Thursday 28 February 2019

Tank Archives Turns Six

Hello, dear readers! Another year of running this blog went by. And what a year it was. I finally got past the medium of text, appearing in not one, but two podcasts by Military History Visualized: one on kill claims back in May, and one more recently on Soviet impressions on the Pz.Kpfw.I tank. In case you missed them the first time around, I'm embedding the videos under the break.

Twitter has taken off pretty well. I'm well over the 1000 follower milestone, sitting at 1322 at the time of writing. The main blog is also doing well, right up against 4 million total views. Seems that my audience demographics have stabilized: USA at a distant first, followed by the UK, Germany, Russia, Canada, Poland, France, Finland, Australia, and Spain.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

HE vs Tanks

"Due to a shortage of armour piercing shells presently experienced by artillery units, the practice of firing other types of ammunition out of 76.2 mm divisional guns is common.
  1. Armour piercing shot. Penetrates the armour of German tanks from any direction. Insufficient beyond armour effect. Fire and destruction of the tank are only caused if the engine, fuel tank, or ammunition is hit.
  2. Steel cased HE grenade. Can be used in combat against light (in some cases medium) tanks. Aimed at the sides during oblique movement or the turret ring, it destroys or tears off side armour in addition to jamming the turret and destroying mechanisms inside the turret, including optical sights and observation devices. In a number of cases the turret stopped traversing. When howitzers are used, light tank turrets were torn off.

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Man Hours

"Order of the People's Commissar of Tank Production #117-Ms
January 16th, 1942

Lately, many directors and chief engineers do not dedicate necessary attention to the issues of improving technologies, introducing new progressive technological processes, increasing amounts of instruments, etc, as a result of which time expenditure at various factories is unbearably high, which causes extra demand in tools and manpower.

For example:
  1. The T-60 tank takes 2500 hours to produce at factory #37, but 4700 hours at factory #264, 1.9 times greater.
  2. A V-2 diesel engine takes 2700 hours to produce at factory #76, 1800 hours at the Kirov factory, but at factory #75 the same diesel engine is produced in 600 hours.
  3. The Krasnoye Sormovo factory takes 2500-3000 hours more to make a T-34 tank than factory #183 took in its time and the Stalingrad factory does now.
It is clear that, instead of carefully and systematically working to reduce costs of producing vehicles, instead of getting technologies and use of tools in order, instead of training workers, many directors and chief engineers take the path of least resistance and complete plans only by increasing the number of tools and workers. The People's Commissariat cannot and will not support this kind of extravagance.

I order that:
  1. Chiefs of the production and planning departments must provide me with the standards for time consumption to produce KV, T-34, T-60 tanks, hulls for them, and the V-2 diesel engine, taking the leading factories as a baseline.
  2. After standards are established, calculate the requirements for equipment and workforce.
  3. The technical department (comrades Ginzburg and Rybkin) must transfer the experience of leading factories in lowering the labour requirements to factories that are falling behind.
  4. Directors and chief engineers of tank, hull, and diesel factories must:
    1. Within ten days re-evaluate the excessive time consumption and develop specific measures of improving production technologies with the goal of reducing time consumption.
    2. Force existing technical, technological, and labour calculation departments to work properly. Warn the leaders of these departments that their work will be evaluated based on the reduction in times it takes to produce each vehicle, and not by the number of requests for new equipment or new workers.
Again, I'm warning directors and chief engineers of factories that, in time of war, we need to maintain strictest economy of tools and labour force. Directors who consider their duty to complete the plan "at any cost" must be told off. The plan must be carried out with minimal costs, not "at any cost".

People's Commissar of Tank Production, V. Malyshev"

Monday 25 February 2019

Canadian Shermans Inside and Out

By the time the M4A2E8 entered production, the Americans had no intention of using these tanks in their own army. While WWII continued, these tanks were supplied to the USSR. Afterwards, the remaining tanks were sold to Canada for a pittance, and formed the backbone of domestic tank forces for many years. As a result, there are plenty of M4A2E8 tanks still kicking around in Canada, many of them still running. The LeBreton Gallery in the Canadian War Museum has two: one of them slightly worse for wear than the other.

This is the one that works...

Saturday 23 February 2019

Romanian Czech with a Russian Accent

The Romanian tank fleet was largely composed of Skoda Š-II-aR tanks (an export version of the LT vz. 35), accepted into service as the R-2. 126 units were purchased in 1938-1939. Fighting on the Eastern Front served as a cold shower for the Romanians. For instance, the 1st Tank Division lost 81 R-2s by the end of 1942. It was clear that these tanks could no longer be used in their initial form. The surviving 40 tanks were pulled out into the reserve.

Thursday 21 February 2019

Savin's AA Turrets

"Order of the People's Commissariat of Tank Production #26s
January 15th, 1942
  1. To director of factory #174, comrade Katsnelson: immediately stop the work comrade Savin is performing on the T-50 SPAAG.
    Designers from Savin's group are to be moved to factory #183 immediately to perform this work on the T-34 tank. All existing materials and technical documentation is to be immediately sent to factory #183.
  2. To director of factory #183, comrade Maksarev: include Savin's group of designers into the factory's staff. Ensure that comrade Savin's group can complete its work in the following times:
    1. Complete the project and working blueprints by March 15th, 1942.
    2. Produce a prototype by May 1st, 1942.
    3. Begin trials on June 1st, 1942.
  3. To deputy chief of the NKTP technical department, comrade Ginzburg: transfer materials in possession of the NKTP on work performed by Savin's group to factory #183.
Deputy People's Commissar of Tank Production, Kotin."

Wednesday 20 February 2019

F-34 Installation

"Technical Meeting Minutes
Held on September 8th, 1940, at the State Order of Lenin Comintern Factory #183

  • Factory #183 Chief Engineer, Makhonin
  • Factory #183 Deputy Chief Designer, A.A. Morozov
  • Factory #92 Senior Engineer-Designer, P.F. Muravyev
  • Factory #92 Technician-Designer, B.G. Lasman
  • Factory #183 Senior Engineer, Maloshtanov
  • ABTU Military Representative, Military Engineer 3rd Class, Baikov
Topic: comrade P.F. Muravyev's presentation regarding the possibility of installing the 76.2 mm F-34 tank gun in the T-34 turret and the conversion of the T-34 turret made necessary by the requirement that the F-32 and F-34 be made interchangeable.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Factory #183 Experimental Work

"To the Chief of the 4th Department of the BTU, Military Engineer 1st Class, comrade Afonin
December 1st, 1940

Summary of experimental work at factory #183 in November of 1940

Trials of A-7M tank #0314-2 with surrogate parts:
  1. Iron casing of the distributor shaft rather than aluminium alloy.
  2. Horizontal spring rods.
  3. Electrical wiring without liners.
  4. Fuel tanks coated with zinc by schooping rather than tinning.
  5. Gearbox with an iron casing. This gearbox was removed after 353 km after large cracks developing in the casing.
  6. Final drive components.
  7. Idler components and other small parts.
In addition, the following were installed:
  1. Unified main clutch.
  2. Unified oscillating levers of the turning wheels and other small parts.
The vehicle has travelled for 1488 km by December 1st, 1940, trials will continue in December.

Saturday 16 February 2019

Can Poland Into Tanks?

Having broken away from its collapsing "big brother", Poland recalled its once serious military and political ambitions. In certain people's minds, Poland would rise to the status of a regional superpower at the very least, which meant it needed an army to match. Polish engineers began working on a new generation of airplanes, helicopters, AA systems. Plenty of attention was directed at armoured vehicles as well.

Friday 15 February 2019


"Attachment to order #113-Mss
Approved by GKO decree #1148ss issued on January 14th, 1942

Requirements for quality assurance at tank factories
  1. Quality assurance is performed by the military representative of the GABTU.
  2. A tank can be considered accepted after firing the cannon and machineguns, test drive, correction of discovered defects and complete installation of equipment.
  3. The quality assurance process consists of:
    1. A 5 km drive for every T-34 and KV tank and 10 km drive for every tenth T-60 tank, chosen by the military representative.
    2. Firing the cannon on every tenth T-34 and KV tank and on every T-60 tank. Coaxial machineguns are fired on every tank.
      In addition, the military representative can control the quality of individual components and assemblies, as well as the quality of assembly of the tank.
  4. The military representative is permitted to accept tanks without clocks, voltmeters, ammeters (replaced with an indicator light), speedometers, aerothermometers (except one), turret fans (in winter time), turret traverse motors for the T-34, intercom (replaced with signal lights), spare containers, and radios in the event that there is a temporary absence of these parts at the tank factory."
RGAE 8752-4-8 p.169

Wednesday 13 February 2019

By Any Other Name

The AK is subject to a number of ongoing raging discussions, one of which had to do with its name. Some claim that there was no such thing as an AK-47, with the name of the gun being simply AK, later replaced with the AKM. Sound logic, but it is not confirmed by documents, which use the name AK-47 extensively. For instance, the manual.

Internal documentation uses the indexes AK and AK-47 to refer to the same item interchangeably. From a list of experimental works of the NKV for 1951:

"Increasing production rate and quality of mechanical finish on parts and assembly of new types of weapons. Development of new high production rate processes of finishing parts and assembly of the AK-47 system.
  1. Development and agreement on blueprints.
  2. Development of high production rate technical processes for mechanical finishing and control of AK-47 parts (factory #74 and NITI-40).
  3. Development and distribution in the Q1 of 1950 of technical tasks for design of new equipment and modernization of old equipment. GSPI-7 is to receive a task for design of transport devices and planning (NITI-40 jointly with factory #74) by August 1st, 1950.
  4. Development of transport devices, planning of equipment, and composition of technical-economical metrics (GSPI-7 jointly with the factory).
  5. Production of harnesses, experimental trials and implementation of labour intensive processes (see topic 104-102 for equipment) in 1950.
  6. Development of a project to organize and launch production of a new product (AK-47) and partial execution in 1950 (NITI-40).
  7. Production and implementation of the remaining harnesses and equipment, as well as introduction by NITI-40 of new processes for the production of the AK-47 system, development of guiding materials for the organization of assembly line production.
  8. Composition of a joint technical report."
4 pages later, we see:

"4. Execution of trials of an optical calibration system for the AK, correction of working blueprints, correction of the prototype in metal, correction of the optics, introduction of the device into production, composition of a technical report with trials and acceptance documents."

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Leaning by Doing

"December 13th, 1939

To the Assistant of the Chief of the General Staff of the RKKA, Corps Commander comrade Zaharov
RE: your #57129s/s

It is not possible to perform battlefield trials of the KV, SMK, T-100, A-20, A-32, T-40, A5, A7M tanks or the BA-11 armoured car in 1939, as the experimental KV, SMK, and T-100 tanks are currently undergoing proving grounds trials.

Experimental prototypes of the A-20, A-32, T-40, A5, A7M tanks, and the BA-11 armoured car passed proving grounds trials, and the factories are now making changes to blueprints based on the results of the trials, in order to produce pilot batches.

Only tanks and armoured cars produced in 1940 will be sent to battlefield trials. 

Modernized T-28 tanks will not undergo battlefield trials, and will be issued to regular Belorussian Military District units. 

The modernized T-26 tank has a new suspension, but the turbocharged engine has not yet arrived, and therefore battlefield trials will be postponed until 1940.

The SBT bridgelayer tank will be transferred to battlefield trials in December of 1939.

On the orders of Assistant Chief of the ABTU, Corps Commander Pavlov Panfilov
On the orders of Military Commissar of the ABTU, Brigade Commissar Kulikov"

Monday 11 February 2019

Getting Ahead

"To the People's Commissar of Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union comrade Timoshenko
CC: Chief of the GABTU, Lieutenant-General Fedorenko
November 27th

RE: acceptance of 143 T-34 tanks with 25 degrees of gun elevation

The Ilyich Mariupol factory began producing armoured parts for the T-34 before mass production blueprints were approved, and  built a batch of turrets using the experimental blueprints with the GABTU's permission, i.e. with 25 degrees of gun elevation.

Saturday 9 February 2019

SU-100, Czechoslovakian Style

Domestic tank and SPG designs took a downturn in post-war Czechoslovakia. The cause of this was more technical than political. Czechoslovakian engineers could not keep up with the changing requirements of the Czechoslovakian military. As a result, Czechoslovakia began licensed production of T-34-85 tanks in September of 1951. A similar situation took place with medium SPGs. Just under 800 SD-100 SPGs, licensed clones of the SU-100, were built.

Thursday 7 February 2019

Captured Panzerfausts

"To regimental commanders and their political deputies:

On the initiative of the political department of the 2nd Tank Army, captured Panzerfausts have been widely used in the forces of the 1st Belorussian Front.

The use of this weapon against the enemy led to very effective results on several occasions.

In order to improve the application of this type of weapon against the enemy, I order that:
  1. Spread experience of using Panzerfausts captured from the enemy in battle among your unit or formation.
  2. Organize the collection of Panzerfausts on the battlefield and precisely maintain their inventory. Organize training of personnel in using this weapon against the enemy.
  3. Dedicate at least 2-3 instructors in your unit to train soldiers, sergeants, and officers on how to use Panzerfausts.
Report on your experience in using the Panzerfaust against Germans and the completed work in carrying out this order by March 8th, 1945.

Commander of the 4th Guards Tank Division, Guards Major-General Millerov
4th Guards Tank Division Political Department Chief, Guards Lieutenant Colonel Halimov."

Wednesday 6 February 2019

L-11 Installation

"To: AU, ABTU, 520, AU Military Representative at factory #183

The installation of the L-11 system in the A-34 tank can be done without changes to the following parts only:
  • Gun barrel
  • Recoil mechanism
As for the remaining parts, all of them must be changed to some degree, largely covered by the following:
  1. Group 02: breech
    1. The semiautomatic cutoff mechanism is removed and the roller cutoff mechanism from the L-10 is installed.
    2. The breech handle is shortened by 20 mm.
  2. Group 03: trigger mechanism
    1. The hand trigger is different, and the attachment point is different.
    2. The hand trigger (pedal) is used from the 45 mm gun.
  3. Group 05: gun shield
    1. The gun shield is completely different, including a coaxial machinegun. The telescope mount from the old gun shield is used, but with changes. The elevation mechanism sector is different.
  4. Brass catcher: a new one with smaller dimensions (on the left side) will be used, with a trimmed stopper and a new carrier.
  5. Frame: the L-11 frame is removed completely. The gun is mounted on two vertical posts welded from the inside to the front of the turret, replacing the frame.
  6. Mantlet: a new one based on the changes to the gun shield and carrier.
  7. Elevation mechanism is used from the L-11, but with small changes.
  8. The periscope link is from the 45 mm gun.

Tuesday 5 February 2019

A Different Angle

There is a strangely prevalent opinion in some circles that everything there was to know about WWII was already known, and that any new information is completely unnecessary revisionism. Those people are naturally wrong, as illustrated pretty conclusively by Yuri Pasholok. Something as fundamental as a measurement went uncorrected for decades.

Monday 4 February 2019

Panther's Side

The Panther's thick front armour could not be penetrated by any Soviet tank gun in use in 1943. This immunity, however, did not apply to the side armour, which turned out to be vulnerable to even the rapidly ageing 45 mm gun.

The sloped part of the sides proved a tough nut to crack. The 45 mm gun doesn't work here, and hits from 300 and then 100 meters do not penetrated. However, other parts of the tank can still be penetrated from this side: the turret has two holes in it from 45 mm APCR (300 and 400 meters) and one from 45 mm AP (400 meters). The vertical side of the hull (unfortunately not pictured) can be penetrated from 500 meters. The rear was also penetrated from 300 meters (also not pictured).

The 76 mm gun has no issues with this armour at all, however. Even firing at an angle of 60 degrees, from 600 meters the armour piercing shell penetrated the side armour. The sloped hull did poorly against this weapon, as you can see, forming a fairly sizeable breach. Despite the thick front plate, even an ordinary T-34 would not have to flank very far to be able to destroy its much heavier opponent.

CAMD RF 38-11469-40 p.22

Saturday 2 February 2019

Modernization, Polish Style

The 7TP, a Polish modernization of the Vickers Mk.E, was the pride of Polish tank building in the interwar period. Skilfully combining products of the Swiss Saurer company (who made the engine) and the Swedish Bofors company (who made the gun), Polish designers significantly improved the characteristics of the initial tank. The 7TP design also included a number of Polish creations, including the excellent Mk.IV periscope. Polish tanks fought German tanks as equals in the 1939 campaign, and many of them later served in the German army. A number of the tanks ended up in the USSR as trophies, where they were studied.