|Char B1 bis|
|Upgrades to||ARL 44|
The Char B1 bis is probably the best cost effective tank for the 1939-era. In points for performance, combat statistics, and price, it all adds up to great showings as the Bis is also excellent for its price of $20. This imperilious French heavy tank was a monster in its own right, having almost impenetrable armor and both 47mm and 75mm guns with an extra infantry-fighting .30 cal machine gun. Nevertheless, the B1 Bis should never used to face enemy tanks head-on, but rather for extra firepower or to target masses of infantry.
It can also be used as a 'shield', deflecting high rates of firepower from enemy units to give way for more capable light tanks or French infantry to storm in.
In game, this is an impressive tank. It can actually be a tactical decision to not upgrade them, therefore avoiding the steep price increase. The B1 is one of the few effectively 'spammable' heavy tanks, requiring no research and an extremely small $20 price tag, and considering the heavy armor and decent firepower the B1 has, that is a steal.
However, all told, a solid economy should still upgrade this tank, for the sake of updated firepower alone.
The Char B1 bis was an upgraded variant of the Char B1 with thicker armor at 60 mm and an APX4 turret with a longer-barreled (L/32) 47 mm SA 35 gun, to give the tank a real anti-tank capacity. It was the main production type: from 8 April 1937 until June 1940 369 units were delivered out of a total order for 1144, with series numbers 201 to 569. Before the war manufacture was slow: only 129 had been delivered on 1 September 1939. The monthly delivery was still not more than fifteen in December; it peaked in March 1940 with 45.
The Char B1 bis had a top speed of 25 km/h provided by a 307 bhp petrol engine. The first batch of 35 Char B1 bis used the original engine but from 1938 to May 1940 they were slowly re-equipped. Its weight was about 31.5 metric tons. The operational range was about 180 km which was similar to other tanks of the period. At 20 km/h the three fuel tanks (total capacity of 400 litres) would be exhausted in six hours. To improve matters, at first, trailers with an 800 litre auxiliary fuel tank were towed but this practice was soon abandoned. Instead Char B1 units included a large number of fuel trucks and TRC Lorraine 37 L armored tracked refueling vehicles specially designed to quickly refuel them. The last tanks to be produced in June had an extra internal 170 l (37 imp gal) fuel tank. To cool the more powerful engine the Char B1 bis had the air intake on the left side enlarged. It is often claimed this formed a weak spot in the armor, based on a single incident on 16 May near Stonne where two German 37 mm PaK guns claimed to have knocked out three Char B1's by firing at the intakes at close range. The air intake was a 6-inch thick assembly of horizontal slits alternately angled upwards and downwards between 28mm thick armor plates, and as such intended to be no more vulnerable than the normal 55 mm side plates.
Over the production run the type was slowly improved. Tanks number 306 to 340 carried 62 47-mm rounds (and the old complement of 4,800 machine gun rounds); later tanks 72 and 5,250. However the B1 bis had fewer 75 mm rounds compared to the earlier B1 : 74 instead of eighty, normally only seven of which were APHE ammunition. Early in 1940 another change was made when the ER53 radio was replaced by the ER51 which allowed spoken wireless communication. The company and battalion command tanks also had an ER55 for communication with higher command. The crews of the 1re DCR kept their old sets however, preferring them because the human voice was drowned by engine noise.