Categories
WW2 Soviet Medium Tanks

Matilda II in Soviet Service

USSR (1941)
Infantry Tank – 1084 shipped, 918 received

As a result of Germany’s Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Soviets lost large numbers of their tank forces. From June to December 1941, sources suggest the losses range from 5000 to as many as 15,000 tanks, up to half of the USSR’s approximate 30,000 tanks in service at the time.
In an attempt to fill the large gaps left by these losses, Great Britain, along with the United States, started a Lend-Lease relationship with the Soviet Union. This would allow the stricken Soviet military to bolster its forces while its tank production recovered. Along with the Churchill III, Tetrarch, Valentine and Universal Carrier, the famous ‘Queen of the Desert’ Matilda II soon found itself in the USSR, provided by Britain.
Between 1941 and 1943, some 1084 Matildas were shipped to the Soviet Union. Only 918 were received by the Red Army, however, as the others likely never made it to the end of the Arctic Convoys as a result of German Attacks. The Soviets received one-third of the entire 2987 vehicle production run of the Matilda.

A Matilda II Mk.III fresh of the production line is prepared for shipment to the USSR with a number of Slogans painted on by the factory workers, September 26, 1941. Photo: warspot.ru

Soviet Scrutiny

The Matildas that arrived in the Soviet Union were mostly Mk.IIIs and IVs, with Leyland diesel engines. Diesel being the preferred fuel of the Soviets. They arrived painted in the standard G3 Khaki color, with various instructional markings, including red stripes running the length of the tank to signify its maximum fording depth. British representatives were sent with the first batch of tanks in 1941 to teach Soviet crews how to operate the vehicles. This took place at the Kazan and Gorkiy (Modern day Nizhni-Novgorod) Tank Schools. The British reported how adverse the Soviet crews were to using some methods and favored their own system of flags to communicate rather than the wireless set. They also preferred using the manual turret traverse to the powered traverse.
The Matilda, or the “British Mk.2” as it came to be called, received mixed reviews from the Soviets. Its armor, comparable to that of their own KV-1 Heavy Tanks, was much appreciated. One Soviet Matilda crew member claimed his tank received 87 non-penetrating hits. Its general reliability was also highly regarded. At the time, the Matilda and the Valentine were considered to be light tanks and actually fell in between the Soviet definition of Light and Medium tanks. They had less firepower than the Soviet’s medium and heavy Tanks, but more armor than their light tanks. The Matilda certainly didn’t have the speed of a light tank, which Soviet crews were not too happy with.
A major problem with tank, the Soviet crews found, was how ill-suited it was too harsh winter conditions. The tank was designed to operate down to 0 Degrees C, but temperatures in Russian could drop as low as -50 Degrees C. Indeed, even during shipping across the Arctic route, the coolant in the tanks radiators would freeze. Following complaints by the recipients, later tanks were shipped with an antifreeze solution in the radiators. The cold weather also affected the mobility of the tank. Snow and mud would frequently clog the drivetrain and suspension, making it hard to shift when built up behind the armored side skirts. It was found that just 30 cm (12 in) of snow was enough to stop the tank. Matildas shipped to the USSR were equipped with the T.D.5910 “Spud” tracks. Its narrow tracks with smooth, rounded metal treads were also an issue when crossing icy terrain, as they provided little to no grip. Crews devised a simple solution by welding sections of steel to each link for better grip in the snow.
The Matilda’s 2 Pounder (40 mm) gun was also a problem. The Soviets saw it as no improvement over their own 45 mm 20-K tank gun (found on the BT tanks for instance) and were disappointed that it wasn’t equipped with a HE (High-Explosive) round. One attempt to provide a solution was the re-casing of the 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft rounds but was not successful.
There was a more extensive proposal, however. The Soviet’s turned to one of their best weapons engineers, Vasily Grabin, who came up with a design to introduce a 76 mm anti-tank gun into the Matilda’s turret. This gun was the F-96, a specially designed variant of the ZiS-5. Not only would this have increased the vehicles anti-armor capability, but also granted it an effective High-Explosive round. This project did not go far, however, with just one prototype built.
The HE problem would prove to rectify itself, however, with later deliveries of the tank bringing the Close-Support Matilda armed with an Ordnance QF 3 inch (76 mm) Howitzer. This gun fired both an effective HE round and smoke shells. A total of 156 of this version were sent, but only around 120 were received. They were not very common, with only a few units being equipped with them. The 5th Mechanized Corps of the 68th Army were one such unit for example. The 5th Mechanised was the only Soviet armored corps to be entirely equipped with British tanks.

Matilda CS tanks of the 5th Mechanized Corps, 68th Army. Photo: Osprey Publishing

The Desert Queen in a Winter War

The Soviet Army had formed six tank battalions by late November 1941 out of 20 Matildas and 97 Valentines, or the “British Mk.3” as they called it. These battalions were deployed on the Western Front for the defense of Moscow. The 146th Tank Brigade (146-ya tankovaya brigada) of the 16th Army fought here. This brigade consisted of two tank battalions with a total of 40 Valentines and two Matildas. The first unit to be equipped with the Matilda was the 136th Separate Tank Battalion (136-y otdelniy tankoviy batal’on).
The tanks played an extremely important frontline role in the defense of Moscow as the Soviet’s own tank supply was running thin due to the heavy losses in the summer of 1941. Put in perspective, there were between 607 and 670 tanks at the Soviet’s disposal for the defense of the city and only 205 of these were indigenous T-34 Medium Tanks and KV-1 Heavy Tanks. The rest were a mix of light tanks and Lend\Lease vehicles.
By the end of 1941, some 182 British tanks had been committed to combat operations, of which around 80 would be lost in action. By this time, there were only 46 Lend/Lease tanks still operational on the Western Front, this consisted of 38 Valentines and only eight Matildas. Many Matildas were pulled back from frontline service due to the Matilda’s shortcomings in harsh winter weather.

A Matilda freshly covered in the White-Wash winter camo. You can see just how roughly it is applied, with drips running down the head lamps and even the tracks. Photo: Osprey Publishing
The 1942, Operation: Blau was the next major combat operation that Soviet Matildas would see action in. This operation was a direct response to the drive towards Stalingrad and the Caucasus oil fields. The 10th Tank Corps, formed in Moscow’s military district in April had six tank battalions at its disposal, two of these battalions were made up solely of Matildas, with a total of 60. The 11th Tank Corps formed in May also had four of its six battalions equipped with Matildas. This corps was joined to the 5th Tank Army and took part in the July battles on the Don River. They began the campaign with 181 tanks, 88 of which were Matildas. After 10 days of hard fighting, the Corp lost 51 Matildas, had 22 under repair, and just 37 still in operational condition.
As mentioned above, the 5th Mechanised were the only Corps to be fully equipped with British Tanks. The 5th was formed in September and November 1942 in the Moscow Military District. The Corps was equipped exclusively with Valentine and Matilda (Including the Close Support variant) tanks. It first saw combat in that December 1942 in Stalingrad, but was almost completely wiped out by Manstein’s February 1943 counter-offensive. The Corp was rebuilt, however with a force largely comprised of Valentines.
By 1943, most Matildas had been withdrawn from frontline service on the Western Front. Thanks to the restart of the USSR’s own tank production, they were churning tanks by the battalion load. Some remaining Matildas did see action late in the war against the Japanese on the Manchurian front.

Two unfortunate Soviet Matilda II Mk.IIIs that have somehow flipped onto their turrets. Date and location unknown. Photo: warspot.ru


Russian Matilda of the 38th Armored Brigade, southwest front, May 1942.

A Matilda with provisional washable white paint used for winter cammo, Leningrad sector, winter 1942/43.
Mathilda 2CS in Russian service
Illustration of a Matilda II Close Support, based on the tank in the photo in the left column, of the 5th Mechanized Corps, 68th Army.
The lend-lease Matilda Mk.II the Soviets re-armed with the ZiS-5 gun. All illustrations are by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

A Soviet Hero

It is believed that a well-known Soviet hero, Andrei Fokin, was part of a Matilda crew in a tank named Tank chetyrem geroyev (Tank of Four Heroes) of the 182nd Separate Tank Battalion, 202nd Tank Brigade. Fokin was later awarded the “Hero of Soviet Union” decoration for his actions in a KV-1 with the 6th Tank Brigade, where he took out 16 German Tanks in may 1942.

Crew of the “Tank chetyrem geroye” with their vehicle, the man on the extreme right is Andrei Fokin.

Summary

The lend/lease military aid program, and the Matilda’s role in it, was hardly decisive to the Soviet Union’s subsequent victories on the Eastern or Western front. The political fog of the Cold War often marred the truth about the vehicles received.
It was said that the Matilda was inferior to the T-34, and in truth it probably was. But it should not be forgotten that the British sent the best tanks they had at the time to the USSR. The Matilda was certainly a much better tank than the troublesome T-60 and T-70 light tanks. 14 Percent of Britain’s entire tank production went to the Soviets.
As stated in this article the Matilda, and the other lend/lease vehicles for that matter, fought hard where it was needed. If nothing else this bought time for the USSR to restock its own tank force in the huge numbers that helped them to win their campaigns later in the War. Regardless of post-war politics, the tanks were an important aid to the Soviets.

Beutepanzer and Czechoslovakia

One Soviet Matilda was captured and used by SS units in their military training area at Benešov near Prague. After the War, the tank was acquired by the new Czechoslovak army. It is believed it was scrapped. Other tanks were found in the Benešov training area along with it such as an M4 Sherman, M3 Lee, Churchill, Valentine and even a Crusader. They were also scrapped.

Surviving Tanks

Despite the publicly apparent loathing of the Matilda by the USSR after the Second World War, a large number of the tanks still survive in Russia to this day. They can be found in museums such as the Kubinka Tank Museum, and the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War.

Matilda II Mk.III CS Close Support Tank in the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War 1941 – 1945, Park Pobedy, Moscow. The turret is a reproduction, only the hull is original. Photo: www.Tank-Hunter.com, Craig Moore

Matilda II Mk.IV CS Close Support Tank in the Kubinka Tank Museum Russia. Photo: www.Tank-Hunter.com, Craig Moore

An article by Mark Nash

Matilda II specifications

Dimensions 18 ft 9.4 in x 8 ft 3 in x 8 ft 7 in (5.72 x 2.51 x 2.61 m)
Total weight, loaded 25.5 tons (25.6 tonnes)
Crew 4 (driver, gunner, loader, commander)
Propulsion 2x Leyland E148 & E149 straight 6-cylinder water cooled diesel 95 hp engine
Max. Road Speed 15 mph (24.1 km/h)
Operational Road Range 50 miles (807 km)
Armament 2-Pdr QF (40 mm/1.575 in), 94 rounds
Besa 7.92 mm machine-gun, 2925 rounds
Armor 15 mm to 78 mm (0.59-3.14 in)
Total production 2,987
Data source Infantry Tank Mark II Specifications, by J.S. DODD The Vulcan Foundry Ltd, Locomotive Works, August 1940

Sources

Infantry Tank Mark IIA* Specifications, The Vulcan Foundary Ltd by designer Sir John Dodd August 1940
Infantry Tank Mark II manual, War Department
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #8, Matilda Infantry Tank 1938-45
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #247: Soviet Lend-Lease Tanks of World War II
Davis-Poynter Publishing, Comrades in Arms: British Aid to Russia 1941-45, Joan Beaumont.
Soviet Matildas on www.tank-hunter.com
The upgraded Matilda in an article by Yuri Pasholok. (Russian)

Report from British Pathe on tanks being sent to the Soviet Union.
nfantry Tank Mark II Specifications, by J.S. DODD The Vulcan Foundry Ltd, Locomotive Works, August 1940

Categories
WW2 Soviet Medium Tanks

T-12 & T-24

Soviet Union Soviet Union
Medium tank (1931) -25 built

Didn’t quite make the cut

The T-12 and the T-24 were attempts to improve the line of Soviet tanks deriving from MS (T-18) tanks, mostly consisting of failed prototypes such as the T-19, T-21, and T-23. On paper, it seemed like a good idea, seeing as though the Soviets had no medium tanks during the design phase of the T-12 and T-24, between 1925-1931. Whilst the tank as a whole seemed to be a sound design, it was simply unworkable and mechanical failures were common. These failures may not have derived from the design itself, but from the fact that the USSR had very limited number of skilled tank workers and resources. The T-24 is the model which was cleared for production and had 25 built. Having said this, the T-12/T-24 project was in direct competition with the somewhat infamous Tank Grotte-1, which later met the same fate as the T-12/T-24 project. Development of this project and the TG heavy tank project was ended in 1931 in light of adopting production of the Christie tanks, more commonly known as the BT series.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

The T-24 tank. The commander's cupola is very distinctive
The T-24 tank. The commander’s cupola is very distinctive.

Design process

The Soviets knew that they needed a more heavily armored tank than the T-18, but were actually not willing to embark on any such project until they felt that they had sufficient tank designing experience. A tank design bureau was established at the Kharkov Locomotive Factory (KhPZ), Ukrainian SSR in 1928. It was headed by I. Aleksienko in cooperation with A. Morozov, the man who would be in charge of all Soviet medium tank projects from 1940-1970. The first tank project of the factory was the T-12 (or T-1-12). This was a larger version of the T-18 (or MS-1), with a more powerful 200 hp engine and bigger 45 mm (1.77 in) gun. The 1930 budget had funds for 30 T-12s.
The concept of the T-12 consisted of a synthesis of the experience gained during the design and mass production of the T-18, and the idea of a multi-tier deployment of weapons, which was consistently tested by American engineers in the design of prototypes of a medium tank – the M1 Medium (models 1921 – 1925). The T-12 had a simple hull structure between two tracks with small-bogie suspension.
It had a eight-sided turret with a rounded commander’s cupola and a crew of four. It weighed 19 tons, was 7.5 m long, 3 m wide, and 2.8 m high. It was armed with a typical Model 32 45 mm (1.77 in) gun, with space for 100 rounds, and it even had three 7.62mm DT machine guns in a Fedorov-Ivanov ball mount – one in the commander’s cupola, one next to the main gun, and one on the side of the tank’s turret. Like all Soviet tanks of that time, the T-12 had a removable “tail”, which increased the length of the hull by 690 mm, and gave the opportunity to overcome the trenches up to a width of 2.65 meters.
Building this prototype reportedly took place in absence of high-quality materials, special equipment and skilled personnel. Despite this, assembly of the prototype took place at record pace, and the tank was collected for testing on October 15, 1929. To reduce the cost and time spent on the tank, the armored hull and turret were made from steel more suitable for construction, not armor.  During trials, the T-12 prototype was revealed to be flawed and it was decided that a new design was needed.

The T-24

The project was re-designated T-24, work was completed fixing problems with the transmission and fuel system, and a larger turret was designed. Externally, the new tank was significantly different from its predecessor. The hull was widened to overlap the tracks and the superstructure had a V-shaped front with the driver at the apex, instead of a flat front. The turret was rather roomy (a luxury by Soviet standards), and had a similar commander’s cupola, which now had a slightly taller hatch with a hinged lid, which enabled the commander (without leaving the machine-gun tower) to observe terrain, and guide the actions of the tank.
It also featured a rounded turret, whereas the T-12 had an eight-sided turret – they looked very similar, however. Another major difference is that the tracks on the T-12 were taller and there is less armor above them, as well as the front wheel being smaller. The T-24 also had a fourth DT machine gun in the hull instead of the flat space next to the driver’s hatch. Hatches on the tank were also changed a lot, especially the engine deck which was now accessible by two hatches, instead of four on top. Finally, it had an exhaust removed, so now it only had one. These differences are much clearer seen on their technical drawings.
The tank’s cupola was made from sheets of metal ranging from 12-22 mm (0.47-0.87 in) thick, and was riveted together. This tank only had a crew of 3, and was given the same 45 mm (1.77 in) gun, with four DT machine guns as well. Maximum armour was 25.2 mm (1 in), which was hardly noteworthy. It weighed 18.2 tonnes, which could be considered heavy despite the relatively thin armor. Its maximum speed was 24 km/h (15 mph), which was also deemed slightly unsatisfactory, given Soviet deep battle doctrines.
The T-24 prototype was completed in 1931, and permission was given by the VTU to make 24 vehicles. One of the first T-24s was urgently sent to Kubinka for comparative trials with the T-12. Initial trials were conducted, during which performance was found satisfactory, although the prototype’s engine caught fire, and the turret had to be transferred to a T-12 prototype for further testing. The 45 mm gun was not ready for any T-24 tanks, so tests were conducted without them. Having been accepted into service with only a DT, they eventually received guns in 1932.
Between 1930 and 1931, 300 more T-24 tanks were planned. In fact, only 24 tanks, 26 turrets, and 28 sets of running gears and transmissions were produced.  The T-24 was found unreliable, and was used only for training and parades. After the first 25, production was discontinued.
It is believed that the T-24 was withdrawn from the production due to the complexity of manufacturing tanks and a whole host of flaws discovered on the first batch of the tank’s production. The T-24 was also more or less a designing experiment to give engineers experience. Similar experience building projects came from German designer, Grotte, who developed the T-22 or TG-1, which was produced by OKMO in Leningrad, headed by N. Barykov, who later went on to develop the T-28. The TG-1 was much more radical than the T-24 project, and three prototypes were developed. One had a 37 mm (1.46 in) gun with four DT machine guns, another had a 76.2 mm (3 in) gun and four DT machine guns, the final one had a 76.2 mm (3 in) gun, a 37 mm (1.46 in) gun and a single DT machine gun. This tank was huge, as it was 7.5 m long, 3 m wide and 2.8 m high. It had a vast crew of 11, and its 250 hp M-5 engine gave it a speed of 35 km/h. Armor ranged between a very poor 8-20 mm. It was considered horrifically complicated and was refused for production, along with its heavier sibling, the TG-3 (T-29). It would later go on to influence the T-28, T-35, and SMK designs.
Finally, all of these designs were rejected in light of complicated production and Soviet access to Christie tanks – more commonly known as the BT series. Although the T-24 tank was a failure, it gave the KhPZ its initial tank design and production experience, which was applied much more successfully in adopting production of the U.S. Christie tank as the BT tank series, starting in 1931.

Further development

The KhPZ’s Komintern artillery tractor was based on the suspension of the T-12 tank (50 built from 1930) and (reportedly), the T-24 (2,000 built from 1935 to 1941), powered by a 131-hp diesel engine. Despite the dismal fate of its predecessor tanks, the tractor was more successful and was put into mass production. The Komintern inherited several of the T-24’s disadvantages, but some of them were fixed by the designers and the others were not as significant for a tractor as for a tank. The Komintern was used to tow medium artillery such as the 152 mm (6 in) gun-howitzer.
The Voroshilovets heavy artillery tractor was also based on the T-24’s suspension, using the same Model V-2 diesel engine as the BT-7M and T-34 tanks, but detuned. About 230 were built at KhPZ from 1939, and after the German invasion of 1941 production was shifted to the Stalingrad Tractor Factory until August 1942.
A Komintern tractor on parade
A Komintern tractor on parade.
The T-24’s story did, however, not end in the early 1930s. In 1938, there was a decision to take the at least one T-24 and some T-18s and use them as static pillboxes. The T-24 lost its tall commander’s cupola, but gained the firing system of a T-28 and the co-axial DT was replaced with a Maxim gun. It is unclear whether or not these saw combat, or whether they were ever finally placed as pillboxes.

Sources and further reading

Russian Tanks of World War Two, Stalin’s Armoured Might“, by Tim Bean and Will Fowler
Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two“, by Steven J. Zaloga and James Grandsen

T-12 specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 7.5 x 3 x 2.8 m
(21.33 x 9.84 x 9.19 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 19.8 tonnes
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion  200-250 hp M-6
Speed (road) Estimated 25 km/h (16 mph)
Range 140 km (87 miles)
Armament Model 32 45 mm (1.77 in) gun
3x DT 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine-guns
Armor 12-22 mm (0.47-0.87 in)
Total production At least 1 prototype

T-24 specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 6.5 x 3 x 2.81 m
(21.33 x 9.84 x 9.2 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 18.5 tonnes
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion 250 hp M-6
Speed (road) 25 km/h (16 mph)
Range 140 km (87 miles)
Armament Model 32 45 mm (1.77 in) gun
4x DT 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine-guns
Armor 8-20 mm (0.31-0.79 in)
Total production 25

A T-24 tank after preparations for use as a static pillbox. The firing system of a T-28 M1938 has been placed on the front of the turret, along with a Maxim gun instead of a DT. It also has no commander's cupola, engine, trench-crossing tail, or tracks
A T-24 tank after preparations for use as a static pillbox. The firing system of a T-28 M1938 has been placed on the front of the turret, along with a Maxim gun instead of a DT. It also has no commander’s cupola, engine, trench-crossing tail, or tracks.
The TG-1 prototype with both a 76.2 mm (3 in) gun and a 37 mm (1.46 in) gun
The TG-1 prototype with both a 76.2 mm (3 in) gun and a 37 mm (1.46 in) gun.

The T-12. Notice the eight-sided turret, the flat rear and the fact the tracks reach the top of the hull.
The T-12. Notice the eight-sided turret, the flat rear and the fact the tracks reach the top of the hull.The T-24. Notice the rounded turret, the more elongated rear, the lower track height and the hull sponsons.
The T-24. Notice the rounded turret, the more elongated rear, the lower track height and the hull sponsons.

Gallery

A T-24 on a parade behind a twin-turreted T-26 Mod. 1931
A T-24 on a parade behind a twin-turreted T-26 Mod. 1931.
T-12 technical drawing
T-12 technical drawing.
T-24 technical drawing. Notice how the turret is rounded at the back, as opposed to eight-sided
T-24 technical drawing. Notice how the turret is rounded at the back, as opposed to eight-sided.
A technical drawing of the T-24 detailing the interior design, tracks, and suspension
A technical drawing of the T-24 detailing the interior design, tracks, and suspension.
A T-12 outside a factory
A T-12 outside a factory.
A T-12 is posed on by workers and officers. The eight sided turret is very clear in this image
A T-12 is posed on by workers and officers. The eight sided turret is very clear in this image.
The T-24 is examined by a team of workers and officers. The 45 mm gun was not ready in time for trials, so the tests took place without a gun
The T-24 is examined by a team of workers and officers. The 45 mm gun was not ready in time for trials, so the tests took place without a gun.
A T-24 on trials.
A T-24 on trials.
tanks posters - Soviet Armour 1941
Soviet Tanks in June 1941 (Operation Barbarossa)

Categories
WW2 Soviet Medium Tanks

T-44

Soviet Union (1944-1947)
Medium tank -1823 built

A near total redesign

The T-44 medium tank came about as a successor to the world-famous T-34. However, it was a near-total redesign. It was made with the intention of having greater cross-country performance and more effective armor. In 1943, the plan was to mount the 85 mm (3.35 in) gun on a new, and improved platform, taking into account all the lessons learned from the T-34. However, when the T-34/85 was produced, it was clear that the T-44 lost out on its cutting edge design somewhat (as it shared some features with the T-34/85), and the design was considered less important than increasing T-34 production.
Developing and producing a new vehicle would slow down overall production of tanks – something the Red Army could hardly afford, even by this stage of the war. The T-44 project was reworked later in the war, and although it was mass produced, it was still a very secretive design. The T-44 design was subject to some attempts to give it a larger armament after the war, which led directly on to the highly successful T-54/55 tanks.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

A T-44 on display in Brest, Belarus
A T-44 on display in Brest, Belarus.

Design process

The design process of this tank was long, laborious, and goes as far back as 1940, when T-34 production had only just started. There were various plans to improve the tank’s capabilities which led to a whole host of new designs such as the T-34/85, T-34/100, and T-43, just to name a few of the more commonly known ones. The T-44 was another of these ideas has its roots in the T-34M. It was designed with greater armor, a three-man hexagonal turret (similar to the T-34/85), modern torsion bar suspension and road wheels that featured internal shock absorption, which would improve its off-road capabilities. The regular T-34 used Christie suspension that had now become outdated and had a tendency to give a very uncomfortable ride.
Further improvements included greater fuel capacity and more ammunition carrying space. The transversely-mounted engine was connected to an 8-speed transmission system. A transversely-mounted engine meant that the crankshaft axis was perpendicular to the long axis of the vehicle, which not only made the entire transmission system more reliable (a real problem faced by Soviet tank crews during the war), but it made the system smaller, thus giving the crew more room, which was a total luxury in Soviet tanks.
The T-44/122 prototype next to a prototype T-44/85
Five sets of armor plates for the hull of a T-34M were produced by the Zhdanov Metallurgical Factory and given to Zavod Nr. 183 in Kharkiv. However, the facility had no time for this development, as it was far too busy producing the T-34, in light of decimating AFV losses against the Wehrmacht in 1941. Work on the T-34M ceased in early 1941, and the idea of gradually improving the design was considered the best way to ensure efficient production of vehicles to fight the war. Development of an almost totally new vehicle would have taken up precious time and resources, as well as there being a period in which factory workers, factories, and tank crews had to be retrained and retooled for the job.
The T-44/100 prototype.
The next major development was the T-43 in 1942. As a result of what was learned on the Eastern Front, the Red Army needed a stronger medium tank to deal with the more effective guns of newer German tanks, such as the Tiger and more updated versions of the Panzer IV. The Red Army wanted better protection, but as little weight increase as possible. They recognized that mobility would play a key role in their deep battle tactic, as proven with strong armored but slow tanks like the KV series, which were deemed unsuitable for such tactics. However, the T-43 project focused on increasing armor and allowing a turreted vehicle to carry an 85 mm (3.35 in) gun, at a time when ease of production was paramount. The T-43’s entry into production was canceled, despite being recommended for service. However, there was one significant development that the designers kept – the turret.
This new turret could not only mount the much-needed 85 mm (3.35 in) D5-T, but it also had space for three men and more ammo. Just as importantly, it fixed some the problems encountered with the T-34/76’s turret, such as the fact that shells would bounce off the sloped frontal hull armor and directly into the turret ring, killing crew members if not totally knocking the tank out. This new turret was mounted on the T-34, and the vehicle was renamed the T-34/85. The development of the T-34/100 also came to an end, after it encountered various problems. For example, firing the cannon heavily stressed or broke the tank’s suspension. Moreover, the 100 mm (3.94 in) gun was deemed unnecessary at that time.
The T-43 prototype
The T-43 prototype.
The T-44 had several generations of prototypes. Development started in autumn 1943, in the then-Ural-based Zavod Nr. 183. Work on it started under the direct order of Stalin, who had also refused the T-43 for service, as he believed that Chief Designer A.A. Morozov would come up with something better. The idea was to keep the high mobility of the T-34, but give it armor like the KV. Such a project had been attempted by the KV-85 and IS series, but the Soviets needed a medium tank that was cheaper and easier to produce.
In 1943, the design of the vehicle, as well as a model, was presented and designated the Object 136. Three prototypes were produced between January and February of 1944. The first two had 85 mm (3.35 in) guns and the final one had a 122 mm (4.8 in) D-25-44T tank gun. The latter was based on the D-25 field gun, with the exception of a better muzzle brake, and other minor improvements making it more suitable to being mounted in an enclosed turret. This prototype was called the T-44/122.
Surprisingly, the T-44-122 only weighed 30 tonnes! This was because of the innovative engine placement, as mentioned earlier. The crew compartment was much bigger, but the turret was placed directly over the center, giving the driver less space, whilst reducing the overall length of the tank, again, allowing it to shed more weight. However, the ammo rack had to be placed on the left side of the vehicle and could be hit more easily than one in a more conventional tank. Armor thickness was 75 mm (2.95 in) for hull and 90 mm (3.54 in) on the front of the turret. The side armor was 45 mm (1.77 in) thick and it could have a 30 mm plate added.
A rare photo of a column of T-44s. The lead tank has an Order of the Red Banner painted on the turret
A rare photo of a column of T-44s. The lead tank has an Order of the Red Banner painted on the turret.
However, there was widespread skepticism over the design – the engine and transmission in particular. A 12 cylinder engine with a displacement of 40 liters which was perpendicular to the direction of travel could break the connection rods and effectively disable the tank. However, Morozov argued that whilst transmission was complicated by this, it did solve some problems. Firstly, the engine and transmission were now more accessible for maintenance. Secondly, the turret could now be placed in the center of the hull, which moved the vehicle’s rotational axis and center of mass, thus making the main gun more accurate.
The thickness of the armor could also be doubled without disturbing the vehicle’s center of mass, which meant that it could be better protected whilst maintaining stability. Whilst these developments sound superb, the trials that the T-44-122 undertook in February and March 1944 were not successful, as the gun failed.
Trials were resumed in April and May after a brief return to the factory for repairs. It was put up against a captured Panther tank and the second T-44-85 prototype. It did not go well. It was discovered that the rate of fire was no more than three rounds per minute because the ammo was so heavy. As well as this, the turret was cramped and had an abysmal storage space that could only fit 24 rounds. Development of the T-44-122 was subsequently ended. However, the second T-44-85 prototypes showed somewhat more promise. Other than mounting the smaller 85 mm (3.35 in) gun, they had minor differences between them, such as the position of the driver’s hatch, and one having a splashboard on the glacis plate.
One of the prototypes had an 85 mm ZiS-S-53 gun and an increased turret armor of 115 mm (4.53 in), as well as hull side armor being upped to 75 mm (2.95 in). Despite this, it only weighed 31.8 tonnes. It passed the trials at the NIBT training grounds near Kubinka in June and July of 1944. Also, it did not feature a hull radio operator / machine gunner position, because the Red Army deemed it practically worthless – it was a weak point and firing the machine gun was ineffective due to obscured vision of targets. The radio operator duty was given to the commander, as having another crew member was simply inefficient.

The second T-44 prototype.
The second T-44 prototype.
This was now designated the T-44A, after the Morozov Design Bureau had moved back to their original location of Kharkiv. It had a new V-44 12-cylinder 4-stroke diesel engine, producing 520 hp and gave the tank a top speed of 60 km/h (37 mph). Also, the driver’s hatch was moved onto the roof of the hull and the vision flap was replaced by a vision slot in the glacis plate. After some more trials in August and September 1944, it received a few minor upgrades which made it weight 32 tonnes. It was officially taken into service on the 23rd of November, 1944, but was never fielded during WWII.
There were attempts to mount a 100 mm (3.94 in) gun on the T-44. In 1944, the Red Army had several potential guns of this caliber to mount, the D-10 (as used on the SU-100) and two prototype guns – the LB-1 and ZiS-100. Two prototypes of this vehicles were made, and were designated T-44B. Like the two T-44-85 prototypes, one had a splashboard and the other did not. Testing was conducted from October 1944 to February 1945, with further trials in March and April. The T-44/100 would later be accepted into service as the T-54.

Variants

Most T-44 variants came about as a result of a modernization that took place in the early 1960s.
The T-44M was given parts from the new T-54 tank, such as a new gearbox, improved radio, space for three extra shells, night vision and infra-red sights, increased fuel capacity by 150 liters, and additional minor changes, in 1961.
The T-44MK was a command version of the T-44M. It was given a much more powerful radio set and, as a result, ammo stowage was decreased by 15 shells.
Some T-44As and T-44Ms were given the cyclone gun stabilizer and were designated the T-44S and T-44MS respectively in 1966.
A few T-44Ms were converted into BTS-4A armored recovery vehicles in 1965. These tanks had no turrets and were instead given a stowage basket, crane, and hoist.
The BTS-4A
The BTS-4A.

In action

The T-44 did not serve in WWII, despite being issued to three tank brigades for training in September 1944. The army could not take the new tank into combat because of the lack of spare parts, the time taken to retrain crews, and the lack of specialist engineers who could keep the tanks running. However, some tanks were stationed in the Far East during the final few days of fighting, leading to 600 T-44s being stationed on that particular front.
Throughout the Cold War, the T-44 was a very secret tank and was, therefore, never shown on military parades. Subsequently, there are supposedly no photos of East German T-44s, even though they were known to exist. It is known that T-44s were used in the Hungarian Uprising, 1956, and some photographs exist, although there is skepticism of their authenticity. These T-44s were used like other tanks that were sent into Hungary, such as the IS-3, ISU-152, and PT-76, as checkpoints and patrols.
Some T-44s were also in service with the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (the Soviet occupying force).
Many T-44s and variants were converted into fixed emplacements along the border with the People’s Republic of China as a result of the vehicle being replaced by the T-54/55, and T-62, as well as the general stagnation of Sino-Soviet relations in the 1960s, meaning there was potential for war to break out.
A T-44 being ridden during a training exercise, probably in the early 1950s: Notice the starfish roadwheels
A T-44 being ridden during a training exercise, probably in the early 1950s: Notice the starfish roadwheels.
A supposed photo of an abandoned T-44 in Budapest, Hungary, 1956. There are two other purported photographs, but they are in black and white. Some skeptics have called all of these photographs fakes
A supposed photo of an abandoned T-44 in Budapest, Hungary, 1956. There are two other purported photographs, but they are in black and white. Some skeptics have called all of these photographs fakes.
The T-44 was not always best suited to Russian winters. There would sometimes be an incomplete draining of the cooling system as a result of the water pump system not being adapted to the reduced engine height. A shaft would break after the impeller pump froze and the repair of this was considered laborious in field conditions – it actually took several crew members to do. Two men had to lower the third into the engine deck to actually install the new part. Another example of winter problems is that there were reports of crew members suffering from frostbite. This was because there was no heating system fitted on the tank. As well as this, the driver was meant to be protected from the elements with a removable tarpaulin with a fitted glass window, but it was impractical to put up and operate with.
Also, there were some issues with gearboxes and transmission in early models. Sometimes, the when the driver was changing gear, two gears could engage at the same time, which therefore broke a gear pinion – effectively disabling the gearbox. This problem was later fixed during modernization in 1961 by mounting a T-54 gearbox instead. This tank was designated the T-44M. During this modernization, which lasted until 1966, there were other aforementioned modifications.

Gallery

A restored T-44 at Kubinka Tank Museum. It has the Order of Nevsky painted on the turret
Restored T-44 at Kubinka
A T-44 serving with the GSFG.
T-44 with the GSFG

T-44 specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 6.07 x 3.25 x 2.45 m (19.9 x 10.7 x 8 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 31 tonnes
Crew 4
Propulsion V-44, 12 cyl, 38l diesel, 520 hp
Speed (road) 53 km/h (33 mph)
Range 350 km (217 miles)
Armament 85 mm (3.35 in) ZiS-S-53
2 x DTM 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine-guns
Armor Up to 120 mm (4.7 in)
Total production 1823

Sources

“Russian Tanks of World War II”, by Tim Bean and Will Fowler. Photographs and illustrations: Wikipedia.
ww2 soviet armour
ww2 Soviet Tanks Poster

A what if operational T-44 in September 1944. In fact, this relatively secret tank never saw action in WW2.
A “what if” operational T-44 in September 1944. In fact, this relatively secret tank never saw action in WW2.
T-44 of an unidentified unit in training, 1945. Notice the full spider roadwheels.
T-44 of an unidentified unit in training, 1945. Notice the full spider roadwheels.
T-44 with dished roadwheels in winter exercises after the war.
T-44 with dished roadwheels in winter exercises after the war.
The T-44/100 prototype (February 1945). It was manufactured to carry the new gun because the T-34 transmission could not endure the recoil.
The T-44/100 prototype (February 1945). It was manufactured to carry the new gun because the T-34 transmission could not endure the recoil.
T54
The T-54-1 model 1948, first of the T-54 series and still significantly influenced by the T-44.

Red Army Auxiliary Armoured Vehicles, 1930–1945 (Images of War)

Red Army Auxiliary Armoured Vehicles, 1930–1945 (Images of War), by Alex Tarasov

If you ever wanted to learn about probably the most obscure parts of the Soviet tank forces during the Interwar and WW2 – this book is for you.

The book tells the story of the Soviet auxiliary armor, from the conceptual and doctrinal developments of the 1930s to the fierce battles of the Great Patriotic War.

The author not only pays attention to the technical side, but also examines organizational and doctrinal questions, as well as the role and place of the auxiliary armor, as it was seen by the Soviet pioneers of armored warfare Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Vladimir Triandafillov and Konstantin Kalinovsky.

A significant part of the book is dedicated to real battlefield experiences taken from Soviet combat reports. The author analyses the question of how the lack of auxiliary armor affected the combat efficacy of the Soviet tank troops during the most significant operations of the Great Patriotic War, including:

– the South-Western Front, January 1942
– the 3rd Guards Tank Army in the battles for Kharkov in December 1942–March 1943
– the 2nd Tank Army in January–February 1944, during the battles of the Zhitomir–Berdichev offensive
– the 6th Guards Tank Army in the Manchurian operation in August–September 1945

The book also explores the question of engineering support from 1930 to the Battle of Berlin. The research is based mainly on archival documents never published before and it will be very useful for scholars and researchers.
Buy this book on Amazon!


Categories
WW2 Soviet Medium Tanks

T-34-85

Soviet Union Soviet Union (1943) Medium Tank – 55,000 built

The Soviet response to the Panther

The T-34/76 was designed in 1940 as a multi-purpose vehicle, intended to take advantage of breakthroughs in enemy lines. It kept the original F-34 gun until 1943, despite the appearance of many new AT gun types, new versions of the Panzer IV with a high-velocity gun (which became the German primary tank) and the appearance of many tank-hunters based on obsolete tank chassis, such as the StuG III, an assault gun built on the Panzer III chassis.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

After reports about the new Russian tanks had reached the OKH, German engineers were sent back to the drawing board under the pressure of many generals and the full support of Hitler himself. From their work emerged two new models, the Panzer V “Panther” and the Panzer VI “Tiger”. Both the T-34 and the KV-1 combined excellent armor with a potent gun, while the T-34 also had great mobility and was easily mass-produced. The Panther had its origins deeply tied to the T-34, with all lessons from the Eastern Front well learned. It combined sloped armor, superior in thickness to the Russian tank, large tracks with new interleaved wheels to ease ground pressure, better optics and the KwK 42 gun. At the same time, the Tiger combined thick armor with the devastating power of the 88 mm (3.46 in) gun.

The T-43

The Russians didn’t wait for the German response. By 1942, the Panzer IV Ausf.F2, armed with a high-velocity 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, was already a threat and triggered reports which were well-known inside the Stavka. The Soviet Main Directorate of Armored Forces (GABTU) ordered the Morozov Design Bureau to go back to the drawing board and his team created the T-43, combining a reshaped hull with increased protection, torsion beam suspension, a brand new gearbox and a new three-man turret with a new all round vision commander cupola. The T-43 was four tons heavier than the T-34/76 and it was seen and conceived as a replacement for both the KV-1 and the T-34, a “universal model” aimed at mass-production.
The T-43 suffered some delays due to having a low priority. Uralvagonzavod delivered the first two prototypes in December 1942 and March 1943. The T-43 shared, to ease production, a major part of its components with the T-34, including its 76.2 mm (3 in) F-34 gun. However, the tests performed at the Kubinka proving grounds showed that the T-43 did not have the required mobility (it was slower than the T-34) and, at the same time, could not resist an 88 mm (3.46 in) shell impact. However it had a better ride and gearbox, and the new turret was widely appreciated by the crews, which in the end earned it approval for pre-production and service in the Red Army.
But it was clear after the first reports came from the battle of Kursk, seeing the heavy losses taken by the T-34, that the 76 mm (3 in) gun was not up to the task of taking on the up-armored German tanks, who could in turn out-range the Russian tanks with ease. So while making production top priority, the decision was taken to favor firepower over protection. And since the new turret of the T-43 was not designed, at first, to house a bigger gun, the T-43 project was judged obsolete and dropped.
4-view drawing of a T-34-85
4-view drawing of a T-34-85.

Genesis of the T-34-85

The State Defense Committee met on August 25, 1943, following the battle of Kursk, and decided to upgrade the T-34 with a new gun. The T-43 was dropped in order to not have to completely retool the production lines relocated at such great price to the foothills of the Ural mountains. But at the same time, this posed a real challenge to the engineers, whom had to conceive a new turret capable of housing the long barreled 52K model 39, the standard anti-aircraft gun of the Red Army at the time, without touching the lower part of the tank, chassis, transmission, suspension or engine. Choosing this gun was a bold move, clearly influenced by the heavy toll imposed by the German 88 mm (3.46 in) on every front since the beginning of the war. In the endless race between firepower and protection, it became apparent that no engine of the time could give a tank, with sufficient protection from the German 88 mm (3.46 in), the minimal mobility requirements put up by the Red Army. The original T-34/76 seemed to have the perfect balance of speed, armor and firepower at first, but since by 1943 its firepower was limited and something had to be changed, protection was sacrificed. On the other hand, keeping the T-34 virtually unchanged except the turret could provide the assurance of a quick transition, almost uninterrupted, between the two types, which was just what the Stavka required to keep the edge in terms of numbers.

Design of the T-34-85

Gun
The M1939 (52-K) air-defense gun was efficient and well-proven, sporting a 55 caliber barrel. It had a muzzle velocity of 792 m/s (2,598 ft/s). General Vasiliy Grabin and General Fyodor Petrov directed the team responsible with the conversion, initially into an anti-tank gun. Soon it appeared ideally suited for a tank, and the first to use a derivative model, the D-5, was the SU-85, a tank destroyer based on the T-34 chassis. This was an interim measure as the gun had to be integrated on the T-34-85, but the time necessary in order to create the turret delayed its adoption.
Other teams soon proposed the S-18 and the ZiS-53 for the same purposes. The three guns were tested at Gorokhoviesky Proving Grounds, near Gorkiy. The S-18 won the competition at first and its design was approved for use in the modified turret, but dropped when it was apparent that it was not compatible with the D-5 mounting for which the turret was designed. However, the D-5, conceived by Petrov, was retested and showed a limited elevation and other minor defects, but equipped the first production series (model 1943) of the T-34-85 as the D-5T. At the same time, Grabin’s gun, the ZiS-53 showed mediocre ballistic performances and had to be reshaped by A. Savin. On December 15, 1943 this modified version, named the ZiS-S-53, was chosen to be produced en masse and equipped all T-34-85’s model 1944. Around 11,800 had been delivered during the next year only.

Rear view of a T-34-85, from Factory 174. Circular transmission access hatch, exhaust pipes, MDSh smoke canisters and extra fuel tanks cn be seen.
Turret:
By choosing either the D-5T or the ZIS-85, guns with a very long barrel and without a muzzle brake, the recoil dictated a very large turret, or at least very long. This roomier design also had the advantage of being roomy enough for three crewmen, the commander being freed from having to load the gun. This in turn helped him concentrate on possible targets and generally to have better awareness of the battlefield. The advantage of a three-man turret was already known by the British since the twenties, and the Germans found it very convenient for their main tanks, the Panzer III and IV. The advantages of such a configuration became obvious during the campaign in France. Having the commander free to focus on his tasks and excellent tank-to-tank communication gave them a clear-cut tactical superiority over the French, whose tanks mostly had one man turrets.
This new turret, ordered by The People’s Commissariat for the Armor Industry, was partly based on the T-43’s turret and was hurriedly adapted by Krasnoye Sormovo Factory chief engineer V. Kerichev. It was a compromise design with a slightly reduced base ring, two periscopes and the commander cupola relocated to the rear, for full peripheral vision. The radio was also relocated, allowing easier access, better signal and range.
Other modifications
Apart from the turret, the hull was almost unchanged except for the turret ring. It had to be enlarged from 1.425 m (56 in) to 1.6 m (63 in) to give a more stable and sturdy base, but this made the entire upper hull more fragile. The space between the huge turret and hull was also quite large and created natural shot traps. But the large hull supported quite well the added weight without excessive stress on the suspension and main body frames, a testimony to the ruggedness of the original design. Stability was not compromised, as trials at Kubinka showed. The hull was nonetheless reinforced and the turret frontal armor rose to 60 mm (23 in), like on the T-43. With an unchanged engine, transmission, gearbox and suspension, weight rose by only one ton (32 compared to 30.9 for the model 1943).
Fuel capacity was augmented to 810 liters (215 gal), which gave a 360 km range (223 mi). However, since over time the weight continuously rose without any changes to the engine (the original T-34 model 1941 weighed just 26 tons), this lowered its top speed to just 54 km/h (32 mph). A clear gain appeared in terms of cost-efficiency. The new T-34-85 unit cost was 164,000 rubles, which was higher than that of the T-34/76 model 1943 (135,000), but still largely inferior to that of the model 1941 (270,000) and certainly far less than any completely new model would have cost. Production rose after the introduction of this new model, notably due to the opening of new lines in “Tankograd”. Since the hull parts of the model 1943 had been simplified, the new T-34-85 model 1943 inherited these, and deliveries rose to 1200 each month by May 1944, shortly before the launch of the most massive operation planned by the Stavka: Bagration.

T-34-85 models 1943 and 1944

The T-34-85 model 1943 set the general appearance for the series, which remained mostly unchanged until 1945. It had a cast turret and deflector strips were later welded to the front to cope with the shot trap effect. This caused a shell to bounce of the sloped front and ricochet into the lower front part of the turret. The mantlet was 90 mm (3.54 in) thick. Inside, the gunner was positioned to the left of the gun. Behind him sat the commander and the loader to the right. Behind the commander cupola there were two smaller hemispheric cupolas, each pierced by five vision slits protected by bullet-proof glass. The early version was characterized by a two-piece hatch, while the 1944 version had a single piece one, opening to the rear. There were also two side pistol ports and vision slits above them.
On the later version these were simplified and the vision slits eliminated. The loader had his own small hatch and two ventilators were located above the gun to extract fumes. The driver’s hatch had two vision slits and was his only access point into the tank. The late model 1943 turret could be recognized by its almost centered commander cupola and large periscope. The early 1943 production version and the 1944 model both had the commander cupola shifted backwards. They differed in the shape and configuration of the exhaust ventilators and the larger breech-loading equipment of the gun.
The gun itself was activated through pedals and a small wheel. The breech block could be manually or semi-automatically operated. The recoil was supported by a hydraulic buffer and two recuperators. Both the gun and the DT machine-guns were activated with triggers. The gun mounting itself was easy to remove after dismounting the mantlet, providing easy maintenance. Aiming was performed with a TSch 16 scope, which had a 16° field of view and 4x magnification, and TSh-16 and MK-4 sights. This was still a bit rough compared to German equivalents, but a real improvement over previous systems. 35 rounds were carried (mostly AP with some HE), mostly stored on the turret floor and in the turret basket.
Many model 1944s were also equipped with MDSh smoke emitters, placed at the rear of the hull near the exhausts. Trials also showed the tank had a tendency to pitch forward due to the increased weight of the turret. The first four vertical coil springs were reinforced accordingly. The model 1944 turret was made up of two massive cast pieces (top and bottom) welded together, with any other external and internal features barely changed. Only the length of the barrel and mounting could help distinguish them, as well as the turret top configuration. Most (late) model 1943’s had a periscope replacing the right ventilator, just in front of the commander cupola.
The front hull was protected by 45 mm armor, sloped at 60° from the vertical, giving an effective frontal thickness of 90 mm (3.54 in), while the sides had 45 mm (1.77 in) at 90°, and the rear 45 mm (1.77 in) at 45°. The turret face and mantlet were 90 mm (3.54 in) thick, with 75 mm (2.95 in) sides and 52 mm (2.04 in) at the rear. The turret top and bottom were just 20 mm (0.78 in) thick. The drive-train comprised a double rear drive sprocket, a front double idler and five double road-wheels of various types. The early production vehicles were given rubberized ones, but because of shortages the model 1944 had metal-trimmed spoked models, which became the norm. These gave a rough ride, despite the Christie type huge vertical coil springs, which probably reached the very limits of their potential.
The engine was almost unchanged since the first T-34, still the reliable and very sturdy 38-liters water-cooled V-2-34 V12 diesel, which developed 520 hp @2000/2600 rpm, giving a 16.25 hp/ton ratio. It was coupled with the same old constant mesh all spur gear transmission (nearly obsolete), with 4 forward and 1 reverse gears and steering by clutch brakes, which were a driver’s nightmare. The best average speed obtained in tests was 55 km/h (34.17 mph), but the usual cruise speed was around 47-50 km/h (29.2-31 mph) and the best possible off-road speed was around 30 km/h (18.64 mph). The T-34-85 was still quite mobile and agile, having a turning radius of about 7.7 m (25.26 ft). However, the range was somewhat reduced and consumption was around 1.7 to 2.7 km per gallon (1.1 to 1.7 miles per gallon) on a rough ride. The starter was electric as well as the turret traverse, served by 24 or 12-volts electrical systems.

A Polish T-34-85 in a museum
Secondary armament comprised two DT 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine-guns, one coaxial, which could fire tracing bullets, and one in the hull, shooting through a ball mount protected by a heavy hemispherical shield. Ammo comprised between 1900 and 2700 rounds. The main gun could fire either APBC, APHE, HVAP and simplified AP rounds. The model 1943 was equipped exclusively with the original D-5T gun, while the model 1944 adopted the modified ZIS-S-53 (S for Savin). However, late models 1944 also adopted the improved model 1944 D-5T, whose development never stopped. It was capable of piercing 120 mm (4.7 inches) at 91 m (100 yards) or 90 mm at 915 m (1000 yards), placed at a 30° angle.
The usual round weighed 9.8 kg and muzzle velocity on average was 780 m/s (2559 ft/s). The 85 mm ZIS-S-53 L54.6 introduced on the model 1944 had slightly improved performances. The original D-5T barrel was 8.15 m (26.7 ft, L52) in length and had a higher muzzle velocity, but the 85 mm ZIS-S-53 model 1944 was less complicated to manufacture. The elevation was kept unchanged at -5° to +20°. The early model 1943 had a hull mounted radio which was later relocated into the turret.
Manufacturers of the model 1943 comprised Factory N°183 Ural Rail-Car Factory (UVZ), Factory N°112 Red Sormovo Works (Gorki) and Factory N°174. Together they produced most of the model 1943 tanks. The first ones were delivered in December 1943 and immediately given to one of the elite Tank Guards battalions. Production of the early model 1943 was around 283, while 600 model 1943’s and 8,000-9,000 of the model 1944 were delivered in 1944, and between 7,300 and 12,000 model 1944’s left the factory lines in 1945. It seems that a total of around 17,680 model 1944’s were built between March 1944 and May 1945.

Variants

Besides the SU-100, which was built using the T-34-85 model 1944 chassis, other common variants of the T-34-85 were:
The flame-thrower OT-34-85, mounting an AT-42 flame-thrower replacing the coaxial DT machine-gun, with a range of 80-100 m.
The PT-3 mineroller, the mine removal version, a device which comprised of two rollers suspended under a pair of arms, protruding 5 meters in front of the hull. Each engineer regiment was comprised of 22 regular T-34’s alongside 18 PT-3’s (from “Protivominniy Tral”/counter-mine trawl). The engineers also used bridge-layer and mobile crane conversions of the chassis.

The T-34-85 in Action

When the first T-34-85’s delivered by Zavod #112 appeared, they were given to the best units, the elite Red Guards battalions. However, they were in training during December 1943, so it is uncertain whether they saw action before January or February 1944. By then, around 400 had already been delivered to front-line units and instantly became popular with the crews. They gradually replaced the T-34/76 and in mid-1944 the T-34-85 outnumbered the older versions. By then they formed the bulk of the tank units on the eve of Operation Bagration, the Soviet response to the Allied landings in Normandy, and the biggest offensive ever planned by the Red Army to date. This was the final push, aimed at Berlin. Before the production built-up, the T-34-85 model 1943 were usually given to chosen crews, usually of the Guard units.

A propaganda shot showing infantry dismounting from a T-34-85 – Credits: Flames of War
The T-34-85 took part in all subsequent engagements with the rarefying Panzer divisions, encountering a mix of Panzer IVs Ausf.G, H or J, Panthers, Tigers and many tank-hunters. There was no starker contrast than between the nimble and low Hetzer and the Russian model, towering relatively high above the ground. It was certainly not the tallest in use, the Sherman being taller, but the broad turret still made a relatively easy target when seen from the side, adding to the fact it was less sloped than the hull sides. Finishing was still rough and quality had deteriorated due to the lack of skilled manpower. Reliability, however, kept pace with their intensive use. They were still easy prey for many German tanks of the time, just like the previous T-34/76, but the high-velocity and range of the 85 mm (3.35 in) were clearly an advantage in many engagements. It scored kills at ranges of 1100-1200 m (3610-3940 ft), although better optical equipment and training would have probably increased this figure. The ZiS and DT were not really used at their full potential due to crews habits and tactical doctrine that still advocated trading range for penetrating power.

Captured T-34-85 – Credits: Beutepanzer
By late 1944, when entering formerly occupied East European countries and Eastern Prussia, T-34-85 tank crews faced a new threat. This did not come from German tanks (although the Königstiger and many late tank hunters were quite impressive, if few in numbers), but from the average infantryman, even from citizen militias (Volksstrurm) armed with the Panzerfaust, the first shaped-charge launcher. To deal with this sneaky and effective weapon, the Russian crews took the matter in their own hands. They mounted makeshift protections made of bed frames welded on the turret and hull sides, but far enough from the hull itself to make the charge detonate sooner and spewing its high pressure metal jet harmlessly on the surface.

T-34-85
by Aleksei Tishchenko
This improvisation became usual during the battle of Berlin. This was not the last time the T-34-85 saw action, as in August, a tremendous build-up of forces was done on the Eastern frontier, on the northern borders of Manchuria. Aleksandr Vasilevsky attacked with 5556 tanks and SPG’s, of which over 2500 were T-34-85’s, alongside 1,680,000 men reinforced by 16,000 Mongolian infantrymen. To face the onslaught the Japanese (under command of Otozō Yamada) had 1155 tanks and 1,270,000 plus 200,000 Manchuko infantry and 10,000 Menjiang infantry. Compared to the Russian tanks, which had evolved quickly to match-up German technology, most Japanese models were largely prewar models, including many tankettes. The best was the up-gunned Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha, but only a handful were available at the time and they were hopelessly outclassed by the T-34.

T-34-85 with grid-frame protections, Berlin, Brandenburg gate, May 1945 – Credits: Scalemodelguide.com

Career during the Cold War

Although the T-34 production was stopped after the war ended, they were reactivated in 1947 in the context of growing international tensions in Europe. Perhaps 9,000 more T-34-85s were delivered around the clock until 1950 and another batch until 1958. When it was clear that the type was obsolete and already being replaced by the T-54/55, the production run ended for good, having turned up no less than 48,950 units. This, added to the estimated 32,120 T-34/76 already produced amount to a total of 81,070, making it the second most produced tank in human history thus far. Arguably, it was the great game equalizer of WWII (as stated by Steven Zaloga).
This formidable reservoir of cheap tanks was then put at the disposal of the allies and satellites of the USSR, namely all the countries which had signed the pact of Warsaw. This included Poland (many had been delivered already in 1944 to the People’s Army of Poland, after Poland was liberated), with many other sent to the Romanians, Hungarians and Yugoslavians, not to mention the GDR after the war. Because of its small price and the many parts available, these tanks formed the backbone of many allied countries’ armed forces.
North Korea received around 250 of these. A Korean armored brigade, comprising about 120 T-34-85’s, spearheaded the invasion of South Korea in March 1950. At that stage, SK and US Forces (namely Task Force Smith) had only bazookas and the light M24 Chaffee, later reinforced by many late Shermans, including the M4A3E8 (“Easy Eight”). More reinforcements quickly arrived and amounted to over 1500 tanks, also consisting of the US M26 Pershing, the British Cromwell, Churchill and the excellent Centurion. The latter was a generation ahead of the Russian tank and the T-34-85 had definitely lost the edge by August 1950. After the landings at Inchon, in September, the tide turned completely and around 239 T-34’s had been lost during the retreat. During this period, around 120 tank-to-tank engagements took place. In February 1951, China entered the fray, committing four brigades equipped with the Type 58, a licence-built version of the T-34-85. US Forces were given more and more HVAP rounds which proved very effective in many engagements against it.
Disabled Korean T-34-85's at Bowling Alley, Korea, 1950 - Credits: Life Magazine
Disabled Korean T-34-85’s at Bowling Alley, Korea, 1950 – Credits: Life Magazine
The list of users of this model is quite impressive. 52 countries, including the Finnish and German forces, all USSR client states (the last seen in action were in Bosnia in 1994), Cuba (many were sent to Africa to support popular uprisings in Angola and elsewhere) and subsequently many African countries also adopted it. During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese were equipped with many Chinese Type 58 tanks, but these were only engaged in the Têt Offensive and many late actions.
Some were still used as far as 1997 (in 27 countries), a testimony of the longevity of the model. Many have also seen action in the Middle East, with the Egyptian and Syrian armies. Some were later captured by the Israeli. Others were part of the Iraqi forces during the confrontation with Iran (1980-88) and still in service when Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait. It is not known whether any were still active by the time of the second Iraqi campaign and the war against Afghanistan. It is known that the Talibans possessed a few T-34’s.

Bosnian T-34-85 with rubber plates, Dobroj, spring 1996.
T-34-85’s sold to these countries had been modernized (mostly the breech loading system of the gun, better optics, new gearbox, new suspensions and model T-54/55 road wheels, new HVAP rounds, a modern communication system, etc). There were two campaigns, in 1960 and 1969, to sell the stocks from the USSR. By that time, the model was definitely considered obsolete and mostly kept in storage. Many have survived to this day, some in running condition in various private collections and museums. Their parts were used to repair or overhaul the SU-85, SU-100 and SU-122 derivatives. Many saw action in war movies, often extensively disguised to resemble Tiger tanks.

T-34-85 model 1944 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.15 (5.12 without gun) x 3 x 2.6 m
26’9″ (16’10” without gun) x 9’10” x 8’6″
Track width 51 cm (1’8″ ft.inch)
Total weight, battle ready 32 tons
Crew 5
Propulsion V12 diesel GAZ, 400 bhp (30 kW)
Speed 38 km/h (26 mph)
Range (road) 320 km (200 mi)
Armament 85 mm (3.35 in) ZiS-S-53
2x DT 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machineguns
Armor 30 to 80 mm (1.18-3.15 in)
Production (model 1944 only) 17,600

T-34-85 Links and references

The T-34 on Wikipedia

Gallery

T-34-85 at the Saumur MuseumA good view of a T-34-85 turretRunning T-34-85 at a show in Vienna, 2010Disabled Type 58 in North Korea being inspected by US soldiers, 1950Camouflaged Bosnian T-34-85T-34-85 of an unknown unit and date - rare three-tone camouflageA T-34-85 running at an exposition, possibly in the Czech RepublicPreserved T-34-85 at AberdeenT-34-85 mineroler versions
ww2 soviet armour
ww2 Soviet Tanks Poster

The T-43, designed as a replacement for the T-34 and the KV-1. The upgrading of the T-34 with a new gun was found more appropriate and the T-43 project was dropped.
One of the two prototypes of the T-43 designed between December 1942 and March 1943 by the Morozov Design Bureau, and delivered by Uralvagonzavod. These vehicles were up-armoured, had a new three-man turret (adopted later by the T-34-85), a new gearbox, new torsion arm suspension and other improvements. It was still armed with the usual F-34 76 mm (3 in) gun and was slightly slower. Because converting the factory lines for production of this model would be too costly and would add delays to the production, the project was canceled.
T-34-85 Model 1943, early production vehicle from a Red Guards battalion, Leningrad sector, February 1944
T-34-85 Model 1943, early production vehicle from a Red Guards battalion, Leningrad sector, February 1944.
T-34-85 Model 1943, early production version, Operation Bagration, July 1944.
T-34-85 Model 1943, early production version, Operation Bagration, July 1944.
T-34-85 Model 1943, early production version, Red Guards Battalion unit, Operation Bagration, fall 1944
T-34-85 Model 1943, early production version, Red Guards Battalion unit, Operation Bagration, fall 1944.
T-34-85 Model 1943, late production, fresh from the Red Sormovo Works at Gorki, March 1944.
T-34-85 Model 1943, late production, fresh from the Red Sormovo Works at Gorki, March 1944.
A T-34-85 model 1943 from the Dmitry Donskoi Battalion. This unit was raised through donations made by the Russian Orthodox Church.
A T-34-85 model 1943 from the “Dmitry Donskoi” Battalion. This unit was raised through donations made by the Russian Orthodox Church. This unit was accompanied by several OT-34 flame-thrower versions (based on T-34/76 model 1943). All of these tanks featured white livery and the “Dmitry Donskoy” inscription painted in red, February-March 1944.
T-34-85 Model 1943 from the 3rd Ukrainian Front, Jassy-Kishinev (Iași-Chișinău) Offensive, August 1944
T-34-85 Model 1943 from the 3rd Ukrainian Front, Jassy-Kishinev (Iași-Chișinău) Offensive, August 1944.
T-34-85 Model 1943, late production version, unknown unit, Southern Front, winter 1944/45
T-34-85 Model 1943, late production version, unknown unit, Southern Front, winter 1944/45.
T-34-85 Model 1943, late production version, Third Ukrainian Front, Bulgaria, September 1944
T-34-85 Model 1943, late production version, Third Ukrainian Front, Bulgaria, September 1944.
T-34-85 Model 1943 from the First Belorussian Front, Warsaw sector, September 1944
T-34-85 Model 1943 from the First Belorussian Front, Warsaw sector, September 1944.
T-34-85 model 1943, May 1945, Battle of Berlin. Notice the improvised protection made of bed frames welded over the turret. They were used to protect against infantry-held Panzerfaust weapons.
T-34-85 model 1943, May 1945, Battle of Berlin. Notice the improvised protection made of bed frames welded over the turret. They were used to protect against infantry-held Panzerfaust weapons. Others were fixed to the hull sides, although these were partly protected by fuel tanks and storage boxes, and better sloped. The front mud guards were removed. This was often done when fighting in an urban environment and is testified by many photos.
T-34-85 Model 1944 at Dukla pass, Hungary, October 1944
T-34-85 Model 1944 at Dukla pass, Hungary, October 1944.
T-34-85 model 1944, 2nd Ukrainian Front, Battle of Debrecen, Hungary, October 1944
T-34-85 model 1944, 2nd Ukrainian Front, Battle of Debrecen, Hungary, October 1944.
T-34-85 Model 1944 flattened turret model, Eastern Prussia, February 1945
T-34-85 Model 1944 flattened turret model, Eastern Prussia, February 1945.
T-34-85 Model 1944 flattened turret model, Budapest Offensive, winter 1944/45
T-34-85 Model 1944 flattened turret model, Budapest Offensive, winter 1944/45.
T-34-85 Model 1944 with curved mudguards, unidentified unit, with a rare improvised camouflage
T-34-85 Model 1944 with curved mudguards, unidentified unit, with a rare improvised camouflage.
T-34-85 model 1944, with spoked road wheels. The turret had red bands painted on top, intended for identification by friendly pilots. Unknown unit, North-East Berlin sector, April 1945.
T-34-85 model 1944, with spoked road wheels. The turret had red bands painted on top, intended for identification by friendly pilots. Unknown unit, North-East Berlin sector, April 1945.
T-34-85 model 1944, sporting improvised wooden protection, Western Prussia, March 1945
T-34-85 model 1944, sporting improvised wooden protection, Western Prussia, March 1945.
A Polish T-34-85 model 1944, in action in Germany, early 1945
A Polish T-34-85 model 1944, in action in Germany, early 1945. Hundreds of T-34-85’s were part of this new Polish “People’s Army” formed after the liberation of the country in late 1944, sporting the Polish eagle, but driven by Russian crews.
A T-34-85 model 1944 during the offensive on Berlin, March 1944, without mudguards, just before receiving additional protection against the
A T-34-85 model 1944 during the offensive on Berlin, March 1944, without mudguards, just before receiving additional protection against the “Faustniks” (Panzerfaust).
T-34-85 Model 1944, rounded turret model, with additional protection against Panzerfausts, Southern Berlin sector, May 1945
T-34-85 Model 1944, rounded turret model, with additional protection against Panzerfausts, Southern Berlin sector, May 1945.
T-34-85 during the Manchurian Campaign, August 1945
T-34-85 during the Manchurian Campaign, August 1945.


Variants

An OT-34-85 of an unidentified unit, 1944. This was the standard flame-thrower variant. The hull machine-gun was replaced by an ATO-42 flame projector, capable of throwing napalm or other flammable liquids to a maximum distance of 100 m (330 ft)
An OT-34-85 of an unidentified unit, 1944. This was the standard flame-thrower variant. The hull machine-gun was replaced by an ATO-42 flame projector, capable of throwing napalm or other flammable liquids to a maximum distance of 100 m (330 ft). They saw extensive use against pillboxes and blockhouses throughout Germany.
The SU-100 was an evolution of the SU-85 based on the T-34-85 chassis, developed during the fall of 1944, and rearmed with a longer barreled, 100 mm (3.94 in) version of the D10 antitank gun

SU-100 tank destroyer:
An evolution of the SU-85 based on the T-34-85 chassis, developed during the fall of 1944, and rearmed with a longer barreled, 100 mm (3.94 in) version of the D10 antitank gun, to keep pace with the new German tanks. About 2400 were built until 1945.


Captured T-34-85’s

Captured Finnish T-34-85, 1945, dubbed Pitkäputkinen Sotka (Long-nose, referring to the Common Goldeneye)
Captured Finnish T-34-85, 1945, dubbed “Pitkäputkinen Sotka” (“Long-nose”, referring to the Common Goldeneye).
Beute Panzerkampfwagen T-34-85(r), Frankeny area (near Furstenvalde) in March, 1945
Beute Panzerkampfwagen T-34-85(r), Frankeny area (near Furstenvalde) in March, 1945.
Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r) from the Pz.Div. SS Wiking, Warsaw area, 1944
Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r) from the Pz.Div. SS “Wiking”, Warsaw area, 1944.


Cold War and modern era T-34-85’s

North Korean (Chinese-built) Type 58, 1950
North Korean (Chinese-built) Type 58, 1950.
Hungarian T-34-85 during the Hungarian Revolution, 1956
Hungarian T-34-85 during the Hungarian Revolution, 1956.
North Vietnamese Type 58, 200th armoured Regiment, Têt Offensive 1968
North Vietnamese Type 58, 200th armoured Regiment, Têt Offensive 1968.
Czech-built Syrian T-34-85 of the 44th Tank Brigade, 1956 war
Czech-built Syrian T-34-85 of the 44th Tank Brigade, 1956 war.
Iraqi T-34-85M (modernized), Iran-Iraq war, 1982.
Iraqi T-34-85M (modernized), Iran-Iraq war, 1982.

Red Army Auxiliary Armoured Vehicles, 1930–1945 (Images of War)

Red Army Auxiliary Armoured Vehicles, 1930–1945 (Images of War), by Alex Tarasov

If you ever wanted to learn about probably the most obscure parts of the Soviet tank forces during the Interwar and WW2 – this book is for you.

The book tells the story of the Soviet auxiliary armor, from the conceptual and doctrinal developments of the 1930s to the fierce battles of the Great Patriotic War.

The author not only pays attention to the technical side, but also examines organizational and doctrinal questions, as well as the role and place of the auxiliary armor, as it was seen by the Soviet pioneers of armored warfare Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Vladimir Triandafillov and Konstantin Kalinovsky.

A significant part of the book is dedicated to real battlefield experiences taken from Soviet combat reports. The author analyses the question of how the lack of auxiliary armor affected the combat efficacy of the Soviet tank troops during the most significant operations of the Great Patriotic War, including:

– the South-Western Front, January 1942
– the 3rd Guards Tank Army in the battles for Kharkov in December 1942–March 1943
– the 2nd Tank Army in January–February 1944, during the battles of the Zhitomir–Berdichev offensive
– the 6th Guards Tank Army in the Manchurian operation in August–September 1945

The book also explores the question of engineering support from 1930 to the Battle of Berlin. The research is based mainly on archival documents never published before and it will be very useful for scholars and researchers.
Buy this book on Amazon!


Categories
WW2 Soviet Medium Tanks

T-34/76

Soviet Tanks ww2 Soviet Union (1940) Medium tank – 35,467 built

A landmark in tank history

The T-34 was and remains a legend. It is not only the most produced tank of the WWII-era, with 84,000 built (compared to the 48,966 Shermans of all versions) but also one of the longest-serving tanks ever built. Many are still stored in depots in Asia and Africa, and some served actively during the 90’s (such as during the 1991-99 Yugoslavian war). They formed the backbone of countless armored forces around the globe from the fifties to the eighties. The basic design was drawn for the first time in 1938 with the A-32, in turn partially derived from the BT-7M, a late evolution of the US-born Christie tank.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

The first version of the T-34/76 came as a nasty surprise for the overconfident German troops in the fall of 1941, when it was first committed en masse. Not only were they able to cope with the mud and snow with their large tracks, but they came with a perfect combination of thick and highly sloped armor, efficient gun, good speed, autonomy and, above all, extreme sturdiness, reliability, ease of manufacturing and maintenance. A perfect winner for an industrial war and a significant leap in tank design. While the T-34 did have a number of deficiencies, the T-34’s influence on the future designs and the concept of the main battle tank is unquestionable.
Links in the evolution of the T-34, left to right: BT-7M, A-20, T-34 mod. 1940 (L-11), T-34 mod. 1941 (F-34).
Links in the evolution of the T-34, left to right: BT-7M, A-20, T-34 mod. 1940 (L-11), T-34 mod. 1941 (F-34).

Early precursor: The A-32

From the BT-IS, A-20, the BT-SV’s sloped armor (1936) to the five-roadwheel A-32, the blueprint of the T-34 was set up far before the war. The team lead by engineer Mikhail Koshkin promised Stalin to replace the BT series with a better “universal tank”. The bureau designed a sloped armored box encasing a powerful diesel V12 engine which was less sensitive than the high-octane petrol engines used in previous Soviet tanks. This was done both to increase the range and to avoid bursting into flames too easily, as the BT-5 and BT-7 did during the war against Japan in Manchuria.



Hello, dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!



The first prototype of the T-34 was an improved A-32 with thicker armor, which successfully completed field trials at Kubinka and was simplified for mass production. It was ready as early as the beginning of 1939, as USSR was undergoing a major rearmament plan. The first two pre-series vehicles rolled out of the KhPZ factory in Kharkov (Ukraine) during the very first month of 1940, under the patronage of Sergey Ordzhonikidze. From April to May they underwent a large array of difficult trials, rolling through 2000 km (1242 mi) from Kharkov to the Mannerheim line in Finland and back to the factory via Moscow (sadly, Mikhail Koshkin, the lead designer who took part in the grueling march, became ill and passed away soon after).

T-34 model 1940

The T-34 was largely improved during trials and mass production was set up in September by Koshkin’s successor, chief designer Alexander Morozov. All previous models, the T-26, the BT-7 and the heavy multi-turreted T-28, were dropped from production to make room for the new medium tank. Production was also separated, Leningrad furnishing the L-11 gun, Kharkov – the diesel V12, Moscow – the electrical components and the armored hull, while the final assembly was performed at the Stalingrad tractor factory. After July 1941, all these vulnerable production centers saw a huge relocation effort to the east.
The T-34 model 1940, the first mass production model. The 1941 had many differences, mostly aimed towards easier production.
The T-34 model 1940, the first mass production model. The 1941 had many differences, mostly aimed towards easier production.
Only Stalingrad production remained in place until the very end of the battle, when Von Paulus’ army capitulated in early 1943. But the model 1940 was hampered by various deficiencies. The complex hull front armor piece was difficult to manufacture, there was a shortage of V12 diesels, so most of the model 1940 series tanks were equipped with the BT tank’s Mikulin M-17 engine at the Gorky factory, as well as provisional transmission and clutch. The initial L-11 76 mm (2.99 in) gun was criticized for having a low muzzle velocity and the F-34 was designed instead at Gorky. It was later put into production, equipping the first units in July 1941.

General overview

When all designed components were brought together, the new T-34 series was equipped with the final 76.2 mm (3 in) gun and was the basis for all versions until 1944. It was known as the T-34 (the Soviets do not seem to have made any effort to differentiate it from the later T-34/85). A new and improved coil-spring Christie suspension was fitted, as well as the intended V12 diesel and adapted clutch and transmission. The 10-RT 26E radio set was replaced by the 9-RS model and the tracks were slightly enlarged. The frontal armor was simplified for mass production, as well as many other elements. When out in business, the T-34 had no equivalent in the world. It was able to combine almost to perfection the magic triangle of speed, armor and armament.
The sloped armor was a good solution to deflect most hits while not relying on excessive thickness. First encounters in July 1941 proved that no German tank was able to reliably score a penetration. To the disappointment of the enemy officers, their shots simply bounced off these well-armored machines. The need for a more powerful gun, with very high velocity, was the origin of the Panther design (Panzer V).
The T-34 was equipped with a variety of hatches and turrets during its lifespan, but almost all had their upper hull equipped with railings to allow Soviet troops to travel on the tank, supplementing the lack of transports. None were ever equipped with an anti-aircraft mount and there were losses due to the new Stuka dive bomber antitank conversions (Ju-87G).
The T-34/76 was the mainstay of the Red Army from 1941 to the end of 1944, when sufficient numbers of T-34/85, a new tank in some aspects, gradually replaced them. The T-34 was a real shock for the Germans, as they had nothing like it. The sloped armor proved highly effective, despite their relatively low muzzle velocity gun, which was favorably compared to the guns of Panzer III and IV of the time. Their diesel was sturdy and able to cope with extreme weather conditions, their wide tracks were perfectly shaped to cope with the “rasputitsa” (a sea of mud) in autumn and the snow in winter. It was much easier to produce than any Panzer model before it and, for many frontline German units, the T-34 seemed like a difficult foe. Of course, that was not always true. A well-placed hit between the tracks and wheels could still disable them. And on the defensive, the German 88 mm (3.46 in) guns had no issues dealing with them.
The T-34 model 1941/42 interior. The floor where the commander stands is made of ammunition cases. The finishes and equipment were limited to the bare minimum.
The T-34 model 1941/42 interior. The floor where the commander stands is made of ammunition cases. The finishes and equipment were limited to the bare minimum.

Tactics

At the end of 1942 came a new version, the model 1942, limited to minor improvements to crew comfort and vision systems. The 76 mm (2.99 in) gun could fire high explosive rounds as well as armor-piercing ones. These were fatal to all Panzers except the late, heavily protected versions of the Panzer IV. They were sometimes paired with the slower but heavily armored KV-1 tanks. But German tactics, like in France, proved superior, and both well-coordinated Stuka attacks as well as the 88 mm (3.46 in) guns prevented the Russian T-34s from overwhelming the enemy. During the Moscow winter campaign and later at Stalingrad, the T-34s were massively engaged for the first time and overwhelmed German defenses. German tanks (and troops) were crippled by the icy weather.
The rubber from the wheels peeled off, the engines were slow to start and had to be slowly warmed up, machine-guns often jammed and mobility was almost impossible as the narrow tracks of the Panzer III and IV caused them to literally sink in the snow. Additionally, bad weather interfered with the aerial support, preventing any help from the Luftwaffe.
However, the new Panther proved lethal at long range against the T-34, which still had to catch its prey in close combat in order to penetrate the German tank. These tactics proved decisive at Kursk, when hundred of Panthers and Tigers, while being efficient at long range, were overwhelmed by thousands of T-34s striking from all sides.
V12 Diesel engine at Parola
V12 Diesel engine at Parola

Production problems

The T-34 was not the “perfect” tank that history and the internet sometimes make it seem. Poor quality assembly, roughly welded joints, combined with overall very harsh running conditions as well as low training quality, sometimes inept commanders, took their toll on every division equipped with the T-34. In some occurrences, more than half of the tanks engaged in combat were lost due to mechanical breakdowns and other teething problems.
The diesel engines were particularly sensitive to dust and sand. The first filters proved ineffective. The transmission and clutches often caused a serious amount of vibrations and occasionally failed. The T-34/76 was also often criticized for its cramped fighting compartment. Regardless of its quality, large numbers of T-34’s were lost due to lack of communications and poor doctrine.
A file of newly produced T-34 model 1942, en route for the frontline.
A file of newly produced T-34 model 1942, en route for the frontline. These can be identified by their hexagonal turrets and the open twin “Mickey Mouse ears” hatches.
Sometimes entire spare transmissions and other mechanical parts were stowed on the tank, between the extra fuel tanks, next to the tarpaulin, shovel, pickaxe, iron cable and spare track links. At times, the lack of support vehicles forced the T-34’s to become their own support vehicles. In a major relocation effort due to the rapidly advancing German forces, the assembly lines were moved to the Dzerzhinski Ural Railcar Factory in Nizhny Tagil and Stalin Tractor Factory in Chelyabinsk (“Tankograd”), undoubtfully a difficult task for the thousands of people involved. But until the fall of 1942, the biggest part of the production came from eastern Stalingrad. There, the T-34s were thrown into combat right at the factory door.

The T-34/76 model 1941

This model was similar to the previous 1940 model. The most important improvement of Model 1941 was the more efficient, longer-barrelled F-34 76.2 mm gun. Many components were put under scrutiny for mass production, like the new gun mount, the welded turret with a new, single, wide hatch, and many other parts. The single hatch was retained for ease of production, but it was heavy and easily jammed, trapping everybody inside. In fact, it was hated by the crews (who suffered due to the poor comfort and poor ergonomics), being quickly dubbed the “pirozhok” (stuffed bun). The very large rear exhaust covers were another feature which did not last long. The turret lacked sufficient protection for the commander, with no special-purpose hatch or traversable periscope.
The T-34 model 1942 (left) and T-43 (right) side to side. The T-43 was a heavier derivative of the T-34, with the aim to replace both the KV-1 and the T-34.
The T-34 model 1942 (left) and T-43 (right) side to side. The T-43 was a heavier derivative of the T-34, with the aim to replace both the KV-1 and the T-34. It had a much thicker armor, torsion-bar suspension and a three-man turret. After the Kursk Battle the project was canceled, as both mobility and armor thickness were insufficient facing the Tiger’s 88 mm (3.46 in) gun.
The single heavy, forward opening hatch had a single vision slit. Moreover, the commander was also responsible for aiming and firing the gun, due to the four men crew. This was not corrected until the introduction of the three-man turret with the T-34/85. Later on, many models had additional armor plating like the T-34E (“ehkranami” – screened) to answer the latest German gun development. The armor was largely improved compared to the 1940 model. Some 324 T-34’s were rearmed with a special high-velocity 57 mm (2.24 in) gun ZiS-4 or ZiS-4M, under the name of T-34/57, and used as tank-hunters, notably during the battle of Moscow.

The T-34/76 models 1942 to 1944

As the standardized machine tools used for the T-34 were not easily adaptable, changes were rarely introduced into the production process. Many features of the T-34 remained unchanged until 1942, despite the complaints of the crews and their commanders. The process was made simpler and the parts cheaper. For example, the commonly used F-34 gun was simplified to the point that nearly 200 pieces less were needed (from 861 to 614).
The gun sights and range finder remained crude, despite the fact that several gun mounts were alternatively used. The poor optics prevented the crews from using their guns at long range like the Germans often did. This led to aggressive tactics based on constant maneuvering, while the German tanks could stand in place and fire at approaching targets from a distance.
The lack of rubber often prevented the use of the standard rubberized wheels, and many bare-metal wheels of various designs were used. This can be seen on photographs as a strange mix of wheels. Early 1942 saw the introduction of a new, much better hexagonal turret, a sub-product of the abandoned T-34M project, which was a great improvement over previous models. Notably, the big hatch was removed and replaced by separated hatches (dubbed “Mickey mouse” by the Germans, due to the way it looked from the front with the hatches open).
In the fall of 1943, the turret received a new specially-designed all-around vision commander cupola. Production cost was halved and production time reduced by 50% despite the fact that most of the male workers left for the battlefield by that point, and were replaced by women, children, disabled, or the elderly. In 1943 T-34 production rate was about 1300 per month. Quality standards were poor and they were roughly finished, even by US mass production standards. The last model was the T-34/76 model 1944, with the simplified ZiS S-53 gun, turret radio and improved commander sights. However, production was gradually decreased to make way for the significantly better T-34/85.

The T-34/85

As the war went on, German Panzers greatly improved, mostly to deal with the T-34. Not only did many tank-hunters appear, but also the later generations of the Panzer IV with additional armor plates, the Panther and, of course, the Tiger. The Morozov design bureau was well aware of the limitations of their 76 mm (2.99 in) gun, especially after the battle of Kursk, such as its insufficient range and armor-piercing capabilities. A new high-velocity model was needed, which was derived from a successful anti-aircraft gun, the ZiS 85 mm (3.35 in), mimicking the legendary German Flak 88 mm (3.46 in). The project targeting to replace both the KV-1 and the T-34 was the T-43.
The 3-man T-34/85 turret - a significant improvement over the T-34 model 1943 hexagonal turret.
The 3-man T-34/85 turret – a significant improvement over the T-34 model 1943 hexagonal turret.
After the battle of Kursk, the T-43 project was abandoned while its turret was used to improve the T-34, in what will become known as the T-34/85. This brought two major improvements, the first being the new, more effective gun, and the brand new turret itself with more internal space for the five crew members. With the new dedicated gunner position, the commander could concentrate on commanding the tank. This new version proved far superior and gradually replaced earlier versions.
Eventually, the overall T-34 production rate significantly increased. By 1944, the Red Army had a large number of both T-34/76 and the T-34/85, in various versions. The T-34/85 was not immune to the Tiger, the 88 mm (3.46 in) gun and the PaK 40. While the new turret was better sloped, it also made the tank taller and thus an easier target. Production of the T-34/85 reached 22,559, outnumbering the superior Panthers and Tigers.

Captured T-34/76’s

As the war had the Soviets at a disadvantage until December 1942, many T-34’s were captured during the Blitzkrieg. Abandoned tanks were often found in somewhat good condition. Mechanical problems were likely the cause, due to the still relatively new design, hasty production with poor quality standards, lack of maintenance and fuel, and overall rough service conditions. Entire units were also captured or even depots which had not been evacuated on time. Additionally, some tanks were disabled in combat, but not beyond repair. During this process, the Wehrmacht incorporated an estimated 400 tanks of nearly all models, from the model 1940 to the 1943, under the name of Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r) or T-34 747(r) for the T-34/76. Since the Germans were impressed by these tanks (Guderian, Von Kleist and Blumentritt among others), they took all possible means to restore and return to battle these valuable trophies. Most of the time, few changes were made except for the proper German camouflage and very large Balkenkreuz’ painted on the turret, hull and roof. Large swastikas were also used to make the tanks recognizable by the German tank and air crews. The Germans also added equipment and, eventually, additional armored plates.
T-34 pressed into service with the Wehrmacht
T-34 pressed into service with the Wehrmacht.
The first Axis user of the T-34 was the regular Wehrmacht, which incorporated many model 1941s and far more model 1942s in the 1st, 8th and 11th Panzer Divisions during the summer of 1941. All captured units were sent to a Riga workshop, but also Marienfeld and Goerlitz, receiving new radios, fitted with a German-style commander cupola, new hatches and other minor equipment. Many badly damaged T-34s were kept for spare parts. Some turrets were removed and mounted on the many armored trains (Panzerzug) which roamed the Eastern front. Other served as training tanks, but the majority were used in regular units and some by the SS units, like the 3rd SS Panzer Division “Totenkopf” and “Das Reich”. They added Schürzen (armor skirts), Notek lights, storage boxes, tools, radios and commander cupolas removed from damaged Panzer IIIs and IVs. These units also incorporated a handful of supply T-34 conversions (Munitionspanzer T-34(r)) and a few AA conversions (Flakpanzer T-34(r)). The Ukrainian “Liberation Force” of Vlasov also used many captured T-34s, which showed a blazon with the traditional St Andrew cross and “ROA” (for Russian Volunteer Army). The Finns also captured many T-34s and painted them with a three-tone camouflage and large swastikas.
A Polish T-34/85 in 1945. Notice the Polish eagle on the turret. The T-34/85 was a massive export success. The last were seen fighting in ex-Yugoslavia in 1996.
A Polish T-34/85 in 1945. Notice the Polish eagle on the turret. The T-34/85 was a massive export success. The last were seen fighting in ex-Yugoslavia in 1996.

The Cold War & exports

The T-34/85 was still produced after the end of the war in September 1945. They formed the bulk of the Soviet summer offensive in Manchuria in August 1945. They proved far superior to any Japanese tanks or guns. By that point, it was quite cheap to produce, relatively easy to maintain and was overall superior to most Allied tanks at the time, except for the British Centurion, the American M26 Pershing and the later developments of the M4 Sherman. With huge stocks available and the new tank generation arriving on the scene (like the IS-3 and the mass-production T-54/55), many T-34s were sent to the USSR allies and satellite states behind the Iron Curtain. They ultimately formed the bulk of their armored force until the early 1960s, seeing action during the Korean war, with North Korean and Chinese forces (which also used the locally built Type 58 version).
They also formed the core of many Arab countries’ armored forces in the Middle East (like Syria and Egypt), then opposing upgraded Shermans and the definitely better Israeli Centurions. They also formed an essential part (alongside the more recent T-54s and T-55s) of the North Vietnamese regular armored regiments. They were sold to many emerging countries, sometimes barely modernized with better optics and electronics, and remained in service until the end of the Cold War. Current or former operators include: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Cuba, Finland, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Laos, Mongolia, North Korea, Palestine, Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, Syria, Vietnam, South Yemen, North Yemen, Africa, Algeria, Angola, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, and Zimbabwe.

T-34/76 Mod. 1940 Specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h) 5.95 x 3 x 2.40 m
(19’6″ x 9’10” x 7’10”)
Total weight, battle ready: 26.8 tonnes
Crew 4
Propulsion V12, 500 hp @1800 rpm
Speed 54 km/h (33.5 mph)
Range, off road/on road 227 km (141 mi) / 292 km (181 mi)
Fuel capacity 455 liters (120 US gal)
Armament L-11 76.2 mm (3 in) gun
3x DT 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine-guns (1 stowed)
Armor Hull front and sides up to 45 mm (1.77 in)
Hull top/bottom 16 mm (0.63 in)
Turret 45 or 52 mm (1.77 or 2.03 in)
Total production 35,467 total T-34/76 (84,070 with T-34/85)

T-34/76 Mod. 1941 Specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h) 5.92 x 3 x 2.40 m
(19’5″ x 9’10” x 7’10”)
Total weight, battle ready: 28.12 tonnes
Crew 4
Propulsion V12, 500 hp @1800 rpm
Speed 55 km/h (34 mph)
Range, off road/on road 250 km (155 mi) / 300 km (186 mi)
Fuel capacity 465 liters (123 US gal)
Armament F-34 76.2 mm (3 in) gun
3x DT 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine-guns (1 stowed)
Armor Hull front and sides up to 45 mm (1.77 in)
Hull top/bottom 20 mm / 16 mm (0.79 / 0.63 in)
Turret 45 or 52 mm (1.77 or 2.03 in)

Sources

“Domestic Armored Vehicles. 20th Century. Vol 1: 1905-1941” A.G. Solyankin, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov, E.G. Zheltov / Отечественные бронированные машины. ХХ век. Том 1: 1905-1941. А.Г. Солянкин, М.В. Павлов, И.В. Павлов, Е. Г. Желтов.
T-34 video on Youtube
The T-34 on Wikipedia
The T-34 on Soviet-empire.com
Captured T-34 in German service (Achtungpanzer)
Other T-34s in German service
Diagram: www.howitworksdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/T-34_cutaway.jpg

The T-34/76 model 1940 was the first production version, largely derived from the previous A-32 prototypes. Hundreds of them were about to be put in service in July 1941.
The T-34/76 model 1940 was the first production version, largely derived from the previous A-32 prototypes like the T-34 Obr.40-3. Hundreds of them were about to be put in service in July 1941. Around 1066 were ready when Operation Barbarossa was launched. They performed well despite the lack of training of their crews and inept command, just like the KV-1. The Panzers couldn’t match them in one-on-one combat, but the poor doctrine and low numbers of T-34’s available made the new tank quite vulnerable, and many were lost.
A T-34 Model 1940 of the Moscow Rifles Guard Battalion, summer 1941 (with the L-11 76 mm gun). This three-tone camouflage pattern was quite rare and only appears in a handful of photographs.
A T-34 Model 1940 of the Moscow Rifles Guard Battalion, summer 1941 (with the L-11 76 mm gun). This three-tone camouflage pattern was quite rare and only appears in a handful of photographs.
A T-34/76 model 1941 with a very unusual two-tone winter livery of the Soviet Red Guards, in the fall of 1941 (note the new F-34 76 mm gun).
A T-34/76 model 1941 with a very unusual two-tone winter livery of the Soviet Red Guards, in the fall of 1941 (note the new F-34 76 mm gun). This scheme was perhaps obtained through chemical treatment of the washable white paint over the factory olive green.
The T-34/76 model 1941 was a cheaper and simpler production version of the 1940 model, with many improvements. Moscow sector, January 1942. Slogan: For Stalin, for the USSR
The T-34/76 model 1941 was a cheaper and simpler production version of the 1940 model, with many improvements. These included welded elements and a new two-piece cast turret, with a new wide hatch which became one of the striking characteristics of the T-34. By this point, most T-34’s were equipped with the new F-34 76 mm gun. Railings were added on the hull, sometimes a standard piece with two folds or a simpler version with a simple tube running all along the upper part of the sloped hull. T-34’s were used as improvised transport in the heart of battle, mostly due to their impressive off-road capabilities that few trucks could match at that time. Here is a model 1941 from the Moscow sector, January 1942. Slogan: “For Stalin, for the USSR.”
A T-34/76 model 1941. Unknown unit. The painted slogan: Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya.
A T-34/76 model 1941. Unknown unit. The painted slogan: “Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya.”
Up-armored T-34/76E model 1941 Ehkranami (with extra bolted appliqué armor). Caucasus Region, spring 1942. Slogan: For Russia
Up-armored T-34/76E model 1941 “Ehkranami” (with extra bolted appliqué armor). Caucasus Region, spring 1942. Slogan: “For Russia”.
T-34 Model 1941, unknown unit, Northern sector, early 1942. Slogan: For the Fatherland
T-34 Model 1941, unknown unit, Northern sector, early 1942. Slogan: “For the Fatherland”.
T-34/76 model 1941, 5th Guards Army, November 1942.
T-34/76 model 1941, 5th Guards Army, November 1942.
A late model 1941 with all-metal wheels. The two-tone camouflage is attested through photographic evidence, but was rare. Central front, spring 1943.
A late model 1941 with all-metal wheels. The two-tone camouflage is attested through photographic evidence, but it was quite rare. Central front, spring 1943.
T-34/76 model 1941/42, transition production from the STZ factory, Stalingrad, January 1942.
T-34/76 model 1941/42, transition production from the STZ factory, Stalingrad, January 1942.
Early production T-34/76 model 1941, with a makeshift sand painted camouflage, unknown unit, southern front, summer 1942.
Early production T-34/76 model 1941, with a makeshift sand painted camouflage, unknown unit, southern front, summer 1942.
T-34/76 model 1941, Finnish sector, lake Ladoga, winter 1942/43. Notice the camouflage made of crossed white paint bands. This created a pattern when seen from far away.
T-34/76 model 1941, Finnish sector, lake Ladoga, winter 1942/43. Notice the camouflage made of crossed white paint bands. This created a pattern when seen from far away.
A T-34/76 model 1942 in winter livery, Stalingrad, January-February 1943 offensive.
A T-34/76 model 1942 in winter livery, Stalingrad, January-February 1943 offensive.
T-34/76 model 1943 at the battle of Prokhorovka, July 1943
T-34/76 model 1943 at the battle of Prokhorovka, July 1943. Notice the mix of ruberrized and metal roadwheels. The latter were rather in the middle so that the hardest cushion was applied to both ends of the chassis. Notice also the welded handbars of the late model.
T-34/76 model 1943, unit unknown, Kursk, July 1943
T-34/76 model 1943, unit unknown, Kursk, July 1943.
T-34/76 model 1943, unit unknown, Kursk, July 1943
T-34/76 model 1943, unit unknown, Kursk, July 1943. Notice the rear additional tanks.
The T-34/76 model 1942 had some improvements over the 1941 model.
The T-34/76 model 1942 had some improvements over the 1941 model. It received the new twin hatches, earning it the “Mickey Mouse” nickname from the Germans. The addition of a better turret and mass production were the main goals of the model 1943 version, with many simplified parts to lower the cost and increase the rate of delivery. At Stalingrad, these models, famously built at the “Red October” and “Barricade” factories, were literally thrown into battle at the end of the production line, in bare metal finish, often without any kind of markings.
T-34/76 model 1943, Belgorod-Kharkov Offensive, August 1943. Notice the makeshift extra protection, comprising of a wooden crate filled with sand and a pruned tree trunk.
T-34/76 model 1943, Belgorod-Kharkov Offensive, August 1943. Notice the makeshift extra protection, comprising of a wooden crate filled with sand and a pruned tree trunk.
T-34/76 model 1942 at Kharkov, spring 1943. Notice the rare two-tone camouflage, probably applied using sand and some adhesive, and the mixed metal and rubberized road wheels.
T-34/76 model 1942 at Kharkov, spring 1943. Notice the rare two-tone camouflage, probably applied using sand and some adhesive, and the mixed metal and rubberized road wheels. The T-34/76 model 1943 received the new turret with twin hatches and better optics, which improved the efficiency of the commander.
During the fall of 1943, all vehicles received a new commander cupola, which greatly improved his visibility on the battlefield.
During the fall of 1943, all vehicles received a new commander cupola, which greatly improved his visibility on the battlefield. However, production standards were poor and many tanks were lost due to mechanical breakdowns. The model 1944 was systematically equipped with the new turret, with a wider commander cupola and some extra armor. External equipment included spare tracks, tools boxes, fuel tanks and improvised protection of all kinds. Of these, for example, were entire pruned trunks, rails, scrap metal and, during the battle of Germany and especially in Berlin, an improvised Panzerfaust defense made of spring beds or various metal frames.


Captured vehicles (Beutepanzer)

Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r), with the dunkelgrau livery. Ukraine, Panzergruppe South, spring 1942.
Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r), with the dunkelgrau livery. Ukraine, Panzergruppe South, spring 1942.
Panzerkampfwagen T-34b(r) 1942, Kursk salient, summer 1943.
Panzerkampfwagen T-34b(r) 1942, Kursk salient, summer 1943.
Beute Panzerkampfwagen T-34c(r) in autumn camouflage, Poland, fall 1944.
Beute Panzerkampfwagen T-34c(r) in autumn camouflage, Poland, fall 1944.


Variants & derivatives

The T-34/85 was the main evolution of the T-34/76. They were basically late production T-34s rearmed with the high-high velocity, long barrel ZiS-S-53 85 mm (33) gun, a derivative of an AA gun, and a brand-new, three-man turret to house it.
T-34/85: the main evolution of the T-34/76. They were basically late production T-34s rearmed with the high-high velocity, long barrel ZiS-S-53 85 mm (33) gun, a derivative of an AA gun, and a brand-new, three-man turret to house it. This version far outlived the war, as the last left the factory in 1958, after a staggering 48,950 had been delivered. It formed the basis for all Russian MBTs to come during the Cold War. >
The SU-85M was the most proficient derivative of the T-34. It used the same chassis but was equipped with the high velocity 85 mm (3.35 in) ZiS-S-53.
SU-85: this was the most proficient derivative of the T-34. It used the same chassis but was equipped with the high velocity 85 mm (3.35 in) ZiS-S-53. Around 3000 were built, but the production was stopped as the first T-34/85s rolled of the production line.
The SU-122 was a 122 mm (4.8 in) howitzer SPG (1150 built in 1943-44).
SU-122: a 122 mm (4.8 in) howitzer SPG (1150 built in 1943-44).

Gallery

A-32 tank prototype
A-32 tank prototype (Unknown origin)
T-34 model 1940
T-34 model 1940 (wikimedia commons)
The hull ball mounted machine gun of a T-34
The hull ball mounted machine gun of a T-34 (wikimedia commons)
Burning T-34 in Russia - Credits: Bundesarchiv
Burning T-34 in Russia – Credits: Bundesarchiv
T-34 on train wagons en route to the front - Credits: Archives RIAN
T-34 on train wagons en route to the front – Credits: Archives RIAN
Two T-34 tanks going off-road
Two T-34 tanks going off-road (wikimedia commons)
The gun of a T-34/76
The gun of a T-34/76 (wikimedia commons)
T-34/85 at the Saumur Museum
T-34/85 at the Saumur Museum (wikimedia commons)
ww2 soviet armour
ww2 Soviet Tanks Poster