Cruiser Tank Comet (A34) Cruiser Tank
The Comet Cruiser Tank became one of the more important British-originated tank developments before the end of World War 2.
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The Comet Cruiser tank was Britain's most powerful combat tank system of World War 2. It arrived in the latter phases of the conflict and extensive crew training delayed her overall tactical impact in the war but she proved a reliable mount and her crews likened her for the available protection and inherent speed. Eventually, the series would be replaced by more modern tank
systems in the British Army inventory. The Comet became the last of the British infantry-minded "Cruiser" tanks
before all thought shifted to "Main Battle Tanks" during the upcoming Cold War.
The Comet Cruiser design emerged from a 1941 British Army requirement seeking a new tank system with enough armor to survive the dangers of the modern battlefield and enough firepower to effectively engage any German tank then known. British actions across North Africa showcased a shortfall of capable British Army tanks to the point that much reliance was placed on the Lend-Lease American M3 Lee/Grant
and M4 Sherman
medium tanks. British tank design philosophy, at least up to this point in mechanized history, still relied heavily on speed over armor protection and firepower. The evolution of the Cromwell medium tank
served to help thin the gap between British and German tank designs, at least for the interim.
One such early attempt to emerge from the British Army initiative became the "Challenger" prototype (no relation to the Cold War-era main battle tank) which mounted a 17-pounder (77mm) main gun onto a modified chassis of the aforementioned Cromwell medium tank. While the Cromwell hull was acceptable for the experiment, the fitting of the larger gun mount directly influenced a lighter armor protection scheme which, ultimately , proved unacceptable to British authorities. The Challenger design was therefore formally dropped from serious contention and more prototypes were entertained.
Another design soon emerged utilizing an alternative, high-velocity 77mm main gun atop the Cromwell chassis. This 77mm gun was a further development of a smaller caliber Vickers-Armstrong inspired weapon firing a 15lb projectile. The new 77mm gun could now fire a 17lb projectile and was rated against 109mm of armor thickness with penetration out to 1,500 feet. The gun sported a lower muzzle velocity and was internally smaller than the one utilized in the Challenger design but overall armor protection was improved (through welded construction) and a new engine was installed. The selection of gun also opened up its use to the already-existing British ammunition supply and could finally bridge the gap with the late-generation German tanks being fielded - particularly the Panther
This completed design went on to become prototype "A34" and, before long, the tank was assigned the nickname of "Comet". In essence, the Comet was nothing more than a Cromwell with a reinforced suspension system, a new widened turret ring and additional armor protection. The completed A34 prototype was revealed in February of 1944 though it was not until September that production Comets were being delivered to frontline units as British forces were primed to enter Germany proper. Production of Comets ran from late 1944 into early 1945 to which some 1,186 examples were completed. Its new design approach required retraining of British tanker crews - postponing quantitative use of the type for a time.