Thursday 16 January 2014

German Analysis of the T-34 and KV

The Red Army didn't just perform their own tests, they let the enemy do it for them. This is one such case, where an enemy AT guide is used to suggest improvements to their own tanks.

"To the chief of GABTU's 3rd Department, Military Engineer 1st grade, comrade Afonin
October 10th, 1941

As a result of examination of a document published by the German commanders titled "Memo on fighting Russian tanks", it was established that:
  1. Live fire tests of the T-34 and KV from the front and rear, as well as the turret from all sides, reveals that:
    1. The T-34 is superior to the KV in this regard. The T-34 resists all artillery from 28 mm to 75 mm inclusive. 
      1. The KV can be penetrated under the following conditions:
        1. With the 47 mm gun from 50 meters.
        2. With the 50 mm gun from 50 meters.
        3. With the 50 mm model 1938 gun from 250 meters.
      2. The tanks can be penetrated with larger calibers: the 88 mm AA gun and 105 mm gun:
        1. KV from a distance of 1000-1500 meters.
        2. T-34 from a distance of 100-800 meters.
    2. Firing on the sides of the tanks shows inverse results. Namely:
      1. The T-34's lower side, behind the suspension, is weak. It can be penetrated by 28 mm guns at 400 meters.
      2. The sloped plate of the turret platform is inferior to the KV in resisting two types of shells, specifically:
        1. Model 1938 50 mm AT gun, armour piercing grenade:
          1. KV can be penetrated at 400 meters.
          2. T-34 can be penetrated at 700 meters.
        2. 105 mm gun, armour piercing grenade:
          1. KV can be penetrated at 300 meters.
          2. T-34 can be penetrated at 700 meters.
            In all other cases, the armour of the T-34 and KV is equivalent.
    3. Firing on the suspension reveals that the T-34, due to its high density of road wheels and thin track pins is vulnerable to HE shells from the 75 mm gun.
Based on this data, if the German conclusions are correct, then we deem it necessary to direct your attention to improving the T-34 in the following ways:
  1. Add armour screens to the turret platform sides, increasing them to 60 mm.
  2. Protect the turret ring from the front and side to prevent it from jamming.
  3. Add 25 mm skirt armour to increase the thickness of the vertical side armour.
  4. Develop smaller road wheels with internal cushioning and a smaller diameter for the same axles.
GABTU NIP chief, Colonel Romanov
GABTU NIP Regimental Commissar, Dolgov
Scientific-Technical NIP Advisor, Military Engineer 1st grade, Gluhov
Chief of the 1st Department of GABTU NIP, Military Engineer 2nd grade, Sych"
CAMD RF 38-11355-158

This report appears to be consistent with the other German AT tactics manuals, as well as the Tigerfibel, which also instructs that the gunner should hold fire at a T-34 until it reaches 800 meters. The 100 meter figure is not a mistake in the Russian translation, the original document did indeed state that the T-34's upper glacis is only penetrable by the 88 mm FlaK gun at 100 meters.

It is interesting that the KV-1 is not mentioned in the areas for improvement. Looks like it was already deemed a developmental dead end by some, even in the fall of 1941, although it continued fighting successfully for years.


  1. Great find!
    It shows the early German AP shells were not very good against well sloped armor. It must be understood though the difficult German penetration criteria that the shell’s explosive charge must remain viable to be counted as a penetration. Thus even if the shell penetrated entirely through the armor but ended up breaking apart it would not count as a penetration. Later German shell design had to reduce the size of the explosive filler to obtain a stronger shell and have a better AP cap to deal with the sloped armor of the T-34. That was the Pz Gr 39 design.

  2. 10-я танковая дивизия, полк 545, 22.6.41

    По своему техническому состоянию танки «КВ» и «Т-34» все без исключения были новыми машинами и к моменту боевых действий проработали до 10 часов (прошли в основном обкатку), и лишь незначительная часть этих машин имела работы до 30 моточасов (машины учебно-боевого парка). Танки «Т-28» имели запас хода в среднем до 75 моточасов.

    Наряду с этими качествами машины имеют следующие дефекты:
    1. По танку «КВ»
    а) При попадании снаряда и крупнокалиберных пуль происходит заклинивание башни в погоне и заклинивание бронированных колпаков.
    б) Двигатель-дизель имеет малый запас мощности, вследствие чего мотор перегружается и перегревается.
    в) Главные и бортовые фрикционы выходят из строя.
    2. По танку «Т-34»
    а) Броня машин и корпуса с дистанции 300-400 м пробивается 37-мм бронебойным снарядом. Отвесные листы бортов пробиваются 20-мм бронебойным снарядом При преодолении рвов вследствие низкой установки машины зарываются носом, сцепление с грунтом недостаточное из-за относительной гладкости трактов.
    б) При прямом попадании снаряда проваливается передний люк водителя.
    в) Гусеница машины слабая – берет любой снаряд.
    г) Главный и бортовые фрикционы выходят из строя. Подробно обо всех дефектах танков «КБ» и «Т-34» с предложениями было сообщено в докладе начальнику Главного автобронетанкового управления генерал-лейтенанту танковых войск Федоренко и начальнику Автобронетанкового управления Юго-Западного фронта генерал-майору танковых войск Моргунову.


    You are funny, this german test was not done in 1941, but much later in 1943.

    This is an Complain Report from the Armored Directorate Chief of General Lieutenant General of Panzer troops Fedorenko and Chief armor administrative Southwest Front, Major-General of armored troops Morgunov.

    Several T-34 frontal armour cracked under 400m on hit by pak 38 caliber 37mm, even getting penetrated by 20mm AP. The KV showed Insufficient strain on the Turret by hits, which make them unserviceable. The KV1 and T34 severd only 10 max 30 hours. More than 300 Tanks where lost on the month of June to Junly 1941.

  3. so KV's front is less protected than T-34?
    maybe the russians dont know germans dont have much APC/APCBC shells