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The A34 Cruiser Tank Mk. X Comet, was a cruiser tank used by Great Britain during World War II.

Description

The Comet was designed in 1943 and entered service in late 1944. Arguably the most powerful British tank of World War II, the Comet was made to aid the anti-tank abilities of squadrons using the less effective Cromwell tanks, and was armed with the 77mm Ordnance Quick-Firing Mk II  gun.[1] Being a modified 17-pounder, the gun could also use standard 17-pounder rounds, albeit with a slower muzzle velocity due to a shorter barrel length then what was normally used. Be that as it may, the 77 mm gun was actually capable of firing high explosive rounds more accurately than the 17-pounder and thus performed better in the infantry support role. 

It also had two 7.92 mm machine guns as secondary weapons to defend against infantry. With the new gun, the Comet was perfectly suitable for engaging heavier German tanks such as the Panzer V Panther, though these were relatively few in number towards the end of the war. 

The Comet required a crew of five and for protection, the Comet had up to 76 mm of armor in its hull front and 100 mm in its turret front. However, the Comet's sides were far less protected with armor thickness ranging from 25 to 40 mm. While the Comet's armor certainly was not impenetrable, especially its frontal armor guaranteed a certain level of defense against German anti-tank weapons at range. Its Rolls Royce Meteor V12 engine gave it a top speed of 51 kilometers per hour which was well exploited on the vast German road network.[2] While arriving on the battlefield too late to participate in any major conflicts, it was used in Operation Plunder, among other late-war skirmishes.

History

Development

Following on from the earlier Churchill and Cromwell tanks, the Comet was intended to have the firepower, protection and mobility to match it's German counterparts. Built as an up-gunned and up-armored version of the Cromwell, the Comet prototype retained the earlier design's Christie suspension.[3] Notably however, the Comet was also designed around the use of its main armament, the 77mm Ordnance Quick-Firing Mk II gun designed by Vickers. This meant that the turret and general layout of the tank could be made more compact than if the tank was a conversion made to use an existing base such as the case with the A30 Cruiser Tank Mk. IX Challenger. Regardless, there was some discussion in July, 1943 about the possibility of instead equipping the Comet with the American M1 76mm gun or Ordnance QF 17-pounder.[4]

Production and Service

Although production deliveries began in late 1944, examples were not received by regiments until after the Rhine crossing in March 1945,[3] remaining in British service until replaced by the A41 Centurion in 1960. The first unit to receive the new tank was the 29th Armored Brigade of the 11th Royal Armored Division. During the Crossing of the Rhine and the small skirmishes that took place after, the Comet performed well against what German armor there was and proved to be mechanically reliable in the field, a good characteristic to have for any armored vehicle. Following the end of the war, Comets also participated in the Allied Victory Parade in Berlin.[2] The type also served with the Irish Army from 1950 to 1970.[5]

References

  1. http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=68
  2. 2.0 2.1 http://www.wwiivehicles.com/unitedkingdom/cruiser/comet.asp
  3. 3.0 3.1 Forty, George. WW1 and WW2 Tanks. Southwater Books (Anness Publishing Ltd). 2012. ISBN 1 78019 190 1 Page 44
  4. http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_cruiser_tank_A34_comet.html
  5. Forty, George. Page 45


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