You have probably heard about the American experimental heavy tank T34 somewhere, maybe from World of Tanks, War Thunder or Wikipedia. It’s described as having an excellent penetration at about 247 mm from 100 m, which is a feat compared to the German 8.8 cm KwK 43 gun armed on the Tiger II. But did you know that it could do more than that?
A bit of Background
The T34 was a WWII prototype heavy tank developed in 1945 in response to the German armored threats such as the Tiger II and Jagdtiger. The T29 was considered satisfactory enough in term of performance with its 105 mm T5E1, but lacked serious firepower in contrast to the 12.8 cm cannon. The T30 was only armed with a 155 mm as a bunker buster, with sub-par anti-tank performance across the board. As such, a project was initiated to rearm the T29/T30 with a modified 120 mm M1 AA gun, the 120 mm T53 L/65. Firing a 23 kg heavy projectile at 960 m/s, the gun was able to closely match the performance of said German gun. Unfortunately for the Americans, World War II was already over by the time the T34 was assembled. Post-War development led to the T34’s engine being upgraded from using the Ford GAC to Continental AV1790. Extensive trials of the T34 as a “technology demonstrator” led to the M103 Heavy Gun Tank.
The earliest known record of the requirement to develop the T34 heavy tank was from the first of February, 1945. The Army expressed concern about using the 155 mm gun with heavyweight 100 lb projectiles on the T30 (M112B1), mainly because of the effectiveness of it against enemy tank armor, with the rate of fire calculated in. It was expected to be very ineffective (the M112B1 only penetrates 170 mm of armor from point blank, while the rate of fire from the gun is only 3 RPM). Seeing the potential problem that would likely cause an unnecessary issue in the future, the Ordnance Department went to study for possible application of the 120 mm M1 anti-aircraft gun for the heavy tank.