FV215 Heavy Tank Destroyer: IS-3 Killer

Author: Mark Nash
Site: Tanks-Encyclopedia

The IS Killer That Never Was

After witnessing the debut of the Soviet IS-3 heavy tank at the end of WWII, the western armies were, safe to say, a little bit worried. As such the British immediately began work on new vehicles that could combat this new threat. In 1950, work began on the FV215. This was a little known British tank-destroyer project that never left the conceptual phase. It was set to be an IS killer, and would no doubt have sent a very cold shiver down the spine of Soviet tank crews.

This vehicle is known by many names, FV215 Heavy Anti-Tank SP No.2, Gun Tank No.2, or simply FV215. The design phase began November 1950 after a meeting was held by the War Office to determine just what vehicle would be suitable to carry the new QF 183 mm (7.2 in) L4 cannon. Morris were first to be given charge over development, but this was later handed over to Vickers-Armstrong.

Design

The design team chose to base the vehicle on the chassis of the FV200. The chassis underwent minimal modifications, the largest change being the repositioning of the turret to the rear of the vehicle. This was to avoid the extremely large main armament hanging over the bow too far. The driver also remained at the front right of the tank.

A small scale mock-up of the vehicle. Photo: – Courtesy of Ed Francis

This image displays the Commanders position inside the mock-up turret. Photo: – Courtesy of Ed Francis

The large box-like turret mounting the 183 mm (7.2 in) main armament, in theory, had a full 360 Degrees of traverse, but this was not recommended on sloping services. It was commonly believed that the turret could only traverse 90 Degrees left and right. Despite its large size, there was still not enough room inside the turret for a working loading mechanism. As such, the predicted 6 rounds per minute would have been a hopeless fantasy. It is expected that this vehicle would need 2 loaders to service the weapon, but even so, the desired loading time would likely have gone un-reached. The vehicle had a meager load out, also likely due to space constraints, carrying only 20 separately loading rounds. The combined weight of charge and projectile was 104.8 kg. Not an easy task for the two loaders.

Defensive armament consisted of a machine gun of unknown caliber, most likely a .30 cal (7.62 mm) machine-gun. It was mounted in a small structure on the forward right of the turret roof. It was able to aim up and down a few degrees. There was also one .50 cal (12.7 mm) M2HB on an AA mounting above the commander’s hatch, on the right rear of the turret.

A Rare photo of the forward deck of the FV215. Photo: – Courtesy of Ed Francis

The armor thicknesses of the vehicle changed throughout its development. As it was intended as a relatively long range vehicle, its reliance on armor would have been minimal. None the less, it was given similar armor properties to the Conqueror. The upper plate varied from 125 to 152 mm (4.92 – 6 in) thick. The sides plates were 50 mm (1.97 in) thick, with spaced armor in front. The turret had the thickest armor on its front. It was 254 mm (10 inches) thick.

The vehicle was designed to be powered by an 810 hp Meteor Mk.12 engine. This would’ve propelled the 65-ton vehicle to 32 km/h (20 mph).

FV215 Heavy Gun Tank

Dimensions  N/A
Total weight 65 tons
Crew 5 (driver, gunner, commander, x2 loaders)
Propulsion 810 hp Meteor Mk.12
Speed (road) 31.7 Kph ( mph)
Armament QF 183mm L4 Tank Gun
.30 Cal. machine gun.
.50 M2HB Machine gun.
Armor 125 to 152 mm (0.79-3.07 in) hull front, 50mm (1.9 in) sides, 254 mm (10 inches) thick on the turret face.
The mockup of the FV215, showing the monstrous cannon. This stage is as far as the FV215 project got. Source: warspot.ru
The mockup of the FV215, showing the monstrous cannon. This stage is as far as the FV215 project got. Source: warspot.ru

The QF 183mm L4

In 1950 work started on the QF 183 mm (7.2 in) L4 gun. At the time it was the largest and most powerful tank gun in the world. The cannon was based on the 183 mm BL 7.2 inch howitzer, a WWI era weapon. The gun itself weighed a mighty 4 tons, and when fired produced 87 tons worth of recoil force. A shell of this size would understandably produce a substantial amount of fumes and smoke inside of the fighting compartment. As such, a large fume extractor was added to the barrel, a relatively new feature at the time.

One of the Ammunition stowage areas inside the mock-up turret, the scale of the Shell can be apreciate from the size of the cut-out. Photo: – Courtesy of Ed Francis

The L4 was designed to be chambered for only one type of ammunition, HESH (High Explosive Squashed Head). One can only imagine the devastation an explosive shell of this size would cause to a hostile vehicle. Whether the shell penetrated or not, the concussive force of such and explosion on the crew inside would be deadly in its own right.

The 183mm was tested in live fire trials against a Centurion and a Conqueror. In 2 shots, the 183 blew the turret clean off the Centurion, and split the mantlet of the Conqueror in half.

Fate

Alas, the FV215 project never came to be. The Morris company was the first to be tasked with building a full-scale model, followed by two prototypes, one to test mobility, and for armor testing. In June 1954, Vickers-Armstrong became the owners of the contract and were given the same task.

A face on photograph of the smaller scale mock-up with gun elevated. Photo: – Courtesy of Ed Francis

January 1957 marked the end of the road for the SPG, even though the requested scale model was finished, and 80% of the blueprints were ready and waiting for further development. The intended role of the vehicle had been over taken by increasing development of ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles). These granted the same, if not better, anti-armor capabilities, with the experiments ultimately culminating in the Malkara and Orange William missile systems.

The only 183mm armed vehicles to reach prototype phase were the FV4005 Stage I and Stage II. Both vehicles were based on the Centurion MBT. The Stage I featured an exposed gun with an automatic loading system, on a limited traverse ring. The Stage II featured a fully enclosed turret, with a full 360-degree traverse. As the loading system wouldn’t fit in the turret, it was removed.

Just one vehicle was used for both prototypes. The Stage II now sits outside the Tank Museum in Bovington.

Busting a Myth, The FV215b

This vehicle has showcased in Wargamming’s “World of Tanks” for quite some time now, but it is almost certainly a fake vehicle. It is a FV215 with a rear mounted Conqueror turret and the 120 mm L1A1 gun.

The vehicle was thought to have come into existence because of a confusion with the designation FV215 heavy gun tank. It was interpreted as a second separate project but was, in fact, one and the same. Even the designation of FV215b is somewhat of a misnomer.

A blueprint of the FV215 from the 1950s. Source: warspot.ru
A blueprint of the FV215 from the 1950s. Source: warspot.ru

Links & Resources

The Heavy Gun Tank on warspot.ru (Russian).
English translation of the above.

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31 thoughts on “FV215 Heavy Tank Destroyer: IS-3 Killer

      1. I hear tanks that struggle to hit mid 30’s makes good tier10 MT material.

        O wait

        Stop pretending that making it a Heavy is a mistake.

        Like

  1. FV215 and its HESH loadout may be historical, but the way HESH work in WoT isnt. And I hardly see WG keep a shell that can oneshot a tier X with 230mm pen after the global rebalance so they will have to rework it at some point ; because removing it wouldnt be a solution.

    Like

    1. In all fairness, HESH against the selection of tanks currently ingame would be laughably OP.

      Point and click adventure game, only failing to do damage when you hit a mantlet or ridiculously well armored zones.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Actually, Soviet tanks would be the most affected because of their focus on very highly angled armor.

          T-54 would be auto-pen everywhere but the tiny mantlet and turret around the mantlet, same for the IS7,IS3, T-62A and all the T-series in general, except for the T-44 which would be auto-pen basically everywhere. IS4 maybe be immune to 120mm HESH on the UFP but not to 105mm HESH, because apparently the 120mm HESH round has less explosives than the 105mm one. Fuck logic.
          Same for the Chinese knockoffs.

          On the other hand, German herp derp heavies would be immune to HESH frontally, obviously other than from the ridiculously penis over compensating 183mm gun.

          In short, tanks that would resist the most would be tanks with over 150mm of armor and large mantlets. And that tends not to be the case with Soviet tanks.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. “In short, tanks that would resist the most would be tanks with over 150mm of armor and large mantlets. And that tends not to be the case with Soviet tanks.”
            Sounds like something WOT really need – it would “balance” soviet tanks, they would be still OP against german, but weak against british.

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            1. The problem with that is that it would still murder US, French, British, Swedish, Chinese and Czech tanks.

              Only the US and British would be marginally better off thanks to their mantlets.
              And even then, not all Brit tanks since they don’t all have overlapping turret/mantlet armor.

              I may have stopped playing WoT a year ago, but even I know that the last thing it needs is another mindless point and click ammo type.

              Like

          2. Oh, my! Yes please!
            I know it’s just a wet dream, seeing all the damned Soviet tanks just die instantly, but still, a man can wish…

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            1. I know, right?

              Seeing a pro MLG sniper hero hulldown object140 slinging HEAT rounds like it was the a 1960’s Soviet general’s wet dream at Fulda Gap, and just wanting a shell type that would brutalily sodomize the tank’s gunner, loader and commander. in on go.

              Alas, some semblance of balance is in order, and the one thing more idiotic than 300mm+ HEAT rounds going at 1200m/s would be HESH rounds against pre-modern tanks with no spall liners.

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                1. It’s not sarcastic, I loathed the idiotic Russian tanks slinging easy mode HEAT rounds while hulldown with “balanced bowl turrets )))))))) ”

                  But solving one problem with an even bigger one isn’t really a solution >.<

                  Like

                  1. Oh. Well, you know how the actual solution would be by making the well balanced soviet tanks historically accurate – like splitting the current T-54 into the 3-4 vehicles it is Frankenstein’s Monstered from.

                    That alone would solve 70% of the problems with the red scum tanks.

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                  2. I loathed the idiotic Russian tanks slinging easy mode HEAT rounds while hulldown with “balanced bowl turrets )))))))) ”

                    Maybe don’t get shot by hulldown Russian tank in hulldown position 🙂
                    And ofcourse you forgot to mention hulldown E3, hulldown Kranvagn, 113, 215b etc. Because only russian tanks are OP 🙂

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                    1. And when CW is comprised of 10 113s or 10 fv215b, I’ll concede your point.

                      But considering that last time I played, CW and any form of competitive mode was majoritarily stronk soviet tonks, with a heavy accent on both the IS7 and o140s because of their sheer flexibility, turret armor, and bullshit lucky bounce ability, I’ll stick with my own opinion.

                      Like

                    2. I can’t reply to you anymore so I’ll reply to my own comment

                      First things first, randoms and competitive gamemodes are separate. Just because tanks are used in competitive modes doesn’t mean they are best pub tanks, just that they fit what is required for competitive play – certain armor and speed, good firepower.
                      There is also a difference between SH and CW – for SH’s you want to be as flexible as possible, because you don’t know what map you’ll play. In CW’s almost anything can be used, because you know what you’re gonna do before the match even loads up.

                      Look at 7/68 – Batchat is the most used tank, yet I don’t hear daily cries about it being OP. Hell, double Maus is being used on Ruinberg, Maus best tank in the game confirmed?

                      SH’s ARE based heavily on E5’s/113’s when it comes to heavies, 50b is also used and Kranvags is making it’s way. IS-7 or IS-4 are not common, and are mostly used in CW’s for specific positions – hulldown/sidescrape. They are about as common as E100, T57 or 215b.

                      Mediums are heavily dominated by 140, because it’s the most flexible tank. Apart from them Batchats are used as scouts/in small groups to take out small number of opponents. TVP can be used as sniper with fast burst, and rarely you can see STB for short range hulldown fight where the DPM can be utilized. Rest lack either DPM, mobility or armor.

                      Like

  2. Now imagine what could have happened if rocket/missile technology didn’t develop or doesn’t develop as we know it! Imagine the size of tank guns and dimensions of armor on the vehicles that could have been built to counter this monster!

    Oh my, a convenient tanker’s wet dream!
    But no, the anti tank missiles had to ruin it, the old era tanking is long gone….

    Like

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