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France's Somua S-35, Char S-35; Char de Cavalerie 35S (Somua); Automitrailleuse de Combat (AMC) Modèle 1935 SOMUA

Photos

S-35 Cavalry tank:
France's S-35 Cavalry tank

S-35 Cavalry tank:
France's S-35 Cavalry tank
S-35 Cavalry tank at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds:
France's S-35 Cavalry tank at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds
Nick Francis

S-35 Cavalry tank at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds:
France's S-35 Cavalry tank at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds
Nick Francis
S-35 Cavalry tank, used by the Germans:
France's S-35 Cavalry tank, used by the Germans

S-35 Cavalry tank, used by the Germans:
France's S-35 Cavalry tank, used by the Germans
S-35, unknown, SAu-40:
S-35, unknown, SAu-40

S-35 Cavalry tank:
France's S-35 Cavalry tank

Design

In the early 1930s the calvary issued specifications for a Automitrailleuse de Combat (AMC).8,11 It was built by a Schneider subsidiary called Société d'Outillage Mécanique et d'Usinage d'Artillerie (SOMUA)7,8 at Saint Ouen.5,12 It was initially called the AMC SOMUA AC-3 but it was decided to make it the standard medium tank of the French army and was then designated the Char S-35. S being short for SOMUA and 35 the year of it's introduction.8

It entered service in 1936 and by June 1940, around 500 had been produced.8 When Germany invaded about 250 were in front-line service.

A double differential system was used for steering.7 There were two assemblies of four bogie wheels mounted in pairs on articulated arms that were controlled by semi-elliptic leaf springs.7 One bogie wheel was mounted independently in the rear on a coil spring.7 The wheels were made of steel, with rims that ran in a groove in the tracks.7 Two return rollers also ran in the grooves.7

The engine was on the left in the rear and a self-sealing gas tank on the right. The idler was located in front and the drive sprocket in the rear.

Construction

The S-35 was made from a cast turret and hull.5,11,12

Vulnerable

One fault that was discovered during combat was that the upper and lower hull halves were joined by a ring of bolts, if an anti-tank round hit the seem it could split apart the hull.7,8

Layout

There were three cast sections that were bolted together.7,8 The lower section stretched the full length, with the engine, transmission, controls and suspension were mounted.7 The other armored sections were then bolted to the top rim of the lower section.7 The rear section covering the engine and transmission.7 There was a fireproof bulkhead separating the fighting compartment from the engine.8 The front section covered the fighting compartment and held the turret.7

Turret

The turret was electrically traversed.8,12 The turret only had room for the commander which hampered it in fighting against the Germans. The turret was identical to the one used on the Char B1-bis and the D2. The commander sat on a saddle in the APX 4 turret, which rotated around a pole mounted in the floor.7

Crew

The driver was located on the left7,8 of the hull and had a hatch that was in front of him which was usually left open when the tank moved behind the lines. The radio operator sat on the right.7,8 The normal way to enter and exit the tank for the driver and radio operator was through a door on the left side of the hull.8 There was also a floor escape hatch.8

Radios

There were supposed to be two radios installed.7,11 There was a shortage of radios and about 80% of the S-35s did not have them.

Armament

The 47 mm L/34 had a muzzle velocity of 2,200'/sec.7 The 47 mm AP shell weighed 3.8 lbs and had a muzzle velocity of 2,805'/sec.9

Production

  • S-35: 4005, 43010, ~50012
    • Production: 1935 - ?5,9
    • Manufacturer: Somua3, Somua Firm (Societe'd'outtillage mechanique d'usinage d'artillerie)5,9

Variants

  • S-35:
  • S-40: In 1940 an improved model with a modified suspension and a 220 hp engine was started, but few had been completed by the fall of France.
  • SAu-40: Self propelled gun with a 75 mm gun to the right of the driver and a new turret. Only a prototype was completed.

Usage

There were 13 tank battalions in four Divisions Cuirassées de Réserve (Reserve Cavalry Divisions).8 Each battalion had 34 tanks.8

Each mechanized cavalry division would have a regiment of S-35s.

German Attack

There were approximately 250 S-35s in the front lines when the German's attacked.5,10,11

Attack at Crécy-sur-Serre

On May 11, 1940, Charles DeGaulle was made commander of the 4th Armored Division.8

In the attack on the bridge at Crécy-sur-Serre on May 19, 1940, Charles DeGaulle used two companies (20 in each company) of S-35s that he had received at reinforcements.8 Unfortunately due to poor coordination with air cover, the French S-35s were mauled by Stukas.8

German Use

  • PzKpfw 35-S 739(f): Was considered the best tank faced by the Germans in the invasion of France. By mid-1941 many were issued to German units. From 1941-1944 many were used by training units. Used by the 211th Panzerabteilung in Finland in June 1941. Some were also still available in Normandy in June 1944.11 They were used in Panzer detachments along with the H-38. The commanders being given the S-35s. Several hundred were given to Italy. The Germans installed a FuG5 radio.3

After World War II

Some of the recaptured S-35s were used by the French Army well after World War II.12

Specifications

  Somua S-35, Char de Cavalerie 35S (Somua)
Crew Commander, driver, radio operator5,7
31,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 42,900 lb11, 44,200 lb8
19.2 tons1,6,12, 19.5 tons5,7,10, 20 tons2,3,4, 22.1 tons9
19,500 kg1,11,12, 20,048 kg8
Length 17.33'4, 17.4'9, 17' 7.8"1,5,6,11,12, 17.9'8
5.3 m2, 5.38 m1,5,6,10,11,12, 5.46 m3, 5.5 m8
Height 8.58'4, 8.6'9, 8' 7"1,5,6,11,12, 8.8'8
2.62 m1,2,3,5,6,11,12, 2.7 m8
Width 6', 6.9'9, 6.93'8, 6.94'4, 6' 11"1,11, 6' 11.5"5,6,12
2.1 m8, 2.11 m3, 2.12 m1,2,5,6,11,12
Ground clearance 1' 4.5"9
0.42 m2
Ground contact length 128"9
Ground pressure 12.1 psi9, 13.1 psi8
0.85 (kg/cm2)2, 0.9 (kg/cm2)8
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 1: 47 mm1,4,11,12
1: 47 mm L/322
1: 47 mm SA355,8,10
1: 47 mm L/343,7
1: 47 mm SA35 L/349
1: 47 mm SA-35 L/326
Secondary  
MG 1: 7.5 mm MG1
1: MG2
1: 7.5 mm Model 31 Chatellerault M69
1: 7.92 mm MG10
MG - coaxial 1: 7.5 mm MG4,5,8,11,12
1: 7.5 mm Reibel MG7
1: 7.5 mm MG6
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main 1182,3,8,9
Secondary  
MG 1,2502,3,8,9
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) Front: 1.4"9
Side: 1.6"9
20 - 555,11, 401,4,12, 476,10
Hull: 418
Turret: 568
Hull Front, Upper 352, 407
36@22°3
Hull Front, Lower 35, 407
36 round3
Hull Sides, Upper 402,4
35@22°3
Hull Sides, Lower 407
10+25@0°3
Hull Rear 352
35@0°3 & 25@30°3
Hull Top 202
20@82°3 & 20@90°3
Hull Bottom 202
20@90°3
Turret Front

2.2"9, 552
56@0°3
Mantlet: 56 round3

Turret Sides 1.8"9, 452, 567
46@22.5°3
Turret Rear 452
46@22.5°3
Turret Top 282
30@70.5°3 & 30@90°3
Engine (Make / Model) SOMUA1,2,3,4,5,7,8,9,11
Cooling Water2,4,8,9
Cylinders V-84,5,6,11,12, 81,2,3,8,9
Net HP 1901,4,5,6,7,11,12, 190@ 2,000 rpm2,3,8,9
Transmission (type) 5 forward, 1 reverse2,9
Steering Overlapping differential9
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (type) Gasoline1,2,4,5,8,11,12
Octane  
Capacity 109 gallons9
410 liters2
Fuel consumption - road 1.5 mpg9
Fuel consumption - cross country 0.7 mpg9
Power to weight ratio 10 hp/ton8
Performance  
Traverse 360°, electric3,9, hand9
MG: 10° left and right
Speed - Road 23 mph8,9, 24.8 mph5, 24.85 mph11, 25 mph4,6,7, 25.3 mph1,12
37 kph2,3,8, 40 kph5,11, 40.7 kph1,12, 41 kph6
Speed - Cross Country 16 mph10
26 kph10
Range - Road 143 miles1,5,11, 160 miles6,7,8,12, 161 miles9
230 km1,5,11, 257 km3,6,8,12, 260 km2
Range - Cross Country 80 miles9
128 km2
Turning radius 12 m2
Elevation limits -18° to +18°3
Fording depth 3' 3"5,11, 39.4"9
1 m2,5,11
Trench crossing 7'5,11, 7.8'8
2.13 m11, 2.3 m5,8
Vertical obstacle 2' 6"11, 2' 8"5
0.76 m5,11
Suspension (Type) Leaf springs2,9
Wheels each side 92.7, (4 pairs of 2 on springs, 1 on own spring)7
Return rollers each side 27
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width 14.2"9
360 mm2
Number of links 1029
Pitch 4.1"9
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread 5.6'9

Sources:

  1. The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles - The Comprehensive Guide to Over 900 Armored Fighting Vehicles From 1915 to the Present Day, General Editor: Christopher F. Foss, 2002
  2. Panzer Truppen The Complete Guide to the Creation and Combat Employment of Germany's Tank Force 1933-1942, Thomas L. Jentz, 1996
  3. Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two, Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle, 1999
  4. Tanks of the World, 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  5. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  6. Western Allied Tanks 1939-45, David Porter, 2009
  7. Tanks of World War II, Duncan Crow, 1979
  8. Battle Winning Tanks, Aircraft & Warships of World War II, David Miller, 2000
  9. Tank Data, Aberdeen Proving Grounds Series, 1968?
  10. Atlas of Tank Warfare From 1916 to the Present Day, Dr. Stephen Hart, 2012
  11. Armored Fighting Vehicles, 300 of the World's Greatest Military Vehicles, Philip Trewhitt, 1999
  12. World War I and II Tanks, George Forty, 2012
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site

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