This article deals with the history of tanks of the Soviet Union. World War I established the validity of thetank concept. After the war, many nations needed to have tanks, but only a few had the industrial resources to design and build them. During and after World War I, Britain and France were the intellectual leaders in tank design, with other countries generally following and adopting their designs. Sony VGP-BPS13 Battery
This early lead would be gradually lost during the course of the 1930s to the Soviet Union who with Germany began to design and build their own tanks. The Treaty of Versailles had severely limited Germany's industrial output. Therefore, in order to circumvent Germany's treaty restrictions, Sony VAIO VGP-BPS13A/B Battery
these industrial firms formed a partnerships with the Soviet Union to legally produce weapons and sell them, and along with other factors inadvertently built up an infrastructure to produce tanks which later made the famous T-34 and other Russian tanks. Sony VAIO VGP-BPS13B/B Battery
Imperial Russia had flirted with some designs such as the Tsar Tank which was scraped, and the Vezdekhod(Russian: Вездеход) which did not however progress further than a pre-production model, due to problems in the design.
The final tank designs in World War I showed a number of trends such as in the US and British produced Mark VIII tank for heavy tanks. Sony VAIO VGP-BPS13/S Battery
However, the FT-17 set the pattern for almost all tanks that followed it; these tanks generally had lower track profiles, more compact hulls, and mounted their weapons in turrets. Following the Great War, Britain continued its technical dominance of tank design and British designs, Sony VAIO VGP-BPS13A/S Battery
particularly those fromVickers-Armstrong, which formed the basis for many of Russian tanks of the 1930s and early World War II and this included the Soviet T-26, and BT series. Designs such as the Vickers Medium Mk II, brought to the forefront the fully rotating turret on top and dual-use 3-pounder gun (that could fire both high-explosive and anti-tank shells) and sloped armour, Sony VAIO VGP-BPS13B/S Battery
while the Vickers Carden-Lloyd machine gun carriers influenced the tankette concept such as the Soviet T-27.
Another notable design that influenced the Russians was the Vickers A1E1 Independent, which was a large heavy tank built in 1925 and its design was used by the Soviet in building their T-28 and T-35 tanks. Sony VAIO VGP-BPS13/Q Battery
The Russian designs were also influenced by the idea common in most armies that the tank was to be used in the role of cavalry or to assist the infantry. Thus the development of light tanks that would be useful primarily against infantry or for reconnaissance were the norm. Sony VAIO VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery
The Spanish Civil War showed that tank-versus-tank engagements and tank-versus-towed antitank gun engagements would now be a major consideration. It became clear that future tanks would need to be heavily armoured and carry larger guns. Sony VAIO VGP-BPS13B/Q Battery
The Soviet Union's efforts in tank design and production must be understood in the context of the experience of the Russian Civil War and the growth of Soviet industry. During the civil war, the use of armoured trains and artillery trains was common. Sony VGP-BPS21 Battery
This tended to lead to a greater interest in tanks and armoured cars compared to some western nations. The rapid growth of heavy industry in the USSR under the Five-Year plans made a large tank fleet possible. The Soviets also spent tens of millions of dollars on U.S. equipment and technology to modernise dozens of automotive and tractor factories, Sony VGP-BPS21A Battery
which would later produce tanks and armoured vehicles. Joseph Stalin's enthusiasm for industrialisation and mechanisation drove an aggressive military development program, resulting in by far the largest and broadest tank inventory of all nations by the late 1930s. Sony VGP-BPS21B Battery
In the U.S., J. Walter Christie had developed a series of fast tanks, based on his revolutionary Christie suspensionsystem. This was combined with very high power-to-weight ratios achieved by fitting large aircraft engines in his tanks. Some of his prototypes were purchased by the Soviet Union, Sony VGP-BPS21/S Battery
and were to be developed into the BT tanks and eventually, on the eve of World War II, the famous T-34. The BT series in turn influenced the British cruiser tank designs such as the A-13 Cruiser Mk IV, Crusader, and others. Sony VGP-BPS21A/b Battery
In France, they pioneered manufacturing methods in the use of very large castings to form gun mantlets, turrets and eventually, entire tank hulls. The widespread use of casting was copied by the Russians, and led the way in rationalizing designs for fast production, eliminating unnecessary components or manufacturing steps that added little value, Sony VGP-BPS26 Battery
which later was to be incorporated in the mass production of their tanks such as the T-34.
In Soviet Russia, the so-called armoured forces (броневые силы) preceded the Tank Corps. They consisted of the mechanized armoured units (автобронеотряды) made of armored vehicles and armored trains. Sony VGP-BPL26 Battery
The country did not have its own tanks during the Civil War of 1918-1920. In January 1918, the Red Army established the Soviet of Armored Units (Совет броневых частей, or Центробронь), later renamed to Central Armored Directorate and then once again to Chief Armored Directorate (Главное броневое управление). Sony VGP-BPS26A Battery
During the Russian Civil War of 1918-1920, the Nizhny Novgorod Machine Factory built armored trains, armoured carriages, and weapons for the vessels of the Volga Military Flotilla. In 1920, the factory remanufactured fourteen burnt-out French Renault FT tanks for the Red Army, the Russkiy Renos, and assembled a single new copy, named 'Freedom Fighter Lenin'. Sony VGP-BPS22 Battery
Initially, the tanks and armoured cars in Soviet hands were a mix of FT-17 imports and a few British tanks and British-built Austins left behind in the civil war. The first conventional Soviet tank, the T-18 (sometimes called MS-1), was a fairly close copy of the French Renault FT-17, but with improved suspension and a larger turret. Sony VGP-BPL22 Battery
In 1926, under a secret annex to the Treaty of Rapallo, the Soviet Union and Germany set up a joint tank school at Kazan in the west of the Urals, which was illegal under theTreaty of Versailles. Both countries learned much about tank design and tactics in this co-operative venture. Sony VGP-BPS22A Battery
The Germans provided advice on mechanisation of Soviet heavy industry, and helped develop a sense of professionalism in the Red Army. In 1928, the Soviet Union began the production of the MS-1 tanks (Малый Сопровождения -1, where M stands for "small" and S for "convoy"). Sony VAIO PCG-3B1M Battery
In 1929, it established the Central Directorate for Mechanization and Motorization of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army. Tanks became a part of the mechanized corps at this point. From 1929, an experimental Mechanised Brigade was formed, training and developing combined-arms tactics with foreign tanks, armoured cars, tractors, and lorries. Sony VAIO PCG-3D1M Battery
A tank design bureau was established at the Kharkov Locomotive Factory (KhPZ) in Kharkiv, Soviet Ukraine, in 1928. The first tank project of the factory was the T-12 (or T-1-12). This was a larger version of the T-18, with a more powerful engine. Sony VAIO PCG-3G2M Battery
It seemed to have been done in parallel to the T-19 light tank which was also based on the FT-17. The project was re-designated T-24, work was completed fixing problems with the transmission and fuel system, and a larger turret was designed. Sony VAIO PCG-5R1M Battery
Initial trials were conducted, during which performance was found satisfactory, although the prototype's engine caught fire, and the turret had to be transferred to a T-12 prototype for further testing. Only a total of twenty-four were built during 1931. Sony VAIO PCG-7162M Battery
The T-24s were originally armed only with machine guns, until the 45 mm guns were installed in the following year.
The T-24 was found unreliable, and was used only for training and parades. Although the T-24 tank was a failure, it gave the KhPZ its initial tank design and production experience, Sony VAIO PCG-7181M Battery
which was applied much more successfully in adopting production of the U.S. Christie tank as the BT tank series, starting in 1931.
Based on a mixed force of foreign tanks and imported prototypes, the Soviets developed an impressive[according to whom?]domestic design and production capability. Sony VAIO PCG-41112M Battery
The T-26 light tank was based on the Vickers E (as were many other tanks of the period), chosen after it beat a Soviet FT derivative in trials. In spring 1930, the Soviet buying committee, under the direction of Semyon Ginzburg, had arrived in Great Britain to select tanks, tractors and cars to be used in the Red Army. Sony VAIO PCG-7153M Battery
The Vickers 6-ton was among four models of tanks selected by Soviet representatives during their visit to the Vickers-Armstrongs Company. According to the contract signed on 28 May 1930, the company delivered to the USSR 15 twin-turreted Vickers Mk.E Sony VAIO PCG-71312M Battery
(Type A, armed with two 7.71 mm water-cooled Vickers machine guns) tanks together with full technical documentation to enable series production of the tank in the USSR. The ability of the two turrets of the Type A to turn independently made it possible to fire to both the left and right at once, Sony VAIO PCG-7144M Battery
which was considered advantageous for breakthroughs of field entrenchments. Several Soviet engineers participated in assembly of the tanks at the Vickers Factory in 1930.
The Vickers-built 6-ton tanks had the designator V-26 in the USSR. Sony VAIO PCG-7191L Battery
Three British tanks were successfully tested for cross-country ability at the small proving ground near Moscow on Poklonnaya Hill in January 1931. One tank hull was tested for gunfire resistance in August 1931. Kliment Voroshilov ordered the creation of the "Special Commission Sony VAIO PCG-3C1M Battery
for the Red Army (RKKA) new tanks" under the direction of S. Ginzburg to define the tank type suitable for the Red Army. The T-19 8-ton light infantry tank, developed by S. Ginzburg under that programme at the Bolshevik Factory in Leningrad was a theoretical competitor to the British Vickers 6-Ton. Sony VAIO PCG-3F1M Battery
The first prototype of the complex and expensive T-19 was not finished until August 1931. Because both tanks had advantages and disadvantages, S. Ginzburg suggested developing a more powerful, hybrid tank (the so-called "improved" T-19) with the hull, Sony VAIO PCG-3H1M Battery
home-developed engine and armament from the native T-19, and the transmission and chassis from the British Vickers 6-ton. On 13 February 1931, the Vickers 6-Ton light infantry tank, under the designator T-26, officially entered service in the Red Army as the "main tank for close support of combined arms units and tank units of High Command reserve". Sony VAIO PCG-3J1M Battery
More than 50 different modifications and experimental vehicles based on the chassis of the T-26 light infantry tank were developed in the USSR in the 1930s, with 23 modifications going into series production. The majority were armoured combat vehicles: Sony VAIO PCG-8141M Battery
flame tanks, artillery tractors, radio-controlled tanks (teletanks), military engineering vehicles, self-propelled guns and armoured personnel carriers. Flame-throwing tanks formed around 12% of the series production of T-26 light tanks. Sony VAIO PCG-8161M Battery
The abbreviation "OT" (Ognemetniy Tank which stands for Flame-throwing Tank) appeared only in post-war literature; these tanks were originally called "KhT" (Khimicheskiy Tank which stands for Chemical Tank), or BKhM (Boevaya Khimicheskaya Mashina; Fighting Chemical Vehicle) in the documents of 1930s. Sony VAIO PCG-3C2M Battery
All chemical (flame-throwing) tanks based on the T-26 chassis (KhT-26, KhT-130, KhT-133) were designated BKhM-3. The vehicles were intended for area chemical contamination, smoke screens and for flame-throwing.
The Soviets purchased some U.S. Christie M1930 tank prototypes, from which they developed the BT series of fast tanks. Sony VAIO PCG-5N2M Battery
They also developed the heavier multi-turreted T-28 medium tank and the massive T-35, which followed the design premise of the experimental Vickers A1E1 Independent produced by Vickers for the British but not adopted. The T-28 was also greatly influenced by the A1E1 Independent. Sony VAIO PCG-5P1M Battery
The Kirov Factory in Leningrad began manufacturing the T-28 tank in 1932. The T-28 tank was officially approved on August 11, 1933. The T-28 had one large turret with a 76.2 mm gun and two smaller turrets with 7.62 mm machine guns. Sony PCG-31211T Battery
A total of 503 T-28 tanks were manufactured over a period of eight years from 1933 to 1941. The Soviets also built a design of the Carden Loyd tankette, bought under license from the United Kingdom in 1930, and made as a reconnaissance vehicle. Sony PCG-31311T Battery
The Soviets were not fully satisfied with the Carden Loyd design and made a number of changes before putting it into mass production under the designation of T-27. Compared with the British original, the hull was larger, the running gear was improved and the weapon mount was modified to take a Soviet-built 7.62 mm DT machine gun. Sony PCG-51111T Battery
The tankette was accepted into service on February 13, 1931 and the principal use of the T-27 during its service life was as a reconnaissance vehicle and was used in the Soviet republics of Central Asia during the 1930s, where the tankettes were used in campaigns against basmachis. Sony PCG-81111T Battery
However, they fairly quickly became obsolete due to the introduction of more advanced tanks. The tankette was also intended to be air-mobile. In 1935, the Soviets experimented with transporting T-27s by air, by suspending them under the fuselages of Tupolev TB-3 bombers. Sony PCG-81311T Battery
In April 1931, Vickers-Armstrongs conducted several successful tests of light, floating tanks in the presence of the press. Those early models were developed into prototypes by Carden-Loyd Tactors, Ltd., which attracted the attention of the Department of Motorization and Mechanization of the RKKA (UMMRKKA), Sony VPCF138FC Battery
because the small tank suited well to the new armament policies of the Red Army, as well as possibly being able to replace the older T-27tankette. Soviet engineers went over the prototype and later were able to purchase some and the “Selezen’” (“Drake”, Ru. “Селезень”) program was established in order to construct a similar Sony VPCF219FC Battery
amphibious tank with a layout based on that of the British prototype. The T-33, was built in March 1932 and showed good buoyancy during testing. However, the T-33 did not perform satisfactorily in other tests. They continue the development for a more suitable amphibious tank, and they designated their latest model as the T-37. Sony VPCS135EC Battery
Even before the end of 1932, the high command of the Red Army was planning to order 30 T-37As as they were now designated, but problems plagued production, and only 126 T-37As had been produced by 1 January 1934. Sony VPCS136EC Battery
The tank was mass-produced starting in 1933 up until 1936, when it was replaced with the more modern T-38. Overall, after four years of production, 2552 T-37As were produced, including the original prototypes. In the Red Army, they were used to perform tasks in communication,reconnaissance, Sony VPCS138EC Battery
and as defence units on the march, as well as active infantry support on the battlefield. The T-37A were used in large numbers during the Soviet invasion of Poland and in the Winter War against Finland. Also the T-41 amphibious tank was also produced, with the chassis, in part, borrowed from the T-33, and the caterpillar tracks entirely from the T-27 tank. Sony VPCS139GC Battery
Of the tanks produced between 1930 and 1940, 97% were either identical copies of foreign designs, or very closely related improvements. Significantly, the major improvement the Soviet designers made to these foreign designs was an increase in firepower. Sony VPCYA15EC Battery
By 1935, the Red Army "... possessed more armoured vehicles, and more tank units than the rest of the world combined." But from 1937 to 1941, the Red Army's officer corps, the armour design bureaux, and leadership of the factories were gutted by Stalin's Great Purge. Sony VPCYA16EC Battery
Approximately 54,000 officers were repressed. Military knowledge completely stagnated and armoured vehicle production dropped drastically (though still remaining the world's largest). Training and readiness dropped to very low levels. This repression continued until the eve of the war. Sony VPCYA25EC Battery
The conflict over the border in Manchuria gave the Soviets a chance to employ tactics with their armoured forces which were to prove useful in the coming war, when General Georgy Zhukov deployed approximately 50,000 Soviet and Mongolian troops of the 57th Sony VPCYA26EC Battery
Special Corps to hold the center of the line on the east bank of the Battle of Khalkhyn Gol, then crossed the river on with BT-7 tanks and armoured units, massed artillery, and air cover. Once the Japanese were pinned down by the advance of the Soviet center units, Sony VPCYB15JC Battery
the tanks and armoured units swept around the flanks and attacked the Japanese in the rear,achieving a classic double envelopment, allowing the two wings of Zhukov's armoured units to link up and surrounding and trapping the Japanese 23rd division. Sony VPCYA17GH/R Battery
The battle ended with the complete destruction of the Japanese forces, using tactics that Zhukov would employ later with his tanks against German forces.
However, during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, BT tanks were easily attacked by Japanese close quarter teams (tank killersquads) which were armed with "Molotov Cocktails" (fire bottles). Sony VPCCW2S8E/W Battery
The Soviet BT-5 and BT-7 light tanks, which had been operating in 100-degree-plus heat on the Mongolian plains, easily caught fire when a Molotov cocktail ignited their gasoline engines. General Zhukov made it one of hispoints when briefing Stalin, that his "...BT tanks were a bit fireprone..." Sony VPCCW2Z1E/B Battery
The T-28 medium tank was deployed during the Winter War against Finland, and later in theInvasion of Poland. In the course of these operations it was found that the armour was inadequate and programs were initiated to upgrade it. According to Russian historian M. Kolomietz's book T-28. Sony VPCY11S1E Battery
Three-headed Stalin's Monster, over 200 T-28s were knocked out during the Winter War. Frontal plates were upgraded from 50 mm to 80 mm and side and rear plates to 40 mm thickness. With this up-armoured version, the Red Army broke through the main Finnish defensive fortification, the vaunted Mannerheim Line. Sony VPCY11S1E/S Battery
The Soviets thus began to upgrade their T-28 tanks for the coming war with Germany, but many were still lost during the first two months of the invasion, when the Germans invaded in June 1941.
The multi-turreted T-35 heavy tank also showed flaws; Soviet tank designers started drawing up replacements. Sony VPCW1 Battery
The T-35 conformed to the 1920s notion of a 'breakthrough tank' with very heavy firepower and armour protection, but poor mobility. The Spanish Civil War demonstrated the need for much heavier armour on tanks, and was the main influence on Soviet tank design just prior to World War II. Sony VPCW1E8R/BU Battery
One of the main competing designs was the SMK, which lowered the number of turrets from the T-35's five to two, mounting the same combination of 76.2 mm and 45 mm weapons. When two prototypes were ordered though, it was decided to create one with only a single turret, but more armour. Sony VPCY11AGJ Battery
This new single-turret tank was the KV. The smaller hull and single turret enabled the designer to install heavy frontal and turret armour while keeping the weight within manageable limits.
When the Soviets entered the Winter War, the SMK, KV and a third design, the T-100, were sent to be tested in combat conditions. Sony VPCY11AHJ Battery
The heavy armour of the KV proved highly resistant to Finnish anti-tank weapons, making it more effective than the other designs. It was soon put into production, both as the original 76 mm-armed KV-1 heavy tank and the 152 mm howitzer-mounting assault gun, the KV-2 Heavy Artillery Tank. Sony VPCY11AVJ Battery
The Soviets also sent the T-38 amphibious scout tank, which was a Soviet light amphibious tank and a development of the earlier T-37, based in turn on the French AMR 33 light reconnaissance tank. The tank served with the Red Army in the Winter War with Finland in 1940, Sony VPCY11M1E Battery
but was unsuccessful due to its light armament and thin armour, which was easily penetrated by rifle and light machine gun fire. In the confined terrain of Finland, the tank was a death trap. As a scout tank, the T-38 had the advantages of very low silhouette and good mobility, due to its ability to swim. Sony VPCY11S1E Battery
However, the thin armour and single machine gun armament made the tank of only limited use in combat while the lack of radios in most T-38s was a serious limitation in a recon vehicle. The T-38's limitations were recognized, and it would have been replaced by the T-40, Sony VPCY11V9E Battery
but the outbreak of the Second World War meant that only a few T-40s were produced. The T-38 was rarely seen in direct combat after Germany attacked in 1941 and was mostly relegated to other roles such as artillery tractor, Sony VPCY11V9E/S Battery
and the main amphibious scout vehicle of the Red Army became the Ford GPA amphibious jeep, an open unarmoured vehicle provided through Lend-Lease.
The participation by Soviet 'volunteer' tank units in the Spanish Civil War was decisive in forming Soviet tank designs for World War II. Sony VPCY219FJ/S Battery
Soviet tanks dominated their foreign rivals in Spain due to their firepower, but their thin armour, in common with most tanks of the period, made them vulnerable to the new towed antitank guns being supplied to infantry units. This finding led directly to a new generation of Soviet tanks. Sony VPCY21AFJ Battery
In 1939 the most numerous Soviet tank models were the T-26 light tank, and the BT series of fast tanks.
On the eve of World War II, the Red Army had around 8,500 T-26s of all variants. The T-26 was a slow-moving infantry tank, originally designed to keep pace with soldiers on the ground. Sony VPCY21AGJ Battery
The BT tanks were cavalry tanks, were very fast-moving light tanks, designed to fight other tanks but not infantry. Both were thinly armoured, proof against small armsbut not anti-tank rifles and 37 mm anti-tank guns, and their gasoline-fuelled engines (commonly used in tank designs throughout the world in those days) were liable to burst into flames "at the slightest provocation." Sony VPCY21AHJ Battery
(Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:111) Development of various tank designs to find a replacement was begun, such as the T-50 light tank which was intended to replace the T-26 infantry tank. In prewar planning, the T-50 was intended to become the most numerous Soviet tank, operating alongside the BT fast tank. Sony VPCY21AVJ Battery
The sophisticated T-50 was developed keeping in mind the experience gained in the Winter War and Soviet tests of the GermanPanzer III tank. But because of technical problems, only a total of 69 T-50 tanks were built (only 48 of them armed), and the much simpler T-60 light tanks replaced it. Sony VPCY21S1E/L Battery
In the meantime, a replacement for the BT fast tanks was being designed which would develop into the very capable and economical T-34 medium tank.
In 1937, the Red Army assigned the engineer Mikhail Koshkin to lead a new team to design a replacement for the BT tanks at the Kharkiv Komintern Locomotive Plant (KhPZ) in Kharkiv. Sony VPCY21S1E/P Battery
The prototype tank, designated A-20, was specified with 20 millimetres (0.8 in) of armour, a 45 mm (1.8 in) gun, and the new model V-2 engine, using less-flammable diesel fuel in a V12 configuration. The A-20 incorporated previous research (BT-IS and BT-SW-2 projects) into sloped armour: Sony VPCY21S1E/SI Battery
its all-round sloped armour plates were more likely to deflect anti-armour rounds than perpendicular armour. Koshkin convinced Soviet leaderJoseph Stalin to let him develop a second prototype, a more heavily armed and armoured "universal tank" which could replace both the T-26 and the BT tanks. Sony VPCCW1E8R/WU Battery
The second prototype Koshkin named A-32, after its 32 millimetres (1.3 in) of frontal armour. It also had a 76.2 mm (3 in) gun, and the same model V-2 diesel engine. Both were tested in field trials at Kubinka in 1939, and the heavier A-32 proved to be as mobile as the A-20. Sony VPCCW1S1E Battery
A still heavier version of the A-32 with 45 millimetres (1.8 in) of front armour and wider tracks was approved for production as the T-34. Resistance from the military command and concerns about high production cost were finally overridden by anxieties about the poor performance of Sony VAIO PCG-5S1M Battery
Soviet tanks in Finland and the effectiveness of Germany's Blitzkrieg in France, and the first production tanks were completed in September 1940, completely replacing the production of the T-26, BT, and the multi-turreted T-28 medium tank at the KhPZ. Sony VAIO PCG-9Z1M Battery
By the eve of World War II, the Soviet Union had some of the world's best tanks (including the T-34 and KV-1, which were basically a generation ahead, coming as a shock to the Wehrmacht). However, it still had many older tanks in its front-line armoured forces, Sony VAIO PCG-7171M Battery
with the T-26 forming the backbone of the Red Army's armoured forces during the first months of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. In overall tanks, however, the Soviet numerical advantage was considerable as the Red Army had a large quantitative superiority. Sony VAIO PCG-7186M Battery
It possessed 23,106 tanks, of which about 12,782 were in the five Western Military Districts (three of which directly faced the German invasion front). However, maintenance and readiness standards were very poor; ammunition and radios were in short supply, and many units lacked the trucks needed for resupply beyond their basic fuel and ammunition loads. Sony VAIO PCG-81112M Battery
Also, from 1938, the Soviets had partly dispersed their tanks to infantry divisions for infantry support, but after their experiences in the Winter War and their observation of the German campaign against France, had begun to emulate the Germans and organize most of their armoured assets into large armour divisions and corps. Sony VAIO PCG-31111M Battery
This reorganization was only partially implemented at the dawn of Barbarossa, as not enough tanks were available to bring the mechanized corps up to organic strength. Tank units were rarely well-equipped, and also lacked training and logistical support. Sony VAIO PCG-31311M Battery
Maintenance standards were very poor. Units were sent into combat with no arrangements for refuelling, ammunition resupply, or personnel replacement. Often, after a single engagement, units were destroyed or rendered ineffective. Sony VAIO PCG-8152M Battery
The poor training and readiness status of most Red Army units led to a catastrophic defeat of the enormous Soviet Mechanised Corps during the opening phases ofOperation Barbarossa, Germany's 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. Despite their generally good equipment, the Red Army's operational capabilities and motorised logistic support were very inferior. Sony VAIO PCG-61111M Battery
The Soviet numerical advantage in heavy equipment was also more than offset by the greatly superior training and readiness of German forces. The Soviet officer corps and high command had been decimated by Stalin's Great Purge (1936–1938). Sony PCG-71213M Battery
The German Wehrmacht had about 5,200 tanks overall, of which 3,350 were committed to the invasion. This yields a balance of immediately available tanks of about 4:1 in the Red Army's favour. The best Soviet tank, the T-34, was the most modern in the world, and the KV series the best armoured. Sony PCG-71311M Battery
The most advanced Soviet tank models, however, the T-34 and KV-1, were not available in large numbers early in the war, and only accounted for 7.2% of the total Soviet tank force. But while these 1,861 modern tanks were technically superior to the 1,404 German medium Panzer III and IV tanks, Sony PCG-71312M Battery
the Soviets in 1941 still lacked the communications, training and experience to employ such weapons effectively.
The Soviet Union had also built some of the best amphibious tanks as amphibious capability was important to the Red Army, as evidenced by the production of over 1,500 amphibious tanks in the 1930s. Sony PCG-71212M Battery
It built the T-37 and T-38 tank light amphibians and then the T-40 which was intended to replace them. The T-40 was a superior design, armed with a 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine gun, a much more potent weapon than the 7.62 mm DT machine gun mounted on the T-38. Sony VAIO PCG-5J4M Battery
But due to the pressures of war, the Soviets favoured the production of simpler tank designs, and only a small number of T-40s were built.
The T-40 entered production just prior to the outbreak of war, and was intended to equip reconnaissance units. Sony VAIO PCG-5K1M Battery
As the need for large numbers of tanks became critical, a secondary non-amphibious variant was designed on the T-40 chassis. This design became the T-60. The T-60 was simpler, cheaper, and better armed, and could fulfil most of the same roles. Sony VAIO PCG-5K2M Battery
Under the stress of war, production of the T-40 was halted in favour of the T-60. Thus only 222 T-40s were issued, compared to over 6,000 T-60s. Although at first intended to carry a 12.7 mm machine gun like the T-40, the T-60 scout tank armament was later upgraded to the 20 mm TNSh cannon, a tank version of the ShVAK. Sony VAIO PCG-5J5M Battery
By 1942, light tanks such as the T-60 were considered inadequate by the Red Army, unable to keep up with the T-34 medium tank and unable to penetrate the armour of most German tanks, but they could be produced by small factories which were unable to handle the large components of medium and heavy tanks. Sony VAIO PCG-5L2M Battery
The T-70 was an attempt to remedy some of the shortcomings of the T-60 scout tank, which had very poor cross-country mobility, thin armour, and an inadequate 20 mm gun. The T-70 light tank had was armed with a 45 mm L/46 gun Model 38 with forty-five rounds carried, Sony VAIO PCG-6S4M Battery
and a coaxial 7.62 mm DT machine gun and was used by the Red Army to replace both the T-60 scout tank for reconnaissance and the T-50 light infantry tank for infantry support.
The T-70 was then replaced with the T-80 light tank, a more robust version of the T-70 with a two-man turret. Sony VAIO PCG-6W1M Battery
But there was enough lend-lease equipment available to fulfil the reconnaissance role of the light tanks, and armoured cars were better suited for light scouting and liaison. All light tank production was cancelled in October 1943, after only about 120 T-80s were built. Sony VAIO PCG-6W2M Battery
No further light tanks would be built during the war. In November 1943 Red Army tank unitswere reorganized: light tanks were replaced by the T-34 and new T-34-85, which started production the following month.
At the outset of the war, T-34 tanks amounted to only about four percent of the Soviet tank arsenal, Sony VAIO PCG-7Z1M Battery
but by the war's end, they comprised at least 55% of the USSR's massive output of tanks (based on figures from; Zheltov 2001 lists even larger numbers). During the winter of 1941–42, the T-34 dominated German tanks through its ability to move over deep mud or snow without bogging down; Sony VAIO PCG-8Y2M Battery
German tanks could not move over terrain the T-34 could handle. The Panzer IV used an inferior leaf-spring suspension and narrow track, and tended to sink in deep mud or snow. However, by the time the T-34 had replaced older models and became available in greater numbers, Sony VAIO PCG-8Y3M Battery
newer German tanks, including the improved Panzer V "Panther", outperformed it. In early 1944, an upgraded tank, the T-34-85, gave the Red Army a tank with better armour and mobility than German Panzer IV and Sturmgeschütz III, but it could not match the Panther in gun or armour protection. Sony VAIO PCG-8Z1M Battery
To the Soviet advantage there were far fewer Panthers than T-34s, and the T-34-85 was good enough to allow skilled crew and tactical situations to tip the balance.
However, in the autumn of 1943 the design bureau of the Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183, Sony VAIO PCG-8Z2M Battery
located in Nizhny Tagil (in the Ural Mountains), started working on a vehicle that would have improvement opportunities in the future, under a direct order from Stalin. The intention was to retain the high mobility of the T-34 and provide it with heavier armour protection against modern tank guns. Sony VAIO PCG-8Z3M Battery
In November 1943, the chief designer, A. A. Morozov, presented the overall design of the vehicle and a model of the tank, which received the designation T-44 (Ob'yekt 136).It had a significant decrease in the length of the engine compartment allowed the turret to be moved rearwards, Sony VAIO PCG-7112M Battery
which in turn moved its rotation axis and the center of mass to the center of the hull, increased the accuracy of the main gun and decreased a chance that the turret could get stuck after getting hit in the turret ring with a projectile that ricocheted. Sony VGP-BPL15/B Battery
The thickness of the frontal armor protection more than doubled without disturbing the center of mass or drastically increasing the weight of the tank.
The T-44A officially entered service with the Red Army on 23 November 1944 but the production started in October. The original plans were that the factory would produce 300 T-44As a month. Sony VGP-BPS15/B Battery
However, only 25 were built by the end of 1944. In 1945, 940 were built, making a total of 965 (190 tanks built in 1944 and 1945 were completed by the end of the war).
Even with its innovative technology and better armer protection, the T-44A still used an 85 mm ZiS-S-53 tank gun, Sony VGP-BPL15/S Battery
the same as the one fitted on the T-34-85 medium tank. The army needed a new tank armed with a more powerful 100 mm gun. Two projects were started, both based on the T-44A and the development of the first one started in October 1944, and the designing stage was completed in December. Sony VGP-BPS15/S Battery
The prototype was ready in February 1945 and the trials conducted between March and April gave positive results and the vehicle entered service with the Red Army as the T-54.
The tank had almost the same hull and drive train as the T-44A. Sony VGP-BPS15 Battery
Differences included thickened front armour (120 mm on the upper section and 90 mm on the lower section) and a different hatch and vision slot for the driver. The turret had increased diameter to 1800 mm. The armament included the 100 mm D-10TK tank gun as well as two 7.62 mm GWT machine guns. Sony VGP-BPL15 Battery
The tank was powered by a new V-54 12-cylinder 38.88-litre water-cooled diesel engine developing 520 hp (388 kW) at 2,000 rpm. The fuel capacity was increased (530 litres in the internal fuel tank and 165 litres in the external fuel tank). Sony VGN-P series Battery
The weight was increased to 35.5 tonnes, which reduced the maximal road speed to 43.5 km/h. Further development of the T-44 was cancelled and all the attention was directed towards the development of the new T-54 main battle tank. Sony VGN-P11Z/Q Battery
With massive quantities of weapons and tanks from War World II, and the factories to produce them, the Russians exported them and built up client states which spread their influence and became involved in the continuing state of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, Sony VGN-P11Z/R Battery
and economic competition existing afterwards known as the Cold War. The Cold War featured periods of relative calm and of international high tension – the Berlin Blockade (1948–1949), the Korean War (1950–1953), the Berlin Crisis of 1961, the Vietnam War (1959–1975), Sony VGN-P11Z/W Battery
the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the Soviet war in Afghanistan(1979–1989), and various smaller conflicts in which Soviet weapons had significant impact, and we will focus on the Russian tanks.
nitially, North Korean armour dominated the battlefield with Soviet T-34-85 medium tanks designed during the Second World War. Sony VGN-P21S/W Battery
The KPA's tanks confronted a tankless ROK Army armed with few modern anti-tank weapons,:39 including World War II–model 2.36-inch (60 mm) M9 bazookas, effective only against the 45 mm side armor of the T-34-85 tank.:25 Sony VGN-P21Z/G Battery
The US forces arriving in Korea were equipped with light M24 Chaffee tanks (on occupation duty in nearby Japan) that also proved ineffective against the heavier KPA T-34 tanks.:18
During the initial hours of warfare, some under-equipped ROK Army border units used 105 mm howitzers Sony VGN-P21Z/R Battery
as anti-tank guns to stop the tanks heading the KPA columns, firing high-explosive anti-tank ammunition (HEAT) over open sights to good effect; at the war's start, the ROK Army had 91 such guns, but lost most to the invaders.
The North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950 was spearheaded by a full brigade equipped with about 120 T-34-85s. Sony VGN-P29VN/Q Battery
Additional T-34 tanks later joined the first assault force after it had penetrated into South Korea. They were pitted against the M24 Chaffee, M4 Sherman and M26 Pershing, but not the Centurion tanks of the UN forces.
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The T-34 tanks of the North Korean army rolled across the border and headed south where they brushed aside opposition with ease, such as when they came into contact with elements of the 24th Infantry Division in the Battle of Osan on July 5, 1950 during the first battle between American and North Korean forces. Sony VGP-BPL18 Battery
The American force, nicknamed Task Force Smith, was unable to repel the North Koreans' T-34 tanks. Ammunition and weapons designed to combat the heavily armoured tanks had not been widely distributed to U.S. Army forces in Korea at the time, and the Task Force only had a few rounds of effectivehowitzer ammunition. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ35B/B Battery
The Task Force's outdated equipment could not penetrate the North Korean T-34 tanks armor, which subsequently passed through their lines. The 24th Infantry Division would continue to fight in delaying actions such as this one for two more weeks until it was overwhelmed at the Battle of Taejon, Sony VAIO VGN-SZ54B/B Battery
where the North Koreans advanced on the town with the 3rd and 4th Divisions supported by over 50 T-34 tanks, and the Allies fell back into the Pusan Perimeter which was defined by the farthest advance of the North Korean troops during the Korean War. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ55B/B Battery
The Allies fought off the attacks in the Pusan Perimeter which served as an airhead for resupply and reinforcement until the Inchon landing, and the ensuing counterattack against the North.
Countering the initial combat imbalance, the UN Command reinforcement materiel included heavier US M4 Sherman, Sony VAIO VGN-SZ55GN/B Battery
M26 Pershing,M46 Patton, and British Cromwell and Centurion tanks that proved effective against North Korean armour, ending its battlefield dominance. Unlike in the Second World War (1939–45), in which the tank proved a decisive weapon, the Korean War featured few large-scale tank battles. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ56 Battery
The mountainous, heavily forested terrain prevented large masses of tanks from manoeuvring. In Korea, tanks served largely as infantry support.
The Viet Cong, a lightly armed South Vietnamese communist-controlled common front, largely fought a guerilla war against anti-communist forces in the region with light weapons. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ561N Battery
The North Vietnamese Army (NVA), however, engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units and armour into battle. North Vietnamese tanks such as the PT-76 tanks and the T-54/T-55 tanks series which had become the main tank for armoured units of the Soviet Army, Sony VAIO VGN-SZ562N Battery
and exported to many other armies including the Vietnamese, along with the Type 59s and Type 63s, formed the bulk of the NVA armoured forces.
The first successful action of NVA armour was against the Lang Vei Special Forces camp on 6–7 February 1968. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ57N Battery
Thirteen PT-76s, of the NVA 202nd Armored Regiment spearheaded an assault against approximately 24 Green Berets and 500 irregulars. The defenders fought back with M72 LAWs (Light Anti-Tank weapons/66 mm), and requested support from nearby Khe Sanh, who were unable to help, as they too, were under siege. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ58GN Battery
The few survivors broke out, and were airlifted to safety.
The first tank-to-tank engagement occurred in mid-1968 when a US reconnaissance airplane observed a PT-76 being washed by its crew in the Ben Hai River in the DMZ (17th Parallel). Sony VAIO VGN-SZ58GN/C Battery
The Forward Air Control pilot radioed the tank's position to a nearbyM48 Patton tank unit of the US 3rd Marine Tank Battalion. With the FAC adjusting fire, the Patton fired three 90 mm rounds; obtaining a hit with the third round. The tank crew abandoned their vehicle. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ58N Battery
Another tank engagement took place on March 3, 1969, again at Ben Het in Kon Tum Province near the Laotian border. In a night assault, the North Vietnamese with PT-76 tanks attacked a US Special Forces camp. The garrison, Sony VAIO VGN-SZ61MN/B Battery
which had been reinforced with a platoon of M48A3 main battle tanks from the 1st Battalion 69th Armored battalion, stood their ground. The North Vietnamese fired 639 artillery and mortar rounds into the camp, before a battalion from the 66th NVA Regiment supported by ten PT-76s and a few APCsSony VAIO VGN-SZ61VN/X Battery
attacked the west hill held by a CIDG company supported by the platoon of M48s. The PT-76s drove into a minefield in which two were destroyed. Two more PT-76s and one APC were destroyed by the M48As. Six PT-76s were destroyed by artillery fire and air strikes. US casualties consisted of one M48 being lightly damaged.[ Sony VAIO VGN-SZ61WN/C Battery
The Easter Offensive, officially, the Nguyễn Huệ Offensive and also (Chiến dịch Xuân hè 1972 in Vietnamese), was a military campaign heavy with armoured forces and tanks conducted by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN, the regular army of North Vietnam) against the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Sony VAIO VGN-SZ640N/B Battery
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