For the Record: Potential Hull Upgrades: Light tanks
In the RU forums Q&A thread, SerB gave an example of a hull upgrade for the T-54: 120 mm of front armour, or 100 mm, with higher top speed in return. I will take a look at what other upgrades potentially exist for Soviet tanks in-game. Since there is a great deal of them, the article will be split into parts. This part will discuss light tanks. Let’s start from the top, the venerable MS-1. The tank was in service with the Red Army until the start of WWII, and was modernized several times. However, it did not undergo very notable hull changes, aside from a change between welded and bolted armour in 1930. Despite being a significant change in real life, it would only be cosmetic in game. Other visually interesting changes result from the MS-1a hull (T-26 suspension, simplified rear section of the hull) and T-18M (elements of the T-38′s suspension). Next, the T-26. The T-26 also spent a great number of years with the Red Army, fighting until the end of WWII. The T-26 also saw many modifications, and once again, the hull remained largely the same. Until the last one, that is. The T-26 model 1939. The previously vertical sides of the turret platform were now positioned at an angle. This hull upgrade brings a gameplay change: thickness of the front armour plate increased from 15 mm to 20 mm. For even more customization, consider the hulls produced during the Winter War, with additional armour plating of up to 40 mm. With 60 mm of (slightly) sloped armour in the front, even the mighty T18 would bow its head as the armoured king of tier 2. Fans of the Hotchkiss will like this modification, as it comes with a severe reduction in top speed. Continuing the breadth-first traversal of the tech tree, we encounter the T-60. Its years of service were brief: it was born in 1941, and replaced with the T-70 in 1942. The last T-60 was assembled in 1943 from leftover parts. It was also produced with extra armour plates, although the change isn’t particularly noticeable visually. Gameplay-wise, the armour screen will make a difference: although it is only 10 mm thick, it is positioned at a very steep angle and slightly lifted off the armour, giving it a spaced armour bonus (watch out, HEAT firing seal clubbers!). The upgrade can be made more noticeable by swapping in the distinctive spindled road wheels. Next, the BT-2. The tank was quickly replaced in the Red Army by the BT-5 (although, it fought until at least 1942 just the same). The tank’s BT-2-IS modernization in 1934 (not to be confused with the same engineer’ 1935 BT project) brought it a BT-7-like rear hull, in addition to improved propulsion: six drive wheels instead of just two. This modification provided increased off-road performance and suspension durability, as losing an entire road wheel was no big deal. Moving up to the BT-7, I guess you could take the BT-5-IS or BT-7-IS project, but those are boring. The BT-SV-2 is unlikely, as the BT-SV is already in the game. Fortunately for us, up-armouring did not pass by BT-7s either, and resulted in a cooler looking, stronger BT-7 with 50 mm of front armour. However, its speed suffered, decreasing to 45 kph. A BT-7 that chooses to carry that weight will require some kind of compensation in firepower, which will be explored in a subsequent article. Panning back across the tree, we hit the T-70. The T-70 , like its predecessor, did not last long with the Red Army, being edged out by its SPG version, the SU-76. The tank initially disappointed the military with its one-man turret and armour identical to the T-60. The lower front plate was increased to 45 mm, but the suspension was too weak to support a two-man turret, resulting in a T-70 with an improved suspension (T-70M). However, the changes to the T-70M were focused on the suspension only, and did not touch the hull. The only possible option here is a downgrade: a stock hull that represents the T-70 that faced initial trials with a 35 mm lower glacis, and an improved T-70 (but not yet a T-70M) with a 45 mm lower glacis. The former option would reduce the mass of the tank, and result in superior mobility. Continuing on, we hit the T-46. Meant to replace the T-26 as the Red Army’s infantry support tank, it failed at its job due to being too heavy. This was not a problem at first, as sturdier components were developed to carry the weight. Then, a more powerful engine, to keep up its speed. As a result, the upgrade to the T-26 cost nearly as much as a T-28, and a decision was made to continue using the T-26. Nevertheless, 3 T-46 prototypes existed: T-46-1, T-46-2, and T-46-3 (Koshkin’s T-46-5, or 111, was a radically different vehicle). Only two of these tanks remain to this day. The T-46 we have in game is based on the one at Kubinka, but the tank at the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow has a slightly different looking hull. The different T-46 hulls did not significantly differ in function, so this is likely yet another cosmetic upgrade. Moving on to tier 4, we encounter the T-80. The T-80 is a logical progression from the T-70M, mounting the two-man turret that was desired by the army. However, by the time engineers figured out how to reliably increase engine power, the T-80 was no longer needed. The tank’s development was mostly focused on the turret. As such, no additional hulls were produced. It is unlikely that this vehicle will receive a hull upgrade. The A-20 is next in line. However, unlike Koshkin’s favourite, the A-32, the A-20 didn’t get much love. This tank did not have any other hull options. After that, there is the T-50. The T-50 already had an additional hull in the game, the Kirov Factory prototype (called T-50-2 in game). The Kirov prototype did not meet the requirements of the T-50 project, and, as such, was not put into mass production. Despite its shortcomings, the tank possessed superior speed (65 kph compared to Voroshilov factory’s 52), so with this upgrade, the T-50 could be worth playing again. The final researchable Soviet light tank is the MT-25, which*doesn’t even have one constructed hull, let alone two. That’s it for light tanks(until this Russian bias train gets rolling). Join me next time, as I explore available hulls for Soviet medium tanks.