Wednesday, 3 January 2018

King Tiger Intel

"To chiefs of staff and unit commanders
Personally to the chief of operations.

September 8th, 1944

Attached is information on the new German heavy tank "King Tiger" (Konigstiger) and methods of combat against it.

The Army commander ordered that the information is to be distributed to all officers and tank/SPG crews.

Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, Colonel Ganshin
Chief of the Army Staff Office, Captain Romanovskiy

Report on the new German tank "King Tiger" (Konigstiger) and methods of combat against it

Elements of the 1st Ukrainian Front captured 4 King Tiger tanks near Szydłów, one of them in fully working order, on August 12th, 1944. Near Korozvenki, two more nonfunctional King Tiger tanks were captured.

Preliminary characteristics of the King Tiger are as follows:
  • Mass: heavy
  • Combat weight: 68 tons
  • Tank length with gun forward: 10.5 m
  • Width: 3.7 m
  • Armour:
    • Front: 180 mm
    • Side: 80 mm
    • Rear: 80 mm
    • Floor and roof: 40 mm
  • Armament:
    • One 88 mm gun
    • Two machineguns
  • Ammunition: 60 rounds
  • Engine: Maybach (gasoline)
  • Engine power: 600-650 hp
  • Top speed: 40 kph
  • Range:
    • Off-road: 100 km
    • Highway: 140 km
  • Suspension: torsion bar
  • Number of road wheels: 9 per side
  • Track link width: 800 mm
  • Radio: two, one of them for command use
  • Crew: 6
    • Commander
    • Gunner
    • Loader
    • Assistant driver, also radio operator
    • Driver
    • Radio operator/hull gunner
According to preliminary information, King Tiger tanks are used as breakthrough tanks by the Germans. For example: during fighting from August 12th to 15th, King Tiger tanks drove ahead of T-6 tanks, and several tanks were on the flanks.

The most prominent weaknesses and methods of combat against this tank are:
  • Use all methods applied against Tiger and Panther tanks in combat.
  • The weakest parts of the new tank are the gun, turret ring, suspension, rear armour, and turret roof.
  • The side armour of the hull and turret can be reliably penetrated by 50-76 mm guns, especially by 57, 85, 122, 152 mm guns, and IS tanks.
Conclusions: based on the main characteristics, it is clear that the King Tiger tank is a modernization of the T-6 "Tiger" tank, with front armour thickened from 100 to 180 mm, which increased the mass from 56 to 68 tons."

24 comments:

  1. Fine print at the bottom: Also knocks out even IS tanks clean from 2600 meters away.

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    1. Not reliably it doesn't. 1500 meters a more accurate estimation for a reliable kill via a turret hit. That figure, and the figure for hull hits too, highly depends on what flavor of IS we're talking about.

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    3. You seem to be confused, there is no such note.

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    4. Plus IS turret is not so homogenous in protection like Tiger and Panther one. In case of non angled or slightly angled turret front, PaK 42 and 43 must hit 950 mm wide turret section to penetrate it from close to bigger distances. That is from 2200 mm total width of the turret. In battle conditions where soviet tank move after performed shot, it takes a lot of shots even for PaK 43 to knock it at that distance.
      Sorry for stupid spamming, I made mistakes when I confused reply button and when I mesured Tamiya model casts.

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  3. Actually not so long ago there was a picture of an IS-2 knocked out via the turret from a Nashorn/Hornisse with the same 8,8/L70 not so long ago.

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    1. I know exactly what picture you're talking about, but did you take notice of exactly *where* the turret hit/penetration was located?

      It's as Crabtree says. You have to hit about the area of a large postcard (about the size of a man's open hand, I'd say) to hit that vulnerable spot, 100 mm of rounded "cheek" armor with little slope, in front of the loader's position. Hit above and below that spot, and the shot likely ricochets due to the slope. Hit to the loader's right, you're now hitting 100 mm of highly sloped (> 60 degrees) side turret casting armor--another bounce.

      On the IS-2 mod 1944 as you go towards the gun, you hit 120 mm of mantlet + 80 mm of turret armor once you hit the mantlet, around the gun itself is a bracket with c. 230 mm--both likely bounces. Move to the armor in front of the gunner the armor thins down to about 80 mm + 80 mm. Yes, spaced armor like like 20 % less effective than a single plate, but there's also approximately a 20 % enhancement in the other direction for the rounding/slope, so the original thickness is about what you'd have to get through. And my table says the 88/L71 goes through 160 mm of armor (50 % chance) at 1500 m. That's probably your biggest, best, target and chance at that range.

      The IS-2 mod 1943 would be an easier kill for a turret hit, but you'd still have to hit the corresponding "postcard" in front of the gunner. There the mantlet is smaller and its armor not as thick, so a penetration there would be more likely, though you'd still get bounces due to slope at 1500 m.

      So, your chances at long range is all about hitting "postcard"-sized targets with a gun capable of only hitting targets within a diameter of about a meter-plus from the aiming point at 2000 meters (let alone 2600 meters). A takeout at that range is certainly possible, but it's definitely more a lucky hit rather than the expected result.

      Personally, in our (admittedly hypothetical and unrealistic) engagement of an equal number of Tiger IIs vs IS-2s I'd bet on the IS-2s. The IS-2s should keep the distance to about 2000 meters, where save for low-probability hits they're pretty safe, and hammer the Tigers with their powerful OF-471 HE rounds. The OF-471 rounds are perfectly capable of doing severe damage to the Tigers, from incapacitating equipment and crew due to the concussive effects, to tearing off tracks and running gear and cracking and spalling the armor, up through blowing holes in the Tiger's 30-mm chassis deck armor by hits on the lower part of the turret. It's less choosy about where it needs to hit to score results.

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    2. I am not surprised to see these claims put forward on this side. The area to hit does not have a "postcard" size, it´s virtually half the turret.

      A) PAK43 was tested vs cast IS3 turrets at area´s where 90mm-100mm CHA thick. It didn´t bounce but penetrated at 59.3 and >61°. While the PAK43 would not perforate RHA at this obliquity, it did so vs CHA, as could be expected.

      B)The curvarure is quite modest until You happen to hit far off centre, it doesn´t change to 60° immediately, thus increasing the area of lateral vulnerability

      C)Mantlet was 115mm max where vertical. It might be 120mm in some examples (or 110mm in others, as measured on the examples captured by the germans). There was NO turret front armor behind the mantlet except a very thin, edge stripe (see below). Because the mantlet thins out as You move up and down from the centreline, down to 60mm where higher obliquity angle is optained, The whole mantlet area is vulnerable to PAK43 at long range.

      *At the adges of the mantlet to the right and left, the mantlet is recesed into a fitting cutcut of the turret front. This creates a minor overlap (115mm max. plus 45mm max & 75mm max + 80mm max). Using the De Marre formula for spaced plates in parallel this equates 136mm max. and 128mm max. thickness, not accounted for edge effects and high hardness effects.

      Because all these overlapped plates are having free edges within 0.3 cal distance, the netto resistence is considerably lower, and did not exceed the thickness of the mantlet armor at any point.

      100-120mm high hardness armor doe not break up the 88mm Pzgr 39/43 striking <40° obliquity and thus is significantly inferior to normal hardness RHA in resistence, too. This makes a large portion of the turret front, including all the mantlet area, vulnerable to the PAK43 at long range.

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    3. >A) PAK43 was tested vs cast IS3 turrets at area´s where 90mm-100mm CHA thick. It didn´t bounce but penetrated at 59.3 and >61°. While the PAK43 would not perforate RHA at this obliquity, it did so vs CHA, as could be expected.

      You omit the fact that this happened at a range of 350 meters. Where I come from, that doesn't count as "long range".

      >100-120mm high hardness armor doe not break up the 88mm Pzgr 39/43 striking <40° obliquity and thus is significantly inferior to normal hardness RHA in resistence, too. This makes a large portion of the turret front, including all the mantlet area, vulnerable to the PAK43 at long range.

      As usual, what you write is literally the opposite of truth. TsNII-48 says (Капырин Г. И. Труды ЦНИИ-48, 1947, № 2с (29)):

      3. Испытания литых башен с толщиной стенки 100 мм снарядами калибра 88 мм (b/d = 1,13) при углах встречи 0-40° показали преимущество брони высокой твердости.

      The trials of cast turrets with walls 100 mm thick against 88 mm shells (b/d = 1.13) at impact angles of 0-40* proved the advantage of high hardness armour.

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    4. ''This makes a large portion of the turret front, including all the mantlet area, vulnerable to the PAK43 at long range.''

      Minimum thickness of the shield is 60 mm but there is at least 70 mm area under upper edge (from total 610-620 mm shield high) , where it get kicked to the sky. If not, it get deflected to inert sections.

      Maximum thickness is more, its 200 mm. You forgot about the collar around the gun on the back of the shield. It goes out a little bit on the front and approximately cover the 50 mm area around the gun on the back.

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    5. The area to hit does not have a "postcard" size, it´s virtually half the turret.

      Have you ever looked at the turret of an IS-2 from the *inside*? I suggest you do before you start sounding off. The 'flat area' is only about the size of a large postcard, an man's hand with the fingers extended outward. If you look at it from the inside you'd realize how much of what you think is a viable target is actually shooting int the front turret casting's 100 mm side (which is highly sloped).

      The mantlet armor is 120 mm, you can quibble about 5 mm or so, save near the gun where there *is* a bracket where the bolts are that *is* well over 200 mm. There is 80 mm of base turret armor behind the mantlet edges. And there is a slope effect (I've seen it calculated equal to 25 degrees), though I grant that spaced armor isn't as effective as a single piece.

      The vulnerable areas are far smaller than the 88's ability to reliably hit 1500 meters, let alone 2500 m. The 88 at those ranges can probably land a round on the IS-2 somewhere, but where is anyone's guess.

      But feel free to give non-theoretical examples, of verified examples of 88/L71s reliably and repeatedly taking out IS-2s from 2500 meters. Or cut yourself some slack and go to 2000 or 1500 m.

      In the meantime, I have a possible example. Let me offer it.

      The 81st Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, in East Prussia, reportedly tangled with "Tigers" during the October 1944 Gumbinnen operation. These "Tigers" reportedly sprang ambushes on the advancing IS-2s of the 81st; the 81st reported losing 6 IS-2s on one day alone these ambushes, with each IS-2 penetrated and taken out by a single hit.

      Now there were indeed "Tigers" committed to and participating in that battle, the PzAbt505, which was moreover was equipped with King Tigers, not Tiger Is (I have not found any references to any units on the German side in the battle which was equipped with Tiger Is, but you can correct me if wrong). I don't have the German loss data that day, it could have been zero, which makes this even more complete a German victory for you to hurrah about. The 505th reportedly lost 7 King Tigers during the campaign; which I take to be only their irrecoverable losses, and the 81st did claim its IS-2s took out 3 Tigers during the campaign.

      But after you've done with your victory dance over the prowess of German arms, I would then want to go on to mention what the conditions under which those 6 IS-2s were taken out.

      a) the ranges engaged were 800-1200 m, not even 1500 m which I'm granting where the IS-2's vulnerability begins, let alone the 2500 meters you claim;

      b) even at 800-1200 meters, each IS-2 examined took anywhere from *12-19 hits* from those 88s before succumbing to a single penetrating round.

      *12-19 hits!!*. Not just on one tank, but on six. Now, anything can and does happen in war (one Sherman during the Battle of the Bulge took a direct hit from a 128 mm from a Jadgtiger ambush *ON ITS REAR ARMOR* and yet the shot bounced) but at least with six tanks one may be getting more a representative sampling.

      Doesn't sound like anything like a reliable chance to hit/kill to me.

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    6. I actually tried my hand at measuring that armor near the gun, where the bolts are, Crabtree, and came up about 230 mm. It's well over 200.

      I'm also cutting CM slack because some have put down the base turret armor behind the mantlet at 100 mm, not 80 mm. And actually, the fact there might have been variation between production runs and factories.

      Once one understands the metrics of the IS-2 mod 1944 turret armor protection scheme, one understands what was done with the IS-3. It was largely a case of chopping off surface area on the turret front, so that what wasn't highly oblique could be made very thick, and what the thinner armor that remained was highly oblique to frontal fire. The cost was that you slimmed down everything near the gun, and the resulting cramping (the IS-2 by contrast had good ergonomics, one of the best for a Russian tank). That's how you get a tank with superior armor and yet keep the same weight.

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  4. "The IS-2s should keep the distance to about 2000 meters, where save for low-probability hits they're pretty safe, and hammer the Tigers with their powerful OF-471 HE rounds."

    Speaking of low probability, good luck trying to hit a tank with an HE shell that has no tracer from 2000 meters.

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    1. Peter published the recommended engagement rules for IS-2s on this site. There were 1.5-2 km:

      http://tankarchives.blogspot.com/2016/05/heavy-how-to.html

      Moreover, it notes that this was not only fire against tanks but HE rounds too (it specifically mentions "artillery, pillboxes, and dugouts" as targets). Why would they recommend such a range if the 122 mm OF-471 couldn't reliably hit it at that range?

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    2. IIRC the Germans lost enough stuff to such "long shots" to issue standing orders against cresting hills for a better vantage point...

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  5. <<>>

    I don´t care. It´s 60° obliquity. Against german, medium hardness RHA, the PAK43 with Pzgr39/43 was rated with just 80mm penetration at 0m, yet it handily defeated 90-100mm soviet high hardness cast armor at 350m. A demonstration of how a poor choice HHA was when it couldn´t break up the shell in the first place.

    <<<3. Испытания литых башен с толщиной стенки 100 мм снарядами калибра 88 мм (b/d = 1,13) при углах встречи 0-40° показали преимущество брони высокой твердости.

    The trials of cast turrets with walls 100 mm thick against 88 mm shells (b/d = 1.13) at impact angles of 0-40* proved the advantage of high hardness armour.>>>

    What does this test tells? That the 88mm FLAK AP shell (Pzgr Gg) would be broken up by HHA. Nothing we don´t knew from german trials...

    Try cite post war trials next time. There is a reason why Your inglorious soviets came to their minds in the late 1940´s and early 1950´s. And for the record, yes, they changed to MEDIUM HARDNESS RHA (42SM, 43 PSM) and MEDIUM HARDNESSS CHA (47-L) -with similar to german ww2 steel armor BHN ratings- once they had to admitt that their high hardness armor was inferior against shells which couldn´t be destroyed.

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    1. Flak AP at 1000 m/s muzzle velocity, ok. Once again, you prove that you are either unable or unwilling to read. This trial is from 1947. I don't know what kind of alternate reality you are from, but in my universe this is a post-war trial.

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  6. >>>But feel free to give non-theoretical examples, of verified examples of 88/L71s reliably and repeatedly taking out IS-2s from 2500 meters. Or cut yourself some slack and go to 2000 or 1500 m. <<<


    IS-2 obr.43 were recorded as beeing taken out by Pz4 with 75mmL/48 at 600m. Two hits: one hit on the drivers hatch, another on the front turret. Both were found to result in clean penetrations, the vehicle burned out. Lucky hits, right? The instance is one of the earliest meetings of Is2 in AOK6 area. As I mentioned previously, german official FIGHTING INSTRUCTIONS testify that the Is2, due to inferior cast armor can be frontally penetrated at battle range by everything down to 75mmPAK40 & 75mm KWK40. Like it or not.
    I suppose that You are aware that the Soviets made a habit of calling a Pz4h "TIGER", a StuG = "FERDINAND", a Panther = "TIGER2"?

    There is no turret front armor behind the mantlet. The overlap between both is counter recessed (thinner),spaced and composed of free edge effects, which nullify any possible gain in resistence over that provided by the mantlet at specification thickness (115mm +-5) itselfe. Similarely, there is no armor behind the turret front, and the area where it is >45° when viewed from the front is rather small, which is, as You might notice, the exact opposite of Your claim that the hittable area is post card sized.
    Last time I checked the gun collar with an XRF, it was mild steel.

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    1. Again, your memory is incredibly poor. They didn't call Tiger 2s "Panthers", it was the other way around. Tigers were also called PzIVs, I have photos of knocked out Tigers with that caption. I also have photos of MS-1s labelled "T-34" by Germans, so what?

      German fighting instructions also testify that the Tiger can be knocked out from 500 meters from the front by a T-34, I don't see you raving about inferior German armour for some reason.

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  7. > S-2 obr.43 were recorded as beeing taken out by Pz4 with 75mmL/48 at 600m.

    You again cite ONE example. What did I say about citing single examples? A Sherman's rear also bounced a Jagtiger's 128 mm hit during the Ardennes offensive. That mean it's proof against the 128?

    It was well-documented that the earliest IS-1s and IS-2s had brittle armor, and by the Soviets themselves, which is probably the explanation for your case. As a general rule, Steven Zaloga calls the PaK40 "almost useless" against IS-2s frontally. Indeed it makes no sense that Tiger I crews claimed that IS-2s couldn't be penetrated at all frontally save at very close ranges (courtesy of Jentz, of all people, and also indicated by German evaluations) and then claim the less-capable Pak40 could do it at ranges beyond that. You're ignoring the testimony of TIGER CREWS here plus that of German evaluations, which had even the IS-2 model 1943 (with armor weaker than the 1944 version) invulnerable to the Pak40 save the lower plate and "postcard" turret areas, and even there only at near point-blank ranges.

    German Tiger aficionados always ask "show me a picture of a Tiger II with a penetrated front plate" (and pooh-pooh the Kubinka test results photos). Well let me return the favor: show me pics of IS-2s frontally penetrated in the places you say they are vulnerable. I'll wait.

    Mind you, I have and can find a number of pictures of knocked out IS-2s--by hits where I say they were indeed vulnerable (lower glacis plate penetrations, the "postcard" region on the turret casting I spoke about, or from penetrations on the side armor) but I have seen none, nada, zilch proven proven where you claim they were equally vulnerable. I have seen a pic of an IS-2 with a 'ding' on its turret front where you say was just as vulnerable where the shot bounced!

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  8. > There is no turret front armor behind the mantlet.

    On the IS-2 mod 1944, there indeed is.

    The IS-2's mod 1944 turret armor consists of four components: the mantlet, the bracket around the gun (200 mm), the turret casting, and the turret armor. I am familiar with Amizur's work doing measurements on this, I think he's done an excellent job, but I think he might have missed what I think is bracket armor behind the mantlet around the gun (I think there's an air gap there, which is why he didn't find it, and you have to remove the mantlet to get at it, but I have a photo that seems to show it). Amizur did note that there there was additional armor on the outside of the mantlet around the bracket; I think there may be armor on the inside as well corresponding to that.

    But that's of little consequence. As I said, you have to look at photos of IS-2s from the inside, and you realize how much space is actually covered up by either the side front casting and/or the front turret armor behind the front casting. For instance, the front turret armor extends from the turret top down to a point where the 122 mm gun is located. You see how little exposed space there is of just relatively flat 100 mm cheek armor there is; like I said, it's maybe 200 x 100 mm. I can post pictures if you want of that.

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  9. > There is no turret front armor behind the mantlet.

    That's not all. There is a slope component to rounding armor. It's not a straightforward calculation, as it depends on the specific shape of the rounded part. The goal of the early IS-1/IS-2 was to produce a tank nearly invulnerable to the Tiger I's 88 mm and the Panther's 75 mm. Testing done at the Kubinka in February-March indicated the IS-1/IS-2 with the KV-13 hull didn't achieve this goal, and that the armor tempering scheme had resulted in too-brittle armor. To fix this, the Russians recommended changing the tempering scheme (which was done) and, that given the profile of the IS-2 mod 1943 hull and turret, upping the hull armor from 120 mm to 150 mm, and the base turret armor from 100 mm to 130 mm. Doing this would make the IS-2 essentially resistant to the Panther's 75 mm gun.

    Now, the calculation for the equivalent vertical thickness of 150 mm hull armor sloped at 30 degrees is straightfoward---it results in the equivalent of about 190 cmm, which would indeed be < 50 % penetration chance of the Panther's Kwk42 gun at 100 meters. That makes sense. However, the Russians apparently calculating that upping the turret armor from 100 mm to merely 130 mm would make the turret similarly proof against the Kwk42. The Russians calculated that an IS-2 turret with 130 mm armor has an effective thickness (of sorts) of 190 mm (or, probably more accurate to say, the probability of penetration equals that of 190 mm vertical plate). That's a multiplier of 1.45; so even the "postcards" I spoke of are more like 145 mm vertical armor insofar as penetration probabilities.

    In the end, the need not to interfere with production and the fact that adding 30 mm of turret armor would unbalance the turret further meant the Soviets didn't go that route (as well as not sloping the lower plate armor more). But they probably felt that a weak point of 145 mm effective armor was good enough. Applying the same factor to the rest of the IS-2 mod 1944's front turret amour equals effective thicknesses of 160 to over 200 mm of armor, excluding the places like the turret casting edges where shots have essentially no chance at all of penetration. This is all pretty good; not impenetrable, but pretty good, which is probably also why the Russians didn't feel compelled to interfere with production.

    I think these effective thicknesses are completely consistent with both test results and combat history---yes, the Pak40 could conceivable penetrate a small spot on the turret and the lower plate if near point-blank range (good luck though); yes, the Tiger I's gun could penetrate certain spots on the turret at very close ranges and the lower hull further out; yes, the Panther's Kwk42 gun could penetrate places on the turret out to like 600 meters or so with the lower hull at longer ranges, and yes, the Kwk43 could penetrate in theory small spots on the turret out to 2500 meters but would likely need to close to 1500 meters or less to get a decent chance of a reliable kill.

    There was an IS-2 re-design, the IS-2U, which would have sloped the lower plate at 55 degrees and upped the front armor to 130 mm which would indeed have made the IS-2 pretty much invulnerable to the Panther's gun. But starting in June 1944 the goal for Russian heavy tanks was shifted--the goal was no longer to design a heavy tank invulnerable to the Kwk42 and Kwk36, but to the Kwk42 and Kwk43. As the IS-2U would not have been invulnerable to the Kwk43, the IS-3 and IS-4 projects which were designed to meet the criteria of Kwk43 resistance superseded the IS-2U.

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  10. You are aware that the Soviets made a habit of calling a Pz4h "TIGER", a StuG = "FERDINAND", a Panther = "TIGER2"?

    What Peter said. No, the Russians called Tiger IIs "Panthers", not the other way around.

    And in the case I cited, there WERE indeed Tiger IIs in the battle, plus the the 505th reported losing 7 of them (the 81st Guards Heavy Tank regiment claimed 3 Tigers). While the Soviets didn't achieve a breakthrough, they did 'dent' the German line and gain territory. Given this and that the Germans never claimed a tank lost unless it was irrecoverable, I'd bet the Russians got to take a good look at 7 knocked-out Tiger II tanks up close and got good identifications.

    Again: *12-19 hits to achieve a single penetration with what seems to be Kwk43 Tiger II guns*. At 800-1200 meters, not 2500. Either the IS-2's armor is way more effective than you care to admit, or the Kwk43's gun is not effective as test tables say (maybe some of the latter too, as Russian testing of the Kwk43, even accounting for differences in testing protocols, doesn't result in the values the Germans claimed). Your choice.

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