For completion of each stage you will get a "Supply Box", which contains one of the following items:
Historical Background (click to read more)
War Thunder: M-26 'Pershing' vs T-34-85
In 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States of America were allies – the relationship was cautious and reserved, but both these countries cooperated in the face of Nazi Germany. Only five years later, however, American and Soviet tanks met on the battlefield as bitter enemies in a conflict known as the Korean War – an armed conflict, which was officially fought between North and South Korea, but was in fact the first so-called “proxy war“ of the Cold War. In this article, we will thus focus on two specific combatants – the Soviet-made T-34/85 medium tank in North Korean service, and the American M26 Pershing medium tank.
The T-34-85, an upgunned and improved version of the legendary T-34 medium tank, was conceived in 1943, where Soviet engineers were looking for solutions to two, probably the most painful issues of the original T-34-76 design. The first problem was, the T-34-76’s turret had space only for two crewmen, so the commander had to act simultaneously as a gunner. The second issue was then the firepower. The original F-34 76.2 mm tank gun was still adequate against the German PzKpfw III and IV medium tanks, but was unable to effectively engage Tiger heavy tanks and the brand new Panther medium tanks at all but suicidally close ranges.
The T-34-85 solved both of these problems. The tank received a new, significantly enlarged turret, which was able to house a third crew member. The commander thus no longer had to act as a gunner and could focus solely on his duties. This turret also allowed the mounting of a new, more powerful weapon, the D-5T 85 mm gun, derived from the M1939 (or 52-K) air defense gun. This gun was able to defeat the frontal armour of a Tiger tank and the turret front armour on a Panther tank at combat range and thus represented a large boost in terms of firepower.The T-34-85 did not replace all T-34-76’s, but along with the T-34-76, it formed the backbone of the Red Army right up until the end of the war. After the war, it was also widely exported to various countries, including North Korea and China.
Naturally, you can try it in War Thunder for yourself – the T-34-85 is represented in the game by two variants: the T-34-85 (D-5T) with the older D-5T gun and BR of 5.0, and the T-34-85 with modernised ZiS-S-53 gun and possibility to utilize sub-caliber BR-365P APCR round, which, coupled with the traditionally good mobility and agility of a T-34, the further improved anti-tank capabilities of the tank and will enable you to effectively face Tigers and Panthers as well as American Shermans and British Comets and Firefly’s.
While the T-34-85 was more of an upgrade than an entirely new vehicle, the M26 Pershing was built from scratch. It was the result of lengthy and painful development of the first true American heavy tank, hallmarked by many failures, delays and dead ends. Ultimately however, the T25 prototype, available in War Thunder also proved to be the right way and after further modifications, the M26 Pershing heavy tank was born. It sported good frontal armour protection in its gently sloped 4-inch (101 mm) armour and oblique 4-inch gun mantlet, it also featured the powerful 3.5‘‘ (90mm) M3 gun, which was derived from the anti-air weapon and was already used on M36 Jackson tank destroyers.
This gun allowed Pershing to effectively engage Tiger and Panther tanks even at long range, and with the HVAP ammunition, it was entirely possible to engage even feared Königstiger heavy tanks. However, the Pershing arrived too late and in too low numbers to see any significant tank action during the World War 2 – the most famous skirmish is undoubtedly the incident from 7th March 1945, when a Pershing from the 3rd Armored Division managed to dispatch a Panther tank holding position in front of Cologne Cathedral. In the game however, you do not need to worry about having nothing to shoot at – the M26’s BR of 6.7 will pit you against both Tigers and Tiger II’s, as well as against Soviet IS-2’s and British Centurions – all of them potent adversaries of the Pershing, against whom the 90mm gun and especially its M304 HVAP round will definitely come in handy.
While in the game, the T-34-85 and the M26 cannot normally meet each other due to their BR difference (5.0 and 5.3 respectively versus 6.7), in real life, they indeed did. Originally, the only American tanks available in South Korea were the M24 Chaffee light tank, over whom the T-34-85 held an undeniable advantage both in armour and firepower. The arrival of Pershing's (redesignated as a medium tank post-war) in July 1950 however changed all of that. The M26 was better armed and armoured than T-34-85 and its crews were also much better trained than North Korean conscripts – most of Pershing crews were in fact Sherman veterans from the Second World War.
While the T-34-85 could achieve the successful frontal penetration only at close range, the M26’s 90 mm gun was able to reliably dispatch the T-34-85 at ranges well over 2000 yards even with the standard APCBC rounds. The M304 HVAP round was then so much of an overmatch against the T-34-85 it was at close range reportedly able to punch all the way through the hull of the T-34-85 from the front to the rear. The only advantage the Soviet-made tank thus had was the mobility, as the Pershing suffered from being sluggish and underpowered, as it used the same engine as M4 Sherman tank, but was nearly 10 tonnes (22 000 lb) heavier – this issue was resolved on improved M46 Patton tank by mounting a new powerplant.
Nevertheless, the T-34-85 was no match against the M26, and even through tank engagements in Korean War were rather rare (only 119 tank-versus-tank battles were recorded during the war with the Pershing participating in 32% of them), the American tank was clearly superior.