Were German tanks over engineered?

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maltesefalcon
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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by maltesefalcon » 12 Jun 2017 03:09

T. A. Gardner wrote:There is also the fit and finish aspect of German tanks. They had very high quality armor plate, elegant welding, and lots of extra "bits" installed.

For example, manufacturers could have done away with many of the vision ports and flaps on early models to simplify production. Switching things like seat from leather to canvas should have been done the day the war started. Keep quality where it mattered, and get rid of frills and "nice to have" stuff immediately.

The Czech Pz 38 was a much simpler vehicle than the Pz III, yet it was able to generally fill the same role early in the war. It's a clear example of how the German designs were over engineered and too high of quality were it really made little difference.
Some good points above, but the prewar tanks were designed 1934-35 when there was no threat of war. The army was small then and quality over quanity was important. Because the war expanded quickly, shortcuts in production methods were required. The MG34 suffered a similar fate. It was a fine weapon but harder to make in very large numbers than the MG42 that replaced it.

The ongoing changes to the did not always improve the design. It only cheapened the final product. So this is not a reflection of overdesign but of limitations in the German manufacturing capability. Two exceptions of changes that did improve things were the use of Zimmerit and plates or screens to defeat shaped charge weapons.

Three questions to be asked to see if the German 25 year design was overengineered.

1) Did the original design last 25 years? No. They did not even last halfway through the war.
2) Did the original designs produce Panzers that were overwhelmingly better than those of the enemy? Also no.
3) Did any of the tanks built on the original design survive 25 years? Hard to prove but I doubt it.

So in closing I would say the 25 year design was more of a catchphrase and a hope, than a practical reality.

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by Stiltzkin » 20 Jun 2017 02:20

A few thoughts on "Overengineered":
Were British tanks overengineered? Were French tanks overengineered?
It is probably as accurate as stories like, Soviet hordes of Riflemen and Cavalry charging tanks with sabers. Overengineered Pak 40s, I have read these too (the only overengineered equipment would be something like the Gewehr 41).

The myth of cost effective Soviet and American tanks is still stuck in peoples heads I see.
The number of produced tanks reflects the demands of the forces, the army force size and losses. Weapons are also cultural and are based on a nations surroundings. The Hittites knew Iron works while the Egyptians relied on Bronze, yet they had a lot of experience with Chariots, just to give an "ancient" example.
To understand war economy and procurement one cannot just look on the narrow field of tanks.

The more "subtleties" added and the higher the quality of your gear is, the higher the CEV and the lower your losses are going to be relative to your opponent during combat (except things like capture, abandonment and subsequent blow up etc.). The Soviets had a very high focus on tank production, they also had tremendously high losses, hence their output needed to be high. The "lifetime" of a tank during wartimes is going to be dictated by the enemy, this will also translate into production quality. Loss rates and chemical analyses are quality indicators.
In fact, the USSR selected the best materials for their armed forces including high investments in relation to their per capita GDP, that is typical for communist regimes and dictatorships, despite prevalent famines.
The cost of a T-34 was comparable to that of a late war Sherman type (around 50,000$), with the USSR having only 1/3 of the per capita GDP of the Unites States. The Soviets were an interesting case: They managed to field such a large army and arm their forces, producing gear on the run. It was of lower quality but they kept the stream alive and it was specialized for the EF, occassionally it did not suffice so this is one of the several reasons why the war dragged on for 4 years. The interesting thing here is that T-34s still used the very same unmodified/unimproved Christie Suspension when the combined UN forces encountered them in Korea, the Americans sold them decades before, while the British already relied on heavily modified installments. The strongest weapon of the Soviets was always ideology and not technological innovations.

Germany was producing gear out of cheap materials and including components made out of Bakelit, they possessed steel stamping procedures and methods the Soviets did not even have before 1950 (after "acquiring" them), just look at the amount of wood the Soviets were using in all of their weapons (AK to AKM, that is when the true mass production started).
Cheap, Stg 44s, MG42s and MP 40s are good examples: Condensed (simplistic) sophistication and principles produced under resource scarcity and scrutiny (quality control). Precondition? Highly industrialized countries with manufacturing traditions. Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, France, Belgium, Britain, Czech Republic etc. they all have high manufacturing standards. The US Army is producing licensed Minimi FN Herstal MG 249s and Beretta FS 92 for the USMC, procuring HK416 and 417 for their special forces and so on, they buy them for a reason. Europe and Japan had high manufacturing skills and standards, it was like that before and after the war (although Japan was still in the development phase, comparable to the south east asian pacific region today). It is a question of reliability.
A better question would be: "Is a MG-34 overengineered in comparison to a MG42?" Yes, to a certain extend (and from and economic standpoint it is) but it is not an overall better weapon. It sacrifices accuracy and lifetime for ROF and manufacturing costs. Everything has ad- and disadvantages.

To answer the OPs question: Prewar manufacturing is always going to be of higher quality. Look at the Soviet quality drops during the war (especially Uralmash factory output 42-44, Nizhny Tagil etc.) and on the other side a lack of alloys caused a quality drop in 44 for the Germans. AFVs are going to have a "rough finish" not because of "overengineering" problems but because of the hopeless situation their country is going to find themselves in (or perhaps because they were built by unskilled/forced labour).

Producing lower quality weapons would have hurt the German armed forces, producing far beyond necessary levels would have also hurt their economy and resource pool. In warfare you want to have a combination of both: Quantity armed with gear of sufficient quality.

So if we would apply everyone's logic the issue should be reformulated: The very reason why Germany was able to fight against such odds (a middle sized industrial country), was because it had solid engineering and a strong economy. Imagine a country of the size of Cuba inflicting five times the losses on the US, making it deep into the Oak Ridge facilities in under 4 months.

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by Michael Kenny » 20 Jun 2017 02:35

Stiltzkin wrote:The very reason why Germany was able to fight against such odds (a middle sized industrial country), was because it had solid engineering and a strong economy.
Germany might have been able to 'fight' but never came close to winning. Germany was in dire need of academics rather than engineers, Then historians could remind her of her fate 1914-18. Making the same mistake twice in 25 years is just plain dumb.

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by maltesefalcon » 20 Jun 2017 03:37

Lets harken back to the original post. Forget about a Tiger tank or anything of the kind in the 1930s. PzII was virtually useless and PzI does not even qualify as a true tank. So looking at PzIII and IV you will realize they were both at Ausf. D before the war even started. This was simply the best the German economy and inexperienced factories could provide at the time.

So no, they weren't over engneered. The designs were refined over an 8 to 10 year period. Expecting a Tiger or Panther to self evolve in a pre-war environment under these circumstances is pure fantasy.

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 20 Jun 2017 04:56

Yes, a lot of German equipment was definitely over-engineered. Look for example at their halftracks. These had torsion bar suspension, used a complex overlapped bogie system, had very expensive rubber pad (replaceable) lubricated roller pin tracks, a complex steering system that added in track steering (the halftracks were more like three quarter tracks) to the front wheels when you tried to turn more than a certain amount. All that made them expensive and complex to produce to no real useful purpose in terms of war production.

Or, their early war motor vehicles. Many of the standard purpose built vehicles had independent unequal A arm sprung suspensions using half shafts for power take off. Complex and expensive to build compared to the usual solid axle, leaf spring suspensions of the time. This resulted in low production outputs as the manufacturing process took longer per vehicle. In service, these vehicles didn't prove more reliable, just more complex to maintain.

German tank gun sights were definitely well made and very good. Much better than the Allied ones. But, there were also more complex and expensive to produce. I really don't think the trade off was worth the extra cost and quality.

Here's what the bow machinegunner on a panzer got for a sighting system and to control his weapon:

Image

Here's what the same crewman on a Sherman had to work with.

Image

The German system is undoubtedly better for accuracy, but man is it over-engineered.

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by Yoozername » 20 Jun 2017 07:19

Is that a bow MG? It looks more like a weapon station in a bunker?

If anything, the German bow gunner had a sight. The sherman gunners walked tracers into an area using a periscope.
Image

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T. A. Gardner
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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 20 Jun 2017 08:28

Here's some more panzer hull mg mounts:

Image

The one you show is missing many of the parts of the full mount

Image

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by Sheldrake » 20 Jun 2017 08:51

T. A. Gardner wrote:Yes, a lot of German equipment was definitely over-engineered. Look for example at their halftracks. These had torsion bar suspension, used a complex overlapped bogie system, had very expensive rubber pad (replaceable) lubricated roller pin tracks, a complex steering system that added in track steering (the halftracks were more like three quarter tracks) to the front wheels when you tried to turn more than a certain amount. All that made them expensive and complex to produce to no real useful purpose in terms of war production.

Or, their early war motor vehicles. Many of the standard purpose built vehicles had independent unequal A arm sprung suspensions using half shafts for power take off. Complex and expensive to build compared to the usual solid axle, leaf spring suspensions of the time. This resulted in low production outputs as the manufacturing process took longer per vehicle. In service, these vehicles didn't prove more reliable, just more complex to maintain.

German tank gun sights were definitely well made and very good. Much better than the Allied ones. But, there were also more complex and expensive to produce. I really don't think the trade off was worth the extra cost and quality.

The German system is undoubtedly better for accuracy, but man is it over-engineered.
A thought provoking post. You are right. German industry's response to the T34 was the Panther. Value engineering wasn't a natural concept for German industry. True - under wartime pressure designs were simplified, but there were pressure to complicate designs. Hitler liked clever technology and was a sucker for gimmicks and the Nazi regime resulted in very expensive projects.

Whether a particular feature is "over engineered" depends on how important the feature is to the purpose of the equipment. The ability to maintain situational awareness and hit a target first is critical. (IRRC one of the British scientific studies into tank perfomance in North Africa picked out German sights as the reason for German superiority in tank v tank combat. Having better sights than the enemy is critical. German tanks were also fitted for radio and they avoided combining the role of tank commander with gunner and or loader that hampered French and Soviet designs.

Complicated steering and suspension may offer only a marginal benefit to an AFV. If they result in reduced reliability they subtract value. An un-battleworthy tank has limited value - (though the spectre of Tiger tanks in the minds of Allied tank crews had a value even when the Tigers themselves were on the side of the road with the back decks up)

The Pz I, II, III and IV were reliable tanks for 1939-40. They were better

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by Yoozername » 20 Jun 2017 15:25

Again, the first picture you show is not a panzer machine gun mount but a bunker setup. Compare...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sechsscha ... _Mare_Mill
Image

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T. A. Gardner
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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 20 Jun 2017 16:33

Yoozername wrote:Again, the first picture you show is not a panzer machine gun mount but a bunker setup. Compare...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sechsscha ... _Mare_Mill
Image
Ah... But, still over engineered... :D

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by Michael Kenny » 20 Jun 2017 17:51

Sheldrake wrote: IRRC one of the British scientific studies into tank perfomance in North Africa picked out German sights as the reason for German superiority in tank v tank combat.
A small aside in Montgomery's Scientist's page 11 :

'

Solandt's initial ORG report analysed crew casualties in the Mark III Matilda Infantry Tank
during the first EI Alamein battle, July 1942. Other work focussed on methods of ranging, firing on the
move and the German all-around vision cupola.Studies comparing the gunsights used in German and
British tanks led to important results and an object lesson in OR methods. Solandt recalled this
investigation as one of the highlights of his time at Lulworth. The problem presented to Solandt was
that "the Germans had introduced a new tank gunsight which was vastly superior to the British sight."
Tank crews in the desert were sure that it was the new sight that made it possible for the Germans to
knock out British tanks at long range before they were themselves in danger. However, careful
measurements showed the British gunsight was accurate. The German sight was similarly tested and
found to be inferior. "We were therefore forced," Solandt wrote, "to treat it as an operations research
rather than a technical problem.
Solandt's team studied "the whole weapon system" undertaking "first class fundamental research
which shed light on the whole process of aiming a gun and which subsequently produced important
improvements in various aiming systems." None of this research solved the immediate problem of
what was actually happening in the desert. It was not until 1943 that firing tests against captured
German tanks revealed the existence of face hardened armour which existing British shot could not
penetrate.

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by Yoozername » 20 Jun 2017 17:54

German tank gun sights were definitely well made and very good. Much better than the Allied ones. But, there were also more complex and expensive to produce. I really don't think the trade off was worth the extra cost and quality.
The Soviets basically copied the articulated gun sights for the T34/85. So, they would disagree with you.

i suppose I have an issue with the whole concept of what people think they mean when they say 'over engineered'. The bow MG on a sherman is performing a function. A similar function to the German BMG. But, clearly, the German BMG is superior in performance. It has a magnified gunsight inline with the weapon. The sherman gunner must use his periscope and tracers to engage targets. So, one might look at pictures (the correct ones), and make opinions, but there is more to the story than that. The German BMG could change out its barrel. It is better armored IMO.

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 20 Jun 2017 20:11

And, post war, the BMG position rapidly disappeared from tanks and crews shrank to 4 men in most cases. That makes a strong argument that the BMG was largely worthless and the effort and expense the Germans put into making it better during the war was a waste. But, that's just one of many cases of German over-engineering.

This is the Krupp Protze kfz 70. Look at the complex suspension on the driven wheels...

Image

Compare it to the much simpler leaf spring suspension of the CCKW:

Image

Krupp made about 7,000 Protze. GMC made about half a million CCKW.

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by stg 44 » 20 Jun 2017 23:44

T. A. Gardner wrote:And, post war, the BMG position rapidly disappeared from tanks and crews shrank to 4 men in most cases. That makes a strong argument that the BMG was largely worthless and the effort and expense the Germans put into making it better during the war was a waste. But, that's just one of many cases of German over-engineering.

This is the Krupp Protze kfz 70. Look at the complex suspension on the driven wheels...

Image

Compare it to the much simpler leaf spring suspension of the CCKW:

Image

Krupp made about 7,000 Protze. GMC made about half a million CCKW.
Yeah GMC didn't have B17s blowing up their production lines; Krupp was a wasteland at the end of the war.
Image

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Re: Were German tanks over engineered?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 21 Jun 2017 00:26

Yeah GMC didn't have B17s blowing up their production lines; Krupp was a wasteland at the end of the war.
Neither did Krupp. The Protze was produced almost entirely pre-war. Production ended in 1941, well before Germany was ash.

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