Monday 4 September 2017

Tank Trailers

"Minutes of a meeting at the 5th Department of the GABTU BTU with representatives of tank units on the issue of trailers for tanks proposed by factories #592 and #112

The meeting was led by the Chief of the 5th Department of the BTU, Military Engineer 1st Class, comrade Afonin.

Afonin: We gathered representatives of tank units by order from Army Commissar 2nd Class Biryukov to discuss the proposal of engineers from factories #592 and #112 to build trailers for tank riders. [Reads proposal from factory #112 and explains technical issues connected with factory #592's proposal].

These proposals were made during the war with the White Finns, command inspected them and rejected them. Armoured sleds were used back then, which were useful for a while, but when the enemy learned about them, they began to let them through and shot them up from the rear. When armoured shields on skis were introduced, they had the same effect initially. 

We must approach the issue from the technical and tactical sides, from the point of view of usability in combat. Based on our combat experience, we need to voice our opinions regarding the proposal and report to GABTU command, which will make the final decision.

Commander of the 31st Tank Brigade, Colonel Titov: During combat, we saw that the KV tank had a number of weaknesses in its mechanisms: weak main and side clutches, as well as the gearbox, which will not allow us to hook anything to it. It's impossible to attach a 20 ton sled to the KV tank, as it will be unable to pull it. We must reject such a sled. During the assault, tank riders must be protected from submachinegunners, which let the tanks through but open fire at infantry and don't let it move forward. In order to achieve this, the tank needs a small and low (1.2-1.5 meter) armoured trailer that can fit 12-15 men.

A tank brigade needs trailers for the tank rider company, which will need 5-6 trailers. The armour must protect from armour piercing bullets and not shells. My conclusions are thus:
  1. Reject the bulky sleds proposed by factories #592 and #112.
  2. Develop small sleds for tank brigade rider units.
Afonin: Do you think that it's possible to use the hull of a BT tank without a turret or internal components as a trailer?

Titov: The BT tank hull is suitable as a trailer, under the condition that the inside is cleared of mechanisms. There also need to be portholes in the sides for submachineguns and hatches in the sides and the rear.

Assistant to the Commander of the 31st Tank Brigade, Military Engineer 2nd Class Kutukov: The issue of armoured trailers is an important and necessary one. Until now, designers did not think about a number of technical issues. They proposed, and continue to propose, bulky and very heavy trailers that a tank cannot tow.

The KV tank is overloaded, a number of components are weak points. Nothing can be attached to the tank to tow, since it barely propels itself, let alone a 20 ton trailer. I propose that we reject the sleds proposed by factories #592 and #112.

An armoured trailer towed by a tank must have wheels and no turret, with armour that protects from armour piercing bullets, weighing no more than 6 tons.

Commander of the 33rd Tank Brigade, Colonel Chukhin: Tank trailers must consist of light armoured boxes for 15 men on tracks. A firing port must be installed for each rider, so they can fire their submachineguns. This trailer should be made for the T-34 tank or Komsomolets tractor. The trailers proposed by factories #592 and #112 are unsuitable and should be rejected.

Assistant to the Commander of the 33rd Tank Brigade, Major Fadeev: The proposed trailers were poorly designed. They are too heavy to be pulled by a tank. We need to take the BT tank hull with its final drives and use it as a trailer, especially since these hulls are available. These trailers would be useful in urban fighting, where the infantry must be protected from fire from above. The trailer should have side and rear doors, as well as two hatches in the floor.

Military Engineer 2nd Class Frolov: I participated in trials of a sled that was 68 cm tall and fit 6 men. They were taught by a KV tank and loosened by knocking out a wedge from inside the sled. The Auto and Armour Center has such sleds. In the summer, we can weld on carriers to put pipes through that will serve as wheels. An armoured trailer for tank forces is needed.

Technical Assistant of the Commander of the 62nd Tank Brigade, Major Kristin: The proposed trailers are poor, they are bulky and heavy, and must be rejected. The best solution is a BT tank hull with tracks. It must weigh no more than 5 tons. The trailer should have no armament and be towed by a T-34 tank, the KV will not be able to do it.

Senior Military Representative at factory #112, Major Rusakov: We can see that there is a need for a lighter trailer. The most important proposal was the use of the BT tank hull, but it is easily penetrated. If we build a new box, we must build a light one on wheels, without any internal mechanisms.

  1. The 15-20 ton trailers proposed by factories #592 and #112 are completely unusable, as the KV tank has no weight reserve and the T-34 would be at its limit.
  2. It is desirable to develop a trailer for a T-34 tank that will protect tank riders with the following characteristics:
    1. Mass: 5 tons
    2. Crew: 15
    3. Armour: 13-15 mm
    4. Firing ports:
      1. Sides: 5
      2. Rear: 2
      3. Front: 2
    5. Height: 1.5-1.6 m
    6. Width: same as a tank
    7. Exits: rear, side, floor
    8. Suspension: wheels or tracks
    9. Deployment: from the tank
    10. Tow hook: rear
    11. Visibility: periscopes on the sides, front, and rear
    12. Ground pressure: no more than that of a tank
  3. There will be 5 trailers per tank brigade.
  4. It makes sense to use BT tank hulls without turrets, engine, or transmission, modified to meet the requirements for a trailer.
  5. Include tractors into the tank brigade (one tractor for two trailers) to tow the trailers on the march.
Chief of the 5th Department of the BTU, Military Engineer 1st Class, Afonin
February 28th, 1942"

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