Sunday, 4 October 2015

World of Tanks History Sections: Tank Guards Strike Force

In the fall of 1942, Soviet high command created a new combat instrument for the Red Army: Guards Independent Heavy Tank Regiments. These units were to serve as a battering ram on the offensive or as the anchor for a defense. These regiments were composed of 21 tanks and auxiliary units. In total, the regiment contained about 220 men. This structure remained almost unchanged for the remainder of the war.

Composition of a heavy tank regiment in 1944:
  • Commander's tank
  • Company HQ:
    • Political department
    • Technical department
    • Quartermaster department
    • Operational department
    • Control platoon
    • Sapper platoon
    • Maintenance platoon
  • Regimental medical team
  • 1st company (commander IS-2)
    • 1st platoon (2x IS-2)
    • 2nd platoon (2x IS-2)
  • 2nd company (commander IS-2)
    • 1st platoon (2x IS-2)
    • 2nd platoon (2x IS-2)
  • 3rd company (commander IS-2)
    • 1st platoon (2x IS-2)
    • 2nd platoon (2x IS-2)
  • 4th company (commander IS-2)
    • 1st platoon (2x IS-2)
    • 2nd platoon (2x IS-2)
  • SMG company (94 men)
  • Technical service company
In a little over two years, six types of tanks served in these regiments.

Churchill

The British Churchill infantry tank was delivered to the USSR through the Lend-Lease program. Due to a lack of other heavy tanks, the first breakthrough regiments were equipped with these tanks. Most units received Churchill III and Churchill IVs. 

The Churchill was a well armoured, but clumsy tank. Its 6-pounder (57 mm) gun was adequate at the time for fighting German tanks, but was lacking against fortifications. 

Regiments armed with Churchills fought on all parts of the front until the end of the war. During the battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943, a successful ram of a Tiger tank was performed by a Churchill.

KV-1

A Soviet tank, well protected and armed with a 76 mm gun. At the first stages of the war, it could destroy any German tank, while being immune to most German guns.

The KV-1 was produced at the Kirov factory in Leningrad. After evacuation due to the blockade, production resumed in Chelyabinsk.

In 1942, with the arrival of more powerful guns and Tiger tanks, the KV-1 became obsolete. In addition, the tank had serious problems with its transmission due to its large weight. Production was cancelled in favour of the lighter and more reliable KV-1S. However, these tanks fought until the end of the war.

KV-1S

The letter S in the name of the tank stands for "speedy". The vehicle entered production in 1942 as a modernized KV-1. Due to reduced armour thickness, the tank's weight dropped to 42.5 tons, giving it good mobility.

A new turret was designed for this tank, housing a 76 mm gun. The tank entered production in the summer of 1942, but did not last for very long. As with the KV-1, its gun was insufficient for fighting  the new Tiger tanks.

KV-1S production stopped in 1943, but these tanks remained in the army until the end of the war.

KV-85

A serious drawback of the KV-1S was its 76 mm gun, which was no longer impressive in 1943. The KV-85 became an intermediate step between this tank and the new IS. About 150 of these tanks were produced in Chelyabinsk. 

The vehicle had an altered KV-1S hull with a new turret and an 85 mm gun. The same gun was used on the upcoming IS tank, but development was going slowly.

IS-1

This tank was designed at the Chelyabinsk Kirov factory under the supervision of Joseph Kotin. Its appearance was heralded by the arrival of Tiger and Panther tanks, as a result of which Soviet tank forces lost their edge over the Germans. 

The IS-1 was also called IS-85 after its gun caliber. The age of this tank did not last long, as the development of a tank with a 122 mm gun started almost at the same time as work on this tank. 

About 130 IS-1 tanks were produced at Chelyabinsk, then the tank gave up its place on the assembly line for the better armed IS-2.

IS-2

This heavy tank was superior among all that were used by heavy tank regiments. The IS-2 was armed with a powerful 122 mm gun, making it effective not only against enemy tanks, but also fortifications.

The combat debut of the IS-2 was during the spring of 1944. These tanks fought across the entire front and, due to the nature of the breakthrough regiment, were always in the center of events.

Over 3500 IS-2 tanks were built. After the end of WWII, the tank was exported and was used for about 50 years by countries allied with the USSR.

Original article available here.

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