Thursday, 9 January 2014

Tanks in the Snow

Tanks have problems with mud, as we have seen previously. What about snow?

"From the report of the 1st Shock Army on tanks in winter conditions:

Crossing winter snow:
On dirt roads near the front, T-34 and KV tanks pass without problems, but T-60s get stuck. The depth of snow is 25-50 cm. T-34s and KVs can cross without complications, but T-60s bury themselves in the snow at a depth of 25 cm, and their bottom gets stuck on the snow.

Tank elements of the 5th Army:

The T-60 cannot go up a grade of 15-20 degrees with medium ice cover.

From the report of the ABTU chief of the Western Front

A report on T-60, T-40, and T-30 tanks in winter conditions. During combat with German invaders from November 30th, 1941, to January 16th, 1942, we have determined that light T-60, T-40, and T-30 tanks cannot move over snow 30-40 cm deep. The narrow tracks cut the snow to the ground, the tank hits its bottom on the compressed snow, and the tracks spin idly. Examples: On January 13th, 1942, during the assault on Ilyinskoye, the 145th Tank Brigade used 17 T-60 tanks. All tanks, as soon as they went off-road for maneuvers, were stuck in the forest clearing. 5 T-60 tanks from the 31st Tank Brigade were tasked with taking Aksenovo. Despite all efforts on the crews' behalf, not one tank reached Aksenovo. All tanks were stuck in the snow during maneuvers."

CAMD RF 208-2534-5

From a phone call between Stalin and Zaltsmann, January 24th, 1942:
"
  1. The T-34 flies over heavy snow like a swallow. The KV performs worse. It is necessary to increase the diesel engine's power to 700 hp.
  2. [Stalin] proposed increasing the performance by lightening the tank.
  3. Take all measures to increase the tank's speed in conditions of deep snow. Tank brigades move quickly, but the KV falls behind."
CAMD RF 38-11355-958

"Short conclusions and suggestions from combat experience of the 20th Army in the winter
  1. Tanks of all types move freely on roads, but with difficulty off-roads. Practice shows that T-60 and T-40 tanks are best used for guarding headquarters and defending, as well as pursuing the enemy along roads and in settlements. Due to deep snow, T-40 and T-60 tanks cannot be used in offensive combat off roads. In all cases, the maneuvers of these tanks end at forests, difficult terrain, and forest clearings.
    It is better to get into initial positions at night, during morning fog, and during an artillery barrage. The initial positions must be carefully camouflaged. Pay special attention to hiding tracks on roads that the tanks used to get to their location, so that the enemy does not discover them from the air.
    In practice, it is not always possible to enter initial positions, and tank forces left for battle directly from where they were based. In this case, it is best to base tanks towards the rear, to avoid discovery and artillery or mortar fire.
  2. For tanks operating far from roads, supplies of fuel and ammunition must be delivered as follows:
    1. Transport the fuel as closet as possible on roads in tanks and cisterns, and then organize a distribution center for various units. The distribution center should have spare tanks filled up and ready to exchange.
    2. Fuel is transported on roads on trailers towed by tractors.
    3. Use sleds from infantry units, as well as the forces of tank units.
    4. In some cases of prolonged operation away from roads, it may be necessary to issue tank units their own sleds for transport.
  3. In order to keep tanks constantly ready for movement, it is necessary to periodically heat them.
    At night, keep tank commanders on duty too keep track of temperatures of vehicles, wake up drivers to perform warm-up, and keep track of who and when warmed up the vehicles. When warming up wheeled vehicles, it is desirable to lift the drive wheels with a jack, so that they do not make contact with the ground, in order to warm up the gearbox lubricant, as well as the oil.
  4. Movement of tanks on clearings and through forests is difficult when there is a lot of snow. Before moving through such terrain, it is necessary to perform reconnaissance and select a route where the snow is even, and easier for a tank to traverse. When the snow is very deep, cut down small trees and use them as cover, so that the tracks do not cut through the snow.
    The maximum depth for all tanks is different. The KV tank can pass through short areas of 80-90 cm of loose snow, or 50-60 cm on bumpy terrain. Loose snow is easier to traverse.
    The T-34 is capable of traversing the same conditions as the KV, and can even perform better in some cases due to its light weight (compared to the KV).
    The T-60 has limited mobility in the snow. The thin track cuts through the snow until the tank is flat on its hull. The maximum depth for a T-60 is 30 cm, and 20-25 cm on bumpy terrain.
    Conclusions on using T-60 tanks:
    1. Experience shows that when snow is 30-40 cm deep, the T-60 can only move on roads. Low temperatures lead to frequent warm-ups of the engine, and rapid expenditure of fuel. Less frequent warm-ups are not possible, as the water in the radiator freezes.
    2. Use these tanks in areas where snow is shallow, in the south. Around Moscow, the snow is deep, and it is not possible for this tank to accompany infantry. The tanks may be used on roads, or to defend settlements, headquarters, etc.
  5. When crossing rivers in the winter, careful reconnaissance is mandatory. The main information required is:
    1. Entrance and exit to the ice.
    2. Grade of the river shores.
    3. Thickness of ice.
    4. River depth.
    5. Current speed.
    6. Materials for strengthening the ice, and the amount of time available for this task.
  6. In the winter time, steep shores affect the speed of crossing the river, especially for tanks with sliding chain tracks (T-26, T-30, T-60). While crossing, it is necessary to make sure that the ice does not crack, and water does not get on the tank. If it does, then a danger of freezing the control mechanisms arises. In these cases, it is necessary to clear out the water, or immediately warm up the vehicle to internal temperatures that would not allow the water to freeze.
    Strengthen the ice with any materials available: boards, planks, fascines, hay, branches, or any materials. If a forest is nearby, prepare blogs 10-15 cm in diameter and pine branches. If possible, cross with heavy tanks only if:
    1. The ice is close to required thickness, and reinforced with light materials: branches, hay, boards.
    2. The ice is artificially thickened. Use logs 12-15 cm in diameter. The first layer should be perpendicular to the current, then a light intermediate layer, and a layer of logs parallel to the current, so tanks do not move them while crossing. Cover them with straw, or, if brackets are available, hold them together with brackets. If the ice starts bending, you can still cross it, but with careful checking of the river depth. If the ice is not robust, use a checkered support underneath the covers. It will become robust when frozen over. Spaces of 1.5-2 meters are enough for supporting KV tanks, given a proper cover and good thickness of rods.
  7. Commanders rarely perform reconnaissance of snow coverage in battle, but it is necessary to do. Correctly executed reconnaissance is very useful to the entire unit, including tank crews.
  8. The enemy, during hurried retreats, mines narrow roads, settlements, and, as a rule, detours around blown up bridges. When entering new regions, send a detachment of sappers forward for reconnaissance.
    In battle, the unit commander should have a reserve of sappers with metal detectors, which will clear the way as the unit advances. The tank commander must maintain close communications with NIS, and request intelligence on mine fields and paths through them. Poor use of sappers results in loss of materiel. For example, the 1st Guards Tank Brigade lost 9 tanks to mines. 
  9. Long term presence in tanks during low temperatures tires the crews out, reduces their mobility, and exposes them to frostbite. Between battles, warm up the crews by making fires underneath tarps, using chemical warmers, dugouts, and tents. Do not allow the crews to use tank exhaust for warms, as there were cases of poisoning.
  10. If too much grease is present on moving parts of weapons (especially the firing mechanisms and gun elevation mechanisms), the gun will not operate in very low temperatures. Before an attack, test the guns, and remove excess lubricant from guns and machineguns. Replace heavy grease with light oils. 
  11. In the summer, the Germans used tanks in massed formations. This allowed them to distribute fuel  and ammunition easily. Tanks could also be accompanied by infantry formations.
    In the winter, the tanks are used much differently. The battles at Krasnaya Polyana, Beliy Rast, Ozeretskoye, Kamenka, and Svistukha confirm this: the enemy left up to 40 tanks there. They were caught by our Russian winter there, and it seems were unable to move since. The enemy did not attempt to use these tanks, not even for counter-attacks.
    The enemy mostly uses their tanks as immobile guns, in ambushes, to cover retreating infantry, and in short-range counterattacks.
    Reasons for reduced tank use:
    1. Rapid decrease in available tanks.
    2. Deep snow, resulting in the inability to maneuver.
    3. Rapid decrease in roads, on which fuel and ammunition can be sent to tank units.
    4. Lack of crew training on operating in snow.
    5. Lack of crew equipment, especially clothing.
    6. Excellent capability of our tanks and AT artillery against enemy tanks.
    7. Advances of our forces, destroying their supply system and taking the initiative previously held by their tank forces.
      All of these reasons caused the enemy to switch from active to passive use of tanks.
  12. New tactical techniques for tank offensives: tanks support infantry in groups (platoon-company), in order to solidify its success with fire from concealment. When defending, tanks were used in small groups (3-5) in ambush. After the enemy was destroyed, the tanks moved to counter-attack, either alone or with infantry. 
  13. Use of fuel to keep tanks warm, per day:
    1. T-34: 35-40 kg
    2. T-60 and T-30: 15-20 kg
    3. BT: 25-30 kg
    4. KV: 35-40 kg
  14. Repair units are capable of performing medium repairs in field conditions. In December, 216 medium repairs were carried out on various brands of vehicles.
    The weak spots of KV and T-34 tanks are the main gearbox axle, main friction clutch disk, starter relay, idlers, engine block gaskets (in 1st Tank Brigade and 145th Tank Brigade, four T-34s are immobilized due to the gaskets). Weak spots for enemy artillery are turret rings, idlers, drive wheels. In order to keep using these tanks, spares are needed.
    It is hard to repair tanks in the cold, and productivity decreases. In order to increase productivity, it is necessary for repair units to set up next to settlements, and warm up in them. If possible, perform repairs indoors. If possible, equip units with two-person tents and mobile heaters, which will allow the brigades to perform repairs in any conditions. Two-three instructors in repairs of foreign tanks and vehicles are needed per brigade. 
  15. Evacuating tanks in winter conditions:
    Tanks are difficult to tow in the winter, since the friction of the tractor against the ground is reduced, and the suspension of the towed tank is frozen, and often does not spin, which increases friction.
    Towing the tanks to evacuation centers must be done off-road, which is also complicated. In order to make towing heavy and medium tanks easier, skis should be placed underneath the tracks. When multiple tractors are used, they should not be used in a chain, but shoulder to shoulder, pulling from two points.
    During widespread offensives and rapid progress by our units, the amount of evacuation means is insufficient to quickly evacuate tanks to repair bases, restore them, and return them to battle, since railroads are damaged and towing the tanks to repair bases over large distances is time consuming, and further reduces the amount of available transport. Units are not fully equipped with tractors, which causes more complications.
    Tanks that are stuck in rivers and anti-tank traps need preparations before they are towed, and tank units must have special equipment such as winches, cables, powerful jacks, and other devices. It is desirable to have a special platoon in the repair company with winches that is capable of preparing tanks for towing, and towing them.
    Current equipment in the repair company is barely enough for our vehicles, and not enough for enemy medium or heavy vehicles. Currently, only light tanks and cars can be towed, while the enemy retreats and leaves behind many tanks, trucks, and a lot of equipment. It is necessary to increase the numbers of repair companies.
    When tanks are amassed on one section of the front, it is similarly necessary to amass evacuation means.
Chief of Armoured Forces of the 20th Army, Lieutenant-Colonel Malyshev
Commissar of the Armoured Forces of the 20th Army, Senior Battalion Commissar Vasilyev
Chief of the 1st Unit of the Armoured Forces of the 20th Army, Major Kravtsov"

CAMD RF 423-6644-9

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