Monday, 11 December 2017

Information on American Tanks

"To the chief of the Armoured Directorate of the GABTU, Military Engineer 1st Class comrade Korobkov
September 3rd, 1941

I report to you the details about new American tanks and news of American tank building.
  1. The Armoured Car Co. built a new type of light tank that is also an airborne tank. It can be suspended from a DC-4 airplane and transported over the air. There are two variants, 7.5 tons and 10 tons. The design of both tanks is identical: top speed of up to 80 kph, 200 hp Guiberson engine.
    The difference is due to the thickness of the armour, which is 38 mm (front) and 35 mm (sides) thick on the 10 ton tank. There is no data on the armour thickness of the 7.5 ton tank. The armament of both variants is the same: 1 37 mm cannon and 3 7.62 mm machineguns (one of them is AA). Tanks are built with a turret and without a turret. Allegedly, the second kind is the airborne tank. It is said that the new tank has been accepted into service and will be put into mass production. They will also be supplied to the British. Production is being organized at the Pressed Steel Co., which also presently builds the M3 medium tank.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Super Bazooka: Improved Antitank Fist

During WWII, M1 and M9 "Bazooka" rocket launchers were considered good weapons, although their penetration was inadequate to reliably penetrate medium tanks, and nearly useless against their front armour. American engineers decided to solve this problem by increasing the caliber of the weapon. Work began in 1943, but mass production of the new RPG only got off the ground after the start of the war in Korea, where old bazookas proved ineffective against the T-34-85.

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Father of All RPGs

The American "Bazooka" M1 anti-tank rocket launcher is one of the most famous weapons of WWII. Despite its primitive design, it was a very effective anti-tank weapon, which was imitated by the Germans. The Panzerschreck was based on a captured Bazooka.

The creation of RPGs became possible via a combination of two technologies, which arose in the early 1940s: HEAT warheads and solid fuel rockets. The American infantry adopted the M9 HEAT rifle grenade in Jarnuary of 1941. It was fired from a standard Springfield M1903 rifle, equipped with a special attachment. This weapon could penetrate 32 mm of armour. The more powerful M10 grenade appeared in November of that same year. It could penetrate 50 mm of armour, but was too heavy to be used with a rifle. At first, the Americans tried to turn it from a rifle grenade into a machinegun grenade, firing it from the .50 cal M2HB machinegun, but the recoil still proved excessive. American engineers also experimented with the 13.97 mm Boys rifle and a special 15.24 mm anti-tank rifle, but in every case the grenade threatened to damage the weapon and injure the user. The solution was found by Colonel Leslie Skinner, who worked on rocket ammunition at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds since the early 1930s. He proposed equipping the M10 grenade with a rocket, thus solving the issue of recoil.

Partisan's Companion: Weapons of Combat

The Partisan's Companion is a book distributed among partisans in order to help them combat German forces more effectively. A few sections of the book deal with firearms. This one teaches the user how to handle domestically produced firearms, both military and civilian.

"IV. Weapons of Combat

Remember the main rules of handling weapons

No matter what conditions you are in always keep your weapons ready: clean and functional. Handle them carefully. The weapons must always be ready for battle. Do not plug the barrel, as that will burst the barrel when shooting. Before cleaning a gun, make sure your cleaning equipment is functional and complete (ramrod, rag, screwdriver, mallet, etc).

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

G43 Trials

"Trials results

The precision of the semiautomatic G-43 rifle at ranges of 100, 300, and 600 meters, is less than that of the German G-41 rifle and domestic AV-40 rifle. Disassembly and reassembly has no effect on precision and accuracy. 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

HEAT Protection

Conventional internet wisdom dictates that WWII era standoff armour was, at best, ineffective against the Panzerfaust, or even accentuated its effects by improving the standoff distance. However, there was no internet back in the day, so tankers had to make do with experimental data.

Let's start with the Soviets. In 1942, when researching protection against 75 mm HEAT, it was discovered that 4-5 mm mild steel screens 100-600 mm away from the armour worked in protecting the lower side of the T-34. In Berlin, so called "bedspring armour" (in reality, purpose made anti-Panzerfaust mesh screens that were made from 0.5-0.8 mm wire, positioned 200 mm from the armour) was, according to Soviet reports, effective in combat. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Tank Archives in Print

My name already appeared in print next to that of Thomas Jentz, and now it's time for a long-time inspiration and a source of many materials posted on this site: Yuri Pasholok.

The original plan was to publish a translated and lengthened version of my Panther article, but the editor selected an older piece of mine for print instead. That just means that you, my dear readers, have another few months to pre-order your copy of the Armor Journal magazine.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Unlucky KV

Cases where vehicles that never reached mass production become milestones are common in tank building history. The Soviet KV-13 tank is one of those cases. This tank is often referred to as a "heavily armoured medium tank", which is incorrect. The KV-13 was designed as a heavy tank from the very beginning. The revolutionary vehicle satisfied the requirements of the Soviet military completely. This was the first maneuverable heavy tank that combined impressive armour with small mass, and, most importantly, high mobility.

The KV-13 appeared at a difficult time, which is a part of the reason why it did not enter production. Nevertheless, further Soviet tank development was influenced by the last design of the talented Nikolai Valentinovich Tseits.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Less Armour, More Mobility

The gradual increase of a tank's mass is a normal and logical occurrence. Mass grows, first of all, due to thicker armour. During WWII, the thickness of tank armour grew several times over. However, there was one case where designers had to sacrifice armour. This case was the Soviet KV-1S tank, which was, in many ways, a necessary compromise, taken to resolve serious issues with the KV-1's reliability. The vehicle left a mark in the history of Soviet tank building. The KV-1S appeared as a result of a change of perspective in Soviet heavy tank doctrine. Mobility started to play a more important role. The new tank was not just a lighter KV-1, but had a large amount of new technical solutions. What is the history of the KV-1S, and why was its journey into production so difficult?

Friday, 1 December 2017

Little Tank, Great Success

Czech-made weapons were popular since the start of the 20th century. Skoda's artillery was in demand even outside of Austria-Hungary, which Czechia belonged to until 1918. Weapons exports continued after the formation of the First Czechoslovak Republic. As a rule, their excellent quality was accompanied by a very agreeable price.

Tanks joined cannons in the mid-1930s. Czechoslovakia managed to take second place in tank exports worldwide, coming up just behind Great Britain. The first and most popular export item was the Praga AH-IV tankette.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Fashion Police

"Excerpt from an order of the 1st Mountain Infantry Division

Item #3. On the wearing of ties.

A red rag is the sign of a communist. Wearing red ties and armbands is forbidden. Wearing a brightly coloured tie is unsuitable for a German soldier.

General Lantz
Translated by Intendant 3rd grade Skormorovskiy"

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

IS Bug Report

"To the Deputy Chair of the Committee of Defense, comrade Molotov

I report that, in accordance with GOKO decree #2943ss, issued on February 24th, 1943, Kirov factory and factory #100 produced two experimental prototypes of IS tanks:
  1. IS-1 tank with a 76 mm gun (F-34)
  2. IS-2 tank with a 122 mm gun (U-11)

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Panther Armour Quality

Long-time readers of this blog are no doubt already aware of the poor performance of German armour in British and Soviet trials, but you can never have too much evidence. Here's another log for the fire.

"(a) 17 Pr v Glacis

Gun performance is appreciably better than forecast and it must be therefore be concluded that German plate is not up to the standard of our Homogeneous M.Q. tank armour.

In point of fact the German plate appears far too brittle and large cracks develop from any penetration. These became so bad during the course of the trial that whole sections fell away and it was difficult to find a target in the later stages.

This fault is not confined to this particular plate as the tank used as a target had been knocked out by penetration of the turret side, by 75 mm AP, and from here the cracks had developed to the side of the plate."

Mediterranean Area A.F.V. Technical Report No. 23 - Part II Enemy Equipment - Panther
14th September 1944

Monday, 27 November 2017

T-34 Armour Research

January 25th, 1940

  1. When researching armour for 25-50 mm plates, the Ilyich Research Laboratory made the correct decision to explore highly hardened steel while preserving the necessary degree of ductility. Despite existing opinions that thick tank armour (40-75 mm) must have lower hardness (3.4-3.6 mm), the Research Laboratory developed hard armour (2.9-3.1 mm), finding a successful combination of alloying components, which gave the armour satisfactory ductility.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Czechoslovakian Dead End

The greatest success of the Czechoslovakian tank industry was with light tanks. The LT vz. 35 and LT vz. 38 turned out to be excellent vehicles, used by several nations during WWII. Despite the fact that Skoda's T-15 and Pz.Kpfw.38(t) n.A. did not make it past the prototype stage, the chassis of the latter was used for the Jagdpanzer 38(t) tnak destroyer. It is not surprising that, after the end of the war and start of work on the TVP medium tank, work on a new light tank began in parallel. The result of that work was several interesting prototypes, such as the TNH 57/900, Skoda T-17, and the amphibious Letak.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Kalashnikov's First

"Self-loading carbine developed by Kalashnikov and Petrov, according to technical-tactical requirements from the GAU KA Artillery Committee #2941.

The carbine (right view) is shown on the photo."

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

8.8 cm KwK 36 Trials

"B. Firing on KV-1 and T-34 hulls with the 88 mm gun

1. Firing on a KV-1 hull.

The KV-1 hull was fired upon with armour piercing and high explosive rounds from 1500 meters. The results are shown in table 2.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

M10 Additional Armour

Major Berg, who you might remember from the Hellcat article, worked on the GMC M10 as well. The applique armour, the mounts for which are a distinguishing mark of this vehicle, were his idea.

Due to the difference in weight between the Sherman and the M10, 14 mm thick applique armour could be attached to the hull and turret without harming the performance of the vehicle. The total weight of the armour was 2031 lbs. However, the additional armour would only be mounted on a small percentage of vehicles serving in a special role, with the armour removed when the vehicle returned to its normal role.

Additional protection of this type was also considered for the M7.

Three types of this shielding (right against the armour, 1 inch, and 10 inches away) were tested at Aberdeen against M74 37 mm AP and M62 3 inch APC. The protection against the 37 mm shell did not differ depending on the distance, but protection against the 3 inch shell was better then the extra plate was right up against the armour. Interestingly enough, the protection with spaced armour was not any worse than a piece of armour of equivalent thickness.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Churchill Problems

The following document is dated March 1942.

"Churchill I and II tanks

The following points need special attention while working with the aforementioned tanks.
  1. Engine
    1. In order to reduce the chance of the cast iron clutch socket cover, part Z.V.1/BB/44365, the engine RPM should never rise above 2000 RPM. It is possible that some engines are limited below this number, but most are set at 2400 RPM.
      A new type of cover is made from cast steel.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Devourer of Tungsten

In late summer of 1942, the Red Army captured a German weapon that piqued the interest of the Red Army Main Artillery Directorate. This was the new German tapered bore 7.5 cm Pak 41. Several shells were captured along with the gun, which allowed trials to be performed and several characteristics to be determined. What was this gun, and what were the results of its trials in the USSR?

Friday, 17 November 2017

Frenchman in German Hands

The belligerents in WWII had to improvise time and time again. Obsolete weapons, no longer suitable for their initial purpose, found surprising new applications. One of the most notable examples of such a "second life" is the German conversion of the French 75 mm Mle. 1897 field gun, as a result of which the 19th century weapon became an effective anti-tank gun.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Molotov Cocktails

If you ask people that know next to nothing of history, they will tell you that Molotov Cocktails are a Russian invention. People that know a little bit more will tell you that they are a Finnish invention. Keep going further, and you will be told that the original use of petrol bombs dates back to the Spanish Civil War.

Turns out, the first group was correct. However, these bombs came around long before Molotov accomplished anything of value, and didn't even have a proper name. In late May of 1915, Stavka's General on Duty wrote to the head of the Chief Military-Technical Directorate:

"The High Command Headquarters received several proposals for measures of repressing the enemy in response to their use of poisonous gases. These measures consist of burning the crops that are currently growing in Germany and Austria. In order to achieve this, we require widespread manufacture of incendiary devices of various weights..."

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

How Myths Are Born

I already discussed how, due to a mistake, the Light Tank M2A4 was "spotted" in the ranks of the Red Army. Since serial numbers were present in the listing, it was fairly easy to figure out that these were actually fairly common Light Tanks M3. 

Let's take a look at a similar situation. Once in a while, you can see rumours of the Medium Tank M2 being supplied via Lend Lease. It's not hard to be confused when you see something like this:

In this document the 201st Tank Brigade is complaining about all of the equipment that it's lacking. There is a shortage of every kind of staff, no artillery, hardly any machineguns, only one APC, and no heavy or light tanks. Instead of 20 T-34s, they received 22 "M-2" tanks. Makes sense, one medium tank replaces another, case closed.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Canadian Super-Tank

Most of my readers have probably heard of the Super Heavy Tank T28, a four-tracked 86 ton assault SPG that the Americans designed to bust through the defenses of the Siegfried Line. Interestingly enough, across the Atlantic Ocean, the British had a similar idea, but cranked up to 11.

Considering that the 80 ton T28 only managed a top speed of 8 mph, even 5-6 mph would be an optimistic estimate for this 150 (at best) monster. Thankfully, Gatehouse was right about one thing: experienced officers know what they're talking about, and Barnes managed to talk him out of the idea.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Lend-Lease Deficiencies and Spares

It's no small secret that a great number of vehicles ordered by the USSR through the Lend Lease program. Most of the issues with missing gear were solved very quickly, or so I thought. This table shows that missing weapons continued to be an issue until the end of the war. The number listed in the numerator is for weapons that were supposed to arrive, the number listed in the denominator is for weapons that actually arrived, split up by year. The second last column shows the total number of the weapon that was ordered and that arrived. The last column sums up the difference.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Adventures of the Centurion in Scandinavia

Despite Sweden's goals to arm itself with domestic designs, foreign tanks in the Swedish army were not a rare sight. In cases when their industry was too slow or designers put out unsatisfactory results, the Swedish military made up the shortfall with foreign purchases. Recall that the Strv m/37, Sweden's most numerous tank at the start of WWII, was actually the CKD AH-IV-Sv tankette. Later, the Swedes acquired the Strv m/41, a licensed copy of another Czechoslovak vehicle, the LT vz. 38. A similar story happened again after WWII. Tired of waiting while domestic designers, the military purchased British Centurion tanks, which ended up being the most numerous tanks with a classical layout in the Swedish post-war army.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

The Swedish Army's Tough Choice

The time between the World Wars was that of rapid technical progress. Even tanks, a relatively new invention, could become obsolete quickly. Even though only several wealthy countries could afford a large number of the newest tanks for their armies, experimental vehicles and small batches cropped up in many nations. Sweden, who managed to retain neutrality during WWI, was among them. Its army was engaged in a lengthy and difficult search for a suitable tank. The search ended with the acceptance of the Strv m/31, or L-10, which begat a whole family of armoured vehicles.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Taubin's Automatic Grenade Launcher

In the mid 1930s, an automatic grenade launcher made by engineer Taubin was tested in the USSR. There were some good things about it, like a satisfactory shrapnel radius for grenades and a high rate of fire: 436 RPM! However, there were also many problems. It jammed a lot (7.2% of the shots), and the extractor had to be replaced 30 times over 587 shots. The precision, especially on the horizontal axis, was unsatisfactory.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

U-20 Requirements

"Tactical-technical characteristics for the development of an experimental prototype of the oscillating part of the 85 mm AA gun on a T-34 tank chassis to create a self propelled anti-tank gun

November 7th, 1941
  1. The oscillating part of the 85 mm mod. 1939 AA gun will be installed on a T-34 tank chassis (with engine) without changes.
  2. The gun mount must meet the following requirements:
    1. Horizontal arc: 360 degrees
    2. Vertical range: from -8 to +30 degrees
    3. Aiming speed from one turn of the flywheel:
      1. Vertical: 1.2 degrees
      2. Horizontal: 3 and 7 degrees

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Light SPGs

"Decision of the meeting held by the Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, Marshall of the Soviet Union, comrade Kulik
May 23rd, 1941

1. It is necessary to have four kinds of SPGs:
  1. SPAAGs
  2. Assault guns
  3. Tank destroyers
  4. Bunker busters

Monday, 6 November 2017

17-pounder vs. 17-pounder

The CACRU (Canadian Armoured Corps Reinforcement Unit) ordered a few 17-pounders for training. A 17-pounder is a 17-pounder, right? Well, it turns out, not so much.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

British Tank for Soviet Infantry

On September 29th, 1941, the first regular Arctic convoy departed from Britain to the USSR. It was indexed PQ-1. On October 11th, 11 transport ships arrived at Arkhangelsk, where they delivered 193 Hawker Hurricane fighters and other military cargo. Among it were 20 Matilda III and Valentine II tanks. So began the delivery of the Valentine tank, which became the most numerous British tank in the Red Army. 

Friday, 3 November 2017

Infantry Sweet Spot

The Valentine infantry tank was the most common British tank of WWII. Like the Matilda, it didn't last long as a front line tank in the British army, but commander versions and SPGs on the chassis made it to Germany. Its career in other countries was even more eventful. The Red Army used them until the end of the war, and they were widely used in the Pacific theater of war. In some nations, these tanks served as training tanks until the 1950s. What was the history of the creation of this extraordinary tank, and how did the first modifications of the Valentine serve?

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Foreign Aid

A lot of attention is aimed at the numbers for Lend-Lease aid received by the USSR in WWII, but what about the aid received by the Russian Empire during WWI? Despite being a much less discussed topic, the numbers are, in some cases, much greater than the LL ones. RGAE-413-12-8605 has the info we need.

Import to Russia
Import to the USSR

  1. Aircraft (various)

  1. Aircraft motors

  • 76 mm cannons
  • Cannons of all calibers

  1. Bomb launchers and mortars

  • Machineguns (various)
  • AA machineguns


  • Rifles (various)
  • Submachineguns (various) and AT rifles

  1. Shells (various)

  1. Cartridges (various)

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Tiger vs IS

I've had so many articles about IS-2s shooting up Tigers, it's only fair to do one on the other way around. This IS-2 was lost by the 72nd Independent Guards Heavy Tank Regiment on May 1st, in Khotymyr. Judging by the amount of impacts on its armour, it didn't give up without a fight.

From the front, we see three hits: two nonpenetrating hits to the hull, one from 1200 meters and one from 1100 meters. A hit to the front of the turret penetrated.

This side shows only one impact: a nonpenetrating hit on the upper side from 1100 meters. The hole in the turret is a pistol port, not a breach.

A closer look at the 1100 m ricochet and a penetrating shot to the side of the turret from 200 meters. The performance of the armour is pretty good. No cracking, the breaches are clean, and, most importantly, the Tigers could only make a kill from suicidally close range. Even at the range where the Tigers were bouncing off the IS-2's armour, the D-25T could literally rip their turrets off

Monday, 30 October 2017

Pak 40 Discovery

"To the Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, Lieutenant General of the Tank Forces, comrade Fedorenko
August 18th, 1942

I report that, according to documents, the German army possesses 7.5 cm mod. 1940 anti-tank guns.

The gun fires regular 7.5 cm mod. 1939 armour piercing rounds, 7.5 cm mod. 1938 HEAT rounds, special 7.5 cm mod. 1940 armour piercing rounds (with a hardened core), and 7.5 cm mod. 1934 HE rounds.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Multiturreted Independence

Towards the end of WWI, the French reached first place in the heavy tank development race. A little longer, and the FCM 2C would have seen combat. The French created the first breakthrough tank in the world, which combined powerful armament with armour that, at the time, could be considered shellproof. In addition, the French vehicle became the first multiturreted tank in the world, and its main turret was large enough for three men.

In Britain, the runner up trendsetter, took a different path in the creation of heavy tanks: improvement of the tried and true "rhombus" design. It was soon obvious that this path led to a dead end. The next British heavy tank, the A1E1 Independent, gained not just a turret, but five of them.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Heavyweight Brainstorming

During the years of WWII, American industry made excellent light and medium tanks. SPGs built on their chassis were no less excellent. The only field where American engineers encountered misfortune was the development of heavy tanks. Although the Heavy Tank M6 was built, and even entered service, it was quickly left behind. The tank turned out to be too heavy and insufficiently mobile, without a place in American tank doctrine. Nevertheless, work on American heavy tanks never stopped, and projects like the Chrysler K kept coming.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

MG-42 Manual

"Translation of a German document captured 3 km east of Rosino on December 1st, 1942, among documents of the 10th infantry company, 174th infantry regiment, 81st infantry division.

Directions on shooting from the MG-42 machinegun

The high rate of fire of the MG-42 results in a large consumption of ammunition. Use it with great discipline, and remember the following:

MG-42 as a hand-held machinegun

The high rate of fire of the MG-42 results in difficulty while aiming, due to the shaking after firing. Fire in short bursts. The best amount appears to be 5-7 rounds, as the machinegunner is capable of holding the gun in the direction of the target for that long. After 7 rounds, the dispersion cone deviates from the target, resulting in a larger amount of wasted ammunition.

Conclusion: short bursts with re-acquisition of the target.

In order to prevent the stock from slipping off your shoulder, do the following:
  • Place the bipod well
  • Press the stock firmly to your shoulder
  • Place your feet well
When firing on the move, the machinegunner needs to lean forward. The machine gun must be held by the belt, and must be firmly pressed towards the body with the right hand.

MG-42 as a mounted machinegun

Sustained aimed fire is not possible due to the high rate of fire and shaking of the gun. The dispersion cone moves away after 70 shots. Bursts longer than 70 rounds in length result in a waste of ammunition. Because of this, bursts should be limited to 70 shots, with rapid re-acquisition of the target afterwards. 

The resulting rapid heating of the barrel requires replacing the barrel after 200 rounds. 

In order to impede the shifting of the dispersion cone while kneeling or sitting, it is recommended to place two ammunition boxes on the middle leg of the gun mount.

Signature illegible

Send to:
  1. Army headquarters: 1
  2. All regiments that received MG-42s: 10
  3. All regiments that have not yet received MG-42s: 1
Note: The tactical-technical data on the MG-42 is missing. According to an interrogation from December 4th, 1942 (Bryansk Front), the MG-42 is allegedly a modernization of the MG-34. 

The MG-42 is heavier by one kilogram than the MG-34. Externally, the MG-42 differs little from the MG-34. Allegedly, the rate of fire of the MG-42 reaches 1600 RPM. Verification is required.

Confirmed: Senior assistant of the Chief of the 1st Department of the 3rd Directorate of the Red Army GRU, Colonel Dubenko."

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

85 mm vs Soviet Tanks

We saw how the Soviet 85 mm 52-K gun performed against the Tiger, but does the domestic KV-1 do any better?

"Shooting at KV-1 and T-34 hulls from the 85 mm gun

KV-1 and T-34 tanks were fired upon by armour piercing tracer shells from 1500 m. Results are given in table #4

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

German SPG Intel

"Information notice #34

Information on enemy armameng

1. German 42 mm anti-tank gun mod. 1941

According to information obtained from various sources, the Germans use a 42 mm anti-tank gun mod. 1941 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Sherman Engines

Things like fuel efficiency and average speed don't really come up much in most tank encyclopedias, which is a shame, since these are very important characteristics in the real world. The Americans, in their investigations of a new engine, were kind enough to provide these figures for a few Sherman tanks for us.

RG 24 C-2 vol 12290 1/TK CRUISER/1

These numbers are interesting on their own, but let's compare them numbers obtained in Soviet trials

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Exhibit with a History

The German Tiger tank currently on display in Saumur is one of only six tanks of this type that survive to this day. Out of the six, the history of this one is the most interesting. This tank fought with two armies on both sides of the front, and had its own personal names.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Pz.Kpfw. Löwe: The German Lion

During the Third Reich, the German tank building school was defined, in part, by monsters such as the Maus and E-100. However, the German system of armament from the 1930s had no superheavy monsters like these, and no heavy tanks at all. In the second half of the 1930s, the plan was to have two types of light tanks and two types of medium tanks. How did Germany end up with monsters like the Pz.Kpfw. Löwe, and how were they developed?

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Full Auto SVT

"Conclusions on the proving ground trials of 7.62 mm automatic rifles, converted from semi-automatic rifles, with 10-15 round magazines showed that:
  1. Groups at 100 meters when firing in bursts increase by 3-3.5 times.
    At 300 meters, only 25-30% of the bullets strike a 3x3 meter target.
    At 500 meters, up to 30% of the bullets strike a 3.5-4 meter target.
    While shooting with a 15 round magazine, grouping gets worse, and it is difficult to fire while prone due to the protruding magazine.
  2. When shooting at targets, only the first bullet hits.
  3. The ability to aim is limited to 50 shots over the span of one minute. After that, the barrel overheats, and a mirage effect is achieved, which impedes aiming.
  4. The automatic rifle jams:
    1. With thick grease: 2-4% of the time
    2. With dry parts: 12-14%
    3. In dusty conditions: 14-50%
    4. While aiming up or down: 8-12%
  5. The barrel life is 6000 rounds when firing 50 rounds per minute, after which the rifle was allowed to cool. Continuous fire brings the life down to 150-200 rounds.
As a result of trials, it was concluded that:
  1. Is is not viable to create an automatic rifle from a semi-automatic one by modifying the trigger group.
  2. It is only possible to aim with such an automatic rifle when using a thickened barrel and lightened bipod.
  3. When converting a semi-automatic rifle to fully automatic by only modifying the trigger group, its combat usefulness decreases to less than that of a submachinegun.
  1. Due to the decreased combat usefulness, conversion of a semi-automatic rifle to a fully automatic one is not rational.
  2. In order to reach required density of fire with a high probability of hitting the target, it is better to use submachineguns, which have the advantages of simpler production, higher reliability, compactness, high magazine capacity, larger stocks of ammunition, etc."

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Pak 43 Problems, Round 2

Issues with the size and weight of the Pak 43 came up before. The slightly smaller and lighter Pak 43/41 had the same issues.

"Use of 88 mm Pak 43/41 (towed) during mobile combat operations

Data in instruction 18/9 issued on June 27th, 1943, "directions on applying and using the 88 mm Pak 43/41 (towed) can only be used on stabilized sections of the front, and proved themselves in this respect.

On the other hand, experience in recent battles shows that the weapons are only of limited usefulness in mobile warfare, and one should not follow the aforementioned instructions.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Improved Tractor

"To the Chief of the 3rd Departmetn of the GAU UMT
Engineer-Major comrade Bozilenko

On the issue of trials of the ATZ-3T tractor

I inform you in this letter that the ATZ-3T tractor, designed and assembled at the ATZ on the 1TA tractor base was subjected to factory trials and drove for 400 km along various roads and mountain terrain. The tractor was assembled by means of mounting new components on an altered chassis of a prior experimental tractor. The gearbox and other transmission mechanisms, suspension, and other components were taken from an existing tractor without changed, and had already worked for 700 hours. The altered components of the tractor worked well, without breakdowns or defects, and are in good condition even now.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Penetration: British Edition

On March 31st, 1944, a demonstration of various British vehicles was held at the Lulworth proving grounds in Great Britain. The usual fare of British and American tanks were accompanied by something a little more exotic.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Schwere Feldhaubitze 18: Heavyweight Senior

The German 150 mm heavy s.F.H. 18 heavy howitzer left a mark on the history of artillery. Developed in secret, given a made up name, combining excessive weight with excellent ballistics and reliability, this gun was one of the main pillars of German artillery in WWII, and continues to fight to this day in the Syrian Civil War. How did its history begin?

Friday, 13 October 2017

Tankbüchse 41: Rifle or Cannon?

Neutral Switzerland understood the fragility of its sovereignty perfectly well during WWII. However, in case of an invasion, the Alpine confederacy expected to go down fighting. In reinforcing its country's army, the Swiss arms industry created a number of interesting weapons, which include the Tankbüchse 41.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Hammer Time

Here are some document excerpts regarding the PTRD bolt-action anti-tank rifle, that a lot of modern milsurp collectors might feel empathy with.

"Recent reports from the fronts, regions, and armies remark on cases where Simonov and Degtyaryev ATRs do not work
Experience shows that when using PTRs in summer conditions, even when maintaining them according to section 1, there are rifles that do not extract freely. In order to continue use of the weapon, authorize soldiers to apply wooden mallets."

"Experimental PTRD from factory #74. 610 rounds were fired in various conditions, and 189 extractions (31%) had to be performed with a mallet. The report stated "This PTRD works unsatisfactorily in any conditions". Another PTRD from the factory earned the review "This PTRD works exceptionally unsatisfactorily in any conditions". Out of 275 shots, 264 needed a wooden mallet (96%).
The third PTRD managed to surpass that result. "The lifetime of the rifle was 43 shots. Every extraction needed the mallet. After extracting the 43rd casing, the bolt handle fell off."

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

How Many Roads Must a Tank Drive Down

"Order to the forces of the 2nd Guards Tank Army

The commander of the Armoured and Motorized Forces of the 1st Belorussian Front indicated in directive #1/04210 issued on December 28th, 1944, that there were cases of tanks moving along paved roads during marches, which leads to their premature destruction.

In order to prevent the ruining of paved roads by tracked vehicles, I order that:
  1. Unit and formation commanders are forbidden from moving their tanks or tractors along paved roads.
  2. My rear echelon deputy must ensure that this order is carried out and report to the Army Military Council about every instance of movement of tractors or tanks to bring the violators to justice.
Commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army, Guards Lieutenant-General, A. Radziyevskiy
Member of the Military Council, Guards Major-General P. Latyshev
Army Chief of Staff, Guards Colonel U. Bazanov"

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

SU-122 Cost

"To UZTM Director, comrade Muzrukov
UZTM Military Representative, comrade Mitrofanov
NKTP Military Department Chief

Based on GKO decree #2559ss issued on December 2nd, 1942, you are instructed to produce and deliver products according to the attached deadlines, prices, blueprints, and technical requirements in the first quarter of 1943, totaling up to a price of 60 million rubles.

Note: the temporary cost of a SU-35 SPG for the 1st quarter, agreed upon with the NKTP, is 200,000 rubles. The cost of the cannon is not included in the price.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Cheating at Statistics 20: British Edition

The strange fact is that many people these days take German claims for gospel truth is made even stranger by the fact that skepticism was much more rampant 75 years ago.

National Defense RG 24 C-2 vol. 12305 3/REPORTS/2

To put the German claims in perspective, Soviet forces in Kerch numbered 249,800 men at their peak. According to Isayev's research, their actual losses in the spring fighting were 162,282 men, 4,646 guns and mortars, and 196 tanks. It's highly unlikely that the stragglers that continued fighting after the collapse of the front  managed to dig up thousands of tanks out of thin air. If these kind of claims aren't "greatly inflated", then I am greatly looking forward to seeing what the British thought was excessive overclaim. 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Medium Tank M3

The American army had only a handful of medium tanks at the start of WWII. That does not mean that American designers ignored vehicles of this class. In the summer of 1939, the Medium Tank M2 entered production. Only 18 units were built, but it turned out to be the start of a new era for American tank building. The layout of its chassis became the foundation of American medium tanks. In 1940, the superior Medium Tank M2A1 was built, although it was already obsolete at the time. Based on that design, American engineers built the Medium Tank M3, the first mass produced American medium tank. The tank and its modifications only lasted in production for a year and a half, but its unusual looks made it a landmark of tank design. There are many opposing opinions about the tank, so let us approach it as neutrally as possible.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Light Tank M5: The Peak of Evolution

Rapid advances in armoured vehicles during WWII meant that even very good designs did not stay at the top for long. This was especially noticeable in American tank building. In 1939, the Light Tank M2 and Combat Car M1 were at the top of technical progress, but they were replaced with the Light Tank M3 by the time the USA entered the war in late 1941. In 1942, the Light Tank M3A1 entered production, but it did not last long as America's main light tank. At the end of 1942, the Light Tank M5 was there to replace it, the last of the descendants of the Light Tank M2.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

KV-1S Costs

"To the Director of the Kirov factory, comrade Makhonin
Regional GABTU engineer at the Kirov factory, Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonel comrade Kozyrev

Notice #B1-521
October 16th, 1942
  1. In accordance with GOKO decree #2392ss issued on October 10th, 1942, the Kirov factory must produce and deliver KV-1S and KV-8S tanks to the GABTU in the 4th quarter of 1942, in the amounts and according to deadlines outlined in the attached ledger.
    Prices, requirements, and list of equipment is given in the same ledger.
  2. The overall price of deliveries between October 1st and December 31st, 1942, according to the attached ledger, is 177,000,000 (one hundred and seventy seven million) rubles.
  3. The cost of a KV tank, 295,000 rubles, is established by USSR SNK decree #638-328ss issued on May 6th, 1942.
    The cost of a tank is determined as free-on-board at the station, including container and packaging.
  4. In all else, the conditions established in agreement #B1-081 on February 7th, 1942, remain in effect.
  5. This notice is an inseparable addendum to agreement #B1-081, signed on February 7th, 1942.
Attachment: ledger on two pages.

Deputy Chief of the GABTU, Major-General of the Tank Forces, Korobkov

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Cancellation of the SG-122

"To the State Committee of Defense, comrade V.M. Molotov
January 3rd, 1943

GOKO decree #2429ss issued on October 19th, 1942, which began domestic SPG development, also approved production of 120 SG-122 122 mm self propelled howitzers on the chassis of the captured German Artshturm at factory #592.

Factory #592, due to a lack of necessary organization, failed to complete this task, and produced only 6 SPGs, fulfilling a separate GAU order.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Lend Lease Impressions: 57 mm M1 Anti-tank Gun

"57 mm M1 Anti-tank Gun

American 57 mm M1 Anti-tank Gun

The gun has a semiautomatic vertical sliding breech, the semiautomatic mechanism is a mechanical type. The mount has split trails. The gun fires one-piece armour piercing shot (without explosive filler).

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Unlucky SPG from Mytishi

On December 2nd, 1942, GKO decree #2559ss "On organization of production of self propelled guns (SPGs) at the Uralmash factory and factory #38" was signed. It became the final point in the long history of Soviet medium SPGs, which started out as tank destroyers, but turned into assault guns in the spring of 1942. On GKO's orders, the U-35, designed by the UZTM design bureau, was put into production, even though it had not even entered trials yet. This kind of order is explained by the desperate need for these kind of vehicles in the Red Army. Interestingly, instead of Sverdlovsk, Mytishi could have become the center for medium SPG development. The SPGs designed at factory #592 were, at the very least, no worse than those designed in Sverdlovsk.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Through Adversity to the SU-122

It was clear by the spring of 1942 that work on a medium SPG on the T-34 chassis with an 85 mm gun in a rotating turret hit a dead end. The result of this work, which started back in the summer of 1940, was the U-20, which the military considered unsatisfactory. The project didn't leave the drawing board. Later, development of Soviet SPGs took a different path. A significant influence was the study of a captured StuG III Ausf. B. Later, factory #592 built a Soviet version on its chassis, called SG-122. It was clear, however, that converting foreign vehicles was not the end.

Friday, 29 September 2017

SU-26: Blockade Long-Liver

The start of the Great Patriotic War in the summer of 1941 forced many changes onto the prospective designs of Soviet SPGs. Many branches were cancelled, and work on the ZIS-30 SPG on the Komsomolets tractor platform was urgently started. Until then, it was not considered as an SPG platform at all. However, one SPG that was designed according to pre-war plans was not only built, but mass produced. This is a vehicle best known under the name SU-26. Its real name, T-26-6, was buried deep in the archives.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Cromwell Production Intel

"Report on production of Cromwell tanks

Based on existing information, we can estimate the rate of production of Cromwell tanks.

Cromwell tanks have been built in three varieties since June of 1942: Cromwell, Centaur, and Cavalier. The Nuffield Organization factory group builds 500 tanks per month on average across 8 assembly plants. From the start of production, this group produced 3000 Cromwell tanks.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Flamethower Tanks, 1940

"Report on the current and prospective equipment of tanks with flamethrowers and chemical trailers

1. Mass production

1. Purpose of KhT-130 and KhT-133 tanks:
  1. Burning out strongholds
  2. Destroying personnel
  3. Putting up smokescreens to hide movements of mechanized forces
  4. Can be used to place persistent poisonous substances
2. The following are armed with KhT-130 and KhT-133 tanks:
  1. Independent flamethrower battalions in tank regiments (27 tanks)
  2. Independent flamethrower battalions in tank brigades (51 tanks)

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Kalashnikov vs. Schmeisser: For the Umpteenth Time

The installation of a monument to the famous Soviet and Russian arms designer, M.T. Kalashnikov, was followed by a whole chain of scandals. Recently, Yuri Pasholok pointed out an unfortunate mistake that was made by the sculptor, who placed an exploded diagram of a Sturmgewehr on the monument to the creator of the AK. All of this led back to the question that was answered for anyone who is even slightly interested in the history of small arms long ago. Nevertheless, serious flamewars broke out, so it's time to, once again, explain the differences in the two designs, and how it turned out that an unknown sergeant's gun ended up as a symbol of the USSR, which is still relevant in modern Russia.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Light Paper SPGs

As with many other Soviet SPGs, the path to the SU-76 was not easy. Initially, the two-turreted T-26 tank would be used as the chassis for an infantry support vehicle. Later, the T-50 joined in the plans. The situation after the start of the war forced the concept of the SPG to change urgently. Instead of a light infantry support SPG, the ZIS-30 appeared, a tank destroyer on the Komsomolets tractor chassis. Designers only returned to the topic of a multipurpose SPG towards the end of 1941. The SU-12, the first production variant of the SU-76, did not come about on the first try. This article tells the story of vehicles that were dead ends, without even being produced in metal.

Friday, 22 September 2017

The Road to SU-76

The T-50 tank was considered the highest priority platform for light SPGs in the pre-war Soviet Union. However, a proposal for an SPG chassis based on the T-40 amphibious reconnaissance tank was made at a meeting on June 9th, 1941. The idea was quickly abandoned, and, a few weeks later, the USSR was too busy for the T-50 SPG. Suddenly, the first wartime light Soviet SPG turned out to be the ZIS-30, which used the chassis of the Komsomolets artillery tractor. Due to the cancellation of artillery tractors, the idea of building an SPG using T-40 components came out of retirement. The result was a small family of experimental vehicles, such as the SU-31 SPAAG and SU-32 SPG.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Spare Barrels

It's no secret that guns have a limited lifespan. Shot out barrels have to be occasionally replaced. Aside from entire tanks, the Soviets received replacement barrels to perform repairs of foreign weapons. The table shows the number of barrels received in the denominator, the number used up in the numerator, the total in the second last column, and the surplus in the last column.

CAMD RF 38-11369-1

The items are as follows:
76 mm howitzer
76 mm gun
75 mm gun
57 mm gun
40 mm gun
37 mm gun
12.7 mm MG
7.62 mm MG
7.92 mm MG
7.7 mm MG
11.43 mm SMG

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

German Heavy Tank Intel

"To the chief of the operations department
Information #19

Description of new tanks used by the German army

According to information obtained by 10th Army HQ Reconnaissance Department, German tank units are being armed with new types of tanks:
  1. T-6 tank. Mass: up to 65 tons. Speed: 35 kph. Armament: one 88 mm cannon, one 20 mm AA gun in the rear. Four MG-42 machineguns. The tank is armoured with concrete in front and on the sides. The tank had a smokescreen device.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

KV-3 Mulligan

"Proposal regarding the decree issued to the Kirov and Izhor factories
  1. The Kirov and Izhor factories propose a new tank instead of the KV-3 approved by USSR SNK and CC or the VKP(b) decree #548-2332ss issued on March 15th, 1941, with increased armour according to USSR SNK and CC or the VKP(b) decree #827-345ss issued on April 7th, 1941.
  2. This tank will effectively be a KV-4 tank in armament, dimensions, transmission and suspension design, engine power, and overall layout, but with thinner armour.
  3. Decree #827-345ss issued on April 7th, 1941 ordered production of KV-3 tanks in 1941 that only differed in armament and armour thickness from the KV-1 and KV-2, so that factories could produce tanks they were used to, with the aim of producing KV-4 and KV-5 tanks in 1942.
  4. I consider it reasonable to leave the KV-3 with 120 mm of armour in the front and 90 mm in the side, armed with the 76 mm ZIS-5 gun, built using KV-1 components, according to attached tactical-technical characteristics.
Chief of the Main Auto and Armour Directorate of the Red Army, Lieutenant-General of the Tank Forces, Fedorenko

Monday, 18 September 2017

Lend Lease Impressions: 37 mm M3 Anti-Tank Gun

37 mm M3 Anti-Tank Gun

"37 mm M3 Anti-Tank Gun

The gun has a vertical sliding breech without a semiautomatic mechanism. The mount has split trails, and the wheels can elevate above the ground in battle position. The wheels are equipped with pneumatic tires. The suspension is rigid. 

The following is a table of the main characteristics of the American and German 37 mm guns, as well as our 45 mm mod. 1937 gun.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

45 with a Long Nose

The history of this anti-tank gun began with work done on personal initiative in December of 1941. Before mass production and service on the front lines, the gun, indexed M-42, defeated several similar weapons in trials, including some that were easier to produce, and became the main 45 mm gun of the Red Army.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Big Dreams, Small Chassis

Despite the difficulty with which the Soviet T-40 amphibious reconnaissance tank entered production, designers considered the platform quite promising. The T-40 chassis would be used to produce the GAZ-22 artillery tractor, which would eventually replace the Komsomolets. The fact that the T-40 was also seen as an SPG platform was less well known. Most of the designs remained on paper, but at least one was produced in a small batch.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

SMG Showdown

In December of 1941, the Soviets decided to test a bunch of SMGs. The SMGs were as follows:
"Model 1940" (PPD)
"Model 1941" (PPSh)
Bergman BMP-34 #260
Schmeisser 18/28 #77598
(They also had something called an Esti, but no ammunition for it).

"Firing of the Esti submachinegun was not performed, due to a lack of ammunition for it. 

The results of trials are attached in table 5. Average results are summarized in the following table.

Type of fire
Group center offset
Mod. 1940
Mod. 1941
Bergmann BMP-34
Schmeisser 18/28

The data shows that the best precision, either when shooting in bursts or in single fire, is achieved by the Neuhausen submachinegun.
The worst precision results were achieved by the model 1940 submachinegun."

Via Andrei Ulanov.