Sunday 31 July 2016

T-60: A Small Tank in a Big War

The history of the T-60 tank is atypical for Soviet tank building. The tank was accepted into service before even the first blueprint was prepared, and thousand of units were ordered immediately at three factories. Even though the final results were a lot more humble, more than 5500 completed vehicles is a very impressive number. Remaining in production for just under a year, from September 1941 to July 1942, the T-60 became the most numerous small tank in history. These vehicles appeared on the front lines during the most heated part of the Battle for Moscow, and made a noticeable contribution to the war during its most difficult point. On July 20th, 2016, the T-60 turned 75 years old.

Saturday 30 July 2016

T-30: Simplicity Itself

75 year passed on Sunday July 17th 2016 since the decision to produce the T-30 small tank. This tank remained in obscurity for a number of reasons. Born at a time of difficult for its country, it was overshadows by its "older brother", the T-40, and "younger brother", the T-60. In addition, the tank was indexed T-60 for some time, complicating the process of figuring out what tank is mentioned in reports. Lost among almost 6000 "real" T-60s, this tank played an important role on the battlefield in the fall and winter of 1941.

Friday 29 July 2016

World of Tanks History Section: 100 Years of Tanks

1916. For many months, endless trench warfare raged on along the fronts of the First World War. Attacks into a storm of enemy shells and bullets, thousands of dead men to push the enemy back hundreds of meters. Day after day, week after week. The way out of this dead end was coming. A new, never before seen weapon, a demon of technological warfare, was already coming to life within British arsenals. Its name was "tank".

In order to bring this fighting machine to life, four technical inventions were necessary, as well as one condition to bring them together. Here they are.

Thursday 28 July 2016

Gun vs Tree

"To the Deputy People's Commissar of Armament, comrade Mirzakhanov
CC: factory #8 director, Major-General of the Artillery Engineering Service, comrade Fratkin

During trials of the SU-100 at Uralmash, two 100 mm 52-PS-412U guns mod. 1944 ##A1966 and 2506 were damaged by impact on tree trunks and require repair at the factory.

The elevation mechanism cover bolts of gun #A1966 were torn off, the turning mechanism was bent, and the elevation mechanism works unevenly.

The travel lock on gun #2506 was bent, and the elevation mechanism works unevenly.

The guns were removed and are now at the Uralmash factory.

I ask you to order the director of factory #8 to repair the guns, paid for by GBTU. Present the bill to the financial department of the Armoured and Motorized Forces, Moscow, Red Square #2, NKO building.

GBTU USA Chief, Major-General of the Tank Engineering Service, Alymov
Chief of the 2nd Department of the GBTU USA, Engineer-Colonel Kupriyanov"

CAMD RF 38-11369-53

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Soviet Intel on British Tanks

"British Tanks (modern)

British classification:
  1. Light tanks: for reconnaissance and communications
  2. Infantry tanks: used in army tank battalions. Used for supporting infantry.
  3. Cruiser tanks: used in tank division. Used for independent action.

Light Tank Mk VIB
Light Tank MkVII
Infantry Tank MkI
Infantry Tank MkII Matilda
Infantry Tank MkIII Valentine
Infantry Tank MkIV Churchill
Cruiser MkIV main type
Cruiser MkI three turret
Cruiser MkII one turret
Mass (tons)
25 or 32
Armour (mm)
Up to 16
Up to 60-65
Up to 75-80
Up to 30
Up to 20
12.7 mm MG
7.62 mm MG
Smoke launcher
40 mm gun
7.62 mm MG
2 smoke  launchers
12.7 mm MG
7.62 mm MG
Smoke launcher
40 mm gun
7.62 mm MG
2 smoke  launchers
40 mm gun
7.62 mm MG
2 smoke  launchers
40 mm gun
2 MGs, one high caliber
40 mm gun
7.62 mm MG
2 smoke launchers
37 or 40 mm gun
2 MGs
37 or 40 mm gun
1 MG, possibly 2
160 hp Meadows gasoline
85 hp
2 diesels 95 hp each
131 hp diesel
360 hp gasoline
180 or 340 hp gasoline
180 or 250 hp gasoline
180 or 250 hp gasoline
Speed (kph)
Up to 64
Up to 84
Range (km)
Radio and intercom
Radio and intercom
Radio and intercom
Radio and intercom

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Reindeer Raid

"To the Chief of Staff of the Karelian Front

The attachment is a proposition from a cadet of the 82nd Reserve Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment comrade Butakov for using deer transport for a deep raid of military units into the north-western part of Finland for your study and use of certain suggestions on using reindeer transport.

Attachment: 17 pages."

Now, using reindeer for transport isn't all that unusual in and of itself, but 17 pages of notes gives you a hint regarding the scope of cadet's daring plan. Here's an excerpt:

"Transport from the Yamalo-Nenetskiy and Hanta-Manskiyskiy okrugs will move along the 65 degrees north latitude line, with a slight deviation to the south, passing Arkhangelsk from the south. Transport will be assembled east of Nurmic (Finland) near Onega Bay. 250,000 reindeer will be assembled in this manner. This amount of reindeer will have the following size of pasture will be needed: the Naryan-Mara reindeer station gives consumption of one reindeer per day as 3.3 ar or 330 square meters. For 250,000 reindeer, 825 hectares of pasture per day will be needed. I do not have data regarding pastures of the European north, but I am inclined to think that reserves of lichen in the north-western part of the USSR will be able to supply 250,000 reindeer for a long time."

That's right, 250,000 reindeer and 200,000 men, with the assistance of a British amphibious landing force. To give you some indication of the feasibility of this plan, the aforementioned Yamalo-Nenetskiy okrug already gave up 10,000 trained reindeer to the army, leaving only the breeding males, females, and juveniles.

Via kris-reid.

Monday 25 July 2016

Post-War Wishlist

"On introduction of new types of SPGs between 1946 and 1950 and on issues of development and experimental works

It is reasonable to develop and begin production of the following SPGs in 1946-1950:

Friday 22 July 2016

World of Tanks History Section: Liberation of Fastov

The Kiev Offensive Operation was not going smoothly for the Red Army. After penetrating the first line of enemy defenses, Soviet forces traveled 5-12 km, encountered German reserves, and started losing momentum. Nevertheless, on the second day of battles, November 4th, 1943, it was already clear that the Germans will not hold the city. The enemy started withdrawing westward. The Red Army attempted to prevent this, encircling the enemy and cutting their supply lines. The city of Fastov, some 70 kilometers south-west of Kiev, was among key positions that had to be captured for this plan to work. Tankers from P.S. Rybalko's 3rd Guards Army hit the city.

Thursday 21 July 2016

T-34 Fronts

Initially, the T-34 had a one-piece upper and lower front plate. The entire front of the tank was rolled in one go, and then bent into shape. This was a very complicated part to produce, and the solution was the introduction of a 100 mm thick cast connector to bridge a separate upper front plate and lower front plate.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Pre-War Ambush Tactics

"Tank Ambush
From our special correspondent

The Blue forces forded the Volma river and penetrated the front lines of the 37th Infantry Division, fighting for the Red side. Their front lines relentlessly pushed forward, supported by powerful artillery and a large amount of tanks, developing success in depth.

However, the penetration of the "enemy" defenses does not mean victory. Usually, the defender builds a defense in depth with several lines. In this case, the commander of the 37th had two battalions in reserve at that section of the front. In addition, the attached tank unit was also in the division commander's reserve.

Tuesday 19 July 2016

45 mm Supercaliber HEAT

"To the Chairman of the State Committee of Defense, comrade I.V. Stalin

The People's Commissariat of Armament developed an experimental batch of supercaliber HEAT rounds for the 45 mm anti-tank gun based on a captured German sample to be used against heavy tanks. These rounds were tested at the Sofrino artillery proving grounds at a range of 100 and 200 meters.

On all impacts, the round penetrated the 100 mm plate completely with a 70-80 mm wide breach, caused spalling on the other side, sent fragments flying in front of and behind the plate, and created a strong flash of flame behind the plate.

Monday 18 July 2016

45 mm APCR

"To the Chair of the Committee of Defense, comrade I.V. Stalin

I provide you with the proving grounds results of 45 mm subcaliber armour piercing ammunition designed by Military Engineer 1st Grade Burmistrov.

The best results were obtained with shells using a heavy and hard tungsten alloy core. These shells can achieve the objective of penetrating 60 mm of armour with a coefficient of resistance of at least K=2400 at an angle of 30 degrees from a range of 300-500 meters and effectively improve the power of the 45 mm mod. 1932/37 anti-tank gun.

Sunday 17 July 2016

An American Yankee in GABTU's Court

The USSR was the second country, after Great Britain, to receive tanks from the United States. Among them were M3 light tanks. According to American data, 1336 tanks of this type were sent to the USSR, a quarter of the overall volume of Light Tank M3 production. Out of all tanks sent, 440 (including M3A1 tanks) were lost during transport.

Domestic literature often calls the M3 weakly armoured and poorly armed. This evaluation is surprising, especially when you compare the tank to the Soviet T-70. In order to truly evaluate the American tank in the Soviet Union, we must consult archive documents.

Light Tank M3: America's First Thousand

American tank building fell behind those of other nations during the interbellum period, but rapidly closed the gap. In May of 1940, mass production of the Light Tank M2A4 began, a tank that caught up to other members of its class, and surpassed them in speed and armament. At the same time, the Americans realized that the war in Europe will last a long time, and tanks and guns grow obsolete quickly. This was the trigger that resulted in the Light Tank M3, the first American tank to result in more than a thousand mass produced vehicles.

Friday 15 July 2016

World of Tanks History Section: Breakthrough at Bogushevsk

On June 23rd, 1944, a mad steamroller entered the territory of Belarus. Thundering westward at a speed of twenty kilometers per day, it crushed and ground up German forces in its way. In mere days, Army Group Center was reduced into pitiful shreds. The demolition of German forces was unprecedented, to the point where the Western Allies were doubting Soviet reports. The only solution was to gather up foreign correspondents and hold the famous prisoner of war march. 19 German generals and 45,000 soldiers and officers became a convincing confirmation of the Red Army's success. But where did this skepticism come from?

There was a good reason for it. The winter of 1943-44 was an endless string of positional battles and unsuccessful offensives. The situation at the front was compared to the meat grinder at Verdun. Only in April of 1944 did spring rasputitsa force both sides to take a break. That is when plans for Operation Bagration took shape, envisioning simultaneous penetration of enemy defenses in six places, with surrounding and destruction of flanking groups at Vitebsk and Bobruisk, and further destruction of Army Group Center. One of the first obstacles on the way to Vitebsk was a small Belorussian village called Bogushevsk.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Marching Order

"SS Regiment Nordland
September 30th, 1941

Special order to commanders and chiefs

An unacceptable situation arose when regimental automotive columns traveled through Kremenchug to Podgornoye.

Despite combat on the way, 1st battalion arrived at their destination with small losses.

Columns from the 2nd and 3rd battalions arrived with losses of over 50%, and 16th company lost 70%.

Reports indicate that travel discipline is incredibly unsatisfactory, especially in 11th and 12th companies, but worst of all in 16th company.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

SPG Cadet Report Card

Here is a cadet's report card, allowing you to see a glimpse of Soviet artillery training. Despite popular belief, Red Army soldiers studied a large variety of topics.

Cadet's report card, 2nd Rostov Self Propelled Artillery School
Comrade Tyutin

Registered as a cadet of 15th Battery by order #483 on November 2nd, 194_
Rank: Senior Sergeant
Last name: Tyutin
Name: Georgiy
Patronym: Ignatyevich
Year of Birth: 1917
  • General: 7 years
  • Military: regimental school
Party affiliation: VKP(b)
Nationality: Russian
In the Red Army since: 1938

Monday 11 July 2016

Henschel 129 vs KV-1

By staff engineer Hezner and chief engineer Schilling on experimental firing of 30 mm shells at Russian KV-1 tanks by the 1st assault squadron (Eastern front).

Objective: to determine the penetrative capability of the 30 mm AP shells and their effect on heavy Russian tanks. Summarize experience of using the automatic MK 101 gun on the Hs 129 aircraft and the specifics of attack.

Sunday 10 July 2016

SPG #212: Pillbox Hunter

The war between the USSR and Finland that broke out on November 30th, 1939, revealed a ton of deficiencies in the organization and management of the Red Army. Naturally, questions regarding materiel also arose. It was finally clear that the Red Army needs tanks that can withstand cannons. The need for a specialized SPG that could destroy fortifications was also obvious. The KV-2 was one such vehicle, and even had time to fight the Finns, but it was destined to be replaced by the 212 SPG with an even more powerful gun.

Saturday 9 July 2016

Steel Inheritance

The Czechoslovakian industry received a number of advanced military technologies after the end of the Second World War as the result of German orders, but their inheritance didn't end here. A large amount of formerly German tanks were left in the country. Even though Czechoslovakia preferred Soviet tanks and SPGs, nobody was going to say refuse the wealth of German vehicles. As a result, the country ended up with a colourful tank park, including domestic pre-war LT vz.35 and LT vz.38, British Cromwells and Challengers, Soviet T-34-85s and IS-2s, and many German vehicles, including the StuG 40.

Friday 8 July 2016

Looting and Pillaging

The following is a translation of a German document, captured in 1944.

"32nd Infantry division
Department of the rear, intelligence

Content: dealing with the civilian population
  1. From interrogation of Red Army prisoners, it is known that the enemy had many very strict orders regarding treatment of Latvian civilians. Any illegal confiscation is punished with a sentence to a penalty battalion.
  2. For propaganda purposes, and in order to avoid the creation of bandit groups in our rear, we need to remind our troops of rules against looting. Theft of livestock, including horses, outside of specified zones is forbidden.
In such zones (list of zones), livestock may be confiscated from those that refuse to leave. In these cases, they are to be given a receipt.
Abandoned animals, as always, are to be rounded up and sent to the collection point at Pauleni (25 km - 32nd Administrative-Support company).
Livestock may also be collected at regimental command posts, and may be sent to the rear with regimental representatives after placing a phone call arranging their receipt.

Deputy commander of the division, first staff officer (signature missing in translated document)

Translated: military translator of the intelligence staff of the second Baltic Front
Senior Lieutenant Kopytina."

A very interesting order to not rob the local population, since the livestock ends up going westward in either case. However, sometimes, even staying behind yourself was not an option. From the interrogation of a Captain V. Kiristeins of the Lithuanian 19th SS division, on December 22nd, 1945:

"... It is known to me that, during the retreat of the 19th SS division, on the orders of the division commandant Strechenbach, starting from the city of Opochki right to Courland in the Latvian SSR, ordered all civilian population to abandon their homes and march to Libava, in the direction of Riga. Those that refused to leave were subjected to the Feldgendarmerie's methods of "evacuation".
South-Eastwards of the city of Ostrov, on the curve of the Velikaya river, the 19th SS division burned all structures in a 12 km radius and all possessions inside, taking the population to the Latvian rear. Approximately 2000 houses were destroyed in that manner, along with the adjoining orchards and gardens. These actions were done by a group composed of members of every company in the division. Strechenbach gave the order, and the order was carried out by the division's Feldgendarmerie, under the supervision of a captain whose name I cannot recall. This all happened in the period of March-April, 1944."

CA FSB R, Repository N-18313, Volume 3, Pages 201-203

Thursday 7 July 2016

World of Tanks History Section: Nighttime Storm Over Senno

On the second day of Operation Bagration, June 25th, 1944, the Red Army took the Bogushevsk settlement, located between Vitebsk and Orsha. As a result, the Germans lost a vital stronghold. Soviet command sent Major-General N.S. Oslikov's motorized cavalry group into the breach. The group was tasked with developing the Red Army's offensive towards Senno and Lepel, with the eventual exit to Berezina river.

Senno was the next German stronghold in line. The city was an important transportation hub, and the Germans organized many warehouses with fuel, ammunition, and supplies in the vicinity. Senno was a very tempting target for the Red Army.

Yo-ho-ho and a Bottle of Vodka

"To the commander of the 11th Tank Corps

In your actions, use partisan methods, sending in single tanks or small groups (2-3) into the enemy rear to destroy cars, infantry, horse carts, etc. with swift blows.

Individual tanks and small groups should fight like submarines (pirates).

Commander of the 5th Tank Army, Guards Major-General, Lizyukov
Commissar of the 5th Tank Army, Guards Divisional Commissar, Tumanyan."

CAMD RF 3412-1-11

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Soviet Heavy Tank Characteristics

The following table compares the prospective post-war heavy tanks of the USSR (the T-34 is included for completeness' sake, but they seem to have merged the T-34 and T-34-85 into one tank). The table was approved fairly quickly after the war, since the IS-3 and IS-7 already have its index, but the IS-7 still has characteristics of the Object 257 rather than a later model, and the IS-4 is still referred to as Object 701.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Attack and Defense

"Directions regarding the use of IS-122 and ISU-152 regiments in combat

Practice of using heavy tanks and SPGs in combat showed that IS-122 and ISU-152 are the best method of fighting enemy heavy tanks and can deal great damage to the enemy when used carefully and skilfully.

Careless use of the IS and ISU tanks result in pointless losses, such as:
  • The commander of the 141st Infantry Division positioned the 29th Tank Regiment (IS-122) in the front line of defense, as a result of which the regiment pointlessly lost 8 tanks.
  • The commander of the 17th Mechanized Brigade moved ISU-152 tanks ahead of infantry at Mihalkiuv and Ezefuvka, losing 3 tanks.
  • Frequent movement of tank regiment wastes engine-hours, which causes tanks to break down earlier. The 374th Guards Heavy SPG Artillery Regiment that was formed on April 4th, 1944, expended 160-180 engine-hours by May 12th.

Monday 4 July 2016

Captured German Tanks in the Red Army

According to Maksim Kolomiyets, this was the inventory of German tanks in the Red Army on June 16th, 1945:
  • 1st Belorussian Front: 39 Panthers (26 need repairs), 11 PzIVs (all need repairs), 2 PzIIIs (all need repairs), 9 Jagdpanthers (7 need repairs), 74 StuGs (59 need repairs). Total: 135 vehicles, 103 need repairs.
  • 2nd Belorussian Front: 3 Tigers (all need repairs), 2 PzIVs (all need repairs), 12 PzIIIs (11 need repairs), one PzI, one PzII (needs repairs), one Jagdpanther (needs repairs), 12 StuGs (all need repairs), 255 APCs (44 need repairs, 211 cannot be repaired).
  • 1st Ukrainian Front: 11 Tigers (1 needs repairs, 5 cannot be repaired), 27 Panthers (17 need repairs, 10 cannot be repaired), 47 PzIVs (15 need repairs, 14 cannot be repaired), 52 PzIIIs (34 need repairs, 9 cannot be repaired), one PzI, 17 PzIIs (8 need repairs, 8 cannot be repaired), 118 StuGs (93 need repairs, 5 cannot be repaired), 45 other SPGs, 62 APCs (34 need repairs, 23 cannot be repaired). Total: 317 tanks and 62 APCs.
  • 2nd Ukrainian Front: 27 Tigers (24 need repairs, 3 cannot be repaired), 122 Panthers (27 need repairs, 86 cannot be repaired), 79 PzIVs (10 need repairs, 53 cannot be repaired), 49 PzIIIs (11 need repairs, 25 cannot be repaired), one PzI, 23 PzIIs (2 need repairs, 19 cannot be repaired), 30 150 mm SPGs (12 need repairs, 13 cannot be repaired), 2 105 mm SPGs (need repairs), 4 Jagdpanthers (need repairs), 158 StuGs (38 need repairs, 64 cannot be repaired), 81 other SPGs, 485 APCs (374 need repairs, 111 cannot be repaired). Total: 575 tanks and 485 APCs.
  • 3rd Ukrainian Front: 36 Tigers, 84 Panthers, 3 PzIVs, 6 150 mm SPGs, one Jagdpanther, 28 StuGs. Total: 319 tanks and SPGs (data is incomplete).
  • Courland group: 15 Tigers (8 need repairs), 35 Panthers (25 need repairs, 4 cannot be repaired), 41 PzIVs (15 need repairs), 12 PzIIIs (8 need repairs, 1 cannot be repaired), one PzI, 2 PzIIs (need repairs), 18 150 mm SPGs (17 need repairs), 19 105 mm SPGs (15 need repair), 9 StuGs (need repairs), 323 other SPGs, 279 APCs (113 need repairs). Total: 474 tanks and SPGs, 279 APCs.
There is no data for other fronts, but an estimated 3000 armoured vehicles were captured, 1851 tanks and SPGs and 1081 APCs.

Sunday 3 July 2016

Strv 74: Europe's Last Medium Tank

The Swedish post-war Strv 74 medium tank is interesting due to the fact that medium tanks died out as a class after the end of WWII. They evolved into main battle tanks, built by all leading tank building nations at the time. The Strv 74 was designed and accepted into service at the same time as the Soviet T-55, American M60, and a little earlier than the German Leopard. The Strv 74 was also the last Swedish tank with a classical layout, as it was replaced by the exotic turretless Strv 103. How was the last European medium tanks created and what was it like?

Saturday 2 July 2016

Dawn of Mechanization

The British were pioneers in creating not only tanks, but self-propelled artillery. The Gun Carrier Mk.I was developed back during WWI, not only the first SPG, but the first gun carrier. The gun could be removed from the chassis and used as towed artillery. The positional nature of the Western Front led to the Gun Carrier Mk.I mostly acting as an artillery tractor. After the war, a decision was made to focus on tractors, but the British did not forget about SPGs. In the 1920s, a small family of these vehicles was created, characterized by the Birch Gun.

Changing Concepts

Despite defense spending getting heavily cut after WWI, work to perfect existing vehicle didn't stop. One of the directions which British engineers developed was mechanization of artillery. The war showed that the army needs tracked tractors capable of quickly transporting artillery on the march and on the battlefield. Wheeled tractors were unsuitable for the harsh terrain of a WWI battlefield. Tracked tractors like the Holt 75 were also suboptimal due to their low speeds.

Two relatively new players faced off on this arena. Vickers began work on the 18-pdr Transporter, and Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth & Co. Ltd. designed a vehicle called Dragon (from "drag gun"). The concept of the vehicles was similar. The gun rolled into the transporter during the march, and the crew sat inside, facing each other. Both vehicles were ready in 1922. Further work on the 18-pdr Transporter led to the creation of the Light Tank Mk.I, which later evolved into the Medium Tank Mk.I.