Saturday, 23 June 2018

VK 36.01: Half a Step from the Tiger

Henschel's tank program looked somewhat comical in late 1941 and early 1942. The company was working on three heavy tanks at the same time. The lifeline of one of them, the VK 30.01(H), was just about to end, but work was still going on in December of 1941. The second tank being developed was the VK 45.01(H). Another tank, indexed VK 36.01, took the place between them in mass. The story of the first tank with a tapered bore gun that nearly went into production was far from simple.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Flakpanzer IV at Aquino

This Flakpanzer IV is currently being restored by the fine folks at the Flakpanzer Restoration Project. I had a chance to see it both last year at the Aquino Tank Weekend and this year, but only in pieces. 

Thursday, 21 June 2018

American Armour Quality

"Report on the quality and robustness of American armour plate
  1. About 1500 tons of armour plate (excluding the plate arrived in recent months), 10, 15, and 35 mm thick, arrived from the USA to the USSR.
  2. The chemical composition of the armour is similar to that of domestic 8S steel, aside from the addition of 0.04-0.08% of copper (our armour has no copper).
  3. Factory #177 tested 8 samples of American armour. All samples, when hardened according to technical requirements for 8S steel, produce a fibrous, dry fracture. All samples show slating along nearly the whole cross-section. Individual samples show layering. Results of metallographic inspection show that the samples have a large amount of nonmetallic particles.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

T-44 (A-44) Requirements

"Order of the People's Commissariat of Medium Machinebuilding #192s
May 10th, 1941

"On the production of the T-34 tank in 1941
6. Factory #183 director Maksarev must:
  1. Produce two experimental T-44 tanks by October 15th, 1941, according to tactical-technical requirements in attachment #1.
  2. Sign a contract with the Mariupol factory by July 1st, 1941, to receive two sets of armour parts for the T-44, for which the Mariupol factory must be provided with armour blueprints of the T-44 by July 1st.
  3. During the month of November, perform trials jointly with the GABTU, and present me with the results of the trials for presentation to the Committee of Defense.

Monday, 18 June 2018


The Maus tank that was recovered by Soviet specialists did not sit idle in the Soviet Union. It was picked apart and its components were sent out for study. The armour composition and hull design were carefully studied. It would be a shame to demolish such a rare exhibit, so only the D-25 was allowed to fire on it, with the performance of other tank guns (the Maus' own 128 mm and the Soviet D-10) being only calculated.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Porsche's Leopard

Rumours and fabrications surround the history of tanks developed by Porsche K.G. Many of them were caused by incorrect information that appeared in reports made by American and British militaries right after the war. Later, they were supplemented by rumours and spread by not particularly thorough authors. Among others, this is the case with the history of the VK 30.01(P), the first tank independently designed by Ferdinand Porsche's team. This article will attempt to trace its history based on credible sources and archive documents.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

SKS Trials Attempt

Prototypes of the SKS carbine were ready by mid-1944. The logical step after that was to send them to the front for trials on the real battlefield. The weapons were sent to the 1st Belorussian Front, but there was a small issue.

"Your order #622590s given on June 28th, 1944, regarding conducting trials was received on July 15th, 1944, and carried out.

Further trials of the carbines have been held up by the difficult conditions for trials that have appeared on the front.

All combat units are engaged in nonstop fighting, making 15-20 km marches every day, which makes observing the carbines in battle and keeping them safe difficult.

Trials performed in these conditions, especially in brief time, will not allow us to establish the performance of the carbines and make conclusions regarding their acceptance into service. 

Based on these factors, I have made the decision to postpone trials until the situation at the front stabilizes."

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Prewar Prototypes

"November 11th, 1939

To the Chief of the 8th Department of the ABTU, Military Engineer 1st Class comrade Afonin

Report on the trials of the A-32 (weight down) and preparations for trials of the A-20 and Voroshilovets tractor
  1. The A-32 (second prototype) weighed down to the weight of an A-34 has travelled 1047 km. During the third march, the average moving speed off-road was no more than 20-23 kph. This was caused by terrible conditions of the terrain (mud). Typically, the vehicle can only drive in second gear off-road. The transmission is working well in these conditions, there haven't been any defects. A trip on a highway is planned on November 10th to test the running gear.
  2. Presently, A-20 components (improving the wheeled drive transmission) are undergoing mechanical finishing.
  3. Despite our insistence, Voroshilovets tractors are not being worked on at all. Management of department 500 claims that its equipment is occupied with other projects (A-7, D-3, D-5, etc). This situation may result in the Voroshilovets tractor not being ready for mass production by January 1st, 1940.
Military representative of the RKKA, Military Engineer 3rd Class, Baikov."

Issue with Comments

I recently noticed that I stopped getting notifications for newly added comments, both requiring moderation and not. As a result, I will have to check for new comments manually until this is corrected on Blogger's side, so you will see some delay in answering/approving comments compared to normal. I apologize for this inconvenience.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Hetzer from Aquino

The fine lads from Base Borden are restoring a Jagdpanzer 38(t), and I had the luck to see it at Aquino Tank Weekend at the Ontario Regiment Museum last weekend. The tank is coloured like this only temporarily (the Flakpanzer they wheeled out last year had the same colour), but it will be painted its proper dark yellow in the end.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Ranks and Posts

"Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #0400 regarding commanders of heavy and medium tanks
October 9th, 1941

To increase the combat ability of the tank forces and improve their cooperation in combat with other types of forces, appoint the following:
  1. As medium tank commanders: Lieutenants and Junior Lieutenants
  2. As medium tank platoon commanders: Senior Lieutenants
  3. As KV company commanders: Captains and Majors
  4. As medium tank company commanders: Captains
  5. As heavy and medium tank battalion commanders: Majors and Lieutenant Colonels
The Chief of the Red Army Financial Directorate must make the appropriate changes to salaries.

People's Commissar of Defense, I. Stalin"

Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #0433 regarding the assembly of tank crews
November 18th, 1941

In order to increase the skill set of tank crews, I order that:
  1. Tank crews will be composed exclusively of junior officers and NCOs.
  2. Tank crewmen must have the following ranks:
    1. In heavy tanks:
      1. Tank commander: Lieutenant, Senior Lieutenant
      2. Senior mechanic-driver; Starshina
      3. Radio-telegraph operator: Senior Sergeant
      4. Gunner: Starshina
      5. Junior mechanic-driver (also loader): Sergeant
    2. In medium tanks and light tanks with cannons:
      1. Tank commander: Junior Lieutenant, Lieutenant
      2. Mechanic-driver: Senior Sergeant
      3. Turret commander: Sergeant
      4. Machinegunner: Junior Sergeant (on a tank with a radio the radio operator/machiengunner must be a Senior Sergeant).
    3. In small T-40 and T-60 tanks, as well as machinegun tanks:
      1. Tank commander: Starshina
      2. Mechanic-driver: Sergeant
      3. Turret commander: Junior Sergeant
  3. Replacement personnel training in replacement regiments and training battalions, training companies at the factories is to be picked in such a way that NCOs are chosen for tank crews. With this, the Chief of Training of the Armoured Force must give the order by December 1st, 1941, to set different training times for those who have already served in tank units and those who have been called up from reserves in training units.
  4. Check the quality of trained tank crews with special commissions led by the regiment commander or the commander of the factory training center.
    Include a representative from Armoured Force Training in active units and the GABTU or GAU representative at factories.
  5. Crews that demonstrate good knowledge of their speciality and good practical skills in working as a crew are to be awarded the ranks mentioned in section 2 of this order.
  6. The control over training the required amount of tank crews in the set timeframe is given to the Chief of Training of the Armoured Force.
  7. Introduce changes to TO&E the armoured force according to this order.
Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, Marshal of the Tank Forces, Fedorenko."

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf.J: Heavy Steps of a Light Tank

Rather unusual types of vehicles frequently appeared in WWII. Most of them remained on paper, but some of them made it to production. German tank builders were no exception, creating vehicles whose mere concept boggles the mind. The VK 16.01, otherwise known as the PzII Ausf. J was one such vehicle. It was not as useless as its brother, the PzI Ausf. F, but the concept of a lightly armoured heavy tank raises many questions.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Quantity Over Quality

This penetration table is fairly well known. It appears in several period publications and a translated version was even sent to the USSR. Nevertheless, it gives some information as to how well the guns of the Western Allies performed against German armour.

However, there was one interesting observation made that didn't come along with this table to any other publication. Since hitting a tank at 2000 yards was very difficult, and the 2-pounder could penetrate older German tanks in the front and even newer ones from the side at nearly that distance, what was the point of having a 6-pounder at all?

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

A-20 Characteristics

"A-20 tank (convertible drive)
September 10th, 1939

Tactical-technical characteristics of the A-20 tank
(Convertible drive with 3 powered pairs of wheels)
  • Mass: 18 tons
  • Length: 5.7 meters
  • Width: 2.65 meters
  • Height: 2.36 meters
  • Armour: 25 mm or equivalent in toughness
  • Armament: one 45 mm gun, two DT machineguns
  • Ammunition: 160 45 mm shells, 300 machinegun rounds
  • Crew: 4
  • Cruising range: 350-400 km
  • Engine: 500 hp V-2
  • Top speed: 75 kph
  • Mobility:
    • Maximum grade: 40 degrees
    • Widest trench: 2.4 meters
    • Maximum fording depth: 1.2 meters

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Green Light

"Record of inspection of the T-34 tank prototype produced by NKSM factory #183 as ordered by the Committee of Defense within the Council of Commissars in decree #443 issued on December 19th, 1939

March 31st, 1940

From the People's Commissariat of Defense:
  • People's Commissar of Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union, K.E. Voroshilov
  • Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, Army Commander 1st Class, G.I. Kulik
  • Chief of the ABTU, Army Commander 2nd Class, D.G. Pavlov
From the People's Commissariat of Medium Machinebuilding:
  • People's Commissar I.A. Likhachev
  • Deputy People's Commissar A.A. Goreglyad
  • Chief designer of factory #183 and the T-34 tank, Koshkin
It was established that:

Monday, 4 June 2018

Object 240 Ergonomics

There is a common misconception that the Soviet army had no regard for the conditions of its crew. This is provably false. Just as with the US army, the Red army had a medical service, which would evaluate the user-friendliness of its equipment. Tanks were no exception. For instance, the Object 240, the precursor of the IS-2 tank, was put through thorough testing by the medical service, and the faults that were discovered were corrected by the time the tank reached mass production.

"Conditions of servicing of the 122 mm D-25 gun in the IS tank

1. The D-25 gun is installed in the turret of the IS tank.
The fighting compartment has the following dimensions: turret ring diameter: 1800 mm, height in the rear part: 1520 mm, height in other parts: 1580 mm.
The height of the fighting compartment is insufficient for free work by standing people. The turret crew stands in a slouched over pose.
The short height of the fighting compartment is due to the metal crates with ammunition on the floor. The crates are covered in rubber and used as the floor of the fighting compartment.
To better evaluate the dimensions of the fighting compartment, they should be compared with those of the IS tank armed with a D-5 85 mm gun. With the same sized turret, the gun takes up much more space, which reduces crew comfort.
The width of the gunner's station is reduced by 60 mm (to 650 mm) and the breech operator by 30 mm (to 660 mm). It is narrow, but possible to work.
The distance between the deflector and the rear of the turret was 450 mm for the D-5 and is 200 mm for the D-25. It is not possible to pass behind the gun. It is also uncomfortable to load, since the casing does not fit into this opening and catches onto the rear ammunition rack. When inserting it the loader has to aim (make additional careful motions).

Sunday, 3 June 2018

GMC M12: King Kong on Tracks

One of the best weapons of French origin adopted by the US Army in WWI was the 155 mm GPF cannon, designed by Captain Filloux in 1917. The gun had a simple, easy to service, reliable, and effective recoil mechanism, a significant horizontal aiming arc, and a long range. However, the GPF was fairly heavy. It was no accident that it was one of the first candidates for an SPG.