Friday, 14 May 2021

Heavy Tank Brigades

 "Report by the Commander of Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the Red Army

To the People's Commissar of Defense I.V. Stalin on the equipment of a heavy IS tank brigade

November 20th, 1944

I report that:

As per your orders, one heavy IS tank brigade with two regiments of 21 IS tanks each and one regiment of 21 ISU-122 will be ready by December 5th of this year.

There are 65 combat vehicles in the brigade in total.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Big Gun, Small Turret

 "State Committee of Defense Decree #4873ss
January 1st, 1944

On installing 85 mm guns on T-34 tanks instead of the 76 mm F-34 gun

To improve the artillery armament of the T-34 tank, the State Committee of Defense orders to:

  1. Accept the 85 mm tank gun designed by the Central Artillery Design Bureau of the People's Commissar of Armament (comrade Grabin) into service with the Red Army under the name "85 mm tank gun model 1944 (S-53)".
  2. Starting with January of 1944, equip T-34 tanks with 85 mm model 1944 (S-53) tank guns installed in turrets on the stock turret ring instead of the 76 mm F-34 gun.

Monday, 10 May 2021

An Alternative Layout

SPG designs hit a dead end in many nations by the end of WWII. The concept of a heavier gun on the same chassis stopped working. Regular guns were getting so large that there were issues with the chassis. The results were essentially the same as just putting the gun in a tank with a rotating turret. This was especially true for medium SPGs. Germany, the USSR, and Great Britain eventually ended up with medium tanks that had the same gun as medium SPGs. Several nations (especially Germany and the USSR) ended up overloading the front suspension. This led to a search for new solutions. This led to the Uralmash-1, the most unusual Soviet late war SPG.

Friday, 7 May 2021

SU-152 and ISU-152 Tactics

The SU-152 is an often misunderstood vehicle. Some think that because of its thick front armour and relatively short gun it engaged enemies point-blank, but in reality it was actually a long ranged fighter, engaging enemies from 1500-2000 meters. In my latest video I explore the tactics behind SU-152 regiments and how they evolved over time.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

A German Cat in King George's Court

As soon as a new enemy tank appears on the battlefield, it is critically important to study it and find out which of its strengths can be mitigated and which weaknesses can be exploited. In case of the Panther tank, the British spared no effort. A Panther shipped from the USSR was tested before British troops ever met one in the wild. In addition to tanks captured throughout the war, several Panthers were assembled under British supervision and taken back to the UK to perform thorough trials. Read what the British learned about this German beast in my latest article on

Monday, 3 May 2021

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

 Work on Soviet heavy tanks split into two directions in 1944. One was the development of a new heavy tank, called Object 701. The second was the improvement of the IS-2 heavy tank, which later split into a minor and a major modernization projects. The former led to the creation of an IS-2 tank with a straightened upper front hull. Finally, a third tank came up in the spring of 1944 on factory #100's initiative. This tank was called IS-6 and turned out to be the odd man out.

Friday, 30 April 2021

Anti-Tank Gunner's Advice

 "Reminder to tank destroyer battery commanders

  1. Check your sight lines every day.
  2. Dial in on landmarks, especially on on off-road terrain.
  3. Have each gunner personally measure the range to landmarks in paces.
  4. Set up false guns 50-80 meters away or flanking real guns.
  5. Organize nighttime lighting (with flares) of a 500-800 meter long zone in front of the guns if enemy tanks appear.
  6. Conduct practice battles with your gunners and gun commanders.
  7. If you have time and the conditions are right, conduct subcaliber practice shoots against moving targets both at daytime and nighttime.
  8. If there are few enemy tanks, do not open fire with the entire battery. Remember the ratio: 1 gun per 3 tanks.
  9. Try to hit the tanks in the side, fire until it burns.
  10. Immediately issue bonuses for knocked out tanks.
  11. Nominate exceptional troops for government awards.
Commander of the 8th Independent Guards Anti-Tank Artillery Brigade, Guards Lieutenant Colonel Chevola"

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

KV-13 Trials

 "To the Chief of the 6th Department of the GABTU BTU, Engineer-Colonel comrade Kovalev

RE: the condition of the KV-13 as of October 19th, 1942

I report the following on the condition of the KV-13 as of October 19th, 1942:

  1. The tank set out on its sixth trip on October 18thm 1942, during which it drove for 120 km. The following defects were discovered:
    1. The 2nd gear is difficult to engage
    2. The main clutch slips
    3. The track slipped off, damaging the drive sprocket rim
    4. The front road wheel assembly (axle, swing arm, torsion bar tube) was lost
    5. The batteries were not charged
    6. The steam valve of the radiator expansion tank releases water heated to 110-115 degrees instead of steam
    7. Not a single gear could be engaged at the end of the run due to the main clutch adjustment slipping. The vehicle had to be towed to the workshop.
  2. When the clutch was disassembled, it turned out that the driving clutch plates were badly deformed. The driven plates had deep scuffs on their working surfaces.
    The loss of the road wheel was caused by a bad attachment of the swing arm to the hull. This is a design defect.
  3. The vehicle was disassembled for repairs.
The expected date for returning to trials is October 20th, 1942.

GABTU Military Representative, Engineer-Major Fedoseyev."

Monday, 26 April 2021

In the Panther's Shadow

The theory that Germany should have kept producing the Pz.Kpfw.IV instead of the Panther is common among amateur historians. However, the peak of Pz.Kpfw.IV production coincided with Panther production. Nobody was going to reduce production volumes, at least in 1943. The Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H and Ausf.J became the most numerous German tanks of the second half of WWII, and the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J became its most numerous tank overall. It was outnumbered only by the StuG 40 Ausf.G, 8500 of which were built. Late production Pz.Kpfw.IV tanks were a litmus test for what was wrong with German tank production in the last years of WWII.

Friday, 23 April 2021

SU-152 Regiments

 "State Committee of Defense Decree #2889ss
February 14th, 1943
Moscow, Kremlin

Topic: on the formation of heavy SPG regiments within the Reserve of the Supreme Command

The State Committee of Defense decrees that:

  1. 16 heavy SPG regiments are to be formed according to TO&E #08/175 including 310 personnel and 12 152 mm self propelled ML-20 gun-howitzers each.
    The formation of regiments is assigned to the Commander of Artillery of the Red Army, Marshal of Artillery comrade Voronov, and the Military Council of Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the Red Army (Colonel General of the Tank Forces comrade Fedorenko and Lieutenant General of the Tank Forces comrade Biryukov). The following deadlines are set:
    1. By February 28th, 1943: 1 regiment
    2. By March 25th, 1943: 5 regiments
    3. By April 25th, 1943: 5 regiments
    4. By May 25th, 1943: 5 regiments