Monday 5 May 2014

T-50's Case Part 1: Combat

"To the Chairman of the State Committee of Defense of the USSR, comrade Stalin
From Military Engineer 1st grade, chief engineer of the T-50 tank, S.A. Ginzburg

Report on the production of tanks

Part 1: individual conclusions on the combat use of tanks

The experience of using tanks at Leningrad, on the Western Front, and other combat areas leads to the confirmation of the correctness of your instructions to use tanks in close cooperation with other arms and cooperation between tanks of all types, using not only the amount of the latter, but their quality.

Well armoured heavy KV tanks, acting without proper support of small tanks are an easy mark for enemy artillery, which can wait and open fire from large caliber guns at individual tanks. This results in losses and little results in attacks. A large part of this is caused by the low maneuverability of heavy tanks on the battlefield and their large size. The same unsatisfactory result is achieved by small tanks, despite their high maneuverability and small size.

In battle between individual tanks and AT guns, the latter always wins.

On the other hand, the use of combined tank types gives different results, for example KV tanks and T-50 tanks. In this case, losses were insignificant, despite a large amount of hits to the tanks. This can only be explained by enemy AT gunners being forced to open fire in poor conditions, and not being able to calmly aim at vulnerable spots, saving their guns until the right moment.

Heavy tanks attacked, and, before making contact immediate with enemy defenses, fast light tanks went ahead under their cover. Protected from the anti-tank guns with their armour, the light tanks maneuvered to destroy heavy AT guns that were dangerous to heavy tanks, after which all tanks proceeded to destroy remaining enemy forces.

You determined the required thickness of armour for a light tank to be 37 mm, while I and many other engineers, considering the penetration of the 37 mm gun, considered 45 mm to to be the minimum acceptable thickness. However, combat experience and dozens of scratches on the T-50's vertical armour convinced us that 37 mm is a sufficient minimum for small tanks in this stage of the war, and clever use of the metal by the engineer due to well positioned armour plates (sloped hull).

Conclusions from combat use of small tanks:

  1. 37 mm all-around armour is enough for a small T-50 tank.
    The tank's survivability increases when used correctly with heavy tanks, which are also not completely invulnerable despite their heavy armour.
  2. The T-50, due to its large power reserve and small size, has high maneuverability (no less than the medium T-34 tank) and easily runs on any terrain.
  3. The T-50 tank, due to the quality of its observation devices, is the first to see a target and is the first domestic tank that can control the battlefield fully.
  4. The power reserve of the T-50 is even greater than that of the T-34, and is enough to increase its armour to 45-75 mm as well as increase the firepower of the tank, while still maintaining small weight compared to other tanks. It is very economical to make powerful light fighting vehicles on this chassis, perhaps even replacing some T-34s.
  5. A modern small tank needs armour that can protect it from anti-tank guns, and good mobility and maneuverability on the battlefield.
    The first quality is provided by the 37 mm armour, strengthened by the angle at which it is mounted.
    The second, as experience shows, is provided by high power to weight ratio (at least 20 hp/ton), the quality of the suspension, and the tank's length (ie. the ability to cross and overcome obstacles).
Is it possible to replace the T-50 with the T-34 or another tank? Let us examine their characteristics in this table.

T-60 with added armour
Mass (tons)
Engine power (hp)
Maximum speed (kph)
Power to weight ratio (hp/ton)


Turret side

76 mm
45 mm
20 mm

From this table, you can see that:
  • You cannot replace the T-50 tank with the T-60 tank, as the latter can only protect from bullets. Its armour, except for the front, is penetrable by all anti-tank rifles and large caliber machineguns. The front plate (35 mm) can be penetrated by a modern anti-tank rifle (ie. Simonov), so a 37 mm plate is the minimum that will not be penetrated. The T-60's armour is not a quality replacement.
    The T-60's mobility and maneuverability on the battlefield are closer to the old T-26. Such a slow tank cannot replace the T-50.
    Aside from a cannon, the T-50 has two coaxial machineguns that can destroy enemy forces. As experience shows, this is a necessary quality for a small tank. The T-60 has a small caliber cannon which is insufficient for both HE and AP work, as well as half of the machinegun performance, and does not meet the qualities necessary for a small tank.
  • The T-34, while possessing superior armour, is twice as heavy. Its size, mostly its greater height, make it harder to hide. Its machineguns are separate, and do not concentrate fire as well as those of the T-50. The T-34 has a more powerful gun, but the turrets of the two tanks are similar in size, and if necessary, the same gun can be installed. Due to the larger consumption of metal, T-50 tanks cannot be replaced by T-34 tanks.
    If the armour is increased to the thickness of the T-34, the tank will weigh 15.5 tons, still 13-13.5 tons lighter than the T-34, and will have nearly the same maneuverability.
    If armour is increased to 60 mm, the T-50 will weigh 17.5-18 tons, while the T-34 would weigh 33-34 tons, or 16 tons more.
    As you can see, the replacement of the T-50 with the T-34 is also not ideal. It is more optimal to replace some T-34s with T-50s that have thicker armour.
A small tank's chassis is necessary, both due to combat and economical needs, in order to create auxiliary vehicles: light AA SPGs, flamethrower and chemical tanks, minesweepers, ammunition carriers, etc.

For example, the lack of an AA SPG in our units is causing losses from air attacks. Factory #174 on the Leningrad Front converted two 37 mm AA guns to work on the T-26 chassis. Their reviews from armoured units are very positive."

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