Friday, November 15, 2013

Char B1 bis

Char B1-bis

French Tank:        Char B1-bis

Crew:                    4
        75mm (2.95in) gun in hull; does not traverse
                                47mm (1.85in) gun in fully traversing turret
                                7.5mm machine-gun – hull
                                7.5 mm machine-gun – not coaxial with turret gun/aimed independent
Armor:                    60mm (2.36in) maximum
                                55mm (2.2in) side armor plating
        6 cylinder inline water-cooled gas engine
                                307 bhp at 1,900 rpm
                                8 bhp / ton
Weight:                   70,548 lb. (32,000 kg)
        Length -               21 ft. 5 in. (6.52m)
                                Width -                 8 ft. 2 in. (2.5m)
                                Height -                9 ft. 2 in. (2.79m)
        Speed, road -     17 mph (28km/h)
        Speed, off road  13 mph (21km/h)
                                Range, road -      85 miles (135 km)
                                Range, off road   60 miles (100 km)
                                Obstacle -            3 ft. 1 in. (0.93m)
                                Trench -                9 ft. (2.75m)
                                Gradient -             26 degrees
                                Fording Depth     30 inches
75mm (HE) -         74 rounds
47mm (AP/HE)-   50
7.5mm                   5,100
Manufacturer:        Renault
Production:            1937 – 1940

Out of commission in Belgium

The Char B1-bis was a superior heavy tank for its day.  It could survive a hit from the armament of most any German tank or anti-tank gun, except for the deadly German 88.  Adding to its toughness were self-sealing fuel tanks and a welded hull as opposed to one held together with rivets.  Rivets dislodged by a shell strike had a way of becoming projectiles that ricocheted about the inside of the tank.  The Char B1-bis was surprisingly maneuverable.  The driver used a conventional steering wheel to guide it.  It might have been an effective offensive weapon, used to exploit a breakthrough of an enemy’s front line except the French leadership still saw the battlefield as being a clash of infantry formations and tanks were dispersed among the foot soldiers to be used in a supporting role.  The punch produced by a tight fleet of Char B1s firing their 75mm guns was nullified by obsolete tactics.

French proprietor, tank and German soldier 

The Char B1-bis was expensive to build and operate.  Maintenance was difficult.  Its bulky height made it an inviting target.  Its weight also made it slow.  The single-man turret was cramped and the commander had the responsibility of loading, aiming and firing its 47mm gun as well as being aware of the battlefield situation and leading his crew.  The hull-mounted 75mm gun was not traversable requiring the driver to line up his tank with the target before firing.   With no radio communications between tanks the effectiveness of working together in unit formation was greatly diminished.

Picture for the folks back home

The Char B1-bis would have been a successful tank design for the First World War but the tactics of armored warfare in combination with close air support had progressed significantly during the two decades separating Versailles with the cataclysm of May 1940.  France hadn't prepared itself for warfare in the 20th century because its people hadn't yet recovered from the sacrifices made during the last war.  The German leaders exploited their neighbor’s reluctance to fight by first isolating them from the other nations on the continent and then plotting their ultimate destruction through the application of rapid military force – the highly mobile mechanized warfare that came to be called blitzkrieg. 

Related Topics:

M4 Sherman

Panzer IV

Tiger I


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