Monday 2 August 2021

Chief Designer of the 1930s

When one lists Soviet tank designers, M.I. Koshkin is usually remembered first as one of the main authors of the T-34. He is usually followed by A.A. Morozov, who succeeded Koshkin as the Chief Designer of factory #183 in Kharkov and in Nizhniy Tagil after the evacuation. Zh.Ya. Kotin, the author of many tanks from the KV-1 to the IS-2, also ranks highly. N.A. Astrov, the creator of the T-40, T-60, T-70, and other light vehicles is slightly less famous. However, if one explores an earlier period of Soviet tank building, one will see many other much less known names. Their obscurity is largely due to their complicated history.

One such history belongs to the main character of today's article, Semyon Aleksandrovich Ginzburg. He oversaw the creation of the most numerous and most successful Soviet tanks of the interbellum era: the T-26, BT, T-28, and T-35. As the Chief Engineer at factory #185 he directed the creation of a number of tanks and SPGs. His designs include the T-50 light tank and SU-12 (SU-76) SPG, which played a fatal role in his career. Let us recall this man, whose contribution to Soviet tank building was truly immense. The war for his tanks began back in 1936 and finished in August of 1945 in the Far East.

Chief designer of the first wave

Even though Ginzburg's career as an engineer-designer began in 1929, a whole decade after the start of the work on the Russian Renault, one can confidently refer to him as a tank designer of the first wave. Soviet tank building was started by "old school" engineers via trial and error. These were men such as S.P. Shukalov, the head of the GUVP Technical Bureau (later reformed into the Arms Arsenal Trust Main Design Bureau or GKB OAT). Most of them received their education either before the revolution or in the first few years of Soviet rule and began working on tanks already after they finished studying. The GUVP Technical Bureau functioned as a training center that propelled many of its former employees to great heights in tank building.

Military Engineer 2nd Grade S.A. Ginsburg, 1937.

S.A. Ginzburg's foray into tank building began differently than those of his colleagues. His surviving autobiography allows us to see just how different. Semyon Aleksandrovich was born in Lugansk on January 18th, 1900, and could not expect the kind of education he ended up receiving. He was born in the family of a printing press worker, a member of the VKP(b), active revolutionary, and participant in the Civil War. After finishing primary school in 1913 Ginzburg began working and studying wherever possible. Primarily before the revolution he worked as a courier.

In 1918 Ginzburg enrolled in the first year of a business school, but his fate changed drastically in January of 1919 when he joined the Red Army as a volunteer. Ginzburg joined the VKP(b) in November of 1919 in Simbirsk. He served in the light artillery squadron of the 3rd Rifle Division. After the division retreated to Voronezh, Ginzburg enrolled in the Artillery Command School of the Southern Front. He finished his studies in July of 1920 and was appointed as a platoon commander in the 1st battery of the 3rd Light Artillery Squadron of the 52nd Rifle Division. In it, Ginzburg fought at Kahovka and took part in the assault on Crimea.

Ginzburg continued his studies in 1921, this time in the 4th Kiev Artillery School. He fought against Makhno's forces after graduating in the same 52nd Rifle Division. He continued to study to be a commander in 1922, first at the Rostov Command Courses, then in the Krasnodar school. After the artillery school was disbanded, he was moved to 1st Leningrad Artillery School. That same year Ginzburg joined the RKKA Artillery Academy (renamed F. E. Dzerzhinsky Military Technology Academy in 1926). He finished the academy in 1929 as a tank specialist. As you can see, Ginzburg ended up in the tank field after following a rather convoluted path. He was one of the first Soviet tank designers who studied to be one.

After finishing the TEKO courses Ginzburg was sent to the Directorate of Mechanization and Motorization where he oversaw trials of the Vickers Mk.E (referred to as V-26 in Soviet documents) among other things.

After graduation, Ginzburg was sent to the Bolshevik factory as an engineer-designer. This was the only factory in the USSR that built tanks at the time. Mass production of the T-18 (MS-1), the first mass produced indigenous Soviet tank, began that year. His tenure at the factory (or rather its first leg) was brief. The Directorate of Mechanization and Motorization (UMM) formed on November 3rd, 1929. Tank forces were separated out into their own branch. TEKO (Technical Courses of the Osoaviakhim), the very same courses where German tankers studied, began earlier that year. It is well known that not only Germans attended those courses. 65 Soviet commanders went through TEKO, including 8 engineers. Ginzburg was one of the first, having finished the courses in October 1929. This contributed to his experience, as he witnessed German Grosstraktor medium tanks that entered trials at Kazan in 1929. By 1930 he was a highly qualified specialist.

One of Ginzburg's first assignments at the UMM was the review of the T-19 support tank. He is sometimes credited as the author of the T-19, which is not the case.

S.A. Ginzburg's further work was linked to the UMM, which he joined in early 1930. His first mention in UMM correspondence is dated March 5th, 1930, in relation to the T-19 tank. A number of military historians credit Ginzburg with the development of the T-19. This is not the case, as he represented the UMM, or the customer in this project. The T-19 was developed jointly by the Bolshevik factory design bureau and GKB OAT. The chief designer of this project was Shukalov, the chief engineer was G.S. Prakhye. Further events showed that Ginzburg did not defend the tank. The information that Ginzburg started his career under Shukalov's supervision is also false. Semyon Aleksandrovich never worked at the GKB OAT. The two men worked on opposite sides of the proverbial table.

Trials of the V-26 (Vickers Mk.E). Ginzburg directed these trials on behalf of the UMM.

Another commonly repeated mistake is Ginzburg's alleged participation in the trip abroad that was led by UMM chief I.A. Khalepskiy in 1930. This commission was formed to purchase foreign tanks, returning with 20 Carden-Loyd Mk.VI tankettes, 15 Vickers Mk.E Type A, and 15 Medium Tanks Mk.II. It also obtained some information about the A6 Medium Tank and the A1E1 Independent. Khalepskiy reported that the commision included Scientific-Technical Commission (NTK) member Begunov, while Ginzburg stayed behind and represented the UMM in the development of the T-19 and T-20 tanks. Work on these vehicles lagged behind schedule, and so the "Vickers 6-ton" was considered a backup plan. It was likely then that Ginzburg, a member of the NTK, placed his bet on the British tank. He was also appointed as the head of the test group that conducted trials of the Vickers Mk.E tank. This vehicle could replace the T-18. It had inferior armament, but surpassed it in every other way. The Medium Tank Mk.II was also a viable candidate, as the situation with the T-12/T-24 was nothing short of a catastrophe. The British medium tank was deemed obsolete and too hard to produce, and the idea of building the Medium Tank Mk.II in Kharkov was quickly binned.

A decision was made to produce the Vickers Mk.E tank. The altered vehicle was put into production as the T-26. Ginzburg played a key role in the production of this vehicle.

A rift formed between Ginzburg and Shukalov over this decision. Shukalov lobbied on behalf of the GKB OAT, arguing that domestic tanks should be developed even if they were worse than foreign ones. This was opposite to the UMM's opinion. The Red Army needed a modern tank that matched its requirements, and lots of them. The T-19 and T-20 were not those tanks. The UMM's investigation even showed that Shukalov's men tried to sabotage trials of the V-26 (it's no wonder that it started to stall in trials in late 1930). Even sabotage could not save the T-19. On February 13th, 1931, the V-26 was accepted into service as the T-26.

Ginzburg's KB-3 design bureau was created at the VOAO (All-Union Arms Arsenal Union) shortly before that, on January 28th, 1931. This enraged Shukalov, who criticized the whole idea in general and Ginzburg in particular in a long letter to Khalepskiy. Letters didn't help. The GKB OAT was moved under Ginzburg, including Zaslavskiy, Shukalov's deputy. Ginzburg ended up as the first chief designer who studied to be a tanker. He was the first of many. The F.E. Dzerzhinsky Military Technical Academy was reformed into the I.V. Stalin Military Academy of Mechanization and Motorization in May of 1932. Zh.Ya. Kotin, A.S. Yermolayev, and other well known Soviet tank designers graduated from here.

Chief designer of the early 1930s

1931 turned out to be a busy year for Semyon Aleksandrovich. He was UMM's one-man firefighting team, tasked with solving the most difficult problems. It turned out that Ginzburg was linked to all of the Red Army's main tanks. In addition to the T-26, Ginzburg was directly responsible for the BT-2. He was the head of the Special Design Bureau at the Tank and Tractor Department of the Kharkov Locomotive Factory from May to July of 1931. The factory went through a whole series of changes under his tenure. Initially it was supposed to produce the T-24 tank, and then, when the project stalled, the idea of producing the TG-1 tank came up. Grotte's creation turned out to be no better, and so it was decided that the Soviet variant of the Christie Convertible Medium Tank M1940 would be produced here. This task was given to Ginzburg. A decision was made by the Defense Commission of the USSR on May 23rd, 1931, to accept this tank into service as a fast tank destroyer. This day is considered the birthday of the BT-2 tank. Ginzburg and 14 other designers from the VOAO KB-3 were urgently sent to Kharkov.

Work on the project documentation was complete on July 26th. Ginzburg returned to Moscow in August of 1931. His spot at the head of the design bureau was first taken by N.M. Toskin (another UMM employee) and later A.O. Firsov. Not only was the birth of the BT-2 linked to Ginzburg, but their paths crossed again and again, usually when it came to turrets.

BT-2 and T-26 tanks on exercises.

VOAO KB-3's chief designer had plenty of work upon his return to Moscow. Ginzburg paid another visit to TEKO in 1931, this time to collect documentation and reports on trials of German tanks. In addition to the aforementioned Grosstraktor, the Leichttraktor prototypes were being tested at Kazan at the time. Ginzburg's trip to Kazan was a fruitful one. The German tanks were rather poor overall, but several design elements were worthy of imitation. This largely applied to the Leichttraktor, whose turret carried a cannon with a coaxial machine gun and a periscopic sight. Both solutions were adapted for use in Soviet tanks. Welded hulls and turrets were also of interest, as the Izhora factory was implemented welded MS-1 hulls at the time and getting ready to produce welded T-26 hulls. The tank intercoms, radios, and rail antennas were also of interest. The Germans couldn't imagine how much the Soviets copied from their tanks. Years of work were saved. The BT-2 was supposed to be the first to get a coaxial machine gun, but this solution was not implemented for various reasons.

Leichttraktor Krupp and Rheinmetall at the TEKO proving grounds. These tanks as well as the Grosstraktor served as donors of various solutions.

One of the VOAO KB-3's duties was supporting the launch of the T-26 into production. Work on brand new tanks was carried out in parallel. The failure of the T-24 and TG-1 led to the start of work on a new medium tank. This time the object of imitation was the Vickers Medium Tank A6. Some information on this tank was available, but the British did not want to sell it to the USSR. Meanwhile, the Grosstraktor was available for inspection. It was unsuitable for copying directly, but a number of its components were quite interesting. The new medium tank project was indexed T-28. The British tank was taken as the starting point: i.e. the new tank would have 3 turrets (one main one and two with machine guns) and weigh 16 tons. However, some elements were borrowed from the Grosstraktor tank. This included the suspension, some observation device concepts, and turret traverse motors. Ginzburg led the development of the T-28, joined by O.M. Ivanov (at the time another designer from VOAO KB-3).

The T-26's two man turret was in part the result of German experience.

In case of the T-26, the VOAO KB-3 worked on improving the armament. The UMM was not satisfied with a machine gun only tank. Installing the 37 mm Hotchkiss gun into the right T-26 turret was a temporary measure, as was work on the 37 mm B-3 gun. It was clear that a new two-man turret was needed. The German experience came in handy here. A new gun mount featuring the 37 mm B-3 cannon and coaxial DTU machine gun for use in a two-man turret was developed at the Bolshevik factory by the end of 1931. This design was very reminiscent of the one used on the Leichttraktor. Similar work was also done in 1932. The tank branch of the Bolshevik factory was moved out to a separate organization on February 16th, 1932: Voroshilov factory #174. OKMO (Experimental Design and Machinebuilding Department) was formed at the factory for such work. It was led by N.V. Barykov who previously oversaw work on the TG-1 tank. Ginzburg became the Chief Designers at OKMO in parallel with his job at the VOAO KB-3. This situation continued until the VOAO KB-3 was moved to Leningrad and merged with the OKMO. This process finished in the fall of 1932.

The T-28 was the result of thorough analysis of German and British medium tanks. The overall concept was British, but the armament (especially the initial version), engine, suspension, and various other components have German roots.

Work on the T-28 moved with them. Barykov led the project overall, Ginzburg was the chief designer, Ivanov was the chief engineer. Nearly the same team developed another tank, the T-35. This was a backup option for a breakthrough tank. The military wanted a completely different tank, something like the FCM 2C (a 65 ton and then 90 ton tank with powerful armament and thick armour). Development dragged on and the tank turned out to be too expensive, and so another vehicle appeared: a lighter and cheaper one, approximately the equivalent of the A1E1 Independent. This work was the continuation of the TG-1 program that Barykov took part in, but the new 35 ton tank was not like either the TG-1 or the A1E1 Independent. This tank was accepted into service with the Red Army in 1932. The first T-35 tank had a driver's cupola like the one used on the Grosstraktor Krupp and the 76 mm PS-3 gun designed by P.N. Syatchinov, OKMO's leading developer of tank and SPG guns.

The T-35 had a number of design solutions copied from German and British vehicles. Like the T-28, it was the best in its class at the time.

The T-37 amphibious reconnaissance tank was another vehicle developed in part by Ginzburg and Barykov. This was not the same T-37 that we know today, but a further development of the T-33 tank (also developed under Ginzburg's direction) using the Vickers-Carden-Loyd M1931 amphibious tank as inspiration. The USSR bought 8 of these tanks in 1932. The T-33 was developed essentially by looking at photographs and referring to a tractor on the same chassis purchased in 1930. The experimental T-37 was the predecessor of the tank that was eventually accepted into service with the Red Army in 1933, although judging by documents this tank was also accepted into service in 1932. As you can see, Semyon Aleksandrovich Ginzburg had a direct connection to all tanks that formed the backbone of the Red Army's interbellum tank fleet: the T-26, BT, T-28, T-37, and T-35. This service was rewarded by the UMM. Ginzburg received the Order of Lenin in October (other sources say November) of 1932. Barykov and Ivanov also earned high awards.

The first tank to receive the index T-37. This tank served as the foundation for a mass produced tank of the same name.

In 1932 the OKMO became the center for tank and SPG development. A high workload led to the creation of a separate factory. The OKMO was split out into a separate factory, Kirov factory #185, by November 1st, 1933. Barykov became its director and Ginzburg remained as the chief designer. Most work on new tanks slowly concentrated at factory #185. For instance, the work on the convertible drive T-29 tank and PT-1A amphibious tank was moved here in 1934. That same year V.N. Tseits moved to Leningrad. Factory #185 had an influence on BT series tanks as well. It is no coincidence that the cylindrical turrets of BT-5 and BT-7 tanks were so similar to those used on the T-26. Work on amphibious tanks continued, but none of them replaced either the T-37A or the T-38. Factory #185 also served as a training facility. Koshkin began his career here. He can very well be considered Ginzburg's student, as he worked under Ginzburg for a time, largely on T-29 production. Other famous factory #185 alumni include I.S. Bushnev, G.N. Moskvin, and L.S. Troyanov.

T-29 tank. This tank was developed into a mass production model by factory #185. Even though the work was completed, it was not put into production.

Factory #185 worked on a wide variety of topics in 1934. In addition to finishing off the T-29 and PT-1A, it was responsible for the T-26-4 artillery tank, various special vehicles on the T-26 chassis, and the convertible drive T-46 tank that was supposed to replace the T-26. The "small triplex" SU-5 SPG was developed on the T-26 tank, as well as the SU-6 SPAAG armed with the 76 mm 3-K gun. Soon after they were joined by the AT-1 "artillery tank", a light assault gun with the 76 mm PS-3 gun. The SU-14 heavy SPG and SU-8 SPAAG were developed on the chassis of the T-28 tank. The "large duplex" SU-14 SPG was developed on the chassis of the T-35. Work on a series of tank engines was performed here. The convertible drive amphibious T-43 tank was also developed at this factory. This kind of workload was definitely not of any benefit to the factory. Subcontractors (for instance, factory #174) often neglected their own work. Development of the T-26, especially that of the engine, was a low priority task. Why bother, if the T-46 was coming to replace it? The BT tanks were also developing slowly. The T-28 was stuck for the same reason: factory #185 was supposed to deliver its replacement, the T-29.

The T-46-1 was supposed to replace the T-26 in production, but never entered production for various reasons, some of which are not the factory's fault.

This state of affairs led to a poor situation in the late 1930s. Sure, the T-46-1 and T-29 turned out to be very complex, but consider that the ABTU also tossed some fuel into that fire. Nevertheless, the T-46-1, T-29, SU-5, AT-1, and SU-14 (as well as the SU-6, according to some sources) were accepted into service in 1936. Factory #185 was also tasked with production of the SU-5 pilot batch (the SU-5-2 was accepted into service). The factory delivered 4 vehicles in 1935, 26 in 1936, and 4 SU-6 prototypes in 1937 (the Izhora factory delivered 6 hulls). The T-46-1 and SPGs on its chassis were supposed to be built at factory #174, the T-29 at the Kirov factory, and SU-14 at factory #183.

The SU-5-2. This SPG was accepted into service as the SU-5. Factory #185 built 30 vehicles of this type. These were the first mass produced light SPGs in the world and the first to be used in combat.

A powder keg was starting to form. Formally, the vehicles were accepted into service, factory #185 produced prototypes, trials were finished, but mass production did not begin. Ginzburg received the Medal of Merit for the T-46-1, but this same tank nearly dragged the chief designer down with it. Factory #174 did not manage to put the tank into production, meanwhile the ABTU was demanding production of the T-46-3 with sloped armour. Even worse, factory #174 did not meet quotas for T-26 production. 95 AT-1 vehicles were due in 1937, but there were no guns for them, as the PS-3 was still in an unrefined state. Factory #183 was having trouble with the SU-14 for a variety of reasons, some of which had to do with the design. The SU-5 was a victim of circumstance. When it came time to make up for shortfalls in T-26 production, this vehicle was cut. Syatchnov, the author of the SU-5, SU-6, SU-14, AT-1, and PS-3 was in hot water. He was one of the first victims of the purges among tank designers, arrested on December 31st, 1936, and executed on May 6th, 1937.

The SU-14 SPG was never put into mass production. It was supposed to be built at factory #183, but this never happened.

1937 was a time of terror for Soviet tank designers. It didn't come from nothing. Of course, execution was too harsh a punishment for the many cases of questionable spending and corruption. Lead engineers were chiefly the ones punished, but Ginzburg was also rounded up by the NKVD. He was arrested on November 7th, 1937, and remained under investigation until April 22nd, 1938. The investigation turned up nothing criminal. In case of SPGs the fault lay with Syatchinov, in case of the T-46 with lead engineers Simskiy and Siegel. In case of the T-29 the fault lay with Tseits, but mostly with the management of the Kirov factory that failed to put the tank into production and also failed to deliver on T-28 quotas. Factory #185 was not at fault, as its designs were accepted into service. This factory also produced the USSR's first tracked SPGs, the SU-5. These vehicles served for a long time and saw combat. Neither Ginzburg nor Barykov were harshly punished. Ginzburg's rights were restored after the investigation, but he did not return to the role of lead designer at factory #185.

Back on top

Repressions and investigations of 1937-1939 led to high turnover at tank factories. In many cases, the position of chief designer changed often. This also applied to factory #174. K.P. Gavruta and S.I. Shlagman occupied this position in 1938-early 1939. Ginzburg was leading one of the design departments at factory #174 at this time. Finally, Semyon Aleksandrovich became the chief designer at factory #174 in May of 1939. His predecessors remained at high posts within the factory. It is often said that Ginzburg was working on the T-100 tank at this time, but that is hard to believe, since his name or signature do not appear in any documents related to this vehicle in 1938. In practice, factory #185 either changed directions in 1938 or did not work on this vehicle at all. Ginzburg's most modern vehicle at factory #185 was the T-46-5. This was not the case for factory #174.

The T-26-5. The T-26 tank could have looked like this if production continued.

The situation with the T-26's replacement was as hopeless in the spring of 1939 as a year prior. The STZ-25/STZ-35 tanks that were supposed to replace the T-26 after the T-46-1 failed were no better, and in some cases even worse. The T-100 and SMK-1 were supposed to replace the T-28 and T-35 as breakthrough tanks, but Kirov factory's SKB-2 developed the KV-1 tank based on the SMK-1 and factory #185 developed the 050, a "cut in half" T-100. Factory #183 was working on the A-20 and the A-32, its tracked variant.

Meanwhile, factory #174 worked on modernizing the T-26. Ginzburg was working on the T-26-5 with the Czechoslovakian suspension. The KhT-134 chemical tank was also developed at this time. Clouds gathered over factory #185 by September of 1939. The question was obvious: who needs a factory that produces nothing and whose designs do not make it past the prototype stage? The factory was safe while the T-100 and T-111 were in the works, but the danger was already on the horizon. Unlike his former colleagues, Ginzburg was once again gaining influence within the ABTU. For instance, the cessation of preparation for A-20 mass production was done not without the influence of his report, where he outlined why there was no need for a convertible drive tank. His argument was not without merit. The A-20's death was not an attempt to clear the road for a new infantry support tank. These requirements were formed back in the spring of 1939, but work was not in high priority until the start of the Winter War.

The first variant of the SP-126. It recycled a lot of the experience gained when working on the T-26-5.

The Winter War revealed many issues with Soviet tanks, primarily their protection. Applique armour was rapidly developed for the T-26, but it only solved the problem partially. Requirements for a new infantry support tank with shell-proof armour were composed in a hurry in early 1940. Factories ##174 and 185 as well as the Kirov factory received orders for this tank. The former produced several proposals: the simple T-125 and T-127 and two variants of the T-126. Factory #174 took into account its experience with the T-26-5, although it turned out that none of these projects satisfied the ABTU (as of 1940 the GABTU). The new SP-126 tank with the V-3 engine (half of a V-2), torsion bar suspension, and a T-34-like hull was developed as a result. This tank won the tender for the new support tank. Factory #185 lost all of its tenders and was no longer necessary, and so it was reunited with factory #174 in August of 1940. Barykov was put in charge of the 8th GPI and the designers moved from factory #185 to factory #174. The information that Ginzburg was demoted to a department chief is wrong. He indeed led department #20, but remained the chief designer in 1940 and 1941. G.V. Gudkov, who is often credited as the chief designer at factory #174, only rose to this rank in 1942 after the factory was evacuated to Omsk.

The T-50 can be considered the best light tank of the era, but there was not enough time to set up mass production.

The SP-126 evolved into the T-50, one of if not the best light tanks of the era. The mobility compared to the SP-126 increased, the commander was now a dedicated crewman, and many other improvements were made. Ginzburg remained the chief designer on the project, L.S. Troyanov (another factory #185 alumni) was the chief engineer. The T-50 was a great candidate for an SPG chassis, and indeed these SPGs were developed at factory #174. The tank was unlucky. Even though it was accepted into service on April 16th, 1941, war broke out two months later. The tank was without an engine. Factory #75 was just putting the V-4 (an improved V-3) into production, and the start of the war hit its output hard. This was the main cause for the T-50's death. Officially it was cancelled on January 6th, 1942, but the writing was on the wall in late 1941. Ginzburg attempted to stand up for his project, but it didn't help.

Fatal SPGs

Factory #174 was given the task to produce a light infantry support SPG shortly before the start of the Great Patriotic War. Two-turreted T-26 tanks served as the chassis, as 1200 of them were available for conversion. This vehicle was indexed T-26-6. The T-26-8, a SPAAG on the same chassis, was ordered as well. Both SPGs were built in metal. Only two T-26-8 were built, but the T-26-6 (or SU-26) was a much more common vehicle. It was built at the S.M. Kirov Lifting and Transport Equipment Factory using repaired T-26 tanks. This was the first wartime mass produced SPG. The SU-26/T-26-6 fought until the summer of 1944.

The T-26-6 was designed in the summer of 1941 and produced in small numbers in Leningrad.

Factory #174 delivered 50 T-50 and 116 T-26 tanks (assembly from existing parts resumed after the start of the war) before evacuation. It was evacuated in August of 1941. The factory changed locations several times and finally "landed" in Omsk in 1942. The infantry support tank was replaced with the T-60 based on the T-40. Ginzburg treated the small reconnaissance tank with scepticism, and for a good reason. The combat effectiveness of the T-40 was equivalent to that of the LB-62 armoured car that was supposed to go into production in the summer of 1941, but it became the victim of circumstance like the T-50. Ginzburg lost his position as chief designer once again, but he did not remain without work. The People's Commissariat of Tank Production was formed on September 11th, 1941. It was headed by People's Commissar of Medium Machinebuilding V.A. Malyshev. Zh.Ya. Kotin became one of his deputies, and Ginzburg became Kotin's deputy in turn. At the time, his title was "deputy chief of the 2nd Department of the USSR NKTP".

SU-31. This vehicle was developed at factory #37 with Ginzburg's direct participation.

In reality, Ginzburg performed the function of the Deputy Chief of the Technical Department of the NKTP, a step above Chief Designer at one factory. His main career direction shifted to SPGs. In late January of 1942 he prepared requirements for a universal chassis using components of the T-60 tank. These requirements were the first step towards the creation of light SPGs. It was Ginzburg who first proposed using the failed KV-7 assault tank as the chassis for the 152 mm ML-20 gun-howitzer. The requirements that he developed kicked off the work on the SU-152 SPG and led to the creation of the ISU series. Ginzburg also participated in the famous plenum of the Artillery Committee that took part on April 15th, 1942. The main directions of development for Soviet self propelled vehicles were decided here. 

Trials showed that the SU-32 with two engines mounted in parallel had fewer issues with overheating.

Ginzburg focused on light SPGs after that. He actively oversaw work at factory #37 that was evacuated from Moscow to Sverdlovsk. The SU-31 and SU-32 SPGs were developed here. These vehicles were the realization of Ginzburg's universal chassis idea. The first vehicle, the SU-31, had a layout mirroring that of the T-70 tank. The second followed Ginzburg's vision of a vehicle based on the T-60 chassis with two parallel motors and two gearboxes. Trials showed that the SU-32 worked more reliably, especially when it came to overheating. However, the SU-32 had no future, as factory #37 was folded into UZTM and was used for T-34 production.

SU-12, developed using the experience of the SU-31 and SU-32.

The SU-12 light SPG was developed based on the SU-32 chassis. The SU-11 SPAAG was also developed. It remained an experiment, unlike the SU-12, which was accepted into service by GKO decree #2559 issued on December 2nd, 1942. Ginzburg, by then the Chief of the Main Design Department of the NKTP, was the chief designer of this vehicle. Most of the development was done by factory #38's design bureau under M.N. Schukin. This vehicle proved fatal for Ginzburg. The idea of two parallel engines with two GAZ-MM gearboxed proved poor. The gearbox and final drives broke quickly during maneuvering. These breakdowns began to crop up more and more frequently in February-March of 1943, when true mass production of the SU-12 took off. Factory #38 delivered 35 vehicles in January, then 94 in February and 96 in March. Alarm bells started ringing in late February. According to a report dated February 25th, 79 vehicles or 45% of the total production amount were out of action due to gearbox defects. 38 broke down during factory trials, 19 in army units, and 4 (out of 5) broke during trials at the Moscow Artillery Center. This was before a roof was added to the vehicle, adding to its 11 tons of mass. 

The unfortunate dual gearbox system that was the death of Ginzburg.

Ginzburg insisted that the reason was the poor quality of production. The Molotov GAZ factory disagreed with him. They turned out to be right. Factory #38 was hurriedly working on improvements for this situation. Thanks to changes introduced by factory #38 the breakdowns became slightly less frequent, but still unacceptable. The situation was so dire that Stalin ordered the removal of SU-12 SPGs from artillery regiments. GKO order #3184 issued on April 14th, 1943, formed special repair brigades that travelled to units equipped with the SU-12 and modernized them. Nevertheless, it became clear that the issue was unfixable. Ginzburg was at fault. Stalin weighed in here in GKO decree #3520 "On SU-76 SPGs", in which he wrote:
"Designer of the SU-76 SPG comrade Ginzburg is hereby removed from work for the NKTP and barred from further design work. Direct him to the NKO for assignment to the acting army."

Engineer-Colonel Ginzburg was assigned to the 32nd Tank Brigade, where he served as the Technical Deputy Commander. The brigade fought as a part of the 29th Tank Corps, 5th Guards Tank Army. It took part in the famous Battle of Prokhorovka. Ginzburg did not take part in the battle, as he was only assigned on July 17th. His combat career ended on August 3rd, 1943. That day the brigade began an offensive at the tip of the 29th Tank Corps' spearhead. The brigade lost 19 men wounded and 7 killed on the first day. Engineer-Colonel S.A. Ginzburg was among the dead. He was killed near the village of Malaya Tomarovka by a bomb. Ginzburg was buried in Belenikhino village, Prokhorovka region, Belgorod oblast.

Report on Ginzburg's death.

Despite a tragic end, S.A. Ginzburg's contributions are hard to overstate. Even the fatal SU-12 (SU-76) was not a failure in the end. Factory #38 developed the superior SU-15M (SU-76M) based on this design in the summer of 1943. It became the most numerous SPG in history and the second most numerous AFV in the Red Army.

No comments:

Post a Comment