Today we’re excited to present to you yet another familiar face when it comes to French tank designs - the SOMUA S.35 medium tank. In update 1.75, the SOMUA S.35, which is considered by many to be one of the best medium tank design of the 1930s, is coming to War Thunder as part of the much anticipated French ground forces research tree!
The SOMUA S.35 was developed in response to a set of requirements issued in 1934, calling for a new cavalry tank design which would be able to withstand direct hits from contemporary anti-tank weapons. SOMUA was given the task to build such a tank, and by spring 1935, they completed construction of the first prototype, designated AC3. Testing revealed some flaws within the first prototype’s design, which SOMUA subsequently fixed with the following pre-production batch of four vehicles. With testing of the pre-production batch vehicles showing satisfactory results, the AC4 modification of the vehicle was adopted as the standard medium tank for the cavalry units of the French army in 1936 and subsequently received its official designation SOMUA S.35. Series production began in 1936 with an initially planned 600 S.35s to be made. However, as time went by, financial restrains started to limit the amount of S.35 tanks that could be made. Thus, out of the initial 600 planned tanks to be built, 450 were actually ordered and built for the French army.
Following the outbreak of WW2, the S.35 soon found itself defending French soil against a German invasion. As the tank was designed to fight contemporary armoured vehicles of other nations at the time, it fared well against the onslaught of Panzer IIIs and early modifications of the Panzer IV. In fact, in most battles where the S.35 clashed with German panzers at engagements ranges of around 1,000 meters, it was able to destroy its foe without taking any critical damage in return. While the S.35 did reasonably well in combat, the mechanics servicing the vehicle had only few good things to say about the tank. Due to its cast hull and complex suspension design, it was notoriously difficult to service and maintain. In fact, maintenance was so difficult that in the case the tank got tracked in combat, the crew was unlikely to be able to fix the damage on site. Nevertheless, though the S.35 may have seen brief success in battle, its victories were in fact, only short-lived. In June 1940, France capitulated and German forces occupied the northern part of the country, whilst the Vichy government was established in the south. Several dozens of S.35s were captured, modified and used by the Germans and Italians, with only a handful of S.35s also being given to axis allies such as Hungary and Bulgaria. The S.35 was eventually decommissioned from active service with the end of hostilities in 1945.
In War Thunder, the SOMUA S.35 will quickly prove itself as an indispensable asset to any low ranking French ground forces lineup, not only because of its iconic status, but also because of the good balance between firepower, mobility and protection that the vehicle has to offer to its commanders. Speaking from a historical point of view, the S.35 only had a few major drawbacks, such as difficult maintenance, limited range and low crew count. Fortunately, these drawback mostly affected the vehicle’s performance in real combat, meaning that the S.35 will unlikely be hindered by these deficiencies on its path to greatness in War Thunder. Being employed by cavalry regiments, the S.35 was primarily intended to exploit breakthroughs achieved by the infantry. To do this, the vehicle was equipped with a 190 horsepower V8 diesel engine which gave the tank a top speed of 40 km/h on paved roads. Once the S.35 makes contact with the enemy, players can take advantage of the good ballistic properties and rate of fire of the 47mm SA 35 cannon mounted in the fully rotatable turret manned by the commander. However, it’s worth baring in mind that armor piercing ammunition that the cannon used did not contain any explosive filler. This means that although it won’t be a problem to penetrate most targets even up to a range of 1,000m, the scored hits will have connect with and penetrate the target in crucial spots to do maximum damage in order to be effective.
Though it may not seem like it at first glance, the S.35 is actually smaller in size than its main adversaries - the Panzer III and IV. While on one hand, the smaller size makes the tank a more difficult target to hit, it also limits the amount of crew that can be fitted within it, on the other. This is one issue that not only plagued the vehicle in real combat, as it severely increased the commander’s workload (who had to issue orders, aim and load the gun), but will also have an impact on the vehicle’s performance in War Thunder. Although all vehicles in War Thunder are commanded by one crew member anyways, namely the player, possessing only three crew members will still somewhat limit the S.35’s offensive capabilities as one penetrating hit will likely be enough to take out the entire crew inside the cramped fighting compartment. The S.35s last line of defense is its armour protection. Consisting of 47mm and 42mm of cast steel for the frontal hull and turret front respectively, the S.35 will be capable of absorbing incoming fire from some weaker anti-tank cannons on close range, whilst also being able to deflect damage of some more potent weapons at longer distances as well.
The SOMUA S.35 is headed for the battlefields of War Thunder with the upcoming next major update to the game. Keep a close eye on the news to find out what else update 1.75 has in store! Until then!