As time goes on, the release date for the next update is approaching. As we said earlier, one of the central objects of this update will be a German tank destroyer - a self-propelled artillery Sd.Kfz.184 "Ferdinand". As many of you know, this monster was the result of the loss of Ferdinand Porsche in the competition for the creation of a heavy breakthrough tank for the Wehrmacht. That competition was won by the "Pz.Kpfw.VI Tiger" developed by Henschel. Porsche’s loss was caused by the extraordinary, even for the Germans, the complexity of the chassis. However, in the course of this rivalry, Porsche produced a significant amount of the chassis of a new type of heavy tank. This was subsequently used to create the most powerful and protected, at the time of the Battle of Kursk, anti-tank armored fighting vehicle in the world.
On the Porsche chassis, an armored fighting compartment was installed, protected in the frontal projection by a 200mm armored plate, the weight of which was similar to the weight of a large truck. Even the Tiger gun is not able to penetrate this 200mm obstacle when using armor-piercing shells and 152mm armor-piercing shells of the ML-20 howitzer can't do it either. To bring the frontal armoring of the front of the hull in line with the existing 100mm armor plates, an additional piece of 100m armor was installed. The sides and rear of the vehicle were protected by 80mm armor plates, which were an extremely difficult, almost insurmountable obstacle for 76mm Soviet armor-piercing shells. The roof and the bottom of the hull were also armored considerably.
The weak spots include the roof of a large-scale engine compartment, which was located in front of the tower and could be hit by large-caliber high-explosive fragmentation shells when they burst on the front armor plate of the fighting compartment. Also, the tank’s weak point is the relatively thin armor of the cooler exhaust manifold of the electric propulsion motors - a significant part of ammo is 'conveniently' located just above it. It is worth to note the completely unprotected gunsight of the main and only gun, located on the roof of the fighting compartment.
The Ferdinand is armed with an extremely powerful 88mm KwK-43 L / 71 gun, that was created on the basis of the Flak 41 long-barreled anti-aircraft gun, while the shorter Tiger gun (also 88mm) was created on the basis of the shorter Flak 37 anti-aircraft gun. Firing a similar armor-piercing projectile, but with a more powerful charge and a longer barrel length, the KwK-43 L / 71 gun accelerated it to 1000 m/s against 800 m/s in the KwK-36. The Ferdinand had no machine guns at the time of the Battle of Kursk. The disadvantages of its armament include a panoramic sight that is not very useful in anti-tank combat since it doesn't allow entering corrections in the field of view (it had a significant degree of amplification though), and a low horizontal aiming speed.
But the most remarkable feature of the "Ferdinand" is it’s progressive and promising, but very controversial electrical powertrain. This is one of those cases when technical thought was far ahead of technical capabilities. The idea of refusing the mechanical transmission of torque from the power plant to the propulsion system, which is widely used today in heavy equipment, at that time led to very serious problems. The electric drive motors gave an increase in speed, but with a significant loss of torque on the tracks. So the efficiency of the power plant as a whole, even when on a flat surface, was so low the vehicle could not reach speeds more than 20 km/h. Even with a huge fuel reserve of 950 liters, the range was just 150 km on the highway. Also, due to the features of the electric motors, the power plant had a reduced efficiency when driving backward.
To supply the required amount of electric energy, two engines from the Pz.Kpfw.IV tanks were installed in the Ferdinand, each with a corresponding DC generator. Both generators were connected to a single line that supplied current to the electric motors, and each of the motors had its own regulator to control the speed and direction of movement. This made it possible to continue driving even if one engine or generator failed. The high cost of materials required for the production of windings, conductors and switches of the electrical powertrain, the use of two engines, plus its huge mass of 65 tons led to extremely serious technological and operational difficulties even for such a rich and industrialized country as wartime Germany. That is why the competition was won by the more traditional and easier to produce Tiger-I of Henschel design even though the Tiger from Henschel was also not a cheap tank by any means and the labor costs for its production were many times higher than required for a mass-produced T-34. On the other hand, the simplicity and ease of control of the tank, as well as the softness of the ride were a bonus to those who manned it. The ability to turn the vehicle on the spot without using advanced mechanical systems required for a traditional powertrain was a welcome bonus.
Nevertheless, with all the technological and operational difficulties it had, this combat vehicle during the Summer of 1943 was the most dangerous on the battlefield - if it was able to reach it in time to participate in a head-on tank battle. It was important for us to recreate it as close to the real one as possible, just like all the vehicles we already have in Tank Crew, and it was really hard to do. There is only one early Ferdinand remaining in the world - #501, it is located in the armored forces museum in Kubinka near Moscow. Another one, later modification called Elefant with a commander cupola and MG installed, is in the US. The available documentation is very segmentary, short and incomplete. However thanks to the effort of our partners in Digital Forms and application of cross-checking analysis, we have one of the best recreations of this combat vehicle available. From our side, we contributed to the recreation of its maneuverability, armament and systems functioning peculiarities, which required a lot of work as well. On the screenshots, you see exactly that Ferdininand #501 that was captured in the Kursk battle and ended in the Kubinka museum.
The last what we want to tell you about this tank destroyer - its release will complete the lineup of the combat vehicles we planned to recreate together with Digital Forms for the Tank Crew - Clash at Prokhorovka project. This moment will be a very important milestone in the history of our project. It won't mark the end of the work on this project - as usual, we continue to support, improve and deepen all our projects after the official release date. IL-2 Sturmovik and Digital Forms teams hope you'll enjoy the result of our joint effort.