Friday, 17 April 2015

Common Questions: Unfair Testing

When reading Soviet trials of German armour, a lot of people claim that the trials should not count because of two things: one is that certain parts of the tank (such as guns, optical devices, etc) are removed from the tank prior to testing and the other is that the tanks' plates are hit several times over the duration of the test. While all is fair in love and war, let's take a look at these two accusations.

First: multiple hits per plate. This test simply represents the harsh realities of war. Rarely, if ever, are tank battles one on one encounters where only one shot is fired. Usually you are facing a battery of guns or a platoon of tanks that will all fire at the same time, and they will do without being gentlemen and letting the other party reload. For instance, here are photos of tanks caught in an ambush.




Now, in testing, you probably want to spread your shots out a bit more than this (it's clear that the gunners were aiming for center mass), but this leads me into the next point: you have a limited amount of units to test with. Whether the new tank belongs to you or your enemy, it is difficult to get many tanks for testing. Obviously, very few prototypes are going to be surrendered for ballistics trials, and capturing a shiny new enemy tank, let alone a fully functional one, is a difficult task. This is why, regardless of whose vehicle you're testing, you're going to squeeze as much out of it as possible before it completely collapses. Of course, you will get some instances where a section that was compromised by previous hits is penetrated, but, at least in the case of Soviet tests, this is plainly noted in the document.

Panther tank hit many times during British testing.

Aftermath of German penetration testing.

T-34 after being shot up in trials so much that the turret was torn off the turret ring and shifted.

As you can see, everyone used up their test vehicles to the fullest extent possible. Steel, no matter who produces it, is not enchanted with any magic, and it will fall apart eventually when hit enough. The question is when. If two or three hits tear your tank apart, you have a serious problem, but if you can take dozens of shots until catastrophic failure, you're probably okay.

Now for the next part: removing components before testing. You can see that some components are missing from the vehicles above: guns, vision blocks, etc. This is also caused by harsh reality. When you capture an enemy vehicle, everyone wants a piece: the artillerymen, the optics scientists, the electricians, the mechanics. By the time the tank reaches the range, odds are it will be stripped of any components other than the hull, since nothing inside will survive the rigorous testing displayed above. Sometimes you don't even get an entire tank. Nevertheless, this is another reality of life and simply how everyone tested.

Sherman tank upper front plate after trials.

T-34-85M after testing. The tank is simply an empty hull with just enough wheels attached to get it to the range.

Object 701 hull rear after testing. 

Note how even these fragments are saturated with holes and dents. Despite what some people like to claim, these photos not the work of Stalin's propaganda teams. This was a common practice by any nation, no matter whose tanks they were testing. The removal of these components did not, in any way, compromise the armour. In the event of suspicious results, one could always manufacture an identical component from domestic steel to confirm the findings.

15 comments:

  1. The test I was critical of was the Ferdinand test. Where the driver's plate was first penetrated by APCR from German 75mm/L70 then it was hit by 152mm AP. A large piece of the armor broke off along the line of the APCR penetration but no mention of this was made when the 152mm hit was sited.

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    1. But I don't understand your objection, as the 152 mm round proved effective against Ferdinands actual combat. Usually the objection arises when the claim is made that testing result couldn't possibly arise from actual combat. So what's the beef?

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    2. Effective against Ferdinant like this? http://www.warhistoryonline.com/military-vehicle-news/achtung-panzer.html/attachment/bbc9994e93ad5e2104fbdcdc2f58aaf8
      If you look carefully, you can see torn out first roof armour. Which shell except for 152 mm HE should do this, when it was destroyed at Kursk?

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    3. You mean apart from the crew destroying the vehicles themselves, funny how it is that peopel will always ignore that in favor the awesome russian guns did that damage.

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    4. Something as trivial as shoving a grenade into the gun breech could make a vehicle "destroyed" by German standards. Meanwhile, it was perfectly suitable for armour testing. Tanks that have suffered catastrophic damage were not used for testing for obvious reasons.

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    5. Only idiots could destroy tank by this way.

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  2. This article explains much. The notion that tanks go into combat undinged from previous combats is kind of absurd anyway. At Aberdeen the Jadgtiger II has several divets (90 mm hits?) in the front glacis, and I was looking at Zaloga's book of an IS-2 driving through East Prussia that has a divet (75 mm?) on its front turret. That is the simple reality.

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  3. "T-34-85M after testing. The tank is simply an empty hull with just enough wheels attached to get it to the range." - where could read more about this particular testing?

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    1. I wrote a bit about it here: http://tankarchives.blogspot.ca/2014/08/t-34-85m.html

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  4. WOW at that hole in the ambushed tiger turret! :D

    "When you capture an enemy vehicle, everyone wants a piece: the artillerymen, the optics scientists, the electricians, the mechanics."
    Yea I guess that the hull is the slice of the pie for the testing grounds, even display tanks have everything missing imagine a captured tank

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  5. I do not know why anybody else recognized this before but the argumentation-chain in this post is non-existent.

    The first point is that soviet tests are not good because the tanks were shot too often. Peters point here is that this also happened in combat. While this point is probably legit, the "harsh reality" in combat is also that a penetration with the first hit is extremely important. Soviet tests disregard this -both kinds of penetration are mixed up.

    The other big point is that parts like the gun are removed before the tests. This point is also completely legit in my eyes - however, although a common practice - this does mean that the armor IS weakened this way. Peter denies this in the end without a reason why - "This was a common practice by any nation, no matter whose tanks they were testing. The removal of these components did not, in any way, compromise the armour. ". No matter how many nations do this, as a mechanical engineer i am sure that the force distribution on the armor is different without certain components - this can mean that the armor is weaker and can crack easier on a mechanical weak-part. Furthermore, the edge effect is more likely to happen this way. You can read more about it in WW2 ballistics - armor and gunnery.


    Best Regards

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  6. "Despite what some people like to claim, these photos not the work of Stalin's propaganda teams" - first photo of the Panther with Black Ink Penetration is from a well known series of faked photos...

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  7. While all of this applies to real combat, this is not practical for testing purposes to claim that A can defeat B. If you shoot at A enough times with B, then B will naturally defeat A, it's only a matter of time before the metal gives out unless the round you are using is so minuscule that it's irrelevant.

    Shooting at structurally unsound targets makes this even more of a joke. If you've already shot half the tank apart, then how valid are the results on the remaining parts of the tank? What was done in many of these Soviet tests is for example, they'd start with their largest projectiles, 152mm, 122mm, etc, land multiple hits on their target before changing to smaller guns to then claim that even the smaller guns could defeat the armor in question while completely ignoring the damage the larger guns had already done.

    This is not indicative of impartial testing.

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    1. The smaller projectiles leave holes and don't catastrophically break the hull, so I don't see how hull integrity is relevant. If anything, holes would give the armor more "give", allowing it to repel shells a tiny bit better.

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    2. The smaller projectiles leave holes and don't catastrophically break the hull, so I don't see how hull integrity is relevant. If anything, holes would give the armor more "give", allowing it to repel shells a tiny bit better.

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