Friday, 21 July 2017

Superheavy Trophy

The German superheavy Maus tank left a mark in the history of tank building. This was the heaviest tank in the world, developed as an assault tank, practically invincible to enemy fire. In many ways, its fate was the same as the fate of another giant, the French FCM 2C, which holds the title of the world's largest tank to this day. Like the French heavyweight, the German tank never saw combat. In both cases, the tanks were blown up by their own crews. Another similarity was that the tanks became the subject of a careful study.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Br-19 152 mm Gun

"To the Chief of the 3rd Department of the USSR NKV 85 Gorkiy St
In response to #5488s and 5255s-41

CC: Factory #221 director, Stalingrad
In response to #2890s-41

CC: Chief of the 2nd Department of the GAU UVNA, 2nd NKO Building

CC: GAU Regional Military Engineer at factory #221, Stalingrad

September 2nd, 1941

RE: Br-19 system

The Br-19 152 mm gun showed satisfactory precision at proving grounds trials, and the elevation mechanism worked flawlessly.

Considering the positive results of the trials and the advantages of the Br-19 over the 152 mm Br-2 gun in its lack of balancing mechanism, I consider it possible to put the gun into production to replace the 152 mm Br-2.

In connection with this, I ask that you instruct factory #221 to develop copies of blueprints and technical documentation for the Br-19 gun and send it by November 1st, 1941, through the GAU regional engineer to the 1st Department of the GAU UVNA for approval.

GAU UVNA Chief, Colonel Sorokin
GAU UVNA Military Commissar, Regimental Commissar Kozlov
1st Department of the GAU UVNA Deputy Chief, Komarov
3rd Section of the 1st Department of the GAU UVNA Chief, Yudov"

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

T-34 with U-11

"To the director of Kalinin factory #8, comrade Fratkin, Sverdlovsk
CC: NKTP Technical Department Chief, Engineer-Colonel Ginzburg, Sadovo-Sukharevskaya 9.11.
CC: NPTK Technical Council Chair, comrade Satel, 35 Gorkiy St.
July 20th, 1942

The design sent to us for review in letter #1430s of a 122 mm U-11 howitzer in a T-34 turret, designed under the initiative of factory #8, was reviewed by the Artillery Committee of the GAU.

The design describes the installation of an experimental U-11 122 mm tank howitzer into a new T-34 tank turret, while maintaining the existing turret ring. Since the proposed fighting compartment only fits two men to service the gun, which is insufficient for the howitzer to work normally, the project is not of interest and is rejected.

Considering that the installation of this howitzer in the larger KV tank turret resulted in insufficient comfort of service and rate of fire, the development of this project is nonsensical.

In order to avoid unproductive waste of effort and resources, the Artillery Committee consider it prudent to seek approval from the GAU before projects are started.

Deputy GAU Chief and ArtKom chair, Major-General of Artillery, Hohlov
ArtKom Military Commissar, Regimental Commissar Vasiliev"

Here is the proposed design.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Experimental Guns, 1941

"Experimental works
at the Order of Lenin Molotov factory #172, 1941

According to contract #3-84 signed on March 18th, 1941, the factory is working on the following systems and parts:

1. 152 mm gun, 203 mm howitzer, and 280 mm mortar on a unified mount (M-70)

The technical project was completed in March of 1941. In August of this year, it was reviewed by the NKV Technical Council, along with a GAU representative. As a result, the factory received several directions regarding the technical project and the permission to begin development of working blueprints, which were completed to 40%, after which the factory ceased work under orders from the NKV. Until the end of the year, we did not work in this area.

According to the agreement, the factory was supposed to deliver working blueprints and the prototype by March of 1942, but it appears that the factory cannot do that.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Small, But Fierce

One of the distinguishing characteristics of German tank building in WWII was an aim to use up obsolete vehicles, including those which used to be the backbone of the German tank force. If a German tank became obsolete, that didn't mean that it would be scrapped. Some tanks were sent to training units, other were modernized. Obsolete tanks, especially light ones, were often converted to SPGs or engineering vehicles. This was the fate that awaited the PzI, Germany's first mass produced tank, which was already obsolete at the start of WWII.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. F: Pocket Tiger

Coming up with tank ratings is a hobby of many tank experts, as well as people who consider themselves as such. As a rule, the creators try to determine the best tank. While some kind of systematic approach was developed over the years, picking out the worst tanks is usually more complicated. Often, creators of lists of the worst tanks make their choices according to no set system and end up naming a number of tanks that didn't earn such a shameful label.

If we consider the tank's characteristics, the time of its appearance on the battlefield, and combat effectiveness, then one of the worst tanks of WWII was the German Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. F. Conceptually similar to the British Infantry Tank Mk.I, it entered service in the middle of the war, with very questionable characteristics.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Wonder Weapons

Colonel Kurt Stressner was captured by the Red Army on January 12th, 1945. His interrogation deals with many interesting topics, but one section is probably the most interesting:

"Presence of new weapons and chemical substances

I don't know anything about new weapons, either through official channels or personally. It's possible to redesign the V-2 so that it could be used to strike targets on the front lines precisely. The V-1 is shaped like a plane and is aimed at the target along a horizontal trajectory, and hits the target very imprecisely. They say that it hits 2-3 km from the target. The V-2 has a vertical trajectory and hits 500-1000 m from the target. Time consuming calculations are required. The V-2 can strike tall objects in an area 3-4 square kilometers in size. Both of these weapons can only be used against cities, that is why they cannot be used on the Eastern Front. They say that there is also a type of weapon being developed that is based on decay of atoms. This kind of weapon is desirable, but unlikely.

The use of chemical weapons on German soil is impossible due to the small spaces on which the battles take place."

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

T-37 Modernization

"Report on the modernization of the T-37 tank
  1. After the modernization, the T-37 becomes purely a land tank.
  2. The following components are removed:
    1. Hull buoys
    2. Propeller with transmission
    3. Rudder, carrier, and drive
    4. One DT machinegun magazine rack (15 slots remain)
    5. Gunner's turning seat

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

T-37 and T-38 Applique Armour

"To the Deputy People's Commissar of Tank Production, comrade Goreglyad
CC: factory #37 director

The question of adding applique armour to T-38 and T-37 tanks during their repair and turning them into land tanks has arisen.

I ask you to instruct factory #37 to develop blueprints for applique armour for the T-38 and T-37 with calculations of change in mass and other parameters.

GABTU BTU Chief, Military Engineer 1st Class, Korobkov
GABTU BTU Military Commissar, Regimental Commissar [illegible]"

Monday, 10 July 2017

Experimental Tank Guns in 1940, part 2

We saw some Soviet pre-war prospective guns in a previous article, let's take a look at the rest of the list.

Oscillating part mass
Top speed (kph)
Practical rate of fire RPM
Horizontal range
Vertical range
Max. range (km)
Muzzle velocity
Shell mass (kg)
152 mm M-10 tank howitzer in the KV tank
53 tons
Up to 20
Penetrates 90 mm of armour at 1000 m
122 mm corps gun for the KV tank
54 tons
Up to 20
Penetrates 130 mm at 30 degrees at 1000 m (calculated)
85 mm SPG on T-34 chassis (tank destroyer)
26 tons
Up to 40
Penetrates up to 88 mm at 30 degrees at 1000 m (calculated)
130 mm SPG (B-13) for the SMK
64 tons
Up to 20
Penetrates 130 mm of armour and 40 mm of iron liner at 4400 m. Ready by September 1st, 1940.
152 mm SPG (Br-2) for the SMK
64 tons
Up to 20
Penetrates 130 mm of armour at 30 degrees at 5000 m and 150 mm of armour at 0 degrees at 1100 m. Ready by September 1st, 1940.
55-60 mm anti-tank gun
1000 kg
Up to 50
At least 1000
Up to 3
Penetrates 70 mm of armour at 1000 m at 30 degrees (calculated)
76 mm anti-tank gun based on the USV or F-22
Up to 1800 kg
Up to 50
Penetrates 70 mm of armour at 30 degrees at 1000 m. Uses shells from the mod. 1931 AA gun. Ready by October 1st, 1940

The first entry is pretty self explanatory: this is the KV-2. By this time, 4 KV-2s have been assembled, but it has not gone into production quite yet, so it still shows up on the experimental list. The second entry is quite interesting: some kind of proto-IS-2. It's interesting to see such a powerful gun in a rotating turret so early in the war.

Next, we have something my readers should already be familiar with. The 85 mm gun on a T-34 chassis is the U-20 tank destroyer

Now here's something a little more obscure. Fans of Soviet tank history will know that the T-100, SMK, and KV faced off for the title of the Red Army's next heavy tank during the Winter War. By the summer of 1940, when this list was composed, the KV had already won. However, it seems that the SMK wasn't quite dead yet. Two SPGs, one with a 130 mm gun and one with a 152 mm gun, are still being pitched. The tank may have never moved forward, but the idea of SPGs with these guns remained. The 130 mm S-26, based on the B-13, was used in the ISU-130 SPG. The 152 mm Br-2 on a self propelled chassis was a long-lived dream of Soviet artillerymen, with several attempts, like the U-19, and S-51.

The 55-60 mm anti-tank gun is another familiar sight. This is, quite obviously, the ZIS-2. The 76 mm anti-tank gun, however, is more interesting. There were attempts to build guns for the KV (ZIS-5, first iteration) and T-34 (S-54) with the ballistics of this gun, so it's only logical that a towed version would also be made. This particular implementation looks similar to the Pak 36(r), with the existing F-22 being adapted for a more powerful round.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. C: Kniepkamp's Latecomer

Putting the PzI Ausf. B into production was the correct decision, albeit a late one. The problem wasn't only that the concept of a light tank with machineguns for armament was obsolete. The 6th Department of the Armament Directorate was disappointed in the chassis developed by Krupp's engineers overall. Even though the power to weight ratio of the PzI grew from 11.1 to 17.2 hp/ton after modernization, there was no drastic improvement in mobility. 40 kph is not what was expected with such a boost. It's not surprising that, instead of developing the PzI Ausf. B further, the German military decided to develop a completely new tank: the PzI Ausf. C.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. B: All Grown Up

The creation of the PzI light tank did not come easily for German tank building. The tank was redesigned several times while still in the development stage, starting out as a 3 ton tank with a 20 mm autocannon, and ending up as a 5 ton tank, where nothing larger than a pair of MG-13 machineguns could fit into the turret. Even though the PzI entered production and became a mass produced tank, easily numbering over 1000 units, the German tank forces were not completely satisfied with its characteristics even before production began. Modernization was only a matter of time. What results did it bring?

Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Other M-30

"Technical data of the M-30 303 mm HE (chemical) rocket

Tested variant
In production
Total weight
82 kg
76 kg
Mass of explosive (nitrol)
27 kg
21 kg
Mass of poison (Yperite)
24 kg
21 kg
Volume of explosive or poison chamber
18 L
16 L
2550 m
3000 m

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

KV Tank Markings

"To the chief of the "Balance" operational department

In order to more easily control and identify fighting and transport vehicles, the Commander of the Army's Armoured Forces gave the following order:
  1. For tank units, introduce the following identification marks:
    1. 1st TC and 8th G.TBr: Rhombus
    2. 26th TC: Circle
    3. 4th TC: Square
      drawn on in white paint on the side and rear of the turret. The size of the marks is 50 cm, with a 5 cm thick outline.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Truck Amphibian

"Towing barges with a ZIS-5 truck

When crossing deep rivers, drivers of the Nth Front successfully used a ZIS-5 truck to tow a barge. Equipped with special wheels, the truck could easily tow 12 ton barges at a speed of 4 kph (see figure).

Monday, 3 July 2017

New Gun for the T-34

"On arming the T-34 with an 85 mm gun instead of the 76 mm F-34 gun

In order to improve the artillery armament of the T-34 tank, the State Committee of Defense decrees that:
  1. The 85 mm tank gun designed by TsAKB (comrade Grabin) is accepted into service and named "85 mm tank gun model 1944 (S-53)".
  2. T-34 tanks, starting with January of 1944, will be armed with the 85 mm tank gun model 1944 (S-53), installed with the stock turret ring, instead of the 76 mm F-34 gun.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Howitzer KV

So called artillery tanks, or support tanks, appeared in the mid-1920s. The British pioneered the concept, equipping their Medium Tanks Mk.I and Mk.II with 94 mm howitzers. Similar tanks were also built in other countries. The USSR was no exception. The first work on artillery tanks in the USSR began in the early 1930s. The BT-7 Artillery was the best known vehicle of this type. The KV-2 can also be placed into the artillery tank category, with some leeway. The artillery tank concept was rejected by the USSR before the start of WWII. Nevertheless, the KV-9 was designed in early 1942, a tank that fully fit into the category of support tanks.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Big Gun for a Small Turret

In June of 1940, the Red Army GABTU began working on modernizing the KV-1 heavy tank. Even though production had not yet fully began, the military already had issues with the tank. This is a fairly ordinary scenario, especially considering the fact that tank development sped up with the start of WWII. According to the GABTU, the KV-1 needed more armour and, more importantly, a more powerful gun. It's hard to argue with the latter, since the Red Army's heavy and medium tanks, KV-1 and T-34, ended up with the same gun.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Tetrarch Delivery

"Contents: delivery of supplies to the USSR by the south route
December 27th, 1941

To: General Panfilov
CC: General Fedorenko

I received a report that the light tanks which we delivered through Persia arrived in Zanjan, where they are being transferred to Soviet authorities.

I am being told that training of Soviet personnel with these tanks will happen in Zanjan. I am also being told that an officer of the British Mission in Tbilisi is being sent to Zanjan to help.

I would like to know if everything is going well or if you have some issues that demand my attention.

Lieutenant General [signature]
British Military Mission

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

On the Way to the SU-122

"To factory #8 director comrade Fratkin
CC: Chairman of the NKV Technical Council, regional GAU KA engineer at factory #8, Engineer-Colonel Kascheev

RE: development of self propelled howitzers.

Regarding the issue of designing a 122 mm self propelled M-30 or U-11 howitzer on the T-34 chassis, in accordance with the NKTP, I report that:
  1. The turret platform of the T-34 tank can be extended to span the length of the hull, and the sloped sides can be placed vertically.
  2. The fuel tanks can be located in the engine compartment. As a last resort, the shape of the fuel tanks can be changed
  3. It is not permitted to change the hull of the T-34 tank or  the layout of the engine and transmission.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

French Tanks in German Service

"Use of French Armoured Vehicles by Germany

A series of low altitude photographs of large tank parks at Gien and La Brosse gave valuable information regarding the types of French armoured vehicles in use by Germany.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Soviets vs M48 Patton

Fig. 2 Tactical diagram of complete penetration and satisfactory penetration limits when firing at an M48 tank with domestic 85 mm sharp tipped capped armour piercing shells.
Muzzle velocities higher than stock were tested at 100 meters with an increased charge.
  1. Complete penetration limit of the lower front hull.
  2. Rear plate integrity limit of the lower front hull.
  3. Complete penetration limit of the upper side of the hull.
  4. Rear plate integrity limit of the upper side of the hull.
  5. Complete penetration limit of the lower side of the hull.
  6. Rear plate integrity limit of the lower side of the hull.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

T-60 From Stalingrad

The T-34 tanks built in Stalingrad became one of the symbols for the battle there. The last tanks produced where went straight into battle from the factories, crewed by factory workers. T-60 tanks were less noticeable contributors to the breaking of the backbone of the German blitzkrieg. At the outskirts of the city, in Krasnoarmeysk, the T-60 tank remained in production at factory #264 for less than half a year. However, by volume of production, this "unplanned" factory was second only to the Molotov GAZ.

Friday, 23 June 2017

T-60 in Difficult Times

On July 20th, 1941, the State Committee of Defense (GKO) passed decree #222ss "On the production of 10 thousand light tanks". Interestingly enough, the tank that was supposed to be built did not exist even on paper. The tank, later named T-60, was designed in a little over a week. The first tanks were built in September of that year, and full fledged mass production began in October. The Molotov Gorkiy Automotive Factory (GAZ), Kharkov Tractor Factory (HTZ), and factory #37 were tasked with producing these tanks. Meanwhile, reports coming in from the front indicated that the tank was in need of modernization. What problems did the tankers reveal, and how did Soviet engineers try to solve them?

The One Without the Rifle Follows

"Moscow, Kremlin
To Comrade Poskrebyshev

Operational group of the Western Front HQ, Kransodar
December 21st, 1941, 11:30

I ask you to report to the People's Commissar that out of all the weapons bought in Iran (10 million rounds, 100,000 rifles, 600 handheld and 300 mounted machineguns as of December 21st), 21,600 rifles and one million rounds of ammunition arrived to Qazvin.

The shortage of arms on the Western Front, including the three newly forming divisions and one brigade, is 126,000 rifles, 4,750 handheld machineguns, and 2,460 mounted machineguns.

I ask that all weapons bought in Iran be left for the Western Front, which will allow us to arm the newly forming divisions and brigade with domestic weapons and equip rear line units with Iranian weapons.

D. Kozlov

Via kris_reid.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

ZIS-5, Take One

"May 30th, 1941
To the Central Committee of the VKP(b)
Comrade Zhdanov

According to USSR SNK and Central Committee Decree #1216-502 issued on May 5th, 1941, two experimental T-44 tanks built by factory #183 are supporsed to be armed with the 76 mm ZIS-5 or 57 mm ZIS-4 gun. The main characteristics of these guns is shown in the following table:

Gun model
Caliber in mm
Muzzle velocity, m/s
Shell mass, kg
Penetrates armour
At 0 degrees
At 30 degrees
Thickness in mm
Distance in m
Thickness in mm
Distance in m
Up to 1000
Up to 1000
Up to 1000
Up to 1000
Up to 1000
Up to 1000

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Torsion Bar Trials

"Methodology of Torsion Bar Trials

The trials were split into stages:
  • Motion trials of torsion bars.
  • Lab tests of materials (static and spring fatigue).
  • Lab static destruction tests of torsion bars (by twisting).
  • Analysis of various layouts of torsion bar suspensions and issues connected with them.

Monday, 19 June 2017

KV Gun Upgrades

"The following work is necessary to perform trials of KV tank armament and improvement of blueprints:
  1. Install the F-34 gun instead of the F-32 gun into the KV-1 tank at factory #92 by March 1st, 1941.
    A commission composed of representatives from ChTZ, the Kirov factory, GABTU, and GAU must perform trials and approve blueprints by March 5th, 1941. Factory #92 received a KV tank with a 76 mm F-32 gun on February 2nd, 1941.
  2. Install the 107 mm F-42 gun instead of the M-10 gun into the KV-2 tank by May 1st, 1941. Perform trials and work on blueprints, presenting them to the NKO no later than May 15th, 1941. Factory #92 received a KV tank with a large turret on January 29th.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Praga LTL and Pzw 39: Tanks for Neutrals

In May of 1935, an Iranian commission signed a contract with CKD for light Praga TNH tanks. At the moment, these tanks did not exist in metal, but the Iranians saw the potential in this design. A prototype was demonstrated in September of that year. The Iranian commission was so impressed that the order was increased to 50 tanks on September 10th. For this time, this was a very respectable amount of tanks for the export market. It's not surprising that representatives from other nations came to Czechoslovakia to find inexpensive and high quality light tanks. CKD's engineers managed to satisfy their new customers, creating new tanks for Lithuania and Switzerland, known as the Praga LTL and Pzw 39.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

LT vz. 35: Steel Fist of the First Czechoslovakian Republic

On April 19th, 1933, the Czechoslovakian army signed a contract with CKD to produce 50 light P-II tanks. This ended the 10 year long quest to build a domestic tank. The tank accepted into service on July 13th, 1935, as the LT vz. 35 was sufficiently modern. However, a year later, the Czechoslovakian military needed a better protected tank. This tank, the LT vz. 35, was destined to become the backbone of the Czechoslovakian armoured forces.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

German Tank Fear

"Anti-Tank Defenses

14. The fear of massed enemy tank attacks still grips the soldiers, especially among the young and inexperienced replacements, to the point of mental breakdown. As a result, soldiers often leave anti-tank foxholes and positions, which lets enemy tanks cause significant losses and the Russian infantry to take our positions without battle.


Training, among replacements as first priority, must harden young soldiers, especially infantrymen, against the mental effect of tank attacks. Every soldier must know that when he leaves his positions or foxhole, he becomes defenseless against tank fire, but a well prepared foxhole or, even better, a deep slit trench offer reliable protection against the weight and fire of tanks. It is necessary to take every opportunity to teach soldiers to let the tank pass above their trench using our tanks, assault guns, tractors, or captured tanks. It's necessary to prove the limited amount of visibility, and therefore precise fire, on the move from a tank. Every soldier must sit in a tank at least once."

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

PzIII Shortage

"June 20th, 1942
To the Deputy People's Commissar of Defense and GABTU Chief, Lieutenant-General of the Tank Forces, comrade Fedorenko
Moscow, 2nd NKO building

An experimental SPG on the chassis of a captured German StuG SPG, equipped with a 122 mm divisional howitzer mod. 1938 "M-30" was built according to orders from the Artillery Committee by factory #592.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Ultra Gun

The Department of Inventions was flooded with a great deal of proposals from the population, most of which received an answer similar to this one. However, a small fraction of the inventions were actually useful. Even if they were never implemented in metal, the USSR recognized the contributions of its citizens.

"To the Chief of the Central Planning Department of Inventions of the SNK

RE: Decision regarding the issue of a patent for claim #1582s

Having inspected the description, drawings, and all documents related to the request of citizen S.D. Bogoslovskiy, registered at the NKV under #1582s on April 23rd, 1942, under the title "Bicaliber barrel and shell, specially designed for an anti-tank gun", the Inventions Section of the Technical Council of the NKV decided to issue a patent for a gun barrel that fires "Ultra" shells with the following description: