Greetings MOMrades, long time, no blog!
Blitz 4.4 is going to bring buffs and nerfs, feel free to read up on those and opine separately. Rather than rage about the "If it ain't broke, balance it until it is" mentality of WG developers, I'm here to say one simple thing about 4.4:
They got me.
When 3.8 rolled out (remember that? Great fun) I said that I would not purchase any further Premium tanks in Blitz until the travesty that is Spare Parts was resolved, unless WG released an M4 Sherman Firefly. Fortunately for my unemployed derriere, they did one better: it's coming to the Tech Tree. Why does Forward_To_Death need to have a Firefly in his garage? In a word: 'Murica.
Yes, loyal readers, a young DK thinks of something a whole lot like that beast when he thinks "World War II Tank". None of the hocus-pocus Halloween nonsense. Not the prototype tanks that are fun to play, even if they never made it off of the drawing board. No MOMrade, to this guy, the quintessential tank of tanks is named after a crazed Union general who put the A in Attrition. So, for this post, I thought that it would be fun to provide a bit of background on the platform and the variants that we see in Blitz.
From the Confederacy to the Union
The M3 Lee (or Grant, in the UK Lend-Lease configuration) was, in many ways, a rush job. The United States needed a Medium Tank (because, really, who doesn't?) and the British were pounding at the door looking for tanks, and the M3 was relatively easy to mass produce. While it served well against 1942 Axis hardware, it had many disadvantages (several of which can be witnessed in Blitz play).
Enter the M4 Sherman- a medium tank that fit American tank doctrine (which emphasized multi-role capability) and would see victory at the end of World War II not because it was a perfect fighting machine, but because the U.S. could build so many of them.
The first and second Shermans (M4A1) were produced at the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio- #2 (provided to the British for design testing) can be viewed at Bovington. The M4 had a 75mm M3 cannon, cast hull, and a Continental R975 radial power plant. In Blitz- mount the 75mm M3 cannon to the stock turret, add the first engine, and you have a decent facsimile of the first M4A1's.
Running in parallel with the initial design, both welded hull (M4) and cast-front, welded side hull (M4 Composite) variants were produced throughout the war years. Beginning in 1944, a revision of the 76mm M1 cannon (M1A1) was mounted to a turret from the scrapped T23 project, resulting in the first Shermans (M4A1 variants) to wield a 76mm main armament. Also in 1944, a (relatively) small number of M4 variants were equipped with a 105mm M4 howitzer for attacking fortifications. The upgrade paths in Blitz are accurate- to drive an M4(105), mount the 105mm M4 howitzer to the stock turret. To drive an M4A1(76), mount the upgraded turret and the M1A1 cannon.
The evolution of powerplants led to the M4A2 variant, which was powered by a pair of 6-71 Diesel engines in a U configuration. About 20% of Shermans built during WWII were M4A2, M4A2(76)W, or M4A2(76)W HVSS, where "W" denotes Wet storage of ammunition, and HVSS denotes Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension. The M4A2E4 in Blitz represents the M4A2, as it is armed with a 75mm M3 cannon.
In addition (and in parallel to the other variants being produced), the M4A3 variants introduced the Ford GAA V8 gasoline engine as a power plant to the Sherman, and has a lengthy list of child variants. The M4A3, M4A3(75)W, M4A3(75)W HVSS, M4A3E2, M4A3(76)W, M4A3(76)W HVSS, M4A3(105), and M4A3(105) HVSS complete the list of variants- of particular note are the M4A3E2 "Jumbo" and M4A3(76) W HVSS "Easy Eight" variants, both of which appear in Blitz. The Tech Tree is true to history in terms of cannon, with the Jumbo having a T110 turret stock, and while few were manufactured with 76mm armament, field adaptation occurred (the gun mount was designed to accept a variety of US cannons). To my knowledge, the Jumbo and E8 were never provided with an engine other than the Ford GAA V8, and converting a tank from a radial to an inline or V configuration (or vice versa) doesn't seem likely to have happened in the field. The Easy Eight would continue to serve the US military through Korea- here is one pulling artillery duty:
Rounding out the "standard" variants are the M4A4 (Chrysler A57 30 cylinder gasoline powerplant, lengthened welded hull) and M4A6 (Caterpillar radial diesel powerplant, lengthened hull with cast front, welded sides). The A4 variant may be of interest to Blitzers, as it is what the British referred to as the "Sherman V", and it will be coming to the tech tree as a Tier V Medium tank. Historically, the M4A4 was armed with the 75mm M3 cannon, but it looks like WG has added the 105mm M4 howitzer as an option (biting my tongue...).
If you're still noodling through the idea of a 30 cylinder engine, here you go:
The British took on thousands of Shermans, and managed to mount their 17 pounder (76.2mm) anti-tank cannon to both M4 and M4A4 variants, creating the Firefly. Based on in-game announcement images, we'll be looking at the M4A4 Firefly in game.
In theory, the Firefly in Blitz will progress from a 75mm M3 gun to the 17 pdr, but I suspect that other armament choices will be offered as well (they just can't help themselves, really). Expect the armor characteristics of the current M4 on both the Sherman V and Sherman Firefly, possibly with some loss of gun depression on the Firefly. The announcement promises good penetration for the 17 pdr gun, which would be true to history- German anti-tank units targeted Firefly configured Shermans first, as they posed the greatest threat to Tiger and Panther tanks. To that end, apparently some units resorted to trickery, trying to "hide" the additional length and tell-tale muzzle break of the 17 pdr:
Also of note in the shot above- this particular tank has had applique armor welded onto the side of the hull (very common with early Sherman variants), as well as additional plate added to protect the driver and bow gunner (Fireflies had the bow gun removed, in the interest of ammunition storage). The turret has also been reinforced, and the signature "bustle" at the back of the turret exists (Fireflies had these to house the radio).
I'm looking forward to playing both new Sherman variants in game, although I wonder how WG will handle reload on the 17 pdr (in the real world, the turret of a Firefly was extremely cramped, due to the gun modification and the longer shell, and rate of fire was less). Punching through the reds should be fun regardless, and the platform has the mobility to shoot-and-scoot.