Saturday 6 December 2014

Soviet Tank Production, 1932

"In connection with the issue of tank production raised at KO, I report on the progress on producing small T-26 tanks and fast BT tanks during 8 months of 1932 based on materials gathered by the Military-Naval inspectorate of the VKP(b).

1. BT Tanks (Christie)

As of September 1st, HPZ has given us 76 BT tanks instead of 900 that were planned initially and 482 in the revised plan. Out of 76 vehicles, 55 were made in August. The September quota of 120 vehicles (lowered from 290) was to be covered with vehicles already in the process of final assembly and trials (56) and assembled hulls (124 additional units). On average, casting and forging produced 1100 assemblies. Nevertheless, only 40 tanks were approved in September, indicating that the August "leap" was only the result of reduced requirements on behalf of the military representative that wanted as many BTs for fall maneuvers as possible.

The bottleneck is assembly: the gear bracket, final drives, the gearbox (before August), the production of which is delayed by problems with production at HPZ and delays in starting production at HTZ (August instead of May).

The quality of delivered BTs is low. All vehicles are marked for training. The vehicles show an undeveloped production process for thermal conditioning of important components. For instance, May vehicles exhibit twisting of the crankshaft, crumbling of gearbox gear teeth, and jamming of the splined couplings.

Reports from the Belorussian Military District describe all the above defects in August tanks. On the first day, half of vehicles broke down after 4 training exercises (250-300 km). By now, only 7 vehicles remain functional out of 28.

2. T-26 Tanks (Vickers)

As of September 1st, Voroshilov factory has given us 362 T-26 tanks instead of 1660 that were planned initially and 1200 in the revised plan. 19 vehicles are accepted as training only, and 22 have no turrets. From 362 vehicles, 121 were built in August. The quota for September has been decreased from 450 to 200 vehicles.

Despite only 362 vehicles being delivered by September 1st, 559 vehicles were assembled in this period, which indicates a gap between assembled and finished tanks (up to 196 vehicles). 180 assembled vehicles lacked turrets due to delays in mechanical processes (turret ring cutting).

The new program for 1932 demands that Voroshilov factory produce 250 vehicles by May 1st, with all parts produced in house. However, production was delayed by two months, since parts from cooperating factories only started shipping in May instead of April, and even those orders were incomplete. Improvements were noted in August at these factories (Krasniy Putilovets, Krasniy Oktyabr, factory #7). However, even in these conditions, the number of assembled T-26es lags notably behind monthly quotas. In September, only 148 vehicles were delivered, with a minimal quota of 200 vehicles.

3. Armour

As of September 1st, the armour production quota has been filled; by Izhor factory to 38% of NKTP plans, by Mariupol: 25.6%. Armour is not currently a bottleneck only due to severe delays in tank production.

The development of tanks was limited by armour, at first. Due to problems with supplies, especially nickel and molybdenum, production of Vibrak armour did not meet quota. High carbon cemented armour did not meet expectations, giving nearly 100% failure. In May-July, tank production was suffering a serious crisis.

Lately, Izhor and Mariupol factories have moved to production of new armour types. Izhor factory is making a chromium-silicon-manganese PI armour, and Mariupol is making two-layered manganese MI armour, neither of which require expensive imported nickel and molybdenum or a long cementing process. Production of chromium-silicon and manganese armour is not difficult and can be set up at any metal factory that has experience with high quality steel.

Experiments with production of two-layered manganese armour are currently being held at the Kulebaki factory, as well as experimental ATB OGPU types (cemented chrome-manganese).

The issue of producing armour that is acceptable both from a production and a robustness standpoint is still not resolved. Instead of 13 and 10 mm armour, the T-26 now has 15 mm PI armour, which increases its weight by 800 kg. It must be noted that experimental work on armour is done only due to initiative at the factories.

4. Engines

The T-26 tanks use engines produced by the Voroshilov factory. BT tanks built in 1932 rely on "Liberty" engines bought in the USA and M-5 engines, received from  the Air Force.

As of September 1st, Krasniy Oktyabr factory and the Aviation Trust have refurbished about 500 engines. Due to a lack of parts necessary for refurbishing engines (cylinder rings, cylinders, gears) parts are obtained by stripping down other engines, which causes large amounts of waste. No parts for the Liberty engine are currently being produced. Plans to begin production were made a comrade Donetsko's NKTP meeting, but they have yet to be brought to fruition.

NKTP does not know where to get BT tank engines for 1933. The NKTP decided to produce M-5 engines at Krasniy Oktyabr in Leningrad. Giprospetsmet received an order to develop a program for producing 3000 M-5 engines beginning in 1933. This was not through through well, as it is absurd to produce engines for Kharkov in Leningrad. Naturally, when the issue was investigated deeper, this decision was overturned. Currently, the question of using a 400 hp diesel engine in the BT tank stands. There is one prototype, but it has not been tested, and it is not clear where it will be mass produced. The issue of engines for BT tanks built in 1933 is still unresolved.

5. Ball bearings.

The tank program for 1932 relies mainly on imports for ball bearings. No more than 10-15% of ball bearings by volume are produced domestically, and even less by cost, as the most complicated and expensive ball bearings are still imported. The order for 2.725 million roubles has still not been filled.

NKTP does not know where ball bearings will come from in 1933. STO decree #1037/307ss issued based on the VMI TsKK RKI report ordering NKTP and VATO to develop a program that will satisfy the needs of the defense industry without imported ball bearings starting in 1933 has not been carried out.

6. Electric equipment.

The tank program in 1932 relies exclusively on imports. Despite comrade Ordzhonikidze's order #27/ss from February 10th, 1932, to establish production of tank electrical equipment at Elektrozavod starting with the 3rd quarter of this year, and the decree of the Presidium of the TsKK VKP(b) on August 8th, Elektrozavod has not yet started mass production.

Currently, Eletrozavod is assembling 10 Type A automatically leading magnetos, the mass production of which has been delayed until 1933. "SS Chinchilla" type magnetos that are superior to Type A have not even started experimental assembly. Experimental generators have been assembled and cleared for installation in BT and T-26 tanks, as well as a started for the BT. The T-26 starter is still undergoing trials.

Despite RKKA UMM's request from February, VEO has still not distributed orders for experimental devices necessary for the electrification of a tank, such as generators, electric turret traverse motors, fans, strobes, etc.

The current state of production makes reliance on imports in 1933 a certainty.

7. Causes for failing to meet quota in 1932

The results of the first 9 months of work and predictions for the 4th quarter show that failure to meet quota in 1932 is certain.

This failure is caused by technical as well as organizational failure. Technical problems and supply problems have been announced by factory management many times, and will be announced again at the upcoming KO meeting. The main cause of the failure to meet quota, and the cause of technical and supply failures, is the unsatisfactory performance of NKTP leadership and failure to take responsibility for production.

The production of 10000 tanks in 1932 demanded careful planning on the NKTP's behalf, along with precise knowledge of available supplies and production resources. Instead, the NKTP published a purely formal order #27ss, covered in the tracks of "office creativity", the poor suitability of which was evident several days later, which even the NKTP admitted.

Assembly of BT hulls at Krasniy Kotelshik factory that was worth 22 million roubles proved nonviable, as assembly of hulls here for HPZ was absurd. VATO's responsibility for production of ball bearings turned out to be empty words, as immediately after the order was announced, it was decided that they will be imported. The process of supplying factories with materials was not written in the order. The process of cooperation between factories was not fully thought out.

The executors of the orders also took the path of formal orders, further complicating the situation. For example, order #27 demands 400 T-26 tanks per month starting in May. The concept of learning curves was unknown to management. The result, and what a poor result it was, was evident after the first few months. Instead of efforts to increase production, the quota was reduced. This practice, as well as the absolute confusion when it came to supplying factories sapped the faith of workers in these plans. The directive to "produce 10 thousand tanks, fully and unconditionally, by January 1st, 1933" turned out to be empty words, mostly due to the NKTP itself, who was incapable of supporting that figure with solid management, correct organization, and sufficient supply.

Aside from poor management, there was also a lack of personal responsibility. Order #27 made comrade Pavlunovskiy responsible for the T-27 and armour, comrade Budnyak for the T-26, and comrade Martinovich for the BT. In reality, nothing worked out. Comrade Budnyak could only be responsible for his own factories, having no control over cooperating factories (Krasniy Putilovets, Izhor, Luberets, etc), and did not end up responsible for the entire T-26 program. Comrade Martinovich soon forgot about his task, and comrade Dotsenko that replaced him was in the same boat as comrade Budnyak.

And so, a plan for assembly of BT tanks approved by comrade Donetsko for July is made separately, and a plan for cooperating factories approved by comrade Pavlunovskiy is made separately, and both are telegraphed to comrade Ordzhonikidze, who approves them. If you add personal directives issued by comrades Ordzhonikidze, Dotsenko, Pavlunovskiy, and Budnyak, then the confusion and lack of personal responsibility becomes obvious.

8. Conditions for 1933

Despite the clear failure of management, failure of the supply chain (Leningrad factories are literally subsisting on a day-to-day basis), lagging independence from imports, and a total failure to meet quota, NKTP has made no conclusions and makes no effort to correct the situation, continuing to produce monthly plans that have little difference from old ones. Meanwhile, the issues of organization, supplies and independence from imports in 1933 demand immediate attention, without which, the ugly state of 1932 will repeat itself.

  1. Considering the experience gained in 1932, immediately correct the organization of tank production:
    1. Create a special tank trust, including HPZ, Voroshilov factory, Krasniy Oktyabr, VOAO, and factory #2, establishing an experimental research institute on the basis of the Voroshilov factory experimental department.
    2. Create a Chief Auto-Tractor Directorate at VATO, and include the tank trust in it.
    3. In the directorate, make an armour trust, including the Izhor, Mariupol, Vyksun, and Kulebaki factories.
  2. Obtain a plan from the NKTP for 1933 no later than November 15th, with precise plans for factory cooperation, supply schedules, and plans to achieve independence from imports by the end of 1933.
  3. In order to prepare for 1933, order the NKTP to produce a real plan for the 4th quarter of 1932 in 10 days that prepares for maximum production starting in 1933.
NK RKI USSR fellow, VMI chief, Kuybishev"

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