After reading the Girls und Panzer Sensha-do Competition Regulations (see earlier post), I wondered what other non production/not in service tanks or tank destroyers (TDs) might qualify for Sensha-do, and how they might impact both the teams and Sensh-do tournament balance. After all, the Maus added massively to Kuromorimine’s (KMM) hardware advantage over the other teams. As if 9 or 10 Panther tanks, a couple of Tigers, a couple of King Tigers (Tiger II), a Jadgtiger, Jagdpanther, etc. were not enough. So what other potential game changing tanks might be available?
I took a closer look into Rule 3.01 “Participating Vehicles Specifications”. Given the length of this post, I decided to not copy the rule so please refer to it here. Obviously anything in production on or before August 15, 1945 is allowed, but there are some other interesting options available. Of the three main eligibility rules, only the one concerning prototypes is clear – have a working prototype, it’s fair game for Sensha-do. The other two rules IMO are a bit ambiguous. For purposes of this article, I’ve limited analysis to tanks/TDs which: (a) were not in service as of Aug, 15, 1945; (b) were not in the anime; (c) IMO would likely qualify without League approval; and (d) IMO are worthwhile additions to a team.
Great Britain (St. Gloriana): Centurion Mk I/Mk II (A41/A41A) Cruiser Tank
Centurion Mk I Centurion Mk II
The Centurion Mk I definitely qualifies. Prototypes performed so well that six (of 20) prototypes were sent to the 22nd Armored Brigade of the 7th Armored Division in May 1945 though none saw combat. Whether the improved Mk II version (A41A) would qualify is a bit harder to determine, but I think it would. One site states that the Centurion Mk II (A41A) program was initiated in January 1945. According to another source, on August 22, 1945 an advisory committee authorized the production of 800 Centurion tanks – the bulk of which were A41A (Mk II) models. Given the previous two statements, I think it’s safe to assume that working Mk II prototypes existed prior to August 15, 1945. However, the 20 pound (84mm) gun was still under development at that time so I believe only 17 pound (76mm) main gun Centurions would qualify for Sensha-do. Even so, the 17 pound gun (same gun used in the Sherman Firefly) was an excellent AT weapon for the period.
Between the two versions, the main difference is that the Mk II had a significant upgrade in armor – a fully cast turret, new 118 mm-thick front glacis (vs 76mm Mk I), and the side and rear armor increased from 38 mm to 51 mm. The Mk I’s 20 mm Polsten cannon was replaced by a 7.92mm BESA MG. In trials, the Mk I was found to be highly mobile, and easily outperformed the lighter armored, faster Comet in most tests. Despite the added armor and corresponding weight, the same essentially holds true for the Mk II. The Mk II is unquestionably the better version so that’s what I’d choose.
IMO, the MK II is a game changer in terms of Sensha-do. It’s a very well balanced tank with great armor, very good mobility, sufficient speed, reliable engine, and an excellent main gun. It’s simply better all around than anything else which would qualify. The Panther is considered by many to be the best tank produced in WW II. IMO the Centurion Mk II is even better. No question that St. Gloriana’s team would be markedly improved by the addition of a few Centurion MK II tanks.
Germany (KMM): Panther Ausf. F Medium Tank
I think the Panther Ausf. F qualifies while the Panther II is very questionable without express League approval. The Panther II project was abandoned, and as far as I know, no working prototypes were ever produced. Even more questionable is anything from the Entwicklung series or “E Series”. So I’ll assume the only desirable model allowed under my guidelines is the Panther Ausf. F (remember, the Maus was in the anime). The Panther Ausf. F had a few meaningful improvements over earlier Panther models. Most notably, its narrow turret sporting improved version (KwK 44/1) of the Panther’s deadly 75mm high velocity gun. Armor was increased in most places and it had a built-in range finder. Surprisingly, thanks to the narrow turret, the Panther Ausf. F actually weighed a bit less than the other Panther variations.
In short, Panther Ausf. F represents a series of improvements to an already excellent tank. I’d want an Ausf. F version over other Panther models, but the changes are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Version 6 of something rather than next generation like the Centurion or a new class such as the T29 heavy tank. Considering KKM’s overall tank line up, I don’t think the addition of Panther Ausf. F tanks would make an appreciable difference. Certainly nothing game changing from KMM’s standpoint.
Imperial Japan (Oarai): Type 4 Chi-To Medium Tank, Type 5 Chi-Ri Medium Tank
Type 4 Chi-To Type 5 Chi-Ri
Granted Oarai’a team is a mix of tanks from various nations, but among the mix are two IJA tanks. The Type 4 Chi-To was the most advanced IJ tank to see production though only two were actually produced prior to the end of the war due to manufacturing problems caused by Allied bombing and scarcity of raw materials. At 33 tons (US), the Type 4 featured much better armor and an improved, though still mundane, 75mm (L56) main gun compared to the 21 ton (US) Type 3 tank. In many ways, the Type 4 is the IJA version of the US M4 Sherman. The Type 5 Chi-Ri was a heavier (37 tons US), more powerful version of the Type 4. Along with slightly thicker armor was a more powerful 550hp gasoline engine vs. the Type 4’s 412hp diesel. Initially, the Type 5 would feature the Type 4’s 75mm (L56) gun, but an 88 mm gun was planned for later models. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure if the Type 5 would even qualify for Sensha-do as only one incomplete prototype was made. Even it if it does qualify, the 88mm main gun was still in the planning stages (no prototype made). So I’ll assume that the Type 5 does qualify, but only the version featuring the 75mm main gun.
Both tanks are marked improvements over the earlier Type 3 model. However, without the planned 88mm gun, the Type 5 is simply a slightly heavier armored, larger Type 4. Top speed is the same, but you give up a diesel engine for a more flammable gasoline one. That missing 88mm main gun makes a world of difference, and without it, IMO the Type 4 is probably the better tank. Still, when you’re strapped with an M3 Lee, Char B1Bis and Type 89, both the Type 4 and Type 5 look pretty darn good. Clearly, Oarai’s team would benefit significantly from the addition of either one, though neither tank IMO would be the best in Oarai’s line up. The problem is that the Type 4 and Type 5 don’t look so good when compared to Panthers, Tigers (I or II), Jadgpanthers, Jadgtigers, Sherman Fireflies, Centurions, T29s, Comets, Pershings, T-34/85s, SU-100s, etc. In the end, it’s a case of better than nothing, but nowhere near a game-changer. Oarai’s Sensha-do underdog status remains.
Soviet Union (Pravda): IS-3 Heavy Tank, SU-100Y Self-Propelled Gun (TD)
IS-3 Heavy Tank SU-100Y SPG
Pravda IMO comes out the worst in this analysis in terms of what might be gained. The IS-3 features some modest upgrades over the IS-2 – most notably the “soup bowl” turret to go with an improved armor layout and slightly less weight. While the low turret may have improved protection, it also significantly diminished working headroom – especially for the loader. Considering that the main gun uses two-piece ammunition, that’s not helpful. Furthermore, the low turret limited the maximum depression of the main gun with the result that the IS-3 was less able to take advantage of hull-down positions. In short, some definite “give and take” with these changes from the IS-2.
The SU-100Y is interesting if for no other reason than it mounted a 130mm naval gun on a chassis derived from the T-100 heavy tank prototype. According to one site, the naval gun used “separate instead of fixed ammunition”. So like the IS-2/3’s D25-T 122mm gun, the SU-100Y’s 130mm gun used two-piece ammunition which means slower reload times. The SU-100Y never saw production with good reason. The SU-100 and it’s 100mm D-10S gun was simply a much better tank destroyer – in fact, one of the best in WW II.
In the end, I see little, if any, gains for Pravda. The IS-3 is a worthwhile edition, but I don’t know if I would automatically pick it over the IS-2. I wouldn’t bother with the SU-100Y SPG. A bit “OT”, but I definitely would add one or more SU-100 TDs to Pravda’s line. Quite effective against those pesky KMM Panther and Tiger I tanks, and unlike the IS-3 or SU-100Y, I think the SU-100 would have a noticeable impact on Pravda’s line up.
United States (Saunders Prep): US T29 Heavy Tank and T30 Heavy Tank
T29 Heavy Tank T30 Heavy Tank
Saunders fairs well in this analysis if not quite to the extent of St. Gloriana. The T29 should qualify without League approval, and probably the same is true for the T30. I doubt that the T34 would qualify at all since it came after both the T29 and T30. Between the T29 and T30, I’d easily choose the T29. The T30 does have a more powerful engine (704hp net vs. 650hp net) which helps though that is still not enough. However, the T29’s 105mm T5E2 high velocity main gun is a better antitank weapon than the T30’s 155mm L/40 T7 gun which used two-piece ammunition. The T29’s 105mm main gun offered outstanding AT performance, especially when paired with HVAP rounds. The T29 is the US answer to the Tiger II tank, and unsurprisingly, is quite similar in terms of specifications and overall performance. Some things the Tiger II did better, and other things the T29 did better.
For Saunders, the T29 fills a fairly wide void in their tank lineup. ALL we saw in the anime were variations of the M4 Sherman which by the end of the war was obsolete – under armored and under-gunned. The (British) Firefly’s 17 pound gun solved the firepower issue, but not the others. The T29, like the Tiger II, had mobility limitations, but in terms of both firepower and armor, it was in an entirely different league compared to the M4. Even compared to the M26 Pershing, the T29 was significantly superior in both aspects, though the Super Pershing did bridge the firepower gap between the two for the most part, and the M26 offered better mobility. Certainly more “bridge friendly” than the 70 ton (US) T29.
Ideally, Saunders would add Pershings (especially Super Pershings) along with T29s to their tank pool, but there’s no denying that a heavy tank like the T29 fits nicely into Saunder’s line up. I think it would make a big difference on the Sensha-do battle field – just the same as the Tiger II does for KMM.
Two schools easily come out on top in my analysis – St. Gloriana and Saunders (in that order). The Centurion Mk II is simply a superb all-around tank for the time. The T29 heavy tank does suffer from limited mobility and an overtaxed engine (possible reliability issues), but it is still a formidable, heavily armored tank with a very powerful AT gun – something Saunders is missing. I rank Oarai 3rd simply because a Type 4 or Type 5 are a big step up from the likes of a Type 89, M3 Lee and B1Bis. I rank KMM 4th because I see the Panther Ausf. F as just a case of the very rich getting slightly richer. Pravda’s ranked last because, unlike the Panther Ausf. F, the IS-3’s improvements come with meaningful detriments. Of course if it’s a situation of get an IS-3 or nothing, the IS-3 would give Pravda’s line up a nice little boost. Frankly, the SU-100Y doesn’t even merit consideration as it is clearly outclassed by the SU-100. I just threw it in for fun. 😀
In terms of the Sensho-do tournament balance, it’s bit harder to determine since I don’t know if tank pools for schools like St. Gloriana or Saunders contain other tanks/TDs in addition to what was shown in the anime. We have a better, if perhaps incomplete, idea of Pravda’a and KKM’s tank pools since they fielded more tanks. Under this caveat, no question IMO that St. Gloriana and Saunders become much more competitive. Overall, the “Big 4” (KMM, St. Gloriana, Saunders & Pravda) become more competitive with each other, but the smaller, “underdog” schools such as Oarai and Anzio become even less competitive with the “Big 4”.
Unsurprisingly, none of the above tanks/TDs have the same degree of impact as the Maus. That leaves the following question: Do the rules as stated go too far in terms of match play balance by allowing prototype tanks, completed but not produced designs, etc. instead of limiting Sensha-do eligible tanks to those in production and in service prior to the end of WW II? I’ll leave that question for another time. Thanks for reading a long post. I hope you enjoyed it, and I look forward to comments.