today, we are going to talk about one vehicle, that could eventually appear in the game as “EU tree” tier 10 artillery. As you probably know, Czechoslovak branches are planned within that tree and every tree has to come with at least one artillery branch. What you might however not know is that of all the potential nations of the EU tree, there are only two, that can build a complete tier 2 to 10 artillery branches: Czechoslovakia and Sweden.
This is obviously the Czechoslovak candidate. Let’s have a look at it in more details.
Between 1946 and 1948, numerous (perhaps more than a dozen) various self-propelled gun projects were developed for the newly reformed Czechoslovak army. The exact numbers are not known and likely never will, as a part of the archive in Prague became flooded at some point and many precious documents were lost. What remains are the scraps of information, that take painstaking effort to piece together.
One of the challenges the Czechoslovak army faced was “what to do with all that collected German stuff” – during the war, Czechoslovak territory became a major strategic location, when it came to tank production (Jagdpanzer 38t and its variants, Marder, Grille, Sturmpanzer IV and others), but also repair. That meant that after the war, large amounts of German vehicles were recovered – either in state of repair from various workshops, or scattered around the countryside. Some the army got rid of immediately (Tiger and Tiger II tanks) because keeping them would be pointless (heavy, unreliable, no spare parts), some got pressed into service (Panzer IV, Hummel, Jagdpanzer 38t and others in limited numbers), but some the army didn’t really know what to do with (Panther).
Using captured equipment was considered problematic (not only because of spare parts, but also morally), it was always viewed as a stopgap measure, before the army could acquire something better and modern. After 1948, the question of “what” became completely clear, as the Soviets started selling Czechoslovakia some amounts of T-34/85 tanks and the license production was being prepared.
In the meanwhile however, numerous projects were prepared to bridge the gap, using whatever the army had at hand. Several of these projects proposed to use the Panther chassis for the heaviest type of artillery, including calibers of 150mm, 152,4mm and even 305mm.
The project was proposed as superheavy artillery piece by Škoda on 10.10.1946. It involved – as said before – a Panther chassis (in case you are interested, you can read about the Panther itself in Czechoslovak service here) of an unspecified type. It was proposed to mount a 305mm B20 mortar project on it. The mortar at that point was proposed with two shells – a light 160 kg shell with the range of 10 kilometers and a heavy 235 kg shell with the range of 7 kilometers. At the point of this project however, the prototype mortar was not yet built. The muzzle velocity of the 160 kg shell was 430 m/s, the one of the heavy shell was 290 m/s. The mortar could fire in angles from 45 degrees to 75 degrees, but it could depress to 0 degrees for loading. The gun could traverse to 20 degrees on each side of the vehicle axis (40 degrees in total). Historical rate of fire was two rounds per 5 minutes.
The vehicle was built on “standard Panther chassis” (given the composition of vehicles captured at that point, it was most likely Ausf.G). The plans counted on removing a part of the Panther armor, reducing the weight of the entire vehicle to 45 tons. The vehicle was obviously not planned to fire on the move, a massive recoil brace could be deployed from the bottom of the vehicle between the tracks. The vehicle was to carry 9 mortar shells, but the engineers noted that their positioning on the top of the engine compartment (the big “drum”) would have a negative impact not only on the vehicle driving properties and engine lifespan, but also on fuel consumption, which was rated at 350 liters per 100km on the road and 700 liters per 100 km in terrain. The engine, powering the entire vehicle, was Maybach HL230 P30, rated at 700 horsepower, giving the entire vehicle a power to weight ratio of 15,5 hp/t. Maximum speed was listed as 25-30 km/h, theoretically up to 56 km/h. The crew was consisted of 4 men.
The project was relatively short-lived: as early as November 1946, Col.Trejbal (the commander of the Military Technical Institute) replied to Škoda with a letter, rejecting the project, citing the need for unified calibers and vehicles in the future. The project was however to be stored in the archives for research purposes. Škoda then moved their self-propelled guns to other (more perspective) platforms.
The mortar project itself however lived on.
The prototype was actually built and tested in late 1948 and early 1949 with following properties:
Barrel length: 5500mm (L/18)
Shell weight: 160 kg
Explosive within shell weight: 42 kg
Charge weight: 10,2kg
Shell velocity: 430 m/s
Range: 10 km
Elevation: 40-75 degrees
Weight (ready to fire): 9,3 tons
Weight (transport, with carriage): 16 tons
After some modifications, the project evolved into its ultimate stage, the B32, before it was scrapped and Soviet weapons were purchased instead. More about those can be found here.
In World of Tanks
In World of Tanks, as mentioned above, this would be the ultimate artillery vehicle of the EU tree (Czechoslovak artillery branch). While it is known that theoretically, there is a rule that each separate tree has to have its own artillery branch, the unwillingness of Wargaming to introduce new artillery kinda makes the future of this rule uncertain. The artillery balance in the game is a fragile one and introducing such a massive gun could upset it.
On the other hand, from balancing point of view, it’s completely possible to simply nerf the alpha and splash to appropriate levels of GW E-100 (a bit more perhaps) and to keep the rate of fire to a minimum. On the plus side, this vehicle could be fairly mobile (for a SPG), which I imagine could come in handy in CW and such. And, of course, hits from a 305mm mortar would make some unicums cry, so that’s a bonus as well :) In any case, this is a hot contender for the (only) tier 10 EU tree artillery, along with the (somewhat problematic) Swedish Bkan project.
As a bonus, this project could even be upgraded if needed (with the B32 mortar for example, but that is unhistorical).
M.Dubánek – Od bodáku po tryskáče