Tuesday 28 February 2017

Four Years of Blogging

Hello, everyone! It's been another year (technically two, since I forgot to do anything last year, oops). My blog continues to ramp up its readership, with 2,161,945 page views (compared to 879,901 last count) with 1381 published articles (up from 700). The demographics changed a little bit. The US is still at first place by a long margin, but the UK is neck to neck with Germany over second place. Russia, who used to be just barely hanging onto the top ten sprung up to a confident fourth, beating out Canada (still in fifth). Poland continues dropping, from fourth down to sixth. France is down from sixth to seventh, Austria and Finland switched places, a close race for eight place, and South Korea knocked the Netherlands off the charts to grab onto tenth place. 

World of Tanks related sites continue to dominate my referrer list, but organic searches are doing well too. My presence seems to have been felt on Reddit with more hits from video game and military history communities. I'm picking up steam in print media as well with citations in Armoured Champion and The Changing Nature of Warfare, 1859-1991: Perception and Reality. 

Content from Wargaming.net partner Warspot joined my traditional World of Tanks History Section lineup this year, bringing more bird's eye view coverage of various vehicles and weapons. I probably should have come up with a tag for them, but my oversight was corrected by my friends at the Tank and AFV News blog who dutifully keep a list of these translated articles.

Finally, there were some minor layout changes like collapsing long articles behind a "Read More" link and a wider content area to allow for "extra large" images and tables with readable font sizes! 

That's it for this year! Thank you for reading my blog and stay tuned for the big five year mark!

Shooting Backwards

One of the advantages of a tank over a self propelled gun is the ability to fire in a 360 degree arc. While firing forward is the typical use case, firing backwards can have some unexpected challenges. For example, the low bore axis of the L-10 gun and protruding muffler on the T-28 were a bad combination.

"Testing the L-10 gun in the cylindrical turret shows that the gun depression when facing the rear can be, at best, 0°, unlike the -4° or -5° that the gun allows for. The state of the L-10 on the provided prototype of the conical turret is the same."
"12 shots were fired at an angle of depression of -3° from two vehicles. While shooting towards the rear, the gases damaged the deflection plate above the muffler. The muffler on one tank shifted by 15 mm. In one case, the plate was hit by the shell. Damage from gases was also observed at elevation angles of +2°. Given the current design of the deflection plate and muffler, the L-10, characterized by its low bore axis, cannot shoot backwards not only at an angle of -3°, but even +2°.
In addition, when shooting across the side air intakes with an active fan at a depression angle of -3°, the fan slowed down for the duration of about one second."

Monday 27 February 2017

Kirov Factory Prototypes, March 1941

"Report on the progress of experimental tank armament work from February 20th to March 20th, 1941

Object 220 KV-4 100 mm
The experimental prototype is awaiting the arrival of the V-5 engine from the subcontractor factory. Assembly of the second prototype has not started due to a lack of finished parts. The factory already began producing parts for the second prototype. The parts are in the initial stages of mechanical production. Since the plants are highly loaded with mass production parts, it is likely that the full set of parts for the prototype will not be finished in March. The turret for the second prototype is currently at factory #92, where designers from both factories are working on installation of the gun and combat equipment.

Saturday 25 February 2017

The Amazing Strv 103

The Strv 103, also called the S-Tank, is Sweden's trademark tank. A lack of turret, fixed gun with an autoloader, active suspension, three driver positions (one per crewman), these are only some of its unusual features. Swedish tank designers managed to surprise the world. However, the Strv 103 didn't come out of nothing, and a significant portion of the components that went into the tank came from experimental vehicles. How did Sweden assemble this industrial "Lego set"?

Friday 24 February 2017

World of Tanks History Section: Star Over Kharkov

An enormous breach formed in the Soviet-German front after the encirclement and defeat of Paulus' 6th Army at Stalingrad. Another breach formed soon after, as a result of the Voronezh-Kastornaya Operation in January of 1943. This second breach was very tempting for the Soviets as it opened up a route to liberate Kharkov and the Donbass.

At the same time, Manstein was desperately holding onto Rostov-on-the-Don, saving the German 1st Tank Army. Even the tried and true German technique of shortening the front to increase the concentration of forces wasn't enough to resolve this crisis. The only weight that could tilt the scales in the Germans' favour was the injection of new forces.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Mysterious British Tank

The Soviet Union had an extensive network of intelligence agents in Great Britain, who were able to recover a great deal of information that the British weren't willing to hand over themselves. Sometimes that information was accurate, sometimes not so much.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Heavy Tank Costs

"To the Chief of the BTU, Military Engineer 1st Grade, comrade Korobov

Following decrees issued by the Government, the Kirov factory is building a series of experimental vehicles without having any contracts for them. Letter #6109 sent on November 15th, 1940, asked you to send these contracts. Letter #2239/s sent on February 20th, 1941, repeated the request. Nevertheless, we have not received any contracts from you.

I am sending you a report of the approximate cost of experimental works performed by the Kirov factory in 1941 regarding Objects ##150, 220, 221, 212, and KV-3, for the sum of 5,350,000 rubles in total. Please send us the information to issue bills regarding these projects.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Blocking Detachments

Hollywood likes to show Red Army blocking units as ruthless killers that machinegunned down anyone who took a step back from the front lines. In reality, their job was a lot less bloody and a lot more mundane:

"Top Secret
To the Military Council of the Central Front

The commanders of the 21st Army lost control over their forces. As a result, there is an increased number of military personnel retreating haphazardly without orders. A difficult situation was created at that point of the front.

On August 16-17th, the operational staff of the Front organized detainment of those retreating along roads.

Monday 20 February 2017

76 mm M7 Gun Trials


The conclusions of trials of American armour piercing-tracer M-62 shells against armour described in table #17 and illustrated in the graph shows that:
  1. The penetration quality of American 76 mm AP-T shells can, under favourable conditions (angle/distance), effectively penetrate targets (tanks, SPGs, bunkers) with armour up to 120 mm thick.
    The penetration quality of domestic 76 mm AP-T shells (blueprint #2-09038) allows for effective penetration of only 100 mm of armour under identical conditions to American 76 mm AP-T shells.

Sunday 19 February 2017

Char B1 ter: Pointless Modernization

In 1936, only two years after a decision was made to put the Char B1 into production, work on its modernization began. Mostly, it entailed improving the armour and armament. In April of 1937, the first modernized tank, indexed Char B1 bis, left its Renault assembly plant. It was destined to become the most numerous medium tank in the French army, although many of its parameters put it in the heavy class. Nevertheless, even before it entered production, discussion about a deeper modernization that would create an even heavier vehicle began. This vehicle was called Char B1 ter.

Saturday 18 February 2017

Char B1 bis: General Estienne's Legacy

On March 16th, 1934, after almost 13 years passed since the medium Char B program was launched, the French infantry command ordered the first seven Char B1 tanks. This decision was controversial. Yes, the French army was in need of a new tank. However, not only did its mass reach twice that of the initial requirements, but the tank came out very expensive, and there could be no hope of truly mass production. Paradoxically, the Char B1 bis, an improved version of the Char B1, was one of the causes of French defeat in the summer of 1940.

Thursday 16 February 2017

Field Repairs

The Red Army began the Great Patriotic War with a noticeable lack of any engineering equipment imaginable, and things only got worse when production was refactored to boost the output of tanks at the expense of everything else. Often, the only thing you had to repair the tank was the tank itself, and that had to be enough.

This contraption could be used to temporarily turn a T-34 into a crane in order to remove or install heavy components like the engine or transmission.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Firing on the Move

Trials to determine accuracy of the T-28 armed with an L-10 gun on the move were performed while driving at a speed of 12-14 kph, firing at a target 800-1000 meters away. The trials were performed in two sets: one with the tank driving towards a 12x10 meter target, the other with the tank driving parallel to a 10x10 meter target. Aiming was done with the PT-1 periscopic sight, firing was done using the foot operated trigger.

While driving towards the target, 14 out of 23 shots hit. While driving parallel to the target, 15 out of 25 shots hit. These results were considered satisfactory.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

37 mm Anti-Tank Rifle

"Rolling Company-level 37 mm Anti-Tank Rifle

Combat mode. Elevation angle 15°.

General characteristics of the system

The purpose of the system is to serve as company level anti-tank armament. It uses a semiautomatic breech with forced opening. Insignificant amount of recoil is achieved using a roller principle, where the shot is fired while the barrel is moving forward, which is done with a special spring* and a muzzle brake.

Monday 13 February 2017

HTZ-16: Improvisation on an Industrial Scale

Improvised armour vehicles appeared during WWI, but the phenomenon became truly commonplace during the Spanish Civil War. The most common type of vehicle was the improvised armoured car, but armoured tractors were also built. Less mobile than wheeled armoured cars, they were not in high demand in Spanish conditions. WWII triggered a resurgence of improvised armoured vehicles. The USSR built the largest amount of armoured tractors, and one of them, the HTZ-16, was accepted into production and built on an industrial scale. On July 20th, this vehicle turned 75 years old.

Sunday 12 February 2017

Self Propelled Artillery on a Tractor Chassis

The idea to use tractors as a chassis for SPG was born in the USSR in the 1930s. The SU-2 and SU-4 prototypes were built, but the projects did not move past the prototype stage. On the other hand, the Germans achieved different results. Taking captured French Renault UE tractors, they created SPGs with 3.7 cm Pak guns. The resulting vehicle wasn't the best, but could be produced in large amounts at a small cost. A year later, the ZIS-30 was built in the USSR, the first mass production SPG of the war.

Thursday 9 February 2017

76 mm Gun Accuracy

Deviation (m at 1000 meters)

1. "History of the T-34 tank" Memorial Museum Complex, Documentary Historical Collection #2
2. "History of the T-34 tank" Memorial Museum Complex, Documentary Historical Collection #4
3. http://tankarchives.blogspot.ca/2013/05/accuracy-revisited.html

VK 70.01 Super Gun

I briefly covered some German superguns before, but the topic is an endless source of amusement, so I present another one: a 150 mm gun for the VK 70.01 (Lowe).

Just as the Soviets all but gave up on putting the 152 mm Br-2 gun into a self propelled gun, the Germans came up with the idea of putting an even bigger gun (although the extra length didn't grant it must better characteristics) into a fully rotating turret. Of course, we know how this story ends: eventually the laws of physics and common sense won and this idea, like dozens of other German wonder-weapons, remained on paper.

Edit: my loyal reader Critical Mass helpfully comments that the VK70.01 was cancelled in favour of an even less practical tank, the Maus.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

T-50's Growing Pains

"To the People's Commissar of Medium Machinebuilding, comrade Malyshev

I report that the proving grounds trials of experimental T-50 tank prototypes produced by factory #174 cannot be completed before the deadline set in your order #009ss issued on January 7th, 1941, due to a series of design defects revealed during the trials process:

Monday 6 February 2017

For Infantry, By Infantry

This tank was designed in December of 1942 by Vasiliy Stepanovich Greshnikov, an infantryman, giving a rather interesting view into what infantry wants out of their tank.

Sunday 5 February 2017

SR Tanks

Like many nations, Japan wanted to have a light amphibious reconnaissance tank. The idea came up in the 1920s when the country purchased the French AMP amphibious half-tracked armoured car. In 1928, two amphibious armoured cars based on the Vickers-Wolseley were built, but what Japan needed was specifically an amphibious tank. This is where the sad story of the SR series of tanks begins.

Saturday 4 February 2017

World of Tanks History Section: Weathering the Winter Storm

In the winter of 1942, a noose tightened around over 200,000 men in the German 6th Army at Stalingrad. Hermann Goering, the commander of the Luftwaffe, beat his chest promising that aircraft could provide everything the encircled soldiers needed. However, German generals were not as optimistic. Too many men needed food, ammunition, and other necessities. Many kilometers of snowy steppe separated the airstrip at Morozovsk and Tatsinskiya from Stalingrad proper.

The only chance of survival for Paulus' army was a breakthrough. Sooner, rather than later, while the army could still fight.

Friday 3 February 2017

Tank Corps on the Defense

"Defense of a Tank Corps

  1. As a rule, the tank corps should not be used to defend independently, but there can be cases in which an objective is given that can achieved with a defensive strategy. These cases can happen when the enemy breaks through our lines and must be held at a certain point, when our forces are being flanked, or during fighting in operational depth where the corps must defend strategically important objects until our forces pull up or defend until fuel and ammunition arrive.

Thursday 2 February 2017

Tank Corps Breakthrough

"Exploiting a Breakthrough with a Tank Corps in an Offensive Operation
  1. In an offensive operation, the tank corps usually acts to exploit a breakthrough and execute its tasks in the enemy's operational depth. These tasks are:
    1. Destruction of approaching enemy reserves.
    2. Destruction of headquarters and interference with the command structure.
    3. Capture and retention of important operative objectives, crossroads, or lines.
    4. Encirclement and destruction of the main enemy force.

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Tank Corps in an Attack

"Tank Corps in an Attack
  1. There are situations when a tank corps, reinforced with artillery and aircraft, in cooperation with infantry units, will attack the enemy who has prepared his defenses.
    An independent breakthrough by a tank corps is reasonable against field type defenses that were organized hurriedly over the time of several hours to two days, under the condition that there is no natural anti-tank obstacle in front of the enemy's defenses.
  2. The offensive of the tank corps is organized by concentrating tanks, an artillery barrage, and a sudden attack combined with artillery and aircraft.
    The density of attacking tanks should be 40-60 tanks per kilometer, and the width of the offensive should be no more than 3 kilometers.