Ok, I have given you an opprortunity to ask, now it's time to get answers. Since Doyle's replies are rahter detailed, I am going to break them into issues. Here is the first one and expect more to come in future. Doyle's replies are bolded (just in case)
1. Have you heard of World of Tanks? Do you play it?
World of Tanks has been well known to me for the past couple of years. I have watched gamers playing and have been very impressed by the graphics and ideas behind the game. In March 2012 I was delighted to be invited by “Chieftain” to take part, with other reputable authors, in Operation-Think-Tank which was hosted by World of Tanks at the MVTF in California, USA.
But unfortunately, I do not have time to play World of Tanks, as each year I and my co-author Tom Jentz publish four Panzer Tracts books (we now have a total of over 50 Panzer Tracts covering most of the Panzers and special vehicles used by the Germans). With Panzer Tracts we take an academic approach and present the results of more than forty years research of primary source documents created by those who designed, produced and employed the Panzers. Our ongoing research, which allows us to give the definitive history of Panzers, takes a great deal of time. In addition I prepare CAD drawings that accurately represent the Panzers “as built”. It takes hundreds of hours to locate and measure surviving vehicles and components, find original blueprints, for this task.
2. Would you trust Soviets who had family members killed by Germans in WW2 to impartially make a game about WW2?
What unites us all is our interest in the technical, historical, tactical and strategic aspects of past conflicts. In over forty years research I have met participants from many nations, none were motivated by the sad aspects of their past history. So I am certain that our common interest allows us to rise above those personal experiences.
3. The spaced/skirt armour of the Panzer IV and StuG III, Did it have much effect on the battlefield?
Schuerzen plates were a response to a particular threat encountered by the Germans in Russia. Russian infantry were well equipped with 14.5mm anti-tank rifles. When Panzers, to achieve an objective, moved ahead of their protecting infantry they were often subjected to side attack from concealed infantry with these antitank rifles. The medium Panzers: Pz.Kpfw.III, IV and StuG all had 30mm side armour that was vulnerable to multiple 14.5mm antitank rifles hits which could result in mechanical damage and injury to the crews. Initially it was thought that the side armour would need to be increased but this would have had significant weight consequences and take time to introduce. German designers discovered that 5mm steel plates set at some distance from the side armour was more than enough to dissipate the energy of the anti-tank rifle round before it reached the side armour plate so Schuerzen (Apron) plates were born.
4. Is it possible to assess observed /expected performance of the Panther / Panther II on the battlefield?
The Panther II started as a response to the threat of Russian infantry equipped with anti-tank rifles referred to in Question 3. The primary request was for heavier side armour. Of course, once a new design commenced it provided an opportunity for addition new technical ideas to be incorporated. One of these ideas was to attempt to standardise on components that could be shared with the Tiger II, such as a Maybach Olvar transmission, suspension, wheels etc. The Panther II was longer and heavier than a normal Panther I. Although several turret designs were offered no turret was ever mounted on the Versuchsfahrzeuge (test vehicle).
With the invention of the Schuerzen the gap between the road wheels and the sloped Aufbau (superstructure) of the Panther I could be covered by Schuerzen plates and there was no need for the heavier Panther II. Despite the cancellation of the Panther II project a Panther II Versuchsfahrzeuge (Prototype) was constructed from mild steel and used for research purposes.
This Panther II Versuchsfahrzeuge was taken from the M.A.N factory by the Americans at the end of the war. It was on display at the Fort Knox Museum until 2010. During a “restoration” in the Seventies a normal Panther Ausf.G turret was mounted for exhibition purposes.
5. In the "battle" between Henschel and Porsche, did the best designs actually win, or were there other political factors at play and what affect does he think this had on the tanks that emerged?
The different industrial firms always competed to win lucrative design and assembly contracts. Porsche was an engineer developing innovative solutions and was much admired by the Politicians. Henschel had an advantage in the competition for what eventually became the Tiger because since late thirties they had been responsible for several heavy tank design projects leading to a trial production series of eight V.K.30.01 (H). The V.K.30.01 (H) was cancelled as a result of the experience in France in 1940 and intelligence reports which indicated even more powerful tanks would be required by 1942.
Besides the eight V.K.30.01 (H) tanks, components were used to construct a two trial 12.8cm auf Selbstfahrlafette V. (One of these unique vehicles has been preserved for all to see at the Kubinka Tank Museum near Moscow)
The next iteration by Henschel designers was the V.K.36.01 (H). This had had much improved suspension with wider tracks. But this project was in turn abandoned after one Versuchsfahrzeuge was built because the hull was not wide enough to mount the turret ring needed for a turret with an 8.8cm Gun that was now demanded. The next version was the V.K.45.01 (H) has many of the features of the V.K.36.01 but with wider superstructure – this became the Tiger I.
Porsche’s first attempt at designing a Panzer was the V.K.30.01 (P). This had many novel features including: horizontal torsion bar suspension designed to free up space inside the hull and allow for easier replacement, an electric drive train and a new air-cooled engine. Again this project was cancelled because the superstructure was too narrow to mount a turret with the 8.8cm gun. Porsche rapidly evolve his design to the V.K.45.01 (P). One hundred of the Porsche Tiger were ordered but problems with the new air-cooled engine could not be resolved in time. So the Henschel Tiger entered production. The turrets constructed for the Porsche Tiger were mounted on Henschel Tigers. The Tiger I on display at the Bovington Tank Museum in England has a turret originally intended for a Porsche Tiger
90 of the chassis built for the Porsche Tiger were redesigned to become the basis of the Ferdinand. Fitted with two standard Maybach HL 120 motors the electric drive proved very flexible. The Ferdinand had the highest kill ratio of all Panzers.
6. I'd like to know whether you preferred Henschel or Porsches designs for things like the eventual Tiger.
During my career as a Tank author I have been fascinated by the technical design and development of the various vehicles. I cannot really say I prefer one over another. Every design represents the thinking at a particular point in time. Technically the Porsche Tiger was very interesting and was very successful when adopted as the Ferdinand.
7. Assuming the basic problems could be overcome - how would the 7002 DB have fared in battled?
There was an endless list of proposed ideas to match each and every discussion. The various Panzer design companies were quick to say “of course we can do that” in the hope that contracts would follow. At the next discussion sketches were often presented. But few of these ideas really progressed until a requirement was formulated.
8. What could be further improvements of Jagdpanther?
When the Germans were developing rigid mounted guns for the Jagdpanzer 38t Starr, it was proposed to mount a rigid version of the 8.8cm in a Jagdpanther. The benefits compared to a normal Jagdpanther would have been the reduced size of gun mount, mantlet and opening in the front plate. Weight reduction would have improved performance.
9. I would like to ask about tank destroyer on E-100 chassis. Were there any plans of such vehicle or it was just an idea to do somewhere in future tank destroyer on this chassis, but no plans and specifications? In other words, how much true is popular in the internet Jagdpanther-like model E-100 Krokodil?
The E-100 evolved from a suggestion to Krupp that an alternative to the Porsche Maus might be worthwhile give the problems being encountered in the development of the Porsche Tiger. (See my answer to Question 5). While I might have doubts about the requirement for such a heavy Panzer in fact the Porsche Maus proved technically quite successful. To the annoyance of Krupp the E-100 design was turned over to Adler just to continue it as an experimental vehicle. We have found no documentation to that suggests the E-100 chassis was considered for other purposes.
I have found original drawings for the gun mount and cast mantlet for a 15cm Sturmgeschuetz L/67. There is indication as to what chassis might have been contemplated for this weapon and the outline of the frontal armour does not fit any of the known designs. I hope to include this drawing in future Panzer Tracts on “Paper Panzers”
10. What was Germans biggest mistake in tanks development and what was their biggest success?
The Germans were slow recognise that suspension with track wider than 400mm would be needed and one of their more powerful (longer) guns should have been mounted earlier. It must be remembered that narrow track is efficient on paved roads and the Germans were reluctant to have long guns that projecting over the side of their vehicle in built up areas.
The biggest success was the Panther. It was an excellent all around battle tank with good performance and excellent gun. The last model Panther Ausf.F which was entering production at the end of the war had a new Schmalturm (Narrow turret) that eliminated shot trap weaknesses of earlier versions. With experienced well trained crews the Panther was outstanding.