Thursday, 7 March 2013
World of Tanks History Section: E-50
The E-series (Entwicklung-typen) program started in 1942, as a project to discover new solutions in the field of tank building. The head of the program was Heinrich Kniepkamp, a competent commander, and talented engineer. By the end of the war, he held 50 patents relating to tracked vehicles. It is worth mentioning that not a single company involved with the project has ever built tanks before. The German high command predicted that this will result in the most original approach to the problems at hand. Even though not a single E-series tank was mass produced, and most only got as far as blueprints and wooden mockups, one could say that this was a successful project. The E-series are considered the peak of German technological thought.
In 1944, Germany's position on all fronts was getting more and more dire. Germany's resources are in severe deficit. Only unswaying optimists and blind fanatics believed that the Reich will find a way to turn the war in its favour. However, in 1944, work on a new experimental vehicle started: the E-50, a medium tank to replace the obsolete PzIV and unreliable Panther. In parallel, the E-75 was developed, to replace the King Tiger. That tank will be covered in a subsequent article.
One of the problems to be solved was the suspension. Ironically, Kniepkamp himself developed the unreliable interleaved road wheels. Now, he had to fix his past mistakes, and come up with a system that would not be constantly cursed by mechanics and engineers.
A new suspension was developed pretty quickly. It consisted of two-wheeled units, made from Tiger wheels. The wheels were attached to a spring lever, and were put on opposite sides of a one-pin track. This suspension was named "quiet block" and allowed to limit the amount of wheels to six per side. Due to this, it was possible to put an evacuation hatch on the bottom of the tank, simplify the job of mechanics, and make the hull cheaper and easier to produce. The new suspension was simpler, and was expected to have better characteristics than the old one, but it was never mass produced.
There was not a lot of time to develop the project. Existing parts were used where possible. The hull was borrowed from the King Tiger, with a larger slope for the front armour plates. Due to this, the location of the internal modules remained the same. For example, it was impossible to move the transmission to the rear of the hull.
The turret was taken from the cancelled Panther II project. The shape was changed a little, a hemispherical commander's turret was added, as well as a read hatch, for loading ammunition and evacuating the crew in emergency situations. A stabilizer was also planned, in order to ease aiming and loading while traversing cross-country terrain.
By May 1945, most E-50 parts were developed. Even though not a single prototype was assembled, SPGs were already planned on the E-50 platform: a self propelled AA gun "Hawk" and tank destroyer Panzerjager E-50, with a rear turret placement and 128mm gun.
E-50 wasn't destined to reach the field of battle. However, the French didn't waste what the Germans developed for it. French heavy tanks ARL-44 and AMX-50 inherited some E-50 components. Considering that these vehicles were developed much later, it can be said that the Germans did 15 years worth of research for the French.
Original article available here.