|SP 17pdr, Valentine, Mk I, Archer|
|“|| And those Brit Archer tank destroyers'll do some Kraut-cracking, too!|
- Kowalski, Death From Above
The Archer tank destroyer was developed to give the formidable but cumbersome 17 pdr. anti-tank gun some mobility in the field. Installed on the chassis of the outdated valentine tank it proved to be a very effective tank destroyer--deadly against any medium tank crossing its path while still enjoying average mobility. With a recon unit at it's side to designate targets, the Archer can use its gun at maximum range.
The 17 pounder anti-tank gun was a very powerful gun but also very large and heavy and could only be moved about the battlefield by a vehicle. This meant that it was more effective in defense than in the attack. Therefore there was the intention to mount it on a vehicle to give it more mobility. The Churchill tank had been trialled as a self-propelled gun; the "3-inch Gun Carrier". The US was expected to be able to provide the M10 Wolverine through Lend-lease. However other projects were under consideration using otherwise obsolete tank chassis. These included the Archer for its low profile and reliability and the Crusader for its good power-to-weight. The Archer chassis was soon chosen for this role, as it was in production but rapidly becoming obsolete as a tank in British use. The engine had a higher power rating than in the Archer. It was also one of the few chassis that could accommodate such a large gun. In separate development were tank designs using the 17 pdr - this would lead to the Cruiser Tank, Challenger a derivative of the Cromwell and the Sherman Firefly conversion of Sherman tanks.
The Archer had a relatively small hull and it was not possible to use a turret. Instead the gun was mounted in a simple low open-topped armored box with gun barrel to the rear, very much like the early Panzerjäger German self-propelled guns in general appearance. This kept the overall length of the Archer short. However, this meant that on firing the gun breech recoiled into the driver's space. The driver stayed in position though in case the vehicle needed to move quickly.
The rear mounting at first seemed like a liability, but it was soon made into an advantage. Combined with its low silhouette, the Archer made an excellent ambush weapon, allowing its crew to fire off a few shots, then drive away without wasting time turning around.
Production started in mid 1943 and the Archer began to be issued in October 1944, and saw combat in the Western Front and the Italian Campaign. By the end of the war, 655 of them had been produced. The Archer was classified as a self-propelled gun and as such was operated by the Royal Artillery rather than a Cavalry or British Tank Regiment. This was standard practice and the 3in SP, Wolverine and related 17pdr SP. Achilles in British service was also operated by RA units.
Tips and TacticsEdit
- A cheap alternative to the Sherman Firefly, as it can be deployed in large numbers.
- Must be protected by other units such as the Cromwell (a surprisingly powerful combination as the speed allows you to roll up quickly and unleash a volley of AT fire as your tanks rush forward.