Char ARL-44 heavy tank
The ARL 44 heavy tank was produced betwee 1947 and 1950 and fielded by the French Army between 1949 and 1953. Although the ARL 44 was designed and built in France, it was powered by the German Maybach HL230 gasoline engine which had been used by the Germans to power Panther and Tiger tanks during WWII. The ARL 44 was produced just after World War II. Only sixty of these tanks were ever manufactured and the ARL 44 remained in service in the French Army until its replacement by the AMX 30 during the 1960s.
By 1939 the French had two tanks which had been developed during the interwar period. Both were armed with a 75 mm gun [a large gun for the time]: the B1-bis tank and the 2C tank. However, both had serious defects: the 2C tank, which was produced in only 10 specimens, was too cumbersome, too heavy, too slow and obsolete, but its principal weapon was assembled on a turret. The Char B1-bis tank had dimensions and more acceptable performances, but its principal weapon was in a casemate what provided to it a field of fire in too limited azimuth. Consequently in 1938, the Atelier de Construction de Rueil (ARL - Engineering department of Rueil] launched a study of a new tank taking again the frame of the B1-(a) but equipped with a new turret equipped with a 75 mm gun. During the occupation, work on this new tank went on clandestinely.
During the course of World War II, the German Army developed heavy tanks to fulfill the concept of breaking through enemy defenses so faster, lighter mechanized forces could exploit the rupture. The heavy tank battalions had several different tables of organization, but were always centered around either the Tiger or the Tiger II tank. They fought in virtually every theater of Europe against every enemy of Germany.
Because these units were not fielded until late in 1942, they did not participate in Germany’s major offensive operations that dominated the early part of World War II. Germany’s strategic situation after mid-1943 forced their military onto the defensive. Consequently, there are very few instances when heavy tank battalions attacked as a breakthrough force. Although the German heavy tanks were rarely used in the role for which they were originally conceived, that of breaking through prepared enemy defenses, the German units were effective in the offense and defense in destroying enemy tanks.
When Paris was liberated in 1944, this tank, the Char ARL-44 heavy tank, soon entered production. The first Char ARL-44 heavy tank was completed in 1946. The Char ARL-44 had a suspension and tracks that resembled those of the Char B1, but it had a new engine, hull and turret. It had a 3.54 inch (90mm) DCA45 rifled main gun, a 0.3 inch (7.5mm) coaxial Châtellerault machine gun and a 0.3 inch (7.5mm) anti-aircraft gun. The ARL 44 was armored with 120mm-thick steel plate on the hull glacis (front hull), which sloped 45º, and front turret. A driver and co-driver sat in the front of the hull, while the other three members of the crew sat in the turret. The engine was in the back of the hull.
In service the ARL 44 was at first an unreliable vehicle, with mechanical problems with the brakes, gear box and suspension. Although a special improvement program solved some of these shortcomings, the ARL 44 made only a single public appearance when ten participated in the Bastille Day parade of 14 July 1951.
This tank was sometimes called the "Char de Transition" or "transitional tank" because it was supposed to be a transitional design, to be followed by a newer heavy tank, the AMX-50, which had a 4.72 inch (120mm) main gun and an oscillating turret, like the turret on the AMX-13 light tank. A few prototypes of the AMX-50 heavy tank were built in 1951 and 1952, but production was cancelled when large number of American M47 Patton medium tanks became available to France under the Mutual Aid Program.
|Manufacturer(s)||A.R.L. Atelier de Construction de Rueil|
|Production Period||1947 - 1950|
|Width||3.40 m (11.6 feet)|
|Length||10.53 m (35.5 feet)|
|Height||3.20 m (10.5 feet)|
|Crew||5 (commander, driver, gunner, loader, driver assistant)|
|Engine||600hp, Maybach HL230 gasoline engine|
|Maximum speed||35.75 km/h (23.1 mp/h )|
|Range||150 -350 km|
|Weapons||one 90mm DCA45 rifled gun; two 7.5 mm MAC31 Châtellerault machine guns|
|Armor||Maximum - 4.72in (120mm)|
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