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Thread: Why the fixation with big tanks?

  1. #1
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    Default Why the fixation with big tanks?

    I am sitting here working on a FoW panther and thinking to myself why were they over engineered for the task in hand.

    By this I mean why did they have such a big gun when a smaller one would have done just as well. They had this fixation with producing a large gun to take out tanks a long range, which is all well and good for the desert or the Russian steppes. But in other places you do not have the visible range to make it worth the extra weight or ammo size.

    The Mk IV would have done the job just as well and have cost a lot less to produce than your Panthers, Jagdpanthers, Tiger 1 & 2 and all the other large gun tanks/TD. Was there really a need for a larger tank? You could argue that they were needed to counter the larger Russian tanks but were they a response to the larger German ones?

    Also did they need the increase in weight that the extra amour gave which made them less manoeuvrable and so less effective. And by that I do not just mean speed but the extra pressure this weight put on suspension and wear on engine and tracks. Not to mention the excessive fuel needed for larger tanks.

    Although the Panther when it worked was excellent did they really need it and all the rest? Why not stop with the mkIV as and MBT and have more?
    The \'eathen

    The \'eathen in \'is blindness bows down to wood an\' stone;
    \'E don\'t obey no orders unless they is \'is own;
    \'E keeps \'is side-arms awful: \'e leaves \'em all about,
    An\' then comes up the regiment an\' pokes the \'eathen out.

    Rudyard Kipling

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    I suspect a very great deal of it is the Nazi obsession with "bigger is better" coupled with a habit of propagandising everything, leading them to believe their own propaganda. See the Maus for a good example - a classic case of Bigger being Better in their minds.
    The Allies did build "super-tanks" too, but with the likes of Tortoise it was with a specific task in mind. When they proved not to be needed for that, they were dropped like the proverbial hot potato.
    I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate - Curtis E LeMay

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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    It was interesting that when Speer visited the troops in Italy and asked them what they would like, they said they would like a big gun on a more mobile vehicle even at the expense of armour.

    The comments were that the tanks they were using in Italy were restricted to the roads where the British and US vehicles could go where theirs could not.
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    Pdf27 interesting point and put me in mind of the addicted gambler who will win on the next through of the die or may be the next one. One wonders what notice was given to what the generals wanted.

    Leccy that would be a follow on to my above. Is it recorded what Spear did about this request?

    In close country and urban areas the larger tanks are sitting duck, just look at Villers-Bocage for an example of what infantry can do to big slow tanks.
    The \'eathen

    The \'eathen in \'is blindness bows down to wood an\' stone;
    \'E don\'t obey no orders unless they is \'is own;
    \'E keeps \'is side-arms awful: \'e leaves \'em all about,
    An\' then comes up the regiment an\' pokes the \'eathen out.

    Rudyard Kipling

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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    I think of course a lot of what went into the Panther was a sense of dented Teutonic pride that the Russkies had outdone them with the T-34 and the Panther was simply meant to offset this by being bigger and better. Wasn't it Hitler himself that became obsessed with thickening the armor of the Panther's front slope so much that they essentially had to weaken it elsewhere for the thing to even move?

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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2nd of foot View Post
    Pdf27 interesting point and put me in mind of the addicted gambler who will win on the next through of the die or may be the next one. One wonders what notice was given to what the generals wanted.

    Leccy that would be a follow on to my above. Is it recorded what Spear did about this request?

    In close country and urban areas the larger tanks are sitting duck, just look at Villers-Bocage for an example of what infantry can do to big slow tanks.
    Trying to remember where I saw the passage first (may have been Wages of Destruction), it was to do with Germanys increasing problems with quality steel supply. The request was stated to tie in with Speers thoughts, what he actually managed I do not know though as the E100 and Maus still carried on.

    Heavy armoured vehicles with good armour was a real problem, additives were in short supply so quality was starting to drop in the steel, there were problems providing enough steel for all programs requiring it.

    Producing thinner armoured vehicles with good mobility but still a very good gun would have solved many problems for him as well as helping provide the numbers of vehicles required by the military.

    Its interesting that I have recently started to see more claims about the Stugs actually having a higher kill ratio than the German tanks and the light tank destroyers (Marders etc) being very good in the defensive battles they were mostly fighting from mid war.

    The Panther was I believe also supposed to be more production friendly than the Panzer IV (although nowhere near the reliability) while being much more capable.
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    It wouldn't surprise me if the cases of lone KV tanks or low number T34s holding up large number of German tanks fueled the Nazi idea "bigger is better" leading to some of the monsters they went on to produce, or try.

    The Panther didn't cost much more then the Panzer IV so while big it wasn't a waste of material and if the issues had been worked out it could have been the planned Panzer IV replacement.

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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    Although it would seem on the face of it the Panther is more cost effective than the PIV when you consider the slightly higher cost but greater capability. It would seem that a lot of P Vs did not make the battle field or were lost due to breakdown. It may have been a better tank than the PIV but the PIV was on the battle field when it was needed.

    And this is my point, was the PIV a better tank than any that followed it. Did the Germans need a better tank?

    Having the perfect tank is one thing having one that worked when needed is far better. You could use the same argument with with a number of Allied tanks.
    The \'eathen

    The \'eathen in \'is blindness bows down to wood an\' stone;
    \'E don\'t obey no orders unless they is \'is own;
    \'E keeps \'is side-arms awful: \'e leaves \'em all about,
    An\' then comes up the regiment an\' pokes the \'eathen out.

    Rudyard Kipling

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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    The constantly overlooked information by the German tank fans about the Panther. It was not reliable enough, every excuse is given about why (bombing, slave labour, lack of resources) without looking at the simple fact it had numerous design flaws - turret traverse, engine, fuel system, drive train.

    The claims that it had armour that was proof against all allied weapons despite it having thin side armour that a 40mm Bofors firing AP or a Stuarts 37mm gun could penetrate at 600m and a 75mm could penetrate at 1500m (US Army test results on Panthers).

    The commonly stated claim that it was the best tank in WW2 (or with excuses it had the potential if the Germans had enough time to sort it out), never mind that when introduced to combat it was less reliable (16% going up to 37% after 6 months and a complete rebuild program) than the Covenanter (which of course was deemed too unreliable to be used in combat at around 50% reliability).

    I have always considered the Panzer IV to be the best tank produced by the Germans during WW2, upgradeable to keep it current and competitive with an adaptable chassis that enabled it to be used for other vehicles. The problem with it though was by 1945 it had reached its limit (not too bad for a 10 year old basic design though).
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    I have the enviable advantage of being able to comment on this topic without being inhibited by any knowledge of the subject matter.

    Be that as it may, the Soviets had numerous tanks from light to heavy before WWII and the ability to produce them, which didn't do them any harm when they got involved.

    When it comes to a war, does it matter who has the best tank or who has enough tanks of whatever types, in conjunction with other arms and tactics, to defeat the enemy?

    Does it matter whether you're eaten to death by ants or a panther?
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    I always thought that the Sherman and t34-85 proved their worth by still being in service decades after the end of ww2.
    Of the German tanks the Panther served on for about 5 years in the armies of france,russia and one or two eastern bloc nations but were not highly regarded due to their low reliability rates.The Pziv served in various armies up till the late sixties,but no Tigers or Tiger 2 served after ww2. Well as far as i know.

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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    Quote Originally Posted by boyne_water View Post
    I always thought that the Sherman and t34-85 proved their worth by still being in service decades after the end of ww2.
    Of the German tanks the Panther served on for about 5 years in the armies of france,russia and one or two eastern bloc nations but were not highly regarded due to their low reliability rates.The Pziv served in various armies up till the late sixties,but no Tigers or Tiger 2 served after ww2. Well as far as i know.
    The Panzer IV (and StuG's) saw service up until the 90's in places like Bulgaria as part of the fixed defences. The Syrians last used them on the Golan Heights in the 70's and some are still there now having been turned into fixed bunkers. France tried to incorporate elements of German tank design (design, engines etc) into its post war tanks like the AMX50 but they were unsuccessful.

    The main reasons for German panzers not lasting after the war was lack of spares and extremely cheap (as in free) and abundant numbers of Sherman's and T34's being available (with the bonus on the victors tanks having huge amounts of spares readily available as well). Not forgetting that late production German tanks were simplified to reduce costs and save on strategic materials (Panzer IV losing power traverse, German armour quality dropping along with poor welding of plates).
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    I wholeheartedly agree that shermans and t34,s were cheap and readily available after the war,but while they were not perfect they were reliable .The fact that they were being used in the Balkan wars says a lot about the origional design,s(I know the m36 wasn,t a Sherman but it used the same basics).
    The French sent one Panther to Indochina where it promptly broke down and had to be replaced by m36 tank destroyers.
    My point being reliability can be important.

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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    Quote Originally Posted by boyne_water View Post
    I wholeheartedly agree that shermans and t34,s were cheap and readily available after the war,but while they were not perfect they were reliable .The fact that they were being used in the Balkan wars says a lot about the origional design,s(I know the m36 wasn,t a Sherman but it used the same basics).
    The French sent one Panther to Indochina where it promptly broke down and had to be replaced by m36 tank destroyers.
    My point being reliability can be important.
    The French had enough problems keeping their Panthers on the road in France so despite the internet claims that one was sent (and has been seen by US troops along with various other people not one of whom managed to photograph it) I am very dubious as to why it would be sent. The most common and used tank by the French in Indo China was the M24 Chaffee as it was light, had a reasonable gun and armour and good mobility which many of their other armoured vehicles lacked.
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Why the fixation with big tanks?

    Quote Originally Posted by boyne_water View Post
    I always thought that the Sherman and t34-85 proved their worth by still being in service decades after the end of ww2.
    Of the German tanks the Panther served on for about 5 years in the armies of france,russia and one or two eastern bloc nations but were not highly regarded due to their low reliability rates.The Pziv served in various armies up till the late sixties,but no Tigers or Tiger 2 served after ww2. Well as far as i know.
    An interesting outlook but I thing Leccy's point is more valid. The UK got rid of it's M4s PDQ after hostilities. I have seen written some place that the only reason the M4 was not completely replaced by the Cromwell for D-Day was because they had so many M4s.

    Going back to the original point about over complexed and heavy tanks being a fixation of the German tank development. Was there one person or committee who had the job of working out what was needed or was it just down to one-upmanship on the part of designers? Did Germany have a central design committee and if so who was on it?
    The \'eathen

    The \'eathen in \'is blindness bows down to wood an\' stone;
    \'E don\'t obey no orders unless they is \'is own;
    \'E keeps \'is side-arms awful: \'e leaves \'em all about,
    An\' then comes up the regiment an\' pokes the \'eathen out.

    Rudyard Kipling

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