Monday 25 September 2023

Two Tanks In One

A story of what a Main Battle Tank is and how it came to be.

Tanks evolved considerably over the course of over 100 years of service. The first tanks were built to break through enemy fortifications, but still ended up being much smaller than the landships that H.G. Wells dreamed of. Nevertheless, the effect they had was considerable. All armies of the world wanted to have their own tanks, but not all managed to create one. A tank only seems simple, but in reality is quite a complicated fighting machine that requires a powerful industry to produce. Far fewer nations managed to build their own tanks than their own aircraft. In addition, like any weapon individual tanks quickly became obsolete. It is only in the last few decades that tank development slowed down from its breakneck pace. Tanks remain one of the key types of vehicles on the battlefield. There have been many attempts to write them off as a relic of the past, but practice shows that this time has not yet come.

T-72, the most numerous Main Battle Tank. These tanks were developed in the late 1960s but continue to serve and will do so for decades to come.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Smokescreens in the 31st Tank Corps

"Report on the use of smokescreen by the 31st Tank Corps in January of 1945

A. Preparation of tank and SPG crews to use neutral smokescreens in battle

Strong attention to the use of smokescreens was paid during training of all types of forces in the corps. Personnel of tanks, SPGs, and motorized rifle units was taught the rules of using smoke equipment and its tactical-technical data.

The following topics were practices during tactical training exercises held in November-December 1944:

  1. The use of the RDG and DSh smoke bombs by a single tank or SPG to conceal its maneuver in combat.
  2. The use of smoke launchers by infantry and tanks to signal aircraft.
  3. Deployment of a tank battalion under the cover of a smokescreen set by an advance force.
  4. Attack by a tank battalion through a corridor in the smokescreen created by MDSh bombs lit by flanking tanks as cover from anti-tank gun fire.
  5. Concealing anti-tank obstacles in front of a defending rifle battalion with smoke to make crossing them more difficult.

Monday 18 September 2023

Copper Horns

The need for communications equipment in armoured vehicles became clear soon after their creation. Semaphores and signal flags were just a half measure. It was necessary to equip tanks with radios, but the road to equipping even a part of them was a long one. The modern system with a radio in the turret and a whip antenna was also far from the initial norm. There were many alternative visions of how a tank radio antenna should look.

The rail antenna was a characteristic feature of Soviet tanks in the 1930s.
Rail antennas became one of the characteristic features of Soviet tanks in the interwar years. "Horns" around the turret became a calling card of this generation of tanks. Few people stop to consider where such a strange antenna came from and how it works, especially since their age was brief. They were no longer used by Soviet industry after 1939, as opposed to the nation that came up with them originally.

Monday 11 September 2023

Italian Cruiser Tank

Italian tank building developed along a fairly usual trajectory. Once a direction was identified, the Italian military tried to stay on course. Under their close guidance, Ansaldo developed a series of combat vehicles: first a tankette, then a light tank, a medium one, and a breakthrough tank. In almost all cases, success was based on a foreign idea, primarily the British one. At first the Italians further developed the idea of the Carden-Loyd Mk.VI tankette and then the Vickers Mk.E support tank. 

Captured Cruiser Tank Mk.IVA at trials in Nettuno. This tank was the inspiration for a "colonial" tank.

Combat in North Africa revealed a series of deficiencies, including insufficient characteristics of Italian medium tanks. One of the biggest issues was their low mobility. The increase in engine power was not an accident. British vehicles were studied in parallel. A Cruiser Tank Mk.IVA was among those examined. This was not the most successful tank, but it was fast. A captured tank was tested at Nettuno in May of 1941. The idea of creating an Italian cruiser tank came about around the same tank. This tank was later called Carro M Celere Sahariano.