Tuesday 8 October 2013

Up-Armoured T-34s

All that research on additional armour didn't go to waste, and factory #112 produced 46 T-34 tanks with additional 15 and 10 mm highly hardened armour screens by May of 1943. However, this modification of the tank did not see very large scale production. Why? Because this happened:

"Photo #1. Overall view of the destroyed screened tank #232. The upper part of the hull has a penetration 85 by 155 mm from a 75 mm explosive-less shell. The ammo rack detonated, the front of the hull and lower glacis plate is torn off. The tank burned down."

Turns out that the new armour doesn't protect so well from high velocity 75 mm guns. Why? Well, there's this thing called overmatch, where a shell whose caliber is larger than the thickness of the armour will perform significantly better against said armour, especially if that armour is highly hardened. A screen like this will only protect from a small caliber shell, especially a tungsten one, like 50 mm APCR, which was the original purpose of this additional armour. By 1943, there weren't many PzIIIs running around, and the Germans didn't exactly have an excess of tungsten to make APCR shells for them, so the armour wasn't very useful. But hey, on the plus side, the tank looks really good for one that had its ammo rack blow up. Let's read on.

"Photo #2. Penetration in the front left armour screen of tank #321 by a 75 mm shell.

Photo #3. Penetration of the turret skirt of tank #321, 520 mm by 120 mm from a 75 mm explosive-less shell. Largest armour fragments: 250 by 110 mm and 180 by 100 mm"

Another good example of how highly hardened armour is destroyed by overmatching.

"Photo #4. The upper front of tank #100 has a breach from an 88 mm armour-piercing shell. The breach is 220 mm by 240 mm in size. A 240 mm by 110 mm fragment was torn off the driver's hatch. The tank burned. The ammunition rack, main, and secondary gas tanks detonated. The front of the tank, lower front plate, and front bottom of the hull were torn off."

Another one that's in very good condition for multiple secondary explosions and a fire.

"Photo #5. Overall view of the damage done to screened tank #111 with armour piercing 88 mm and 50 mm shells"

Well that doesn't look as bad as the others. Zoom, enhance!

"Photo #6. Tank #111. Penetration in the rear left overtrack hull from an 88 mm armour piercing shell at a 30 degree angle. Breach sizes: screen: 140 by 150 mm, main armour 150 by 90 mm."

As expected, 50 mm shells don't do anything, 88 mm shells aren't stopped by 10 extra millimeters. These weren't even plain old FlaK 36es, either. The Germans went all out on this one, and brought shiny new PaK 43s. 

1 comment:

  1. The Germans didn’t have any '75 mm explosive-less shells' except pzgr. 40. And penetrations by those would have made small holes. However, looking at the archive about the study on exploding T-34 fuels tanks there was mention of ’cores of model 39/40 shells’. The explosive cavity was small on the improved shell model 39 so the Russians might have thought it was a solid core. The improvement in German shells came about at the same time that the hard plates were added to the T-34. Maybe the plates were an improvement that didn’t get a fair trial.