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Subject: WWII Tactical Armour - Side skirts rss

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Prawn King
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Hi there,

I had a couple of questions on this subject that I hope the learned members can cast some light on. The German panzer arm used side skirt armour especially on Mk IV and Stug vehicles. My queries are:-

1. Is this represented in game form in any way, by improved defence strenghts or the likes?

2. Why did the Western Allies not turn to this as well, given the pretty poor side armour of the Sherman / M4 and UK produced tanks?

Just curious, thanks,
Andy
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Paul C
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1) Yes, most good tactical game systems account for their effect.

2) The Germans originally developed them (schurzen) to protect against Soviet Anti-Tank Rifles. Their benefit against hollow-charge ammunition was a later consideration (when mesh skirts came in to use).

By the time the western allies started to suffer losses to Panzerfausts, there wasn't much time to introduce new skirted designs before the war ended- the Centurion just missed out. Crews in the field did however add sandbags and other ad hoc forms of protection.

Incidentally, some British tank designs (Matilda II, Churchill) featured significant armoured enclosure of hull sides and running gear.
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Prawn King
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Paul thanks very much for the info. The anti-tank rifle part is interesting. Wouldnt a Pz Mark IV side armour been enough to stop such a projectile?

On another note somehow I imagined the side skirts were used not to stop incoming AP projectiles but to either detonate them or dissipate the energy so they could not penetrate the actual vehicle armour.

I see now however that they would be protective against hollow charge ammunition by setting the warhead off prematurely, is that right?

Thanks again,
Andy
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Ron A
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I don't worry too much about this sort of thing. In the field, after just a short time at the front, no 2 AFVs had the exact same ability to withstand enemy fire. It is easy to find pix of Mk IVs with some, all or no side armor.







There is no way a designer can account for every possible variation.
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Paul C
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From Wikipedia (I've not got the time at the moment to seek out more impressive-sounding sources from my physical book collectionblush):

"The PTRD and the similar PTRS-41 were the only individual anti-tank weapon available to the Red Army in numbers upon the outbreak of the war with Germany. The 14.5 mm armor-piercing bullet had a muzzle velocity of 1,012 m/s (3,320 ft/s). It could penetrate an armor plate up to 35 to 40mm (40mm with tungsten ammunition) thick at a distance of 100 meters at 0 degrees. During the initial invasion, and indeed throughout the war, most German tanks had side armor thinner than 40mm (Panzer I and Panzer II: 13-20mm, Panzer III and Panzer IV series: 30mm, Panzer V Panther (combat debut mid-1943): 40-50mm)."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PTRD

Yes Andy, you're correct about the premature detonation of hollow charge (and HE for that matter) rounds, here's another relevant piece-

http://balagan.info/why-were-schurzen-introduced-in-ww2
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Robert Wesley
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While the Western Allies did make some 'concession' upon those "skirts", and you can notice 'added steel plate' onto the more vulnerable portion of an AFV in WW2, for the time being. The more modern version is 'reactive-armor-charges/plates' mounted onto them all over these today.
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S S
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+1 Morale for infantry, right? Dunno about premature detonation, though.
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Prawn King
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Nice one S S !!
And me being a Scotsman too can I add that the correct term is Kilt and not skirt :-)

Thanks everyone for the info.
Andy
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Lance McMillan
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A fairly comprehensive discussion of "side skirts" can be found here:

http://balagan.info/why-were-schurzen-introduced-in-ww2

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Andy Daglish
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Panzer III and IV usually had side armour of 30mm thickness, sometimes 20+20mm of applique armour. They were marginally vulnerable to anti-tank rifles, and these weapons had broadly similar performance, despite the British Boys being traditionally regarded as ineffective and the 20mm Solothurn potent. Although the Soviets regarded their ATRs as obsolescent, for example versus medium and heavy armour such as their own, they fielded very many and tended not to withdraw them, for want of adequate supplies of better weapons. It was therefore particularly galling for the Germans to lose Panzer III & IV chassis to this weapon, and following bad experiences they introduced mild steel skirting armour of 8mm thickness rigidly mounted to turrets and loosely-attached 5mm side plates, which were frequently removed by obstacles such as foliage. The idea was to degrade the energy of ATR rounds just enough that they became generally ineffective versus armour proper. There was no point in using schürzen on other vehicles as their armour was either strong enough in general, or too weak to benefit. The 231 series armoured cars had frontal spaced armour, but this was still quite weak.

The effect of schürzen on high-explosive or HEAT rounds is moot. One American study suggested that the effect of both could be enhanced by the skirt, and this demonstrates the very highly variable nature of blast waves on a target tank, or more specifically its ammunition or crew members. Sympathetic detonations in Tiger tank turrets were suspected during the war, probably as a result of the asymmetric curvature of the side armour on the loader's side, designed to give him more space. This seemed to resonate under HE blast, focusing on ammunition bins. The physics, metallurgy and chemistry associated with lined hollow charges detonating against schürzen, or wire mesh skirts, depends unsurprisingly on a mass of variables that defy any general conclusions. Hollow charge design was still in early development during the war, and although the central element of a HEAT round penetrator might travel at 90 km/s, its lead and trailing elements would have lower velocity, thus it needed a certain very short period of time to first to form, and then to travel to its target, otherwise it would either not form properly [too little time], or break up [too long]. Doubtless it was felt by superstitious tank crews that hollow charge testing was done versus flat armour plates, therefore anything getting in the way would confound rounds fired in anger.

Schürzen certainly made baling out a slower business.

The idea of schürzen deflecting rounds or stripping them of their capping to their detriment is also both variable and moot. The Germans found that uncapped solid shot seemed to work best versus the T-34.

There is a semi-myth that under ideal circumstances the Panther could be penetrated by ATR rounds hitting the side armour close to the rear sprocket. This links to a reduction in the the quality of German armour plate in the latter months of the war.

German anti-tank weapons deployed in the the 44-45 Northwest Europe campagn had been designed to combat heavy Soviet armour. The armour of Western tanks more closely resembled that of the mid-war T-34 and KV series, and so due to the high energies involved, and indeed their own flammability, they tended to burn when struck. Skirting armour would have made little difference to this, indeed expedient armour such as track links were occasionally forbidden on the ground they might improve penetration, by way of an inadvertent & vestigial capping effect.
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