US light artillery branch proposal

Hi folks ! Erwin0859 there. At the demand of someone everyone here on TAP know and love, I’ve translated a branch proposal about a potential 2nd US arty branch, called “light branch”. It’s gonna be long, so having something to eat meanwhile might be a wise decision, especially during well-deserved holidays ! Anyway, have fun reading all this, and feel free to share your thoughts about it, no matter if about the content or the article itself 😉
For the sake of clarity :

  • every gun name will be written in italic (except picture captions). Example : 122mm SERB Mk. I L/666 (Serguei’s Energetic Ray Beams)
  • every tank name will be written in bold. Example : SerB’s IS-4 “Ekrazatator”
  • TN means “Translator Note”
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Original article in French : click here ! (Credits to ndiver for the article)

This thread results directly from the Swiss tech tree made by anodjl (in French), since two Swiss artilleries are in fact American ones. In order to identify their positions in the Swiss tech tree, it was naturally needed to see which position they could have in an American branch.
Nowadays, the current US artillery branch is classified as a “heavy” branch, starting from tier VII, and based on medium tanks obviously linked to the Second World War.
The proposed branch, linked in a way to the Swiss one, is classified as “light”, so in other words, based on light tanks, new light projects and even some air-transportable ones which are, if we except the first two ones, post-WW2 vehicles.
All the presented vehicles have been built for real (so there are no never-left prototype/blueprint stage cases), and there are still some left in museums, military bases, arsenals… when they aren’t still in service.
This branch’s characteristics would be as follows :

  • light (less than 30 tons for the heaviest)
  • mobility (good pivot speed) without being super fast
  • accuracy from tier IV to tier VIII (a split less for tier IX and X)…
  • … but low firepower (for the M107 and M110, with big guns, big splash ranges but low alpha damage)
  • kinda low rate of fire (so few low-damage shots but with a good probability of hitting their target)
  • a turret from tier IV to tier VIII (no 360° turn for the tier VI though), pseudo-turret on tier IX and X

As a result, we would have two US artillery branches, with clearly opposed characteristics, and their own gameplay compared to the other artillery branches from the game. In addition, all of these proposals are dating from before the end of 1969, which is a kind of time limit for WoT.

Short resume of post-WW2 US arties’ history

At the end of WW2, the US artilleries based on light tanks were based on the M24 Chaffee light tank : the M37 (currently tier IV), as well as the M41 (currently tier V).
Above : the T76, prototype of the M37
Above : the M37
Above : the M41 155 mm HMC (Howitzer Motor Carriage)
The army then requested new artilleries which had to provide a better crew protection (as in, having a roof). This led to the development of two vehicles, the T98 (105 mm) as well as the T99 (155 mm), based on the newly-built T37/T41 light tanks. However, only the T99 went through development.
Above : the T99
After tests, the T41E1 chassis was chosen and some modifications sneaked into the project. A roofless version of the T99 was made (the T97 was considered unsatisfactory, the roof was deleted because of the shells’ smoke which was obviously annoying for the crew), named T194 and later standardized as M44 (currently in the game as tier VI). Since 250 tanks were built already with a roof, they’ve been modified and had their roof removed later on.
Above : the M44
From the M44, the T98 finally saw its development. It basically became a M44 with a closed turret, with a 120° rotation angle (60° on each side), and equipped with a 105 mm Howitzer T96E1 gun (standardized as 105 mm M49 Howitzer). After many little changes, the T98E1 saw the day of light as M52.
Above : the M52

M108 & M109

Later on, many projects saw birth during the Questionmark Conferences II to IV (from September 1952 until June 1954). In September 1953, the launch of a lightweight 110 mm artillery project took place, named T195, followed in May 1954 by the T196 and its 156 mm gun, still in the same lightweight category.
Both are equipped with 360° rotating turrets. As you could imagine, the guns quickly got changed to respectively 105 mm and 155 mm guns (it’s more logical than to use ammunition of a completely atypical caliber).
“Light” implies an estimated weight of 17,5 tons for the T195 and 22,7 tons for the T196 (for comparison, the M44 weighs 29 tons in combat).
After the exact needs were clear, the conclusion arrived: both artilleries could be designed on the same technical basis. Between mid-1958 and late 1959, the construction of the prototypes occured.
Above : the T195′ mockup, and the prototype
Above : The T196′ mockup, and the prototype
After testing and many small changes to care about the suspension’ problems, the production of the T195E1 and T196E1 followed, and then new T195E1 and T196E1 (TN : yes, same names) because of, again, suspension problems.
Once this little matter was gone, the T195E1 and T196E1 were accepted for limited production in December 1961, and accepted for standardization in July 1963 as M108 and M109.
Above : the M108
Above : the M109
Gradually, as time passes, many versions saw birth for the M109 (the current is the M109A7). The 155 mm Howitzer M126 will be replaced by the 155 mm Howitzer M185, more powerful, in order to shoot farther than the M44A1‘s maximum range of 14.500 m (TN : almost 9 miles exactly). This version will be named M109E1 in April 1969, later on standardized in October 1970 as M109A1. Every M109 built will be converted to the M109A1 standard in 1972.
The M109A2 version is characterized by small improvements there and there, with the main one being the ammunition storage at the rear of the turret : it was slightly enlarged, in order to receive more shells (TN : to send more freedom on the enemies !).
The M109A1 which got updated to the M109A2 standard got named M109A3.

Translator note – here, have a little resume 🙂

  • T196 : mockup
  • T196E1 : prototypes with suspension problems
  • M109 : initial version with the 155 mm Howitzer M126 gun
  • M109E1 : M109 with the 155 mm Howitzer M185 gun
  • M109A1 : M109E1 after standardization in October 1970
  • M109A2 : small improvements + enlarged ammorack
  • M109A3 : M109A1 updated to the M109A2 standard

We’ll stop there about the M109, since the A2 standard is adopted by the US Army between 1976 and 1985 and that the A3 standard will be used later to test many improvements.
The M109 as well as its derivatives are still in service in many countries (such as Libya and Turkey), including the M109 and M109A1, showing the scalability, efficiency and success of this vehicle.

M107 & M110

Back to the Future past ! In 1955 to be exact (TN : not sure if on November 5th, cookie if you get the reference)
Anyway, back to 1955.
In August of this year, the Questionmark IV conference highlighted the need for air-transportable vehicles, including “heavy” artillery (understand heavy as “big gun”). In September 1956, 6 vehicles were made, sharing the same chassis and able to have interchangeable guns :

  • 2 T235 with a 175 mm gun, weighing 26,85 tons
  • 3 T236 with a 203 mm gun (8-inch), weighing 25,2 tons
  • 1 T245 with a 155 mm gun, weighing 24,9 tons
The gun is mounted on a turret at the rear, with a 60° horizontal firing arc (30° on each side) and an elevation of 65°. The 155 mm gun is quickly abandoned. The T235E1 and T236E1 (equipped with General Motors 8V71T engines) are standardized as 175 mm self-propelled gun M107 and 8-inch self-propelled howitzer M110. In 1969, the M110 is equipped with the 8-inch Howitzer M201, which was longer, and so, allowed to shoot farther, also creating the A1 standard, so this is how the M110A1 is born.
These vehicles were quite used during the Vietnam War until the Gulf War, but they have been removed since from active duty in the US because the 155 mm (including the M109) are doing well too in terms of firepower and range of fire. The M110A2 standard is still in service in about a dozen countries.

The US light arty branch in World of Tanks ?

We can consider starting this branch at tier IV, since there is already a tank there for this task : the M8 HMC. Yes, it was used a bit as a tank destroyer, but it was firstly and mostly a self-propelled gun. Wargaming admits about the error on the concerned WoT wiki page:

Actually a self-propelled gun, not a tank destroyer.

  • Actual gun elevation is -20°/+40°. In World of Tanks, however, it is only -10°/+25° (-8°/+20° when upgraded).
  • One of its historical armaments, the 75 mm M2 howitzer, is missing.
  • Neither the 57 mm Gun M1 nor 3-inch AT Gun M7 were developed for the M8A1.
So there were 2 different guns : the 75 mm Howitzer M2 and the 75 mm Howitzer M3, with both very good vertical elevations : -20°/+40°.
The other characteristics would be the same as the M8A1.
As anodjl reminded this proposal’s author (in French), there exists an artillery, modelled already but never integrated into the game, despite fitting naturally into this branch : the T88 HMC, as tier V.

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It’s a derivate from the well-known M18 Hellcat equipped with two 105 mm guns : the 105 mm Howitzer M4 as well as the 105 mm Howitzer T51 (coming from the clouds’ 105 mm Howitzer T12 made for the Air Force)

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Same modules as the M18 Hellcat, 2 suspensions (T88 and T88E1), and crew of 5.
At tier VI would be the M52 (derivative from the M44 but with a turret and a 105 mm gun instead of the 155 mm one).

  • Guns : 105 mm Howitzer T96 → 105 mm Howitzer M49
  • Radios : same as M44
  • Suspensions : M52 → M52A1
  • Engines : Continental AOS-895-3 → Continental AOS-895-5 (same as M44, historical)
  • Crew : 5 tankers
  • Armour : 13 mm everywhere (same as M44)

At tier VII would logically be the M108 because of the 105 mm gun it carries.
However, here comes trouble with the M109 : both the M108 and M109 are visually identical if we except the gun as well as what’s on the rear of many artilleries in the game to absorb the recoil (TN : for harvesting suicidal tomatoes). So the tier difference would only result with these two facts (and because of the difference of firepower, many M108 were converted to M109).

  • Guns : 105 mm Howitzer M49 (stock, but unhistorical) → 105 mm Howitzer T252 → 105 mm Howitzer M103
  • Radios : historically, no radios (TN : wtf ?), so AN/PRC-10 → AN/PRC-25
  • Suspensions : T195 → M108
  • Engines : General Motors 8V71T
  • Crew : driver, commander, gunner, gunner’s assistant*, loader (* can be made either 2nd gunner, 2nd loader or radio operator)
  • Armour : 32 mm everywhere

At tier VIII would be the M109, characterized by its 155 mm guns : first the 155 mm Howitzer T186E1, then the 155 mm Howitzer T255 and finally the 155 mm Howitzer T255E4 (also called 155 mm Howitzer M126). In other words, the M109 will be interesting only if the stock version is the M109 and the full version the M109A1.

  • Guns : 155 mm Howitzer T186E1 → 155 mm Howitzer T255 → 155 mm Howitzer M126
  • Radios : historically, no radios, so AN/PRC-10 → AN/PRC-25
  • Suspensions : T195 → M109
  • Engines : General Motors 8V71T
  • Crew : driver, commander, gunner, gunner’s assistant*, 2 loaders (* can be made either 2nd gunner, 3rd loader or radio operator)
  • Armour : 32 mm everywhere

At tier IX would lay the 175 mm self-propelled gun M107. Both the tier IX and tier X are almost identical, but the tier X will get 8 inch guns while the tier IX inherits from the T245‘s 155 mm gun in addition to its 175 mm gun.

  • Guns : 155 mm Howitzer (unspecified version, so M126 ?) → 175 mm Gun M113
  • Radios : historically, no radios, so AN/PRC-10 → AN/PRC-25
  • Suspensions : T236 → M107
  • Engines : Continental AOI-628-3 → Continental AVDS-750 or Caterpillar LDS-750 (experimental mount) → General Motors 8V71T
  • Crew : driver, commander, gunner, 2 loaders
  • Armour : 13 mm where sheet metal was

And finally, the tier 10 : the 8 inch self-propelled howitzer M110. Basically a boosted version of the tier IX but visually identical, excepting the gun of course.

  • Guns : 8 inch Howitzer M2A2 → 8 inch Howitzer M201 (207 mm)
  • Radios : historically, no radio, so AN/PRC-25
  • Suspensions : T236 → M107
  • Engines : General Motors 8V71T
  • Crew : driver, commander, gunner, 2 loaders
  • Armour : 13 mm on the rare places where sheet metal was
Sources used for the original article (still in French) :
Hunnicutt, R. P. Stuart, A History of the American Light Tank; Volume 1
Hunnicutt, R. P. Sheridan, A History of the American Light Tank; Volume 2

I hope you enjoyed reading it, again, feel free to share your thoughts and take care meanwhile 🙂
– Erwin0859