Tuesday, 31 March 2015

NKVD on Tank Use in the Winter War. Part 2: Vehicles

Part 1.

"Experience showed that the weakest point of existing tanks is their armour. 954 tanks were lost during the period of activity on the North-Western Front, which is over 50% of all losses in battle. Armour of T-28 tanks, not to mention BT and T-26 tanks, is easily penetrated by 37 mm shells. New KV and SMK tanks with 75 mm armour showed themselves well, as they were impenetrable by even 76 mm shells.

Another weakness of existing tanks was their off-road performance. They could not traverse the deep snow, 2-2.5 meter wide anti-tank trenches, escarpments 2.5 meters tall, or stone tank traps. All of these obstacles were impassable or difficult to cross without preparations.

Our experience showed that no tank type used its technically permissible speed. During regular marches, tank speed ranged between 15 and 20 kph, on the battlefield, between 6-10 kph.

Therefore, the experience of war requires that we immediately review current tank designs. First, we need to produce armour screens that proved themselves well in battle for existing tanks to make them immune to 37-45 mm shells. According to specialists, our army needs the following types of tanks, based on the experience of the Finnish theater:
  1. A tank for maneuver action with 25-30 mm of armour and a top speed of 35-50 kph.
  2. An infantry tank for cooperation with infantry when penetrating field fortification, with 60-70 mm of armour that is immune to low caliber shells, with a top speed of 25-35 kph. An up-armoured T-28 or T-35 tank would work for this role. Such a tank would neutralize artillery up to 76 mm, forcing the enemy to use only medium calibers, which will require special measures to camouflage and hide on the battlefield due to their large size.
  3. A breakthrough tank with armour up to 100 mm and a top speed of 25 kph. This tank needs to be even more powerful than the infantry tank to operate in fortified regions with mine fields, tank traps, wide trenches, and pillboxes. Its armour must resist 76 mm guns and armament must be able to destroy pillboxes (122-152 mm). The tank would weigh 40-60 tons and be able to cross 6 meter wide trenches. Its average speed can be 10-20 kph, and top speed 20-30 kph.
    Success in the use of KV and SMK tanks shows that our designers and factories are capable of giving us such a tank.
Other defects in the design of vehicles include a poor radio design, which is large, non-portable, requires concentration for configuration work, and, mainly, cannot be used without turning away from the tank's weapons. As a result, commanders often forgot about their radio in situations where they needed to not only observe and control their unit, but fire from their tank.

The tank machinegun also performed poorly in battle. Disk magazines often jammed. Tanks require an improved machinegun."

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