Tuesday 31 December 2019

APCR and HEAT Instructions

"Artillery HQ of the 25th Rifle Corps
May 23rd, 1944

To artillery commanders of divisions. Copy personally for the 77th Guards Rifle Division

I send out a copy of instructions issued by the GAU KA regarding the use of 76 mm subcaliber ammunition, 76 mm HEAT, and 122 mm HEAT.

The Corps Artillery Commander orders that:
  1. The instructions are to be taught to all artillery personnel of the units (for the appropriate caliber) before May 27th, 1944.
  2. Personally check the knowledge of these instructions by officers on May 27th, 1944, and report on the results of the check.
  3. Subcaliber and HEAT ammunition must always be stored with the guns and kept in reserve against tanks and SPGs. Do not permit firing at other targets.
Chief of the Artillery HQ of the 25th Rifle Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Solodilov"

Monday 30 December 2019

Tanks in the 7th Guards Army

"To the Commander of the Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the 7th Guards Army

Summary of experience of using tank armament in the Patriotic War

1. Range and means of fire

A typical rate of fire for tanks firing from standstill in defense or from ambush is 600-800 meters. This range allows fire to be precise and allows for knocking out the target with several shells even if it is moving straight at the shooter.

Firing on the move when attacking a defending enemy should done done from all weapons after the tank breaks away from our infantry. The rate of fire should be maximum without regard for hitting. In this case, undershooting is better than overshooting. Keep firing like this until the platoon or even the whole formation enters enemy lines, then finish off strongholds with precise fire.

Saturday 28 December 2019

Small Modernization of a Large Tank

Many tanks received significant upgrades after they first saw battle. Practice often trumps theory, especially during WWII where military vehicles quickly became obsolete. The IS-2 heavy tank was no exception. It was built with enough armour to protect it from the German Tiger tank, but it turned out that there were more dangerous opponents on the battlefield. As a result, a modernized IS-2 tank entered production in Chelyabinsk in late summer of 1944. It is sometimes called IS-2M or IS-2 model 1944, but neither designation was used in reality.

Thursday 26 December 2019

Truck Proportions

There is a commonly held opinion that, without foreign aid, the Red Army would have hardly any trucks at all and would not be able to execute strategic offensives. Indeed, if you compare the amount of trucks produced in the USSR during the war and the amount of trucks shipped in, the amount of the latter is much greater. This creates the impression that the Red Army was almost entirely dependent on foreign aid for trucks.

Wednesday 25 December 2019

Tiger II Intel

Military Mission in the USSR
August 25th, 1944

To the Chief of External Affairs of the NKO, Major General Mister V.N. Yevstigneev

We have received a report on a new type of Tiger tank weighing 67 tons with serial number P280637 captured in northern France.

This tank is of typical German design with a rear engine and front gearbox, turning mechanism, and final drives.

Visually it resembles a large Panther tank. Its armour is made from the same type of cut and welded plates.

Attachment A includes a detailed description of the tank. I would be grateful for any data regarding the use of this tank on the Soviet-German front.

We will send you details and photographs as soon as they are received from England.

Colonel, General Staff, Head of Army Section, British Military Mission in the USSR.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Suggestion for Stalin

"To the Chairman of the Committee of Defense, comrade I.V. Stalin

In June of 1941 the 23 mm aircraft gun designed by us passed trials in an airplane, showing good results firing both on the ground and in the air. In addition to the good performance, NKV experts remarked that the gun is 50-60% simpler to produce than the VYa gun that is currently in production. Half as much time, tools, plants, workers, etc. will be required to make our gun, which is important at this time to ensure defeat of fascism.

Monday 23 December 2019

T-43 Power Up

"To the Deputy Commander of the Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the Red Army, Lieutenant General of the Tank Forces comrade Korobkov
October 20th, 1943

According to your order given on October 4th of this year, a meeting was called regarding the issue of the T-43 tank and the possibility of creating a new medium tank. The meeting was attended by specialists from the Red Army BTU. The meeting came to the following conclusions:
  1. Due to new tanks used by the enemy (Panther, Tiger) with more powerful armour and a higher amount of 75 and 88 mm anti-tank guns, the T-43 would no longer be capable of fully completing its objectives.

Saturday 21 December 2019

Heavy Tank Destroyers that Remained on Paper

The KV-14 (SU-152) SPG was accepted into service on February 14th, 1943. It was designed primarily to combat enemy fortifications, but its first use in combat pitted it against German tanks. Work on tank destroyers on the SU-152 chassis began in the spring of 1943. Even though none of these projects was implemented in metal, the work eventually led to the ISU-122.

Thursday 19 December 2019

New Machine Guns

"State Committee of Defense decree #6721s
October 14th, 1944
Moscow, Kremlin

On the production of modernized light infantry and tank Degtyaryev machine guns

In order to improve the fighting ability of light infantry and tank Degtyaryev pattern machineguns, the State Committee of Defense decrees that:

The People's Commissar of Armament comrade Ustinov and director of factory #2 comrade Fomin must prepare the tools and the manufacturing process for production of modernized light infantry and tank Degtyaryev machine guns before December 1st, 1944, and shift to production of the modernized  light infantry and tank Degtyaryev machine guns in December.

Chairman of the State Committee of Defense, I. Stalin"

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Start of T-54 Development

"Order of the People's Commissar of Tank Production of the USSR #637s
November 1st, 1944

Factory #183 (comrade Morozov) developed a new T-54 medium tank with improved armour. 

The review of the project showed that the new T-54 medium tank retains high maneuverability and mobility characteristics but has significantly better armour and more powerful armament than existing medium tanks.

The presented T-54 medium tank project should be approved and a prototype developed.

Tuesday 17 December 2019

Artillery Wishlist

"Themes for research to inventors and technologists of small arms and artillery for 1943
  1. Develop an a muzzle brake for the anti-tank rifle that also acts as a flash suppressor.
  2. Design a suppressor that can silence a gunshot past a range of 100-150 meters. The suppressor must weigh no more than 1 kg, must be removable from a machine gun without disassembly, must be simple in design, and must have minimum screw threads or deep drilling. The precision of fire must not suffer from using the suppressor.
  3. Develop a method for increasing the lifespan of light machine gun barrels. The lifespan should be 25-30 thousand rounds.

Monday 16 December 2019

IS Debut

"Military Council of Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the Red Army

April 1st, 1944

To commander of the 2nd Ukrainian Front, Marshal of the Soviet Union, comrade Konev

The regiments of heavy IS tanks and ISU-152 SPGs consist of the first tanks and SPGs of this type. As tanks and SPGs of the first production batch, they have a number of minor technical drawbacks, as there is not yet sufficient experience in their use. I ask you to take measures and offer assistance in the matters of studying these vehicles in battle, discovery of their usage and technical drawbacks, and study of the best way to use them in battle.

Saturday 14 December 2019

Tanks to Sleds

GKO decree #1958ss "On production of T-34 and T-70 tanks" was published on July 3rd, 1942. According to this decree, production of T-60 small tanks ceased as of July 5th. By this point these tanks were in production at factories #264 and #37. The first factory, located in Stalingrad, switched to producing hulls for T-34 tanks. Factory #37 in Sverdlovsk switched to the T-70, but not for long: T-34 production started here as well.  

This is usually where the tale of the T-60 tank ends. However, that is not the end of the story. In late 1942 - early 1943 Soviet industry continued to build products made from T-60 armoured hulls. These were armoured sleds, work on which began in early 1942.

Thursday 12 December 2019

T-28 Successor

In 1935, even before the influence of the Spanish Civil War, the Red Army was looking to modernize its tank fleet. The objective of a fast moving convertible drive tank with a diesel engine was only achieved with the BT-7M tank in 1938. 

Wednesday 11 December 2019


"Issues that comrade Marshal Fedorenko, Commander of Armoured and Mechanized Forces, pays special attention to during inspection of units and formations.
  1. Preparation of vehicles:
    The Marshal considers that vehicles are fully ready when the following is achieved.
    1. The full cargo load of cars is calculated and cargo is loaded.
    2. The amount of cars needed to transport remaining cargo is calculated.
    3. The driver of each car has a list of contents, who he has to report to, etc.
    4. Each car has additional barrels for gasoline, water, and oil. Each tank has a barrel of fuel.
    5. When crews enter their vehicles they must act strictly according to the manual. The senior vehicles, flanking vehicles, and observers must know their responsibilities.
    6. Cargo must be loaded into cars carefully and crews placed correctly.

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Leningrad People's Militia

I've previously looked into the effectiveness of the Leningrad People's Militia units hurriedly raised in the summer of 1941. The popular narrative is that they were composed of semi-unarmed expendable "volunteers" sent into the meat grinder to stall the Germans, but the documents tell a different story. Aleksey Isayev confirmed my suspicions.

Monday 9 December 2019

Wishlist Response

"To the Marshal of the Armoured Forces, comrade Fedorenko

The tactical-technical characteristics that you sent are viewed by us as a task to develop new prospective types of heavy tanks that are not yet put into practice in tank building.

As you do not have any objections regarding the requirements for the IS-6 that I approved and confirm that it is necessary to build such the IS-6 with a mechanical transmission, I consider that it is at the same possible to build a tank with an electrical transmission using the same requirements. 

Development of a tank with an electrical transmission will allow us to demonstrate the advantages and specifics of this transmission compared to a mechanical transmission and determine its potential in the creation of more powerful tanks.

We have the following notes about a number of tactical-technical requirements that you provided.

Saturday 7 December 2019

Kotin's Bobtail

In early 1943 the Red Army Main Armoured Vehicle Directorate (GBTU) and People's Commissariat of Tank Production (NKTP) agreed that the age of the KV-1S is coming to an end. Instead, the IS-1 (233), a further development of the KV-13, was to be produced in Chelyabinsk. This tank had the same firepower, but was more mobile and better protected. However, the experimental IS-1 was too unrefined and suffered from assembly issues. In addition, trials of the German Tiger tank showed that the Red Army was in need of a tank with an 85 mm gun. This was how the KV-85 was created, the last mass produced tank in the KV family.

Thursday 5 December 2019

More Power

"State Committee of Defense Decree #6679s
October 10th, 1944
Moscow, Kremlin

On the installation of 520 hp V-11 engines into IS tanks and SPGs

The State Committee of Defense orders that:

The People's Commissariat of Tank Production is permitted to produce and install V-11 engines adjusted to the power of 520 hp at 2000 RPM into IS tanks and SPGs before trials of modernized tanks and SPGs with an improved cooling system are completed.

Chairman of the Committee of Defense, I. Stalin"

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Soviet Zimmerit

"Instructions on combat against German magnetic HEAT mines

Over the last two months of fighting on the Belorussian Front there were many cases of our tanks blowing up when attacked by the enemy.

It was established that:
  1. Tanks blow up only in the event of ammunition detonation.
  2. The ammunition cooks off when the fighting compartment is struck by a magnetic anti-tank HEAT mine.

Tuesday 3 December 2019

What's in a Name?

"Order of the People's Commissar of Tank Production of the USSR #51ss
October 6th, 1941

In carrying out the GKO decree #743ss issued on October 4th, 1941, I order that:
  1. The following are renamed:
    1. Stalin Chelyabinsk Tractor Factory to Kirov factory. Refer to it in full as the "People's Commissariat of Tank Production Kirov factory in Chelyabinsk".
    2. The Sergo Ordzhonikidze Ural Heavy Machinebuilding Factory to the Izhora factory and refer to it in full as the "People's Commissariat of Tank Production Izhora factory in Sverdlovsk".

Monday 2 December 2019

Heavy Tanks vs Heavy Guns

Valeriy Lisyutin posted an interesting set of photos recently, one of which was a knocked out Tiger. These aren't particularly interesting on their own, but it had two things that are usually hard to find: a date and a place. I decided to investigate.