Monday, February 25

Preview: Amusing Hobby's ARL-44 in 35th scale...

When you are on to a good thing stick to it - and Amusing hobby continues down the obscure but much-needed variety ticket of picking lesser known vehicles that need a new-tooled variant. The French heavy tank ARL-44 is to be released in June, and they have provided us with the box art and some pictures of built up test kits for our preview...

New from Amusing Hobby at the 58th SHIZUOKA HOBBY Show 2019.

ARL-44 Heavy French Tank
from Amusing Hobby
Kit No# 35A025   
Due for release in June.
At Shizuoka, it seems a new release of the French ARL-44 tank in 1/35th scale is to be produced. We thought we would give you a little history of the tank before we looked at the built-up prototypes in our preview...

ARL-44 in history:
The design of the ARL-44 tank was born during the years of German occupation, through clandestine schemes and the work of a Vichy France secret organization, the CDM (Camouflage du Matériel). The goal was to prepare the future production of a 30-ton tank armed with a high-velocity 75 mm, possibly the APX model previously used on the ARL-40. The Germans asked engineers at the French tank producing firms Hotchkiss and Somua to build a tracked vehicle that could remove snow from Luftwaffe airfields and Kriegsmarine ports. Under the pretence of building this vehicle, the engineers worked on a new tank design for use after the war. This would later become the ARL-44.
Design of the ARL-44
The thought of building a modern tank with available post-war resources was daunting. A shortcut had to be found. German Maybach engines and 75 mm guns could be sourced in German army supply depots inside France. There were a number of captured or wrecked German Panther and Tiger tanks that could be used to obtain parts. As designed the hull was still relatively narrow, with a 90° angle nose beak, an inclined rear engine deck, and a back plate with an inverted slope of around 30°. The prototype’s drive train was to comprise of an old-fashion but the well-proven system made of 17 small metal roadwheels and three return rollers per side. 

The initial wooden mock-up of the ARL-44
There was an additional armour plating on the massive side skirt protecting the suspensions, although compromised by two access hatches. The tracks were very similar to those used on the French heavy tank the Char B1. By February 1945, the Free French Army high command decided the plans as presented were no better than the 76mm Sherman, already available in large quantities or the captured German Panther and Tiger tanks already in use with some French Army tank units.

ARL-44 First prototype
The engineers were told to rethink their design.  The armour was doubled to 120 mm and total weight rose from 43 to 48 tons. The initial ACL-1 turret was made by Atelier et Chantiers de la Loire and mounted an American 76 mm gun.  At V-day in Europe, Engineer General Maurice Lavirotte presented a mockup of the final vehicle. Due to the lack of tactical needs, the project was suspended briefly but it was decided to resume nevertheless the production of 60 vehicle to bolster French National morale and prestige. In March 1946 the prototype started a program of testing.
A new Schneider turret based on the FCM F1 project was fitted to the hull. It was armed with an adapted 90 mm DCA naval AA-gun (muzzle velocity of 1000 m/s to 1130 m/s) featuring a muzzle brake. The turrets were made of welded sides, with a cast front and mantlet, 120 mm thick. It was quite heavy and traverse power was procured by a Simca 5 automobile engine. The definitive production vehicle trials began on 27 June 1947. Turret development and production took time due to the change of the main gun calibre. The 60 tanks were ultimately delivered in 1949 onwards. FAHM provided 40 hulls and Renault manufactured 20 hulls. They were all powered by captured German Maybach HL230 gasoline/petrol 600 hp engines.
Active service
As such, the vehicles delivered from 1949 to 1951 to the 503e Régiment de Chars de Combat stationed in Mourmelon-le-Grand, replacing 17 former German Panthers. The brakes, gearbox and suspension were proven too frail and had to be changed frequently, resulting in a short lifespan.
These were integrated into various re-built armoured divisions largely equipped with US-built M4 Sherman, and M24 Chaffee tanks. As such, this was one of the most heavily armoured tanks inside NATO, as the 120 mm 45° frontal slope was equivalent to 170. The 90 mm was proven accurate and a good asset against the latest generation Soviet T-54/55s. However, the hull configuration, high profile, obsolete suspensions were radical trade-offs which limited its tactical role alongside faster tanks. By 1953 they were gradually phased out and replaced by the M47 Patton.

Surviving ARL-44 at the French Tank Museum, Musée des Blindés, Saumur, France
Specs ARL-44
Dimensions (l-w-h): 10.53 (oa) x 3.40 x 2.20 m (34.7 x 11.2 x 10.6
Total weight, battle ready: 50 Tonnes (100 000 ibs)
Crew : 5 (Driver, Commander, loader, gunner, mechanic)
Propulsion: Maybach HL 230, gasoline 575 hp
Suspensions: Vertical coil springs
Top Speed (flat) 35 kph(22 mph)
Range (road)/Fuel consumption 350 km (220 mi)
Armament 90 mm SA47 DCA45 with 50 rounds (3.5 in)
Two 7.5mm MAC31 Châtellerault machine guns
Armour Hull nose and turret face 120 mm (4.7 in), sides 80 mm
Total Production 60

This new kit from Amusing Hobby
It seems that amusing Hobby is following their popular road of making obscure but much needed low production and experimental tanks with another rare beast - the French ARL-44 tank

The kit features are not very well known to us as of yet - but we do have some built up examples to show you - YOu can see a lot more of the overall look and features of the tank in this short walk around of the completed test kits.
More about this kit from Amusing Hobby the closer we get to release...