Last time, we discussed how the AMX-50 design matured to a virtually finished state, but failed to enter series production due to missing funds and lacking demand in Europe. However, as a conflict with the Soviet Union becoming more and more likely, the AMX-50 project received a breath of fresh air after its development was restarted in order to upgrade the design to the latest standards, capable of combating the next generation of Soviet tanks.
In summer 1951, work on an AMX-50 version armed with a powerful 120mm cannon began with an order for 10 pre-production vehicles to be built by the DEFA (France’s weapons design bureau). The purpose of the vehicle was to provide the armies of the western allies with an alternative to the new American M103 and British Conqueror heavy tanks. The aim was to create a tank with equal firepower to that of the American and British counterpart, but at the same time provide it on a cheaper, lighter and more mobile platform. Most importantly for the new vehicle however, was the ability to effectively combat new Soviet heavily armoured tanks, such as the IS-3 and T-10. This would be ensured by the installation of the American 120mm T53 cannon. To fit the new cannon and its accompanied autoloader onto the AMX-50 chassis, a new oscillating turret was installed. It was much larger, higher in profile and heavier than the previous one. Armour on the hull was also increased to 90mm, leading to the vehicle’s weight being increased to 59.2 tonnes. In 1955, the new AMX-50 Surblindé (uparmoured) received a lower turret and a different hull, resembling that of the IS-3, in hopes of increasing protection. Instead, the weight was further increased to 64 tonnes, which subsequently raised mechanical issues caused by insufficient engine power and weak suspension during testing.
This led to the reconsideration of the entire design, and in 1958, resulted in the AMX-50 Surbaissé (lowered). This final version of the AMX-50 design incorporated a lower cast hull and a higher but lighter turret. Whilst the weight was cut down to 57.8 tonnes, the vehicle finally received its heavy tank designation. However, as the engine issues, which plagued the series from the beginning, still remained due to the high weight, the decision was made to abandon the project in 1959 in favor of the new joint “Europanzer” project, which would later result in the French AMX-30 and German Leopard I tanks. In total, only 6 prototypes of the AMX-50 series were built, across all of its development stages. Despite being seen as a failed project, the AMX-50, incidentally similar to the ARL-44 which it tried to replace, served only as a valuable experimental “playground” for French engineers to gather experience on. The new experience would certainly be put to good use during the development of the Europanzer, and later on, the AMX-30. Only one AMX-50 survives today, namely the final prototype (AMX-50 Surbaissé) in the French tank museum in Saumur.
In War Thunder, the AMX-50 Surbaissé represents the pinnacle of the heavy tank line of the French ground forces research tree added with update 1.75 “La Résistance”. Being a rank five vehicle, aspiring commanders of the Surbaissé can expect nothing short of top performance from the most advanced French heavy tank currently present in the game. Just by looking at the Surbaissé, it should come to no surprise that the highlight of the vehicle is its massive 120mm cannon. Being very similar to the cannon featured on the M103 and firing the same armour-piercing round, the Surbaissé’s cannon has virtually identical ballistic properties when compared to its American cousin. However, the Surbaissé has one distinct advantage over his American counterpart, namely an autoloading mechanism. The latter allows the Surbaissé to achieve a consistent rate of fire of 8 shots/min, which roughly translates to a reload time in between shots of 7.5s. In contrast, the M103 barely manages to achieve half of that rate of fire with its manual shell loading. However, once the autoloader has to be be manually reloaded with shells, Surbaissé commanders can expect to be out of combat for around 50s before they’re ready to fire again.
Though a 50s reload time might appear as quite lengthy, aspiring Surbaissé commanders do have one trick up their sleeve to avoid this reload entirely. As the autoloader of the Surbaissé is able to hold 19 shots before needing to be refilled, players can comfortably only take a single load of ammunition into battle, provided they can make use of each and every shot and avoid spending ammo on targets for which a quick kill cannot be guaranteed. Furthermore, this tactic has an added benefit of lowering an ammo rack explosion due to the decreased number of shells present in the vehicle. When protection is concerned, the Surbaissé both gained and lost in this department compared to previous models. On one hand, the armour thickness has been increased compared to the previous model, but at the same time, the vehicle’s profile has also been raised, making it stand out easier on the battlefield. The heavily angled front armour of both the hull and turret can occasionally cause conventional armour-piercing rounds to ricochet harmlessly off the tank. However, more advanced sub-caliber shots as well as shaped charge rounds will still be able to penetrate the relatively thin armour of the Surbaissé with ease if given the opportunity. To summarize, the Surbaissé performs best when employed aggressively, but not as a frontline heavy tank. Although the vehicle’s excellent cannon can knock out almost anything it faces on the battlefield, the Surbaissé itself can also quickly fall victim to the commonly used sub-caliber and chemical rounds used on the higher ranks. Thus, it’s highly advisable to use the Surbaissé as an aggressive support vehicle, providing devastating covering fire for your allies and potentially breaking the enemy’s defences to allow for a breakthrough.
Though the Surbaissé concludes the main development timeline of the AMX 50 series of fighting vehicles, one more legendary vehicle, which was a side development of the AMX 50, remains to be covered. However, this story we will leave for next time. Until then, tankers!
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