Sunday, 18 November 2018

Three in Transition

The German Z.W.38 medium tank that entered production in early 1939 was having a hard time on the assembly line. The PzIII Ausf.E was better than its predecessors, but still had a large number of drawbacks. It turned out that driving at a speed greater than 40 kph resulted in rapid destruction of road wheels rims. There were also issues with the gearbox that had to be solved during production. Nevertheless, the PzIII gradually became the backbone of the German tank forces. The subsequent Ausf.G and Ausf.H variants became steps on the way to more numerous models of this vehicle. These tanks were the most numerous German tanks during the first year of the Great Patriotic War.

Friday, 16 November 2018

T-34 Radio

"Minutes of the Meeting of the Military Commission on March 3rd, 1940, on the trials of the A-34 tank
...

It was established that:
  1. The position of the radio in the turret does not allow for proper work due to it being inconvenient to use the radio. The position of the radio does not permit the radio operator to do his job and overloads the commander, distracting him from his job. The location of the radio in the turret does not satisfactorily resolve the issue of radio communication.
  2. The 71TK-3 radio installed in the tank is bulky and takes up a lot of space. The 71TK-3 radio is complex to produce and difficult to use (takes two hands to operate, individual receiver and transmitter units, lack of a duplex). The commission considers it necessary to ask the ABTU and Communications Directorate to ask the industry to produce a special tank radio that would satisfy requirements (compactness, simplicity of use, reliability when working at long range).
  3. In order to better solve the issue of tank communication, the commission deems it necessary to ask the factory to develop a variant of installing the 71TK-3 radio in A-34 and A-32 tanks in the front. Produce the reworked radio installation variant no later than May 1st, 1940."

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Vodka Thieves

"Decree of the Military Council of the 1st Belorussian Front #0119
June 30th, 1944
Active Army

On the punishment of the Chief Quartermaster of the 186th Rifle Division, Major of the Intendant Service, Lev Yefremovich Goldberg and Chief Quartermaster of the 238th Rifle Regiment, 186th Rifle Division, Captain of the Intendant Service Petr Alekseevich Paut, for abusing their positions.

As Chief Quartermaster of the 186th RD, Major Goldberg regularly issued vodka illegally to various persons, distributing 234 L of vodka this way in three months. Partially, this shortfall was compensated by an agreement with the Chief Quartermaster of the 238th regiment of that division, Captain Paut, by composition of fictional documents regarding the issue of vodka.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Power Steering

"September 4th, 1938
#288201

To: Deputy People's Commissar of Defense Industry, comrade Tevosyan

The ABTU is undertaking a series of experiments regarding installation of servo devices on tanks that make it significantly easier to steer. We consider it time to raise the question of preparing factory #183 for production of tanks with servo controls.

This work must include the joint development of blueprints of servo mechanisms this year between factory #183 and NII-20 and the production of a BT-7 sample tank with servo controls. Assembly of the sample tank will be preceded by all necessary trials of these mechanisms. All improvements requested during trials on proving grounds and during service must be implemented.

We ask you to give the necessary directions to factory #183.

ABTU Chief, Corps Commander Pavlov
ABTU Military Commissar, Divisional Engineer Alliluyev"

Monday, 12 November 2018

Zamulin on Losses

Zamulin: "For example, the talk of five tanks that the Germans lost on July 12th. Losses of both sides at Prokhorovka on July 12th is a significant and still unsolved mystery. The claims of Western researchers that the SS Corps lost only 5 tanks on July 12th is nonsense. This evaluation is based on, first of all, the absence of necessary documents. There are no document for the divisions. Either they were destroyed, or they were never written, or they are lying somewhere where researchers have not gotten to them yet. Documents that state precisely how much the SS Corps lost on July 12th does not exist. Yes, we know how much the corps had on the evening of July 11th, and how much they had on the 13th, in the afternoon. We can estimate the amount of losses, but this estimate is a bit of a cheat. Why?

I spoke with, I personally know very well and spoke with this man, about this issue, a participant in the battle from the German side, the commander of the 7th company of the Leibstandarte tank regiment, Rudolph von Ribbentrop. "

Interviewer: "Ribbentrop's son?"

Zamulin: "Yes, his eldest son. He came to me with Artem Drabkin in 2015 to Prokhorovka field, we walked around, I drove him around these places. I asked a question about tanks. He said "I cannot speak for every division. I can say that officially my company had 4 tanks on the 11th, that's it. Immediately before the attack, another PzIV was given to me that was not recorded in any papers. I also received a message that after some time another tank will arrive. Turns out there was six. It's impossible to, based on the data by Swedish researches, this book that came out, Zetterling and Frankson, it says that they analyzed the documents and on the evening of the 11th Leibstandarte had only 77 vehicles, but that was in the evening and only based on documents. We have no idea what the division looked like at that moment. Ribbentrop says that two more tanks came in the morning, regular tanks that took part in the fighting."

Interviewer: "And how many came to other companies?"

Zamulin: "Exactly, yes, and how many arrived during the day? Consider that Leinstandarte's tanks effectively played the role of stationary guns that day. They fired through an anti-tank ditch and fought at a large distance, and I don't think that if Leibstandarte took losses these would be losses that could not be repaired after some amount of time, but they were losses nevertheless. Imagine if two corps, the 18th and 29th, they had 360 tanks together, attacking in echelons. 150 in one, 150 in another, and combined arms divisions from the 5th Guards Army behind them. All of this was moving and shooting. Positional fighting, counterattacks, imagine that 360 tanks over 10 hours, and this is just tanks, to say nothing of artillery, knocked out only 5 enemy tanks. How?"

Interviewer: "Maybe 5 were total losses. They'll never tell."

Zamulin: "Exactly, now we come to this. Maybe it was only total losses. Maybe it was a fabrication. Maybe it was something else."

Interviewer: "It's hard with German losses in general. These 10-day reports..."

Zamulin: "Yes, yes. But look at what's published in the media. The Welt German newspaper, the Russian edition at least, published a teeth-shattering article for the 75th anniversary where it said that the Russians lost Prokhorovka based on Töppel and Frieser's research, the former Bundeswehr military historian, retired colonel, he also writes about five tanks and so on. I consider that if the Ministry of Defense made such an unprecedented step and put so much information online for free access, we must perform a complete, thorough, and scrupulous investigation, to understand for ourselves..."

Source

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.E through F: The First Mass Medium

In the 1930s only the USSR and Japan managed to spin up mass production of medium tanks, producing several hundred of their respective types. In other armies the creation of medium tanks hit significant difficulties. For instance, the main German Z.W. tank had big problems, primarily with the suspension. As a result, the production of the tank, accepted into service as the PzIII, slipped. The situation changed only in the fall of 1939 when German factories began producing the PzIII Ausf. F. This was the first German medium tank that was produced in the amount of over 400 units. At the same time, it was the first German tank that was produced by six factories at the same time.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Small Arms Reconnaissance

"Translated from German
206th Infantry Division
Division HQ
February 19th, 1944

Daily order #4

The capture and delivery of Russian submachinegun 43 to Army HQ is considered a task of great importance. As motivation for the capture and delivery of submachinegun 43, it is recommended to offer special leave as described in section 25 of combined army news.

The captured weapon must be delivered to the division along with the magazine and cleaning device.

(Signature illegible)

Translated by translator of the intelligence department of the 1st Baltic Front, Guards Captain Figelman
October 1st, 1944"

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

New Tracks

"Report #014
Bureau 540
May 21st, 1940

On trials of cast Hadfield steel tracks on the A-34 tank
...

2. Trials
  1. A set of tracks composed of track links cast from Hadfield steel was installed on the A-34 tank #311-18-3, which travelled over 417 km between May 12th and May 17th, 1940, of which 195 was on dirt roads, 80 was on sand roads, and 142 was on a cobblestone highway. The average speed of driving on the dirt road was 22.9 kph, the average speed of driving on the cobblestone highway was 37 kph.
  2. The following took place during the travel: rivets bursting and loss of 50% or rivets, cases of pins wobbling out of the eyes (2 cases at the start of the trials, the first at 61 km, the second at 120 km). The wobbling is explained by the fact that the pins have not yet broken in thanks to the large gap between the eye and the pin (18 +/- 1 mm, while the pin is 18 +/- 0.12 mm thick). In addition, the tracks were tightened three times.
  3. Tracks composed of cast track links were subjected to special trials on cobblestones, consisting of the following:
    1. Driving on the cobblestone highway in 4th gear at 1700-1800 RPM.
    2. 3 trials of braking while moving in 4th gear at 1700-1800 RPM.
    3. Driving over stones (cobblestones).
While driving on a cobblestone highway at 1700-1800 RPM at a speed of 36-37 kph, the tank had travelled for 111 km. No defects were discovered along the way, aside from lost track pin splints.

Braking: 
  1. Braking was performed while travelling at 1600 RPM with a headstart of 300-350 meters. The braking distance was 7 meters. No defects were discovered.
  2. Braking was performed while travelling at 1800 RPM with a headstart of 360-400 meters. The braking distance was 12 meters over 4 seconds. No defects were discovered.
  3. Braking was performed while travelling at 1800 RPM with a headstart of 250-300 meters. The braking distance was 12 meters over 5 seconds. No defects were discovered.
In addition to this, the tank drove over stones that were additionally piled onto the cobblestone highway. The tank drove over the stones, and no defects were discovered.

After the trials ended, the tracks were taken off and the right track was inspected carefully. 50% of track pin splints were lost. The track was taken apart and each link was examined with a magnifying glass.

Results of the inspection:
  1. The flat tracks have no cracks from impacts and driving on the cobblestone highway, or any other mechanical damage.
  2. The tracks with teeth, of the 37 inspected, have the following:
    1. 6 have no cracks or damage.
    2. 29 have tracks along the wheel contact surface near the base of the tooth from the side of contact of the tooth and the drive wheel, 10 mm to 40 mm in length.
    3. 2 have cracks down to the middle.
      The cracks at the base of the tooth are all of the same type. This means that the track link with a tooth has a weak point in the base of the tooth that must be reinforced. This is a design defect.
    4. To compare, stamped track links that have been through 3131 km of trials were inspected. Out of 40 inspected track links, only one crack was found, 15-20 mm long, on the first track link near the tooth.
Measurements were made of the pins and eyes of the cast tracks, the results were as follows:

Item
Distance travelled in km
Average wear in mm
Maximum wear in mm
Cast link pin
417
0.25
0.48
Cast link eye
417
0.34
0.62
Stamped link pin
3131
1.2
1.34
Stamped link eye
3131
1.22
1.34
The table of average wear of track link pins and eyes shows that the pins of the cast track links are worn down less than the eyes, but on stamped links the pins and eyes wear down at the same rate. Larger wear on the cast tracks is a disadvantage of the Hadfield steel track links, as it is desirable to replace the pins rather than the links when refurbishing tracks.

Note: the data on the wear of the pins and eyes of either the cast Hadfield tracks or the stamped Chromansil tracks cannot be considered definitive, as the stamped tracks were tested in winter conditions and the cast tracks were tested in the summer.

Conclusions

Trials showed that a tank equipped with track links cast from Hadfield steel did not stop due to track breakage during the run of 417 km. The tracks composed of cast links worked well without jamming, slipping, or other defects, and in general were analogous to the stamped track performance.

The results of assembly and trials revealed that the following is necessary:
  1. Correction of casting defects (cracks, pits)
  2. Creation of cleaner casts that would allow the eyes to line up and the pins to fit without individual filing down of the track links, as had to be done for the test tracks.
  3. Ensuring a clean eye so the pins break in better.
  4. Reinforcement of the track tooth base to prevent cracks from forming in the indicated spot.
We consider that the above trials confirmed the possibility of using track links cast from Hadfield steel on the A-34 tank instead of stamped links. With the aforementioned changes, the cast links will be useable on the A-34 tank.

Track links that are cast and do not need mechanical finishing and expensive stamping equipment are easier and cheaper to make.

As for the lifespan of the cast track links, it is necessary to produce a track made of links with the aforementioned corrections and put it through warranty trials in summer conditions. At the same time, we consider it necessary for the first tracks to continue testing past the 417 km until their total destruction to determine the effect of the discovered defects on the lifespan of the tracks."


Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Winding Down

"To comrade V. Molotov

In accordance with your decree on May 15th, 1943, on the letter from GAU Chief comrade Yakovlev regarding reducing the supply of tank guns for SU-122 and SU-76 SPGs in the second quarter of 1943, I report the following:

The GAU (comrade Yakovlev) asks to reduce the quota for the second quarter compared to what was approved by the GOKO #3292 on May 6th, 1943, for production of the SU-76, SU-122, and KV-8S:
  • 76 mm ZIS-3 divisional guns: from 350 to 250
  • 122 mm M-30 mod. 1938 howitzers: from 400 to 340
Cancel the order for 30 45 mm guns with the ZIS-5 elevation mechanism completely.

Regarding the reduction of 122 mm howitzers, comrade Yakovlev refers to the closeness of factory #9 and the Uralmash factory, for which it is satisfactory to have a two-week buffer of howitzers, no more than 65 units, but the factory does not have that many.

The People's Commissar of Tank Production (comrade Zaltsmann) does not disagree with comrade Yakovlev's proposal.

The GBTU (comrade Afonin) disagrees only with the reduction of M-30 howitzer supplies to Uralmash, as the reserve at Uralmash as of May 1st is only 12 units. Given that the quota for SU-122 SPGs in the second quarter of 1943 is 315, the reduction of howitzer supplies to 340 is excessive, especially since it does not fill the GAU's reserve for two weeks of production in the amount of 65 units.

I consider it reasonable to accept the proposal of comrade Yakovlev, with the exception of maintaining the amount of M-30 howitzers at 400 units.

E. Kruglov."

Monday, 5 November 2018

Anti-tank Plans

"Directive of the Commander of Artillery of the 3rd Ukrainian Front #001931
RE: anti-tank defenses of footholds on the Dniester
May 10th, 1944

Commanders of artillery of the armies:

Temporary defensive positions of the Front demand that we take a number of measures to provide the defenses with artillery. All captured footholds on the right shore of the Dniester should be thoroughly and thoughtfully prepared for anti-tank defenses. To prevent the enemy from gathering resources, deflect attacks of infantry and tanks, and combat his artillery, it is necessary to prepare and negotiate the following systems of fire with combined arms commanders: long range attack, concentrated fire, immobile screening fire, anti-tank screening fire, both in front of our front line and in the enemy's depth. Pay special attention to the joints between the armies, corps, and divisions.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Centurions in the Jungle

The participation of Australian forces in the fighting in South Vietnam in 1965-1971 is a relatively rarely explored part of history. Even rarely is it mentioned that Australia sent its tank forces to the front, armed with British Centurion tanks. The fate of Australian Centurion Mk.5/1 tanks in the Vietnamese jungle was not a bright one, but the tanks and their crews did their job honestly.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

D-10 in the IS-2

"To the Commander of the Motorized and Mechanized Forces of the Red Army, Marshal of the Armoured Forces, comrade Ya.N. Fedorenko

Having examined the results of comparative trials of the 122 mm D-25 gun and 100 mm D-10 gun, the Red Army GAU concludes that:
  1. The rate of fire of the D-10 gun is up to three times higher than that of the D-25 gun, which is a significant advantage of the D-10 gun.
    The 100 mm D-10 gun presently has an insufficiently robust armour piercing shell, which does not guarantee reliable penetration of the Panther's armour at a range of over 1200 meters.
    The decision to install the 100 mm D-10 gun on the IS tank should be delayed until the armour piercing shell and semi-automatic mechanism of the D-10 gun are perfected.
    Since the 100 mm D-10 gun and its ammunition in its existing form are already significantly more powerful than the 85 mm D-5 gun, it is necessary to rearm the SU-85 SPG with the 100 mm D-10 gun, for which a pilot batch of SPGs with the D-10 gun should be produced with corrections of drawbacks of the gun and SPG that were revealed during trials.
  2. The 122 mm D-25 gun reliably penetrates the front armour of the Panther tank from a range of over 2000 meters.
    The armour piercing shell of this gun is sufficiently robust, and the HE grenade has a sufficient explosion and fragmentation effect.
    Until the ammunition and components of the D-10 gun are perfected, the 122 mm D-25 gun must remain as the main armament of the IS tank.
Conducting experiments with the creation of a 122 mm single piece round is reasonable, but you must consider that the use of a single piece round will require a change to the chamber, sunk part of the shell, and the casing.

The mass and dimensions of a unified 122 mm round will make the loader's job more difficult, which will definitely not increase the rate of fire of the D-25 to the level of the D-10.

Regardless of the result of comparative trials of the D-10 and D-25 guns, the installation of the S-34 gun in a tank and an SPG will continue. 

Commander of Artillery of the Red Army, Chief Marshal of Artillery, Voronov
Marshal of Artillery, Yakovlev
April 20th, 1944"

CAMD RF 38-11369-490 pp. 35-38