Thursday 30 April 2015

Fantasy Tank

Whether through a rich imagination or encountering some records discussing the other IS-3 staff from the Army Operational Research Group came up with this...thing.

As far as I am aware, no such project was ever planned, nor was there any plans at all to re-arm the IS-3 (aside from the D-25 to M-62 replacement).

World of Tanks History Section: SOMUA S35

After WWI, the French army began the process of mechanization. This process also touched cavalry, a mobile strike force. In the early 1930s, the cavalrymen formulated requirements for a tank designed to work with a mobile mechanized unit. SOMUA, a subsidiary of Schneider, was tasked with the design.

Main Cavalry

The contract for a tank with no less than 40 mm of armour and a speed of no less than 30 kph was signed in October of 1934. SOMUA's engineers needed only 7 months to finish the first prototype. In April, the tank was ready. It was possible to develop the tank in such a short time due to the use of foreign experience. The engineers that developed the suspension and transmission spent some time at the Czech Skoda company. As a result, these components were very similar to the fairly good vz. 35 tank. The engine and gearbox were also Czech-inspired.

The speed and range of the tank satisfied the cavalrymen, but much work had to be done to correct defects. The cavalry was in desperate need of new tanks and made an order without waiting for the improvements. Due to this rush, the S35 had problems with reliability, and poor placement of internal modules created problems for repair crews. It took another two years to polish off the tank. The cavalrymen, satisfied, officially adopted the S35 and made large orders to equip cavalry units.

The tank was mobile, had good armour (up to 36 mm in the front hull and 56 in the turret) and was equipped with a powerful 47 mm gun, making it one of the best vehicles of its time, not just in France, but in the world. However, it had a serious drawback. A one-man turret forced the commander to serve as the gunner and the loader. In theory, after the S35 received a larger turret, the radio operator could assist him, but in battle this was rarely possible.

In Spring of 1939, the French composed some requirements for the modernization of the SOMUA S35. The improved tank would receive a more powerful engine (220 hp instead of 190), and an improved suspension. The biggest improvement would be a new turret. Instead of a cast and riveted design, this one would use welded rolled armour. The new tank, indexed SOMUA S40, was supposed to enter production in October of 1940, but the war in Europe forced the process to speed up. Production began in July of 1940, but not soon enough, as France entered the war in May of 1940.

All is fair in love and war

The first major tank battle of WWII was the battle at the Belgian town of Hannut, which began on May 12th, 1940. The SOMUA S35 tanks that took part caused the Germans a lot of grief.

Near Crehen, West of Hannut, an S35 unit knocked out 4 German tanks and a battery of AT guns. Another unit, among other German vehicles, destroyed the tank in which Colonel Eberbach was riding near Tisnes. The Colonel survived, but the attack was called off. In the evening, the Germans attempted to strike again, but a counterattack of SOMUA tanks forced them to roll back. The S35s returned with 20-40 dents from 20 and 37 mm guns, but without a single penetration. The local success was evident, but poor performance elsewhere on the front lines forced the French to fall back.

SOMUA S35 tanks were used throughout the French campaign. In general, they were successful locally, but failed to compensate for larger scale failures.

After Franch surrendered, some S35s ended up in German hands. The tank was modified with a two-person turret and an improved radio. This modification received the index Pz.Kpfw. S35 739 (f). These tanks fought on several fronts, including the Eastern. Here, a few of them were responsible for the rumours that the Germans actively used tanks against the Brest fortress.

When Germany invaded the USSR on June 22nd, 1941, the Brest fortress was one of the first to come under attack. Most tank forces bypassed the fortress, which was a task for infantry, artillery, and other forces. In order to storm the fortress faster, the Germans demounted three SOMUA S35 tanks from armoured train #28. All three were destroyed by grenades and AA gun fire at the north gates.

The captured French tanks were used in battle in Finland, Norway, and in the Arctic. In 1944, some SOMUA tanks once again fought under a French banner to liberate their homeland. This is where the combat path of one of Frances's best tanks ended. Later, the engineers that built the S35 formed the backbone of the team that revived tank design in France.

Article author: Vladimir Pinyaev

Original article available here.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Lend Lease Hero

Soviet award orders are typically dominated by T-34s, so it's nice to see a fresh face once in a while.

"Award Order
  1. Name: Novikov, Ivan Vasilyevich
  2. Rank: Guards Lieutenant
  3. Position and unit: M4A2 tank company commander, 3rd Tank Battalion, 18th Guards Minsk Order of the Red Banner Tank Brigade
    is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1921
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: VLKSM member since 1938
  7. Participation in the Great Patriotic War: since July 1944
  8. Wounds or concussions: heavy wound to the head, loss of an eye at the 1st Baltic Front on October 10th, 1944
  9. In the RKKA since: November 1939
  10. Recruited by: Ulyanovsk recruiting office, Ulyanovsk oblast
  11. Prior awards: none.
Brief and specific description of heroism or achievements: during his time in battle with the battalion, as a commander of a company, he served as a brave, courageous, and reliable officer. On October 7th, 1944, he flanked the enemy and captured Yutsi along with a crossing of the Virvita river. The enemy wished to retake the crossing, attacking it several times. In this battle, comrade Novikov knocked out 4 Tiger tanks, 3 guns, more than 10 machineguns and mortars, and killed more than 130 soldiers and officers of the enemy. The enemy, fleeing, left one functional tank in the swamp.
On October 11th, in battles at Memel, the enemy sent a large force to meet our attacking tanks. Comrade Novikov saw that enemy tanks are trying to flank him, rushed forward, organized an ambush, and destroyed 3 tanks, 4 APCs, and over 150 soldiers and officers, preventing an encirclement and enemies in his rear. Heavily wounded, missing an eye, he continued to command his unit until danger to his unit passed.

For the destruction of enemy vehicles and personnel and the display of bravery, courage, reliability, and heroism, he is worthy of the title of Hero of the Soviet Union."

CAMD RF 33-793756-34 

Now, this battle with Tigers is somewhat shrouded in mystery, as the precise date is not given (all we know is that it was fought in between taking the crossing on October 7th and his fighting at Memel before October 11th. To make things harder, Yutsi appears to be such a tiny settlement that it's difficult to find on any map. However, Schneider's diary of s.Pz.Abt 510 makes it clear what happened and when.

"9 October 1944: Attack from Leckawa to Pickeliai, together with one company of Panzer-Aufklarungs-Abteilung 4 and one company of Panzer-Pionier-Battalion 79. The assault comes to an end outside of Pickeliai, after penetrating as far as the strong antitank blocking positions; 4 Tigers lost. At dawn, evading movement to Leckawa and the recovery of the disabled tanks. The battalion loses 3 tanks in these engagements."

The number of Tigers matches up, and here's the crossing between Leckava and Pikeliai. Looks like those Shermans gave the Tigers quite a pounding.

Monday 27 April 2015

Common Questions: KwK 43 vs D-25T Penetration

One of my earliest articles was an explanation of the difference in Soviet and German penetration standards. Now, just as then, accusations of propaganda are quickly encountered when this table pops up. After all, it's easy to Google "D-25T penetration" and "KwK 43 penetration" and compare the results. You will, of course, find a number of theoretical values derived through various methods, but tanks fight wars on the battlefield, not in Excel, so let's take a look at some practical results.

The first test that I have where the two guns compete is against the armour of the Tiger II (CAMD RF 38-11377-129). However, due to its brittle nature, it's hard to establish the clear winner here. Nevertheless, I will include this test for completeness' sake.

As you may recall from the relevant article, one 88 mm shell fired into the front of the turret at 400 meters (it took three shots to get a "fair" penetration, the others hit the edge of an existing opening) penetrated the front of the turret (180 mm) flew all the way through, and penetrated the rear (80 mm) through a weld seam. This must have been confusing for some people, as I've seen claims that the gun penetrated 260 mm and that Soviet penetration tables are a lie based on this fact, but as you can see, it didn't quite happen that way.

Now, the D-25T. Using the older pointed type AP shell at 2500 meters, it penetrates the front of the turret, making a colossal hole in the armour (700 mm by 220 mm) and, for good measure, the roof (460 mm by 300 mm). The shell does not make it through the back, but at six times the KwK 43's range, it's not the most scientific of comparisons. Let's try a target with sturdier steel, like an IS-3.

"Photo #11. Overall view of the 90 mm thick overtrack hull of the modernized IS tank after a hit from an 88 mm armour piercing shell at 400 meters. Three tracks have insignificant damage."

At the same 400 meters, the side of an IS-3 is tougher than the front of a Tiger II, eh? Let's see how close the KwK 43 has to get before penetration.

CAMD RF 38-11355-2872

At 300 meters, the KwK 43 can finally penetrate the side of the tank, but it's a "limit of rear surface" penetration, a standard where the shell only has to cause damage the rear of the plate, and not actually make it all the way through. The D-25T can achieve the same from 1100 meters, or make it clean through the plate from 600 meters. You can read more about the tests here, but the D-25T consistently penetrates the prototype hulls from a longer range than the KwK 43.

Data about how the Object 701 #1 hull stood up to these guns is also available, albeit not as detailed.

D-25 penetration limit
KwK 43 penetration limit
Lower hull side
4400 meters
3790 meters
Turret side
3400 meters
2600 meters
Data obtained from M. Kolomiets, Heavy Tank IS-4 (Moscow: Tactical Press, 2014), pp. 39, 76

Why does this happen? Aren't the numbers in the Soviet penetration table very close? They are, but ballistics is a more complicated science than this. Through a phenomenon called overmatch, a shell that is significantly thicker than the armour it strikes gets a bonus to penetration, while a shell with a small caliber compared to the armour it tries to penetrate will face a penalty. The D-25's 122 mm shell is almost 40% thicker than the KwK 43's 88 mm shell, which makes it rather more effective. This lesson was well learned by Soviet tank designers: according to NII-48 standards a post-war medium tank only needed to resist 88 mm shells, while a post-war heavy tank had to resist both 122 mm and 88 mm shells.

Sunday 26 April 2015

Damage to a KV Tank in Karelia

I talked about damage to KV tanks in 1940, but this is an even earlier case: December 1939, the very first KV that was sent into battle. Here is what Finnish AT guns managed to do to it.

1. Dent, 70 by 50 mm, 10 mm deep.

2. 100 by 50 mm dent, 10 mm deep.
3. 70 mm by 50 mm dent, 10 mm deep.
4. 60 mm by 50 mm dent, 10 mm deep.
5. The cap was knocked off and the bearing damaged.

Saturday 25 April 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Infantry's Fangs

Anti-tank rifles were invented at the end of WWI. They had a brief golden age during WWII, but as tanks with thick armour and man-portable rocket launchers became common, they quickly disappeared. These rifles were used by all combatants of WWII and were infantry's best friend when facing lightly armoured threats. What rifles did various countries use?

Mauser T-Gewehr (Germany)

This was the first anti-tank rifle in history, developed in Germany to use the 13x92SR cartridge and accepted for service in early 1918 as a temporary measure pending the adoption of the TuF high caliber machinegun. As this rifle had no muzzle brake or recoil dampening system, the crew had to rotate after 2-3 shots. Nevertheless, no less than one thousand of these rifles reached the front lines before the end of WWII. Despite their limited effectiveness, they took down more than a dozen Allied tanks.

7.92 mm karabin przeciwpancerny wz. 35 (Poland)

This rifle, designed by Maroszek, was adopted by the Polish army in 1935. It used a regular Polish army caliber, but with a lengthened casing (to 107 mm) which resulted in a muzzle velocity of 1200 m/s. Due to its secrecy, the project was referred to by its codename, "rifle for Uruguay", resulting in several sources calling it the "Ur" rifle. The secrecy and limited number produced results in a very limited effect against German forces in 1939.

Lahti L-39 (Finland)

This rifle was designed by Aimo Lahti. Finland before the Winter War, just as Germany in WWI, was working on two types of anti-tank weapons: rifles and machineguns. During trials, the machinegun earned a very negative opinion, mostly due to its poor reliability in winter conditions. The rifle proved itself well, and it entered production in 1941. The special Lahti cartridge designed just for this rifle was replaced with a 20 mm shell from German AA guns, purchased by Finland. However, while the Lahti L-39 was enough against lightly armoured T-26 tanks, the rifle was ineffective against T-34 and KV tanks, prevalent a year or two later.

Type 97 (Japan)

The Japanese 20 mm AT rifle was based on an AA gun of the same caliber. Due to the presence of HE shells and the ability to fire in bursts, it could be used against unarmoured targets (MG nests, light fortifications, etc). The AP shell was effective against light vehicles, but the mass of the device (68 kg with ammunition and shield) severely limited mobility on the battlefield. In practice, it could only be used from stationary positions.

Panzerbuchse 38/39 (Germany)

Just as the "Ur", this rifle had a caliber of 7.92 mm with an enlarged casing that propelled the bullet to 1200 m/s, which penetrated 30 mm of armour at 100 metrs. The first variant was accepted under the index Pzb 38, but the lighter and simpler Pzb 39 appeared the following year. The penetration was sufficient against light vehicles, but the bullet did not have significant effect after it penetrated the armour. One attempt to compensate for this was the use of bullets with poisonous gases (tear gas, according to existing sources).

Boys (Great Britain)

This British AT rifle was made in the late 1930s by Enfield under the supervision of Colonel Boys. This rifle used special 0.55 inch (13.9 mm) Boys rounds. The Boys Mk. I was accepted into the British Army in 1937 and was actively used by Britain and its allies in WWII. On the Pacific Front, it saw use until the end of the war. Boys rifles were also shipped to the USSR as a part of the Lend-Lease program, but their use was limited as they were inferior to domestic designs.


According to the legend, both rifles were developed at the start of the Great Patriotic War on Stalin's personal orders and were accepted into service in less than a month. In reality, prototypes were being tested in September-October of 1941, and the first PTRDs (Degtyaryev's design) reached the front in November, with real mass production starting in 1942. The BS-41 bullet with a ceramic-metal core could successfully penetrate any German medium tank in the side, even 1943's Panther. The large amounts of anti-tank rifles in Soviet service forced the Germans to attack with heavy tanks, which were not always available.

Original article available here.

Friday 24 April 2015

Company Commander's Biography

"Award order
  1. Name: Rukhladyev, Aleksandr Ignatyevich
  2. Rank: Senior Lieutenant
  3. Position, unit: T-34 company commander, 1st Tank Battalion, 31st Kirovograd, Twice Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov Tank Brigade
    is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1915
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: VKP(b) member since 1942
  7. Paritipation in the Civil War and subsequent actions in defence of the USSR: Karelian Front from March 15th, 1942 to June 1st, 1942, then from December 10th, 1942 to February 28th, 1942. Since June 20th, 1944: 3rd Belorussian, 1st Baltic, 2nd Belorussian Fronts.
  8. Wounds and concussions in the Patriotic War: died from heavy wound on February 1st, 1945.
  9. In the Red Army since: 1937
  10. Recruited by: Kirov recruitment office
  11. Previous awards: Order of the Red Banner by order #26 to Kaliin Front, July 28th, 1942, Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class by order #088 on August 17th, 1944.
Brief and specific description of heroism: during offensive battles in Poland and East Prussia, comrade Rukhladyev proved himself a brave, courageous, and decisive officer.
He skilfully led his company into battle, ruthlessly destroying enemy forces. As a result of a successful maneuver on January 1st, 1944, he captured the Dzyaldovo railroad station with 3 trains loaded with enemy tanks and cars.
When capturing Dzyaldovo, a burning train loaded with ammunition blocked our units' path. Comrade Rukhladyev personally disconnected the burning train cars, allowing the brigade to move forward.
Comrade Rukhladyev was the first to enter the city of Elbing, causing panic in the enemy garrison and causing significant damage to enemy vehicles and personnel. Skilfully manevuering in difficult street nighttime fighting conditions, his company made it through the city with no losses.
He was one of the first to reach the Baltic Sea, cutting off East Prussia from central Germany.
Between January 1st, 1945 and February 1st, 1945, his tank company destroyed the following: 8 tanks, 24 APCs, 170 vehicles with various military cargo, 400 carts, 17 guns of various calibers, 2 armoured trains, 3 locomotives, 2 steam boats, up to 1000 soldiers and officers, and captured 1 uniform warehouse, 3 supplies warehouse, 9 functional tanks, 45 cars, 120 horses, 10 APCs and tractors.

Comrade Rukhladyev is worthy of the title of Hero of the Soviet Union."

CAMD RF 33-793756-41

Various background data follows the award order. Rukhladyev was a worker, a machinist at a factory. He finished 7 classes of general school in 1931, and then some military courses in 1943. He joined the VKP(b) in April of 1942 and had a crystal clear political record: never left the party, was not a member of any other party, had no complaints filed against him. He (obviously, but it's still in the document) did not serve in the Imperial Army or the White Army in the Russian Civil War, nor did he participate in the war at all. He was also never captured by the enemy, was never encircled, and had no connections abroad. His work is also listed:

Aug 1932-Aug 1937: Machinist at Lumber Mill #1, Kirov.
Aug 1937-Nov 1939: 4th Special Engineering Cops, 4th Regiment, machinist and plant foreman.
Nov 1939-Jan 1940: Machinist at Lumber Mill #1, Kirov.
Jan 1940-Aug 1940: 126th Infantry Division, typist.
Aug 1940-Jul 1941: Foreman and mechanic at the Khalturich factory, Kirov.
Jul 1941-Feb 1942: 30th Tank Training Regiment, cadet.
Feb 1942-Jun 1942: 28th Tank Brigade, gunner, Kalinin Front.
Jun 1942-Sep 1942: Frunze Military Academy, cadet.
Sep 1942-Feb 1943: 65t Tank Brigade, 41st Army, deputy commander of a T-34 tank company.
Mar 1943-May 1943: Lecturer in Magnitogorsk.
May 1943-Apr 1944: 7th Tank Training Brigade, Chelyabisnk, Reserve, T-34 company commander.
Apr 1944-Jun 1944: 3rd Tank Training Brigade, marching T-34 company commander.
Jun 1944-Feb 1945: T-34 tank company commander, 1st tank battalion.
Feb 1st, 1945: Killed at the 2nd Belorussian Front.

World of Tanks History Section: Tanks in the Far East

Chaos reigned in the Far East in the 1920 and 1930s. China was a quilt of hostile states. Japan was eyeing continental territories, resulting in a full scale war. Great Britain attempted to participate in the conflict, which complicated affairs. In short, there was a rich potential for tank warfare.

Dramatis Personae

The USSR and Japan were the only ones who could really brag about their tanks in the region. The Chinese armies had a miserly amount of armoured vehicles, which could not influence the situation significantly.

Soviet MS-1s were typical infantry support tanks: slow, with anti-bullet armour. T-26es and BT tanks with 45 mm guns that appeared later were significantly superior.

Japanese light 7.5 ton Type 95 Ha-Go tanks were armed with a 37 mm gun and a machinegun. Their armour was also made to withstand bullets. These tanks were sufficient against Chinese armour, but not as effective against the Soviets. In 1937, the medium Chi-Ha tank appeared, which was more powerful, but still only adequate by local standards.

Tank battles in the Far East were pretty similar to those in colonial wars: the tanks were few in number, and mostly opposed by infantry, cavalry and artillery. The only conflicts that don't match this pattern are the battles at Lake Hasan and Khalkin-Gol.

All for One and One for All

The use of tanks in the Far East once again proved that tanks need a well refined mechanism for cooperation with other types of forces. Without them, the effectiveness of tanks is limited. For instance, the initial battles for Jalainur station on the Far-Eastern Railroad saw the use of 10 MS-1 tanks. Initially, the tanks fought alone, as the infantry was not too eager to support them. As a result, the Soviet offensive lost its tempo and the Chinese fortified region was not taken swiftly.

On the next day, November 18th, MS-1 tanks fought in platoons of three, assisted by infantry. This worked. Tanks allowed Soviet horse-drawn batteries to pull up and fire on pillboxes at a point-blank range, and infantry could sneak up and pelt them with grenades. The results speak for themselves: the Soviets lost 7 tanks (all due to technical problems) and 200 men, the Chinese lost ten times as many, with over 8500 captured.

The Japanese used a curious tactic in China. When assaulting cities protected by strong walls, tanks went first, suppressing external defenders while infantry caught up. When infantry broke into the city, tanks went ahead once more and suppressed the remaining resistance. This tactic worked since the Chinese had few anti-tank weapons. When crossing rivers or channels, tanks were used as immobile batteries, firing from stationary positions. In some cases, they were used to cut off railroads or pursue fleeing enemies.

Fall of the Samurai

The 1938 border conflict at Lake Hasan in Primorskiy Krai and 1939 conflict at the Khalkin-Gol river in Mongolia was the first where the number of tanks used reached into the hundreds. 285 Soviet tanks fought at Hasan, including the new BT-7s, and nearly 600 tanks fought at Khalkin-Gol.

The Japanese treated the Lake Hasan conflict as recce in force. They wanted to check the how ready the USSR was for interference into the Sino-Japanese war and to evaluate the capabilities of the Red Army. Several infantry battalions supported by small numbers of artillery took two border heights: Bezymyannaya and Ozernaya. After several days of fierce combat, the heights were retaken.

After the clash, commanders wrote about the need for careful reconnaissance and observation of terrain where tanks were going to fight. It was not performed at Hasan, leading to heavy losses among T-26 and BT-7 trapped in a narrow path between mountains and swamps. Again, cooperation between tanks and other forces was weak.

The Khalkin-Gol conflict began with the Japanese puppet government of Manchukuo making a claim on some Mongolian territory. Soon, these tensions escalated into a war that lasted several months.

The Red Army had a year to work on mistakes made at Lake Hasan, but in practice, the saying "measure twice, cut once" was forgotten by commanders eager to attack. Experience on how to properly cooperate between tanks, artillery, and infantry had to be obtained in battle once again.

However, Khalkin-Gol confirmed that tank units are perfectly prepared for mobile actions. The Soviet 11th Tank Brigade performed a long march in their BT-7s before attacking the enemy. Few vehicles fell behind due to technical reasons on this march. Tanks, especially flamethrower variants, were very useful when suppressing machinegun nests. The result was once again a Soviet victory.

The successes of the Red Army in the Far East were costly, but resulted in valuable experience. The most important thing was that two victories over Japan became a hefty argument for keeping the latter out of the war between the USSR and Germany which loomed over the horizon.

Article authors: Evgeniy Belash and Vladimir Pinayev

Original article available here

Wednesday 22 April 2015

American Tank Tires

I've picked on Soviet tires a few times, and even German ones, and now the time has come for American tires. How do they stand up to long road marches and heated chases? Maintenance of Armor in World War II from the Fort Leavensworth library has the answer.

The experience with steel and rubber tracks mirrors Soviet experience in the hot Ukrainian steppes. Rubber tracks tended to melt and fall to pieces, while steel tracks performed much better. Since the terrain was not rocky or mountainous, the drawback of all metal tracks tearing off chunks of tires did not come up. 

Even without any rocks, heat and dust appear to have a negative effect on American vehicles, which is, unfortunately, not quantified.

The British also complained about American tanks blowing bogies, although their experience with steel tracks was poorer:

Tuesday 21 April 2015

IS-6 Hulls

Proposals of upgrades to the hull of the IS tank. The mass produced IS is in the middle. The prototype on the left resulted in the IS-6.

A closer view of the tank that eventually became the IS-6.

One of several IS-6 prototype hulls undergoing ballistics testing. This one is marked "model #15".

Monday 20 April 2015

Tigers at Teploye

You can find all manner of claims that Soviet 76 mm guns were ineffective against German Tigers, but here's a case where they proved more than enough.

"Award Order
Name: Abdulin, Mansour Idetovich
Rank: Guards Senior Sergeant
Position, unit: gun commander, 6th Battery, 167th Guards Light Artillery Regiment, 3rd Guards Light Artillery Brigade, 1st Guards Artillery Division of the Supreme Command Reserve

is nominated for the state award: title of Hero of the Soviet Union with award of the Order of Lenin and the Gold Star medal.
  1. Year of birth: 1919
  2. Nationality: Tatar
  3. In the Red Army since: September 1938
  4. Party affiliation: VLKSM member
  5. Participation in battle (where, when): South-West, Stalingrad, and Don Fronts since 1941
  6. Previous awards: none
  7. Wounds and concussions: two wounds
  8. Recruited by: Lenin recruitment officer, Fergana region
Brief and specific description of heroism: battery commander Guards Senior Sergeant comrade M.I. Abdulin displayed exceptional bravery, courage, and heroism in battle with German invaders on July 10th, 1943, near the Molotychi settlement. 

6th Battery was subjected to three fierce attacks from enemy infantry supported by 60 tanks. As many as 150 bombs fell on the battery, and several hundred shells and mortar rounds. Despite the difficulty of this battle, comrade Abdulin's crew fought without reservation, dedicated to their motherland and the cause of the great party of Lenin and Stalin. Comrade Abdulin bravely deflected one German attack after another. With direct fire from his weapon, he knocked out 8 enemy tanks, 3 of them Tigers, and destroyed up to a battalion of enemy infantry.

Comrade Abdulin and his gunner comrade Rybyakin fired at enemy tanks and infantry until a direct hit from an enemy shell destroyed their gun and wounded them. Comrade Abdulin is worthy of the highest state award: the title of Hero of the Soviet Union with the Order of Lenin and the Gold Star medal."

CAMD RF 33-793756-1

Tigers, eh? Well, you know what we do when there are Tigers, let's see what Schneider has to say about this.

"10 July 1943: 26 Tigers, 5 Panzer IIIs (short barrel), 5 Panzer IIIs (long barrel) and 3 bridge-layer versions of the Panzer III operational. After attachment to the 4. Panzer-Division, the battalion moves into an assembly area south of Soborowka together with the I./Panzer-Regiment 35. This force is ordered to follow the attack on Teploje into the area between Teploje and Hill 240.0. From there, the attack on Hill 260 fails.
11 July 1943: 5 Tigers secure the hills south and southeast of Teploje (on 12 July as well). 11 Tigers operational; same number the next day."

Here's a map of the area.

The Germans assembled a fearsome force (36 tanks from s.Pz.Abt 505 alone), so the 60 tanks that were coming at Abdulin's battery were definitely possible. As for the Tiger losses, the Germans come in with 26 functional Tigers and come out with 11, having lost a whopping 15 Tigers. The claim of 3 Tigers and 5 other tanks is certainly feasible.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Importance of Storage

Wilful destruction of archive materials is always sad, but not, perhaps, as sad as accidental destruction. Archive documents are fragile things, and need to be kept in a dry, safe environment. Otherwise, your blueprints turn into this:

Saturday 18 April 2015

World of Tanks History Section: K2 Black Panther

When the South Korean military started work on a new tank in 1994, it is unlikely that they planned to earn the title of "most expensive". However, domestic engineers rejected the idea of using foreign components and decided that the planned MBT (Main Battle Tank) will be developed at home.

This allowed South Korea to not only secure its armoured shield, but avoid problems with licensing on the world arms market. However, the project would have to be started from scratch. This turned the design process into a national undertaking. The South Korean Agency for Defense Development teamed up with Hyundai, a known car manufacturer, on this project.

The tank was indexed K2黒豹 (Black Panther). Its mass production began in June of 2013, and K2s started reaching the army in 2014. The vehicle has yet to see combat. Today, it is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive tank at $8.8 million.


The layout of the K2 is classical: driver's compartment in the front, fighting compartment in the center, engine and transmission in the rear. The Koreans designed a new engine for the Black Panther, a 1500 hp diesel, and an automatic gearbox. Both components are domestically produced. A fundamentally new suspension provides each road wheel with an independent control system. As a result, the tank can lean in any direction and make itself taller or shorter, stretching its clearance between 150 and 550 mm.

The K2 weighs 55 tons, but retains good mobility. It can reach 70 kph on a highway or 52 off-road. The designers claim that the tank can be ready to cross a 4 meter deep water hazard in as little as half an hour.

The tank has a crew of three. The driver controls the tank from the driver's compartment, while the gunner and commander are placed in the turret.

Turret and Armament

South Korean specialists rejected the German Krupp-designed NPz K-140 prototype gun. In order to keep the tank domestic, they designed a new gun based on the German 120/L55 design. The tank's ammunition rack holds 40 shells, some of which are kept in an automatic loading mechanism. It allows the Black Panther to fire every 4 seconds, but once it is emptied, the crew will have to load rounds manually.

The ammunition for the K2 was also developed in South Korea. A subcaliber shell with a tungsten core is used to fight enemy tanks. A HEAT-fragmentation shell is used against lesser targets. The K2's trump card is a highly precise self-aiming multi-stage shell. While it is expensive, the tank can fire effectively from up to 8 kilometers away, even without a line of sight on the target.

The K2's unique suspension is not only used to increase the tank's off-road performance, but to tilt the tank in order to increase the gun's depression or elevation.

The tank also has a coaxial 7.62 mm machinegun and a 12.7 mm AA gun.

Fire Control System and Sights

The K2's fire control system is a collection of the most modern sensors and systems. Aside from night vision devices and a laser rangefinder, it includes a radar system. Antennae on the turret allow the tank to detect incoming shells or low-flying drones, and aim the gun at them. Ground targets can't hide from the tank: it can discover them from as far away as 10 kilometers.

The delayed firing system does not allow the gun to fire if the barrel is vibrating or the gun deviated from its target. This further increases accuracy when shooting at moving targets.

There are two sights on the Korean tank: the main one, for the gunner, and a panoramic sight for the commander that provides 360 degree vision. Both are equipped with a thermal camera and laser rangefinger. According to the Black Panther's designers, these sights will be further improved in the future.


The tank's composite armour is a closely guarded secret, as is common for any military vehicle. According to the tank's designers, its front armour can withstand a hit from its 120 mm gun without damage, albeit from an unspecified distance.

The Black Panther is also equipped with an active protection system. If the tank's radar detects an incoming ATGM, it will alert the crew and deploy smoke. The cloud that forms impedes the aim of the missile. A similar action can be taken if an enemy points its laser rangefinder at the tank. Special sensors can even determine where the beam is coming from.

Automatic Controls

In order to maximally remove human factors from performance in battle, the designers included a special system to automate communications, reconnaissance, and controls of the tank.

The Black Panther is equipped with a modern "friend or foe" system. A device on the gun mantlet can determine if a target is friendly or an enemy. In the first case, the gun will not fire, in the second case, permission is given automatically.

Fire suppression and radiation detectors also work automatically. Overall, the Black Panther tank is one of the most technologically advanced tanks today.

Article author: Yuri Bakhurin.

Original article available here.

Friday 17 April 2015

Common Questions: Unfair Testing

When reading Soviet trials of German armour, a lot of people claim that the trials should not count because of two things: one is that certain parts of the tank (such as guns, optical devices, etc) are removed from the tank prior to testing and the other is that the tanks' plates are hit several times over the duration of the test. While all is fair in love and war, let's take a look at these two accusations.

First: multiple hits per plate. This test simply represents the harsh realities of war. Rarely, if ever, are tank battles one on one encounters where only one shot is fired. Usually you are facing a battery of guns or a platoon of tanks that will all fire at the same time, and they will do without being gentlemen and letting the other party reload. For instance, here are photos of tanks caught in an ambush.

Now, in testing, you probably want to spread your shots out a bit more than this (it's clear that the gunners were aiming for center mass), but this leads me into the next point: you have a limited amount of units to test with. Whether the new tank belongs to you or your enemy, it is difficult to get many tanks for testing. Obviously, very few prototypes are going to be surrendered for ballistics trials, and capturing a shiny new enemy tank, let alone a fully functional one, is a difficult task. This is why, regardless of whose vehicle you're testing, you're going to squeeze as much out of it as possible before it completely collapses. Of course, you will get some instances where a section that was compromised by previous hits is penetrated, but, at least in the case of Soviet tests, this is plainly noted in the document.

Panther tank hit many times during British testing.

Aftermath of British Panther tests in Italy.

Aftermath of German penetration testing.

T-34 after being shot up in trials so much that the turret was torn off the turret ring and shifted.

As you can see, everyone used up their test vehicles to the fullest extent possible. Steel, no matter who produces it, is not enchanted with any magic, and it will fall apart eventually when hit enough. The question is when. If two or three hits tear your tank apart, you have a serious problem, but if you can take dozens of shots until catastrophic failure, you're probably okay.

Now for the next part: removing components before testing. You can see that some components are missing from the vehicles above: guns, vision blocks, etc. This is also caused by harsh reality. When you capture an enemy vehicle, everyone wants a piece: the artillerymen, the optics scientists, the electricians, the mechanics. By the time the tank reaches the range, odds are it will be stripped of any components other than the hull, since nothing inside will survive the rigorous testing displayed above. Sometimes you don't even get an entire tank. Nevertheless, this is another reality of life and simply how everyone tested.

Sherman tank upper front plate after trials.

T-34-85M after testing. The tank is simply an empty hull with just enough wheels attached to get it to the range.

Object 701 hull rear after testing. 

Note how even these fragments are saturated with holes and dents. Despite what some people like to claim, these photos not the work of Stalin's propaganda teams. This was a common practice by any nation, no matter whose tanks they were testing. The removal of these components did not, in any way, compromise the armour. In the event of suspicious results, one could always manufacture an identical component from domestic steel to confirm the findings.

Thursday 16 April 2015

KV-3 Turret

"Minutes of a meeting with the director of the Kirov factory, comrade I.M. Zaltsmann on April 26th, 1941 on the topic of approving the KV-3 turret designed by factory #92 with an enlarged base and a 107 mm gun.
[List of meeting attendees]

Having inspected the KV-3 turret model and exchanged opinions, the meeting has come to a conclusion: the proposed model of a KV-3 turret with a lengthened base and a 107 mm ZiS-6 gun designed by factory #92 satisfies main tactical-technical requirements. The meeting considers it necessary to make the following modifications:
  1. Izhor factory (comrade Kazakov) and Kirov factory (comrade Zaltsmann) must provide a 430 mm space between the bore axis and turret roof, for which the stamping of the turret must be increased in depth by 50 mm and the turret floor lowered by at least 30 mm.
  2. Comrade Grabin must develop a shell rammer. The brass catcher can be fixed.
  3. Kirov factory must allow the installation of a loading assistance device.
  4. The commander's periscope installed on the model should be removed, and a removable observation device must be used instead.
  5. Kirov factory must include the ability to affix the gun in a rear facing position and add a travel lock.
  6. The tank must carry 50 shells.
  7. Remove the rear facing machinegun. Replace it with a port for shooting a PPSh.
  8. Keep two PPSh submachineguns in the tank with 500 rounds for each.
  9. The tank must carry 44 DT magazines.
  10. Kirov factory must obtain confirmation of dimensions from NKPS.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

KV-5 Engine

"Tactical-Technical Requirements
For a powerful diesel engine
  1. The diesel engine is meant to work in the KV-5 heavy tank. The dimensions of the engine are set by the Kirov factory.
  2. The diesel must produce 1200 hp at 1600-1800 RPM.
  3. The warranty period for the engine must be:
    1. 1st year of production: 250 hours
    2. 2nd year of production: 500 hours
  4. The weight to power ratio must be 0.8-1.3 kg/hp.
  5. The oil filter must guarantee 25 hours of continuous work without cleaning.
  6. The oil filter must have high quality filtering capabilities, with combined filtration through felt and paper.
  7. The position of the oil filter and oil pump must be conveniently accessible for cleaning and maintenance from the side of the engine compartment bulkhead without the need to disassemble or remove components.
  8. Oil temperature range must not exceed 20-25 degrees.
  9. Design reliable oil radiators to stabilize oil temperature.
  10. Fuel consumption must not exceed 170-180 grams per hp-hour.
  11. The fuel pump must work for a period equivalent to the engine warranty period.
  12. In order to use compressed air to start the engine, the engine must have a compressor.
  13. The engine must have a decompression device to make starting easier.
  14. The engine must allow for preliminary heating of coolant, oil, and fuel in the amounts necessary to start it up in winter, as well as the ability of continuous heating of fuel and oil after the engine has started.
  15. Tactical-technical requirements may change during the project proposal period, with the mandatory approval of all changes by BTU KA.
BTU 3rd Department Chief, Military Engineer 1st Grade, Afonin
BTU 5th Section, 3rd Department Chief, Military Engineer 2nd Grade, Solonin."

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Another Heroic Driver

We've already seen one heroic driver who racked up 370 engine hours over 2700 kilometers on a T-34, with a breakneck average speed of 7.3 kph. This driver, however, had to work with much more difficult terrain, achieving only 4.3 kph, but he made up for it with some extra heroics and fascist-crushing on top of his mechanical work.

"Award Order
  1. Name: Russkih, Petr Egorovich
  2. Rank: Senior Sergeant
  3. Unit, position: Mechanic-driver of the 1st Tank Battalion, 111st Novgorod-Volyn, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov Tank Brigade.
    Is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union
  4. Year of birth 1921
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: VKP(b) candidate
  7. Participation in the Civil War and other actions in defense of the USSR (where, when): Western Front from June 22nd, 1941 to June 13th, 1943, 1st Ukrainian Front since April 12th, 1944.
  8. Wounds or concussions in the Patriotic War: heavily wounded on June 13th, 1943, lightly wounded on February 20th, 1943.
  9. In the Red Army since: 1939
  10. Rectuited by: Smutnin recruitment office, Kirov oblast
  11. Previous awards: Order of Glory, 3rd class on August 7th, 1944
Brief and specific description of heorism or awards: Senior Sergeant Russkih walked a difficult road. His fighting machine travelled 1300 km on difficult terrain without breakdowns or emergencies, the engine worked for 305 hours.

In battles for the city of Neunberg, and enemy artillery battery impeded our progress. In this difficult situation, Russkih's tank made it through anti-tank trenches and drove behind the enemy battery, concealed by terrain. He approached suddenly and with great speed, startling the Germans. Only one gun had time to fire and his the turret, but the mighty armour of his tank withstood the blow. The tank burst into the trench where the battery was positioned. Senior Sergeant Russkih heard the scraping of metal on metal as he crushed the guns, turned his T-34 around, and drove into the trench again, running down still living fascists and completely destroying the artillery battery.

In fierce battle for the forests on the approach to the city of Guben, the enemy pulled up Panther and Tiger tanks. The enemy also used AA guns, a battery of which was positioned on the highway and started firing at Russkih's tank. Skilfully maneuvering through the forest, the fearless Russkih crushed the gun crew with his tank tracks and disabled a gun.

When defending against a German counterattack during two-day battles for Guben proper, Senior Sergeant Russkih was concussed, but refused the order to leave the battlefield and asked to remain at his post and destroy the enemy for as long as his heart kept beating.

In subsequent street battles, Russkih's tank was in the thick of enemy infanry. Under heavy fire from the German fascists, his tank was engulfed in flames. Russkih, with no fear of death, pressed on with the last of his strength and rushed forward in his burning tank, crushing the enemy infantry with his tracks. Despite the danger, he opened up the tank's hatches, and drove at high speed to put out the flames. In this uneven battle, Senior Sergeant Russkih destroyed 10 machinegun nests, 3 AT guns, and up to 100 enemy soldiers.

For the bravery and courage demonstrated in battle with German invaders, Senior Sergeant Russkih is worthy of the government award: the title of Hero of the Soviet Union."

CAMD RF 33-793756-41

Monday 13 April 2015

Tank Brigade Tactics

"Directions for offensive action of tank brigades when attacking an enemy defensive line in cooperation with infantry, artillery, and aircraft

Modern characteristics of German defenses include:
  1. Transformation of settlements into strongholds, buildings and basements into pillboxes.
  2. Minefields on approaches to these strongholds.
  3. Fire support from one stronghold to another.
  4. Strongholds in depth and reserve strongholds in case of a retreat.
  5. 360 degree defensive lines.
  6. Saturation of the defensive line with dugouts and pillboxes.
  7. Creation of an obstacle belt in front of strongholds.
  8. Creation of maneuver groups for conducting counterattacks.
Prolonged presence at one place allowed the enemy to complete significant engineering work, dig supply trenches, create anti-tank and anti-infantry obstacles, range in on landmarks. 

Capture of front lines and performance of deep penetrations must now be organized as a gradual and planned offensive with close cooperation by all army branches. At first, the crushing firepower of tanks must be used to break up the defensive system and to give the opportunity for infantry to penetrate into enemy defenses for close combat with the objective of destroying enemy personnel and vehicles.

These directions, based on experience in battle, are meant to answer the main questions that must be asked when planning upcoming offensive operations.
  1. Overall directions:
    1. The tank brigade must be used in its entirety in the direction of the main attack with the first infantry echelon.
    2. The width of the front is 1200-1800 meters.
    3. Assemble the brigade in the following way:
      1. First echelon: 8-10 KV tanks. An infantry group (assault group) follows each tank, consisting of an infantry platoon with submachinegunners, an AT gun, a mounted machinegun, one or two handheld machineguns, grenadiers, an anti-tank rifle, 6-10 sappers with explosives and mine detectors.
      2. Second echelon: 15-20 T-34 tanks, 300-400 meters behind the first echelon.
      3. Third echelon: 8 T-60 tanks with a motorized infantry battalion, 100-200 meters behind the second regiment. Can be reinforced with medium tanks for tank rider transport.
      4. Fourth echelon: 8 T-60 tanks directly supporting the second infantry echelon.
        The overall depth of the offensive is 1000-1500 meters.
    4. Tasks of the tank echelons:
      1. The first echelon, 8-10 KV tanks with assault infantry groups, supported by all artillery, rapidly moves forward, crushing pillboxes, dugouts, and enemy strongholds. Aircraft, constantly present above the battlefield, destroys mortar and artillery batteries and anti-tank guns. When enemy tanks appear, aircraft must suppress them with all its might and notify our tanks of their appearance.
      2. The second echelon, 15-20 T-34 tanks with the first echelon of infantry and supporting guns firing in place or from short stops supports the first echelon with fire, prioritizing anti-tank guns and enemy concentrations that impede infantry. T-34 tanks must not cross the limits of the fist echelon, and aid the progress of the first echelon of KV tanks and infantry assault groups.
      3. The third echelon, motorized infantry battalion with 8 T-60 tanks destroys anti-tank guns with its 20 mm cannons, protecting the tanks of the first and second echelons.
        Special attention must be paid to flanking enemy concentrations. The third echelon may be reinforced with medium tanks by decreasing the amount of medium tanks in the second echelon.
      4. The fourth echelon, 8 T-60 tanks along with the second infantry echelon, finishes off the work of the first two tank echelons and the first infantry echelon, with the task of being constantly ready to deflect counterattacks.
      5. The brigade lines up by battalion. The first echelon is a company of KV tanks (5 tanks), the second echelon is a company of T-34 tanks (10 tanks), T-60 companies are spread out as follows: one company of tanks in 4-tank groups behind each tank battalion, and a company of T-60s from the second battalion with a motorized infantry battalion in the fourth echelon (with the infantry regiment forming the second infantry echelon).
      6. If two tank brigades are present in the army, they are lined up in the same sequence, but in parallel, increasing the front to 3-4 km.
        If there is a third brigade, it remains in the commander's reserve to develop successes with one of the infantry divisions of the second echelon. It acts according to the same principles as the first two brigades. It can be used to independently deflect an enemy counterattack. In this case, the brigade destroys enemy tanks from an ambush, and then, leaving behind a small group of tanks, strikes the flank or rear of the enemy and destroys their remaining tanks. The last step should be executed in close cooperation with our ground attack and fighter aircraft. 
      7. The tank brigade, in offensive battle, must always be ready to deflect enemy counterattacks. When small groups of tanks appear, they are destroyed in place or from short stops. The combat mission is not changed. When significant amounts of tanks appear (30-50 or more), the tank brigade, without breaking ranks, makes it its primary objective to destroy enemy tanks. Tanks are put in ambush to achieved this, and all artillery is called upon to fire at enemy tanks. Infantry uses all of its measures: anti-tank guns, anti-tank rifles, rifle grenades, and incendiary bottles. Aircraft cooperates with other forces to rapidly destroy the tanks. After tanks are destroyed, the offensive is renewed. Tanks return to their infantry, make contact, and lead it forward.
      8. Tank readiness to deflect the enemy must be maintained by special signals and organization of combined arms, aircraft, and tank reconnaissance. 
      9. Tanks must be labelled with pre-arranged markings to mark them for friendly aircraft. A table of these markings will be known to the tank brigade during the preparation period. Each tank brigade must ready the proper amount of chalk, soot, and brushes to apply markings to each tank. Tanks without markings may be considered hostile and bombed by friendly aircraft.
      10. Actions of the brigade must be accompanied by concealment and feints.
        1. Tracks left by tanks must be destroyed.
        2. Tanks should not make sudden turns when travelling.
        3. Tanks should conceal themselves using terrain features.
        4. Create false concentrations of tanks using fake tanks made from available materials (boards, logs, dirt, plywood, etc). Before battle, put up fake tanks only with permission from the army commander, and during battle, with permission of the tank brigade commander. The largest amount of these fake tanks needs to be present when tanks are gathering up after an attack.
          If the brigade gathers before nightfall and this gathering is seen by the enemy, construct fake tanks during the night. The tank brigade must immediately move away 1-2 km, hide their tanks, and prepare to fire at enemy aircraft. When aircraft appear in the morning, destroy them and prevent further attacks during that day.
        5. When moving into position during the night, hide the noise with artillery fire, U-2 flights with bombs, and noises made by tractors from neighbouring divisions.
        6. In order to disorient the enemy, send out 2-3 tanks or tractors without mufflers.
        7. After a successful ambush, change positions of the tank units.
        8. If tanks must retreat to refuel and restock, never take back all tanks at once without alerting infantry. Make sure that some tanks always stay behind. In order to achieve this, move supplies forward instead of moving tanks back when possible. If that is not possible, some tanks must stay behind and only go to resupply when other tanks have returned.
      11. 10-12 days before the start of the offensive, form 18-20 assault groups in the infantry division cooperating with the brigade, and perform practical exercises to increase cohesion when blocking pillboxes and dugouts with tanks. For this, choose two infantry battalions that will fight in the second and third echelons. Other parts of the division will perform general exercises with the tank brigade.
      12. Tank brigades are attached to infantry divisions, not subordinate to them. They act according to orders from the army commander, completing tasks in the interest of the division. Each tank brigade gets one sapper company for the duration of the offensive. The objective of the sappers is to discover minefields in the path of the brigade, defusing mines, preparing routes for tanks, and creating fake tank concentrations in the depth of enemy defenses.
  2. Period of preparation:
    1. Scout out the routes of the brigade to the starting positions. Find optimal routes (bridges, dams, detours, etc). Commanders must study these routes.
    2. Observe the routes to the starting positions from current positions.
    3. Establish personal communications between the brigade commanders and the commanders of the infantry regiment that is fighting with the first echelon of the brigade. The commander of the tank brigade must know the commanders of the regiment, battalions, and companies.
    4. Perform joint exercises with infantry, tank, and artillery commanders, carefully work through cooperation in the upcoming battle so each knows what the others are capable of, what can be asked of them, and how they can be helped in battle. Demand that infantry commanders know precisely what the tank brigades and battalions will do. Familiarize them with tanks, teach them how to fight enemy tanks.
    5. Solve practical issues of how brigade and division HQs will operate regarding controlling the battle, sharing information, reports, and communication with command points.
    6. Tank brigade and infantry HQs must carefully study the terrain of the upcoming battle together.
    7. Organize observation groups in the region where the tank brigade will operate. These groups must study the enemy front lines throughout the preparation period so that the commanders of the tank brigade, battalions, companies, and platoons have detailed knowledge of the enemy defenses and anti-tank obstacles. This knowledge will ease the task of establishing objectives, aiming tanks, and controlling the battle. Uncover all changes made by the enemy to their defenses during this period.
    8. Check the materiel, weapons, prepare two refills of fuel and ammunition.
    9. Prepare measures for increasing the off-road performance of tanks and cars. Use sappers from the infantry division and army. Prepare logs, boards, and fascines, put them next to difficult terrain. Keep in mind that not following this simple rule has already led to heavy losses in our theater. Tanks sink in swamps, rivers and streams, as a result of which they are lost, and their actions lead to reasonable complaints from combined arms commanders.
    10. Prepare evacuation measures (cables, chains, shovels).
    11. Practice towing guns with tanks.
  3. Preparing for the offensive:
    1. While training with infantry and artillery, establish:
      1. The locations where infantry will gather for attacks.
      2. The locations where support artillery will deploy.
      3. The locations of the divisional commander and first echelon commander HQs.
      4. Split up objectives based on locations and times, determine which will be completed by whom and when, who fires at what target, who assists whom.
      5. Tell the commander of the sapper company what his company will be doing on the front lines and what objectives they will accomplish after penetration into enemy defenses.
      6. Establish signals and locations for reinforcements or replacements of blocking groups in the first echelon with the tanks.
      7. Establish and check methods of communications and backups in the ranks of the brigade with brigade HQ, division HQ, and first infantry echelon HQ.
      8. Paint aircraft identification markings on tanks.
      9. Mark crossings for tanks in minefields, check how the defusing will be done.
      10. Train tanks and gun crews in towing the guns. Demand that the guns accompany tanks through the whole depth of the offensive, task all tanks to fire at enemy aircraft when they attack. Check shrapnel shot and set detonators to 1000-1500 and 2000 meters.
  4. Reaching and taking up initial positions:
    1. Carefully investigate the paths to initial positions, determine a precise place for each tank. The commanders and drivers need to see the position before driving to it. Perform reconnaissance with commanders and drivers one platoon or company at a time. Establish references for shooting at enemy aircraft with tank weapons.
    2. Take up positions one platoon at a time at night. Tanks that arrive should be immediately placed in position. Avoid excess movement. Tanks should be camouflaged. Do not walk about. After the company or battalion are in position, hide all tracks.
    3. Check armament, ammunition, fuel, and emergency rations before leaving for initial positions.
    4. Infantry and artillery units need to be notified in advance if tank units are moving through their positions. Notification is done through their HQ.
    5. Having taken up initial positions, immediately establish communications with infantry and artillery commanders of cooperating units.
    6. Organize and check the following in the brigade HQ:
      1. Telephone.
      2. Knowledge of the attack signal by all personnel.
      3. Whether or not tank commanders synchronized their watches will combined arms commanders.
      4. Readiness and backups for communications, communication with combined arms commanders.
      5. Presence of blocking units and tank support artillery.
      6. Fuel supplies, technical conditions of tanks, knowledge of objectives by tank crews.
        Remove all spare fuel tanks from tanks.
  5. Attacking the enemy front lines:
    1. The first echelon of KV tanks, under the cover of artillery of all calibers, support artillery, and T-34s from the second echelon, moves up to the front lines with assault groups and destroys enemy artillery and anti-tank guns that reveal themselves. Moving up further, KV tanks target pillboxes and dugouts that need to be destroyed. Attack groups, under the cover of tank hulls and their guns, move up to enemy fortifications and open fire, binding the enemy, which allows the first echelon of infantry to approach. The movement of the first tank echelon and assault groups must be as fast as possible. When they approach the first line of defense, they must give the signal for artillery to start firing at the second line.
    2. Second echelon tanks and first echelon infantry move forward, destroying the most dangerous enemy strongholds that impede the advance of tanks and infantry. The fire and tracks of tanks create a rapid path for infantry to the front lines of the enemy defenses. Each KV tank from the first echelon is supported by the fire of two T-34 tanks from the second echelon. T-60 tanks fire their ShVAK guns from the third echelon and destroy the crews of anti-tank weapons and machineguns that impede the blocking of pillboxes and dugouts, assisted by third echelon medium tanks and motorized infantry riders. T-60 tanks in the fourth echelon with their motorized infantry battalion follow the second echelon of the infantry division to be ready to defeat enemy tank and infantry counterattacks.
    3. All actions of the tank brigade must concentrate on making sure that the infantry that accompanies them takes minimal losses as they roll over the front lines of the enemy defenses.
    4. The cooperation of the first and second echelon must be such that if a KV tank is immobilized or stuck, a T-34 tank from the second echelon may take its place. For this, T-34 tanks must know in advance which KV they are supporting and which T-34 will be the first to replace it. All KV tanks must carry numeric markings, visible from a distance.
    5. It is acceptable to deviate from the attack objective with the aim of later returning to your infantry if an impassable obstacle is seen: a powerful anti-tank region or a minefield. The tank must only retreat in reverse gear, without ceasing fire. It is forbidden to turn around and show your side or rear.
    6. If one tank made it through the minefield, other tanks must try and follow its path. This is most important for second, third, and fourth echelon tanks.
    7. Every effort must be taken to ensure that the enemy does not separate tanks and infantry. Support the progress of infantry with fire and maneuver.
  6. Guidelines inside enemy defenses:
    1. Once the first layer of defense has been penetrated, and pillboxes and dugouts blocked, tanks must crush strongholds that impede the progress of infantry into the depth of the defenses, into the trenches, to destroy the enemy personnel in close combat.
    2. Be ready to stop enemy counterattacks. It is most advantageous to meet enemy counterattacks firing in place from ambushes, and only then attack actively. If enemy tanks approach from the flank, immediately form a defensive line with anti-tank guns and fourth echelon tanks.
    3. Establish a universal signal for tanks and infantry that means enemy tanks are coming. Aside from the signal, communicate using all available means information regarding the numbers, direction of attack, etc.
    4. Commanders of all ranks must take care that the enemy does not gather up enough forces to counterattack and threaten our infantry. The best method of fighting enemy reserves is aircraft, which is tasked with destroying them with ground attackers or bombers.
    5. In order to strike at settlements where enemy reserves may gather, use tank riders composed of motorized infantry or general infantry. Keep prepared riders in reserve, and always have tanks attached to an infantry unit that is ready to counter enemy counterattacks.
    6. When fighting for a settlement, do not rush tanks into the streets, but aim to strike from the flanks, rear, or outskirts. It is important to control the entrances and exits into the settlement. When fighting for a settlement, infantry must move in front of tanks, under the cover of buildings, bushes, and ravines. Never leave tanks without infantry. The enemy frequently lets tanks pass, suppresses the infantry, and then aims to destroy tanks and infantry separately. 
    7. When attacking settlements, always have a tank reserve. The reserve is tasked with destroying enemy counterattacks and its tanks.
    8. The tanks of each tank is to cover its infantry if it comes under fire from the enemy. Small wooden buildings may be destroyed by ramming.
    9. Having taken control of a settlement, immediately examine each house and structure to ensure that it is clear of submachinegunners.
  7. Guidelines when at intermediate or final gathering points and regrouping locations:
    1. The brigade must do the following at gathering points or regrouping locations:
      1. Individual tanks take up positions to observe.
      2. Until the point is guarded, nobody leaves their tank.
      3. All exits from the gathering point must be scouted, and each tank crew needs to know possible directions for exit.
      4. Designate special tanks and form a course of action in the event of a sudden enemy attack.
      5. Choose motorized infantry to guard the point.
      6. Establish ambushes in directions from which attacks are most likely.
      7. Camouflage tanks, be ready to fire at enemy aircraft.
    2. Do not bunch up fuel and ammunition for resupplies.
    3. Keep reliable communications with combined arms HQ, commanders, artillery, and aircraft.
    4. Have a functional battle alert signal.
    5. Establish a plan of action when the alert signal is sounded.
  8. Guidelines for crossing a water hazard:
    1. When the tank brigade reaches a water hazard, the opposite shore must be captured by infantry. A portion of light tanks (T-60) may cross on pontoons after the shore is captured. Using these tanks, the infantry widens their foothold and enables the setup of a bridge.
    2. Main forces of the brigade wait in a designated region. The forces cross after a bridge has been built.
    3. The order of crossing depends on the situation.
    4. The paths taken by tanks to the crossing must be precisely designated.
    5. Individual tanks cross the bridge, moving out from cover.
    6. Do not bunch up tanks before the bridge.
    7. Towing equipment must be set up to tow tanks that stop on their way to the crossing.
    8. Before tanks cross, a motorized infantry battalion must cross in order to defend the crossing.
    9. Tanks that cross first head to a meeting point and take up defensive positions.
    10. In order to orient tanks on the bridge better, make a lime carbonate path in the middle and mark the edges.
    11. After the tank brigade crosses, the tank brigade lines up in echelons and re-establishes ranks.
    12. In individual cases where the river has several good places to ford and the defense is not strong, a large group of T-34 tanks (5-6) with infantry riders is allowed to cross with T-60 tanks in order to achieve a faster capture of the defensive region."
Collection of Combat Documents from the Great Patriotic War, vol. 21, doc. 14.

Sunday 12 April 2015

World of Tanks History Section: PT-76

During the war, the famous designer Joseph Yakovlevich Kotin was not only the Deputy Commissar of Tank Production, but also the chief designer at the Chelyabinsk factory. A number of vehicles were built with his participation or under his direct supervision: KV-1S, IS-122, SU-152, ISU-152, and others. After the war, Kotin returned to Leningrad and headed the tank and diesel research institute. Here, he kept working on new vehicles.

Steel Swimmer

The experience of war showed that one of the most difficult tasks was crossing water hazards: rivers, canals, etc. Existing means of crossing had to be towed and had poor mobility. There were no self propelled pontoon vehicles in the late 1940s.

On August 15th, 1949, the Council of Ministers tasked engineers with developing an amphibious tank and APC. The deadline was tight: trials were to begin before the end of 1950. The project, indexed Object 740, was to be managed by Kotin.

Immediately, an argument erupted between designers. How will this vehicle swim? There were four options: collapsible propellers, propellers concealed in tunnels, a track-based movement system, or water jets. Koshkin favoured the collapsible propeller system, but Shashmurin proved to him the advantages of a water jet system, which was settled on. Trials proved this solution to be the best one, as the Object 740 proved itself superior to all its competitors during government trials.

In early August 1951, the tank was adopted under the index PT-76. At military trials, the vehicle showed itself well, successfully crossing the Kerch Strait. This proved that the PT-76 could be used during amphibious landings.

The PT-76 remained in production from 1951 to 1967. Elements of its design were modernized many times, mostly the armament, communications devices, and sights. The shape and size of the hull changed as well. More than 3000 PT-76 tanks were built, used by the Soviet Army and other armies abroad.

Amphibian in Battle

The tank fought in many 20th century conflicts: Vietnam War, Arab-Israeli conflicts, Indo-Pakistani War, and others. It showed itself to be an excellent fighting machine and a good design.

The use of the PT-76 in 1971 during the Indo-Pakistani war was particularly indicative of its quality. Good performance off-road carried it through difficult terrain. The modernized post-war gun and optics were a decent match for American M24 Chaffee tanks. The PT-76 could fire from a range of over a kilometer, while its opponent, using WWII era optics, was incapable of firing back effectively. Similarly, Pakistani bazookas, grenade launches, and recoilless rifles proved ineffective. The ability to cross rivers, which saturated the region, proved an advantage for the Indians. The PT-76 could also carry a 12-man squad on it, more if necessary.

Another successful use of the PT-76 was during the Yom Kippur War between Israel and Arab states in October of 1973. Here, the tank was used by both sides. In the first stages of the conflict, the Egyptians used these tanks to cross the Suez Canal. After a large number of tanks was captured by the IDF, operation Valiant was executed. In it, a small Israeli squad commanded by Ariel Sharon crossed the Great Bitter Lake on 7 captured PT-76 tanks and 8 APCs and captured a foothold, which was then used by the main force.

For its time, the PT-76 was one of the best amphibious vehicles. Kotin succeeded in combining good mobility on land, excellent mobility in water, and serious firepower. It's not surprising that some nations kept the PT-76 in their armies into the 2000s.

Article author: Alena Guskova

Original article available here.

Saturday 11 April 2015

SU-14 Initial Trials

"Report on task #3078 for 1934
June 9th, 1935
#1 N/0435s

The 203 mm mod. 1931 howitzer on the self propelled chassis SU-14 was twice delivered for trials to NIAP. First time, from August 1st to August 15th, 1934, for gunnery trials in the presence of the People's Commissar of Defense, comrade Voroshilov. Second time, from April 14th to April 27th, 1935, for factory trials.

It was not possible to test mobility, maneuverability, and agility of fire, as the suspension was broken both times when the SPG arrived at the proving grounds. Between August 1st and August 15th, 1934, and April 14th to April 27th, 1935, the SU-14 fired the following shells:
  1. 203 mm howitzer, barrel #77
    1. Reduced power shells: 6
    2. Regular shells: 9
    3. Increased power shells: 5
    4. Total: 20
From these trials, conclusions can be made:
  1. The 203 mm howitzer mod. 1931 on the self propelled chassis SU-14 is unstable at angles of even 45 and 60 degrees when tracks brakes are on, but trails are not deployed.
  2. When track brakes are off but trails are deployed, the SU-14 is stable at angles of 20 degrees, 45 degrees, and 60 degrees, and mostly stable at 10 degrees (vehicle shifts 90-100 mm).
Many defects were found specifically in the artillery system and overall, and trials were stopped. The vehicle was returned to the factory."