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Apr 4, 2013

American Prototype Light Tanks Post-WWII Part 1: The T37, T49, and the L Series

 Author: Priory_of_Sion

Most of us here should know about the M24 Chaffee, M41 Walker Bulldog and the M551 Sheridan however few know about how the US Army got carried away in designing light tanks in this time frame of the late 1940s to the mid 1950s.

First off I would like to discuss the “missing link” between the M24 and the M41, the T37. Most of you should know a little about the T37 by WoT. It is the source for the M24's upgraded turret, even though it is too large for the Chaffee's turret ring(the US did have plans to enlarge the T24/M24 turret ring though which would allow the T37's turret).

Now to discuss the T37. In Jan. 1945 the Army Ground Forces Equipment Review Board and the War Dept. Equipment Review Board both decided the M24 wasn't fit. They proposed a 25t vehicle that had superior firepower & mobility compared to the Chaffee. They called it the T37.

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Development began in 1946 and a pilot was produced in 1949. The T37 was split into 3 “phases”. Phase I was the turret and gun combination we see on the Chaffee in WoT. Phase II was mounted with a deadlier T91 76 mm gun(same gun as on the T71 LT) with a Vickers fire control system and became redesignated the T41 (direct precursor to the M41). Phase III was an autoloading variant which wasn't built due to the Korean War. Some more advanced features of the T37 such as the rangefinders, the FCS and autoloaders were never fully developed due to the war in Korea. In 1950 orders were given to Cadillac to produce 100 T41E1s which became the famed M41 Walker Bulldog.

The M41 Walker Bulldog itself was planned to be up-gunned before it was planned to be replaced. The T49 project saw the T41(the M41's prototype) transform into a 90 mm smooth bore wielding vehicle with a punch. This project was started in Jan. of 1950 to make sure the T41/M41 had enough firepower to deal with heavily armored Soviet Vehicles such as the IS series, since the 76 mm gun was perfect against T-34s.

The project was given the name T49. The gun was a low pressure weapon that fired fin-stabilized shaped charges. Very shallow rifling was added. The weapon was called the T132E1. These guns fired 3 shell types: HEP(High Explosive Plastic), HEAT, and HE. This was mounted in a new turret design.

Two T49s were shipped in May, 1954 to Aberdeen and remained there for a little over a year in tests. It was found satisfactory but the gun limited the types of ammo available. It was also deemed by the US to not be worth the time to develop. Speed was also decreased from the M41.

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Another up-gunning project for the M41 Walker Bulldog is likely to appear in WoT, this was a proposal by Cadillac to mount the M41 90 mm gun in the Bulldog in 1956. Expect this as the top gun. I might delve further into the M41 Walker Bulldog's development and history later on.

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In the beginning of the M41's production the US saw it as an interim design and immediate began programs to replace it.

A design from the Detroit Arsenal was the first of many proposals/prototypes. It was a 17 ton vehicle(as seen below) that had the same 76 mm gun as the M41. With a rear turreted design this proposal led the way for the L series of proposals. These proposals were created during the 1st Questionmark conference in April of 1952. I personally find the rear mount odd in American tanks due to the decrease in gun depression that goes with it, however they still seem to retain some of that comfort we all associate with American tanks. I would imagine -8 depression would be possible.
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L-1 had the same 76 mm gun and was the basic 17t design, varying little from the Detroit Arsenal 17t tank, it had ~250 hp engine. The L-2 was a variant using a larger T139 90 mm gun.

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The L-3 and L-4 had a similar layout but the hull was slightly different. Both used the T139 gun. A more powerful 440 hp engine was planned. Armor for the L-3 was the same as the M41. The L-4 had double those values.
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The L-5 and L-6 were T140 105 mm armed tanks. They had the same engine and armor as the L-3. A larger turret rings were used to accommodate the large T140 gun. Warning: This design is fugly.
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The Last of the L Series of vehicles to be proposed at the Questionmark Conference was the L-7. The L-7 was armed with the 76mm gun T91E3 in an oscillating turret. It weighed ~17 tons and, like most of the other concepts, its armor was equivalent to the M41's. It used the ~250 hp engine found on the L-1 and L-2. The L-7 was equipped with an autoloader.

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All in all the L Series was quite experimental. All had frontal engines and drives for the sake of crew protection. The front drive also allowed the vehicles to be shorter than rear drive designs. A unique features of the L Series were that external fuel were easily dropped in case of emergency, a grill system protected against napalm attacks and a .50 caliber MG was proposed which is eerily similar to the StG 44 Krummlauf was to be fitted in the turret.
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Do I expect these tanks in WoT? Well the T37 should be a tier 6 between the M24 and M41 in the future IMO; I have doubts it will though since it is very much like the Walker Bulldog. The T49 is tricky because of the smooth bore issue, I would doubt it will be in WoT unless they allow smooth bore guns. The L Series of vehicles should be in WoT too. I would like to think they would be good tier 6, 7 and possible tier 8 lights. Hope you'll enjoyed it and by the way there is a lot more US light tank prototypes to come among other things.

Source of information: Sheridan: A History of the American Light Tank vol. 2 by R. P. Hunnicutt.

Another to join the fray...

A third author joined the FTR crew today - Priory_of_Sion (US server) - as an expert on American tanks, we can expect some great articles from him :)

Sexton I screenies

Sorry, forgot to add this tank to the regular 8.5 vehicles.

8.5 supertester vehicles


Basic stats:

Object 907

HP: 2000
Weight (t): 36/39
Engine power (hp): 610
Max speed (km/h): 55
Turning rate (grades/s): 54
Hull armor: 100/85/45
Turret armor: 228/180/46
Shell damage: 240-400
Penetration: 164-274
ROF: 8,45
Turret turn rate: 48
Viewrange: 400
Radio range: 850


HP: 2500
Weight (t): 120/130
Engine power (hp): 1200
Max speed (km/h): 43
Turning rate (grades/s): 24
Hull armor: 200/160/120
Turret armor: 200/160/120
Shell damage: 563-938
Penetration: 176-294
ROF: 2,73
Turret turn rate: 24
Viewrange: 400
Radio range: 720


HP: 2000
Weight (t): 46,27/49,5
Engine power (hp): 750
Max speed (km/h): 48,3
Turning rate (grades/s): 52
Hull armor: 93/73/25
Turret armor: 177/76/50
Shell damage: 293-488
Penetration: 201-335
ROF: 6,82
Turret turn rate: 40
Viewrange: 420
Radio range: 750



Object 907:


- SerB is now (or was recently) in Chicago
- WG doesn't have any info for now on one-turret 76mm Soviet Object 050 heavy tank, based on T-100 and about the IS project with cca 100mm armor and 152mm gun from 1940
- SerB states that the current German and Soviet branches are cca 70 percent complete
- the reason for various 100mm guns with different alpha are different shells used
- it's possible EU tree will have local modifications of foreign tanks (such as the local modifications of T-34, T-54, Shermans...)
- there was no Soviet self-propelled 11in (279mm) howitzer
- game mode without bases (just a deatchmatch) is not planned
- there will be no "compensation" for removed transitions from Henschel tanks to VK3002DB
- there might be a Maus buff upcoming, just a rumor tho (and not in 0.8.5)
- Tetrarch will not appear in any game stores
- each shell has individually set module damage secret parameter, that roughly equates to the caliber of the shell, but the caliber directly is not involved in the damage calculation
- Storm states that in recent years the quality of gameplay of newbies didn't get worse, it's roughly the same
- there are planned visual changes for the hangars (both premium and regular)
- Storm says there have been no changes in the earning potential of premium tanks...
- one Leopard will be added to the Hunter medal/archievement
- the MM will change so both teams have roughly the same amount of light tanks (so it doesn't happen that one doesn't have any and the other does)
- T92 elevation - 0 to 45 degrees
- the fate of premium artillery vehicles in connection with the T10 arty will be told "when the time is right"
- the "konisch" German gun does so high damage due to the shell's kinetical energy
- devs never considered it viable to change one regular game server into an additional test server, it's complicated

8.5 Test Impressions

Just a bunch of impressions from the 8.5 test on the vehicles at hand. I'll be skipping the lowbies, I'll get straight to the good stuff: Indienpanzer, Leo prototyp A and Leopard I.

The Indienpanzer plays a lot like Panther or Panther II. The 90mm gun has a long aim time (2,9s), but it is reasonably accurate and fires fast enough. Its performance is comparable to the 88 L/71 (which is its mid gun) and the shells are cheap too, so this tank is easy to keep in black numbers, at least on the test. The frontal armor is amazing. Yes, it is not as amazing as on the Superpershing, but it has one massive advantage: the sloped part "eats" HEAT shells, they almost always bounce off. I bounced 2 gold shells in a row from a Chinese IS-2 (I know they were gold because the guy told me), that's like 300 nominal pen. Another amazing thing is the depression, it allows a lot of nice tactical maneuvers.
There are two big disadvantages though: the vehicle is nimble but it is slow and accelerates... not that well. Feels like a bit nimbler Panther II, which it definitely outperforms. Second is the turret and hull side armor, which is very weak and anything penetrates it. It's definitely NOT a brawler, more like a sniper. You won't lead any assaults with this tank, but if covered sufficiently by "bigger" targets (your heavies), you can do a LOT of damage. Also, the combination of the powerful gun and frontal armor makes the vehicle completely superior to anything below its tier to the point of absurdity - on long range though. On close ranges, the vehicle's chances are much, much lower. Unlock-wise, if you have the 88 L/71 unlocked from other vehicles (like I do), you can get it straight after getting the tracks, which is definitely good, as the extra engine and 90mm gun will take a while to get and the stock 88mm L/56 is totally hopeless on T8 even with gold shells.

Either way, it's a definitely enjoyable tank.

Leopard Prototyp A and Leopard I are basically the same tank with improved stats. The armor is nonexistent - you don't even have to bother with angling, whatever hits you goes thru, apart from some random high-angled shots. For Leopard Prototyp A, the 90mm gun left over from Indienpanzer seems to be the reasonable option, because its shells are 4x cheaper as those for the L7 - of course, they don't penetrate nearly as much, but as a flanker, you can afford it, because you'll be firing on the side hulls.
That's right: the Leopard, while it looks amazing (like a proper MBT), is NOT a battle tank. You can't slug it out with brawler specialists on close range, T-62 will chew you to pieces. You need to keep your distance and move a lot. With that being said, I think this tank will be the target of a lot of whine, because if you play it improperly, you will die. A lot. I didn't notice any serious problem with the ammorack with it (despite the fact it's situated behind frontal armor, at least in reality), but the driver seems to die often. If that happens, you HAVE to revive him, because immobile Leopard is dead, period.
The depression is kinda okay for this tank, but there are two not so obvious things to worry about. First: the silver shots for the L7 are classified as subcaliber, which means they lose a lot of pen over distance. Keep that in mind. Second, the "adhesiveness" of the Prototyp tracks is somewhat low. That tank drifts a lot, keep it in mind when driving downhill from El-Halluf.
The acceleration is not exactly spectacular, it's not a T-50-2, but on flat surface it catches speed quickly.

Will I level it up? At this moment, I'd say yes. Of course it could recieve some nerfs and we'll have to see, but the vehicle is nimble and thoroughly enjoyable. This is what I want a medium tank to be.

8.5 test vehicles (stats, pics)

German techtree

Indienpanzer (unresearched, stock, elite, modules)

Leopard Prototyp A (unresearched, modules, stock, elite)

Leopard I (unlocked, modules, elite)

VK2001(D) (unresearched, modules, stock, elite)

VK3001(D) (unresearched, modules, stock, elite)

Aufklärungspanzer Panther (unresearched, modules, stock, elite)

Soviet tree

T-60 (unresearched, modules, stock, elite)

T-70 (unresearched, modules, stock, elite)

T-80 (unresearched, modules, stock, elite)