Thursday, 17 August 2017

Armoury of the Moscow People's Militia

In September of 1941, things weren't looking so good for the Red Army. The possibility of the German army reaching, and even taking, Moscow was on the horizon. A People's Militia was formed to defend the city if necessary. At the same time, an inventory of obsolete weapons was taken, to see what they could be equipped with if the regular army consumes all of the currently produced guns. Numbers of functional guns and those in need of repairs are given, the latter in brackets.

Any modern collector would be envious of the result:

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Exotic Trophies

"September 15th, 1945

To the commander of the Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the Red Army, comrade Fedorenko

I present to you brief descriptions of the "Maus" superheavy tank, a self propelled AA gun, and a "Tiger-mortar" 380 mm SPG. I report that the aforementioned vehicles, as well as an 88 mm tank destroyer, were sent to Moscow to the Kubinka Scientific Research Tank Proving Grounds.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Stuart Commander

"Award Order
  1. Name: Karev, Yuriy Nikiforovich
  2. Rank: Major
  3. Position, unit: commander of the 258th Independent Tank Battalion, Northern Group, Transcaucasian Front
    is nominated for the Order of the Red Star.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Whose Helmet Was Better?

Comparisons of one's own weapons and equipment to the enemy's was not just a pastime of common soldiers, but of senior officers as well. Throughout the Great Patriotic War, captured equipment was thoroughly tested and studied. In our days, much attention is paid to comparisons of tanks, planes, and guns. However, it is interesting to learn about similar trials for more common, but no less important, elements of a soldier's kit. The question was simple: which helmet is better, a Soviet one or a German one? The answer came from a commission of the Main Quartermaster Directorate of the Red Army in January-February of 1943.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf. F: Third Time's the Charm

There are few cases when a tank that is accepted into service is replaced by a modification that is inferior to it. In Soviet tank building, one example of this is the KV-1S, a necessary measure. It was lighter than the KV-1, and had thinner armour, but as a result of its lower mass and improved gearbox, it was a lot more reliable and mobile. The tank itself received a large number of improvements.

With the Germans, the most clear example of such a paradoxical course of action was the PzII Ausf. F. Here, the Germans returned to an older version of the PzII (Ausf. C, albeit with some improvements) than the one that was already accepted into production (Ausf. D).

Friday, 11 August 2017

Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf. D-E: Unlucky Torsion Bars

Worldwide tank building progressed rapidly in the second half of the 1930s. This can definitely be said about Germany's tank industry, which developed tank suspensions, along with everything else. Various experiments in this area led to widespread use of torsion bars. However, there is a tank in the history of Germany's tank design that was produced in large numbers, but it is rarely remembered. It ended up in a paradoxical situation where, instead of a technically superior tank, a tank with an old suspension returned into production. This was the PzII Ausf. D: a light tank that fought in its initial configuration for only a month.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Mosin Penetration

This article was originally posted on Soviet Gun Archives.

My other blog talks a lot about how much armour a cannon can punch through, but there are many things other than steel on the battlefield. The archives of the Komsomol's youth magazine, Smena, contain a penetration table for the Mosin rifle (sadly, they do not specify which one, but I can't imagine the ballistics are too different).

Brick: 20 cm
Sand: 70 cm
Clay: 100 cm
Dirt: 140 cm
Bushes: 150 cm
Compressed snow: 350 cm
Straw: 425 cm
Loose snow: 450 cm

KV Visibility Diagram

The issue of visibility was a known sore spot in early war Soviet tanks. The commander's cupola was not a popular feature until the T-50, but it took until 1942 for such a cupola to be developed for the KV-1 and T-34 tanks. The book Tank Observation Devices documents the improvement in observation range between the KV-1 and its successor, the KV-1S.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Leningrad Guntruck

"Decree of the Military Council of the Northern Front #53/ss
July 8th, 1941

Contents: tactical-technical requirements for the installation of a 45 mm gun in a half-armoured ZIS-5 truck and production of 20 such trucks at the Izhor factory.

The Military Council of the Northern Front has decreed that:

The Izhor factory must produce 20 ZIS-5 half-armoured trucks prepared for the installation of a 45 mm gun by July 13th, 1941, with the following improvements and additions:
  1. Add additional shields in front of the gun wheels to protect the crew from the front, but without limiting the gun's horizontal traverse.
  2. Add seats for the crew and ammunition racks in the truck bed.
  3. The 45 mm gun mount must allow for firing from the truck. At the same time, it must be possible to easily and quickly remove and install the gun, with removable metal stoppers underneath the mounts and a collapsible ramp for wheeling the gun into the truck bed.
  4. Install an armoured container to hold a fuel tank. The placement is up to the designer.
  5. ABTU Chief, Colonel Dementyev, must issue 20 ZIS-5 trucks for the Izhor factory within three days.
  6. The Chief of the Artillery Directorate, Major-General Sviridov, must provide 45 mm guns for the half-armoured trucks produced at the Izhor factory.
Commander of the Norther Front, Lieutenant-General Popov
Member of the Military Council of the Northern Front, Corps Commissar Klementyev
Member of the Military Council of the Northern Front, Kuznetsov"

Monday, 7 August 2017

Soviet Rear Turret Tanks

The idea of a rear fighting compartment was first implemented in several KV-4 projects. This concept was picked, for example, by K.I. Kuzmin, P.S. Tarapanin, and V.I. Tarotko, who took second place in the tender. Other engineers, for example, K. Buganov, picked that layout as well. It was explored several times more. In the spring of 1944, N.F. Shashmurin proposed a modernization of the IS-2. This tank had 5 crewmen, two of which were in the front, in the driver's compartment, and 3 were in the turret. The turret was in the rear of the hull, and the engine compartment was in the middle. The Object 705A, a competitor of the Object 260, took a similar shape. The rear fighting compartment layout was not unpopular among Soviet designers. However, each time the development stopped at the drawing board.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf. c-C: At the Spearhead of Blitzkrieg

The story of the PzII tank was an unusual one. In many ways, it owes its "accidental" existence to the attempts of mounting a 20 mm autocannon in the Kleintraktor (future PzI). Due to issues with production of the Z.W. tank (future PzIII), the PzII was the most numerous front line tank for the first two years of WWII. Germany's most common tank was not even originally included in the armament plans.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf.a through b: An Unplanned Tank

The light PzII tank played an important role in the structure of the German tank forces. Despite the opinion born of German generals' memoirs, this was not a training tank. On the contrary: at the time of its inception, the PzII was one of the best light tanks in the world. It appeared almost by accident, but occupied a significant part of the Wehrmacht's order of battle. The PzII remained in production for five years, with some small breaks. What is the history of the PzII, and what did its first versions look like?

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Trials and Tribulations

"...execution of complete trials was impossible for the following reasons:
  1. NIPSVO does not have a T-38, for which comrade Polyubin's mount was built (feed system, ammunition racks, toolkit, etc).
  2. The provided 7.62 mm modernized tank machinegun mod. 1940 was very worn out, the logbook and toolkit were missing. By the time the shortened trials program was completed, the machinegun was inoperative.
  3. Comparison of the TP and TP-1 sight and subsequent choice of the superior model (as per your instruction) was impossible, since only the TP sight arrived."

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Bulletproof Vests

"GOKO decree #6949
November 16th, 1944
  1. Permit the NKTP to produce parts for 2000 bulletproof vests at factory #50 using 2.6 mm thick 30-35 HGSA steel.
  2. The People's Commissariat of Light Manufacturing must sew together the plates and deliver the bulletproof vests to the GBTU before November 30th, 1944.
  3. The GBTU (comrade Fedorenko) must test the bulletproof vests in the army before January 20th, 1945, and report to the GOKO with conclusions regarding the need of mass production.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Stuart Hero

"Award Order 
  1. Name: Pavkin, Aleksandr Yakovlevich
  2. Rank: Lieutenant
  3. Position, unit: company commander in the 75th Independent Tank Battalion
    is nominated for the Order of Lenin.

Monday, 31 July 2017

KV-1 Transmission Upgrade

"Transmission for the KV tank with a preselector gearbox

Variant 1

The main clutch, gearbox, both final drives, brakes, and the lines to these components are removed. Instead, two identical Wilson type gearboxes with preselectors are installed symmetrically in the transmission compartment on each side (photo #2).

Photo #2. Transmission diagram, variant 1.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

M4A2(76)W: Emcha With a Long Hand

The Americans considered improving the firepower of the Medium Tank M4 back in September of 1941. A year later, experiments with installing the 76 mm T1 gun into the stock turret commenced. Even though the gun fit, the military was unsatisfied with this rearmament. A decision was made to equip the M4 with the turret from the Medium Tank T23, which did not enter production. This was not hard, since the turret ring diameter was the same.

Shortly before that, the M4 (known in the USSR under the nickname "Emcha") was equipped with wet ammunition racks. These modernized tanks, whose name received the suffix (76)W, went into production in January of 1944. Among them was the M4A2(76)W, the production of which began in May of 1944. The USSR received these tanks under the Lend Lease program.