Return to the T-50
In the spring of 1943, it was obvious to GABTU that the T-70 is running out of room for modernization. One last leap was the T-80, a tank with a two-man turret and turbocharged engine, but even it was obsolete by the time trials were finished. Even the installation of the VT-43 gun, which was never put in mass production, left much to be desired. The situation with armour was even worse. The T-70 was designed to withstand the German 37 mm AT gun,and by 1943, the main anti-tank weapon of the Wehrmacht was the 75 mm Pak 40, which was replacing the 50 mm Pak 38, and even the Pak 38 was enough to penetrate Soviet light tanks.
The problem of up-armouring the T-80 proved unsolvable, but how much further could you really modernize what was effectively a long-running redesign of the T-40 amphibious tank? The T-60 was supposed to be a "budget" companion of the T-50, which weighed almost 3 times as much and had plenty of modernization resources. Unfortunately, a series of problems, mostly with the engine, did not allow the T-50 to enter production, resulting in the T-70's arrival in the winter of 1942. Astrov's design was inferior to the T-50 in almost every way, but it was also simpler, did not use any deficit materials, and starting production at factories which already produced the T-60 was a simple task.
Many think that the end of the T-80 was the end of light tanks in the Soviet Union. Some historians recall projects proposed by factories that produced the SU-76. In reality, work never stopped. However, nobody bet on GAZ and other factories that already made light tanks. The T-70 chassis had a limit of 10-12 tons, and could not fit an appropriate engine. The development would have to start from scratch.
The first signs of changing times came in April 1943. At this time, results of T-50 trials were extracted from the archives. The tank, built according to specifications from the start of 1940, still surpassed the T-80 in every way. In order to upgrade it for 1943, only three things were needed:
- Replace the 45 mm gun with a more powerful weapon.
- Resolve the engine issue.
- Decide on a production base and a design bureau.