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.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

On German Tank Losses

Aleksey Isayev talked about the peculiar nature of German loss records before, but this time he specifically tackles the losses of tank units.

"The Germans had a habit of not recording the tank as lost until the very last moment, even if it stands right in the middle of Soviet positions, but unburnt, it can be recorded in documents as still recoverable. Who knows, maybe the Russians will go away, we'll pull it out. Later, when the situation was completely hopeless, it was finally written off as an irrecoverable loss. And even then, if the tank is only a charred husk, it can be recorded as "in long-term repairs" in German documents.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Nomenclature Confusion

Periodically, one can find information online that the M2 Light Tank, namely the M2A4, was shipped to the USSR as a part of Lend-Lease aid. Indeed, 31 "American light M2A4" tanks show up in the "Report on tanks arriving from England for use by the Red Army as of January 15th, 1942". 

31 American light tanks just arrived at Arkhangelsk by convoy. The British ordered M2A4 tanks, so maybe they pawned a few off to the Soviets. Seems fairly bulletproof, but things aren't always what they seem.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Experimental Guns

"To the Deputy People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR, Marshal of the Soviet Union, comrade Kulik
July 23th, 1940

I report on the status of experimental work on tank and anti-tank armament specified in meeting minutes from June 16th, 1940
  1. Working blueprints of a powerful 76 mm anti-tank gun based on the USV produced by factory #92 are complete and sent to the manufacturing plants, aside from blueprints for the balancing mechanism and the rear of the mount.
  2. Working blueprints for a powerful 76 mm tank gun based on the F-34 were developed and sent to the manufacturing plants.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Archive Awareness is now Tank Archives

Over four years ago, I started writing this blog. Originally, it was called Ensign Expendable's Archive Awareness, stemming from my World of Tanks forums username and the fact that very few posters there had the slightest idea about what historical archives were or how they functioned. Since that was quite a mouthful, I decided to make the URL quick and snappy: Tank Archives.

The brave new world that opened before me was full of potential. My original grandiose plans included several sites under the Archive Awareness umbrella dedicated to archive documents of various themes. Out of those, only Soviet Gun Archives ever materialized, and even that fell into disuse as I figured out that my real passion was tanks, and only tanks.

However, there is nothing as permanent as the temporary, and so the name remained, despite the occasionally confused search queries (my favourite is "tank archive awareness"). It's finally time to shuffle things around a little and make the name more consistent. 

Cheating at Statistics 18: Volosovo Vanishing

Following some very generous evaluations of their performance, the s.Pz.Abt. 502 continued backing up before the advance of the Red Army. Just a few days later, on January 28th, 1944, an epic battle erupted near the village of Volosovo:

"28 January 1944: Volosovo is reached. Tiger III (Feldwebel Hermann) is approached by 27 T-34s. With only 3 armor-piercing and 9 high-explosive rounds remaining, he destroys 7 T-34s. Several alerted Tigers knock out 8 more T-34s. Ammunition is running out. 9 more T-34s are knocked out at dawn."

A scenario fit for an action movie! It seems everything is lost. but victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat and 24 of the attacking 27 T-34s are knocked out! However, just to be safe, let's make sure that the battle actually happened.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Light Tanks T1E4 and T2E1: Experiments on an Ideal Platform

The idea of a light tank with a front engine that the American Ordnance Department insisted on was at a dead end by 1932. Trials of the Light Tank T1 family and later the Medium Tank T2 showed that the idea was unacceptable. Poor visibility, excessive mass, bad crew conditions, and, most importantly, the limits of further development, put an end to such tanks. Designers moved on to working on other tanks with different layouts. Harry Knox, the father of the front engine American tanks, did not abandon his idea, and kept looking for a place for his idea. Stooping down to plagiarism, he crossed his Light Tank T1E1 with the Vickers Mk.E, its overseas competitor. The resulting "hybrid" Light Tank T2E1 was not that bad.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Medium Tank M2: Last Place in the Arms Race

The late 1930s were a time when armoured vehicles were developing rapidly. The start of WWII in September of 1939 gave an even bigger push to the flywheel of progress. Designs that were considered revolutionary suddenly fell behind. There were cases where tanks became obsolete soon after coming out of the factory. The American Medium Tank M2 is among those unlucky ones. You can read a lot of mockery of the combat abilities of this tank, but they are unreasonable. American engineers made a decent medium tank, but by the time it entered mass production there were already other tanks with more armour and better armament.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Tank RMA

"To the Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, Marshal G.I. Kulik

The chief designer of factory #92, comrade Grabin, reports to me that the 85 mm F-30 gun installed in the T-220 tank turret made by the Kirov factory is unbalanced and the pedal trigger is positioned in an unsatisfactory manner. 

In order to balance the gun and reposition the trigger, the tank and the gun have to be sent back to factory #92 for adjustments.

I ask you to immediately order the shipment of the T-220 tank with the 85 mm F-30 gun from the Kirov factory to factory #92.

Deputy People's Commissar of Armament, Mirzakhanov."

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Replacement Steel

"State Committee of Defense
Decree #3038
March 16th, 1943
Moscow, Kremlin

In order to test the quality of armoured plate made from KM-1 steel (FD 5732) as a replacement for M3-2 (8S) steel on tank hulls:
  1. The People's Commissariat of Ferrous Metal (comrade Tevosyan) must deliver KM-1 plate to factories ##112, 176, and Uralmash in the amount earlier established by the agreement between the People's Commissariat of Ferrous Metal and GABTU and the NKTP.
  2. The People's Commissariat of Tank Building (comrade Zaltsmann) must produce and test experimental T-34 and T-70 tank hulls at factories ##112, 176, and Uralmash from KM-1 steel produced by the People's Commissariat of Ferrous Metal and deliver conclusions to the Council of People's Commissars regarding the possibility of using KM-1 steel (FD 5732).
  3. In the event of satisfactory results of trials of KM-1 steel, the People's Commissariat of Tank Building (comrade Zaltsmann) must investigate the preparations necessary for hardening this steel at NKTP factories at a temperature of 200 degrees.
Deputy Chair of the Committee of Defense, V. Molotov

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

ZIS-30 in Combat

"To the Deputy Chief of GABTU, Major-General of the Technical Forces, Lebedev
CC: Lieutenant-General of the Tank Forces Tamruchi
April 5th, 1942

The 57 mm anti-tank gun mounted on the Komsomolets chassis showed itself as a dangerous weapon against any type of enemy tank. During use in battle, the following advantages and drawbacks were discovered.

Monday, 3 April 2017

T-34 Tank Destroyer

"Approved by Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union, G. Kulik
May 27th, 1941

Tactical-Technical Requirements for an 85 mm SPG

1. Purpose of the SPG
  1. The 85 mm SPG is designed to accompany moto-mechanized units and for combat with enemy tanks and armoured cars.
  2. The 85 mm SPG must be able to combat strongholds and personnel positioned in the open, or behind light field fortifications, support direct and indirect fire, and be able to penetrate 85-90 mm of armour with a coefficient of K=2400 at 30 degrees at a range of 1000 meters.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Halftrack Experiments

Ever since their appearance in the mid-1910s, halftracks have been considered as a chassis for armoured vehicles, especially SPGs. Better off-road performance than wheeled vehicles and stability made these vehicles an attractive chassis for artillery. Halftrack SPGs were popular in Germany and the United States. The heroes of this article, Soviet ZIS-41 and ZIS-43 halftracks, are not as well known.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Provornov's Light Tank: T-34 in Miniature

Hundreds of tank-themed proposals were sent to the Main Automobile and Armour Directorate of the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War. There was a wide spectrum of ideas and inventors. There were workers, scientists, engineers, ordinary citizens. A significant percentage was made up of military men of all ranks and branches. One of these men was Lieutenant Provornov, who proposed a light tank in July of 1942 with a number of original solutions. It was never built in metal, but fans of World of Tanks know it as LTP.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Soviet Mega Tanks

The Americans seem to know something I don't, digging up some pretty sketchy looking tank data following perfectly legitimate information about the KV-85.

These beasties sound pretty similar to what the Germans saw on the Eastern Front, but the Americans manage to outdo even their rich imagination. Behold, the Soviet Mother Tank!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Tractor Tanks and SPGs

"Minutes from a technical meeting at Comintern factory #183 regarding producing SPGs at factory #183
August 27th, 1941

  • Factory director, Y.E.Maksarev
  • Chief engineer, P.M. Krivich
  • Chief designer, A.A. Morozov
  • 52nd Department Chief, N.G. Zubarev
  • GABTU regional engineer, D.M. Kozyrev
  • Military Engineer 2nd Class R.E. Sorkin
  • Senior GAU military representative, G.P. Lozbinev
The following topics were discussed:
  • Installation of an 85 mm AA gun designed by factory #8 in an SPG designed on the T-34 chassis.
  • Installation of a 76 mm F-34 tank gun designed by factory #92 in an SPG designed on the Vorozhilovets tractor chassis.
  • Installation of an 85 mm AA gun designed by factory #8 in an SPG designed on the Vorozhilovets tractor chassis.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017


"Lightened 76 mm SPG OSA-76

Factory #38 designed a draft project of a lightened 76 mm SPG (factory designation OSA-76) with a ZIS-3 gun on their own initiative.

The draft project was presented to the GBTU USA for review.

Experimental prototypes of the SPG are being build.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Cheating at Statistics 17: Leaving Leningrad

In early 1944, the German forces around Leningrad weren't doing so well. The blockade around Leningrad had ruptured, Sinyavino heights were lost, and Army Group North was beginning to slink back westward. Introduction of the hyped up Tiger tank failed to make a difference here. Now these Tigers, namely s.Pz.Abt 502, were holding back the Red Army while the rest of the Germans escaped. Forczyk describes the situation: "The remaining Tigers of the s.Pz.Abt.502 assisted the AOK 18 in its withdrawal by turning to ambush the Soviet spearheads; on 25 January they claimed 41 Soviet tanks destroyed at Voyskovitskiy, 5 km southwest of Gatchina."

Anyone who's been keeping up with this long running series will have recognized the perfect storm: the Tiger crews know for a fact that the battlefield will remain in Soviet hands and that their claims will not be checked. There was also incentive to make up for the Tiger tank's rather dismal performance on the Leningrad front. Let's take a look at just what happened at Voyskovitsy on January 25th.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

LPP-25: Light, Simple, and Unwanted

The light LPP-25 anti-tank gun was built as an answer to the German s.Pz.B.41 anti-tank rifle. As a result of information that reached Soviet designers from the front lines, a weapon was born that did not lose out to the German gun, but without the complex and short-lived conical barrel. What was this LPP-25 like?

Friday, 24 March 2017

First Soviet Tanks

The first tank built in the young Soviet Republic was the "Russian Renault", a poor copy of the most numerous and probably best tank of WWI. It is also known as "Freedom Fighter Comrade Lenin", after the name of the first tank of the batch. There were 15 Russian Renaults built in total at the Krasnoye Sormovo factory in Nizhniy Novgorod under the supervision of visiting engineers from the Putilov and Izhor factories. This group was headed by Sergei Petrovich Shukalov. The Putilov and Obukhov factories were pioneers of the Russian Empire when it came to mastering complicated machinery, and the Izhor factory specialized in producing armoured plates and parts for the Imperial army.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

SU-122-2 in Combat

The CIA has a tendency of detecting all sorts of armoured vehicles that are as interesting as they are fictional, but this time they might have hit the mark.

Two guns, like a SU-122, but larger. There can be only one answer!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017


"Mounting of a 57 mm mod. 1943 gun on a SU-76M SPG

This project is being designed according to an order from the Artillery Committee and consists of the installation of a 57 mm mod. 1943 ZIS-2 anti-tank gun barrel on the mount from the 76 mm mod. 1942 ZIS-3 gun on the SU-76M SPG chassis.

The ZIS-2 and ZIS-3 have identical semi-automatic systems and breeches.

The main characteristics of the prototype are shown in the table next to those of the SU-76M:

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Light Tanks, 1944, Part 2

"To the Chief Engineer of factory #174, comrade Demyanovich
January 26th, 1944

Regarding your inquiry relating to tactical-technical requirements for a light tank, here are the possible changes to requirements:

Monday, 20 March 2017

Light Tanks, 1944, Part 1

"To the Chief of the GBTU Tank Directorate, Major-General comrade Afonin
January 5th, 1944

The preliminary tactical-technical requirements for a light tank that you sent were examined by a small circle of design and technology managers. Having studied your requirements in detail, we came to the following conclusions:
  1. In general, the requirements are realistic and such a tank can be designed and built at our factory.
  2. A number of issues you presented require special investigation and only then can they be implemented in a production vehicle.
Based on the above, we ask you to consider the following wishes of the factory when composing the revised tactical-technical requirements.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Light Tank M3A1: Basket into Battle

History knows many instances when an attempt to improve a design led to, if not a worse one, then at least an equivalent. The American M3A1 light tank is one such example. Even though its modernization improved some characteristics, the well-intentioned modifications had some unintended consequences. Let us go through them in order.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Sweden's Autoloaders

Sweden's tank industry was in crisis in the second half of the 1940s. On one hand, the middle of this decade was a time when Swedish self propelled artillery thrived. That is when the Swedish army finally received assault guns, tank destroyers, and SPAAGs. However, the tank program lagged behind. Sweden's luck ran out with the Strv m/42. Pricken, LS 46, Leo, all of these projects remained on paper. Attempts to build a new tank weighing between 25 and 30 tons encountered various problems. A way out of this dead end appeared in the early 1950s, which led to two interesting heavy tank projects: the EMIL and the KRV.

Turtle Tank

Continuing the theme of sketchy intel on the Soviets the CIA got from the Germans, a phantom tank appears on the Volkhov Front, completely unknown to the Soviets, but apparently common enough in German eyes to even earn a nickname.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017


"Installation of a 203 mm mod. 1931 howitzer (B-4) on a KV-1S chassis (factory index S-51)

Produced by NKV TsAKB by order of the GAU Artkom.

The self propelled S-51 howitzer consists of the oscillating part of the 203 mm mod. 1931 howitzer (B-4) installed on a KV-1S. The installation is done in the following way:

The turret and turret ring are removed from the KV-1S. Instead of the turret, a plate is installed above the driver's head and the 203 mm mod. 1931 howitzer (B-4) is installed on it.

The fighting compartment remains free and is used to house the recoiling parts of the howitzer at high gun elevations.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Under Pressure, Part 2

In Part 1, we saw what happens to a tank crew when it's hit with a HEAT shell, whether that shell penetrates or not. However, getting hit with a kinetic penetrator has consequences too! Let's take a look.

"To compare, a table of measurements inside armoured compartments on impact from armour piercing and high explosive 76, 85, 100, and 122 mm shells with sensors positioned 200-1000 mm from armour, under the condition that the armour integrity was not compromised."

Monday, 13 March 2017

Under Pressure

HEAT is a much more complicated armour penetration mechanism than traditional kinetic penetrators, and thus leads to more interesting experiments. For example, in this one, the objective of the test was to determine how effective ERA was at disabling the heat blast, but more importantly, what an ERA block detonation would do to the crew.

The trials were performed on a model simulating a tank with ERA. Rabbits inside the model simulated crew.

Fig. 29. Overall view of model #2 with a U-5TS gun barrel installed.

Friday, 10 March 2017

CKD Export Tanks: An Offer You Can't Refuse

Czechoslovakian tank manufacturing caught up to world standards in the mid-1930s. The P-II, CKD's first light tank and the first mass produced domestically designed tank, was close to the world's leading designs. The LT vz. 35 that won the tender for a new cavalry tank caught up with the rest of the world's leaders. It's not surprising that Czechoslovakian tanks were considered for purchase in countries without a domestic tank design program. This caused the design of the CKD TNH and LTP (Tanque 39); excellent tanks that became the backbone of the Iranian and Peruvian tank fleets.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

SU-85 Light

"Installation of an 85 mm D-5 gun in a light SPG

The Gorky Automotive Factory is building an experimental 85 mm SPG using T-70 tank and SU-76M SPG components

Tactical technical characteristics of the prototype:
  1. Mass: 12,000 kg
  2. Full length with the barrel: 5500 mm
  3. Bore axis height: 1670 mm
  4. Maximum speed: 35 kph
  5. Muzzle velocity: 782 m/s
  6. Armour piercing shell mass: 9.2 kg
  7. Vertical range: -5° to +15°
  8. Horizontal range: +/- 12°
  9. Sights:
    1. Mechanical with Hertz panorama: 1
    2. TSh-15 telescopic: 1
  10. Ammunition capacity: 40 shells
  11. GAZ-203F engines: 2
  12. Total engine power: 170 hp"

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

D-10 CIA Intel

The following are penetration and ballistics tables for the D-10 gun mounted in a T-54 tank recovered by the CIA from a Soviet manual. 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

PzI Trials


After concluding trials of tank #1, it's possible to make the following conclusions:
  1. The tank has the following mobility characteristics:
    1. Maximum speed on a paved highway in packed snow: 39.96 kph
    2. Average speed:
      1. On paved highway in packed snow: 25 kph
      2. On dirt road covered in loose snow, 200-300 mm deep: 9-10 kph
      3. Off road with snow 300-450 mm deep: 6-7 kph
    3. The dirt road and off-road performance of the tank in 200-450 mm of snow is satisfactory.

Monday, 6 March 2017

American Ergonomics

Ergonomics in tanks is an important factor, one that I touched on previously in some detail. It turns out that despite certain prevalent stereotypes, the ergonomics of various tank schools are more complicated than many people believe. Having already applied Soviet ergonomics standards to a German design, let us hop across the pond and see what the Americans thought about the topic.

Thankfully, this time, the Fort Knox Medical Research Laboratory report "Adequate Head Room in Tanks" provides us proper measurements, which makes my job a lot easier. The adequate head room for a sitting crewman, excluding the upper and lower 5% of men, is stated as 34" to 38.25", or 86-97 cm. The Soviet "dimensions of an average man" define the same measurement to be 90 cm (35.4"), which falls pretty well in the middle of that range. The American tank helmet adds a whole 1.5" to the height of a tanker by his crash helmet, a thickness that is found to be excessive. At the time of the study (November 27th, 1942), a thinner helmet was already being tested.

Let's see how well average people could fit into American tanks.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Pz.Sfl.IVb: Halfway to the Hummel

German wartime SPGs are well known. However, it took some time to develop the "selbstfahrlafette" concept of a large open casemate, like the one used on the Hummel. Initially, the idea was to built medium SPGs instead of light ones, and their layout differed noticeably from the vehicles that showed up on the battlefield in 1943. Even though German SPGs developed along a different path, the Pz.Sfl.IVb was built and even got to fight.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

02SS Aerosan: A Tank in the Snow

The history of the aerosan in Russia and then the USSR is old and varied. The first mass produced aerosans were built in 1912, were actively used in WWI and then the Russian Civil War. Development of aerosans received great attention due to the geographical features of our country. It was not surprising that the Red Army had the largest aerosan fleet in the world during the Great Patriotic War. Meanwhile, the widely used NKL-26 reconnaissance aerosan was a pale shadow of what was initially planned for production. The wishes of the Soviet military materialized as the 02SS battle aerosan which had no equivalent in any country in the world.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

New KV-2 Turret

On May 6th, 1940, the deputy chief of Kirov factory's SKB-4 design bureau proposed a modernized turret for the KV-2 tank.

This new turret was 2000 kg lighter than the old one due to reducing the height by 370 mm and length by 300 mm. The turret would retain 360 degree rotation with a gun elevation of 15 degrees and gun depression of 7 degrees. However, this turret could not be used until the gun recoil length was decreased from 900 mm to 650-750 mm. This was considered unacceptable and the turret was not produced.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Tank Costs, 1943

"To the Deputy Chair of the Council of People's Commissars, comrade Malyshev

I present to you a report on the cost of KV-1S, KV-8S, T-34, and T-70 tanks, their armament and optics.

Cost w/o armament or optics
Cost of armament and optics
Cost of radio
Cost of hull and turret
Cost of engine
Cost of track links
Link: 105
Pin: 8
Link: 105
Pin: 8
135,000 (#183)
162,000 (##112, 174, UZTM, Kirov)
25,589.09 with PT-K
25,614.07 with PT-4-7
With tooth: 51.75
W/out tooth: 36.80
Grousers: 18.60
Pin: 2.40
T-34 (radio)
139,500 (#183)
166,500 (##112, 174, UZTM, Kirov)
25,589.09 with PT-K
25,614.07 with PT-4-7
T-34 (flame-thrower)
139,500 (#183)
166,500 (##112, 174)
31,711.84 with PT-K
31,836.82 with PT-4-7
Link: 22
Pin: 1
T-70 (radio)

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Four Years of Blogging

Hello, everyone! It's been another year (technically two, since I forgot to do anything last year, oops). My blog continues to ramp up its readership, with 2,161,945 page views (compared to 879,901 last count) with 1381 published articles (up from 700). The demographics changed a little bit. The US is still at first place by a long margin, but the UK is neck to neck with Germany over second place. Russia, who used to be just barely hanging onto the top ten sprung up to a confident fourth, beating out Canada (still in fifth). Poland continues dropping, from fourth down to sixth. France is down from sixth to seventh, Austria and Finland switched places, a close race for eight place, and South Korea knocked the Netherlands off the charts to grab onto tenth place. 

World of Tanks related sites continue to dominate my referrer list, but organic searches are doing well too. My presence seems to have been felt on Reddit with more hits from video game and military history communities. I'm picking up steam in print media as well with citations in Armoured Champion and The Changing Nature of Warfare, 1859-1991: Perception and Reality. 

Content from partner Warspot joined my traditional World of Tanks History Section lineup this year, bringing more bird's eye view coverage of various vehicles and weapons. I probably should have come up with a tag for them, but my oversight was corrected by my friends at the Tank and AFV News blog who dutifully keep a list of these translated articles.

Finally, there were some minor layout changes like collapsing long articles behind a "Read More" link and a wider content area to allow for "extra large" images and tables with readable font sizes! 

That's it for this year! Thank you for reading my blog and stay tuned for the big five year mark!

Shooting Backwards

One of the advantages of a tank over a self propelled gun is the ability to fire in a 360 degree arc. While firing forward is the typical use case, firing backwards can have some unexpected challenges. For example, the low bore axis of the L-10 gun and protruding muffler on the T-28 were a bad combination.

"Testing the L-10 gun in the cylindrical turret shows that the gun depression when facing the rear can be, at best, 0°, unlike the -4° or -5° that the gun allows for. The state of the L-10 on the provided prototype of the conical turret is the same."
"12 shots were fired at an angle of depression of -3° from two vehicles. While shooting towards the rear, the gases damaged the deflection plate above the muffler. The muffler on one tank shifted by 15 mm. In one case, the plate was hit by the shell. Damage from gases was also observed at elevation angles of +2°. Given the current design of the deflection plate and muffler, the L-10, characterized by its low bore axis, cannot shoot backwards not only at an angle of -3°, but even +2°.
In addition, when shooting across the side air intakes with an active fan at a depression angle of -3°, the fan slowed down for the duration of about one second."

Monday, 27 February 2017

Kirov Factory Prototypes, March 1941

"Report on the progress of experimental tank armament work from February 20th to March 20th, 1941

Object 220 KV-4 100 mm
The experimental prototype is awaiting the arrival of the V-5 engine from the subcontractor factory. Assembly of the second prototype has not started due to a lack of finished parts. The factory already began producing parts for the second prototype. The parts are in the initial stages of mechanical production. Since the plants are highly loaded with mass production parts, it is likely that the full set of parts for the prototype will not be finished in March. The turret for the second prototype is currently at factory #92, where designers from both factories are working on installation of the gun and combat equipment.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Amazing Strv 103

The Strv 103, also called the S-Tank, is Sweden's trademark tank. A lack of turret, fixed gun with an autoloader, active suspension, three driver positions (one per crewman), these are only some of its unusual features. Swedish tank designers managed to surprise the world. However, the Strv 103 didn't come out of nothing, and a significant portion of the components that went into the tank came from experimental vehicles. How did Sweden assemble this industrial "Lego set"?

Friday, 24 February 2017

World of Tanks History Section: Star Over Kharkov

An enormous breach formed in the Soviet-German front after the encirclement and defeat of Paulus' 6th Army at Stalingrad. Another breach formed soon after, as a result of the Voronezh-Kastornaya Operation in January of 1943. This second breach was very tempting for the Soviets as it opened up a route to liberate Kharkov and the Donbass.

At the same time, Manstein was desperately holding onto Rostov-on-the-Don, saving the German 1st Tank Army. Even the tried and true German technique of shortening the front to increase the concentration of forces wasn't enough to resolve this crisis. The only weight that could tilt the scales in the Germans' favour was the injection of new forces.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Mysterious British Tank

The Soviet Union had an extensive network of intelligence agents in Great Britain, who were able to recover a great deal of information that the British weren't willing to hand over themselves. Sometimes that information was accurate, sometimes not so much.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Heavy Tank Costs

"To the Chief of the BTU, Military Engineer 1st Grade, comrade Korobov

Following decrees issued by the Government, the Kirov factory is building a series of experimental vehicles without having any contracts for them. Letter #6109 sent on November 15th, 1940, asked you to send these contracts. Letter #2239/s sent on February 20th, 1941, repeated the request. Nevertheless, we have not received any contracts from you.

I am sending you a report of the approximate cost of experimental works performed by the Kirov factory in 1941 regarding Objects ##150, 220, 221, 212, and KV-3, for the sum of 5,350,000 rubles in total. Please send us the information to issue bills regarding these projects.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Blocking Detachments

Hollywood likes to show Red Army blocking units as ruthless killers that machinegunned down anyone who took a step back from the front lines. In reality, their job was a lot less bloody and a lot more mundane:

"Top Secret
To the Military Council of the Central Front

The commanders of the 21st Army lost control over their forces. As a result, there is an increased number of military personnel retreating haphazardly without orders. A difficult situation was created at that point of the front.

On August 16-17th, the operational staff of the Front organized detainment of those retreating along roads.

Monday, 20 February 2017

76 mm M7 Gun Trials


The conclusions of trials of American armour piercing-tracer M-62 shells against armour described in table #17 and illustrated in the graph shows that:
  1. The penetration quality of American 76 mm AP-T shells can, under favourable conditions (angle/distance), effectively penetrate targets (tanks, SPGs, bunkers) with armour up to 120 mm thick.
    The penetration quality of domestic 76 mm AP-T shells (blueprint #2-09038) allows for effective penetration of only 100 mm of armour under identical conditions to American 76 mm AP-T shells.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Char B1 ter: Pointless Modernization

In 1936, only two years after a decision was made to put the Char B1 into production, work on its modernization began. Mostly, it entailed improving the armour and armament. In April of 1937, the first modernized tank, indexed Char B1 bis, left its Renault assembly plant. It was destined to become the most numerous medium tank in the French army, although many of its parameters put it in the heavy class. Nevertheless, even before it entered production, discussion about a deeper modernization that would create an even heavier vehicle began. This vehicle was called Char B1 ter.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Char B1 bis: General Estienne's Legacy

On March 16th, 1934, after almost 13 years passed since the medium Char B program was launched, the French infantry command ordered the first seven Char B1 tanks. This decision was controversial. Yes, the French army was in need of a new tank. However, not only did its mass reach twice that of the initial requirements, but the tank came out very expensive, and there could be no hope of truly mass production. Paradoxically, the Char B1 bis, an improved version of the Char B1, was one of the causes of French defeat in the summer of 1940.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Field Repairs

The Red Army began the Great Patriotic War with a noticeable lack of any engineering equipment imaginable, and things only got worse when production was refactored to boost the output of tanks at the expense of everything else. Often, the only thing you had to repair the tank was the tank itself, and that had to be enough.

This contraption could be used to temporarily turn a T-34 into a crane in order to remove or install heavy components like the engine or transmission.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Firing on the Move

Trials to determine accuracy of the T-28 armed with an L-10 gun on the move were performed while driving at a speed of 12-14 kph, firing at a target 800-1000 meters away. The trials were performed in two sets: one with the tank driving towards a 12x10 meter target, the other with the tank driving parallel to a 10x10 meter target. Aiming was done with the PT-1 periscopic sight, firing was done using the foot operated trigger.

While driving towards the target, 14 out of 23 shots hit. While driving parallel to the target, 15 out of 25 shots hit. These results were considered satisfactory.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

37 mm Anti-Tank Rifle

"Rolling Company-level 37 mm Anti-Tank Rifle

Combat mode. Elevation angle 15°.

General characteristics of the system

The purpose of the system is to serve as company level anti-tank armament. It uses a semiautomatic breech with forced opening. Insignificant amount of recoil is achieved using a roller principle, where the shot is fired while the barrel is moving forward, which is done with a special spring* and a muzzle brake.

Monday, 13 February 2017

HTZ-16: Improvisation on an Industrial Scale

Improvised armour vehicles appeared during WWI, but the phenomenon became truly commonplace during the Spanish Civil War. The most common type of vehicle was the improvised armoured car, but armoured tractors were also built. Less mobile than wheeled armoured cars, they were not in high demand in Spanish conditions. WWII triggered a resurgence of improvised armoured vehicles. The USSR built the largest amount of armoured tractors, and one of them, the HTZ-16, was accepted into production and built on an industrial scale. On July 20th, this vehicle turned 75 years old.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Self Propelled Artillery on a Tractor Chassis

The idea to use tractors as a chassis for SPG was born in the USSR in the 1930s. The SU-2 and SU-4 prototypes were built, but the projects did not move past the prototype stage. On the other hand, the Germans achieved different results. Taking captured French Renault UE tractors, they created SPGs with 3.7 cm Pak guns. The resulting vehicle wasn't the best, but could be produced in large amounts at a small cost. A year later, the ZIS-30 was built in the USSR, the first mass production SPG of the war.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

76 mm Gun Accuracy

Deviation (m at 1000 meters)

1. "History of the T-34 tank" Memorial Museum Complex, Documentary Historical Collection #2
2. "History of the T-34 tank" Memorial Museum Complex, Documentary Historical Collection #4

VK 70.01 Super Gun

I briefly covered some German superguns before, but the topic is an endless source of amusement, so I present another one: a 150 mm gun for the VK 70.01 (Lowe).

Just as the Soviets all but gave up on putting the 152 mm Br-2 gun into a self propelled gun, the Germans came up with the idea of putting an even bigger gun (although the extra length didn't grant it must better characteristics) into a fully rotating turret. Of course, we know how this story ends: eventually the laws of physics and common sense won and this idea, like dozens of other German wonder-weapons, remained on paper.

Edit: my loyal reader Critical Mass helpfully comments that the VK70.01 was cancelled in favour of an even less practical tank, the Maus.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

T-50's Growing Pains

"To the People's Commissar of Medium Machinebuilding, comrade Malyshev

I report that the proving grounds trials of experimental T-50 tank prototypes produced by factory #174 cannot be completed before the deadline set in your order #009ss issued on January 7th, 1941, due to a series of design defects revealed during the trials process:

Monday, 6 February 2017

For Infantry, By Infantry

This tank was designed in December of 1942 by Vasiliy Stepanovich Greshnikov, an infantryman, giving a rather interesting view into what infantry wants out of their tank.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

SR Tanks

Like many nations, Japan wanted to have a light amphibious reconnaissance tank. The idea came up in the 1920s when the country purchased the French AMP amphibious half-tracked armoured car. In 1928, two amphibious armoured cars based on the Vickers-Wolseley were built, but what Japan needed was specifically an amphibious tank. This is where the sad story of the SR series of tanks begins.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

World of Tanks History Section: Weathering the Winter Storm

In the winter of 1942, a noose tightened around over 200,000 men in the German 6th Army at Stalingrad. Hermann Goering, the commander of the Luftwaffe, beat his chest promising that aircraft could provide everything the encircled soldiers needed. However, German generals were not as optimistic. Too many men needed food, ammunition, and other necessities. Many kilometers of snowy steppe separated the airstrip at Morozovsk and Tatsinskiya from Stalingrad proper.

The only chance of survival for Paulus' army was a breakthrough. Sooner, rather than later, while the army could still fight.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Tank Corps on the Defense

"Defense of a Tank Corps

  1. As a rule, the tank corps should not be used to defend independently, but there can be cases in which an objective is given that can achieved with a defensive strategy. These cases can happen when the enemy breaks through our lines and must be held at a certain point, when our forces are being flanked, or during fighting in operational depth where the corps must defend strategically important objects until our forces pull up or defend until fuel and ammunition arrive.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Tank Corps Breakthrough

"Exploiting a Breakthrough with a Tank Corps in an Offensive Operation
  1. In an offensive operation, the tank corps usually acts to exploit a breakthrough and execute its tasks in the enemy's operational depth. These tasks are:
    1. Destruction of approaching enemy reserves.
    2. Destruction of headquarters and interference with the command structure.
    3. Capture and retention of important operative objectives, crossroads, or lines.
    4. Encirclement and destruction of the main enemy force.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Tank Corps in an Attack

"Tank Corps in an Attack
  1. There are situations when a tank corps, reinforced with artillery and aircraft, in cooperation with infantry units, will attack the enemy who has prepared his defenses.
    An independent breakthrough by a tank corps is reasonable against field type defenses that were organized hurriedly over the time of several hours to two days, under the condition that there is no natural anti-tank obstacle in front of the enemy's defenses.
  2. The offensive of the tank corps is organized by concentrating tanks, an artillery barrage, and a sudden attack combined with artillery and aircraft.
    The density of attacking tanks should be 40-60 tanks per kilometer, and the width of the offensive should be no more than 3 kilometers.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Tank Corps on the March

"March of the Tank Corps in anticipation of battle
  1. The tank corps usually marches along a 8-10 km wide front using two roads, sometimes three. It is preferable to drive the corps along three parallel roads.
    The average speed of the tank corps, depending on the condition of roads and the weather, is 10-15 kph.
    A regular daily norm is 60-80 km per day, a forced march norm is 100-120 km per day.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Tank Corps Manual

"General Foundations of Using a Tank Corps in Combat (1942)

General foundations of using a tank corps:
  1. The tank corps is the largest tank unit and is used for completing operational objectives.
    The tank corps organizational structure ensures a strike force (3 tank brigades), the ability to fight independently (presence of motorized infantry and artillery), the ability to perform tank combat, and convenience of control.
  2. The strong points of a tank corps in an operation can only be realized if the corps is used as a whole.
    Any picking apart of the corps into brigades for individual fighting deprives it of independence, strength of attack, and it turns into a tank unit for infantry support from an operational level unit. All other elements of the corps lose their combat effectiveness.
    Therefore, it is unreasonable to pick apart the tank corps, even temporarily, and the tank corps must not be used in combat in this way.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf B-D

The PzIII, the main German tank for the first half of WWII, was at the same time its most problematic tank. Even though the PzII also had problems with its suspension, it was only seriously redesigned once. The PzIII, on the other hand, used five (!) different types of suspension, all of which went into production. Today, we will focus on the "intermediate" PzIII Ausf. B, C, and D. Even though none of these tanks were made in large numbers, they managed to see battle, and some of them remained on the front lines for a long time.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf. A: Christie, German Style

The appearance of John Walter Christie's Medium Tank M1931 caused a revolution in tank building worldwide. A new type of tank appeared: the fast tank. Thanks to their speed, these tanks could carry out a number of other tasks in addition to infantry support. Many countries began working on conceptually similar tanks. The PzIII, Germany's main tank in 1940-43 could be considered one of these tanks. What is the history of its creation?

Friday, 27 January 2017

World of Tanks History Section: How Nikolai Simonyak became General Breakthrough

The name Nikolai Pavlovich Simonyak is closely connected with the Red Army's successes in the Battle of Leningrad. In the winter of 1943, when the blockade was punctured, his 136th Rifle Division was fighting in the main assault, and its actions brought greatest success to the Red Army on January 12th. Here is where N.P. Simonyak earned the nickname "General Breakthrough".

Before the Breakthrough

Way back during the defense of the Hanko peninsula in 1941, Simonyak thoroughly built up a functional staff, a rare occurrence among Red Army commanders in the early war. This was noticeable in how the journals of the 8th Independent Rifle Brigade and then division which Nikolai Pavlovich commanded. Even in the battles of August-September of 1942 that ended poorly for the Red Army, his division, fighting in the 55th Army, probably performed better than any Soviet unit at Leningrad.

In November of 1942, Simonyak's 136th division was taken out of the 55th Army to the front reserve. The troops were busy with training. Everyone understood that a new breakthrough attempt was coming, and there was a lot to do before it could be successful.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

T-34 Sketch

The fact that German soldiers didn't have the best idea of what a T-34 looked like already cropped up on my blog. However, if they were equipped with identification guides like these, that isn't too surprising.

The caption reads "particularly suitable places to attach explosive charges and T-mines on the 32 ton tank". The weight is also incorrect, but prophetic: the mass of the final iteration of the T-34-85 reached 32 tons.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

KV-3 Turret

Actual KV-3 turret blueprints laid over the commonly shown drawing.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Operation Barbarossa

Directive #21
Plan Barbarossa
Fuhrer and Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht
December 18th, 1940

The German armed forces must be able to defeat Soviet Russia in a brief campaign before the war against England is complete (plan Barbarossa).