Friday, 23 September 2022

The First Firebreathing KV

The USSR was the first country to mass produce flamethrower tanks. Initially these were chemical tanks, whose primary purpose was to deploy chemical weapons. Nevertheless, the KhT-26 chemical tank accepted into service in the summer of 1932 was already a dual purpose vehicle. It could still deploy chemical weapons, but now its main weapon was a flamethrower. The KS-2 flamethrower developed by the Compressor factory was the first mass produced tank flamethrower. The pneumatic system could spew fire 30-45 meters away, not too far, but not too bad for a first try. The KhT-26 was the USSR’s first mass produced flamethrower (chemical) tank. The KhT-130 on the chassis of the T-26 tank with a cylindrical turret and KhT-133 based on the T-26 with a conical turret and turret platform followed. The T-46-1, the T-26’s replacement, was also supposed to be a chemical tank, but it never went into production. The flame throwing range gradually increased, but still was not enough. Other platforms were considered for flamethrower tank production, but the chemical BT never took off.

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

45 mm gun vs Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.E

Photo #64: Penetration of the front hull, 50 mm thick, from a range of 50 meters (I).

Monday, 19 September 2022

The Tank's Hidden Foe

On paper, German anti-tank rocket launchers were a weapon of unimaginable terror for enemy tank crews. An infantryman with a light anti-tank weapon capable of penetrating up to 200 mm of armour could be lurking behind every corner and in every window. This weapon was powerful enough to destroy any Allied tank. What was the real effectiveness of the Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck, and what did the Allies do to protect themselves from it?

Friday, 16 September 2022

Friday, 9 September 2022

Swords to Plowshares

 "Report to Marshal of the Soviet Union N.A. Bulganin

#00810675

November 17th, 1947

Armoured and Mechanized Forces are in possession of 1185 foreign tanks, broken down as follows:

  • 889 functional (including 756 M4A2 and 54 Valentine)
  • 146 need medium repairs
  • 57 need major repairs
  • 93 are unserviceable

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

A Round Too Long

Attempts to create fixed ammunition for the 122 mm D-25 gun in 1944-45

It is no secret that the firepower of tanks in WW2 increased dramatically. Armies of the world began the war wither with 37-47 mm long barrelled guns or 75-94 mm short ones. Some tanks even had armament composed only of heavy machine guns or small autocannons. Firepower of heavy tanks increased the most noticeably, particularly in 1943. German heavy tanks settled on the 88 mm caliber, the Americans focused on 90 mm guns with ballistics of the M3 AA gun. The USSR also initially chose an AA gun, an 85 mm one. However, there was a huge leap forward in the summer of 1943. The design bureau of factory #9 under the direction of F.F. Petrov developed the 122 mm D-25 gun by combining the D-2 122 mm gun (its ballistics were very close to those of the A-19) and the cradle of the 85 mm D-5T-85 gun. After trials in the Object 240 experimental tank, it was accepted into service as the IS-2 (IS-122) on October 31st 1943.

Friday, 2 September 2022

Tsyganov's Armour

Additional armour developed by Engineer-Major N.F. Tsyganov, author of the BT-IS and BT-SV

Plenty of tank designers were among those who were repressed in the 1930s. 1937-38 was the most difficult period where a number of designers and military personnel linked to tank production were either executed or ended up with lengthy prison sentences. However, history sometimes lumps the latter in with the former. For instance, A.O. Firsov (chief designer of the T2K design bureau at factory #183) died in 1943 of natural causes and was not executed as is sometimes written. There are even more surprising cases where the allegedly executed party remained working at their old place of employment. For instance, Nikolai Nikolayevich Kozyrev, the chief tank designer at factory #37 and author of the T-37 and T-37A amphibious reconnaissance tanks, would have been very surprised to find out that he was executed. Kozyrev didn't even leave factory #37. It's true that N.A. Astrov replaced him as the head of tank design, but Kozyrev remained in important positions. By the fall of 1941 he occupied the post of chief engineer of factory #37. After evacuation to Sverdlovsk he continued working on tanks.

Tsyganov's BT-IS tank. The drives to the wheels can be seen. The BT-IS was an 8x6 vehicle, i.e. 6 of the wheels were powered.

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Cheating at Statistics: Staudegger's Secrets

In a video, British historian Mark Fenton describes a truly fantastical battle. According to Felton, a Tiger tank commander from the 1st SS Tank Division Franz Staudegger pulled off a truly incredible feat, destroying two T-34 tanks with hand grenades on foot. Unfortunately, no specifics are given for this Hollywood-worthy action story, so it is difficult to ascertain whether or not it actually happened. What is easier to evaluate is Staudegger's next engagement. According to Fenton, three days later Staudegger personally held off an attack by 50 T-34 tanks. The description of the battle is right out of an 80s martial arts movie, with an overwhelming number of opponents coming at the main character one at a time, easily dispatched by his superior skill. Felton credits Staudegger with destroying 22 T-34 tanks, which earned him the Knight's Cross.

Throughout the video and in its description, Felton draws attention to the fact that this story is not only incredible, but absolutely true. However, he doesn't give any sources or really that much to go on in order to verify what actually happened. We do have a few clues: a unit (10th Tank Corps) and a date (July 8th).

Let us reconstruct the events from the point of view of the 10th Tank Corps. This unit was kept in reserve east of the front line and only activated on July 7th, two days after the start of the Battle of Kursk. 

Monday, 29 August 2022

The Longest Millimeter

The first tanks of the Medium Tank M4 family saw combat for the first time in the summer of 1942, during the Second Battle for El Alamein. Combining excellent mobility, thick armour, and firepower that could defeat any enemy tank, the “General Sherman” was a solid contender for the title of the best tank on the continent upon its debut. However, progress did not stand still. The German army began fielding improved Pz.Kpfw.III and Pz.Kpfw.IV tanks, equipped with thicker armour and longer guns. Thankfully for the Sherman, American tank designers began to think about its modernization even before it reached the battlefield.

Friday, 26 August 2022

F-34 vs Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.E

 "Results of firing on the German T-IV tank with the 76 mm model 1940 (F-34) gun on the T-34 tank

Photo 68. Penetration of the right side, 40 mm thick (20+20 mm) from 800 meters.