Friday 30 December 2022

The Elusive Maus

Great Britain and the USSR actively exchanged information on the enemy during WWII. The USSR even shared its trophies, for instance, Panther and Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.L tanks captured in the USSR were sent to the UK. However, these relations soured after the end of the war and the exchange of information ceased. As both experimental Maus prototypes ended up in the hands of the Red Army, the British had to collect scraps of information on this tank across their occupation zone. How well did British investigators do and how truthful was the information they collected?

The Final Squeak

The Maus is first mentioned in the DRAC (Director, Royal Armoured Corps) Technical Intelligence Summary for May 1945. The description is rather brief:
“Developments in German tank design appear to have been mainly limited to the super-heavy class. Three equipments falling under this heading have so far been examined as follows:
Maus (Mouse). This is a tank with an estimated weight of 200 tons mounting a 12.8 cm Kw.K.82 (L/55) and a co-axial 7.5 cm Kw.K.44 (L/36.5) in a turret with 360° traverse.”
The summary also described the E-100 tank and Grille SPG, but there was likewise little information on those vehicles.

 Officers of the 1st Polish Armoured Division and three sets of Maus armour parts, Krupp proving grounds in Meppen.

Monday 26 December 2022

British Carrier as a Soviet Tractor

There is a common misconception that tankettes disappeared by the mid-1930s. On the contrary, some nations (for example Japan) continued to produce these vehicles even during WW2. There is also a question of classification. Tankettes were multipurpose vehicles. Their initial purpose was a machine gun carrier. The first Carden-Loyd tankettes didn't even have a roof for the gunner and driver. This classic British tankette evolved into a vehicle that some call an APC. In reality, this was a machine gun carrier that had a few seats in the back (like the T-27 tankette, for example). This means the most produced armoured vehicle in history is, in fact, a tankette. This would of course be the Universal Carrier. 113,000 units were built during its time in production, which is about as many as all Medium Tanks M4 and T-34s put together.

The Universal Carrier carried 2 crewmen plus 4 riders in the back. In practice, as many as 6 could fit in the back.

Thursday 22 December 2022

All the King's Horses

The heaviest mass produced tank of WWII appeared on the Eastern and Western Fronts almost simultaneously. Unlike the Tiger, which the Western Allies had a taste of in Africa, and the Panther, information on which was available from the USSR, the forces that landed in Normandy on D-Day had to go into battle against the “King Tiger” blind. How did the Western Allies learn about the last member of the German “Big Cats”?

Bits and pieces

The Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B saw its first battle on July 18th, 1944, in France. Two tanks from the first company of the 503rd Heavy Tank Regiment were knocked out. In addition, one tank fell into a bomb crater and got stuck there. Despite being aware of a “new mark of Tiger … having a sloping sided turret and hull” as early as May of 1944, the British learned very little from these knocked out vehicles, if anything at all. Judging by the somewhat inaccurate description of a new 66.4 ton Tiger tank with the 8.8 cm KwK 43 cannon described in the September 1944 edition of the A.F.V. School Gunnery Wing Information Bulletin, any available information was collected from intelligence sources rather than from the knocked out tanks. Even this limited information was more than what the Americans obtained. The head of the American military mission in the USSR, Major General John R. Deane, sent a request to Lieutenant General Lebedev, the head of the Red Army Main Directorate of Armoured Vehicles (GBTU) on October 4th, wishing to know more about the new enemy tank. Judging by the fact that Deane used neither the official index of the tank nor its commonly used nickname, but the term “Tiger Imperial”, the Americans had precious little information about the vehicle.

Photograph of the King Tiger tank from the January 1945 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin magazine. The photograph is annotated with the thickness of the tank’s armour plates.

Tuesday 20 December 2022

The AA Tank That Came Too Late

The story of a SPAAG on the T-60 chassis that was not fated to enter mass production.

SPAAGs were a sore spot of the Soviet tank design program. It’s not that there weren’t any of them by the start of the Great Patriotic War, but they looked nothing like what was originally envisioned. A class of SPAAGs on tank chassis was conceived and such vehicles were even built. The best example would be the SU-6, a SPAAG on the chassis of the T-26 light support tank. It was even accepted into service with a pilot batch built, but mass production never came. Development of SPAAGs on light tank chassis continued. The T-50 chassis was considered a candidate for a SPAAG, armed with either a pair of MP-6 23 mm auto cannons or a 37 mm 61-K. The actual result was quite sad: two experimental SPAAGs on the T-26 chassis were built in Leningrad and that was it. Mechanized units were covered against air attack by a variety of systems on a truck chassis.

The GABTU considered the installation of a T-90 turret on the T-60 to be a quick fix.

Further work went down the road of creating a universal chassis using T-60 tank components. The chassis was developed under code 31 at factory #37 in Sverdlovsk. The prototype designated SU-31 was quite a good vehicle for its time. The 37 mm 61-K auto cannon was an effective weapon against enemy aircraft. However, work dragged on and factory #37 was rolled into UZTM. Instead of the T-70, it was used to build T-34 tanks. Meanwhile, a German airplane was shot down in late June of 1942. A report was found on board detailing the trials of a Henschel Hs 129A ground attack aircraft. Its 30 mm MK 101 gun could penetrate even the armour of the KV-1 tank. The news that SPAAGs on truck chassis had poor off-road mobility were also bad. The combination of these factors gave rise to the idea of building AA tanks.

The SPAAG only entered trials in July of 1943. Compare this arrival to the due dates in the GKO decree above.

Saturday 17 December 2022

Tank Archives is now on Mastodon

With the current migration away from Twitter, I decided to cover all my bases and open an account on Mastodon. The content there will be similar to what I already post on Twitter, but the added benefit of a much longer character limit. See you there!

Friday 16 December 2022

Tougher Armour

 "Order of the People's Commissar of Tank Production #562s

July 31st, 1942

The meeting called by the People's Commissariat of Tank Production in Moscow on the topic of improving quality of hulls produced from high hardness armour reviewed and approved the draft technological process guidelines for all stages of armoured component production and hull welding presented by the 3rd Main Directorate of the NKTP. In order to rapidly bring these processes to production and improve the quality of armour and armoured hulls, I order that:

  1. Directors of the following factories: UZTM (comrade Muzrukov), #200 (comrade Sochivko), #264 (comrade Suvorov), #112 (comrade Rubinchik), #183 (comrade Maksarev), #174 (comrade Katsnelson), #176 (comrade Fedotov), #177 (comrade Volkov), #178 (comrade Skiba), #180 (comrade Orlov), #37 (comrade Frezerov), and #38 (comrade Yakovlev) must develop production instructions based on the approved technological process guidelines and send them to the 3rd Main Directorate of the NKTP after approval by the factory chief engineers. Develop all instructions within ten days of receiving this order or no later than August 15th of this year.
  2. Factory directors must provide the 3rd Main Directorate of the NKTP with reports on the quality of armour plate and armoured hulls with reports of rejected components by reason of rejection.
  3. Factory directors must keep in mind the necessity of highlighting the importance of quality assurance at every stage of production as well as the strengthening of laboratories and metallurgical departments.
  4. Director of TsNII-48 A.S. Zavyalov must:
    1. Compose and publish a list of minimal technical qualifications for workers of all specialties that are connected to production and finishing of armour within one month.
    2. Compose and publish directions for engineering-technical workers connected to production, finishing, and welding of armour within two months.
  5. Directors of all factories must compose a list of minimal technical qualifications for all technical processes among foremen, foremasters, and technologists. Put all welders and cutters through exams. Only permit welders and cutters with appropriate diplomas to work on armour.
  6. Director of factory #183 comrade Maksarev must order his design bureau to work on the T-34 hull with the aim of reducing the amount of welding, components welded onto armour, change in dovetails, reduction of the welding seam length within possible limits. Check these developments with NII-48.
Deputy People's Commissar of Tank Production, Zernov"

Monday 12 December 2022

A Shortage of Guns

Practice shows that processes in the army that flow slowly tend to rapidly accelerate after the first combat engagements. This observation applies to the German SPG program. The Germans began working on these vehicles in the second half of the 1920s, but achieved very little by the start of the Second World War. This was in part due to unrealistic expectations, particularly in the case of tank destroyers. The Germans army dreamed of high speed tank destroyers with a fully rotating turret on a halftrack chassis. Such vehicles were even built, but only as prototypes and small production batches. As a result, the Germans quickly had to build tank destroyers out of whatever was available after the war began.

Vehicles of the 128th Tank Destroyer Battalion. The vehicle in the front is the best known conversion of a Pz.Kpfw.II tank carrying a 50 mm Pak 38 gun.

Friday 9 December 2022

Well Fed Sherman

In 1942 the British asked the Americans to develop a tank based on the Sherman with improved armour. The Americans gave them the Assault Tank T14, but didn’t take much interest in the idea themselves. However, the idea of such a tank returned in 1944 and eventually culminated in the M4A3E2 or Sherman Jumbo.

Assault tank in a hurry

Until 1944 the American army was certain that the ordinary Sherman was more than capable of facing German medium tanks. Sure, the Germans had Tigers and Panthers, but based on experience in Africa and Italy these dangerous tanks were very rare. Nevertheless, the Americans decided to play it safe and develop a heavily armoured tank. It was clear that the Heavy Tank M6 was not suitable for battle and the Medium (future Heavy) Tank T26 would not be ready until the end of 1944 at the latest. US Army Ground Forces command proposed three temporary solutions in February of 1944.

The first idea consisted of a basic Medium Tank M4 with thicker armour. An extra 2 inches (50 mm) was welded to the front and 1 inch (25 mm) to the sides. This kind of modernization took 200 man-hours to complete and increased the weight of the tank by 6870 lbs (3.1 tons). This conversion could be performed in a field workshop.

An M4A1 Sherman with additional armour drives past a knocked out Pz.Kpfw.IV. This kind of additional armour was installed in field workshops and its design varied from vehicle to vehicle.

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Panzerfaust Usage

 "To commanders of formations and units of the 1st Mechanized Krasnograd Corps
Copy to: 37th MBr

Recent battles showed that the enemy is using "Faust" grenade launchers against our tanks and SPGs. In street fighting they are used against infantry, firing positions, etc.

When the enemy retreats, the "Fausts" are left behind in large amounts in working condition and can be used to combat enemy tanks, SPGs, personnel, and objects fortified for long term defense.

However, most commanders do not allocate the necessary attention to collecting, storing, studying, and using this simple and highly penetrating weapon.

Monday 5 December 2022

The Doomed Victorious AA Tank

The T-90 AA tank developed by the Molotov GAZ factory that won the tender but never entered mass production.

The situation in Soviet tank production changed radically in the second half of 1942. The experience in 1941 and the first half of 1942 clearly indicated new priorities. It was clear that T-34 production had to increase, as this tank turned out to be the optimal combat vehicle. It had the necessary mobility, decent armour, and powerful armament. The T-34 was often the only tank that could move cross-country in later 1941 and early 1942. The KV-1 was too heavy and the T-60 was too weak. The T-70 light tank that appeared in early 1942 was better than the T-60, but Soviet leadership had no illusions about it. It was clear by the spring of 1942 that the T-70 would not be built at as many factories as the T-60 was. The situation was difficult in the summer, and a decision was made to even spin up T-34 production in Chelyabinsk at the cost of decreasing KV production. Additionally, a decision to build the T-34 in Sverdlovsk at the site of the former factory #37 was made. Only two factories remained for the T-70: the Molotov GAZ in Gorky and factory #38 in Kirov. They would also have been used for T-34 production, but they proved unsuitable.

Status of the work on AA tanks at the GAZ as of September 1942. AA tanks on the T-60 and T-70 chassis are mentioned. In reality, they only worked on the future T-90.

Front line experience in 1942 showed that the decision to change priorities was correct. The first use of the T-70 tank revealed that it had issues when it came to crew comfort and, most importantly, armour. This was not a surprise. The age of light tanks was coming to an end, and the Germans also ceased production of these vehicles in the summer of 1942. Soviet light tanks clinged on for longer, but it was clear that their time had come. This did not mean that light vehicles would disappear altogether. The chassis of light tanks was necessary for the creation of SPGs, which were not obsolete until the very end of the war. Self propelled guns with powerful armament than the tank they were based on were in demand at the front, which experience proved time and time again as the war went on. The development of Soviet self propelled artillery did not differ much from the path it took abroad, even considering that the first SPGs went into production in the summer-fall of 1941 (including SPAAGs).

The T-90 tank prototype, September 1942.

Friday 2 December 2022

Americans at the Right Place, at the Right Time

The first foreign tanks sent to the USSR as military aid arrived in the fall of 1941. These were British Matilda III and Valentine II tanks. They arrived in time to briefly take part in the defensive fighting of late November-early December of 1941. It's hard to say that they played a key part, but it would be incorrect to dismiss their contribution. The situation with American tanks was similar. They first convoy arrived at the end of December of 1941, but shortages of ammunition and other problems delayed their debut to May of 1942. It is often said that the 114th Tank Brigade achieved almost nothing at Kharkov, but that is not correct. The American tanks took part in the offensive on Chepil, which temporarily penetrated the encirclement. An evacuation was organized thanks in part to Soviet tankers fighting in American tanks.

Tanks of the 258th Independent Tank Battalion before battle, early September 1942.

Wednesday 30 November 2022

Video: Soviet Anti-Tank Dogs

The anti-tank dog is one of the least researched weapons in the Red Army's anti-tank arsenal. Few publications dedicate more than a few paragraphs to this unusual weapon. In my most recent video, I explain how these weapons were used and discuss some of the most common myths associated with them.

Sunday 27 November 2022

Anti-Tank Dog Instructions

Check the equipment of both the soldiers and the dogs.

 "Instructions on using anti-tank dogs in various types of combat 

A. Main points

  1. Anti-tank dogs are an auxiliary weapon for infantry in anti-tank defenses, but they can be used in all types of combat.
  2. Anti-tank dog units are subordinate to the Army command. Individual companies or platoons are subordinated to infantry divisions as reinforcements of anti-tank defenses.
  3. The reserve and rear line elements of the anti-tank dog unit are located in the rear of the Army. There the personnel and the dogs systematically train and prepare themselves for service.
  4. An anti-tank dog company has 81 anti-tank dogs. The company is split into three platoons of 27 dogs. The platoon is split into three squads of 9 dogs each.
  5. The main method of destroying tanks is by releasing the dog from cover at a range of up to 200 meters from the enemy tank.
  6. If correctly used at a close range of 100-150 meters, the anti-tank dog is an effective weapon for the destruction of enemy tanks.
  7. A dog will dive under the front part of the enemy tank. The lever touches the floor of the tank and the tank is destroyed by an explosion.
  8. Anti-tank dogs work precisely and flawlessly only if the dogs are systematically trained and correctly fed. To achieve this, anti-tank dog platoons and companies must be removed from forward positions every ten days and recalled to the rear for training.
  9. The infantry division commander allocates one functional tank, preferably a captured one, for training the anti-tank dog company.
  10. For additional maneuverability, the anti-tank dog company commander must be allocated two GAZ-AA (1.5 ton) trucks to move one anti-tank dog platoon rapidly.
  11. Soldiers of anti-tank dog platoons chiefly fight individually, and thus must display initiative, courage, discipline, decisiveness, and calmness.
  12. The anti-tank dog soldier is armed with an anti-tank dog, an automatic rifle, an anti-tank grenade, and two bottles of incendiary fluid
  13. Having released his dog, the anti-tank dog soldier continues to fight with his rifle, anti-tank grenade, and bottles with incendiary fluid as a part of his squad.
  14. Anti-tank dog soldiers that released their dogs return to the rear after the completion of the battle to continue service according to their speciality.

Friday 25 November 2022

Firebreathing KV from Chelyabinsk

Flamethrower tanks were not a rarity in the Red Army. Work on chemical tanks began in the early 1930s. Initially, they were meant to deploy chemical weapons, but “universal” chemical tanks appeared soon after that. The first of them was the KhT-26, a vehicle on the T-26 tank chassis that could fire both poison substances and flame. As a result of trials, the flamethrower mode became the priority. The KhT-26 was succeeded by the KhT-130 based on the single turreted variant of the tank. The last variant was the KhT-133, the same vehicle but based on a T-26 with a conical turret and sloped turret platform sides. The last tanks were delivered in 1940 when the concept of a “universal” chemical tank had already died. The requirements for flamethrower tanks also changed.

The KV-8 formed by the end of November of 1941 alongside the KV-7.

The experience of using chemical tanks showed that the concept had many drawbacks. In addition to a short range of the flamethrower, a lack of main gun proved to be a problem. The flamethrower could be a secondary weapon, but not a primary one. Starting in 1940, development switched to tanks with flamethrowers in the hull and a cannon in the turret. There were several variants developed, but it ended up on the upper front hull. The gunpowder flamethrower developed by factory #174 by a group led by I.A. Aristo. The flamethrower was supposed to be installed in the T-34, KV, and T-50, but flamethrowers in the T-34 and KV-1 were incredibly rare in 1941. At this point work on flamethrowers split. The T-34 and KV-1 had their own approaches to the flamethrower.

A prototype was ready by the end of December of 1941.

Wednesday 23 November 2022

100 mm D-10 vs 88 mm KwK 43

The Red Army took the threat of German anti-tank weapons very seriously, and the 88 mm Pak 43 remained a reference point for enemy anti-tank guns even after the war. In part, protection from this gun was listed as a requirement for post-war medium and heavy tanks. These requirements allowed me to compare the penetration of the German 88 mm Pak 43 and Soviet D-25T. Turns out, a similar analysis was done using the 100 mm D-10T gun.

This data shows PTP limit (the velocity at which the rear of the plate remains intact) curves of the 88 mm gun against medium hardness cast armour. It is visualized in two ways. The first has impact angle as the X axis and impact velocity as the Y axis. A curve is drawn for different armour thicknesses. The second graph shows the same data, but with the thickness as the X axis and curves drawn for each impact angle.

From these graphs, we see that the 88 mm Pak 43 is a powerful weapon indeed. At point blank range, it can penetrate 120 mm of armour sloped at 60 degrees (incidentally, the armour thickness proposed for modernized IS-2 tanks in 1944). The IS-4's armour protection (140 mm at 60 degrees frontally, 160 mm at 30 degrees on the sides) also offers good but not perfect protection against damage from the 88 mm Pak 43.

At 1000 meters and a velocity of about 900 m/s, the gun can still penetrate 100 mm at 60 degrees or 130 mm at 50 degrees. These look very similar to requirements for the T-54's armour, making it very clear what opponent this tank was designed to fight. 

This data shows the same thing but for the 100 mm blunt nosed AP shell. The penetration is considerably higher. Rather than 120 mm at 60 degrees, the gun penetrates a hair over 160. At 50 degrees, this shell penetrates 180 mm of armour compared to the 88's 150. Unfortunately the graph for the Pak 43 does not show penetration at 30 degrees at point blank range, but extrapolation shows that it penetrated less than 200 mm of armour while the D-10 would penetrate slightly more.

At 1000 meters and a velocity of about 800 m/s the gun penetrates 140 mm of armour at 60 degrees and almost 160 mm at 50 degrees, again keeping a slight edge on the 88. At 30 degrees the gun penetrates 180 mm of armour, making it capable of penetrating both the front turret or the front hull of a Tiger II at ranges where the Tiger II can penetrated it back.

And finally, the 100 mm sharp-tipped AP shell. This shell is not as good as the blunt-tipped AP (same thing is observed with the 122 mm D-25's ammunition as well). At point blank range the gun penetrates 130 mm of armour at 60 degrees, a hair more than the 88 mm Pak 43. At 1000 meters penetration drops to almost 120 mm at 60 degrees or 140 at 50 degrees, still keeping just ahead of the Pak 43. At 30 degrees the gun penetrates less than 180 mm of armour, making it a little riskier to fight a King Tiger head on. 

When it comes to the Panther, a more realistic opponent, the 100 mm gun can defeat it at a great range. The upper front plate (85 mm at 55 degrees) can be penetrated at a velocity of about 600 m/s with the sharp tipped shell (a range of over 3 kilometers) and at even greater ranges by the blunt tipped shell.

RGAE F.8734 Op.8 D.249 L.1-6 via Yevgeniy Narimanov and Artem Belyakov.

Monday 21 November 2022

A Tank from a Former Ally

The T-34 was a mystery for the USSR’s allies for most of WWII. A sample of the legendary tank was only sent abroad in 1943, but information about an improved variant with a 3-man turret and an 85 mm gun became available soon after. Very little was known about this tank up until the spring of 1945, and with the end of the war the remote possibility of getting a sample vanished altogether. However, the odds of seeing this tank again increased with time. The Korean War broke out on June 25th, 1950. The Korean People’s Army (KPA) received aid from the USSR, which included T-34-85 tanks.

Old tanks in a new war

According to American sources, the North Koreans crossed the border on June 25th, 1950, with one armoured division consisting of three regiments numbering 160 T-34-85 tanks in total. The 16th and 17th Armoured Brigades joined them by September, and in November the 17th Mechanized Division with 41 tanks and 41st, 45th, and 46th Tank Regiments with 10 tanks each and the 43rd Mechanized Regiment with 13 tanks also crossed the border. According to the Americans, the North Koreans initially built up a force of 320 tanks in total, which was later reinforced by another 250 tanks.

A T-34-85 tank and a column of motorcyclists belonging to the Korean People’s Army.

Friday 18 November 2022

Shopping List

 "Attachment to instructions of department 1b, 8th Infantry Division, June 20th, 1941

List of military equipment that must be captured for use. Items marked with a + are especially important.

Guns and equipment:

  • 7.62 mm pistols
  • 7.62 mm rifles (three line)
  • +automatic rifles
  • Maxim machine guns
  • 51 mm mortars
  • +45 mm guns model 1936
  • 37 mm Rheinmetall anti-tank guns
  • +any gun larger than 100 mm in caliber (especially cannons)

Wednesday 16 November 2022

The Most American Sherman

A number of different fates could befall a Sherman tank. They fought in the deserts of Africa, the jungles of South-East Asia, the steppes of the Soviet Union. Tanks build at American factories could end up anywhere and fight with any crew, with one exception. The Medium Tank M4A3 with a Ford GAA engine was almost guaranteed to be crewed by Americans. Let us tell the story of the Sherman tank that the American preferred to keep to themselves.

Ford vs. Wright

The American automotive industry made a large contribution to victory in WWII. As one of the largest automotive manufacturers, Ford couldn’t avoid taking part. The company began working on an analogue to the British Rolls-Royce Merlin in 1940. The Air Force rejected this V-12 engine, but soon it found a home on land. Like the Merlin, a version of which was used on Cromwell tanks, the new Ford engine could be used on American medium tanks.

Ford GAA engine, Saumur tank museum.

Monday 14 November 2022

HPZ’s Unlucky First

August 20th, 1920, can be considered the starting point for Soviet tank building. It progressed pretty quickly. By 1921, the Red Army already had classifications for its new tanks. Captured British Mark V tanks were assigned to category B, or breakthrough tanks. Mk.A Whippet and Mk.B Hornet tanks were assigned to category S, manoeuvre tanks. Finally French Renault FT tanks and the Russian Renault were assigned to category M, support tanks. For obvious reasons, development of category B tanks was not expected until the future. They were too heavy and complicated for the nascent Soviet industry. A decision was made to focus on manoeuvre and support tanks. Work was conducted by the GUVP (Main Directorate of Military Industry) headed by Senior Engineer Shukalov as of August 1921. Until 1924, this department largely stood idle, since no decision was reached on who would build these tanks and how. There were various ideas discussed, including letting factories design their own tanks. There was already one such instance, although the development of the Teplokhod AN at the Izhora factory was never completed.

Final iteration of the 16 ton manoeuvre tank developed by the GUVP. This was a predecessor of the T-12 tank.

Friday 11 November 2022

A Soviet Look at French Cavalry

It just so happened that Soviet tank building grew out of the French school. Renault FT light tanks captured in the spring of 1919 happened to be the most appropriate type for production in Soviet Russia. That resulted in the Russian Renault, the first Soviet tank produced in series. The MS-1 tank followed. This was a whole new tank from a technical point of view, but performed a similar role to the Russian Renault. There is nothing strange about this, as French tank building was still the object of imitation in many countries. The Red Army continued to watch what was happening in France even in the late 1920s. Khalepskiy’s commission unsuccessfully tried to buy a French Renault NC tank, and traces of this tank can be seen in the design of the T-19 tank, the unsuccessful replacement for the MS-1. This is where the concept of a 3-man tank with a 1-man turret comes from. Priorities changed after that.

Three Pz.Kpfw.35 S (f) tanks were captured more or less intact in the end of January of 1942 with the Panzerzug 27.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Super T-50


Out of the two T-50 tanks developed by factory #174 and the Kirov factory, the one developed by factory #174 was accepted into service.

The Kirov factory proposes increasing the thickness of the armour on its tank to 60 mm and installing a 76 mm gun. This should increase the weight to 25.5 tons. The top speed will be 40 kph with a 300 hp V-4 engine.

Factory #183 reviewed the T-34 tank and is proposing building it with a torsion bar suspension. With 45 mm thick armour it would weigh 25 tons, or 28 tons with 60 mm of armour. It would be armed with a 76 mm gun and have a top speed of 50 kph with a 600 hp V-2K engine.

Comparing the two tanks, one can see that they have identical armour and armament. The difference in weight between the two tanks is not great. The T-34 is faster and has a greater power to weight ratio: 21.4 hp/ton vs 11.7 hp/ton. 

It is senseless to have two tanks with the same purpose in production at the same time. This will make issues of usage and spare parts more complicated. The factory #174 T-50 tank already exists as a means of infantry support.

I consider it impractical to develop and produce a T-50 tank with 60 mm of armour, since:

  1. The T-34 tank with a torsion bar suspension has better characteristics.
  2. It's senseless to introduce additional types of vehicles into service.
  3. This work will distract the Kirov factory from its primary work.
GABTU Chief, Lieutenant General of the Tank Forces, Fedorenko"

Monday 7 November 2022

Shermans in Mud

The Medium Tank M4 showed itself as an effective weapon over the course of decades of service. Tanks from the Sherman family successfully fought in every corner of the world in WW2 and after. However, these tanks still had a number of design drawbacks that American engineers had to fight to solve while the tank was already in production. One of these drawbacks was poor mobility in soft soil.

Attachments of every kind

One of the reasons why the Sherman’s off-road mobility left much to be desired was the high ground pressure. Even the prototype Medium Tank T6 didn’t have particularly wide tracks, and every subsequent variant of the Sherman became heavier and heavier. Ground pressure increased along with weight.

A Medium Tank M4A1 that sank in mud, Miturno, Italy, 1944. The high weight and narrow tracks of this vehicle meant that off-road mobility was low.

Friday 4 November 2022

Widespread Welding

"Order of the People's Commissar of Tank Production of the USSR #200s
March 28th, 1943

The meeting gathered in response to my order given on December 18th, 1942 in Nizniy Tagil at factory #183 on the issue of widespread introduction of automatic welding explored the issues raised and came to the following conclusions regarding automatic welding.

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Engagement Ranges


As a result of examination of materials covering tanks and SPGs knocked out in battle in 1942, 1943, and 1944, one can consider the following assertions to hold firmly:

  1. German tanks and anti-tank artillery currently consists almost exclusively of 75 and 88 mm guns. The enemy uses 88 mm guns predominately against our heavy tanks and SPGs and 75 mm guns against medium tanks and SPGs.
  2. The main type of shell used by German artillery against our tanks and SPGs is an armour piercing sharp tipped shell with a powerful cap and small HE effect. More than 90% of all hits in July of 1944 were delivered by these types of shells.
    The use of subcaliber shot and Faust or Ofenrohr type shells against our tanks and SPGs is negligible.
  3. German 75 mm guns typically fire at ranges from 100 to 700 meters and rarely exceed 1000-1100 meters.
  4. German 88 mm guns typically fire at ranges from 600 to 1300 meters and rarely exceed 1600-1700 meters.
  5. 75 mm guns mostly fire at T-34 tanks at ranges from 100 to 600 meters and 88 mm guns fire from 400 to 1100 meters.
  6. 88 mm guns mostly fire on IS tanks from 600 to 1300 meters.
  7. When firing at SPGs, ranges increase by about 200-300 meters compared to tanks of the same type.

Chief Engineer of the NII-48 MF A.F. Stogov
Deputy Chief of the 4th Department and Project Lead, V.V. Larchenko"

RGAE F.8752 Op.7 D.045 L.33-34

Monday 31 October 2022

Tiger Killers

The German Tiger tank gained significant renown during the Second World War and remains a popular topic in discussions of this period even today. While some modern interpretations paint the Tiger as a semi-mythical wonder weapon, its contemporary evaluations are much more reserved. Let’s take a look at the conclusions drawn by British specialists who studied this tank and the measures they devised to fight it.

Clash of heavyweights

The Western Allies first encountered the Tiger tank around the same time it appeared on the Eastern Front. A successful offensive in North Africa forced Hitler to take severe measures, including deploying his latest weapon. The 501st Heavy Tank Battalion began its landing at Bizerta, Tunisia, on November 23rd, 1942. It first saw battle on December 1st, but the scale of combat was limited. It’s not surprising that Allied intelligence obtained relatively little information on this tank around this time. An article in the Tactical and Technical Trends magazine dated February 11th describes a new enemy heavy tank weighing on the order of 50 tons, equipped with an 88 mm gun, and with 80 or 100 mm of armour. This tank was called Mark VI or Pz.Kw.6.

“German heavy tank”, Tactical and Technical Trends #20, March 11th, 1943.

Friday 28 October 2022

Borgward Tankettes

"Main Intelligence Directorate of the Red Army
October 20th, 1943

To the Commander of the Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the Red Army, Colonel General of the Armed Forces, comrade Fedorenko

Agents report (still need to be confirmed) that the Germans are producing B-4 tankettes that are controlled by radio and are conducting training on their use.

The tank is loaded with 300 kg of explosives and has several smoke emitting devices. It is designed for destruction of bunkers, making passages through obstacles, and clearing minefields.

Wednesday 26 October 2022

Tanks at Khalkhin-Gol

 "To the Chief of the RKKA ABTU
August 19th, 1939

Directorate of the People's Commissar, 1st Department

On orders of the Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, Army Commander 1st Class comrade Kulik, I send you a copy of the act on the inspection of combat and training in the 1st Army Group for your inspection and execution of necessary measures.

Deputy Chief of the 1st Department, 
Major Bibikov

Act [to certify that] I conducted an inspection of the combat and training in the 1st Army Group fighting in the region of Khalkhin-Gol during the period of July 11th-24th, 1939

1. Permanent units


Armoured units:

The 7th, 8th, and 9th Armoured Brigades are essentially armoured cavalry, more suitable for guarding borders and internal security. They did not train to fight alongside infantry and don't know how to do this. These units played a big role in the initial stages, but took heavy losses. The arrival of poorly trained reinforcements weakened them, they need to train and re-equip.

Monday 24 October 2022

Ever-Changing Tank Nomenclature

One of the topics that resurfaces in arguments about armoured vehicles is classification. It wouldn’t be so bad if people far from the science of armoured vehicles made mistakes, but quite notable historians also throw fuel on the fire. The T-28 is one of the most misunderstood vehicles. There is a certain group of people who draw modernisations onto the T-28 that would allegedly make it a suitable replacement for the T-34. After all, both have a 76 mm gun, similar weight, two tracks, basically the same thing! The fact that the T-34 was built to replace the BT doesn’t bother them, neither does the fact that it was the SMK that was first supposed to replace the T-28 and then the KV. The T-28 tank was included in heavy tank brigades. This seems like a very strange fact if one is not familiar with the Red Army’s system of classifications. Similar mistakes are made regarding tanks of other nations. For instance, the Panther is often called a heavy tank, but it’s enough to look at where these tanks went and what vehicles they replaced. Today we will cover the Soviet tank classifications, touching foreign vehicles a little for context. Keep in mind that the same names can mean different things in different times.

Classification of tanks in the Red Army. Bronevoye Delo magazine, March 1921.

A 16 ton maneuver tank designed by the GUVP. No one ever called this tank "medium".

Friday 21 October 2022

Polish Tank Destroyer

The growth of tactical-technical requirements is a normal phenomenon for any army in the world. The brass also often doesn't know when to stop, which results in a strange metamorphosis. This happened to the tankette class of vehicles. Initially, the concept was something akin a mobile machine gun nest: a machine gun with a shield, engine, and tracks. Early tankettes were one-man vehicles, but experiments in the early 1920s showed that you need at least two crewmen. The Carden-Loyd Mk.VI is a classic example of this concept. Nevertheless, many nations quickly started treating it as a tank, albeit a small one. Requirements for these tankettes grew until they were more suited to tanks, and so the tankette withered away. 

TK-S tank destroyer, a great example of a successful modernization of an obsolete vehicle.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Video: 6-pounder and 57 mm M1 Gun in the USSR

Both British made 6-pounders and American made 57 mm M1 guns were shipped to the USSR in various forms, but one was received much better than the other. I talk about why in my latest video. Huge thanks to Major (Ret.) Michael Calnan, the Swords and Plowshares Museum, and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and 191st Rifle Division reenactment groups for the footage used in this video.

Monday 17 October 2022

The Main Soviet Pre-War Tank

There were many cases in tank building history where development programs were restarted almost from scratch. This happened with Soviet tank development at the end of the 1920s and start of the 1930s. By the end of the 20s, the USSR composed requirements for armoured vehicles and created their own tanks. The first such vehicle was the T-18 (MS-1) small support tank accepted into service on July 6th, 1927. This tank was a grand achievement for Soviet industry. It was a very modern tank for the mid-20s and, most importantly, it was mass produced. It was a challenge, but production was fully set up by 1930. The problem was that the tank was already obsolete by then. The Red Army fully understood this. The first solution was to modernise the T-18, but the idea of finding a suitable replacement abroad was also raised.
T-26 tank on display, February 23rd, 2021

Friday 14 October 2022

DShK vs Pz.Kpfw.IV

"Results of firing the 12.7 mm DShK machine gun with the B-32 bullet against the German Pz.Kpfw.IV tank


Hit location

Armour slope from vertical

Total angle (slope + shooting angle)

Armour thickness



100 m

Right side of the turret

25 deg

70 deg

20 mm


15 mm deep impacts (1 on photo #63)






18 mm deep impacts (2 on photo #63)


Right side of the hull, engine compartment





Complete penetration


Turret rear





One complete penetration, 4 18 mm deep dents


Hull rear






Complete penetration






17 mm deep dents






18 mm deep dents