Wednesday 22 February 2023

Tank Review

"To the Chief of Staff of the 31st Vistula Order of the Red Banner Order of Suvorov Order of Kutuzov Tank Corps

I present to you the report on application of tank armament in the Patriotic War. The materials were collected in conversation with the 242nd Order of the Red Banner Order of Suvorov Tank Brigade.

Attachment: the aforementioned on three pages.

Chief of Staff of the 242nd Tank Brigade, Captain Hohlenkov
June 22nd, 1945"

"Report on the use of tank weapons in the Patriotic War

1. Notes on the design drawbacks of guns, machine guns, and ammunition

The firepower of the 85 mm ZIS-S-53 gun used on the T-34 tank proved itself against enemy personnel, light and medium tanks, and SPGs. However, it did not fully prove itself against the T-VI and T-VI "B" (Royal) heavy tanks. Fighting with the latter is possible only from ambushes at close range (no further than 700 meters). The T-34 cannot enter an open fight with the T-VI "B" tank for the following reasons: the T-VI "B" has powerful armour and has a high velocity 88 mm gun that has high penetration. It can penetrate the armour of the T-34 tank from 2000 meters.

The 85 mm ZIS-S-53 gun penetrates the armour of the T-VI "B" from a range of up to 700 meters (only if the side is hit, the front cannot be penetrated at all). It is necessary to increase the muzzle velocity and penetration of the ZIS-S-53 gun or just replace the gun completely with an improved gun that has sufficient penetration to combat modern tanks at any distance where they can penetrate our tanks.

In addition, the ZIS-S-53 gun has other design drawbacks that reduce its value on the battlefield. These include a complete lack of protection of the muzzle. As a result, tanks fighting in mountainous or forested terrain get debris inside the guns. It is not always possible to clear the barrel. During the heat of battle one may not notice debris in the barrel, and a shot will tear the barrel off and take the tank out of action for a long time.

A large cloud of smoke forms in front of the tank after firing. This impedes the observation of the shell bursting and gets in the way of fire correction and observing the battlefield.

When fighting in mountainous and forested terrain, the gun is often disabled due to tearing of the travel lock and breaking of the turning mechanism. The reason for this is that the heavy turret carries a lot of inertia, and during sharp turns the travel lock takes all the weight, often not being able to take it. In battle, the travel lock is not used and the turning mechanism takes all the weight.

In March-April of 1945 7 cases of torn turning mechanism carriers and 4 cases of torn travel locks were observed. It is necessary to reinforce the turning mechanism carrier to make it be able to take the weight of the turret without a travel lock. 

The DT machine gun used on T-34 tanks have the following drawbacks:

  1. The magazines jam often.
  2. The firing pin breaks often.
The crews do not always have time to correct these stoppages during battle, as a result of which the machine gun is not used. A new magazine and stronger firing pin are needed.

2. The ammunition used on the ZIS-S-53 is satisfactory for its purpose in both quality and quantity. In addition, it would be desirable to have smoke shells for dialing in. They are necessary for marking targets in daytime to concentrate the fire of a platoon (or the company if there are no radios).

3. What is lacking or is unnecessary in tank armament:

The T-34 tank needs an AA machine gun, which is irreplaceable in modern combat. Experience in the Patriotic War shows that tanks often go far forward and engage the enemy without the participation of other types of forces. In these cases, tanks do not have their own AA assets, end up defenseless, and take excessive losses.
It is necessary to install a high caliber AA machine gun on T-34 tanks that allows firing not just at airborne targets, but also at lightly armoured ground targets. This will conserve armour piercing ammunition.

4. What personal weapons are necessary (TT pistol and Nagant revolver):

It is rare to use personal weapons during tank combat. Mostly personal weapons are used outside of the tank. Because of this, it is more reasonable to use the TT pistol and not the Nagant revolver. The TT is a rapid firing automatic pistol, it is easy to reload, and there is always a supply of ammunition in the tank. The Nagant revolver is simple and reliable without fault, but it takes a lot of time to reload and the amount of available ammunition is always limited.

5. Most common breakdowns when using tank guns and machine guns.

The most common issues with the ZIS-S-53 gun are:
  1. Electric firing mechanism or trigger button break.
  2. The breech jams.
  3. Failure to extract.
The most common issues with the DT machine gun are:
  1. Failure to feed.
  2. Failure of the foot pedal firing mechanism (due to slackening of the adjustments). The mechanism must be frequently adjusted because the lock is bad.
Issues with the T-34 tank's vision devices:

The observation devices installed on T-34 tanks with 85 mm guns do not fully meet the crew's needs of observing the battlefield and the enemy. The machine gunner has almost no vision at all and has to observe through the machine gun sight. His limited observation limits his ability to fire the machine gun, which reduces the tank's firepower. A MK-4 type observation device is necessary for the machine gunner. This will improve not only the firepower, but the cooperation of the crew in battle, especially in cases where Panzerfaust troops are used. 

The MK-4 observation device proves itself, but its installation has a significant drawback. It is installed too far above the TSh-15 sight opening, as a result of which moving between the sights takes time and delays the firing, as a result of which the target can get away.

The MK-4 device in the commander's cupola meets requirements, but it is too large, which impedes the commander's duties and gets in the way during crew entry and exit. It should be reduced in size, especially the part inside the turret.

The observation slits in the turret and commander's cupola are located at a straight angle, which reduces the vision range. It is reasonable to change the slits to increase the commander's observation range.

The TSh-15 sight is better than the sights used on tanks earlier. It is simple and easy to use, but the light transmission should be improved. In foggy weather or at night (which happened during the war often) the sight does not meet requirements."


  1. Always wondered why the T-34 has an optic port for the coaxial MG. So the loader can also fire the MG? Seems like they removed it on the T-34-85 though.

    1. The bow gun had a sight, I don't think the coax did.

    2. You can see some hole above the MG on 76mm T-34s. I noticed it looking at the models in WT and then looked up some photos on google.
      Oh I see, they were talking about the bow gun and not the loader in the turret...
      Still I wonder what that hole is doing there.