Tuesday 31 July 2018

SU-85 Organization

"Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #0032
On the inclusion of SU-85 self propelled gun regiments into independent tank destroyer artillery brigades in the Reserve of the Stavka of the Supreme Command
August 2nd, 1944

In order to increase the firepower and mobility of fire of independent tank destroyer artillery brigades in the Reserve of the Supreme Command, I order that:
  1. In the 15 independent tank destroyer artillery brigades that are in the Reserve of the Stavka of the Supreme Command, a self propelled artillery regiment with 21 SU-85 SPGs is to be added.
    The overall counts of the brigade will include 1852 men.
  2. The Commander of the Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the Red Army must form and transfer to the Commander of Artillery of the Red Army 15 SU-85 SPG regiments in the following timeline:
    1. 5 regiments by July 20th 1944.
    2. 5 regiments by August 5th, 1944.
    3. 5 regiments by August 20th, 1944.
      Select 15 officers to fill the position of deputy commander of the technical branch.
  3. Chiefs of the NKO Central Directorates are to fill the brigades with personnel, armament, transport, and materiel.
People's Commissar of Defense
Marshal of the Soviet Union
I. Stalin"

Monday 30 July 2018

Firing at Ferdinands

"Characteristics of armour penetration of cannons and effectiveness of mines on enemy tanks
Based on experience of combat and trials
  1. Trials against an 88 mm SPG "Ferdinand" show the following results:
    1. Armour of the SPG: roof: 45 mm, rear: 80 mm, side: 80 mm, front: 200 mm, gun mantlet: 110 mm, front hull: 200 mm.
    2. Effectiveness of firing:
      1. Anti-tank rifles: firing at the side armour from 80-100 meters with the BS-41 bullet penetrates 50 mm of armour forming a 20-22 mm deep indentation. Firing at the tracks can break track pins and the track links. The rifle can penetrate observation periscopes and jam the gun ball mount.

Saturday 28 July 2018

SPG and Fold-out AA Gun

Medium SPGs on the PzIV chassis designed by Krupp engineers were seemingly cursed. The Pz.Sfl.IVa "bunker buster" only had two prototypes built, and work on the Pz.Sfl.IVb ended after a pilot batch. Nevertheless, both vehicles made it to the front lines. The fate of the Pz.Sfl.IVc was similar. Initially, the vehicle was designed as a bunker buster, then as a medium SPAAG. In the end, only one prototype was built, which underwent conversion and was sent to the front.

Thursday 26 July 2018

Tank Killer Payouts

"Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #0387
On rewards for soldiers and commanders who destroy enemy tanks in combat
June 24th, 1943

In order to increase effectiveness in combat with enemy tanks and reward soldiers and commanders for their work in destroying enemy tanks, I order that the following be established:
  1. A reward for each knocked out or burned up tank by anti-tank rifle crews in the amount of:
    1. For the rifleman: 500 rubles
    2. For the assistant: 250 rubles
  2. A reward for each knocked out or destroyed enemy tank by tank crews: 500 rubles each to the commander, driver, and gun (turret) commander, 200 rubles each for others.
  3. A reward for tanks knocked out by any type of artillery: 500 rubles for the gun commander and gunner, 200 rubles each to all other members of the crew.
  4. A reward of 1000 rubles for every soldier or commander who individually knocks our or burns up a tank using individual measures.
    If a group of tank destroyers acted to destroy a tank, then the award is increased to 1500 rubles and is distributed among the group equally.
  5. Instruct the Chief of the Financial Directorate of the NKO to create instructions for application of this order.
  6. The order will enter effect on July 1st, 1943. Report by telegraph.
People's Commissar of Defense,
Marshal of the Soviet Union
I. Stalin."

Wednesday 25 July 2018

More Firepower

"Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #020
On increasing the firepower of tank and mechanized units of the Red Army.
January 10th, 1943

In order to increase the firepower of tank and mechanized units and formations of the Red Army, I order that:
  1. Introduce the following into the units:
    1. Into each Guards Breakthrough Regiment: a platoon of submachinegunners, numbering 33 men and 32 PPSh.
    2. Into each tank brigade: a company of anti-tank rifles following TO&E #010/375 numbering 61 men and 18 anti-tank rifles.
    3. Into tank and mechanized corps: RGK mortar regiment following TO&E #08/106 and RGK self propelled artillery regiment following TO&E #08/158.
  2. Starting with January 1st, raise the salary of personnel of units, formations, and individual groups armed with anti-tank rifles: 100% increase for enlisted men and junior officers, on average 25% to intermediate officers and higher.
    The salary increase will be determined for each position by the Chief of the Financial Directorate of the NKO after agreement with the Commander of the Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the Red Army.
People's Commissar of Defense,
I. Stalin"

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Kugelblitz Study

I previously wrote about a mysterious "German SPAAG" that was shipped to the USSR for study along with the Maus and Sturmtiger. This SPAAG was likely the Kugelblitz. Unfortunately, I have not found any detailed study of this vehicle. The article in the Tank Industry Herald is incredibly brief.

Saturday 21 July 2018

Personal Artillery for a Downed Pilot

Attempts to increase the firepower of an infantryman on the battlefield have been made since time immemorial. From time to time, various compact types of weapons were invented, well made or otherwise. They were often invented not only by professionals, but by people whose duties were far from invention: soldiers, commanders, civilians. The KMB, Baranov's Pocket Mortar, invented by Technician-Lieutenant of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet VVS, G.P. Baranov, belongs to this category.

Before telling the tale of this project, let us step back a little. The lieutenant did not propose something unique. The Germans created and used an analogous design, and a number of hints show that Baranov was inspired by a German sample.

Thursday 19 July 2018

Super T-50

"Calculations of mass of the hull and turret according to technical requirements of the GBTU TU for 1945

On the increase of mass of the T-50 due to thickening the armour (calculations are approximate, measurements were taken from photos of the cutaways of the hull in the proving grounds report).

Mass (kg)
Required thickness
Increase in mass (kg)
37 mm
Comparable with the IS-3
Sides (upper)
37 mm
74 mm
Sides (lower)
37 mm
92 mm
Rear plates
37 mm
74 mm
15 mm
20 mm
45 mm caliber
76 mm caliber


The mass of the T-50 tank is 14,000 kg. When the armour is increased to the thicknesses in the table, the mass of the tank will be 23,900 kg. 

When designing the new tank, it is necessary to also take into account the increase of the mass of the engine by about 500 kg.

Assistant to the Chief of the 2nd Department of the GBTU TU, Engineer-Captain [signature]"

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Sherman Tracks

"To the Chief of the GBTU Tank Directorate, Engineer-Colonel comrade Blagonravov

I additionally report on the issue of quality of M4A2 tanks with modernized suspension. After informing the Americans that M4A2 tanks with serial numbers less than #64926 have defective tracks, serial numbers of tanks in possession of the 16th OTP and the department were checked.

As of May 25th, 1945, the department and regiment have a combined total of 177 M4A2 tanks with modernized suspensions. All 177 tanks have serial numbers below #64926. These are the tanks whose tracks are considered defective.

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Tiger Defender

"Award Order
  1. Name: Agafonov Yakov Grigoryevich
  2. Rank: Senior Sergeant
  3. Position, unit: Gun commander, 1st battery, 1840th Tank Destroyer Artillery Regiment, 28th Independent Tank Destroyer Brigade
    Is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

Monday 16 July 2018

Repair Rewards

"Order of the People's Commissar of Defense
On rewards for personnel of armoured units for quick and high quality repair of tanks
February 25th, 1942

In order to accelerate repair and restoration of tanks currently undergoing light and medium repairs in army level, front level, and military repair units, I order that:
  1. Starting on March 1st, 1942, the following monetary reward for personnel of repair units that can provide quick and high quality repair of tanks in the timelines defined by their commanders is introduced.

    Light repairs
    Medium repairs
    KV tank
    350 rubles
    800 rubles
    T-34, Mk.II, or Mk.III tank
    250 rubles
    500 rubles
    BT, T-26, T-40, or T-60 tank
    100 rubles
    200 rubles

Sunday 15 July 2018

The Birth of the Three-Line Rifle

The history of the Russian model 1891 bolt action rifle, better known as the Mosin rifle or the "mosinka" has spanned over 100 years, but this weapon still fights, and doesn't just collect dust in warehouses. How did the three line rifle come to be, and what came before?

Friday 13 July 2018

Well Aged Browning

The reviews of the Nagant revolver were not particularly thrilling by the end of WWII, and even its replacement, the TT, was no longer adequate. In the search for a new pistol, the Soviets saw a surprising bit of inspiration.

"The design of the Browning 1903 is complex and obsolete. However, the mass, dimensions, and combat characteristics are close to those required of modern so called "officer type" weapons.

The small weight and size as well as the good stopping power of the 9 mm caliber demand attention from designers and researchers to the Browning 1903. It is important to study the characteristics of the Browning, especially now that the requirements for a new pistol (its caliber, power, weight, size, etc) have not yet been set.

See report #406 dated 1941".

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Christmas Present

"Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #050 
On rearming one regiment in independent anti-tank artillery brigades of the Reserve of the Supreme Command with 100 mm guns
December 25th, 1944

In order to increase the firepower of  independent anti-tank artillery brigades of the Reserve of the Supreme Command, I give the order to:
  1. By January 15th, 1945, complete re-arming one regiment in the following  independent anti-tank artillery brigades:
    1. 1st Belorussian Front: 3rd Guards, 8th, 20th, and 41st Brigades.
    2. 2nd Belorussian Front: 4th, 5th, 14th, and 44th Brigades.
    3. 1st Ukrainian Front: 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th Guards Brigades.
  2. Cancel NKO order #0046 issued on November 13th, 1944, regarding the rearmament of one battery in each regiment of  independent anti-tank artillery brigades.
  3. Send this order to the 1st and 2nd Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian Fronts by telegraph.
People's Commissar of Defense
Marshal of the Soviet Union
I. Stalin"

Tuesday 10 July 2018

Mastery Badge

"Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #72
On Establishing Classes of Tank Drivers
November 18th, 1942

Experience shows that successful tank actions depend, first and foremost, on their drivers. Skilful driving of the tank and constant maintenance of it in working order requires significant experience and knowledge. In order to improve the training level of tank drivers and reward the best of them, especially those with significant combat experience, establish the following categories:
  1. Master tank driver
  2. Tank driver 1st class
  3. Tank driver 2nd class
  4. Tank driver 3rd class
The specification for attaining each class is contained in the attachment. 

Tank drivers will be paid an additional monthly reward:
  1. Master tank driver 150 rubles
  2. Tank driver 1st class: 80 rubles
  3. Tank driver 2nd class: 50 rubles
Complete classification of drivers by January 1st, 1943.

People's Commissar of Defense,
I. Stalin"

Monday 9 July 2018

Cheating at Statistics: Coverup at Kovyagi

If there's one trend with SS armour units, it's that their successes seem to be accompanied by sudden and unpredictable failures. Whenever a unit fails to take an objective or is pushed off their lines, it always seems to be accompanied by fantastical achievements that just happened to not have altered the course of battle at all. Let's examine one of these scenarios. As it happens, Forczyk has done all the hard work for me in Red Steamroller.
"On 11 August, Katukov fought his way across the Merchyk River despite desperate efforts by Totenkopf’s Panzergrenadiers to stop him. Then he sent the lead elements of 6 TC and 3 MC south to Kovyagi, which was a station on the Polatva-Kharkov rail line. Getman’s tankers, with some attached sapper squads, succeeded in blowing up several sections of rail track. Priess committed Edwin Meiderdress’ I.SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 to counter-attack Polkovnik Vladimir M. Gorelov’s 1st Guards Tank Brigade, which had just stormed its way into Kovyagi. The result was another vicious meeting engagement and this one went very badly for Totenkopf; one company commander was killed in his tank and two others were badly wounded. However, Meiderdress had better luck against the 22nd Tank Brigade, which only had seven tanks left and its commander, Major Aleksei A. Laptev, was killed in action. Altogether, Totenkopf knocked out 18 Soviet tanks in its counter-attack."
Seems believable, even a little humble for an SS unit to claim only 18 tanks in such a high profile engagement. However, even this is unlikely. August 11th was quite far into the offensive portion of the Battle of Kursk, and leading Soviet brigades were quite exhausted by that time. Let's see how many Soviet tanks were there to face the Germans.

Saturday 7 July 2018

High Caliber Beast Killers

The acceptance of the KV-14 SPG, better known as the SU-152 "Beast Killer", didn't mean that further development of its design ceased. The use of an ML-20 gun-howitzer was, in a way, a compromise, and attempts to install more powerful systems continued. This article will discuss alternative armament for the heavy Soviet SPG: 203 mm howitzer and mortars. The SU-203 could have been one of these vehicles.

Friday 6 July 2018

Night Witches

"Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #0099
October 8th, 1941

Contents: on the formation of female aircraft regiments of the Red Army VVS

In order to utilize female pilots and technical ranks, I order that the following must be formed by December 1st, 1941:
  1. 586th fighter regiment equipped with Yak-1 aircraft according to TO&E #015/174 located in Engels.
  2. 587th bomber regiment armed with Su-2 aircraft according to TO&E #015/159. Form the regiment within the 10th reserve aircraft regiment in Kamenka.
  3. 588th night air regiment with U-2 aircraft according to TO&E #015/186 located in Engels.
  4. The commander of the Red Army VVS must equip the aforementioned regiments with aircraft and women personnel from the VVS,  Civilian Air Fleet, and OSOAVIAKhIM.
  5. Retraining of personnel with their new materiel will be done at:
    1. Pilots: at the formation sites of the air regiments.
    2. Technicians: at the collection point of technical personnel in Moscow.
    3. Navigators and staff: 2nd Post-Secondary Ivanovo Navigator Academy.
  6. The Chief Intendant of the Red Army and Chiefs of the Central Directorates of the NKO are to arm the air regiments with all necessary equipment.
People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR

Wednesday 4 July 2018


"Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #0580
On direction of tanks built by the Stalingrad Tractor Factory to the Stalingrad and North Caucasus Fronts
July 30th, 1942
  1. Mandate that the GABTU send all tanks produced by STZ to the Stalingrad and North Caucasus Fronts.
  2. Form homogeneous independent battalions and independent brigades out of STZ produced tanks: only T-34 tanks without small tanks.
  3. Stalingrad type independent tank battalions will contain 21 T-34 tanks, independent tank brigades will have two battalions plus two tanks for the brigade's commander and chief of staff, for a total of 44 T-34 tanks.
People's Commissar of Defense
I. Stalin"

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Anti-tank Infantry

"Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #0052
On reinforcing the infantry core and anti-tank defenses of rifle divisions

March 16th, 1942

In order to reinforce the infantry core and anti-tank defenses of rifle divisions, I order that:
  1. Each rifle platoon in rifle regiments and divisions is to be reinforced with 3 snipers, 4 sharpshooters, and one light machinegun.
  2. Introduce a training battalion into the rifle division to train junior officers numbering 600 men according to TO&E #04/768.
  3. Independent anti-tank squadrons in rifle divisions (TO&E #04/753) are to be converted to  independent anti-tank battalions (TO&E #04/767) numbering 241 men with 3 batteries of 45 mm guns (12 guns) and a company of anti-tank rifles (36 rifles).
  4. Introduce a company of anti-tank rifles into each rifle battalion (16 rifles), numbering 53 men.
  5. Introduce a third squadron into the rifle division artillery regiment with one battery of 4 76 mm USV guns and one battery of 4 122 mm howitzers. Introduce 15 tractors to tow the howitzers.
  6. Reduce the service personnel by 850 in order to keep the total numbers in a division below 12,785 men and 1850 horses.
  7. Order the Chief of the Main Directorate of Formation and Equipment of the Armed Forces to alter the TO&E of infantry divisions by March 30th, 1942. 
  8. This order will come into force on April 1st, 1942.
People's Commissar of Defense, I. Stalin."

Monday 2 July 2018

A Timely Purchase

Soviet trials of the PzIII medium tank, purchased in the summer of 1940, are frequently discussed by military history enthusiasts. The conclusions that various authors make from these trials seem rather mixed. Let us try to figure out the real influence of the study of a PzIII Ausf.G tank purchased at the dawn of war using archive documents.

Sunday 1 July 2018

Reconnaissance Cats

The last light tank of the traditional variety produced in Germany, the PzII Ausf. F, was removed from production in July of 1942. Nevertheless, light tanks continued to exist within the Third Reich. These were reconnaissance tanks, similar to reconnaissance armoured cars in function. Even the German term "Panzerkampfwagen" was not used to refer to these vehicles. This article will cover German reconnaissance tanks of WWII: Gefechtsaufklärer Leopard, Pz.Sp.Wg.II Ausf.MAN Luchs and Aufklärungspanzer 38(t), none of which were truly mass produced.