WW2 Soviet Heavy Tanks


Soviet Union (1943)
Heavy Tank – 3,854 Built

A new standard in hell: The IS-2

As the escalation between German and Russian engineers reached a new point with the introduction on the German side of the Panther and Tiger, and the knowledge that something bigger was brewing, the IS-2 was pressed into introduction as soon as its main armament was ready. With a partly sloped frontal armor, 120 mm (4.72 in) thick and, moreover, a new massive 122 mm (4.8 in) main gun, the new heavy tank seemed to be just the trump card Stalin needed to wash over any armored opposition on the Eastern Front. Or so it seemed on paper. In reality, some shortcuts were taken to meet the expectations. These would prove real issues on the long run, starting with the gun itself, slow to reload and with bulky two-piece naval ammunition.

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!

KV-13 cutaway view
KV-13 prototype cutaway

Precursors: The IS-1 and IS-100

The IS-1 was an improvement over previous designs, combining the hull developed for the KV-13 prototypes with the new three-man KV-85 turret, fielding the new D5-T 85 mm (3.35 in) gun. The only issue with this gun was that the new medium T-34/85, which sported the same gun, was released in the meantime, entering service during the winter 1943/44. So the IS-1 had, like the former KV-1, only slightly better protection, but shorter range and poorer mobility compared to its medium counterpart.
However, the roomy turret could manage heavier and better guns. As early as November and December 1943, tests were performed with a new gun, the 100 mm (3.94 in) BS-3 already tested on the new SU-100 tank-hunter. This resulted in the IS-100, two prototypes which went into trials against the IS-122 armed with the new A19 122 mm (4.8 in) gun. Though the IS-100 was reported to have better armor-piercing qualities, the latter had better all-around performance, and the IS-100 development was terminated.
KV-13 front view
KV-13 prototype front view

The IS-122

The choice of a new 122 mm (4.8 in) gun was studied by Kotin’s team at Zavod Nr.9. As shown at Kursk, the 122 and 152 mm (5.98 in) guns were better suited to take on on the new German tanks, the Tiger, Panther and Elefant. It was obvious that, aside the 85 mm (3.35 in) gun, more suitable for the next evolution of the T-34, a 122 mm would be most recommended to be fitted on the new heavy tank. The adapted field gun A19 model 1937, designed by General A. A. Petrov, had a single chamber muzzle brake, was fitted with a recoil cradle and loading/lifting mechanism from the experimental U-11 and hybridized with a M-30 howitzer mount. Ballistic tests were performed between the A19 and BS-3 in October-November 1943, on a captured Panther.
KV-13 side view
KV-13 prototype side view

This led to the acceptance of the 122 mm (4.8 in) by the HBTU, but also a modification of the muzzle brake with two chambers (“German type”), after almost fatally injuring Marshall Voroshilov during a test in the presence of the Main Defense Commissariat. The A19 still possessed features retained from the original gun, including the cumbersome two-part shell. This had two consequences. A trained crew could only fire two to three rounds a minute, while the ammo supply was limited to only 27 rounds. Nevertheless, the A19 had a better punch despite lower muzzle velocity compared to the 100 mm (3.94 in). It was believed the frontal armor would protect the tank until the target was within a 500 yards (460 m) range, where the heavy round could have its maximum impact. Around 102 to 107 IS-122s were delivered between December 1943 and February 1944, and the name was changed to IS-2.

The IS-2 model 1943


The first version of the IS-2 (production name) was equipped with the A19 gun, and production started in November 1943 at the Chelyabinsk factory. Initial proposals for the turret included a 152 mm (5.98 in) howitzer, a 50 mm (1.97 in) mortar capable of launching smoke shells or flares and, most importantly, a fully revolving commander cupola also serving a DSHT heavy machine gun. The latter was intended for AA defense and was finally accepted in the definitive production design. The second great innovative figure of the IS-2 was its new frontal armor, still stepped, but uniformly “blended”, with 120 mm (4.72 in)/30° and 60 mm (2.36 in)/72° slope, offering better resistance while still saving weight. Thanks to this, the glacis could now withstand a 88 mm (3.46 in) AP shell at 1000 m (1100 yards). Because of the large recoil mechanism of the gun and a 1800 mm (70.86 in) turret ring radius, the internal space was cramped and only permitted a four-man crew, the commander having to command, order fire and make radio contact.
KV-13 front view
KV-13 prototype front view


The diesel engine was the V2-IC, basically the same already installed in the KV-1, with some antiquated features, but also some improvements. There was an inertial starter with manual and electric drives or compressed air which could be activated from the inside. The electric inertial starter was an auxiliary electric motor giving 0.88 kW. There was a NK-1 high pressure pump with variable speed master RNA-1 and leak proof fuel cells. Air filtering through the fighting compartment was obtained by using the engine to pump the air from inside, and there was a reverse for heating the crew in winter. The engine was given a warming device installed in the transmission unit, in order to start it when it was extremely cold. The engine was fed by three tanks, two into alongside fighting compartment and one at the rear, in the engine compartment unit. Four external tanks with a total capacity of 360 liters could be added as well, not a luxury since the near 50 ton vehicles were well-known “gas-guzzlers”.
KV-13 rear view
KV-13 prototype front view


The drivetrain was identical to the one of KV-85 and very similar to that of the KV-1, with 6 double cast metal 550 mm (21.65 in) road wheels suspended by robust torsion arms on each side and three return rollers. The front idlers were of the same kind as the roadwheels to ease production, while the large dented rear drive sprockets were also unchanged since the beginning. The track was also consistent with previous models, counting 86 links, 650 mm (25.59 in) wide each. The transmission comprised a multi-disc main clutch dry friction “Ferodo steel”, four-speed dual (8 forward and 2 reverse), but the second reverse gear was only available in theory, as it was never used in reality. There was a two stage planetary rotation mechanism with multi-locking “steel on steel” clutch dry friction and band brake, and two-lane combined board gear.


The bulk of the production started in February 1944, with around 2,252 delivered until the end of the year, perhaps 50% being of the new IS-2 1944 model. There was a subtle difference concerning the nose, between the one manufactured by Chelyabinsk (rounded cast) in August 1944, and the UZTM nose which had a flat lower bow plate. But as soon as they were put into service, alarming reports claimed that the limited ammo provision always meant supply had to be carried by following trucks, and the low rate of fire was almost half that of the T-34/85, while the latter had greater muzzle velocity.
KV-13, 1st prototype
KV-13 prototype front view

A new gun was urgently needed. Plus, other reports showed that even the new armor-piercing shell BR-471 failed to penetrate the frontal armor of a Panther at less than 700 m (765 yards). Only the RP-471 HE rounds had a better chance in jamming the enemy turret, because the tremendous blast torn away the turret ring. Same effects could be devastating on the tracks. However, the situation tended to change in time because of the degrading quality of German steel armor plates, devoid of Manganese, as it was in short supply. The high carbon steel used instead was much more fragile.
The anti-aircraft DSHK heavy-machine gun was introduced on the final production IS-1. Its performances were relatively similar to the cal.50 in terms of penetration, rate of fire and reliability. The massive pintle mount was located just at the rear of the commander cupola, which itself could turn, acting as a ring mount.
IS-1, 85 mm (3.35 in) gun

The IS-2 model 1944

By 1944, a new version of the 122 mm (4.8 in) gun, the D-25T, already tested in January on a single IS-122, was accepted in service to replace the A19. It had a 780-790 m/sec muzzle velocity (2600 ft/sec) and could penetrate 140 mm (5.51 in) of armor at 500 m (550 yards). But, most important, the breech mechanism, although still semi-automatic, was geared to sustain a reduced loading time. The design team also wanted a more protective turret, but the added armor would lead to an unbalanced design, thus forcing the redesign of many other parts of the tank. But since production was paramount the project was cancelled. The problems of internal glacis armor plate releasing fragments when hit was solved thanks to the experts of the CRI-48 tank builders, which developed a new form of armor plates, as well as improved the manufacturing technologies.
The other important innovation was an uniformly sloped frontal glacis plate at angle of 60°, with 100 mm (3.94 in) of armor. According to some sources, 1,150 were built after May 1945 before the series was terminated in favor of the IS-3. The only variant known was a mine roller version deployed by a special Guards Battalion during the later phase of the assault on Berlin. Reliability also increased in time. The first IS-2s from the summer 1944 series were only guaranteed for a 1,000 km (621 mi) run. However, by 1945, the commander of the 1st Belorussian Front reported that “The heavy tanks worked well and exceeded the warranty period by 1.5 to 2 times, both in hours usage and by kilometrage”.

The IS-2M

Another version was experimentally built in the summer of 1944. It was a radical departure from the series, with the transmission and fighting compartments relocated to the rear, the engine in the center and driver and radio at the front. The chassis was reworked with a new drivetrain comprising larger doubled roadwheels and no return rollers. In the meantime, new prototypes were conceived, the IS-3, IS-4 and IS-5, which all had design flaws and saw limited production. Consequently, the confidence given to the battle-tested IS-2 by the supreme command of the Red Army was to push an extensive set of postwar modifications, first ratified in 1954 and applied in 1957, known as the upgraded “IS-2M”.

The range of modifications included an improved fire control system, extending the effective range of the 122 mm (4.72 in), a new prism sight slit for the driver and TVN-2 or NRZ night vision system. Also fitted were a new B-54K-IS engine, electric starter, new lubrication and cooling system, fuel injection heater NICS-1, electric pump MOHP-2 and a VTI-2 air cleaner with improved fire smoke extraction. There was also a new gearbox with oil pump and oil cooling system with a direct rigid attachment at the rear bearing. The planetary rotation mechanism was connected to the host drive final drive with semi-rigid connections. The return rollers were changed as well as the suspension bearings. Internal modifications inside the turret and enhanced recoil system components shared with the T-54 permitted to store 35 rounds. A modern R-113 radio set was also fitted. Externally, stowage bins over the tracks were added, as well as BDSH smoke bombs projectors.
An IS-2 model 1944

The IS-2 in action

Tactically, the IS-2s were deployed with the elite Guards Battalions, which acted on request wherever a strongpoint was encountered. Its capacity to destroy Panthers and Tigers, as well as fortifications with HE rounds, made it irreplaceable. A typical Guard Tank Brigade had 3 regiments of 65 IS-2s each. Independent Guard units also existed with fewer vehicles and with their supply train. Their first action was in February 1944 at Korsun Chevchenkovski, Ukraine. Later, a single unit of 10 IS-2s from the 72nd Regiment engaged and claimed to have destroyed no less than 41 Tigers and “Ferdinands” in several engagements between April and May 1944, claiming the loss of eight tanks. The frontal armor proved impervious to the 88 mm (3.46 in) at usual German firing distances of 1000 m (1093 yards) and more. The same regiment was later committed within the 18th Army to fight-off the General Stanislav’s Axis-equipped Russian forces as part of the 4th Panzer Army.
During one of these battles, near the settlement of Târgu Frumos, a single IS-2 was damaged and later examined by General Guderian himself, whom concluded that the “Stalin” was worth of its name. “Do not get involved in a fight with a “Stalin” without overwhelming numerical superiority in the field. I believe that for every “Stalin” we must account for an entire platoon of Tigers.” Any attempts by a single “Tiger” to fight a “Stalin” one-on-one can only result in the loss of a priceless war machine.” Soon, new tactical rules were devised to flank and surround IS-2s and get shots in its vulnerable sides, rear and the sensitive “shot trap” rear turret basket, and only at short range. Presumably German tactical superiority was again called for the task.
IS-2 in action, Berlin, 1945
On the northern sector many IS-2s were also committed during operation Bagration, the summer 1944 offensive on eastern Germany. During the battle on the Sandomierz bridgehead, on August, 13, 1944, the Germans launched a powerful counter-attack led by brand-new heavy tanks. The battle lasted until the 31st of August, and the Russians, placed on well-prepared fortified defensive positions, claimed four Königstigers and seven damaged, three Panthers and even a giant Jagdtiger SPG. As it appeared later, the eleven IS-2s from the 71st Independent Heavy Tank Regiment had successfully repelled an assault from a total of fourteen Panzer VI Ausf. B Königstiger from the 501st Heavy Panzer Regiment. The battle raged at only 656 yards (600 m) and ended with three IS-2s destroyed and seven damaged.
Soviet heavy IS-2 tank in Berlin (1945)
However, it appeared that the loading rate of the new D-25T was still around 20-30 seconds, during that time a Panther could still fire 6-7 rounds. Plus, the ammo was still cumbersome to use and always in short supply. Other battle honors included the Leningrad front, the Baltic states, with the liberation of Lithuania and Latvia, but the offensive ran short at Tallin, where the 36th Independent Guard Regiment lost three tanks and the remaining already worn-out tanks were damaged when attempting to reduce a series of fortifications. The harsh and marshy terrain of eastern Prussia was not friendly to heavy tanks, which had to deal with a well-prepared, deep defensive perimeter. The 79th Regiment suffered badly there until October, but it was more lucky at the battle of the Narew river.
In Hungary, notably at Debrecen, the 78th Regiment also took heavy losses while claiming to have destroyed no less than 6 Tigers, 30 Panthers, 10 Panzer IVs, 24 SPGs and many defensive positions in the process. In February 1945, the 81st Regiment fought against superior forces at Kukennen, after the capture of Nemeritten. The assault, badly supported and coordinated, was repelled with heavy losses. On the Vistula-Oder, in January 1945, the 80th Regiment was more lucky, destroying 19 tanks and SPGs and many enemy positions, deeply nailing into the German 9th Army.
IS-2, Berlin, 1945
IS-2, Berlin, 1945
The Battle of Berlin saw scores of IS-2s committed to destroying entire buildings thanks to their powerful HE rounds. The assault comprised the 7th separate Guards (104th, 105th and 106th tank regiments), the 11th Heavy Tank Brigade’s 334th Regiment, the 351st, 396th, 394th regiments from various units and the 362nd and 399th regiments from the 1st Guards Tank Army, the 347th from the 2nd Guards Tank Army, all part of the 1st Belorussian Front, and the 383rd and 384th regiments of the 3rd Guards Tank Army (1st Ukrainian front). They were tactically arranged in small units of 5 IS-2s supported by a company of assault infantry, including sappers and flame-throwers. The operation lasted until the 2nd of May 1945, with more than 67 IS-2s destroyed in action, mostly by the “Faustniks” (panzerfausts).

Postwar career

The IS-2M was the new standard of modifications, which was applied to nearly all remaining IS-2s after the war. Before this, the IS-2s had been in the first line for 15 years. This set of overhauls spanned from 1954 to 1958. Starting in 1959, some experiments to convert limited numbers of IS-2s into tactical missile mobile launchers gave several turretless versions. The 8K11 and 8K14 missiles were carried and the modified tanks range increased to 300 km (186 mi). Others were converted as ARVs, in two versions, only differing by the position of the commander cupola. IS-2Ms participated in the Soviet-Chinese border crisis, other were stationed on the Kuriles islands and Sakhalin or later turned into bunkers. They remained in active service long enough to participate in the large-scale maneuvers of Odessa in 1982. After this, all remaining IS-2Ms were stored. As of 1995 they were officially put out of commission and were gradually sold for scrap. Perhaps 100 or less are still in storage.
The IS-2 also equipped future Warsaw pact nations, starting in 1945 with the Polish, Czech and Hungarian armies. Polish tanks took an active part in the final push on Pomerania in 1945, while the Hungarian ones were committed during the 1956 Revolution. Perhaps 100 or less (exact numbers are evasive) were also sent to the Chinese in 1950. It is not known how many took part in the great North Korean counter-offensive in the summer of 1951. Several were also sent to the North-Vietnamese fighting the French colonial forces. In Korea, according to U.S. data actions, the fighting involved four separate tank regiment manned by Chinese volunteers, each of which had three companies of T-34/85s and one of IS-2s.
Eventually, a shipment of IS-2Ms arrived in Cuba in late 1960, but not the following spare parts, prevented by the US blockade during the 1962 crisis. Two regiments of 41 tanks were active but stationed in reserve by Castro, near the sugar factory Australia, and never participated in the “Bay of Pigs” battle. They were all later turned into bunkers for coastal defense.

Unused Design

Nikolai Fedorovich Shashmurin, a well-known tank designer, drew up plans for a possible alternative to the IS-2. Unofficially named the IS-2Sh (Sh = Shashmurin) or simply Shashmurin’s IS-2, it was a complete redesign of the IS. It featured a rear-mounted turret carrying the 122mm gun, large single roadwheels and heavily sloped frontal hull armor. The engine was placed in the middle of the hull, with the driver at the bow cut of off from the rest of the crew. Only one drawing is known to exist of this design.

The only known image of the IS-2 “Sh”.

IS-2 documentary (english subtitles)

IS-2 related links and references

The IS family on Wikipedia
On Flames of War

IS-2 model 1944 specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 6.2 (9.9 with gun) x 3.10 x 2.73 m (20.34/32.48 x 10.17 x 8.96 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 46 tonnes (90,000 lbs)
Crew 4 (commander, loader, gunner, driver)
Propulsion V2 diesel V12, 600 bhp (450 kW)
Speed 37 km/h (23 mph)
Range (road/off road) 240 km (150 mi)
Suspensions Transverse torsion arms
Armament (variable) 122 mm (4.8 in) D-25T
2xDT 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine guns
DShK 12.7 mm (0.5 in) AA machine gun
Armor thickness 30 to 120 mm (1.18-4.72 in)
Production 3,854


IS-2 used as target
IS-2 used as target
IS-2 with the 'Revenge for the Hero Brother' slogan on the side of the turret
Revenge for the Hero Brother’ slogan on the side of the turret
IS-2, Bohemia, Czech Republic, 1945
IS-2, Bohemia, Czech Republic, 1945
Close view of the DSHK machine gun in action
Close view of the DSHK machine gun in action
ww2 soviet armour
ww2 Soviet Tanks Poster

IS-1 model 1943, for comparison
IS-1 model 1943, for comparison.
IS-2 model 1943, 88th Independent Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, Berlin, April 1945.
IS-2 model 1943, 88th Independent Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, Berlin, April 1945.
IS-2 model 1943, Berlin, April 1945, General Rybalko's 3rd Guards Tank Army.
IS-2 model 1943, Berlin, April 1945, General Rybalko’s 3rd Guards Tank Army.
IS-2 model 1943, winter 1943-44, Vitebsk sector
IS-2 model 1943, winter 1943-44, Vitebsk sector.
IS-2 Model 1944, 29th Guards Heavy Tank Battalion, Poland, early 1945
Model 1944, 29th Guards Heavy Tank Battalion, Poland, early 1945.
A partially camouflaged IS-2 model 1944 from an unknown Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, late 1944.
A partially camouflaged IS-2 model 1944 from an unknown Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, late 1944.
Camouflaged IS-2, 4th Guards Tank Army, summer 1944
Camouflaged IS-2, 4th Guards Tank Army, summer 1944.
IS-2 model 1944 from the 7th Independent Guards Heavy Tank Battalion, Berlin, April 1945.
IS-2 model 1944 from the 7th Independent Guards Heavy Tank Battalion, Berlin, April 1945. Number 434 was named “Combat Girlfriend” and fought in the southeastern Berlin suburbs as part of Chuykov’s 8th Guards Army. They had a polar bear painted over a red star to commemorate their participation in the previous Karelian campaign.
IS-2 model 1944 from an unknown unit, Karelia, 1944
IS-2 model 1944 from an unknown unit, Karelia, 1944.
Artist impression of a late IS-2 with a IS-1 turret, quite possibly a marriage made when both tanks suffered damaged, one to the hull, the other to the turret
Artist impression of an IS-2 with a IS-1 turret, quite possibly a marriage made when both tanks suffered damaged, one to the hull, the other to the turret. Inspired by the scale model work of Ulf Andersson,
IS-2, unknown Guards Independent Unit, Seelow heights, March-April 1945
Unknown Guards Independent Unit, Seelow heights, March-April 1945.
IS-2 Model 1944, partial winter camouflage, Eastern Prussia, February 1945
Model 1944, partial winter camouflage, Eastern Prussia, February 1945
1st Czechoslovak Tank Brigade, Prague, May 1945.
1st Czechoslovak Tank Brigade, Prague, May 1945.
Polish 4th Heavy Tank Regiment, Germany april 1945
Polish 4th Heavy Tank Regiment, Germany, April 1945.

IS-2 of the People’s Liberation Army, on parade in Beijing, 1954.
IS-2M, modernized version with stowage bins over tracks and other modifications, 1957.
IS-2M, modernized version with stowage bins over tracks and other modifications, 1957.

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!

By David.B

Tank Encyclopedia's Creator, webmaster and illustrator since 2010.

34 replies on “IS-2”

Hey, the Combat Girlfriend text says number 434, but it says 432 in the illustration.
Otherwise great article, thanks for putting in the effort.

Originally when I heard of the IS-2Sh, I firmly believed that it was just a fake tank by WG, yet again. Apparently I was wrong!
Also, the drawing of the IS-2Sh is not being shown. Something went wrong here.. Just worth noting.
Hello from Canada, yet again.
(P.S. has anyone of the TE moderators ever visited Canada? Just curious.)

I researched the vehicle once I heard it was entering ‘World of Tanks: Blitz’. I must say I was relieved to find out it was at least a real concept. What I could find, I added here.
The image has been fixed.
– TE Moderator

good thing everything be fixed with the image. But, you’d have to wonder.. why was the IS-2Sh not used? was it too complex? too late in the war? Unnecessary? (which almost is, but it does seem to show some potential)
Thanks for fixin the image, buddy.

All of which are good suggestions. But there isn’t much info to go on I’m afraid.
– TE Moderator

I wonder which US WW2 tank would be an equivalent of the Soviet IS-2 tank? This encyclopedia has a lot of great information. I just wish the website had a page dedicated to comparison of different WW2 tanks which would show which tanks from the different opponents were more or less similar in connection to efficiency, fire capacity, armor and so on.
Or maybe each page about a tank could have some info about this subject. For example this page about the IS-2 tank could have a section stating something like: “The IS-2 tank was, if we compare it with the US tanks, in the same category as the 46 ton medium/heavy tank M26 Pershing and a comparison with the British tanks show that the 64-ton Conqueror with a 120-millimeter gun was like its larger cousin… and so on.”

Hey! Do you know anything about the IS-2M (M variant) Like, was it a prototype? When was it made? Etc etc. I see it has slopped armor on the upper sides as well if I am right.
Thanks, in advance.

The Terminology for the IS-2M can be slightly confusing. A modified IS-2 design was proposed (but never built) by one of the Soviet tank factories in 1944, featuring a rear mounted fighting compartment with the engine moved to the front. This design was apparently called IS-2Sh or IS-M, however it is often mislabelled online as IS-2M which causes confusion.
The real IS-2M was a post war modernisation of the IS-2 with a new gunnery system and gearbox as well as other improvements to the electrical and automotive systems in the vehicle, it was widely implemented in IS-2 tanks in Soviet Inventory and exported overseas to countries such as Egypt. Most IS-2 tanks in museums today are IS-2M upgrades. It had no changes to the armour design, what you’re likely referring to is the update to the frontal armour that came with the update to the IS-2 in 1944, where the stepped frontal plate of the IS-1/early IS-2 was replaced with a single piece sloped at 60 degrees, providing better armour and easier production
TE Moderator

So IS-2M a post-war modernized version. But like, in the last photo of IS-2 on the page, that’s an IS-2M. But why is the side armor angled? Slopped? Is it only structural steel?

I didn’t actually know the answer to this one so I asked some of our team members who are more familiar with Russian tank design. Apparently as part of the modernisation process they added a set of stowage boxes to the side of the tank (you can see the two aces doors on the side), these are what create the angled sides that you mention. they’re not armoured steel so they don’t give the vehicle any additional protection, they just provided a better place to keep tools and other sundries
TE Moderator

If the IS-2M is a “post-war modification”, then why is the photo of a tank in a rubble-strewn street captioned “IS-2M in Berlin, 1945”? I assumed it was the sloped glacis plate, etc, and was brought into service before the war ended.

The caption was Incorrect, it has been fixed.
The fully sloped sloped glacis plate was introduced in 1944, so the tank pictured in Berlin would have been a model 1944 hull. The IS-2M (M for modernizatsiya[modernisation]) was implemented in the 1950s as a modernisation program for the IS-2 and as far as is known used only model 1944 hulls. The Modernisation program included complete replacement of the transmission and gunnery equipment, along with upgrades to the electrical systems of the vehicle and additional external stowage fitted on the sides of the tank in front of the external fuel tank mounts.
Images below should hopefully Illustrate
IS-1 type hull (pre 1944)
1944 type hull
1944 type hull modernised to IS-2M Standard
TE Moderator

one question, why isn’t there any description regarding the intended modification of IS-2 into IS-2U, that would have included a redesigned frontal lower and upper glacis into an IS-3 like “pike nose”? There is even a schematic of this radical modification, the Russians intended to share it with the Chinese for their IS-2 tanks.

“Because of the large recoil mechanism of the gun and a 1800 mm (70.86 in) turret ring radius, the internal space was cramped and only permitted a four-man crew, the commander having to command, order fire and make radio contact.”
Commanding, ordering fire and using the radio is what ALL tank commanders did. The problem is when they are also expected to aim or load the gun. The Pz. III, IV, V and VI, the T-34/85, the M4 Medium, these all had commanders who used the radio to command or contact other tanks, and they directed the fire of the gunners and kept an eye outside the tank. I suspect the problem here is that the author is so used to reading about T-34/76s, etc, and how terrible it was that they “only had a 4-man crew” that he missed the crucial fact that the IS-2 has a 4-man crew because the BOW GUNNER/Co-driver is missing. This has no impact on the duties of the commander. The bow-gunner is often called “radio-operator”, but this is almost always an error by the time of WWII. It was true in the 1930s when radios were too large to fit in the turret, but by WWII the radio was generally inside the turret. Even if it wasn’t, it was extremely common for the commander of a tank to operate the radio and command the tank at the same time. After all, he was the one who needed most to communicate with other tanks. If you want to suggest that this hinders his ability to command, you’d better change all the other articles to reflect it. Again, while a T-34 had a 4-man crew and thus forced the commander to double as gunner (NOT as loader, as your article claims), the IS-2 also had a 4-man crew while still allowing the commander to focus on his duties: commanding and communicating. The lack of bow-gunner/co-driver removed a generally redundant crewmember who mostly just took up valuable space and made it harder to shape the glacis to withstand incoming fire.

Why the complete discrepancy between the text claiming that the “IS-2M is a postwar modification with the engine moved to the front and turret to the rear” and the photo captions, several of which claim to show “IS-2Ms” in wartime. The only photo that appears to show what is described in the text says it is called the IS-2Sh. So what is the IS-2M, or what do people BELIEVE it is? And what is with the glacis plate going from stepped to sloped? That doesn’t have any relation to the “M” designation? They just made that major change, yet they are all called “IS-2” without any way of telling the difference? I don’t believe it.
BTW, the 14.5mm is significantly more powerful than the 12.7mm, ballistically speaking.

Never said the IS-2M with the turret at the rear was postwar. That was a wartime proposal.
Also, all the photos with the IS-2M in WWII were modified, the author made a mistake, thinking the glacis was an identifier. It is not.
Also, yeah, no difference in designation. Just like all the T-34s were T-34s, all T-54s were T-54s, regardless of the many variations. Soviets, man.

But why mention it at all?

Shashmurins 1944 “IS-2M” proposal bears no higher degree of relevance than the half dozen other wartime IS-2 upgrade projects. And it has no connection whatsoever to the 1957 IS-2M modernization efforts.

Putting them in the same paragraph only leads to confusion. Not to mention that Shashmurins “IS-2M” was never “experimentally built”. The thing stayed on paper.

Yes, the heaviest Russian Bias tank in the late war, the Joseph Stalin II. Infamous for destroying any tank it comes across, it could probably destroy a Maus tank if they met in battle.

Some pictures on this page is actually the KV-13 prototype! They can be distinguished from real IS-2s by the differences between their suspension (KV-13 has only 5 pairs of road wheels while IS-2 has 6). I hope you can correct that soon.

The prototypes photos has been added long after the article was published. TE is a collaborative effort. Legends added !
They will be moved on a standalone post on the KV-13 which is currently brewing…

As usual, a great article. However I would bring to your attention the following:

“The anti-aircraft DSHK heavy-machine gun was introduced on the final production IS-1, being a Russian version of the US heavy cal.50 (12.7 mm).”

This is totally untrue unfortunately. The only equivalence being the calibre of the ammunition and even then round weight, propellant load and all dimensions except calibre are different. The mechanisms are entirely different and no parts are interchangeable. For instance the Browning M2HB is sh short-recoil operated and the DShK is gas operated.
I fully understand the text is supposed to denote that the weapons have similar roles but it strongly implies the DShK is a variant of the M2HB.

I’m looking for archive pictures of the IS-2 model 1943, numbered 22, of the 88th Independent Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, Berlin, April 1945. [Cfr. illustration on this page]
From which source did you get this illustration please?

And it is true that people thought the first Soviet IS tank was the Kv-85 heavy tank, but only I observed that it proved too weak against the German heavy tanks Panther and Tiger because caliber is not large enough, so it is not possible to cause high damage to Panther and Tiger tanks, of course, but if it uses a 122mm D-25T cannon, it can, but this cannon was not until 1944. was newly manufactured, so it was unreasonable to install the D-25T 122mm cannon on the Kv-85, so it was not until 1943 that IS-2 was officially born, but its old armor-piercing shells could not penetrate the armor. front of the Panther tank, so using this type of ammunition to fight one on one with the Tiger tank is really too useless. Until 1944, the D-25T 122mm cannon as mentioned earlier was useless, even more unreasonable because the Panther tank could not use its front armor against this gun’s ammunition and even even if using Tiger, it is no less useless as the Panther tank and the king of the tiger King Tiger heavy tank is no match for this tank and if using Panther, Tiger and King Tiger fight three times one with the IS-2 is equally useless and the loss is too great for the expensive Nazi war machine and in the eyes of the Nazis IS-2 is more than a monster on the battlefield “Mr. The IS-2 boggart is back.”

The IS-2 was never armed with the A19 field gun. The A19 would’ve never fit.

The IS-2 was always armed with the D-25T, even the prototype. Only that the early D-25T’s used interrupted screw breech design. Only later did they redesign the D-25T with a sliding breech design. That redesign did not change the weapons name.

However the D-25T had not received its name at the start of the IS-2 project. Which may have caused some of these beliefs that IS-2’s were armed with the A19. The name it eventually got reflected its lineage, as it was a combination of the 122mm D-2 and 85mm D-5 gun systems, T because it was for tank mounts, and not self propelled guns.

I know I’m a bit late but I’m currently doing War Thunder skins and I recreated the Czech IS-2 shown here, but do you have any other images of the tank? Mainly the front and back of the tank. I’ll gladly update the tank later on if you can provide these images.

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