Friday 8 November 2013

T-50 from Start to Finish

I have written previously about T-50 tanks, but those documents tell only one side of the story. Here are some more.

The T-50's main idea started in the 1940 "Kirovets" project (not to be confused with Kirovets-1, the IS-3). 

The Kirovets weighed only 9 tons, but had impressive 37 mm of armour. The T-26's engine would allow it to reach 50 kph. The project was designed for airborne drops, but it was too heavy for such tasks, which was one of the reasons why it was closed down. Still, the T-50 borrowed many concepts from this project.

One of the original T-50 plans for 1941: 

CAMD RF 38-11355-112

"Tank "SP" T-50. Produce two experimental prototypes with planetary transmissions. Install an F-2 57 mm gun with two coaxial DT machine guns and a commander's observation cupola. The horizontal fire angle is 360 degrees, 30 degrees of elevation, 7 degrees of depression. Ammunition capacity: 100 shells. Perform proving ground and army trials."

As we know, the tank never got a 57 mm gun, but a 45 mm one, and only one machine gun.

Skip forward to September of 1941. The T-50 was trialled, a small number were produced and fought. Factory #174 was dealing with an evacuation. In the meantime, what was the evaluation of the project?

CAMD RF 38-11355-62

"To the secretary of the Central Committee of the VKP(b), comrade Malenkov
Deputy of the Chairman of the Council of Commissars of the USSR, comrade Malyshev

According to order #1749-756ss of the USSR SNK and CK of the VKP(b) from June 25th, 1941, factory #174 must produce 620 T-50 tanks in 1941. Factory #174 produced only 37 tanks. The plan for production of T-50 tanks has failed. Additionally, work on removing flaws has not been completed.
Due to the evacuation of factory #174, production of T-50 tanks is completely stopped.
The initial short combat application showed that T-50 tanks' parameters satisfy the requirements, and must be mass produced for the Red Army. In order to immediately begin mass production of T-50 tanks, I ask of you the following:
  1. Give the order to produce at least 500 T-50 tanks according to the current blueprints and technical conditions of 1941, assigning the necessary equipment and factories.
  2. Assign a factory to produce the V-4 diesel engine, with enough production capacity to satisfy the need for T-50 tank engines.
  3. Propose that the factory #174 design bureau urgently perfects the following components to provide reliable tank performance:
    1. Gearbox
    2. Track links
    3. Engine starter and cooling
  4. Propose that the factory #174 design bureau presents, by October 15th of this year, an improved T-50 tank project with the following elements:
    1. Increased thickness of front, rear, and turret armour to 55 mm, with simultaneous increase in the hull armour plate connection strength.
    2. Protection for the turret ring.
  5. Begin producing these improved T-50 tanks starting on January 1st, 1942, producing no fewer than 5000 of them in 1942.
I ask that you reply with your decision.

Deputy Commissar of Defense of the USSR, Lieutenant General of the Tank Forces, Fedorenko
Red Army GABTU Military Commissar, Military Commissar 2nd Grade Biryukov"

5000 T-50 tanks! When only dozens were actually produced? Fedorenko had guts. Even optimistic production plans only gave him 1500 T-50s in 1942.

However, the T-50 was already doomed in the middle of 1941. The T-60, also not immune from problems of its own, but a much more realistic project, has already started sapping at the T-50's production base.

RGASPI 644-2-5

"To Comrade Molotov V. M.

The USSR SNK and CK of the VKP(b), on June 25th, ordered the production of T-50 tanks at factory #37 (in parallel with factory #174). The release of T-50 tanks was scheduled to start in October. 
I think that, at this time, it is nonsensical to set up production of new tanks in Moscow and lose the ability to produce light tanks in the meantime.
Therefore, I ask that:
  1. The Commissar of Medium Manufacturing allows for continuation of light tank production at factory #37.
  2. Factory #37 begins producing not an amphibious tankette, but a land light tank. Turning the amphibious tank into a land tank will result in simpler mechanisms and hull, allowing to increase the armour somewhat, and increase the amount of tanks built.
GABTU (comrade Fedorenko) is in agreement. I ask for approval of this project by the GKO.

July 14th"

The "amphibious tankette" in question is the T-40. The "land light tank" was its simplification with improved armament, the T-60. Nearly 6000 T-60s were produced in total, compared to 75 T-50 tanks.

The T-50 refused to go quietly. A list of prototype projects at the Kirov factory as of December 22nd, 1941 (CAMD RF 38-11355-720) contains a T-50 with a 37 mm AA autocannon, scheduled to be completed by March 1st, 1942 and a T-50 minesweeper, to be completed by June 1st, 1942, as well as a project to replace expensive metals in the V-4 engine with cheaper ones, to be completed by May 1st, 1942. 

1 comment:

  1. How about more details about the F-2 gun?