Saturday, 18 October 2014

World of Tanks History Section: Morozov's Top Ten

On October 16th, 1904, one of the most talented Soviet tank engineers, Alexander Alexandrovich Morozov, was born. He lived for 75 years, and gave nearly two thirds of his life to tanks. He started out a blueprint copier at a Kharkov factory, then served as a rank and file engineer, then section chief, then chief engineer. Morozov was never on the front lines, but his tanks took part in battle from the first days of the war.

He continued designing tanks after 1945, and his vehicles set the trends of Soviet tank design. Here are ten vehicles from this exceptional engineer's career that can be called exemplary.

1. BT-7. 

The convertible drive BT tanks were one of the main components of the RKKA tank forces before the war. The BT-7 was the last of this family.

The BT-7 was armed with a 45 mm gun, could reach speeds of 70 kph, and had anti-bullet armour. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, this armour was standard in nearly every army, but in the late 1930s, it was no longer enough.

The BT series served as a chassis for new technical solutions, like the installation of a 76 mm gun or experiments with sloped armour (BT-SV).

The BTs fought in the Spanish Civil War, at Khalkin-Gol, during the Winter War. In June of 1941, Soviet mechanized corps that were still armed mainly with BT-7s took the brunt of the Wehrmacht's offensive.

2. A-20

In 1937, a new tank for the Red Army was being developed. The A-20 still used the convertible drive, such was the requirement from the military. Externally, it had little in common with the BT-7, aside from large road wheels, characteristic of the Christie suspension.

The tank had a welded hull and a new turret. The armour plates were sloped to increase the chances of a ricochet. The front armour was up to 20 mm thick. The tank could accelerate up to 80 kph on a highway.

The vehicle was never mass produced. The only A-20 ever built fought with the 22nd Tank Brigade. Engineers, including A. Morozov, managed to convince the military that a purely tracked vehicle was better than a combination of wheels and tracks, and so the A-20 was not needed.

Morozov and his bureau did not waste their time. The A-20 was the predecessor of a vehicle that earned its legendary title.

3. T-34

The T-34 needs no introduction. Countless books and articles have been written about it. The T-34 fought in the Great Patriotic War from the first day to the last as the workhorse of the Red Army.

At the start of the war, this tank's 45 mm thick armour and 76 mm gun made it one of the most powerful tanks in the world. The Germans only managed to surpass it in armour and firepower with the Tiger, Panther, and Ferdinand.

The first T-34s were far from ideal, and were improved greatly throughout the war. A T-34 built in 1943 was significantly different from a T-34 built in 1940-41. Morozov played a key role in all of the tank's modernizations and improvements.

4. T-43

The tank was supposed to be a descendant of the T-34, but the design differed greatly from it. Due to a superior placement of components and alteration of the hull, the level of protection rose drastically. The front armour was increased to 75 mm. The tank used a torsion bar suspension, which was more compact than the T-34's Christie suspension.

The T-43 was better armoured, but this also made it heavier. Its ground pressure came close to that of heavy tanks.

The tank was accepted into service, but was not placed into production, as the military demanded an 85 mm gun. The T-43 was so tightly coupled that there was no potential for modernization. Introducing it into production demanded the development of new technological processes, which the USSR could not allow in time of war.

5. T-34-85

The main problem with the T-34 was that in 1943, its gun was no longer sufficiently powerful. In the middle of 1943, it was decided that n 85 mm gun will be installed. In order to do this, engineers developed a larger turret with better armour, big enough for three crewmen.

The 85 mm ZiS-S-53 gun was based on an AA gun design, and provided superior penetration. This increased the effectiveness of the T-34 when fighting new German tanks. The vehicle retained excellent mobility.

It cannot be said that the T-34-85 was a radical leap forward that gave Soviet forces unparalleled supremacy, but this was a necessary and timely replacement of the T-34.

6. T-44

This tank was the leap forward. It seemed similar to the T-34-85, but its internals differed greatly.

The T-44 had a new diesel engine, placed perpendicularly across the hull. This allowed the turret to be moved further back to balance the suspension. The driver's hatch was removed from the front plate, which raised the vehicle's protection. All components and mechanisms were improved.

The Christie suspension was replaced with torsion bars. This allowed the tank to be smaller and have more room inside, making life easier for crews and repairmen.

The T-44 was accepted for service in 1944, but it had no time to serve in battle, partially due to the fact that Soviet leadership did not wish to reduce the number of T-34-85s being produced. 2000 T-44s were built after the war.

7. T-54

Another leap forward. Designed in 1946, the T-54 remained in the Soviet design school for a long time. The first vehicles had expected growing pains, but after being improved, it became a reliable and technologically efficient vehicle with a large resource for modernization.

The T-54 had a new rounded turret with up to 200 mm of front armour, an improved hull, improved transmission, and a series of other improvements. The vehicle had a 100 mm D-10T gun, which, for a while, was the most powerful tank gun in the world. Its shell could penetrate 125 mm of armour at 2000 meters.

The T-54 was used by about 30 countries worldwide, and participated in many 20th century conflicts.

8. T-55

The T-55 was developed in 1958, and had many improvements over the T-55. One of the most important ones was the installation of a full anti-radiation system. The tank had a semi-automatic rammer. The caliber and type of gun were the same as on the T-54.

The T-55 remained in production until 1979. It fought in many conflicts, and 30 countries still use it to this day. More than 10 foreign variants of the vehicle exist.

The T-55 could reach 50 kph on a highway, and its range was up to 500 km on one tank of fuel.

9. T-64

The vehicle made for a new 115 mm gun, also known as "Object 432". The tank was in production from 1960, and was a laboratory of sorts for engineers and technologists. The vehicle turned out very complicated and not exceptionally reliable. Many were built before it was accepted into service, for testing by the army. The information that came back from the military was used to continue perfecting the design.

In 1966, Object 432 was approved for service. It had a 115 mm smoothbore gun. The tank's armour was composite, and used materials other than steel to defeat HEAT shells and protect from radiation. The same armour was used on the T-64A.

10. T-64A

In the end of the 1950s and start of the 1960s, the age of Main Battle Tanks began. The MBT concept called for a tank that could perform many tasks, combining mobility, firepower, and protection.

The T-64A was accepted into service in 1969. The tank had an automatic loading mechanism, which allowed manual shell type selection. Because of this, the loader was excluded from the crew.

This was the first Soviet tank to use an optical rangefinder. It had the same composite armour as the T-64. It is hard to say whether or not the T-64A was the best tank in the world, but in the 1990s, Western military specialists admitted that it would have been a very dangerous opponent.

About the designer: 

Alecander Alexandrovich Morozov was born on October 16th, 1904 in the village of Bezhitsa, located inside the modern boundaries of Bryansk. After finishing a "real academy" (an educational institution with a focus on natural sciences and mathematics), he worked at the Kharkov Locomotive Factory. He was a file clerk, then a copier. From 1926 to 1928, he served as an aircraft engine technician.

In 1928, he returned to HPZ. Despite its peaceful title, this factory was one of the key Soviet producers of armoured vehicles, including tanks.

In 1931, he finished a machine-building college, and became a group chief in the factory's design bureau. In 1936, he was promoted to section chief. In 1938, he was promoted to Deputy Chief Engineer.

Before the war, he worked on the T-24 tank and BT tanks. Along with Mikhail Koshkin and Nikolai Kucherenko, he worked on the future workhorse of the Red Army, the T-34 medium tank.

When Koshkin died in 1940, Morozov became Chief Engineer. In 1941, the factory was evacuated to Nizhniy Tagil. Here, Morozov directed the development of the T-43, T-34-85, T-44, and T-54. After the war, Morozov designed the T-55, T-64, and T-54A.

The T-54 earned Morozov his third USSR Government Award. He earned two Hero of Socialist Labour titles and two first class Stalin Awards. In 1972, Morozov was awarded the title of Doctor of Technical Sciences.

Original article available here.

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