Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Tank Budgets

"Preparation of materiel

1. Tanks

Unit Cost
Total Cost
T-26 small tank
T-26 infantry carrier
BT fast tank
T-28 medium tank
T-35 large tank
T-75 tank
T-33 and T-41 reconnaissance tanks


Spare parts:
For tank
Total cost
T-33 and T-41
T-27 tankette
Total spare parts

Unfortunately, the source doesn't say what year this budget came from. There are some hints though. The T-33 is a precursor of the T-37A tank. A prototype was built in the spring of 1932, but the tank did not do well in trials and was not accepted for mass production. Presumably, this budget was composed shortly before the decision to not produce the tank was made. The T-41 was also an amphibious reconnaissance tank, which underwent trials in the fall of 1932. The fact that Grotte's TG-1 tank is absent from the list altogether and the T-24 is only listed in the spare part production section agrees with this timeframe. This seems about the right time that something like a superheavy tank that cost twice as much as a T-35 would still be considered viable. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

Servo Controls

"Act #013, composed on May 15th, 1940

The current act is composed by:
  • Bureau "540" researcher comrade I.S. Tomashpolskiy
  • Senior ABTU military representative at the Comintern factory, Captain P.F. Rusakov
  • ABTU military representative at department "500" comrade P.P. Baikov
  • Drivers from plant "530" comrades I.G. Bitenskiy and N.F. Nosik
  • Bureau "520" designer P.P. Vasiliev
to certify that preliminary mechanical trials of mechanical servo devices for control of an A-34 vehicle #311-18-3 were performed from May 12th to May 15th, 1940.

The servo device was designed by bureau 520 designer comrade P.P. Vasiliev and installed in the vehicle based on the author's directions, without installation blueprints.

The proposed servo system eases the effort the driver must apply to levers with the aid of a mechanical system (unlike the earlier pneumatic system), thanks to the actions of the levers and assistance springs. The servo acts when the final drives are disengaged or when the brake ribbons are tightened by the levers. In addition, a change to the return spring on the brake control rods reduced the effort applied to the brake pedal.

During trials between May 12th and May 15th the vehicle travelled 278 km on sand and dirt roads. Within that range turns and figure 8 maneuvers in 1st and 2nd gear were performed on dirt roads and in sand.

No defects in the mechanical servo device were observed during trials. The opinion of all commission members that took part in driving the vehicle, specifically the experienced test drivers, was that the proposed device of the mechanical servo on the A-34 does not require special skills or training to operate, does not cause exhaustion during driving, and does not require special calibration or difficult maintenance.

The effort applied to final drive clutches was measured with a dynamometer as follows:
  1. On hard dirt:
    1. 1st gear 360 degree turn in place: 18-24 kg
    2. 2nd gear 360 degree turn with minimum radius: 16-22 kg
  2. In shallow sand:
    1. 1st gear 360 degree turn in place: 18-30 kg
    2. 2nd gear 360 degree turn with minimum radius: 20-30 kg
Effort applied when turning in 3rd or 4th gear did not exceed 15 kg.

  1. Based on the information obtained during trials, the commission considers it reasonable to introduce the designs proposed by comrade Vasilyev into production for the A-34 instead of the pneumatic system, as it completely satisfies requirements, specifically:
    1. It is simple to produce.
    2. It does not require complex maintenance.
    3. It does not require special skills to operate.
    4. It does not tire the driver during operation.
  2. The commission deems it necessary to equip a trial batch of A-34 vehicles with mechanical servo devices instead of pneumatic.
  3. Bureau 520 must ensure maximum robustness and resistance to wear for components when producing final blueprints.
  4. In addition to the above, the commission considers it necessary for plant #540 to produce one or two sets of servo devices for reliability trials.
May 17th, 1940"

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Anti-Tank Hornet, a.k.a. Rhino

The Ferdinand was unusual among German WWII era SPGs. A number of things, such as the armament and armour, make it exceptional. However, only a small number of these SPGs was built. There were other tank destroyers armed with the same 8.8 cm Pak 43 gun, and the Germans built a whole lot more of them. One was the 8.8 cm PaK 43/1 auf Geschützwagen III/IV (Sf), otherwise known as the Hornisse (Hornet) or Nashorn (Rhino). The Nashorn was often confused for the Ferdinand, which is understandable: the SPG was not a small vehicle.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Turn up the HEAT

"To the Commander of the Corps Artillery, Commanders of Artillery Units and Formations
April 12th, 1945

Immediately issue a general order to your units to use 122 mm howitzer HEAT rounds. In addition to armoured targets, use HEAT rounds against brick buildings.

Chief of Artillery of the 47th Army, Guards Lieutenant General of Artillery, Govin
Chief of Staff of Artillery of the Army, Guards Lieutenant-Colonel Boriskov"

Wednesday, 5 December 2018


"Concluding Statement on Proving Grounds Trials of the TPU-3M tank intercom device produced by V.I. Lenin factory #197
October 9th, 1940

The commission, consisting of [names and titles] came to the following conclusions after conducting proving grounds trials:
  1. The TPU-3M prototypes meet the tactical-technical requirements set by the US and ABTU.
  2. The TPU-3M intercom device allows very satisfactory communications via radio between KV tanks at expected ranges between KV tanks both while stationary or during movement in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd gear, and satisfactory communication in 4th gear.
  3. No difference could be detected when comparing the legibility of transmissions made through the tank radio directly and those made through the TPU-3M intercom device.
  4. The TPU-3M intercom allows tank crews to communicate with each other in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gear and is satisfactory in 4th gear (some words had to be repeated).
  5. The TPU-3M intercom meets the requirements for use in tanks in terms of simplicity and reliability. The use of an MA type microphone with an activation button is difficult for the crew, especially the driver.
  6. The commission tested two angled differential throat microphones produced at factory #197 with the TPU-3M. Communication between the commander and radio operator at all speeds was satisfactory. Communication between two tanks, both in motion and stationary, was satisfactory. The commission considers it necessary to use throat microphones with the TPU-3M device.
  7. Acoustic interference in the KV tank make it necessary to connect the commander and the gunner with an intercom, as voice communication between them is difficult. NIST and factory #197 provided a layout that can provide a connection for a fourth member (gunner) to the TPU-3M device, which gave good results both in motion and while stationary. The commission considers it sensible to add the fourth member of the KV tank crew to the intercom.
  1. The commission considers that the TPU-3M tank intercom device produced by factory #197 can be put into production in 1940 after correction of defects.
  2. The commission considers that in 1941 production the TPU-3M intercom device should be equipped with a throat microphone, for which factory #197 must design a new throat microphone based on the samples tested by the commission.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

SU-100 Review

"March 12th, 1945
Comments on the use of the SU-100 SPG in combat
  1. During the fighting of the Corps from January 14th to March 10th, 1945, SU-100 SPGs were used as tanks, as the Corps fought in operative depth and was almost entirely equipped with SU-100 SPGs.
  2. The off-road mobility of the SU-100 is reduced compared to the T-34 tank, due to the increase in weight and shifting of the center of mass forward due to the longer gun and thickening of the front armour. This adds additional load on the front wheels.
    When crossing obstacles off-road, the gun can strike the ground and then the barrel bursts when firing. The gun mount can shift during sudden turns and driving on uneven terrain. There were cases of a complete breakaway of the elevation mechanism.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Tank Building Progress

"To the People's Commissar of Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union, comrade Timoshenko

I report to you regarding the progress of carrying out Central Committee of the VKP(b) decrees ## 976-368, 973-366, and 885-330 as of August 1st, 1940.

Item 1, decree #976-368 issued on June 7th, 1940
The decree orders the People's Commissar of Medium Machinebuilding comrade Lihachev to produce 600 T-34 tanks in 1940, of those:
  • 500 at factory #183
  • 100 at the Stalingrad Tractor Factory
Factory #183 must deliver 10 units in June and 20 units in July.

Progress: as of August 1st, 1940, factory #183 produced 10 T-34 tanks instead of 30 ordered by the Decree. The main reason for this shortfall is the slow rate of preparation for production at factory #183 and unfulfilled orders for instruments, devices, stamps, etc. made at GAZ, ZIS, HTZ, STZ, and other factories.
The Stalingrad Tractor Factory is starting to set up T-34 production, but has not produced any tanks. With the help of factory #183 one tank was completed and breaking in is presently in progress.

Item 2, decree #973-366 issued on June 5th, 1940
The decree orders the NKO to supply the Kirov factory with T-28 tanks without need of repairs or modernization for installation of applique armour. Provide 35 vehicles by June 5th, 50 vehicles by June 25th, including 15 vehicles already present at the factory.

Progress: as of August 1st, 1940, the Kirov factory had installed applique armour on 54 vehicles. The shipment of 50 tanks had not arrived, as the Belorussian Special Military District, which was ordered to supply the tanks, did not have enough fully ready tanks in connection with increased rates of use in recent time. Orders were given to the Kiev Special Military District to supply the tanks. The tanks have not yet arrived.

Item 3, decree #885-330 issued on June 28th, 1940
To obtain final approval of blueprints and technical requirements, instruct the People's Commissar of Defense, comrade Timoshenko, and the People's Commissar of Heavy Machinebuilding, comrade Yefremov, to form a commission for trials of a KV tank with a large turret. Trials must be held in Leningrad no later than June 15th, 1940, lasting no less than 1000 km.

Progress: trials were held in Leningrad. The tank travelled 2565 km during trials, 884 on a highway, 656 on a dirt road, and 1025 off-road. trials gave mostly satisfactory results. A number of requests were made of the factory to make improvements and finish the blueprints and technical requirements for approval. An additional report will be supplied.

Assistant Chief of the ABTU, Lieutenant-General of the Tank Forces, Fedorenko"

Saturday, 1 December 2018

The Soviet First

The birth of tank building during WWI did not go unnoticed by the Russian Empire. Pokrovshikov's Vezdekhod tank is often mentioned in this context, but this demonstration vehicle did not bring much value. The Tsar-Tank, aka Netopyr, designed by Lebedenko was equally useless. It was the largest tank in history, but its list of achievements ends there. In practice, the history of Russian tank building seriously began after the October revolution. Its first step was to copy the successful French Renault FT tank.