Saturday, 29 April 2017

E-50 and E-75: A Story of Failed Unification

Tanks that could have been built are often discussed within certain circles. Aside from the superheavy Maus and E-100, there are the light and medium E-10 and E-25 tank destroyers. Despite very incomplete data about these vehicles, the overall characteristics are known, including the armament.

Meanwhile, the core of "Panzerwaffe-46" was going to be composed of the medium E-50 tank and heavy E-75 tank, at least in the minds of fans of alternative history. The story with these tanks is a lot more complicated, since work stopped at an early stage, and a good half of the information available on these tanks is divination at best. Let's try to figure out what about the E-50 and E-75 is true and what is blatant misrepresentation.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Hummel: Bee with a Long Stinger

German engineers invented the "self propelled gun mount" class of artillery. The first work in this area was done during WWI, but it truly became a mass event 25 years after it ended. The recipe was simple: take a light or medium tank and use its parts to to build a chassis with bulletproof armour. A slightly modified version of a towed gun was installed on that chassis. Thanks to this phenomenon, the mobility of German artillery grew significantly. The Hummel became the post powerful of German "self propelled gun mounts". This SPG earned its position as one of the symbols of German self propelled artillery.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Zhukov and Minefields

There's a very common myth about Zhukov prevalent in popular culture, both Russian and Western, about his unparalleled cruelty and disregard for human life. Historian Aleksey Isayev read a radio lecture dispelling common myths about the commander. I'm not going to transcribe the whole thing, since it's over an hour and a half long, but I will tackle one particularly prevalent myth: the allegation that Zhukov marched his men to their death over minefields. Isayev discusses the myth at 1:33:05.

"There's a very famous story, allegedly coming from Eisenhower, about how if Soviet infantry encountered a minefield, it would advance as though there was no minefield there. This is a retelling over a broken telephone. In reality, Zhukov insisted that regular ordinary infantry should undergo sapper training, because simple mine disarmament, removal of simple minefields, can be performed by a person who has certain combat experience, and the implementation of this in ordinary rifle units, so they would not be stalled in front of minefields waiting for sappers and deal with minefields that they could handle by themselves, moving forward, and not remain in place, vulnerable to artillery attack."

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Repair Bill

"Preliminary calculations of capital repairs of the A-34 vehicle

Proposed replacement of mechanisms:
  • V-2 engine: 72,386
  • Electric motors (set): 2610
  • Radiators: 2013
  • Tires: 10,000
  • Ball bearings: 3325
  • Gearbox: 12,000
  • Main friction clutch: 5000
  • Final drives: 4740
  • Tracks: 6612
  • Normalizing parts: 1128
  • Tarp parts: 1275
  • Felt parts: 664
  • Rubber parts: 933
  • Liner: 100
  • Total cost: 122,786

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Valentine Improvement

"To the Chief Engineer of TsAKB and TsAKB Chief, Lieutenant-General of the Technical Forces, comrade Grabin

April 18th, 1944

Valentine tanks armed with a 40 mm gun continue arriving from England in the USSR.

The penetration of this gun is low and, as experience shows, it cannot fight against modern German tanks in battle. In addition, the ammunition used with the 40 mm gun does not include a high explosive shell, making these tanks ineffective against infantry.

I ask you to determine the possibility of designing and producing an experimental Valentine tank with an 85 mm S-53 gun.

It is necessary to include a 7.62 mm machinegun with 360 degree range to combat enemy personnel.

GBTU USA Chief, Major-General of the Engineering Tank Service, Alymov."

CAMD RF 38-11369-284

Monday, 24 April 2017

Kirov Experiments, June 1941

"Report on completion of experimental works on armoured vehicles from May 20th, 1941, to June 20th, 1941

Object 220 (KV-3 base)

As of June 20th, the tank traveled 1979 km in total, 584 km after reassembly. The 850 hp V-2SN engine #2(1193-03) installed on May 30th worked for 27 h. 21 m. During trials, the following defects were discovered:
  1. 3 sets of exhaust collectors burned up over the course of 284 km.
  2. 4 final drive ferodo ribbons burned up. Cause: improper installation and adjustment.
As of June 12th, the existing defects are:

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Infantry Tank Mk.I: the First Infantry Tank

There are many tanks in the history of armoured warfare that were simply unlucky. The British Infantry Tank Mk.I is one of them. Even its name was lost when it became the Matilda due to some historian's error, even though that name applies to a completely different vehicle. As Britain's first infantry tank, it was hopelessly obsolete by the start of the war. Even its thick armour was not enough to survive in a war that it was simply not suitable for.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Gun Motor Carriage M10

Unlike many tanks, few tank destroyers arrived in the USSR within the Lend Lease program. The Gun Motor Carriage T48, or SU-57, built on the chassis of the M3 halftrack, was the only exception. Initially, they were built by the Americans for a British order, but the British barely used them. The USSR gave them a completely different reception: they were used actively and showed themselves as an effective anti-tank measure. As for tank destroyers on a tank chassis, the only Western vehicle that was accepted into the army was the Gun Motor Carriage M10, known widely under the British nickname "Wolverine".

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Party Hard

"To the commander of the 61st Radom Rifle Corps

I report that at 23:00 on May 6th, 1945, American correspondents Captains Robert Ruben, John McVane, Victor Berstein, Richard Hotslet, escorted by Sr. Lieutenant Bruce Feshenden and driver Corporal John Doyle were detailed near Hohenwarthe village while headed across the Elbe.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

End of Rearmament

"To the People's Commissariat of Defense of the USSR
Comrade Beria
January 9th, 1942

Chief designers of factory #92, Major-General of the Technical Forces, comrade Grabin, installed domestic armament in two Matilda and Valentine tanks.

Instead of the English 40 mm gun and 7.92 mm machinegun in the Valentine tank, our 45 mm tank gun and DT machinegun are used.

Instead of the English 40 mm gun and 7.92 mm machinegun in the Matilda tank, our 76 mm tank gun and DT machinegun are used.

Based on personal inspection and review of trials materials, I deem that the re-armament of English tanks is senseless for the following reasons:

Porsche Suspension

"British Embassy, Moscow
British Military Mission in the USSR
Moscow, May 15th, 1944

To: Mr. Lieutenant General Lebedev
Copy: Mr. Chief of the NKO Department of External Affairs

The War Ministry asked me to provide it with brief information on the suspension of the Ferdinand self propelled gun. It is especially interested in the diameter and length of the torsion bars, their position, and the distance between the axles. A diagram with specified sizes would be very valuable, especially if accompanied by a description of the performance of the suspension.

I would be most grateful if you supplied me with the aforementioned data.

M.B. Burrows
Lieutenant General, Head of the British Military Mission in the USSR."

Monday, 17 April 2017

Cheating at Statistics 19: Time Travelling Tigers

One of the first uses of the IS-85 tank was in the Korsun Pocket. The 13th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, equipped with brand new IS-85s, was sent to block Kampfgruppe Bake (an unusual formation equipped with both Tiger and Panther tanks) from breaking through to the pocket. Forczyk describes this engagement as not particularly favourable to the IS tanks.

"These heavy tanks were committed into action on 15 February and unwisely attacked Kampfgruppe Bake instead of sitting on the defense; the Panthers and Tigers knocked virtually all of them out. Following this incident, the GABTU resolved to upgrade the new IS-series heavy tanks to the 122 mm gun."

Oof, that's quite a mistake for a book published in 2015. The decree titled "On IS tanks" authorized the production of an IS tank armed with a 122 mm gun in September of 1943. By February 15th, these tanks were not only in production, but had already reached the front lines.

However, there's something else fishy in play here. This unit that was destroyed by Tigers and Panthers mysteriously pops up on the very next page to wreak havoc on Kampfgruppe Bake and Frank's attempts to break through to the encircled men. Let's take a look at what actually happened.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

T18 HMC: Quick Howitzer

The American army began thinking of motorizing their artillery back in WWI. For a long time, attempts were made to build an SPG on the chassis of the light tracked Holt tractor. In parallel, John Walter Christie was working on a similar vehicle. Neither project satisfied the US Army for various reasons. A second attempt at an SPG was made in 1930, but the Howitzer Motor Carriage T1 remained an experiment. The next opportunity to obtain self propelled artillery came a decade later in the form of the Howitzer Motor Carriage T18.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Combat Car M1: Armour for American Cavalry

Traditionally, cavalry occupied a very strong position in the American army. As soon as there was an opportunity to obtain its own tanks, the cavalry took it. Since, officially, the cavalry was not allowed to have tanks, the name "combat car" was used, even though these vehicles were actually tanks. The Combat Car M1 and several similar vehicles on its chassis are typical representatives of the small family of interbellum cavalry tanks.