Wednesday 26 April 2023

Canada's Valentines

The British War Ministry had no illusions about how the situation in Europe would develop, even in 1938. The policy of appeasement was adopted to postpone the inevitable large conflict, which the kingdom’s military was not prepared for. The situation continued to escalate in the summer of 1939, but the British were still not ready for a full blown war. Cruiser tanks only entered service in 1939, and infantry tanks, with the exception of the Infantry Tank Mk.I, were not even in production. Meanwhile, observers from across the Atlantic Ocean monitored the situation in Europe carefully. The United States began production of the Medium Tank M2 and trials of the Light Tank M2A4. They knew that if a war broke in Europe, they would be drawn into it sooner or later.

Similar sentiments were not uncommon in Canada, but hardly any preparations were being made for war. Unlike the United States or Great Britain, Canada had no tank building tradition. The Canadian armoured battalions that were established during the First World War came too late to take part in the fighting. The Canadian army was not mechanized during the interbellum, and had almost no tanks of its own at the start of the Second World War. Nevertheless, a proposal was made to create a Canadian tank force once more after the fall of Poland in 1939. Mechanization of cavalry units, both of the Permanent and the Non-Permanent Active Militia, was on the table. It quickly became clear that it would be impossible to arm a tank force without setting up domestic tank production. 219 obsolete M1917 light tanks that were purchased from the United States at scrap value, but they were useful for training and not much else.

Facing a shortage of armoured vehicles of every kind, Canada purchased worn out and obsolete M1917 Light Tanks from the US at scrap value. These tanks were worth little more than scrap.

Friday 21 April 2023

First KV-1S

 "To the Chief of the GBTU BTU, Major General of the Tank Forces, comrade Korobkov

I report that the Kirov factory presents two KV-1S tanks for trials.

First tank: #10279

  1. Engine: V-2KF #A-1401 650 hp at 2100 RPM
  2. Cooling system:
    1. Water radiators designed for the KV-3 tank
    2. Oil radiator from the RZT aircraft
  3. Gearbox: 8 speed with demultiplier, blueprint 21gr
  4. Main clutch: four disk, blueprint 110gr
  5. Fan with stamped blades and milled diffuser, blueprint 902gr
  6. Shifting gate blueprint 119gr and control rods blueprint 117gr
Second tank: #10334
  1. Engine: V-2KF #4ML-1669 650 hp at 2100 RPM
  2. Cooling system:
    1. Water radiators: production with additional radiators - blueprint
    2. Production oil radiator with extra radiator, blueprint 902gr. Air intake with deflectors.
  3. Gearbox: 8 speed with demultiplier, blueprint 212gr
  4. Main clutch: four disk, blueprint 210gr
  5. Fan blueprint 219gr
  6. Shifting gate blueprint 219gr and control rods blueprint 217gr
  7. Final drive blueprint 15gr (normal drive sprocket with 16 teeth)
By April 21st, 1942 trials of tank #10334 had started. It drove for 99 km on a highway. Linkage cones for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th gear control rods cut off.
Tank #10279 went on an initial run today (April 22nd) but was not accepted for trials since the air intakes on it are still wooden models.

The vehicles are not ready for checking the cooling system.

Senior Assistant to the Chief of the 5th Department of the BTU, Military Engineer 2nd Class [Signature]"

Wednesday 19 April 2023

45 mm APCR Penetration

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

We present the main results of proving grounds trials of 45 mm subcaliber armour piercing shot designed by Military Engineer 1st Class comrade Burmistrov.

The shot with heavy and hard tungsten alloy shows the best results. This shot satisfies the requirement of penetrating at least 60 mm of armour with the resistance coefficient of at least 2400 at an angle of 30 degrees at a range of 300-500 meters. They considerably increase the power of the 45 mm model 1932/37 anti-tank gun.

Monday 17 April 2023

Baby IS-3

The Second World War was a catalyst for the creation of many armoured vehicles, including heavy tanks. These vehicles were quite rare at the start of the war, but this changed radically in 1941-42. The Red Army was the most heavily invested in heavy tanks. At first, Soviet heavy tanks followed the classic path of gaining more and more weight, as a result of which the KV-1 became overloaded. The need for mobility led to the KV-13 and KV-1S. The result of this new branch of development was the IS-1 (IS-85) tank, which was quickly replaced with the IS-2 (IS-122). The tank combined powerful armament with sufficient mobility and high levels of protection. Nevertheless, work on modernizing the IS-2 began in the spring of 1944.

Kirovets-1 at the NIBT Proving Grounds, December 1944.

Friday 14 April 2023

The Wehrmacht's Unplanned Workhorse

How the Pz.Kpfw.IV became Germany's most numerous and longest serving tank.

There are many cases in worldwide tank building where not everything went according to plan. Even the legendary T-34 was supposed to leave the stage in 1941 in favour of the T-34M. Only the start of the war saved it from replacement. A similar thing happened to the Medium Tank M4. It was supposed to be replaced in 1943, but the replacements didn't turn out well. This happened to every long-serving tank, and the Germans were no exception.

The Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.C was the most common German medium tank at the start of the war.

Monday 10 April 2023

Second Fiddle

Even though the German Pz.Kpfw.IV tank was originally created as a support vehicle (Begleitwagen) and fell short of its counterpart the Pz.Kpfw.III in many ways, it was still the heaviest tank in the German arsenal and mounted the largest caliber gun. Issues with Pz.Kpfw.III production also made it the most numerous German medium tank at the start of WWII. Despite its “secondary” designation, the Pz.Kpfw.IV did not evade the attention of the British. Intelligence agents and tankers alike strived to uncover its secrets.

A meeting in Africa

As with the Pz.Kpfw.III, the British only knew about the Pz.Kpfw.IV from rumours. There was little verified information, but one of the few things known for sure was that the tank was heavier than the Pz.Kpfw.III. Intelligence summaries referred to it as a medium tank, whereas the Pz.Kpfw.III was called a “medium-light tank”. Naturally, the British encountered the Pz.Kpfw.IV in France in 1940, but a sample could not be obtained for study due to the rapid defeat of the British Expeditionary Force. Even though there was no precise data about the armour or armament of the tank, an identification poster was still composed and distributed on December 16th, 1940.

A drawing of the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.C composed according to intelligence data showing distinguishing features of the vehicle. The antenna deflector, fixed gun mantlet, pistol port in the single piece front plate, and driver’s observation slit were among the features unique to this variant of the tank.

Friday 7 April 2023

Heavy Trophies from Leningrad

There are plenty of armoured vehicles that had an impact on tank building worldwide. This list includes German vehicles, especially the Tiger tank. At the moment of its appearance, it was the best protected and most heavily armed tank in its weight class. Even though the effectiveness of Tiger crews is often exaggerated, this was indeed a very dangerous enemy, especially from 1943 to the spring of 1944. Tanks all over the world evolved to deal with Tigers.

Tiger 121 before winter camouflage was applied.

At about 9:30 am on January 18th, 1943, the Volkhov and Leningrad Fronts met at the eastern outskirts of Worker's Village #1. This was the first penetration of the Leningrad blockade. Another important event took place on the same day: Tiger tanks were captured in the vicinity of Worker's Village #5. Two samples were delivered to the NIBT Proving Grounds in Kubinka. Their study showed that the Soviet tank program requires some urgent changes. Today, we will discuss how the German tanks were captured and what were the first impressions regarding these tanks.

Monday 3 April 2023

Heavy Without Alternatives

One can often encounter brainstorms about how individual vehicles or even entire tank building schools ought to have evolved. Most of these brainstorms are done by people that are far removed from the field of history, but sometimes even notorious historians take part in this exercise. Among Soviet tanks, the T-28 is a popular character in alternative history. Modern improvements to this tank know no bounds, but the fact that the T-28 was replaced by the KV-1 and not the T-34 is often ignored, as is the fact that a replacement for the T-28 by the name of T-29 already existed. 

Object 237 accepted into service with the Red Army as the IS-85 (IS-1).

The IS-85 heavy tank was accepted into service with the Red Army on September 4th, 1943. This was the finale of the program aimed at developing a successor to the KV. One can often hear claims that if the KV remained in production and was modernized then it could be made into a heavy tank that was no worse than the IS-85. You may laugh, but these claims were not just made by alternative historians. Attempts to preserve the KV-85 were made at the highest levels, even in 1944. Nevertheless, the KV had to make room on the assembly line for its successor. Read on to find out why this happened and why there was no alternative to the IS tank.

Saturday 1 April 2023

Video: Is the KV-6 Real?

The KV-6 Behemoth is one of the most infamous fake tanks, but is there a kernel of truth inside the fiction? I take a look at the history of the KV-6 tank in my latest video.