Sunday 25 March 2018

Heavy Trophy

The German heavy Tiger tank left a mark on tank building worldwide. Even though propaganda and memoirs are largely to blame for its fame, the Tiger did really have nearly no competition on the battlefield among the tanks of the Allies. It's not surprising that the tank was thoroughly studied in the USSR, USA, and Great Britain. This article tells the story of how Tiger tanks were studied in the USSR and what conclusions were made, as well as the use of these tanks in the Red Army.

Present from Leningrad

The German tank first went into battle on August 29th, 1942, during the Sinyavino operation. These were Tigers from the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion. Their combat debut was not particularly impressive. The swampy terrain at Mga where the battalion fought was far from ideal. Interestingly enough, another 502nd heavy tank battalion fought nearby. This was the Soviet 502nd Heavy Flamethrower Tank Battalion, equipped with KV-8 tanks. Mere kilometers separated the two battalions.

Red Armymen study the captured German heavy tank. January 18th, 1943.

The combat debut of these new tanks went unnoticed by the Red Army. The GABTU learned about the Pz.Kpfw.VI tank in the fall of 1942, but the information came from the British. On November 9th, 1942, the British Military Mission in the USSR passed on information about new German tanks and SPGs. Among it was a list of new vehicles, captured by the British in North Africa. The document, dated October 7th, 1942, mentioned tanks such as the VK 9.01 (PzII Ausf. G), PzI Ausf. C, and VK 16.01 (PzII Ausf. J).

Finally, the document listed the PzVI. The British did not know what kind of tank this was, and asked the GABTU to share any information. The British only guessed that this tank would be heavier than the PzIII and PzIV. However, the Allied did not have to wait for long. The 501st Heavy Tank Battalion arrived in Tunisia in late November, 1942. The Americans were the first to come under fire from these heavy tanks.

The road wheel rim on the ground suggests that the tank had issues with more than the engine.

The 502nd battalion lay low after the failed debut at Mga. It returned to battle on January 13th, 1943. Operation "Spark" began a day before, with the aim of penetrating the blockade of Leningrad. The battalion suffered its first losses on January 17th, losing tanks #250003 and #250006. One of them became bogged down, the other took a hit to the turret. The transmission on the second tank also broke down. Both tanks were blown up.

It's worth mentioning that the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion did not consist of Tigers alone. About a third of the tanks were PzIII Ausf. L, and about as many PzIII Ausf. N. 4 PzIIIs from the 1st company of the battalion dug in around Workers' Village #5. They were opposed by, in part, T-60 tanks from the 61st Tank Brigade. This brigade was fully armed with T-60 tanks produced at factory #37. The brigade received T-70\ tanks during the battle, but they did not take part in the fighting described here. The brigade also had a battalion of BA-10 armoured cars, which was assaulting Shlisselburg. 

The winter camouflage and elephant insignia can be seen.

Knowing that the situation around Workers' Village #5 was growing dire, battalion command sent one PzIII and two Tigers as reinforcements on January 17th (the latter, however, arrived later). With reinforcements in hand, the Germans decided to attempt reconnaissance in force. Early morning on January 18th, three PzIII tanks took off, accompanied by infantry. By pure luck, the 61st Tank Brigade decided to perform reconnaissance as well. A group of skiers was supported by one T-60 tank, commanded by Lieutenant L.I. Osatyuk. The two groups met unexpectedly at around 7:30 am. Of course, the light T-60 could do little against the PzIII, and so Osatyuk ordered to his driver, Starshina I.M. Makarenkov: "Vanya, dance!"

Maneuvering in his tank, Makarenkov evaded his pursuers. Together with Osatyuk, he lured the Germans in front of an anti-tank gun battery. As a result, two PzIII tanks were destroyed, and the one that got away didn't get far. This was the first in a series of unfortunate events that plagued the Germans at Workers' Village #5. Having disposed of his pursuers, Osatyuk opened fire on enemy infantry, and then the Soviet assault began. Five T-60 tanks were knocked out and one burned up. However, neighbouring brigades supported the offensive, and the Germans were forces to reveal their line of defense and suffered a defeat. Workers' Village #5 was taken by noon on January 18th.

Presumably, an attempt was made to tow the tank away. The Red Army's rapid offensive did not allow the evacuation to proceed.

The Red Army captured an abandoned Tiger, turret number 121, serial number 250004. According to German data, its engine and radiator were broken. The Soviet description agrees with this assessment. The tank was undergoing repairs when it was captured.

This was not the end of the 502nd battalion's streak. Unaware that Workers' Village #5 was captured, the commander's tank with turret number 100 and serial number 250009 approached the settlement. Shortly before reaching it, the tank drove off the road and became bogged down in a peat bog. The crew left the tank and walked towards the settlement. Upon realising that it was no longer in German hands, they decided to withdraw. That is how the Red Army obtained two Tigers, one of which was undamaged. The Red Army also obtained documents, including a brief instruction manual and the waybill.

Fearsome opponent

Operation "Spark" resulted in a penetration of the German defenses. The success was relatively small, but it allowed supplies to reach the city by means other than the Road of Life. The first echelon with supplies arrived on February 7th. The Red Army's success defined the fate of the German tanks. Thanks to the breach in the German lines, it was possible to bring them to the "mainland". However, the study of the tanks began almost right after they were captured. A technical description was ready by the end of January. In parallel, the documents captured with the tanks were translated. Due to the rush and a lack of precise data, the description was far from ideal. For example, the mass was estimated at 75-80 tons, which is significantly higher than in reality. The armour thickness was also incorrect.

Tiger #121, NIBT proving grounds, April 1943.

Initially, the tanks were called "HENSCHEL captured tank". Later, the index T-VI was used. The Leningrad Front captured at least two additional tanks. Correspondence lists two tanks in addition to tank #100. One of them was captured completely burned up, the other knocked out and partially burned. This tank was the donor for the repair of tank #100. Pieces of armour were also cut out for study. Tank #100 was sent to Kubinka for study, but that was later. Tank #121 was sent to Kubinka first.

The same tank from the right. The winter camouflage was washed away.

The new tanks were very interesting. By this time, the tanks were actively being used both on the Eastern Front and in Africa. The first massed use of these tanks happened at Kharkov, which made a significant contribution to the Soviet defeat there. Around the same time, these tanks were fighting in Tunisia, inflicting heavy losses on the British and Americans. The British were very forthcoming with information on the new German tank. On April 5th, 1943, the Soviets received a British report on the trials of a 6-pounder gun versus a "German Mk.VI tank". These trials took place in late March. 5 shells out of 10 penetrated the front plate of the tank from 300 yards.

After the camouflage was washed off the turret number became clearly visible.

Tanks #100 and #121 were already at the NIBT proving grounds by April of 1943. It was decided that one tank will be shot up, the other will be used to evaluate the armour of Soviet tanks. Tank #100 was the lucky one. As for tank #121, it had its equipment removed and prepared for trials by April 25th.

The emblem of the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion is visible on the front.

Trials took place from April 25th to April 30th, 1943. 13 cannons, 5 anti-tank rifles, the KB-30 anti-tank grenade, 2 types of anti-tank mines, and the 37 mm aircraft gun from a LAGG-3 were used. Of those, three weapons (the 107 mm M-60, 122 mm M-30, and 152 mm ML-20) managed not to hit the target, even though the weather was clear.

Results of shooting with the 45 mm gun. The subcaliber shell penetrated the armour from 200 meters.

The T-70 opened fire against the Tiger first. It was clear that firing at the 80 mm armour with the regular shell was pointless, so the tank used subcaliber ammunition. One shot from 200 meters penetrated successfully. From 350 meters, the 60 mm thick lower side could be penetrated. The model 1942 anti-tank gun showed similar results. Its armour piercing shell could not penetrate the upper side from even 100 meters, but the subcaliber shell penetrated from 350 meters.

The Tiger's armour was not a significant obstacle for the ZIS-2 and 6-pounder.

57 mm guns were next. Both the Soviet ZIS-2 and British 6-pounder showed similar results. The side could be penetrated from 800-1000 meters. As for the front armour, the ZIS-2 could not penetrate it from 500 meters. It was not fired from a closer distance, but all signs pointed to the fact that it would penetrate from about 300 meters. Data received from the British confirms this. The British anti-tank gun had a shorter barrel, but higher quality ammunition gave it comparable penetration.

Results of firing the American 75 mm M3 gun.

The American 75 mm M3 gun, installed in an M4A2 tank, also performed well. Two armour piercing shells were tested: M61 and M72. The M61 could penetrate the side from 400 meters, the M72 from 650 meters. As with the 6-pounder, a high quality of the ammunition was noted. The gun did not fire at the front plate. It is likely that the testers knew it would be a fruitless endeavour. 

The tank's armour was too much for the F-34, the main Soviet tank gun at the time.

The trials of the F-34 gun turned into a real fiasco. Not a single shot penetrated, not even from 200 meters. This was true for the AP, experimental subcaliber, and experimental HEAT shell. This was the main Soviet tank gun of this period!

Another 76 mm gun, the 3-K, fared better. The difference was not that great, however. The 3-K's shell could not penetrate the side of the turret from 500 meters. In other words, its performance was approximately equal to that of the 75 mm M3 gun with the M61 shell.

The 52-K 85 mm AA gun showed the best result among medium caliber guns. It's not surprising that it was chosen as the highest priority for arming heavy tanks and medium SPGs.

The 3-K was far from the most powerful gun in the Red Army's arsenal. In addition, it was not produced since 1940. It was replaced by the 85 mm 52-K AA gun. It was considered as a base for a tank gun since 1940, but for various reasons work never progressed past the experimental stage. Meanwhile, AA guns were successfully used in the anti-tank role. Trials showed that the GAU and GBTU were correct in considering the 52-K as a prospective tank gun. It shell could reliably penetrate the front from a kilometer, and the sides from about 1.5 kilometers.

The Tiger after being shot by the A-19.

The 122 mm A-19 corps gun proved even more effective. Unlike the 52-K, it was not considered as a tank gun before this. A gun with the ballistics of the 107 mm M-60 gun was considered, but as mentioned above it did not even hit the Tiger. As for the A-19, it hit, and how! The first shell passed through a breach in the front of the hull and penetrated the rear. The second hit the turret front and tore out a 58x23 cm chunk. The turret was torn off the turret ring and moved half a meter. After being shot at by the A-19, the Tiger, which was looking unwell at this point of the trials, turned into a heap of scrap metal.

The same tank from the front.

The trials were not finished here. The German tank had not only thick armour, but a powerful 88 mm gun. During trials of tank #121, its brother #100 was shooting at Soviet tanks. A T-34 and KV-1 were used as targets.

KV-1 after being shot by the 88 mm KwK 36 L/56.

The results of the trials were predictable. The KV-1's additional front armour did not help. The first shot from 1.5 kilometers partially tore off the applique armour, the second penetrated the front armour. The idea of lightening the KV-1 tank was correct. The KV-1S was more mobile, while both the KV-1S and the KV-1 were more or less equal targets for the Tiger.

The T-34 looked worse after a Tiger attack.

Trials of the T-34 were worse. The first shot that hit the turret displaced it from the turret ring. Further hits partially destroyed the upper front plate. To compare, the 85 mm 52-K gun was fired at the tank. From 1.5 km away, the penetration was similar to that of the German gun. This is not surprising, since the German and Soviet guns were relatives. The 76 mm 3-K gun, which the 52-K was developed from, was based on the same AA gun as the German Flak 18.

After the end of the trials, both tanks were taken to an exhibition at Gorky Park in Moscow. They remained on display there until 1948, after which they were scrapped. As for the conclusions, they were made immediately. It was clear that 76 mm guns were no longer sufficient, and had to be replaced. GKO decree #3289 "On improvement of armament of tanks and SPGs" was signed on May 5th, 1943. It was the starting point for the development of 85 mm tank and SPG guns.

The GAU launched this program even earlier. As of April 28th, 1943, factory #9 already had its orders. Work was also launched at the Central Artillery Design Bureau (TsAKB). Work on the SU-152 SPG with a 122 mm A-19 gun was already underway. This idea was first voiced in March of 1943, after the study of a captured Pz.Slf.V. Finally, in May of 1943, factory #9's design bureau received orders to develop a tank version of the A-19.

The Tiger's appearance only accelerated this work.

Vulnerability diagram composed as a result of the trials. The tank in the drawing is quite clearly Tiger #121.

Another result of the trials was the acceleration of work on the ZIS-2 anti-tank gun. Despite common rumours, this gun was not completely discarded, it was merely reworked. The issue was that this work was not progressing very quickly. The meeting with the Tiger changed these plans. Instead of the IS-1 gun, which had a shorter barrel and altered trails, a new gun was designed, effectively combining the ZIS-2's barrel with the ZIS-3's mount and oscillating part. The 57 mm ZIS-4 tank gun was revived. In addition, the TsAKB began working on the 76 mm S-54 tank gun, as well as a self propelled variant.

In other words, the GBTU and GAU did not sit still. SU-85 SPGs and KV-85 tanks entered production in August of 1943. Production of the ZIS-2 mod. 1943 began even earlier, in July of 1943.

Tigers in the Red Army

Even though the Tiger was first captured in January of 1943, their use in the Red Army was uncommon. There were several reasons for this. First, the Germans rarely left these tanks behind in usable condition, attempting to blow up tanks that could not be evacuated or repaired. Second, remember that there were not that many Tigers. In addition, Soviet tankers tried to destroy Tiger tanks, not disable them, as this guaranteed a high award. Keeping all this in mind, you will not be surprised to learn that the first captured Tiger was used towards the very end of 1943.

Taking inventory of captured tanks. Late 1944-early 1945.

The first crew that is confirmed to have used a Tiger in battle was the crew of Guards Lieutenant N.I. Revyakin from the 28th Guards Tank Brigade. A Tiger from the 501st Heavy Tank Battalion became bogged down in a swamp. Its crew fled, and the tank became a trophy. On the next day, the tank was enlisted into the 28th brigade. Revyakin was appointed as the commander because he had great experience in combat and awards: two Orders of the Patriotic War 1st Class and an Order of the Red Star. On January 5th, the tank went into battle with red stars on its turret and the personal name "Tiger". The tank's career was about the same as in German hands. It constantly needed repairs. A lack of spare parts complicated matters. Later on, the 28th Guards Tank Brigade acquired another Tiger.

Another instance of a Tiger being used happened on January 17th, 1944. Lieutenant A.S. Mnatsakanov's T-34 crew from the 220th Tank Brigade managed to capture a working Tiger mid-battle. Using this captured tank, Mnatsakanov destroyed an enemy column. For this battle, he was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

A KV-1 prime mover tows a captured Tiger.

The situation changed by the spring of 1944. A number of operations supplied the Red Army with a plethora of Tiger tanks. For instance, the 61st Guards Tank Brigade captured two Tigers on March 6th, 1944, at Volochisk, and 13 Tigers and Panthers at Gusyatina on March 23rd. One more Tiger was captured on the 25th. The brigade made good use of its trophies. 3 Tiger tanks were listed as a part of its assets as of April 7th. However, they spent only a few days in action. Most likely these were Tigers from the 503rd Heavy Tank Battalion, famous for losing only one Tiger in the battles of late 1943-early 1944.

Vehicles of the 51st Independent Motorcycle Regiment, July 5th, 1944. Tigers were most widely used by this unit.

This story doesn't end here. The Tigers were sent away for repairs. It is not known where, but there are complaints in the correspondence of the GBTU during the spring of 1944 that there are not enough gun sights and other optics for repairs of enemy heavy tanks. It can be concluded that the tanks did end up in a repair shop. Some of them were sent back to the front at a later date.

Only one unit that received repaired Tigers has been established so far. This was the 51st Independent Motorcycle Regiment. Typically, a motorcycle regiment included 10 T-34s, but this regiment was special. It included a company of captured heavy tanks, consisting of 5 Tigers and 2 Panthers. They were all repaired at Soviet factories. By the start of the Lvov-Sandomierz offensive, the number of Tigers fell to 4. Periodically, 1-2 Tigers would be reported as needing repairs.

The regiment lost 6 T-34-85 tanks in a battle on July 21st, 1944. In return, the enemy lost 2 Tigers, 3 SPGs, and 2 APCs. It's possible that enemy Tigers were knocked out by fire from captured ones. In total, 7 Tigers were destroyed between July 20th and 22nd, at a cost of 7 T-34-85s. The 51st regiment received reinforcements after that. As of July 28th, it had 9 T-34-85s and 4 Tigers. Of the 4, 3 were in need of medium repairs, but were still in running condition. By August 19th, the regiment still had 3 Tigers. After that, the regiment was transferred to the NKVD to deal with OUN groups. The Tigers were taken away.

In total, one can list at least 10 captured Tigers that fought in various Soviet units.


  1. I still don't think can agree with Yuri's conclusions about the KV-1 vs the KV-1s.

    1) What was the hull armor thickness between these two where the shot penetrated in the above photo?

    The WW2 Gun and armor calculator has this thickness being 75 mm @ 30 degrees for all KVs--the KV-1 1941, 1943 (is this right? I thought it would be KV-1 1942 given by 1943 only the KV-1S was being produced), and KV-1S. But there being a BIG difference (120 mm vs 82 mm) between the '1943 KV-1' (again, is this the 1942 KV?) for the turret.

    Ergo, not surprisingly the resistance is the same for the hull but there's a big difference in the turret vulnerability. If you add appliqué armor of 25 mm to the hull to the KV-1 '1943', then it is still vulnerable out to 1500 meters, while the KV-1S is vulnerable well pass 2000 meters, probably at any range the Tiger can hit it. The turrets by contrast show even a more pronounced story--the KV-1 '1943' is only a sure kill for the Tiger at 500 meter while again the KV-1S is a sure kill at almost any range it can be hit.

    (I realize, that given the state of Soviet production at the time, a question of 'what armor does the KV-1 have?' has a highly variable answer, given the fact that different factories were making differently configured KV-1s during this time frame plus some got appliqué armor put on while others did not...I'm adding this as a big caveat).

    2) Even in 1943, Tigers were rare. More importantly, the two tanks are likewise markedly different in resistance to the Pak40, the most dangerous gun in 1943 they would face. To the Pak40 the KV-1 '1943' is vulnerable only to well under 500 m for the turret and maybe 1000 on the hull, while the KV-1S is vulnerable to 2000 and/or beyond on both. Given that Soviet tankers would face the Pak40 a lot, and the resistance to this gun between the two KV models is very different, it sure seems the survivability on the battlefield for the KV-1S takes a big hit.

    3) The big problem was both tanks carried a gun that struggled to penetrate the Tiger. Cutting the KV-1's armor doesn't help that, in fact quite the contrary--you could argue that the KV-1 '1943' at at least a much better chance to survive long-range hits from a Tiger to close to a range where its gun could have a chance, where the KV-1S has no chance at all. While the operational mobility of the KV-1S was better, the tactical mobility of the KV-1S is not that much better so its increased speed doesn't help that much.

    To me it's hard to escape the conclusion that many Red Army tankers reached, that the KV-1S served no purpose. By cutting the KV's armor its only strength was taken away and you ended up with a slower T-34 with no better gun.

    1. Yes the KV-1S was slower then the T-34 despite having similar armor and armament. It's 3 man turret was more able to target enemy tanks then regular T-34s in their two man tanks. Bear in mind the T-34 85 came along with a even larger three man turret and a 85 mm gun which made the concept of a fast KV-1S totally obsolete.

    2. Giving the heavy tank essentially the same gun as the medium in the first place was a less than brilliant design decision, but rather typical of their time of introduction. Just look at those early German heavy projects which were in practice enlarged and up-armoured Pz IVs same howitzer and all, and it's not like the 3" gun on the M6 Heavy represented a phenomenal increase in firepower over the US mediums of the day...

    3. Kellomies Armies move on logistics and as such are reluctant to expand the number of different varieties of ammo it needs to bring to the front. Army Ordnance doesn't always listen or even ask the opinion of their soldiers in this regard.

    4. Yeah well... The nail in the M6's coffin was the blunt fact that it didn't offer enough increase in firepower and combat performance to counterbalance the considerable transportation difficulties that came with the bulk so, yeah.

      TBH while what you say has certain merit it rather seems to suffer from a degree of "throwing the baby with the bathwater" issue. Heavy tanks pretty much by definition are built and fielded in much smaller numbers than lighter types and impose added logistical burdens *anyway*, already in terms of requiring their own spare parts and suchlike. And combat units need metric tons of ammunition in any case (AFAIK the real big eater in that regard was the artillery rather than the "frontline" sections); not having to ship a comparatively small amount of an additional caliber seems like a poor trade for such a limitation on the capabilities of your expensive "elite breakthrough" tanks.

      Also just sayin' but the US certainly seemed to have no issues shipping both 75mm and 105mm (for the "assault gun" variants), plus later 76mm, for their mediums and 3" (plus later 90mm once the M36 hit the field) for their TDs... the other major combatant armies tended to have *at least* as varied munitions requirements, and this just the tanks.

  2. The allies are sure lucky those Tiger Tanks liked to break down as often as they did.

  3. "The side could be penetrated from 800-1000 meters. As for the front armour, the ZIS-2 could not penetrate it from 500 meters. It was not fired from a closer distance, but all signs pointed to the fact that it would penetrate from about 300 meters. Data received from the British confirms this. The British anti-tank gun had a shorter barrel, but higher quality ammunition gave it comparable penetration."

    Considering that the 57mm AP-HE suffered both, upset failure (compression) and nose shatter when striking 80mm RHA (ductile failure mode) at 1000m at 90° -so that only one out of two or three hits effected a hole through (with the projectile unfit to burst)-I´d call it absolutely foolish to believe they could penetrate the front at close range. Already this distance is close to the critical velocity where the inferior domestic soviet AP-HE (45Rc hardness through ca. mid ww2) breaks up. Attack at higher velocity will only increase shatter effects, which is counterproductive to perforation. That´s why the 76mm 3K gun failed, too. It´s not enough to increase the velocity if the projectile cannot negotiate the required stress levels.
    British 6pdr could penetrate the front at short range because they were not damaged as easily and as completely as were soviet domestic AP projectiles and therefore could tolerate the eleveated impact forces.

    But I do not expect You to understand this.

    1. Yet by some foul sorcery the 85mm appears to have had no major problems.
      ʅ ( • ε • ) ʃ

    2. I don't understand if you're talking to me as if I'm some kind of vessel for Pasholok, or if you expect him to read the comments here.

      As always, you have divined information that is not available in the article or the report. No comments regarding the shattering of Soviet 57 mm AP-HE are made. Can you tell me how you performed the seance where you got this information, or is it a special gift?

      >That´s why the 76mm 3K gun failed, too.

      Seems that the spirit you contacted was mistaken, as the report says that the first shot penetrated completely from 500 meters.

      Also you were commenting before about how you agreed with Pasholok's conclusions regarding the comparable penetration of the ZIS-2 and 6-pounder, what happened? Was speaking with the dead so enlightening for you?

    3. "Yet by some foul sorcery the 85mm appears to have had no major problems.
      ʅ ( • ε • ) ʃ"

      Have You checked the pictures carefully? the 85mm failed to penetrate the front from 1.2Km at perfect 90° target angle. Most of the time, this angle is less. Plus, the "penetration" picture at 1000m shows an indentation, not a perforated hole through. Plus, all these are long range / low terminal velocity impact. Why not getting closer? Fire at 200m to check if the projectile can negotiate the high impact velocity without suffering shatter.

    4. The 85mm was good enough for the SU-85 to be a satisficatory countermeasure for the Tiger, I'll remind you... and seriously how often was *two hundred meters* an actual engagement range out East anyway, esp. if your gun could kill the target from much further away?

      Also, "It shell could reliably penetrate the front from a kilometer, and the sides from about 1.5 kilometers." Go fight Pasholok over that. But that sure looks like one DEEP 'indentation'; even if that really isn't a full penetration the spall alone ought to create quite enough Emotionally Significant Events for anyone inside to make the distinction largely academic...

    5. The huge gaping hole punched from 1450 meters is one deep indentation, let me tell you.

    6. You even comprehend what a "shatter gap" is?
      Can You tell me what the relevance of a shatter gap would be in this case? I am curious...

    7. I can at least tell the difference between a dent in armour and a yawning hole...

      As well as actually pay attention to the historical record of the armaments involved, namely that the people who actually fought a life and death struggle with it deemed the 85mm to be good enough for the task at hand. You'll have to excuse me if I consider their empirically validated professional judgement to trump your technical hair-splitting here.

    8. apparently You cannot. There is no calibre sized hole in the picture. I see armor displacement but whether or not the hole is expanded to calibre size is doubtful and cannot be verified from the photo.
      And You fail to understand that already the 76mm F34 was perfectly capable to the task -no 3K needed- the 85mm gun was eventually called for -if the soviets ever were smart enough to produce a high quality AP ammunition for them, as demonstrated by the german 76mm Pzgr rot manufactured for exactly the same gun (they did that- but not before 1953)...

      Yes the 85mm can penetrate the TIGER under relevant conditions (hit the vertical areas at long to medium range under as close to the normal as possible obliquities). It wasn´t the strength of the TIGER´s armor, rather it was the insuffiance of allied AP ammunition which handed an advantage on the battlefield to the Mk VI.

    9. Nice self-contradiction there. You start the first paragraph by claiming the gun doesn't penetrate, then the second one by accepting it does.

      Decide already willya.

      And the Soviets knew perfectly well their shell design could use some work, why do you think their testers routinely noted on the high quality of the Lend-Lease ones? Whether they had the means to pursue such improvements during the war is a different matter entirely; that's just one more item in the long list of things they knew needed serious revising but simply couldn't spare the time and resources for under wartime demands.

      Redoing production lines and industrial processes doesn't happen overnight you know; there's a REASON the Soviets were loath to compromise output with major modifications unless there were serious reasons to. And I'm reasonably sure you're aware of the ad-hoc emergency circumstances most of their heavy industry operated under...

      That the 76mm might have cut it with better shells is irrelevant because they weren't in the position to start making such shells in the first place (unless they liked the idea of interrupting the flow of direly needed supplies to the frontline); conversely the 85mm was already available and in production - if it could do the job as-is then *good enough for now*. They got a bigger HE payload in the bargain anyway.

      Wars are waged with what you actually have, not what you'd like to have. (Something it took the Germans two lost World Wars to learn.)

    10. "-if the soviets ever were smart enough to produce a high quality AP ammunition"

      You keep telling us about the superiority of Germany metallurgy,despite the fact that everyone who tested German armor mentioned how it underperformed its theoretical thickness AND the fact that tests using captured German AT weapons which used the same ammunition actually used by German AT likewise underpeformed to what German tests claim, often by like 20-30 mm when normalized to the same standard. The 88 Kwk36 is like only 2 mm better than the Soviet 85 mm, the Pak40 achieves only like 130 mm at best at 100 meters (essentially like the US 76 mm), and the 88 Kwk is more like 220 mm at 100 meters instead of like 240 or 250. They achieve the same penetration as do comparable Allied weapons firing similar mass shells at similar velocities; there is no German ammo exceptionalism displayed in foreign tests.

      For instance, take Soviet testing, courtesy of Peter:

      So what, did the Germans save all this world-class ammo for testing trials only?

    11. Critical mass doesn't believe in documents that disagree with him. According to him, that document is propaganda. However, British documents must also be propaganda, since according to them 88 mm APCBC penetrates 86 mm at 2000 yards at 30 degrees, while 17-pounder APCBC penetrates 107 mm. Soviet tests credit the KwK 36 with 96 mm at 1500 meters and 88 at 2000 (I don't have a figure for 1800 meters), but the 17-pounder with 100 mm at 1800 meters. In both trials, the 17-pounder is found to be more powerful by more or less the same amount.

    12. I found this tidbit (if you ever run across the report)'s a postwar British publication called "German Tank Weapons" (1946) that stated that normal production German antitank rounds (i.e, the ones actually used by German antitank and tank crews) underperformed against the rounds used in German tank testing by 5 - 10 %.

      The Soviet figure for the Pak40 you cite on your page, by contrast, when normalized for the differences in the definition of 'penetration', agrees pretty well with the mean of other tests that was done by John Salt.

    13. Yup, when you put them in a graph then the curves look pretty damn similar.

    14. "Critical mass doesn't believe in documents that disagree with him. According to him, that document is propaganda. However, British documents must also be propaganda, since according to them 88 mm APCBC penetrates 86 mm at 2000 yards at 30 degrees, while 17-pounder APCBC penetrates 107 mm. Soviet tests credit the KwK 36 with 96 mm at 1500 meters and 88 at 2000 (I don't have a figure for 1800 meters), but the 17-pounder with 100 mm at 1800 meters. In both trials, the 17-pounder is found to be more powerful by more or less the same amount."

      Peter, You lied again. I never said that. Official german penetration for KWK36 at 2000m is 84mm at 30°. That´s fairly close to 86mm in british data for the same obliquity. And yes, the 17pdr penetrates more, that is to be expected.

    15. Again, you prove that you are either unable or unwilling to read. What's important isn't that the 17-pounder penetrates more. What's important is that the difference is about the same in both Soviet and British tests. You claim that Soviet tests do not reflect reality, yet somehow the British come up with the same curves. Why is that, in your opinion?

    16. I suppose You don´t let my post of the soviet and US proving ground data, and official german penetration data, I prepared in response to Mr.Millen´s comments pass?

    17. Right, the spam filter excuse again. I like how you can brew up conspiracy theories but you can't answer a simple question of why the curves look the same if one of them is supposedly made through inferior Russian math and the other through superior Teutonic math.

  4. Also American analysis of a Soviet 76 mm AP-HE projectile concludes that penetration could be increased by increasing the velocity to 3000-3200 fps, or 914-975 m/s. The muzzle velocity of the 3K is 813 m/s. Clearly, the Americans thought that there was plenty of room to grow with the existing projectile, as did the Soviets, as they built not one but two tank guns with 3K ballistics.

  5. The US 76mm M62 broke up, too. A post war report titled "Progress Report No. 1 on Development of High Velocity Armor-Piercing Projectiles, (Dahlgren, Va.: U.S. Naval Proving Ground, 1 November 1947) deals with this problem and found the US 76mm M62 shattering at high velocities, too. The projectiles split and broke up down to the lowest velocity attempted (2423fps or 738.5m/s).

    That Russian uncapped AP was worse doesn´t surprise anyone.
    US reports stating that soviet uncapped AP stays intact at high velocities are in error. Which report are You referring too? They compared their AP with german Pzgr39 and found the latter so superior, that it was suggested to copy the exact hardnes countours.

    I´d also suggest to read pasholoks article more careful:
    "Успешнее показало себя другое орудие калибра 76 мм – зенитная пушка 3-К. Разница, впрочем, оказалась не столь и велика: снаряд 3-К не смог пробить борт башни на дистанции 500 метров."
    Correct Yourselfe, the 3K failed to penetrate at 0.5Km the turret flank, which represents a vatsly inferior level of piercing performance considering that the ordinary soviet 76mm F34 gun fitted with a high quality APCBC-HE (76mm Pzgr39 rot)could penetrate the side reliably out to 1.5Km.

    And for the record, the remains of the broken and compressed base of the 57mm projectile are shown in the photo, with a big, white arrow pointing to it. Facsinating You don´t even recognize a 57mm AP-HE when it´s standing right in front of You.
    Stop writing about things You don´t comprehend and You will hear less from me.

    1. Why are you bringing up completely unrelated American ammunition? I am specifically talking about examination of a Soviet shell (WAL 762/589). Once again I see that you fall back to your position of "I am right, everyone else is wrong, all evidence to the contrary is propaganda".

      RE: 76 mm AA gun: let's take a look at the illustration in the trials, since jpgs aren't too complicated to figure out.

      "Photo #39: impact of armour piercing shells from a 76 mm AA gun on the turret
      1: complete penetration on the edge, the roof bulged up by 50 mm. Range: 500 meters.
      2: 60 mm deep dent, 120 mm in diameter. Range: 600 meters"

      Yes, it truly is fascinating that I go along with what the reports actually say rather than trying to divine my own version of events from random bits and bobs I find in photos.

    2. WAL762/589 stated in regard to 76mm soviet AP:

      "3. As a consequence of the above, the shot would probably tend to fracture in a brittle manner upon impact against moderately severe targets."

      "(...) at all obliquities of attack, particularly when fired from guns designed for low muzzle velocities, (the
      subject projectile has a reported muzzle velocity of 1995 ft/sec.)."

      So here it goes, Your vaunted interpretation. You made it up, AGAIN, Peter. The report states exactly the opposite of what You claimed. It only states that the design of the shot (blunt nosed) is suitable to defeat 3" if fired from 3000-3200 fps. This is to be compared wit 2" penetration the analysists credit the projectile at 600m/s, a pretty dismal performance considering that the lighter 75mm Pzgr39 defeats 3.35" at 600m/s and in between 7.2" and 7.6" at <3100 fps.

      Thanks for the photo. It only confirmed what I wrote.
      Edge penetrations on RHA are because of the free edge effect.

      So actually You confirmed that the 3K 76mm couldn´t penetrate in a fair hit even the sides. Which is what everybody else than a fool would test for.

    3. Right, so what the Americans are saying is that you could radically increase the penetration by increasing velocity, which you insist cannot happen. Also it's very convenient how you ignore that the Americans are talking about penetrating 3" of *highly sloped* armour. Where are you getting 7.2" of penetration of 75 mm AP against highly sloped armour?

    4. Edge effect is a valid point, but keep in mind that as the phenomenom was little if at all understood at the time tank noses were positively *riddled* with exactly such edges. Vision blocks, bow MG assemblies, sometimes entire entry hatches, maintenance openings with plates bolted on... et multiple cetera nevermind now that in only too many cases the whole thing was built out of multiple parts. The corner joints between the horizontal and vertical plates would be a case in point relevant to Tigey here (doubly so for the one in the photo) and par for the course for all tanks with similar armour design.

      That's a lot of weakness zones introduced to the part supposed to withstand the most fire.

  6. Peter, You mix up different penetration mechanics and You try to mix up obliquities. These tests here are for normal obliquity, not for very acute angles. The velocity exponent for penetration are different for different penetration mechanisms, too.
    It´s true, the post war report states highly sloped plate. And against highly sloped plate, most full bore, steel projectile fracture. However, this is a criterium developed after the end of ww2. For that matter, at highly oblique impact, the 75mm Pzgr 39 defeated 5.13" US RHA (intact, no breka up) at the velocities dealt with here, -on the USAPG- which were sufficient for barely 3" credited to the domestic 76mm AP.

    During ww2, the projectiles were judged by their performance on 0° and 30°, not at highly oblique plate. Only Germany also employed 45° proof specifications in autumn 1944 on which it´s 75mm Pzgr39 were acceptance tested. And the document states explicitely that against normal plate, the blunt soviet 76mm shell is inferior and will have a low shatter velocity.

    The effect of increasing velocity is primarely by increasing the degree of projectile deformation / break up /shatter. Initially, very little difference is found between an intact and a broken projectile but once velocity is increased further, a delta is created between curves for intact and curves for broken projectiles, where increasing the velocity does not result in similarely increased penetration. The penetration plateau´s off. This is true even for german Pzgr 39 at velocities usually exceeding the muzzle velocity (>1270m/s from 1944 trials).
    That´s why increasing the velocity does not help much in the cases dealt with HERE: AGAINST FLAT PLATE HITTING PERPENDICULARELY AS IN THESE TIGER ARMOR TRIALS.

    An illustration can be found in Sitz´s article in Lilienthalreport 166 (originally classified SECRET, 1943), p. 109 for 30° impact of two 75mm AP models: The preww2 7.5cm K. Gr. rot Pz and the 1942 introduced Pzgr 39:

    1. That sure is a lot of text that does not address the initial point. You said that performance cannot be improved by increasing velocity. Both the Americans and the Soviets say it can. I don't understand why you consider yourself smarter than the people that actually had the guns and shells in question in their hands, but here we are.

  7. Comprehend this:
    The 76mm F34 couldn´t penetrate the side of a TIGER which is vertical from 500m in a fair hit with 640-680m/s MV
    The 76mm 3K couldn´t penetrate the side of a TIGER which is vertical from 500m in a fair hit with 813m/s MV.

    and now go back to the linked image

    ...and try to synthesize the information. You can put 1000m/s and all You will see is a shattered mark with these bullets due to premature projectile break up.

    We all know, You try to drag in alternative penetration mechanisms by citing highly oblique-references, but no Peter, 0° impact on a TIGER I side cannot be described as high obliquity, stop using straw arguments which bear no relationship to the question at hand.

    1. Right, well clearly it was three teams of engineers that were wrong and only you who is right.

  8. As I showed, the german team actually studied and examined shatter effects before ww2 and fully understood and prevented them by mid ww2 in their service AP. So You were wrong AGAIN, Peter, that must hurt. The US and russians did not until after the end of ww2 and after studying german service AP and war research data leading to adoption of german hardness contours and even reverse engeneered Pzgr39 projectiles adopted for soviet Union by 1953. A sensible researcher would not rely on any expectations, or for that matter calculated claims from services who were still in a pre-shatter-age. But then again, You are not a sensible researcher but an ordinary internet troll without any expertise in the field.

    1. Yup, and Grabin's design team was also trolls, and the GABTU was full of trolls, and the GANIOP was staffed entirely by trolls, trolling all the way to Berlin.

  9. The original writer seems to have missed the fact that in this trial the ZiS-2 gun was fired with (or rather distances computed from striking velocities) muzzle velocity of 900m/s instead of the usual 990m/s for AP shell. For instance, the shots at "1000m" would be equivalent to about 1600m with service propellant charge.

  10. Good morning across the Atlantic!
    Does anyone have or have seen any pictures of the top of this Tiger?