SOMUA MCG AB 140: French Wirbeltractor

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In my attempt to cover as many French SPAA systems as possible, we’ll now be looking at a rather curious system, the SOMUA MCG AB 140.

The SOMUA MCG AB 140 was one of many attempts of France to create a cheap anti-air system shortly after World War 2. As France at this point found itself in possession of an excess of weapons as the surrender of Germany had given them a rather bountiful supply of MG151s (both in their 15 and 20 mm variants). Most of the projects logically used that weapon system, however, the one we’re looking at today did not. Instead they opted to use the Hispano HS.404, this weapon had been put back into production and was becoming available again as well.
The quadruple mount for the HS.404 was being developed in Toulon in 1948. Originally it had been intended to be used as a static defense, but seeing as mobile air defense solutions were required, at least one was mounted on to a half-track. The vehicle in question was a Somua MCG, a French half-track designed and built by SOMUA before WW2. Development of the type started in the 1920s, with production starting in 1932. About 1500 units were produced, meaning that there was plenty to go around, making it a logical choice for this SPAA system.
Unfortunately for the vehicle, despite successful tests, no orders followed. Both the design and the HS.404 were quickly seen as being outdated. The choice was made to instead continue with the development of more advanced SPAA types.

The AB 140 mount made use of 4 Hispano Suiza HS.404 autocannons, these were slightly staggered to allow easy access to the magazines for reloading. The entire turret had a smooth ball-bearing system which ensured good traverse rates to track fast flying aircraft. It was supposedly capable of horizontally traversing at up to 60°/s. I don’t have any official elevation limits, but images imply that it could elevate to at least +85°.
It was manned by a crew of 3, one man on either side of the turret, and a third man, the loader, standing behind the system.
When mounted to the SOMUA MCG, it received a small amount of protection in the form of an armored nest surrounding the system. This would offer some protection against light arms fire, but the crew was still very exposed regardless.
Mobility of the vehicle would not be stellar. The SOMUA MCG itself was a 6.8 ton vehicle powered by a 60 hp engine. Add to that a 1.3 ton SPAA mount and you have a rather sluggish vehicle. With those 60 hp powering a 8.1 ton vehicle, you get a power-to-weight ratio of 7.5 hp/t, that is worse than the P.7.T which is already quite slow. Top speed sits at 36 km/h, but how often you’d actually reach that remains to be seen.

General Characteristics:

  • Crew: 5 (2 in the drivers cabin, 3 on the gun mount)
  • Length: 4.45 m
  • Width: 1.97 m (this number is for the base vehicle, the armored nest undoubtedly adds more width)
  • Height: 2.85 m
  • Weight: 8.1 tons (6.8 for the half-track, 1.3 for the gun mount)
  • Engine: Somua 4-Cylinder engine, providing 60 hp
  • Power-to-weight: 7.5 hp/t
  • Max-speed: 36 km/h

Armament:

  • Main armament: 4x Hispano HS.404 autocannons in the AB140 mount.
  • Ammo capacity: 1 magazine of 60 rounds per gun + reloads
  • Rate-of-fire: 700 rounds/minute/gun, combined fire-rate of 2800 rounds/minute

Place in-game:

The SOMUA MCG AB 140 would be an excellent addition to the low ranks of France. It might be slow and poorly protected, but its admirable firepower would add a much desired quality to the French tree. I think it would best fit to close the gap between the CCKW 353 AA at 2.0 and the AMX 13 DCA 40 at 4.3. Multi-gun systems like this one are usually much easier to use, which should also make it more enjoyable to play for players that aren’t as good with the 40mm Bofors.

Sources

Somua MCG
SOMUA MCG 4, 5 & 11 - Quartermaster Section
Hispano-Suiza HS.404
Pierre Touzin - Les Vehicules Blindes Francais 1944 - 1977
René LESAVRE and Michel de LAUNET - LES ARMEMENTS DE DEFENSE ANTI-AERIENNE PAR CANONS ET ARMES AUTOMATIQUES, 2007

Special thanks to CaID who wrote the suggestion on the old forums.

6 Likes

Looks like lots of fun! +1

2 Likes

+1 a very interesting vehicle.

1 Like