Monday 30 April 2018


Here's a rather interesting analysis of the Tiger's commander's cupola by British tankers. It's no secret that the British weren't huge fans of German observation devices, but here is a pretty thorough list of its deficiencies, backed by a handy diagram.

Sunday 29 April 2018

Where Infantry Can't Pass

History enthusiasts are familiar with Winterketten and Ostketten track links for PzIII and PzIV tanks. The use of these track links was a necessary measure to increase mobility in the snow and on wet, soft soil. The history of these track links did not particularly attract historians, but at the very least their existence is widely known. There are photos of German tanks with these track links and they are fond in the ground on battlefields. However, nothing is known of equivalent development in the Red Army. Let us try to fill this gap.

Saturday 28 April 2018

SU-152: From Assault Gun to Tank Destroyer

Work on Soviet SPGs assigned at the plenum of the Artillery Committee held on April 14-15th reached their logical conclusion by the end of 1942. The light SPG concept turned into the SU-12, designed by factory #38's design bureau and S.A. Ginzburg (the future SU-76). The most promising medium SPG was the U-35, designed at UZTM. By the end of December, the first vehicles of the pilot batch were complete.

The heavy SPG was in a more difficult situation. The project that started as the "212" bunker buster radically changed several times. The ZIK-20 SPG was to go into production, but the process dragged on. Even a model of the casemate was not completed on time, to say nothing of the SPG itself. In the end, another vehicle was developed, the KV-14.


Last year Tank Archives broke into a new medium, coming out in print. This year I've made another leap, this time into audio, taking part in Military History Visualized's podcast on kill claims vs actual losses. Long-time readers might find some of the content familiar, but there's plenty of fresh stuff to make it worth listening to. Keep an eye out on that channel, there will be plenty more of me to come!

Friday 27 April 2018

HOA Nightmare

"HQ of the 12th Guards Order of the Red Banner Shepetov Tank Brigade
November 12th, 1945


Issued to mechanic-driver Guards Starshina Nikolai Fedorovich Agapov, to certify that he purchased with his own money the T-34-85 tank on which he fought German fascist invaders with the 12th Guards Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov, Order of Kutuzov Shepetov Tank Brigade.

Chief of Staff of the 12th Guards Tank Brigade, Guards Lieutenant-Colonel Dudnev."

Wednesday 25 April 2018


"May 27th, 1944
To the Chief of the GBTU Tank Directorate, Major-General of the Tank Engineering Service, comrade Afonin

Report on the issue of firing from the T-34-85M tank equipped with a PT-3 mine roller

According to orders from Deputy Chief of the GBTU, Lieutenant-General of the Tank Engineering Service comrade Lebedev, the NIBT Proving Grounds installed a PT-3 mine roller on a T-34-85 tank and determined the ability of firing from the tank after the detonation of a German TM-35 mine under the roller on May 26th and 27th, 1944.

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Manufacturing Difficulty

"Completion of quota at factory #200 in August of 1944

In August of 1944, the factory was instructed to produce:
  • IS-2 hulls: 200
  • IS-2 turrets: 200
As of September 1st, the factory delivered and QA accepted:
  • IS-2 hulls: 120
  • IS-2 turrets: 120
The quota for August was completed by 60%.

This significant shortfall of production is explained mainly by exceptionally poor output of the metallurgical plants that were supplying armour, as well as mass food poisoning of assembly and mechanical plant workers in the cafeteria.

Considering that the poisoning had some effect on the output of the factory, the People's Commissar of Tank Production permitted the extension of the due date for the August quota until September 5th and supply of workers from mother factories, delivered by airplane, without reducing the quota for September.

The total quota for August and five days of September is:
  • IS-2 hulls: 175
  • IS-2 turrets: 175
The timelines for completion of the August quota are outlined in table #1.

In September, the factory must produce:
  • IS-2 hulls: 200
  • IS-2 turrets: 200"

Yuri Pasholok writes that the annual report accounts for 200 hulls and turrets produced in August, so presumably the shortfall was made up for in September completely.

Monday 23 April 2018

Tiger Air Filters

"F.V.D.D. Cover Sheet to Test Bay Report No.4248
Performance Tests on Two-Stage Air Cleaner - German Tank Pz.Kw.6 (Tiger)


The performance of a two-stage air cleaner removed from a captured German vehicle was ascertained in the course of a general investigation of enemy air cleaners.

Sunday 22 April 2018

T-70B: A Light Modernization of a Light Tank

GKO decree #1394 "On production of T-70 tanks at the Molotov Gorkiy Automotive Factory" was signed on March 6th, 1942. Work on improvement of the T-60's armament resulted in a completely new tank that used many of its predecessor's components, but was superior to it in every respect. Of course, it was not a perfect replacement for the T-50, which fell victim to production issues. Nevertheless, it was suitable for the role of a light tank. The T-70 became the second most produced light tank, after the American Light Tank M3 family. This article tells the story of the T-70B, the modernized version of the light tank.

Saturday 21 April 2018

The First Coming of the IS-2

The 122 mm U-11 gun designed in the fall-winter of 1941 was rather controversial. Its designers succeeded in their task of installing a gun with the ballistics of the M-30 in a minimally altered KV-1 turret. However, the howitzer had a low rate of fire, and its penetration characteristics were poor. As a result, the planed KV-9 batch remained on paper. Nevertheless, the GABTU did not give up on the idea of a howitzer tank. Despite opposition from the GAU, work on howitzer tanks continued in 1943.

Thursday 19 April 2018

Composite Hull

"[cut off] September 1942
To GABTU BTU, Engineer-Colonel comrade Alymov
To the head of the 3rd Directorate of the NKTP, A.A. Habahklashev

RE: manufacturing item #70-145304-A2 from two parts

Due to a lack of 35 mm thick plate 1232 mm in width, we are forced to produce item #70-145304-A2 from two parts with a perpendicular joint.

We have the agreement of military representative at factory #180, Engineer-Colonel M.S. Bazumov, to produce 40 units.

We ask for your permission to continue producing this item from two parts.

Attachment: blueprints (1 copy)

Acting factory director Orlov"

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Clear the Air

"January 27th, 1941
Order of the People's Commissar of Medium Machinebuilding and People's Commissar of Heavy Machinebuilding

Stationary trials performed at factory #75 of air filters for V-2 tank engines produced at factories ##75, 174, and 183 showed that the air filters do not satisfy the requirements for air filters established by Committee of Defense decree #428ss issued on November 19th, 1940.

Considering the exceptional importance of equipping V-2 tank diesels with functional air filters, I decree that:

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Far East Conversions

"To the Chief of the Tank Directorate of the GBTU, Major-General of the Tank Engineering Service, comrade Afonin

RE: your letter #822338 written on May 23rd, 1944

I report that:
  1. As of June 1st, 1944, the Armoured and Motorized Forces of the Far East Front have applied applique armour to 128 BT-7 tanks, 113 of which were converted in 1942-43 and 13 in 1944.
    Since no proper quality armour was available, applique armour is only installed at factories during refurbishing. Armour of written-off tanks was used. Contoured armour for turrets is not available.
  2. As of June 1st, 1944, 130 T-37/T-38 tanks have been converted to ShVAK guns. Further work to re-arm T-37 and T-38 tanks ceased due to an absence of ShVAK guns.
  3. Repair factories #405 and #77 are converting two-turreted T-26 tanks into single turreted. As of June 1st, 1944, 35 tanks have been converted.
  4. The following is necessary to continue work on rearming and adding applique armour:
    1. Contoured armour for BT-7 turrets.
    2. ShVAK guns.
    3. TMFP-1 sights.
    4. Equipment to convert two-turreted T-26es to single turreted (turrets, turret platforms, turret rings, etc).
  5. Rearmament and installation of applique armour is not being planned due to a lack of aforementioned armament and parts.
    All BT-7s refurbished by the repair factories are being equipped with applique armour.
Acting Assistant to the Chief of the Armoured and Motorized Forces of the Far East Front, Engineer-Major Ryabov
Acting Chief of the UK ORT of the Armoured and Motorized Forces of the Far East Front, Engineer-Major Sviridov"

Monday 16 April 2018

Peak vs Mean

Previously, I discussed in detail what Soviet rate of fire tests actually measured. Long story short, the difference between the peak rate of fire (loading from the ready racks) and the average rate of fire (loading from all racks) was quite pronounced. Soviet figures reflected the latter scenario, which is why their rates of fire seem significantly slower when ROF figures are compared as is.

Let's take a look at another example: the Firefly, specifically the Sherman Ic. I've seen all sorts of figures on its rate of fire, from ten to twenty (!) rounds per minute. British tests, on the other hand, tell a different story.

Sunday 15 April 2018

The Winding Road to Nowhere

The French were the first to master the production of SPGs. These vehicles missed WWI by only a few months. Enthusiasm for SPGs died down after the war ended, and France only returned to this topic in the 1930s. This article tells the story of French SPGs built on medium tank chassis, specifically the SOMUA SAu 40, which nearly made it into production.

Thursday 12 April 2018

Kalashnikov Acceptance

"Order of the Red Banner Scientific Research Small Arms and Mortar Proving Grounds of the Main Artillery Directorate of the Armed Forces (NIPSMVO GAU VS)

January 15th, 1948
Shurovo, Moscow oblast

Report #374
On the issue of: trials of 7.62 mm assault rifles using the mod. 1943 cartridge designed by: Kalashnikov, Bulkin (TsKB-14) and KB-2-MV.

Annotations: The 7.62 mm assault rifles designed by Kalashnikov, Bulkin, and KB-2 (Dementyev) to use the mod. 1943 round were built according to specifications #3131 issued in 1945 and were presented for proving grounds trials a second time, after improvements recommended by the GAU NIPSMVO and GAU USV, based on the results of the first trials (see NIPSMVO report #232-1947).

The overall view of the assault rifles can be seen in the photos.

Wednesday 11 April 2018

PzIV Ausf. H Intel

"Report on new types of tanks and SPGs according to reports by prisoners of war and armoured staff reports as of July 20th [1943]
  1. The suspension, engine, and transmission of the modernized T-4 tank are the same as the regular tank of this type.
  2. The hull has the following changes:
    1. The front of the tank has the following applique armour:
      1. The lower front plate and sloped front plate are protected by track links, held onto the armour by clamps or bolts. The upper front plate of the tank is protected by a 20 mm thick armoured plate, positioned about 200 mm in front of the main armour, and attached by welding.
        As such, the T-4 tank uses spaced armour.
      2. The sides of the tank are protected by 4-4.2 mm thick plates, four plates per side. Each plate hangs on three carriers, bolted to the side of the tank and the fenders. The bent ends of the carriers fit into slots of the 8 plates, and are additionally attached by one bolt that is screwed into a bracket welded to the upper carrier.
        The side plates are made up of very soft armour or iron. The edges are cleanly finished. The plates hang outside of the suspension, about 500 mm away from the sides.
      3. The tank turret is protected in a similar way (aside from the gun mantlet) with 8 mm thick armoured plates, affixed to carriers, which are welded to the turret. The spacing between the plates and the main turret armour is 380-480 mm. The rear of the turret (and the stowage box) is protected by 4-4.2 mm thick plates, similarly affixed to the turret armour with the same spacing.
        Like the side armour, the material is either very soft armour plate or iron. The edges are also cleanly finished.
      4. The rear of the hull has no applique armour."

Tuesday 10 April 2018

T-60's Future

"Minutes of a technical meeting discussing factory #37's proposal to equip the T-60 tank with a new turret with a 45 mm tank gun and thicker front armour

Present: regimental commissar comrade Vorovbyev, Engineer-Colonels comrades Alymov and Pavlov, Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonels comrades Rogachev, Kovalev, Nenarokov, and Solonin

Presenting: telephone message from Engineer-Colonel comrade Afonin containing factory #37's proposal.

Complaints: comrade Pavlov claims that the increase in the tank's mass will reduce the performance of the already strained transmission of the tank. The torque will be insufficient and the off-road performance will be insufficient.

Monday 9 April 2018

PzIII Battle Damage

Appendix "A" to AFV Technical Report No.11 
Dated December '42
The following abbreviations have been used in the section dealing with Pz.Kw.III:
  • sa: Spaced armour
  • dfp: Driver's front plate
  • man: mantlet
  • nf: prepared but not fitted
Thus sa(nf)man means that the mantlet was prepared for spaced armour, but it was not actually fitted.

Saturday 7 April 2018

Heavy Tank from Pennsylvania

The American army had the largest fleet of heavy tanks in the world at the start of the 1930s. Unfortunately, these were obsolete Mark VIII tanks, also known as "Liberty". They were built to British specifications using experience learned from the First World War, but these tanks came too late to fight. No heavy tanks were built in the US after the war was over. Work on this topic only resumed after the start of WWII. The result was the Heavy Tank M6, the first truly domestic heavy tank design.

Thursday 5 April 2018

Theory and Practice

I covered the precision of the ML-20S gun-howitzer before, but numbers on a table are not quite as fun to look at as the trials themselves. Here are the results from the same gun mounted in a SU-152.

"Results of precision trials, February 2nd 1943
Left group: firing from 1000 meters
Right group: firing from 500 meters."

Via Yuri Pasholok.

Mosin vs PPSh

"Jume 16th, 1943
To the Chief of Staff of the 28th Army

1. Totalling up the reports of unit commanders from the division regarding whether or not infantry squads should have rifles or the PPSh, I report that:
  1. The PPSh is the most effective weapon of the infantry squad.
  2. Saturation with the PPSh should be no more than 50%. Leave rifles in the hands of excellent marksmen and snipers (preferably sniper rifles with optical scopes to shoot at a range of over 400 meters). 
Division Commander, Guards Colonel Dobrovolskiy
Chief of Staff, Major Panin"

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Manufacturing Limbo

"On the T-80 tank: 8 T-80 tanks were built in March and 9 tanks were started, which already have suspensions, engines, and transmissions. Final assembly is stalled due to a lack of armour, elevation, and turning mechanisms. Out of the 17 started vehicles, only 7 have fully turbocharged engines, the other 10 have half-turbocharged engines: with old compression ratios and a cast iron cylinder head. The first 8 vehicles have been broken in, are fully equipped, and are only conditionally accepted while work on the additional return mechanism for AA firing is performed.

It must be said that the factory is dedicating very little attention to the topic of organizing T-80 production due to a lack of production plans.

Senior Military Representative of the GBTU at the Molotov GAZ factory, Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonel Okunev."

Monday 2 April 2018


"To the Chairman of the NKV Technical Council, comrade Satel
To the Chairman of the GAU Artillery Committee, Lieutenant-General comrade Hohlov
To the Head of the NKVD 4th Special Department, Commissar of State Security comrade Kravchenko

October 2nd, 1943

NKV special telegram #5014 sent on September 24th of this year tasked NKV OKB-172 and Molotov factory #172, as instructed by the People's Commissar of Armament and GAU Chief, to produce an SPG with a 122 mm gun that fired a 25 kg shell at 1000 m/s.

SU-12: The Ill-Fated SPG

Sverdlovsk (modern day Yekaterinburg) was the cradle of Soviet wartime SPG building. The concept of light and heavy assault guns (SPGs) was developed here. However, neither the light nor the heavy SPGs developed here were put into production. One of the reasons for this paradox was the publication of GKO decree #2120 "On the organization of T-34 production at the Uralmash factory and factory #37". According to this document, Sverdlovsk was to produce T-34 tanks instead of the T-70 tank, on which all of their light SPG designs were based. The SU-31 and SU-32 SPGs were left without a production base. All work on SPGs was transferred to factory #38 in Kirov. This was the start of the tragic history of the SU-12, the first SPG to be known under the more famous index SU-76.