Sherman Firefly (Medium Tank, M4A4) Tank Destroyer / Medium Tank
The Sherman Firefly became one of the more important Sherman variants of World War 2 - the first to sport an effective Panzer-killing 76mm main gun.
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Outwardly, the Sherman Firefly series of tank destroyers looked every bit like their M4 Sherman base counterparts. Closer examination would reveal a British-designed system that was finally capable of dealing with the impressive German Tiger and Panther tanks at distance. The Sherman Firefly would go on to become one of the more important Sherman tank derivatives of World War 2 despite their seemingly limited production numbers.
From the outset, Allied tank crews were at a disadvantage when tangling with the well-armored German tanks, needing numbers and ingenuity to usually overcome their counterparts. This resulted in Allied tank crews zeroing in for a near-point blank hit to the side or rear of the German units. The British and Americans were already looking into an upgunned version of the successful Medium Tank, M4 (or "M4 Sherman"), seeing that the weapon system was readily available in some quantity with a progressive stream of examples coming off the assembly lines at a record pace. Some in the American military offered mating a 90mm main gun to the existing M4 superstructure but others saw to it that the tank-versus-tank engagements should be handled by dedicated tank destroyer elements. Others were worried about the recoil effects and general unbalancing of adding such a weapon to the already heavy Sherman design. Still others balked at the prospect of having to redesign an entirely new turret system to take on such a weapon.
Going at it alone, the British were un-phased at the prospect. Seeing as how the Germans were able to fit their anti-tank guns into existing Panther tanks beginning in 1943, the British brought up the concept of fitting their 76.2mm anti-tank cannon (also known as the "17-pounder") into a Sherman. The 17-pounder was on par with the German 75mm guns and was already known to be a terrific penetrator of known armor configurations thanks to excellent propellant and a longer barrel. The early model Shermans and their turrets already in the possession of the British Army proved to be the right test bed for such a concept and the "Firefly" was accepted into service immediately. It was quickly issued to each tank group - which normally consisted of five tanks - one would be switched out in favor of a single Firefly.