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Old 07-04-2011, 12:29 PM   #1 
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Parts of a Tank

Every armored fighting vehicle splits into three main compartments: Driving compartment, fighting compartment and engine compartment. For a basic description, however, it is easier to divide the vehicles into hull and turret/superstructure, where hull contains driving and engine compartments and turret/superstructure contains fighting compartment.


Hull usually houses driving compartment (Driver or driver and assistant driver/radio operator) and engine compartment, plus of course part of the fighting compartment and ammunition storage.

Ammo Rack - ammunition storage, the function is clear: To store and to protect ammunition. However many compromises have to be made with regards to the amount of ammunition, thus ammo rack is always a weak part of any tank.

Armor - Basic attribute of tank, armor grants it protection from enemy fire. Armor has usually varying thickness and slopes and is usually split into front armor (incl. glacis), side armor (often split between upper and lower with different thicknesses/slopes) and rear armor.

Armor Skirts - Additional armor designed to protect weaker-protected parts of tanks, usually hull sides. Introduced by German designers to protect primarily against 14.5mm antitank rifle projectiles and 76mm HE shells, it was found this additional armor is able, in good conditions, to damage capped AP projectiles (see APC, APCBC and APBC) and to degrade penetration of HEAT weapons (though at angles around 90°, it actually augmented the penetration in some cases).

Bow Machinegun - Forward-firing auxillary weapon, meant to give more protection to the tank at short ranges. Usually mounted in a flexible ball mount to provide atleast some field of fire, however since it was generally used for suppression fire, some tanks mounted bow machinegun in a fixed mount, fired by driver and set to hit the ground 200-300 meters in front of the vehicle.

Chassis - General term used for all parts of hull connected to engine/transmission/suspension. Often vehicles use the chame chassis, even though they serve completely different purposes.

Engine - The core of the tank, providing power and source of devastating fires. In WWII, usually rear-mounted. Petrol engines were considered more flammable than diesel engines, but the difference was not all that important usually when a shell hit the tank.

Fuel Tank - Storage of the fuel for engine. Always source of trouble, as it is storage of highly flammable material - usually found whereever there is enough free space and still not enough, some tanks mounted also external fuel tanks. Diesel fuel is somewhat harder to set on fire than petrol, but to compensate it is also harder to put off once it starts burning. Damaged fuel tank raises the risk of fire on further hits.

Fenders - Thin metallic protection of tracks, serving mostly to catch mud flying off them.

Glacis - Highly sloped (at least relatively) part of front armor or (with later, all-sloped tanks) upper front armor. Sloped armor is intended to increase protection while reducing weight by using slope effect, works generally well against projectiles of similar caliber to glacis thickness.

Hatch - Means to access crew seats in the tank. Whereas roof hatches are usually well hidden, driver's hatch is sometimes located on the tank glacis as on the T-34.

Idler Wheel - Part of the running gear of tank, idler wheel serves to propel the tracks. Damage to it can immobilise tank (see Wittmann's Villers-Bocage adventure). Especially important for changes in detracking mechanics in 6.4.

Periscope - Periscopic devices were used to provide visibility with closed hatches without need to have a vision slit in tank's glacis/walls, thus removing said weak spots.

Schürzen - German name for Armor Skirts.

Sponson - Part of tank hull located above tracks. Often used to store ammunition, in some cases also to mount tank's armament. This is most prominent on M3 Lee, where the main tank's armament is sponson-mounted.

Suspension - Means of suppressing vehicle shaking with various bumps on the road. In WWII, spring suspension or torsion bar suspension were usually used, though many tanks used also Christie suspension (most prominently BT series and T-34). Suspension limits how much weight can the tank carry without serious penalties to mobility.

Transmission - Transfers power from the engine to idler wheels, includes gearbox allowing switching gears. In game treated as part of engine, that's why German and US tanks suffer front hull engine damage so often. Also cause why they are taller than T-34 family.

Tracks - Secret of tank's mobility over broken terrain, tracks allow to cross difficult spot better than wheels. On the other hand they are fairly vulnerable to enemy fire.

Viewport - Means for the crew to see outside the tank with closed hatches. Most used methods were vision slits in earlier vehicles or later periscopes.

Vision Slit - Viewport built directly into vehicle's wall/front armor. Usually very lightly protected and thus vulnerable, moreover a crew member usually sits just behind them and a direct hit will incapacitate him.


The fighting compartment of AFVs contains vehcle's primary armament and, usually, is located in a distinct fixed superstructure or, in case of tanks, in rotating turret. Usual crew of the fighting compartment includes vehicle commander, gunner and loader, however these functions can be combined - extreme case is for example French Hotchkiss 38H, where Commander also performed the role of gunner, loader and radio operator.

Ammo Rack - ammunition storage, the function is clear: To store and to protect ammunition. However many compromises have to be made with regards to the amount of ammunition, thus ammo rack is always a weak part of any tank. Ready ammo rack, usually found in turret, was in most tanks totally unprotected and thus very vulnerable.

Armor - Basic attribute of tank, armor grants it protection from enemy fire. Armor has usually varying thickness and slopes and is usually split into front armor (incl. mantlet), side armor and rear armor. Turret armor is always more exposed than hull armor, especially if vehicle is fighting from hull-down positions. In case of rotating turret it also presents even more compromises than hull armor, as it influences the balance and thus turning of the turret - for example this is the reason PzKpfw IV ended war with just 50mm front turret armor.

Cupola - Additional small "turret" on top of superstructure/tank turret, usually reserved for commander, providing him with 360° vision. However the downside is that cupolas usually present a rather vulnerable target and their damage means incapacitation of the vehicle's commander.

Gun - Main armament of AFV. For more detailed description see the Armament section. May mount a Muzzle Brake.

Gun Shield
- See Mantlet.

Mantlet - Moving part of armor, attached to the gun, protecting the gap in front armor through which the gun passes. Mantlets came in different sizes and shapes - and also functions. Mantlets usually aprtially overlap front armor, though in case of Tiger I, gun shield/mantlet is THE turret front armor, same as with Sherman (76). The second extreme is Sherman (75), where originally narrow gun shied expanded to cover a weaker part of front turret armor with additional layer.

Muzzle Brake - Device redirecting part of propellant gases at the muzzle of the gun to reduce recoil. While muzzle brake can take away as much as 70% of gun recoil, thus enabling for faster target acquisition after shooting and reducing stress on vehicle, it causes other problems connected with the sound volume and muzzle blast magnitude.

Turret Bustle - either integral part of rear turret, or additional box mounted on its outside, turret bustle usually serves either as mmunition storage (if integral) or to mount various equipment, such as radio (either internal or external), or just to store tools or equipment.

Turret Ring - Obviously, present only with rotating turrets, turret ring covers a bearing/turret rotation mechanism. Vulnerable spot on most tanks, as armor is usually thinner than on the rest of turret and sensitive machinery/crew is just behind.


Automatic Cannon - Rapid-fire weapon of 20mm or larger caliber. Used in early-war light tanks to give them edge versus their (by then) machinegun-armed opponents. However, quick shell-vs-armor race left automatic cannons rapidly behind and used only by few specialised German reconnaissance vehicles. However, automatic cannons vastly expanded in the region of anti-aircraft defense. Typical examples: 20mm KwK 38, 20mm TNSh

Gun - Generally a shot or shell-firing weapon using lower register (below 45°) for direct fire, most often falls into following categories:

Gun, Anti-Tank - Self-explanatory. Antitank guns are designed with one main purpose in mind, and that is to punch holes into armored targets. The main aim of such gun is to fire a high-velocity shell at very flat trajectory and, if possible, accurately. To achieve this, antitank guns have usually long barrel (50-70 calibers or more). This however means that even HE shells have to have thick walls and thus carry often less explosives. Many anti-tank guns started their career as something else, usually as field or anti-aircraft guns, ie applications which also needed high shell velocity and accuracy. Typical examples: 57mm ZiS-2, 75mm PaK 39, 88mm PaK 43

Gun, Close Support - Based on the WWI experience, tanks were supposed to provide close support to attacking infantry. For that purpose, it was important to have a relatively large-caliber weapon (to get a good HE payload), but muzzle velocity was not as crucial. Thus, on the beginning of the war, most countries employed fire support tanks with a low-velocity gun or howitzer. French army even based the entire doctrine around this concept. Close support guns came usually in calibers from 37mm to 76mm, with rather short barrels (around 20 calibers or even less) and low muzzle velocity. Due to rapid advances in armor protection, they became obsolete very quickly and armies still using them had to deploy HEAT shells with them to keep them atleast marginally useful in combat against other armored targets. Typical examples: 75mm L/24 KwK 37

Gun, Conical - Usually referred to as taper-bore or squeezebore gun, it was a special category of anti-tank guns designed to provide high penetration without the use of special (and expensive) materials such as tungsten carbide, as well as to remove range limitations of APCR projectiles. Taper-bore guns used barrel with changing diameter, from original caliber to significantly smaller one, thus reducing the cross-section and drag of the projectile to extend its effective range.

Gun, Field - Artillery weapon, used for direct or indirect fire in lower register. Usually longer range than same caliber howitzers, in smaller calibers often firing fixed charge (fixed amount of propellant) to achieve high rates of fire, at the cost of larger dead zones. Light field guns were also often pushed to anti-tank duty, thanks to their high muzzle velocity resulting in good penetration. Conversely, obsolete antitank guns often wound up acting as field guns. Typical examples: 76mm ZIS-3, 76mm PaK 36(r), 155mm M1A1

Gun, Tank - Any gun specifically modified to be mounted in a tank. Due to different priorities, even exactly same guns may often vary sigbnificantly, both in the construction of their breech and in the recoil mechanism - this is because the artillery usually has little space constraints, whereas tank turret internal volume is a very definite one. As an example of "tank-specific" changes, an evolution of US 76mm M1A1C gun can be taken. The original intent was to fit a 3-inch 76mm gun M7, used in Tank Destroyers and Heavy Tank M6, into a Sherman turret, but it was soon found that neither the recoil mechanism, breech or ammunition allow easy operations int he strict confines of tank turret. A new gun was thus designed, using a new ammunition - while projectiles were the same, cartridges were shorter and fatter, to give the same volume of propellant and thus the same muzzle velocity. Thus 76mm Gun M1 was created, and after shortening the barrel it became the ubiquitous M1A1/M1A1C, capable of being mounted in tanks.

Gun-Howitzer - Artillery weapon, combining properties of field guns - long barrel, high muzzle velocity - with howitzers. Thanks to variable charge it is able to act as both, and since its advent it gradually proceeded to cancel both categories. Almost all weapons currently called "Howitzers" are, in fact, gun-howitzers. In-game, there is what is considered the first gun-howitzer of any significance. The 152mm ML-20 gun-howitzer served not only in artillery battalions, but also as a heavy direct-fire weapon in SU-152 and ISU-152 assault guns.

Howitzer - Artillery weapon, with short barrel and low muzzle velocity, usually using separate charges. It was designed for high-register fires (above 45°) and thus to fire over hills and other obstacles. Howitzers are relatively light and share carriages with smaller guns - for example the carriages for US 155mm Field Gun and 8" Howitzer were the same. Many countries thus used howitzers as a relatively simple way to increase tank firepower against soft target, to be used in assault guns and close support tanks. Because such vehicles had only a limited use against tanks, they were usually attached to tank units as support only, or concentrated in specialised units. Typical examples: 105mm M4 Howitzer, 10.5cm Sturmhaubitze, 122mm M-30S.

KwK - Kampfwagen Kanone, German for Tank Gun.

PaK - Panzerabwehr Kanone, German for Anti-tank Gun.

StuH - SturmHaubitze, German for "Assault Howitzer", Close support gun created by mounting a howitzer in an armored vehicle.

StuK - SturmKanone, German for "Assault Gun", ie weapon specifically designed to be mounted in Sturmgeschütz.


AP - Armor Piercing, ammunition type dedicated to penetrating enemy armor and thus disabling a tank. Often used as blanket term covering all various kinetic energy full-bore projectiles, "classic" AP shot was made of solid metal with no filler nor composite structure, relying only on its mass to penetrate and do sufficient damage to the enemy tank. While most WWII countries used APHE, the United Kingdom preferred to use solid shot and while theoretically tests showed some difference in the internal damage of target tank, in real condition it usually did not matter.

APBC - Armor Piercing, Ballistic Cap, variant of AP/APHE. Penetratiojn-optimised shape of AP projectile was not the most aerodynamic, especially with blunt-nosed projectiles (such as 122mm BR-471B). To improve aerodynamics and thus long-range stability, ballistic cap from a light metal was added to the projectile.

APC - Armor Piercing, Capped, ammunition type designed for better penetration of face-hardened armor. Shell nose was covered with a soft cap that deformed upon impact, distributing energy to larder part of the shell so the nose did not shatter. APC shells often showed less penetration against homogenous armor, but performed better against hardened one. Cap also, in some cases, eased penetration of sloped armor.

APCBC - Armor Piercing, Capped, Ballistic Cap - combining APC and APBC advantages, APCBC provided both long-range stability of APBC and good perdormance vs. hard armor of APC. Used by most armies of WWII except for the USSR, where APBC with blunt-nosed penetrator was preferred.

APCR - Armor Piercing, Composite, Rigid, basic subcaliber armor-piercing ammunition. APCR body consisted of a penetrator, with significantly smaller diameter than the bore, and of light metal casing around it, to fill up the bore. The light metal part was non-detacheable. Lighter mass gave the projectile higher muzzle velocity and higher penetration, however small sectional density gave by light weight, but full bore diameter, caused high drag and APCR lost velocity rapidly. APCR was used by all major players in WWII.

APCNR - Armor Piercing, Composite, Non-Rigid, British designation for APSB.

APDS - Armor Piercing, Discarding Sabot, evolution of APCR projectiles. The main difference was that upon leaving the muzzle, lightweight sabot fell off the projectile and only the subcaliber penetrating core continued towards the target. this solved the drag issues of APCR, even though it required higher degree of accuracy during production. First massively used by British 6pdr and 17pdr guns, early APDS witnessed accuracy problems.

APHE - Armor Piercing, High Explosive, AP shell with a small HE filler to enhance damage after penetration. Theoretically sound, HE often failed to ignite and cavity for HE often compromised the structural integrity of projectile. Usually only AP is used, as most armies used APHE and it was rather pointless to distinguish between the two types.

APFSDS - Armor Piercing, Fin-Stabillised, Discarding Sabot, further development of APDS. Not fitting in the WoT timeframe.

APSB - Armor Piercing, Squeeze-Bore, ammunition for conical/squeezebore/taper-bore guns. A penetrator is surrounded by a jacket of light, soft metal, which is squeezed by the conical portion of gun bore. this served to achieve very high muzzle velocities - comparable with APCR or APDS - while reducing the main problem of APCR, ie high drag. However it also presented large problems with gun barrel wear, as the conical part was hard to produce and had to be replaced very often. This, along with need for rare metals for the ammunition and with serious limit of other uses of the gun due to difficulties with HE ammunition, lead to suspension of the concept except specialised units, where light weight was critical, such as German 28mm sPzB.41 or British Littlejohn adapter for 2 pdr gun.

HE - High Explosive, generally used term for any shell whose primary damage mechanism comes from an explosion of its charge, as opposed to kinetic damage done by AP shells. There are multiple kinds of HE projectile, the most often used is probably HE-Frag. In its basic sense, pure HE shell would have only thin walls and would create little fragmentation, relying on blast to do the damage - thus, HE shells were often designed against hardened positions etc. However, practice showed that HE-Frag can be almost as effective as pure HE, while having more effect against soft targets, and as He-Frag took over the role, it took over the designation as well.

HE-Frag - High Explosive-Fragmentation shells carry less explosive than pure HE, but their thicker shell casing allows for higher muzzle velocities and creates more fragments. Modern HE-Frag often use pre-fragmented shell casing to increase effect in the target zone.

HEAT - High Explosive, Anti-Tank, armor-piercign projectiles using hollow charge effect. Cup-shaped charge forms a thin jet of gases or of HEAT liner material, that travels at very high velocity. Contrary to kinetic energy AP, HEAT maintains the same penetration regardless of the shell velocity, so it was a popular choice for low-velocity guns and howitzers. However, WWII HEAT was often prone to failure and had usually short range. On the other hand it was cheap to produce - by the war's end, German tanks often carried a significant portion of their ammunition load in HEAT, replaing both AP and HE shells.

Hlgr - Hohlladunggranate, German designation for HEAT.

HVAP - High Velocity Armor Piercing, US designation for APCR projectiles.

Pzgr - Panzergranate, German designation of kinetic energy (AP) projectiles. Usual designation for most frequently used shells was Pzgr.39 (APCBC) and Pzgr.40 (APCR).

Sprgr - Sprenggranate, German designation for HE or HE-Frag shells.

- General designation for any shell or shot whose diameter (or diameter of the penetrator) is significantly smaller than the caliber. Generally in game you can encounter APCR and HVAP projectiles.


Last edited by Garro; 10-14-2011 at 05:22 PM.

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