Backstory (skip if you don't like alternate history junk)
The year is 2239. It has been roughly 210 years since the world was engulfed in nuclear war. Following the war, the United States splintered into hundreds of small statelets. While much knowledge was retained in some form (mostly through books and other printed media), the loss of population and destruction of industrial capability set back society immensely.
Though the Pacific Northwest was less badly hit than other areas, the destruction of Seattle and Portland, coupled with the rupturing of the Cascadia Subduction Zone in 2043, caused society to regress to a mid-19th century technology level. However, in the early 2100s, the Cascade Republic formed, centered near Tacoma. The new nation grew rapidly, expanding to encompass most of Washington and Oregon by 2239. The Cascade Republic now extends from the Klamath River in the south to the Fraser River in the north, and from the Pacific roughly to central Idaho. Over time, the standard of living and industrial development improved (initially through salvaging of surviving equipment, by the late 2100s through new development); the population has grown to about 4.5 million (comparable to 1950 levels), and technology is at about a 1940 level. Automobiles are common, aircraft are less common, but not rare by any means. Computers are nonexistent aside from a few experimental devices; while scientists and engineers are aware of the principles behind microchips and other advanced electronics, the facilities to produce such components simply do not exist. Low rate production of early transistors recently restarted.
The current armored force of the Cascade Republic consists of three armored brigades. They are presently equipped with domestically produced light tanks, dating to the 2190s. Weighing roughly 12 tons and armed with a 40mm gun, they represented the apex of the Cascade Republic's industrial capabilities at the time. And when they were built, they were sufficient for duties such as pacifying survivalist enclaves in remote areas. However, since that time, the geopolitical situation has complicated significantly. There are two main opponents the Cascade Republic's military could expect to face in the near future.
The first is California. The state of California was hit particularly hard by the nuclear exchange. However, in 2160, several small polities in the southern part of the state near the ruins of Los Angeles unified. Adopting an ideology not unfamiliar to North Korea, the new state declared itself the successor to the legacy of California, and set about forcibly annexing the rest of the state. It took them less than 50 years to unite the rest of California, and spread into parts of Arizona and northern Mexico. While California's expansion stopped at the Klamath River for now, this is only due to poor supply lines and the desire to engage easier targets. (California's northward advanced did provide the final impetus for the last statelets in south Oregon to unify with the Cascade Republic voluntarily).
California is heavily industrialized, possessing significant air, naval, and armored capabilities. Their technology level is comparable to the Cascade Republic's, but their superior industrial capabilities and population mean that they can produce larger vehicles in greater quantity than other countries. Intelligence shows they have vehicles weighing up to 50 tons with 3 inches of armor, though most of their tanks are much lighter.
The expected frontlines for an engagement with the Californian military would be the coastal regions in southern Oregon. Advancing up the coastal roads would allow California to capture the most populated and industrialized regions of the Cascade Republic if they advanced far enough north. Fortunately, the terrain near the border is very difficult and favors the defender;
(near the Californian border)
The other opponent is Deseret, a Mormon theocratic state centered in Utah, and encompassing much of Nevada, western Colorado, and southern Idaho. Recently, tension has arisen with the Cascade Republic over two main issues. The first is the poorly defined border in Eastern Oregon / Northern Nevada; the old state boundary is virtually meaningless, and though the area is sparsely populated, it does represent a significant land area, with grazing and water resources. The more recent flashpoint is the Cascade Republic's recent annexation of Arco and the area to the east. Deseret historically regarded Idaho as being within its sphere of influence, and maintained several puppet states in the area (the largest being centered in Idaho Falls). They regard the annexation of a signficant (in terms of land area, not population) portion of Idaho as a major intrusion into their rightful territory. That the Cascade Republic has repaired the rail line leading to the old Naval Reactors Facility, and set up a significant military base there only makes the situation worse.
Deseret's military is light and heavily focused on mobile operations. Though they are less heavily mechanized than the Cascade Republic's forces, operating mostly armored cars and cavalry, they still represent a significant threat to supply and communication lines in the open terrain of eastern Oregon / southern Idaho.
(a butte in the disputed region of Idaho, near Arco)
As the head of a design team in the Cascade Republic military, you have been requested to design a new tank according to one of two specifications (or both if you so desire):
Medium / Heavy Tank Weight: No more than 45 tons Width: No more than 10.8 feet (3.25 meters) Upper glacis / frontal turret armor of at least 3 in (76mm) LoS thickness Side armor at least 1in (25mm) thick (i.e. resistant to HMG fire) Power/weight ratio of at least 10 hp / ton No more than 6 crew members Primary armament capable of utilizing both anti-armor and high explosive rounds Light tank Weight: No more than 25 tons Width: No more than 10.8 feet Upper glacis / frontal turret armor of at least 1 in thickness Side armor of at least 3/8 in (10mm) thickness Power/weight ratio of at least 12 hp / ton No more than 6 crew members Primary armament capable of utilizing both anti-armor and high explosive rounds
Other relevant information:
Any tank should be designed to operate against either of the Cascade Republic's likely opponents (California or Deseret) The primary heavy machine gun is the M2, the primary medium machine gun is the M240. Use of one or both of these as coaxial and/or secondary armament is encouraged. The secret archives of the Cascade Republic are available for your use. Sadly, there are no running prewar armored vehicles, the best are some rusted hulks that have long been stripped of usable equipment. (Lima Tank Plant ate a 500 kt ground burst) Both HEAT and APFSDS rounds are in testing. APCR is the primary anti-armor round of the Cascade Republic. Either diesel or gasoline engines are acceptable, the Cascade Republic is friendly with oil producing regions in Canada (OOC: Engines are at about a late 1940s/early 50s tech level) The adaptability of the tank to other variants (such as SPAA, SPG, recovery vehicle, etc.) is preferred but not the primary metric that will be used to decide on a design. Ease of maintenance in the field is highly important. Any designs produced will be compared against the M4 Sherman and M3 Stuart (for medium/heavy and light tank), as these blueprints are readily available, and these tanks are well within the Cascade Republic's manufacturing capabilities.
Sooooo...after doing a site-wide search and perusing Google, I'm surprised not to have found anything about tank suspension, other than a somewhat doubtful thread on the WoT forums. Would my learned colleagues of SH be able to assist me in understanding and identifying the different types of tank suspension? I think I've got leaf-spring more or less mastered, as well as both VVSS and HVSS (thanks, JGT!) but was somewhat embarrassed not to be able to differentiate between the suspension of a Type 97 Chi-Ha and an FV4201 Chieftain.
UPDATE: I think I understand tank suspension better now. Thanks, everyone!
The mean goons over on SA roped me into writing an effortpost, so I figured it's only fair that you freeloaders get to enjoy it too.
So, suspensions. I'm going to introduce the book as well because it's probably the most Soviet book that ever existed. It is called TANK. What makes this book so Soviet? Well, here's the first paragraph of the introduction: "Under the guidance of the Communist party of the Soviet Union, our people built socialism, achieved a historical victory in the Great Patriotic War, and in launched an enormous campaign for the creation of a Communist society." The next paragraph talks about the 19th Assembly of the CPSU, then a bit about how in the Soviet Union man no longer exploits man (now it's the other way around :haw:), then a little bit about the war again, then spends another three pages stroking the party's dick about production and growth. The word "tank" does not appear in the introduction. The historical prelude section is written by someone who is a little closer to tanks and might be a little less politically reliable, since they actually give Tsarists credit for things. I guess they have to, since foreigners are only mentioned in this section when they are amazed by Russian progress. The next chapter is a Wikipedia-grade summary of various tank designs that gives WWI designs a pretty fair evaluation, then a huge section on Soviet tank development, then a tiny section on foreign tanks in WWII mostly consisting of listing all the mistakes their designers made. The party must have recuperated since the intro since we're in for another three pages of fellatio. Having read so far, you might think that there is very little value in this sort of book, but then the writing style does a complete 180 and the rest of the book is 100% apolitical and mostly looks like this. Which is what we care about, so let's begin. Bonus points to anyone who can identify what the diagram above is about. Sorry in advance if my terminology isn't 100% correct, there aren't exactly a lot of tank dictionaries lying around. The book skips over primitive unsprung suspensions of WWI and starts off with describing the difference between independent suspensions and road-arm suspensions. In the former, every wheel is independently sprung. In the latter, two or more wheels are joined together by a spring. Some suspensions have a mix of these designs. For example, here's a simple road-arm suspension used in some Vickers designs and their derivatives. The two road wheels are connected by a spring and to the hull by a lever. A weight pushing down on top of the pair of wheels is going to compress the spring that's perpendicular to the ground, bringing the wheels closer together. Here's a more complex road-arm suspension, with four wheels per unit instead of one, also AFAIK first used by Vickers and then migrating to an enormous amount of designs from there. This suspension provides springiness through a leaf spring that you can see above the four road wheels. The two pairs of wheels don't have their own springs. The black circles in the image show where the suspension elements can turn, keeping the tank flat while hugging the terrain. Here's another road-arm suspension, similar to the first one. In this case, the spring is made of rubber instead of metal. Otherwise, the design is very similar. Two rubber bungs on the bottom of the axles prevent the wheels from slamming into each other too hard. This design was used by French tanks and nobody else. For some reason, volute spring suspensions are completely absent from this section. This is the best image of a Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (early Shermans) that I could find. It's kind of similar to the first image, except the spring is a volute spring, and it's vertical instead of horizontal. Later Shermans used horizontal volute springs. Of course, as the book points out, these suspension elements are very easy to damage externally and knocking out one part of the suspension will typically take out the rest of the assembly, so independent suspensions are the way to go. The best way to do this are torsion bars. The bar is attached to a lever that holds your road wheel. As pressure is applied to the road wheel, the bar subtly twists, remaining elastic enough to reset once the pressure is off. This image is kind of weird, but the part in the center is the part on the far left, zoomed in, showing you where the lever and the opposite side's torsion bar are attached. As you can see, road wheels in a torsion bar suspension are going to be a little off on one side, unlike what you're used to on cars and such. Now, since torsion bars are metal bars on the floor, they are going to make your tank taller. If you want a tank that's as short as possible at the expense of width, you may want to consider a Christie like suspension. Here, much like in torsion bars, the pressure is transferred inside the tank, but instead of a bar to absorb it, it's a spring in a vertical (or angled) tube. In most tanks with this kind of suspension, the springs are on the inside, but if you want to make the tank roomier on the inside, you can have them on the outside too. If you're really fancy, you can put a spring within the spring like in this diagram. Since this is a Soviet tank book, you gotta have a huge T-34 diagram. Here it is. The T-34 uses Christie springs, which you can see in the diagram. The road wheel configuration is a mix of the externally dampened and internally dampened "Stalingrad type" road wheels. The former have more rubber for absorbing hits from terrain, but the latter use less rubber. When you're in Stalingrad and you have to make tanks with a rubber deficit, that's the kind you want. When road wheels from other factories were available, they would go in the front and then the back to absorb most of the impact from harsh terrain features, and the steel-rimmed wheels went in the middle. The diagram shows how both types of wheels work. Rubber can't really take too much punishment, so the KV, being a heavy tank, went with internally dampened road wheels from the very beginning, with a ring of rubber on the inside around the axle. And finally, idlers. If you don't have big Christie type wheels, you gotta have idlers so your saggy track doesn't fall off. This diagram shows the rubber coating on an idler, and also how the rear idler can adjust to tighten the track. A loose track makes more noise, gets worn more, and is liable to slip off. Keep those tracks tight, and you'll be zooming towards glorious victory in no time flat! Now, the book ends and my own stuff begins. I mentioned rubber, but not what a headache it was to tank designers. In hot weather, the rubber in your tracks and wheels tends to fall apart. If you go fast enough, tires that don't have proper ventilation are going to melt too. There was a lot of pre-war panic in the USSR about the German PzIII being able to do 70 kph on tracks, but once the Soviets started building SU-76Is on the PzIII chassis they found out that the speed had to be limited to a whopping 25 kph to keep the wear to a reasonable level.