Friday, 26 May 2017

Char B in German Service

The mistake of choosing a "battle tank" (Char de bataille) as a main tank became obvious during the campaign in France in May-June of 1940. The French tank industry did not manage to shift its gears for war. As a result, by the time the German invasion began, the availability of Char B1 bis tanks was far from what was planned. In addition, some French tanks were lost to either technical problems or because of poor supplies of fuel and ammunition. Many of them fell into German hands. How did the German army use the Char B1 and vehicles on its chassis?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Leopard Tracks

While the West seems to have had a very foggy idea of what Soviet tanks were like during the Cold War, Soviet tank designers enjoyed a more accurate picture of their competitors. For example, here is a very thorough analysis of the tracks of Leopard 1 and 2 tanks.

Fig. 1: Leopard-1 tank track
1 - track link, 2 - track pin, 3 - track tooth, 4 - spring ring. 5 - pad, 6 - rubber shock absorber, 7 - supporting plate, 8 - directing plate, 9 - rubber pad, 10 - bracket. A-A and B-B cutaways are turned.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

T-40 Tank Destroyer

"To the Deputy Chair of the Council of Defense of the USSR, comrade Voznesenskiy

SNK and VKP(b) decree #1749-756ss issued on June 25th, 1941, removes the T-40 tank and Komsomolets tractor from production as of August 1st, 1941.

GAU is sending Military Engineer 1st Class comrade Komarov and GABTU is sending Military Engineer 3rd Class comrade Kulikov to perform one-day trials of the experimental ZIS-2 SPG on the Komsomolets tractor chassis and investigation of a ZIS-2 SPG on the T-40 tank chassis on July 10th, 1941.

A conclusion regarding restarting production of the Komsomolets tractor or T-40 tank for ZIS-2 SPG production will be ready depending on the results of the trials on July 14th, 1941.

GAU Chief, Colonel-General of Artillery, Yakovlev
GABTU Chief, Lieutenant-General of the Tank Forces, Fedorenko"

CAMD RF 38-11355-10

Monday, 22 May 2017

Svetlana Death Ray

"USSR - People's Commissariat of Aircraft Production
Factory #454
July 26th, 1941



About three months ago, during a conversation with Doctor of Technical Sciences, G.I. Babat, who was working at the "Svetlana" factory in Leningrad, comrade Babat and I decided on boundaries to a solution to the issue of an effective offensive death ray.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Light Tank M3A3: American Emigrant

The American Light Tank M3A1 turned out to be a strange tank. On one hand, it had several superior characteristics to its predecessor, the Light Tank M3. Some elements of the design were a definite step forward. For example, the Americans began to use welding to assemble it. On the other hand, some design decisions reduced its battle worthiness. The tank became cramped and uncomfortable for the turret crew. It's not surprising that another modernization quickly followed, which led to the most perfect form of the Light Tank M3 family: the Light Tank M3A3: a tank produced in large amounts, but almost ignored by the US Army.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Hellcat: Highway Tank Destroyer

The 76 mm Gun Motor Carriage M18, more commonly known as the Hellcat, is one of the best known American wartime tank destroyers. With a powerful 76 mm gun and high mobility, the vehicle was an effective anti-tank measure. A number of sources mention that several Hellcats ended up in the USSR, but that is usually all information that is offered. This is not surprising, since, unlike the GMC M10, which was accepted into service, the M18 never made it past trials. More precisely, the USSR received the pre-production prototypes, indexed Gun Motor Carriage T70. What was the fate of these vehicles?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

ZIS-30 Production Plans

"Decree of the People's Council of Defense of the USSR

Contents: On the production of the 57 mm ZIS-2 gun on the Komsomolets tractor, on the production of 76 mm mod. 1939 (USV) guns on the ZIS-2 mount
  1. People's Commissar of Armament, comrade Ustinov, and the GAU Chief, General-Colonel of Artillery, comrade Yakovlev, must test the 57 mm ZIS-2 SPG on the Komsomolets tractor chassis designed by Stalin factory #92 within 5 days at the Sofrino proving grounds.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Phantom French Tanks

As you've seen many times on this blog, foreign intelligence can have some rather amusing turns. However, after fighting a war for 6 years you'd think that the German "Department for Study of Western Foreign Armies" would have a better idea about who they are fighting than... this:


Old French tanks are so obsolete that they can only be used for training. It is necessary to completely refresh their tank fleet.

The Americans supplied the French with light, medium, and heavy tanks, although there was no information on heavy tanks until January of 1945. "General Sherman" and "General Les" (or something like that) are types of American tanks. Light tanks weigh 18 tons, medium tanks about 30 tons.

Armament: 10 cm guns, medium tanks had, if I'm not mistaken, 12 or even 12.4 cm guns.

I don't remember the amount of tanks the French had, but I think they had about 80 tanks."

CAMD RF 500-12480-31

Monday, 15 May 2017

Artillery Committee Conclusions on the SG-122

"April 6th, 1942


On the draft project of the 122 mm SPG called "122-SG"

1. Contents of the project

The GAU Artillery Committee received a draft project of a 122 mm howitzer on the chassis of a captured StuG from the OKB-16 independent design group. The proposal was met with a question (letter #537868, March 17th, 1942) regarding the utility of replacing the German 75 mm gun with a domestic 122 mm M-30 mod. 1938 howitzer.

The NKV Technical Council had a positive reaction towards this proposal and offered the OKB-16 independent design group, led by comrade E.V. Sinilshikov, to execute the project.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Steel Chimeras of the Red Army

Scientific and technical progress has always been on the other side of the coin from war. Aiming to obtain instant superiority over the enemy, people who have never thought about the subject were as determined as those whose job was weapons design. In the years of the Great Patriotic War, self-taught designers earnestly believed that their tank or armoured cars can radically alter the course of the war. These designs remained on paper for obvious reasons, but accurately represent the spirit of their time.

The human mind does not stand still in a critical time, but invents curious designs. Most of these ideas do not even reach paper, but there are those who go even further and send their projects to ministries and directorates that, according to the inventor, should take interest in their creation. These people are motivated by many reasons, which are outside of the scope of this article.

The torrent of proposals during the Great Patriotic War was vast, and, following the principle of quality from quantity, some inventions were useful. Each commissariat and directorate had its own department of inventions, which reviewed the project and evaluated it. The Main Automotive and Armoured Directorate of the Red Army (GABTU KA) was no exception. Here is a small portion of the projects reviewed by the GABTU in the years of the GPW. Some are absurd, some are feasible, and some were ahead of their time.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Imagination Versus Hitler

As practice shows, the temptation to make up your own tank is great. Sadly (or thankfully), few people are destined to become tank designers. Here is where limitless human imagination steps in to create more "improved" or completely fictional projects than there were real tanks made.

Most of these made up tanks and SPGs belong to Germany. This is not surprising, since German dreams of Wunderwaffen firmly lodged themselves in people's heads. However, a lot of made up tanks were "invented" for Germany's enemies. There are a few of these vehicles in World of Tanks, but this article is not only dedicated to them. There were plenty of authors around the world, including during the war. Of course, some of these tanks were only partially fictional.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Hellcat Mobility Trials

" Table #5

Speed in kph
Braking distance in m
Time to brake in sec

When driving at 50 kph, the SPG drifts to the side when brakes are suddenly applied. When the brakes are applied gradually the SPG does not drift, but the braking distance is very long (70-80 meters).

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

ZIS-6 Characteristics

"To the Director of the Kirov Factory, comrade Zaltsmann,
GABTU Chief, Lieutenant-General of the Tank Forces, comrade Fedorenko

On the issue of installing the ZIS-6 into the KV-3 tank

We accompany the design for installing the ZIS-6 gun into the KV-3 tank with the following characteristics:
  1. Muzzle velocity: 800 m/s
  2. Recoil resistance: 20,000 kg
  3. Mass of the recoiling parts: 1600 kg
  4. Mass of the oscillating part with the gun mantlet: 2600 kg
  5. Recoil length: 640 +/- 40 mm
  6. Ammunition: one piece
  7. Breech: semiautomatic
  8. Coaxial DT machinegun
  9. The horizontal range of the gun is from +20 degrees to - 5 degrees.
  10. The recoil mechanisms allow firing from +40 degrees to -15 degrees.
  11. The gun will have a fume extractor.
  12. The length of a shell casing is 625 mm.
  13. The length of the full round (HE) is about 1200 mm.
  14. The initial pressure in the recoil brake is 50 atm.
  15. The TD telescopic sight is installed.
  16. The armour layout will be of the same type as in existing KV turrets.
  17. The experimental prototype of the gun will be tested in the KV-2 tank turret.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Cheating at Statistics 20: Precision at Pechenegi

The alleged long-range supremacy of German weapons is a common trope in popular history. The dreaded "Flak 88" sets up on a hill and fires at hordes of incoming T-34s or Shermans, racking up a large amount of kills despite being hard to hide and having limited range in practice. I already picked apart claims of these guns excelling at 3500 meters, but Forczyk brings even more impressive claims by the SS-men for us.

"...the rest of Koptsov's 15th Tank Corps reached Pechenegi on 4 February and was shocked to find that elements of the SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) were already defending the heights on the far side of the Northern Donets.
The Germans emplaced a few 8.8cm Flak guns on the heights and they were able to engage Koptsov's tanks at distances up to 6,000 meters and succeeded in setting nine tanks on fire."

Nine tanks knocked out at ten times the recommended engagement range? Sounds fishy. Let's take a closer look at what was happening at the banks of the Donets on that day. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Pz.Kpfw.38(t): Prize from Bohemia

The LT vz. 38, the best Czechoslovakian inter-war tank, is more famous under another name, since it attained fame in another army. Indexed Pz.Kpfw.38(t) in the Wehrmacht, this tank became a symbol of Blitzkrieg, fighting in the advance guard of the German tank units. In the spring of 1940, tanks built in Prague smashed British and French vehicles who failed to come to Czechoslovakia's aid two years prior.

Friday, 5 May 2017

LT vz. 38: Bestseller from Prague

After the victory in the light tank tender for the Czechoslovakian army, CKD received a contract to build its P-II tank, adopted by the army under the index LT vz. 34. Another tender was declared soon after, which resulted in disappointment for CKD. The military did not like the light P-II-a tank. This time, Skoda celebrated victory, whose S-II tank was adopted as the LT vz. 35. However, CKD still managed to grab half of the contract for building the LT vz. 35.

In parallel, the company was working on tanks for export, where it saw much greater success. The work on export tanks led to the LT vz. 38, Czechoslovakia's best pre-war tank. CKD's creation became the most numerous and widely known Czechoslovakian tank. Nevertheless, it appeared far too late to help its own country's army.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Sherman Infantry

I previously presented an instruction manual regarding how many infantrymen got to ride on one tank. In it, the Soviets only fit 6 men on a Sherman. Seems like the Americans came to the same conclusions.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Improved Gearbox

"To comrade V.M. Molotov

On the timeline of producing improved T-34 components at the Kirov factory

In connection with the increased production of T-34 tanks and start of their production at the Kirov factory, it is necessary to make decisions regarding starting production with improved components (5-speed gearbox, improved idler, turret with a commander's cupola) before the deadline given by GOKO decree #1879ss (June 5th, 1942).

The most complicated of these components, the gearbox, went through 1700 km trials in June flawlessly in addition to 2000 km of trials last year.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

100 mm Tank Gun, First Attempt

"To the director of the Kirov factory, Leningrad, in response to letter #838s sent on January 31st, 1941
CC: GAU UVNA Military Representative at the Kirov factory
NKTM Military Department Chief
March 13th, 1941

Having examined these projects developed at the Kirov factory under its own initiative:
  • 412-1V, 100 mm tank gun, and
  • 412-2V, 107 mm tank gun
the GAU UVNA has come to the conclusion that:
  1. Both guns are equivalent and modern, both in their ballistics and armour penetration.
  2. Out of the two presented variants, the 412-1V is not recommended for production, because:

Monday, 1 May 2017

Anti-Tiger Manual

I posted a brief manual on dealing with Tiger tanks in my post on anti-tank manuals, but here is an extended version.

"The most vulnerable and easily damaged places of a German T-VI tank and methods of combat against it."

The left side of this sheet of the pamphlet is from the back of the book, where the methods of knocking out the tank are illustrated. "Hit the wheels with an anti-tank grenade, and the tank will stop!"

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.

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.

Aleksey Isayev, The End of Army Group North Ukraine

Yuri Pasholok gives more specific examples.

"There were no greater liars than the people who kept records of German tank condition. This started happening as soon as the war began. For instance, the PzIV that you can see in Patriot Park was written off by the Germans on January 10th, 1943. In reality, it was lost two weeks before that. More precisely, they thought they lost it, since it was towed to the rear and later sent to Germany. As for examples where the tank was never officially lost but is propped up on cinderblocks because it was lightly damaged and then picked apart by passing Kameraden, there's no shortage of those. Sure, they were later sent to the factory and repaired, but there were enough PzIIs like this in the spring of 1940 that production of the PzII stopped for half a year while old tanks were repaired. This happened constantly, until the end of the war."

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.