The heavy KV-1 tank that entered production in 1940 was protected with 75 mm of armour. At the time, this was one of the thickest plates in the world. However, the KV-1 had many drawbacks, and the military decided to develop a replacement in the summer of 1940.
Joseph Kotin's Heavyweight
The Kirov Factory in Leningrad and its subordinate design bureau headed by Joseph Kotin got to work. They had to develop and build two prototypes of a heavy tank by November of 1940. One was to be armed with a 76 mm F-34 gun (already in production), the other with an experimental F-30 85 mm gun developed by Grabin's design bureau.
The tank had 100 mm of armour, and was called KV-220. It is also mentioned in documents under the name T-220 and Object 220. The tank with the F-30 gun received a special enlarged turret. Depending on the source, the tank's mass reached 62 to 65 tons. The tank's designers had to lengthen the hull and add a more powerful engine.
The KV-220 began trials in January of 1941. During its first time on the proving grounds, it set an anti-record: its engine broke down on the second day. The vehicle returned to the factory. In 1941, most likely in spring, another KV-220 was built, but never participated in trials.
KV-220 to KV-3
At the same time, intelligence reported that Germany was developing a heavy 45 ton tank with thick armour and powerful armament. The Soviet military assigned the KV-3 project to Kirov factory, with even thicker armour and a 107 mm ZiS-6 gun. The gun was ready, but tank engineers were lagging behind, so the KV-220 was used as a test platform for the KV-3. It was equipped with an 850 hp engine, loaded to 70 tons, and returned to trials.
It must be said that the KV-220 did not have exceptional reliability. Trials records mention difficulty in changing gears, and failing suspension components. Nevertheless, by the start of the Great Patriotic War, the tank traveled over 1900 kilometers.
The German invasion upset all tank design plans in the USSR. The KV-3 project was transferred to Chelyabinsk, but both KV-220s were left in Leningrad. In October of 1941, they were both equipped with standard KV-1 turrets with 76 mm guns. The tanks were sent to the 124th Tank Brigade.
Prototypes on the Front Lines
Brigade commander D. Osadchev recalls that one of these vehicles was lost in battle for a railroad bridge over the Tosna river in December of 1941. The tank was hit and lost its turret.
In 2013, Yuri Pasholok discovered documents in the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense which stated that the other KV-220 remained in the 12th Independent Tank Training Regiment until at least 1944.
The original turret of the KV-220-1 prototype was removed and used on the Leningrad front as a pillbox until 1944.
Author: Vladimir Pinayev
- M.N. Svirin, Tankovaya Mosch SSSR volume 2: V Tyazheluyu Poru, Moscow, Yauza, Eksmo, 2008
- Sovetskiye Bronirovanniye Mashiny compilation, Moscow, Eksprint, 2002
- M. Kolomiyets, Istoriya Tanka KV, Frontovaya Illustratsiya #5, 2001
- CAMD RF documents provided by Yuri Pasholok
Original article available here.