Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1942)
Medium Tank – Blueprints Only

Prior to the German occupation of Czech lands, the Škoda works was one of the largest weapon manufacturers in the world, famous for its artillery and later its armored vehicles. In the early 1930s, Škoda became involved in designing and building tankettes, followed by tanks. Many models, like the LT vz. 35 or the T-21 (built under license in Hungary), would be mass-produced, while others never passed the prototype stage. Work on a new design during wartime was slow but a few interesting projects would be developed, such as the T-25. This was an attempt to design and build a tank that would be an effective opponent of the Soviet T-34 medium tank. It would have had an innovative main gun, well-sloped armor and excellent speed. Alas, no working prototype of this vehicle was ever built (only a wooden mock-up) and it remained a paper project.


The T-25 Medium Tank. This is the second drawing of the T-25 with a recognized turret design. It is the shape by which the T-25 is generally known today. Photo: SOURCE

Škoda’s Projects

The Škoda steel works located in Pilsen founded a special armament department in 1890. In the beginning, Škoda specialized in the production of heavy fortress and naval guns, but would also in time begin designing and building field guns. After World War One and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the new Czech nation joined with the Slovakian nation and formed the Republic of Czechoslovakia. Škoda works survived these turbulent times and managed to preserve its place in the world as a famous weapon manufacturer. By the thirties, besides weapons production, Škoda emerged as a car manufacturer in Czechoslovakia. Škoda’s owners did not at first show any interest in the development and production of tanks. Praga (the other famous Czechoslovakian weapon manufacturer) made a contract with the Czechoslovakian military in the early 1930s for developing new tankette and tank designs. Seeing a potential new business opportunity, the Škoda owners made a decision to begin developing their own tankettes and tank designs.

During the period between 1930 and 1932, Škoda made several attempts to gain the army’s attention. By 1933, Škoda designed and produced two tankettes: the S-I (MUV-4), and the S-I-P that were shown to army officials. As Praga had already received the order for production, the army agreed only to test the Škoda tankettes without ordering them.

By 1934, Škoda abandoned the development of any future tankettes as they had proved to be ineffective as combat vehicles, and instead moved to tank designs. Škoda presented several projects to the army but it was not successful in gaining any production orders, although the S-II-a design managed to gain some attention from the army. Despite the fact that it was shown to have flaws during army testing carried out in 1935, it was still put into production under the military designation Lt. vz. 35. They received an order for 298 vehicles for the Czechoslovakian army (from 1935 to 1937) and 138 were to be exported to Romania in 1936.

By the late 1930s, Škoda suffered some setbacks in their attempts to sell vehicles abroad and with the cancellation of the S-III medium tank. By 1938, Škoda works focused on designing a new branch of medium tanks, known as the T-21, T-22 and T-23. Due to the German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939, the work on these models was stopped. During 1940, the Hungarian army showed great interest in the T-21 and T-22 designs, and in agreement with Škoda, a contract was signed in August 1940 for license production in Hungary.

The Name

It was common for all Czechoslovakian armored vehicle manufacturers to give their tanks and tankettes designations based on the following parameters: First would be the initial capital letter of the manufacturer’s name (for Škoda this was ’S’ or ’Š’). Then the Roman numerals I, II, or III would be used to describe the vehicle’s type (I for tankettes, II for light tanks, and III for medium tanks). Sometimes a third character would be added to denote a special purpose (like ’a’ for cavalry or ’d’ for a gun etc.). After a vehicle was accepted for operational service, the army would then give the vehicle its own designation.

The Škoda works in 1940 completely abandoned this system and introduced a new one. This new designation system was based on the capital letter ‘T’ and a number, for example, the T-24 or, the last of the series, the T-25.

History of the T-24 and T-25 Projects

During the War, the ČKD company (under German occupation the name was changed to BMM Bohmisch-Mahrische Maschinenfabrik) was very important for the German war effort. It was engaged in the production of a large number of armored vehicles based on the successful Panzer 38(t) tank.

The designers and engineers from the Škoda works were not idle during the war either and made some interesting designs. To begin with, these were on their own initiative. The largest problem for the armaments department of the Škoda works at the beginning of the war was that the German military and industry officials were not interested in expanding production of weapons to occupied countries, albeit with a few exceptions like the Panzers 35 and 38(t). During this time, Škoda weapons production was very limited. After the invasion on the Soviet Union and after suffering large losses of men and material, the Germans were forced to change this.

As nearly all German industrial capacity was directed towards supplying the Heer (German field army), the Waffen SS (more or less a Nazi army) was often left empty-handed. In 1941, Škoda presented the Waffen SS with a self-propelled-gun project based on the T-21 and armed with the 10.5 cm howitzer. A second project, the T-15, was conceived as a fast light reconnaissance tank and was also presented. Although the SS was interested in the Škoda designs, nothing came from this.

Škoda designers and engineers had the opportunity to examine some captured Soviet T-34 and KV-1 models (possibly in late 1941 or early 1942). It would not be wrong to say that they were perhaps shocked to discover how these were superior in protection, firepower, and in having larger tracks when compared to their own tanks, and even to many German tank models at that time. As a result, they immediately began working on a brand new design (it would have nothing in common with older Škoda designs) with much better armor, mobility, and sufficient firepower. They hoped that they could convince the Germans, who were desperate at that time for an armored vehicle which could effectively fight Soviet tanks. From this work, two similar designs would be born: the T-24 and the T-25 projects.

The Germans made an agreement with Škoda at the beginning of 1942 giving them permission to develop a new tank design based on several criteria. The most important conditions set by the German army were: ease of production with minimal important resources used, to be able to be produced quickly and to have a good balance of firepower, armor, and mobility. The first wooden mock-ups to be built were to be ready by the end of July 1942, and the first fully operational prototype was to be ready for testing in April 1943.

The first proposed project was submitted in February 1942 to the German weapons testing office (Waffenprüfungsamt). Known under the designation T-24, it was an 18.5-tonne medium tank armed with a 7.5 cm gun. The T-24 (and later T-25) was heavily influenced by the Soviet T-34 in regards to the sloping armor design and the forward mounted turret.

The second proposed project was known under the designation T-25, and was to be much heavier at 23 tonnes with the same caliber (but different) 7.5 cm gun. This project was proposed to the Germans in July 1942 and the necessary technical documentation was ready in August 1942. The T-25 looked more promising to the Germans as it fulfilled the request for good mobility and firepower. Due to this, the T-24 was discarded at the beginning of September 1942. The earlier built T-24 wooden mock-up was scrapped and all work on it was halted. The development of the T-25 continued until the end of the year, when, in December 1942, the German military lost all interest in it and ordered Škoda to stop any future work on this project. Škoda proposed two self-propelled designs based on the T-25 armed with 10.5 cm and a larger 15 cm howitzers, but as the whole project was abandoned, nothing came from this.

What Would it Have Looked Like?

There is enough information about the technical characteristics of the T-25 tank, but the exact appearance is somewhat unclear. The first drawing of the T-25 was dated 29th of May 1942 (under the designation Am 2029-S). What is interesting about this drawing is what seems to be a display of two different turrets placed on one hull (the T-24 and T-25 had very similar hulls but with different dimensions and armor). The smaller turret, in all likelihood, belongs to the first T-24 (it can be identified by the shorter 7.5 cm gun) while the larger one should belong to the T-25.


The first drawing (designated Am 2029-S) of the T-25 together with the seemingly smaller turret that may have belonged to the T-24. As these two had a very similar design, it is easy to mistake them for one vehicle, when in fact, they were not. Photo: SOURCE

The second drawing of the T-25 was made (possibly) in late 1942 and its turret has a completely different design. The second turret is somewhat higher, with two top metal plates instead of a single one. The front part of the first turret would most likely (it is difficult to determine exactly) be rectangular shaped, while the second would have more complicated hexagonal shape. The existence of two different turret designs may at first glance seem somewhat unusual. The explanation may lie in the fact that in May the T-25 was still at its early research and design phase, and so by the latter part of the year, some changes were necessary. For example, the gun installation demanded more space and thus the turret needed to be somewhat larger, with more space necessary for the crew to work effectively.

Technical Characteristics

Unlike the problem with the determination of the exact appearance of the T-25 tank, there is reliable information and sources concerning the technical characteristics of the Škoda T-25, from the engine used and the estimated maximum speed, armor thickness, and armament, to the number of crew. It is very important to note, however, that in the end the T-25 was only a paper project and it was never constructed and tested, so these numbers and information may have changed on a real prototype or later during production.

The T-25 suspension consisted of twelve 70 mm diameter road wheels (with six on both sides) each of which had a rubber rim. The wheels were connected in pairs, with six pairs in total (three on each side). There were two rear drive sprockets, two front idlers, and no return rollers. Some sources state that the front idlers were, in fact, drive sprockets, but this seems unlikely. Examination of the rear part (exactly at the last wheel and drive sprocket) on the drawing designated Am 2029-S of the T-25 reveals what appears to be a transmission assembly for powering the rear sprockets. The front hull design appears to have left no available space for installation of a front transmission. The suspension consisted of 12 torsion bars located beneath the floor. The tracks would be 460 mm wide with a possible ground pressure of 0.66 kg/cm².

The T-25 was planned at first to be powered by an unspecified diesel engine, but sometime during the development stage, this was dropped in favor of a petrol engine. The main engine chosen was a 450 hp 19.814-liter air-cooled Škoda V12 running at 3,500 rpm. Interestingly, a second small auxiliary engine producing just 50 hp was also planned to be added. The purpose of this small auxiliary engine was to power up the main engine and provide extra power. While the main engine was started by using the auxiliary engine, this one, in turn, would be started either electrically or by using a crank. The maximum theoretical speed was around 58-60 km/h.

The T-25 was influenced by the Soviet T-34. This is most apparent in the sloping armor design. The T-25 would be built by using welded armor on both the superstructure and the turret. The armor design seems to have been a very simple design, with angled armor plates (of which the exact angle is unknown but was possibly in the range of 40° to 60°). This way, the need for more carefully machined armored plates (like on Panzer III or IV) was unnecessary. Also, by using larger one-piece metal plates, the structure was made much stronger and also easier for production.

The armor thickness was in the range of 20 to 50 mm according to official factory archives, but according to some sources (such as P.Pilař), the maximum front armor was up to 60 mm thick. The maximum thickness of the frontal turret armor was 50 mm, the sides were 35 mm, and the rear between 25 to 35 mm thick. Most of the turret armor was sloped, which added extra protection. The hull upper front plate armor was 50 mm, while the lower was also 50 mm. The side sloped armor was 35 mm while the lower vertical armor was 50 mm thick. The roof and floor armor were the same 20 mm thickness. The T-25 dimensions were 7.77 m long, 2.75 m wide, and 2.78 m high.

The hull design was more or less conventional with a separated frontal crew compartment and the engine in the rear, which was divided from the other compartments by an 8 mm thick armored plate. This was done in order to protect the crew from engine heat and noise. It was also important to protect them from any possible outbreaks of fire arising because of some malfunction or combat damage. The total weight was calculated to be around 23 tonnes.

Crew

The T-25 crew consisted of four members, which may seem strange by German standards, but the use of an automatic loading system meant that the lack of a loader was not a problem. The radio operator and the driver were located in the vehicle hull, while the commander and the gunner were in the turret. The front crew compartment consisted of two seats: one on the left for the driver and the second to the right for the radio operator. The radio equipment used would most likely have been a German type (possibly a Fu 2 and Fu 5). The forward mounted turret design on the T-25 had one significant issue in that the crew members in the hull had no hatches at either the hull top or sides. These two crew members had to enter their battle positions through the turret hatches. In case of an emergency, where crew members had to make a quick escape from the vehicle, it could take too much time or would perhaps be impossible because of combat damage. According to T-25 drawings, there were four viewports in the hull: two on the front and one on both of the angled sides. The driver’s armored viewports appear to be the same design (possibly with armored glass behind) as on the German Panzer IV.

Located in the turret was the rest of the crew. The commander was located at the left rear of the turret with the gunner in front of him. For observation of the surroundings, the commander had a small cupola with a fully rotating periscope. It is unknown if there would have been side viewports on the turret. There is a single hatch door for the commander in the turret, possibly with one more on top and perhaps even one to the rear as with the later Panther design. The turret could be rotated by using a hydroelectric or mechanical drive. For communication between the crew, especially the commander and the hull crew members, light signals and a telephone device were to be provided.


Illustration of the T-25 with the earlier turret design.


Illustration of the T-25 with the second design turret. This is how the T-25 would probably have looked if it went into production.

3D model of the T-25. This model and the above illustrations were produced by Mr. Heisey, funded by our Patron DeadlyDilemma through our Patreon campaign.

Armament

The main weapon chosen for the T-25 was interesting in many ways. It was Škoda’s own experimental design, a 7.5 cm A18 L/55 caliber gun with no muzzle brake. In Germany, this gun was designated as 7.5 cm Kw.K. (KwK or KwK 42/1 depending on the source). The gun mantlet was rounded, which offered good ballistic protection. This gun had an automatic drum loading mechanism containing five rounds with a maximum estimated rate of fire of around 15 rounds per minute, or around 40 rounds per minute at full auto. The gun was designed so that, after firing each round, the spent case would be automatically ejected by compressed air. The A18 muzzle velocity was 900 m/s according to official factory archives. Armor penetration at a range of 1 km was around 98 mm. The T-25 ammo capacity was to be around 60 rounds; most would be AP with a smaller number of HE rounds. The total gun (together with mantlet) weight was around 1,600 kg. The A18 gun elevation was -10 to +20°. This gun was actually constructed during the war but because of the cancellation of the entire project, it was probably put into storage, where it remained until the war ended. After the war research continued and it was tested on one Panzer VI Tiger I heavy tank.

The secondary weapon was a light machine gun of unknown type (with an estimated 3,000 rounds of ammunition) located on the right front side of the turret. Whether it was coaxially mounted with the main gun or used independently (as on Panzer 35 and 38(t)) is unknown, but the former is most probably correct as it is more practical and was in general use on all German tanks. It is unknown if there was a hull ball-mounted machine gun, although the few existing illustrations do not appear to show one. It is possible that it would be installed and in that case, it would be operated by the radio operator. It is equally possible that the radio operator would use his personal weapon (possibly MP 38/40 or even MG 34) to fire through his front viewport similar to the later Panther Ausf. D’s MG 34 ‘letterbox’ flap. Regardless, the possible absence of a hull machine gun was not a significant defect, as it results in weak spots on the frontal armor. If the T-25 did use a hull machine gun (and in the turret), it would likely have been either the standard German MG 34 that was used in all German tanks and vehicles in both coaxial and hull mounts or the Czechoslovakian VZ37 (ZB37). Both were 7.92 mm caliber machine guns and used by the German until the end of War War Two.

Modifications

Similar to other German armored vehicles, the T-25 tank chassis was to be used for different self-propelled designs. Two similar designs with different guns were proposed. The first was to be armed with a lightweight 10.5 cm howitzer.


This is possibly the only wooden mock-up of the Škoda proposed self-propelled designs based on the T-25. Photo: SOURCE

There is confusion as to which exact howitzer was used. It could have been the Škoda-built 10.5 cm leFH 43 howitzer (10.5 cm leichte FeldHaubitze 43), or the Krupp howitzer of the same name. Krupp built only a wooden mock-up while Škoda built a functional prototype. We must also consider the fact that as the T-25 was a Škoda design it would be logical to assume that the designers would use their gun instead of the Krupp one. The Škoda 10.5 cm leFH 43 howitzer was designed from late 1943 and the first operational prototype was built only by the war’s end in 1945.

The 10.5 cm le FH 43 was an improvement of the existing leFH 18/40 howitzer. It had a longer gun but the biggest innovation was the design of the carriage which allowed a full 360° of traverse. The 10.5 cm leFH 43 characteristics were: elevation -5° to + 75°, traverse 360°, weight in action 2,200 kg (on a field carriage).


The Škoda 10.5 cm leFH 43 howitzer. Photo: SOURCE

However, there is a considerable chance that the gun that would, in fact, be used was the 10.5 cm leFH 42. This gun was designed and built in limited numbers around the same time (in 1942) as the T-25. Both Krupp and Škoda howitzers were designed and built long after the T-25 was developed. The 10.5 cm le FH 42 muzzle brake is very similar to the wooden mock-up, but this is not a definitive proof that this was the weapon, merely a simple observation.

The 10.5 cm leFH 42 characteristics were: elevation -5° to + 45°, traverse 70°, weight in action 1,630 kg (on a field carriage), maximum range up to 13,000 km with velocity of 595 m/s. The 10.5 cm le FH 42 was rejected by the German army and only a few prototypes were ever built.


One of the few 10.5 cm Le FH 42 ever built. Photo: SOURCE

There is a real chance that none of these two howitzers would have been used if this modification had entered production. The reasons for this are the following: 1) none of the three 10.5 cm howitzers were available as they had either not been accepted for service by the German army or were not ready by the end of war 2) Only the wooden mock-up was built of the 10.5 cm self-propelled vehicle based on the T-25. The final decision for the main weapon would have been made only after an operational prototype was constructed and adequately tested. As it was only a paper project we can not know with certainty whether the modification itself was feasible in practice 3) due to ease of maintenance, ammunition and the availability of spare parts the in-production 10.5 cm leFH 18 (or later improved models) would have been the most likely candidate.

The second proposed design was to be armed with a more powerful 15 cm sFH 43 (schwere FeldHaubitze) howitzer. Several artillery manufacturers were asked by the German army to design a howitzer with all-around traverse, a range of up to 18,000 km, and a high elevation of fire. Three different manufacturers (Škoda, Krupp, and Rheinmetall-Borsig) responded to this request. It would not go into production as only a wooden mock-up was ever built.

Only a wooden mock-up of the vehicle armed with the 10.5 cm seems to have been made due to the cancellation of the T-25 tank. Beside the main guns that are to be used, nothing much is known about these modifications. According to the old photograph of the wooden model, it looks like it would have had a fully (or at least partially) rotating turret with a light machine gun. On the hull side, we can see what looks like a lifting crane (possibly one on both sides), designed to dismount the turret. The dismounted turret may then have been used as static fire support or placed on wheels as ordinary towed artillery, similar to the 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffentrager IVb German prototype vehicle. On the top of the engine compartment, some extra equipment (or parts of the gun) can be seen. On the vehicle rear (behind the engine) there is a box that looks like a holder for wheels or possibly for extra ammunition and spare parts.

Rejection

The story of the T-25 was a very short one and it did not progress beyond blueprints. Despite the hard work of Škoda workers, nothing besides plans, calculations, and wooden models was ever made. The begs the question: why was it rejected? Unfortunately, due to the lack of adequate documentation, we only can speculate as to the reasons. The most obvious is the introduction of the better armed Panzer IV Ausf. F2 model (armed with longer 7.5 cm gun) which could be built using existing production capacity. The first fully operational T-25 would probably only be able to have been built in late 1943, as the time needed for testing and adopting it for the production would have taken too long.

By late 1943, it is questionable whether the T-25 still would be a good design, it may possibly already be considered obsolete by that point. Another possible reason for rejection was the reluctance of the German army to introduce yet another design (as at that time Tiger development was underway) and thus put more stress on the already overburdened war industry. It is also possible that the Germans were not willing to adopt a foreign design and instead favored domestic projects. Another reason may be the experimental gun itself; it was innovative but how it would perform in real combat conditions and how easy or complicated it would be for production is uncertain at best. The need for the production of new ammunition would also complicate the already over-complicated German ammunition production. So it is understandable why the Germans never accepted this project.

In the end, the T-25 was never adopted for service even though (at least on paper), it had a good gun and good mobility, solid armor, and a relatively simple construction. It should be borne in mind, however, that this was a paper project only and that in reality may be the results would have been completely different. Regardless, due to its short development life after the war, it was mostly forgotten until relatively recently, thanks to its appearance in online games.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 7.77 x 2.75 x 2.78 m
Total weight, battle ready 23 tonnes
Crew 4 (gunner, radio operator, driver and commander)
Armament 7.5 cm Škoda A-18
unknown light machine-guns
Armor 20 – 50 mm
Propulsion Škoda 450 hp V-12 air-cooled
Speed on /off road 60 km/h
Total production None

Source

This article has been sponsored by our Patron DeadlyDilemma through our Patreon campaign.
The author of this text would take the opportunity to express special thanks to Frantisek ‘SilentStalker’ Rozkot for helping with writing this article.
Projekty středních tanků Škoda T-24 a T-25, P.Pilař, HPM, 2004
Enzyklopadie Deutscher waffen 1939-1945 Handwaffen, Artilleries, Beutewaffen, Sonderwaffen, Peter Chamberlain andTerry Gander
German Artillery of World War Two, Ian V.Hogg,
Czechoslovak armored fighting vehicles 1918-1945, H.C.Doyle and C.K.Kliment, Argus Books Ltd. 1979.
Škoda T-25 factory design requirements and drawings, dated 2.10.1942, document designation Am189 Sp
warspot.ru
forum.valka.cz
en.valka.cz
ftr-wot.blogspot.com
ftr.wot-news.com

Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf. F (Sd.Kfz.171)
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One Response to Škoda T-25

  1. Joshua says:

    I remember commenting on another post asking if this tank was real or another Wargaming fake, that was a long time ago. Its good to see it finally has an article. Thank you.

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