Monday 25 November 2019

Tanks Review

"Exchange of experience in using tank weapons in the Patriotic War

The use of tanks in battle, especially in the winter offensive of 1943, showed several peculiarities of using tanks in battle, their advantages and disadvantages.
  1. Typical distances for firing from a T-34 tank from standstill in defense or ambush is 1000 meters. When firing on the move or from short stops during offensive action the distance is the same.
    The practical rate of fire of the 45 mm gun is 3-4 RPM. For the DT it is one disk (63 rounds) per minute. From the 76 mm gun it is 16-17 RPM. In a cohesive crew the radio operator can help hand ammunition into the turret without being distracted from his work.
    Typically 3-4 rounds are used to suppress an enemy position when firing on the move or short stops. Cases where only 2 rounds are needed from a distance of 800 meters are not uncommon. There were cases where a heavy mortar position was destroyed from 800 meters with just one shot.
    In battle by Kharkov in March of 1943, Captain Tolochniy destroyed 3 German tanks at a distance of 500-600 meters, spending no more than 3 rounds on each. In the same battle he destroyed an enemy SPG with two shots. In the last case he was firing from a standstill against stationary targets.
  2. The most effective fire is from standstill or short stops at a range of up to 1000 meters. Firing from the move is less effective, but still necessary from a morale point of view.
    Firing should be done from all of the tank's weapons. Typically the tank fires on the move at a speed of 15-20 kph. The effectiveness depends on the skill of the gunner (commander). The best trained commanders can deliver heavy damage to the enemy when firing on the move.
    For instance, in the region of Perekopovka (Voronezh oblast) in August of 1942 Senior Lieutenant Kolodtsov destroyed an enemy gun with two rounds and a dugout with 3 rounds firing on the move from 800-900 meters.
  3. During an attack the tank usually discovers the enemy positions by the flashes of enemy guns. These can be seen through optical sights. In the depth of enemy defenses as well as during pursuit observation is performed through the open hatch. Once the target has been located, the gunner tracks it through his sight. It is rare to be harmed while observing through an open hatch.
    Concentration of fire on important targets is usually done through tracer fire, shell fire, flares, or the directions from the commander's tank. Sometimes the company or battalion is pointed at a specific target by radio.
    For instance, in battle on January 19th, 1943, at Voldyrevka a company of T-34 tanks commanded by Senior Lieutenant Okunevskiy caught up with shooting up enemy cars and did not notice an artillery battery off to the side. Senior Lieutenant Okunevskiy concentrated the fire of his platoon through a stream of tracer bullets and shells. The battery was suppressed before it could open fire at the platoon.
    Direction inside the tank is given by voice through the TPU. Within a squad it is given by tracers, shells, and flares in the direction of the target. 
  4. Fire correction at all distances is achieved by setting a fork and then transferring the aim point. The driver greatly assists the gunner in correction by observing the terrain.
  5. Usage of the ammunition in the tank depends on the conditions. There were cases where all ammunition was expended in 20-25 minutes. There were cases where each tank used no more than 9 shells in 24 hours. Usually this happened while pursuing a quickly retreating enemy in the winter through deep snow.
    The average expenditure of one ammunition load is two hours of battle. Crews refill at supply points. There were cases where crews received ammunition from another tank that was either knocked out or could not move for technical reasons.
  6. The most common problems with the 45 mm gun is misfires, the most common problem with the ShVAK gun is jamming, the most common problem with the 76 mm gun is short strokes if very dirty or too heavily oiled. There were cases where the shell did not exit the barrel due to a defective charge and was knocked out with a blank. It is necessary to carry blanks for this purpose.
  7. When firing from domestic tanks the commander observes the battlefield, searches for targets, fires, and corrects the fire. The driver assists with fire correction. The turret commander loads the cannon and machine gun. The radio operator operates the radio, fires the bow gun, and assists the turret commander with loading. If the commander is knocked out he is usually replaced with the turret commander, but there are cases where he is replaced with the radio operator. This depends on the level of training of the turret commander and operator.
  8. The biggest drawbacks and deficiencies of newly arriving crews from reserve regiments and marching companies are:
    1. Weak knowledge of the materiel, armament, and their tanks.
    2. Weak training in firing and correcting fire, especially on the move.
    3. Cross-training is not performed.
    4. Turret commanders, not to mention radio operators, do not know optics and cannot use them.
    5. There is not enough practical driving training.
      To improve the effectiveness of the crews it is necessary to teach them to place all instruments and spare parts in their proper place, and not wherever they want, and get rid of all extra weight in the tank (personal belongings, other items not necessary for battle).
  1. T-34 and T-70 tanks showed themselves well in battle. In skilled hands they are dangerous weapons against fascist forces.
  2. Newly arriving crews are not well trained enough and are not fully prepared for fighting.
  3. Visibility from domestic tanks is insufficient. It is difficult for crews to observe the battlefield and find their way around.
Chief of Staff of the 36th Tank Brigade, Zubkov
Deputy Chief of Staff for Operational Work, Major Drozdov"


  1. Are the practical rates of fire correct?
    The 76 seems very high, especially compared to the 45

  2. I was completely confused as well, until I realized that it must be the 45mm in the T-70's one-man turret. It had the same terrible problems as the French tanks--the commander/gunner/loader had to take his eye off the sight to load, then re-acquire the target.

    It's impressive how terrible a setup that is ..

    1. TBF it did wonders to keep turret diameter ergo hull size ergo weight and cost down, and the cons weren't that big of an issue in infantry-support work - MG nests, bunkers and towed guns aren't particularly agile targets. It was when you had to start fighting other AFVs that problems became serious.

      It's probably not a coincidence the one-man jobs correlated pretty strongly with intended infantry support role while the more generalist "cavalry" designs started getting at least two-man turrets from fairly early on.

  3. "When firing from domestic tanks the commander observes the battlefield, searches for targets, fires, and corrects the fire.
    ... The turret commander loads the cannon and machine gun"

    It's no wonder no one knows if the commander was the gunner or the loader when it's written like that.

    There can only be one commander in the turret so why would they write the turret commander loads the gun when the commander also operates the gun?
    Considering the the commanders periscope is at the same side as the gunner sight it's clear that the commander was the gunner and not the loader.

  4. This was indeed confusing. There were two commanders? First, the "commander", which was the gunner, and then the "turret commander", which was the loader? Who was really in charge?

    1. I think it's an archaic term that old times kept using into WWII, it disappears from use by the end of it.

  5. You are right KillKiwi. I told someone wrong about what the tank commanders job was because of that confusing description.

    1. I'm currently going though award orders for Sherman crews in the summer of 1943, and the designations are even more confusing. There is one tank where as far as I can tell the loader is designated "machine gunner". The assistant driver is called "machine gunner - radio operator" as per standard Soviet practice.

  6. In terms of T-70 rate of fire- on Polish DWS internet forum I found information that Soviet 45 mm guns have problem with correct case ejection during usage of HE ammo.

    1. Sounds plausible. To fill as much explosive into the shell they had to thin the walls, which means less propellant unless you wanted the shell to disintergrate inside the barrel, which means less chamber pressure to actually work the recoil mechanism and shell ejection.
      A surprising number of guns have similar problems, from 152mm Howitzers of different types having sort of interchangable ammo (using shells from a shorter one in a longer one but with less propellant caused similar issues), or the G36 assault rifle having terrible problems with blanks hence they need a special device on the muzzle for those.