypes were made in 1937, they were tested in 1938 and then they served during the German invasion of Poland. The ultimate tankette development was probably the PZInż 160, a 4 ton variant, equipped with the 37mm Bofors, or even a 47mm Vickers AT gun. With an improved 95hp engine and maximum speed of 50 km/h, for its time it was quite formidable. The armor was thicker as well (cca 15mm). Unfortunately, Polish armored forces were not interested and the project was scrapped. There is some disagreement between various sources, whether the 47mm version actually existed and whether a prototype was actually built – Russian sources (wiki, Aviarmor) mention something called PZInż 161, which was supposed to be an upgunned and improved version of the vehicle.
So much for the “tank destroyers”. The rest of the vehicles, available to Poland, were mostly light and medium tanks. There are sevaral proposals for the possible Polish tree on EU forums, mostly around this thread. This variant looks about the most realistic (missing the upgraded tankettes though):
Other variants include machinegun tankettes and that’s a no-go (no, you can’t have an 8mm machinegun – and yes, Panzer I Ausf.C is a special case). Anyway, back to the light/medium tanks:
4TP – this tank is also known as PZInż 140 (4TP means “4 tonowy polski” – 4 ton Polish, PZInż is the shortcut of the design bureau) was an early light tank project, developed based on the experience the Polish designers gained from Sweden and United Kingdom. One prototype was made in 1937 (Russian sources state 1936) and tested in 1938 without armament, but it was considered obsolete and the project was scrapped. The tank weighed 4,3 tons, had a Polish 95hp engine (max speed 55 km/h) and 17mm of armor (hull: 17/13/10, turret the same), was to be armed either with a 20mm autocannon or a 37mm gun.
7TP – the most famous and common Polish tank. Basically a copy of Vickers Mk.E (another Vickers copy is in the game already as the Soviet T-26), although it had some quite modern improvements, Only around 150 were produced between 1935 and 1939 and while it was better than the German Panzer I and II tanks, it was considered inferior to the Czechoslovak Vz.35 (LT-35), let alone Vz.38. Nevertheless, the tank performed relatively well in the war, but no vehicles survived intact to this day unfortunately. It was equipped with the Bofors Wz.37 37mm gun – well, actually there were two variants: one with one turret and a 37mm, one with two miniturrets with 1 machinegun each. How well the latter worked, you can probably imagine. 7 tons, 110hp diesel engine (32-37 km/h, one of the first diesel-powered tanks in the world), Armor: 17/13/13mm, turret armor 15/15/15mm. A solid tier 2 or possibly even tier 3 candidate.
9TP – an improved and heavier version of the 7TP (it’s not a separate design per se, more like an upgrade to the 7TP). A hundred upgrades were ordered in 1939, but only a few were ready by the time Poland is invaded – some sources say 11, some 13. With the upgrades, the weight reached almost 10 tons, the tank had much thicker frontal armor (40/25/13 hull, 40/14/14 turret) and an improved engine (110hp, but lighter than the 7TP version), but it was much slower (26 km/h). All the produced vehicles took part in the defense of Warsaw. None survived to this day.
10TP – a fast Polish wheel-cum-track prototype tank based on Christie’s design (specifically, the M1931, that was examined by the Polish engineers), resembling the Soviet BT series. The development started in 1935, one prototype was built in 1937 and it was trialled in 1938. The design had some major issues, including low fuel capacity and bad terrain passability. The prototype was also shown to the army in May 1939. It is not known, what happened with it after the invasion, but it was probably dismantlet or destroyed. The tank weighed 12,8 tons and was powered by an American 210hp engine (nominally 246hp, the Polish got cheated by the producer, La France), it could reach the maximum speed of 56 km/h (75 km/h on wheels) and was to be armed with the same 37mm gun as the 7TP (-10/+20 elevation). The armor however was relatively thin – the hull was 20mm thick, turret only 16mm.
14TP – this was another (heavier) design based on Christie’s work, developed in parallel to the 10TP. Unlike the 10TP however, this project was not designed to run around on wheels, it used bigger gun and thicker sloped armor (basically the same line of thought, that led from BT to T-34). The design was ready by 1938 and by the time the Germans invaded, a prototype was partially finished by Ursus. What happened to it later on is unknown, it was presumably destroyed. The vehicle was to weigh 14 tons, was to carry a 37mm or 47mm gun, would be powered by a 300-400hp engine (before the war, the Polish considered buying a German Maybach) and would go as fast as 50 km/h. The armor was thicker as well (50mm or so).
The tank above is not to be mistaken with the “T39″. Right before the war, German intelligence produced a report about an alleged existing Polish tank called T39. It is unknown, whether this report was simply a mistake, or the info has been supplied by Polish counterintelligence, but no such tank existed.
20TP – 25TP – this tank concept is not clearly described anywhere and various sources contradict one another. Apparently, in 1938 – early 1939, the Polish were considering designing an even heavier medium tank in the 20-25 ton category. A competition was opened by the government and three companies took part: the PzInz, KSUS and BBTBr.Panc. – the name is not official and it was created by a Polish author.
25TP by KSUS was the heaviest variant:
The projected weight was to be 25 tons, the armament was to be a 75mm field cannon. Maximum speed would be around 45 km/h (25 km/h in terrain), the armor was designed to be cca 50mm thick. It was to be powered by two 300hp engines (600hp for 25 tons gives it 24 hp/t!). Wikipedia mentions something about a 70mm gun, that’s probably just a typo. This variant was actually designed KSUS II – there was a KSUS I variant too, that was lighter (22 tons), had only one 315hp engine, was slower (30 km/h) and was to have thinner armor (35mm). This is the drawing of the variant KSUS I:
Please note, that the entire “20TP”, “22TP” and “25TP” nomentclature is just fake, it was created by a Polish author to in order to recognize these prototypes. Also, wikipedia has the designs mixed up. Anyway, back to these tanks. The proposal by PzInz was created by Ing.Habich. Little is known about it – it would be in the 20-25 ton range as well and would be equipped with one 300hp engine. Frontal armor would be 60mm, side armor 40mm and it would be equipped with a 75mm AA gun wz.22/24. Max.speed would be cca 40 km/h.
And finally, the BBTBr.Panc. proposal – cca 23 tons, 540hp engine, 45 km/h, 50mm armor, the armament was quite special, 40mm AA gun and a 75mm “special” gun.
All these proposals are a tier 6 – max. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to confirm the existence of any better design. There are various fakes being kicked around (I am almost certain the 40TP tank is a fake for example, based on a rumor of PzInz working on a mock-up of a 40ton tank, ST-50 a definitive fake), but nothing really above tier 6, as I mentioned. There is the T-38-85M1, but that’s basically just an adaptation of Soviet modernization program and tier 7 at best.
My best guess is that despite the size of Polish community, Polish tanks will appear either as premiums, or will be mashed up together with other nations.