|France||Heavy Tank||Tier VI|
Heavy tank developed during closing stages of World War II by Atelier de Construction de Rueil (ARL) on the basis of the pre-war B1 Bis. A combination of an obsolete 1930s chassis and a heavily armed turret proved unsuccessful. A total of 60 vehicles were manufactured since 1946.
Referred by players as "the barn" due its incredibly large and house-shaped stock turret, the ARL 44 has decent sloped frontal armor but a weak turret and paper-thin side and rear armor. As such, it is quite prone to fires and internal module damage when hit from anywhere but the front. However, the ARL boasts much-improved mobility over its predecessors, great gun depression and elevation values, and an excellent gun selection. There is a choice between a harder-hitting 105mm gun or a smaller 90mm DCA 45 gun with extremely high penetration - comparable to the German 88mm L/71. The ARL 44 is the most powerful tier 6 tank in terms of penetration and thus is an effective sniper and remains effective even in Tier 8 battles.
The ARL 44 leads to the AMX M4(1945).
|Guns compatible with this Turret:|
|Guns compatible with this Turret:|
Pros and Cons
- The 90mm DCA 45 has the joint highest penetration of Tier 6 and makes this tank capable of damaging Tier VIII tanks
- The 105 mm Canon 13TR boasts one of the highest damage per minute of Tier 6, with high alpha damage, a good rate of fire, and good penetration for a Tier 6
- 105mm premium rounds increase damage for more reliable kills
- Good top speed across most terrain, coupled with good acceleration and power-to-weight ratio.
- Exposed tracks can be used to soak damage against inexperienced players.
- Surprisingly thick and well-sloped upper glacis, coupled with small lower glacis make the hull front quite well-protected.
- Good gun depression.
- Heavy and fast enough to be deal significant damage while ramming other tanks of its tier.
- Unsloped turret front armour with very weak side and rear armour, especially with the ARL 44 nouvelle turret.
- Weak hull side and rear armour.
- Horrible gun dispersion when doing anything other than standing still.
- Horribly long aim time on both top guns.
- Exposed tracks that are disabled regularly, and have hitboxes behind them, which allows penetrating hits to the tracks from the front to damage the tank.
- Below average hull traverse, especially on soft terrain.
- Exceptionally poor camouflage rating.
- Huge size makes it easy to hit and difficult to hide.
- Poor view range for its tier.
The ARL 44 has very different playstyles depending on the gun it is equipped with. The 90 mm DCA 45, with its exceptional penetration, good accuracy (once fully aimed in), horrible aim time, low alpha damage and rate-of-fire, make it much better suited for being used as a sniper. The 105 mm Canon 13TR, with its great damage output but lower accuracy and penetration, makes the ARL 44 better at medium ranges and peekaboo combat at the expense of long range combat. Despite its lower alpha damage, the 90 mm F3 is also a viable option thanks to its better aim time, along with slightly better penetration than the Canon 13TR. The 76 mm Gun M1A1 and 90 mm DCA 30 are simply guns to be ground through, and are not worth any serious consideration for long term use.
The ARL 44's hull sports 120mm of sloped frontal armor with a line of sight thickness of almost 170mm. However, this upper glacis has two small and four large weak points. Also, the lower glacis plate is very exposed from the tanks high ground clearance, though it is a fairly small target. The sides and rear of the tank have very thin armor and must be protected. Utilizing what armor the ARL 44 has requires proper positioning and knowledge of the ARL 44's many weak points. It is very difficult to angle the ARL 44 properly due to its very poor side armor. Besides that, the track mounts on the front of the tank are very lightly armored and become a large shot-trap. Shots that ricochet off your front glacis plates will nearly always land on your track mounts, doing full damage to you and possibly tracking you. Fighting other tanks without cover is best done head-on, with some slight angling. Be wary of the exceptionally thin turret side armor on the upgraded turret, which despite its angle can be very easily penetrated by many of the larger Tier 6 guns (90 mm and above) due to overmatching mechanics. It is interesting to note that the stock ARL 44 experimentale turret actually has significantly more armor than the ARL 44 nouvelle turret, though this is completely negated by the fact that it has nearly no angling, is exceptionally large (literally the size of a house), and cannot mount any other guns besides the first two.
The ARL reaches speeds of 35 to 42 kph on flat ground and is relatively mobile for a heavy tank. Its powerful Maybach HL230 P 45F engine allows it to climb up hills much better than any other heavy tank of this tier. The ARL 44's hull traverse is slow, and especially so on soft ground, making it very vulnerable to being circled. Overall the KV-1S is somewhat faster on flat hard ground, but the ARL 44 has better climbing, so overall the mobility is as good as the KV-1S. It can keep up and continue to support a flank easily. However, because of its mediocre armor, the ARL 44 is a very poor brawler without the support of other heavy tanks.
- Curiously, the stock turret weighs more than the ARL 44 nouvelle turret, and as such, one should research the new turret first as it makes the ARL 44 a less conspicuous (and ridiculous-looking) target.
- Research the 90mm DCA 30 gun (if it wasn't researched on the BDR G1B already).
- Research the 90mm F3 gun.
- Research the ARL 44 bis suspension.
- Research Maybach HL 230 P 45F engine for increased mobility.
- Research, depending on playstyle, the 105 mm Canon 13TR or the 90 mm DCA 45.
- Research SCR 528F radio.
- Finally, research the last gun, depending on which one was researched first.
It is important to note that nearly all the ARL 44's modules carry over into the AMX M4(1945), which also uses the 90 mm DCA 45 as its top gun. Thus, researching them on the ARL 44 will save a lot of effort on the AMX M4(1945).
Before the war France had been the world's second largest tank producer, behind the Soviet Union. However, French prewar light and medium designs had by that time become completely outdated, and there was no way to quickly make up for the time lost. It was thought possible, though, to compensate for this with sheer size. A large and well-armed vehicle might still be useful, however obsolescent its individual parts were, especially as the British and Americans seemed to be behind Germany in heavy tank development, having no operational vehicles that could slug it out with the PzKpfw VI Tiger Ausf. B (better known as the "King Tiger"). An important secondary goal of the project was also to ensure that France would in the future have a sufficient number of weapons engineers; if these couldn't be employed now, they would be forced to seek other occupations and much expertise would be lost.
Consequently, it was decided to produce 600 heavy tanks, to be designed by the Direction des Études et Fabrications d'Armement (DEFA) in which engineers from the former APX (the French Army's Atelier de Puteaux) and AMX (the Atelier de Construction d'Issy-les-Moulineaux state factory) design teams were concentrated, and built by the Atelier de Construction de Rueil (ARL), the army workshop. The tank was named the ARL 44. The specifications were not at first overly ambitious and called for a 30-ton vehicle with 60 mm of armour and armed with a new 75 mm Long 44 gun, rendering a penetration of 80 mm steel at 1000 metres and developed by the engineer Lafargue from the Canon de 75 Contre-Avion mle. 1932 anti-aircraft gun, conforming to the earlier CDM requirements.
As France had been rather isolated from tank engineering developments in the rest of the world, the designers based themselves on types they already knew well, mainly the Char B1, the Char G1, and the FCM F1 heavy tanks. It was at first attempted to use the components developed between 1940 and 1944, though most soon proved to be incompatible. As a result of the reliance on older types, the ARL 44 was to be fitted with a very old-fashioned suspension system with small road wheels and used the same track as the Char B1, limiting maximum speed to about 30 km/h. Suggestions to use a more modern foreign suspension system were rejected, as it would have compromised the tank's status as a purely French design. A Talbot 450 hp or Panhard 400 hp engine was envisaged to be fitted. Progress was very slow as there was a lack of resources and much infrastructure in the Paris region had been destroyed. Even finding paper and drawing materials was difficult.
In February 1945, a meeting took place between the engineers and the Army. The tank officers quickly pointed out that building a tank according to the original specifications was pointless, as such a vehicle would be inferior to even an M4 Sherman, which could be obtained for free from the Allies in any numbers so desired. It was therefore decided that the ARL 44 would be fitted with 120 mm of sloped armour, bringing the weight, which even in the conceptual stages had already grown to 43 metric tons, to 48 tons. The armament would consist of the most powerful gun available: either the American 76 mm M1A1 or, with some luck, the British 17-pounder; 90 mm guns had not been made available by the Allies.
Only a wooden mock-up had been completed by an engineering team headed by Engineer General Maurice Lavirotte when the war ended. However, the end of hostilities did not mean the end of the entire project. To maintain some continuity in French tank design and bolster national morale, it was decided to build sixty vehicles, even though there was no longer any real need for them. In March 1946 the first prototype could be tested. The Atelier et Chantiers de la Loire built the ACL1 turret, fitted with the American 76 mm M1A1 gun; this was later replaced by a Schneider turret based on the one designed for the FCM F1 and fitted with the 90 mm DCA 45 naval anti-aircraft gun, which had a muzzle velocity of 1000 m/s (AP: 1130 m/s HE) and a muzzle brake — the ARL 44 was thus the first French tank to feature this item. Firing trials began on 27 June 1947; the gun often proved to be more accurate than that of a Panther used for comparison.
Mainly due to the change in armament, the development and production of the turret would be drawn out; it was not until 1949 that turrets could be fitted to hulls produced in 1946 and placed into storage. Forty hulls had been completed by FAMH and a further twenty by Renault. They were fitted with captured German Maybach HL230 600 hp engines (real output 575 hp), brought back by a mission headed by General Joseph Molinié in the summer of 1945, repeating the course of events with the Char 2C, which after the previous war had also received captured Maybach engines.
The ARL 44 was fairly closely based on earlier French heavy tank design. The hull is long, over 9 metres, but relatively narrow, just as a vehicle meant to cross wide trenches. The covered suspension, with its many small road wheels that had already become outdated in the 1930s, is the most obvious sign of its basic Char B1 ancestry; it is in essence identical to that of the Char B1 ter. The ARL 44 has often been compared to the many "Super Char B" projects from before the war. Its speed is likewise limited, the lowest of any 50 ton tank built after the war. This was also partly due to the lack of a sufficiently strong engine; it had originally been intended to compensate for this by using a more efficient petro-electrical transmission. This kind of transmission has a major drawback in that it very easily overheats and the ARL 44 as a result was fitted with an impressive and complex array of ventilators and cooling ducts; the engine deck was made to extend behind the track to accommodate them all. The hull glacis plate was 120 mm thick and inclined at about 45°, giving a line-of-sight thickness in the horizontal plane of about 170 mm. This made the ARL 44 the most heavily armored French tank until the Leclerc, which came much, much later. Within the glacis, low on the right side, a 7.5 mm machine-gun is fitted in a fixed position.
The turret was the most modern looking part, but it too was also an obvious makeshift solution, somewhat crudely welded together, made necessary by the simple fact that Schneider as yet couldn't produce complete cast turrets large enough to hold a 90 mm gun. The turret front was a single cast section though. As the turret was positioned near the middle of the tank, even when pointing to the back the long 90 mm DCA 45 gun would have a large overhang; in order to facilitate transport it was therefore made retractable into the turret. The turret was rotated by a Simca 5 engine.
In all, the ARL 44 was an unsatisfactory interim design, afterwards often called the "Transitional Tank", whose main function was to provide experience in building heavier vehicles. The main lesson learned was for many engineers that it was unwise to construct too heavy types and this opinion was reinforced by the failure of the tank project that the ARL 44 formed the transition to: the much more ambitious heavy AMX 50. Only after a gap of sixteen years France would in 1966 again build a main battle tank, the AMX 30.
The ARL 44s equipped the 503e Régiment de Chars de Combat stationed in Mourmelon-le-Grand and before the end of 1950 replaced seventeen Panther tanks used earlier by that unit. In service the ARL 44 was, at first, an unreliable vehicle: the brakes, the gear box and the suspension were too frail. A special improvement program remedied most of these shortcomings. The ARL 44 made only one public appearance, when ten vehicles participated in the Bastille Day parade on 14 July 1951. When the American M47 Patton became available, which also had a 90 mm gun, they were phased out in 1953 and used as targets. The rumour that most ARL 44s were exported to Argentina is unfounded.
Three ARL 44s survive today. An ARL 44 can be seen in the Musée des Blindés in Saumur; another one at the 501-503e Régiment de Chars de Combat, Mourmelon-le-Grand, a third is a wreck on the technical zone of the base of the 2nd Dragoon Regiment at Fontevraud. It is relatively complete but the gun is dismounted from the turret.
- The stock ARL 44 turret (the "ARL 44 experimentale") is the large turret from the FCM F1 heavy tank. There is no documentation indicating that this turret was ever mounted on the ARL 44, nor was that turret ever fitted with the 76 mm Gun M1A1, which was fitted historically to the Loire ACL1 turret.
Touzin, P., 1979, Les Véhicules Blindés Français 1900-1944, EPA, Paris, 266p, ISBN:9782851200945.
Vauvillier, F., 2013, The Encyclopedia Of French Tanks And Armoured Fighting Vehicles: 1914-1940, Histoire & Collections, Paris, 176p, ISBN:9782352503224.
Zaloga, S.J., 2010, French Tanks of World War I, New Vanguard Series 173, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, 48p, ISBN:9781846035135.
Zaloga, S.J., 2014, French Tanks of World War II - Vol-1 Infantry and Battle Tanks, New Vanguard Series, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, 48p, ISBN:9781782003892, due out in February 2014.
- ARL-44 at chars-francais.net Photos, specs, and brief history in French.