Wednesday, 21 August 2013
BT Gun Problems
The article on the history of the BT briefly alluded to problems with the B-3 gun. I found a letter from Halepskiy to Voroshilov that talks about these problems in more detail.
RGASPI 558-2-91. January 2nd, 1933.
"In my letter, based on the information given to me by comrade Belov and director of the Mariupol factory comrade Radin, I wrote that 800 BT turrets are to be built for the B-3 37 mm gun. The UMM is scheduled to produce no more than 375 of these guns in 1931-32, and told KhPZ, as well as the Izhor and Mariupol factories that no more than 350 turrets should be built for these guns. In the same letter, I warned comrade Pavlunovskiy that the order for 800 turrets was made without agreement from the People's Commissariat of the Army and Navy, and asked him to resolve this issue. I also informed comrade Pavlunovskiy that UMM considers it possible to only build 350 BT tanks with 37 mm B-3 guns, exactly the number established by the government.
Comrade Pavlunskiy did not reverse his decision. Using my position as a member of Kuibishev's commission, I added this issue to the list of issues raised at the meeting.
Comrades Ordzhonikidze, Pavlunovskiy, Tuhachevskiy, and Egorov were present. They heard me out, but did not come to a conclusion. Comrade Ordzhonikidze claimed that I was incorrect, and it was necessary to build 800 turrets. I replied that there will only be 352 of these guns made, and then production will be stopped to focus on the newer 45 mm gun. It is unreasonable to produce 800 turrets for this gun. Comrades Tuhachevskiy and Egorov agreed with me. Comrade Budnyak confirmed that 37 mm B-3 guns are ending their production run. No final decision was made.
When Kuybishev Jr.'s commission investigated this issue, comrade Pavlunovskiy and my assistant, comrade Bokis, were present. I was away on a business trip to Leningrad.
The commission, despite protests from comrade Bokis, decided to solve the issue of overproduction of the B-3 turret by disarming 340 T-18 tanks and mount their 37 mm Hotchkiss guns on BT tanks. At the same time, arm the T-18s with two DT machine guns. At the end of the year, replace the 37 mm Hotchkiss guns with 45 mm guns.
In order to complete this task, we first need a factory to figure out how to convert the B-3 turrets for the Hotckiss gun, and then convert T-18 turrets for machine guns. There is currently no such factory, and no existing factory can take up the task, as KhPZ and Voronezh are overloaded and are already behind schedule. Additionally, more armour plates must be produced, and this will impact work being done by armour production factories. Thirdly, this process will take 6-7 months, considering that this issue was raised since December 4th by factories, but no work has been done on it since. Finally, the Hotchkiss gun has poor ballistic qualities, and penetrates less armour than a machine gun with armour piercing bullets.
In my opinion, this re-armament is fruitless, and has no purpose from any viewpoint. In this time, 45 mm guns will start production. It is necessary to produce turrets for the BT that are compatible with the 45 mm gun in 1933."