Russia marks anniversary of its best tank

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by syscom3, Dec 20, 2009.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - Seventy years ago, on December 19, 1939, the Soviet government's Defense Committee issued a resolution approving the supply of several new types of automobiles and armored vehicles to the army. One of the latter was the T-32 track tank with a B-2 diesel engine.

    The resolution also said that the new tank's armor should be strengthened and its visibility and armaments improved. The revamped tank was called T-34. When it was delivered to the army, few people thought it would be such an enduring design.

    A new design bureau led by Adolf Dik started working on the tank in 1937, but the chief designer soon fell victim to Stalin's persecution campaigns. He was replaced by Mikhail Koshkin, the designer of the plant that later manufactured the tank.

    The T-34 fought its first battles during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). These battles showed that its 15-20 mm armor left it defenseless against 25-47 mm antitank guns. It had been decided that a thicker armor would increase the tank's weight and not allow the planned combination of tracks and wheels.

    However, by that time the country could make chain tracks that lasted several thousand kilometers, allowing the designers to replace the wheels with tracks without affecting the tank's running performance. The T-34 tank was designed for offensive operations that involved long marches at a high speed.

    In addition, it was decided to equip the tank with a more powerful 76 mm gun because the 45 mm gun proved insufficient against infantry and antitank guns.

    On March 17, 1940, two T-34 tanks ran from Kharkov in Ukraine to Moscow, where they were presented to the Soviet leaders, including Stalin, in Ivanovskaya Square at the Kremlin. Koshkin, who led the march, caught pneumonia and died in the fall of 1940.

    The tank had quite a few bugs and the production pace fell behind schedule. The army heavily criticized it, but the government did not discontinue production.

    By June 22, 1941, when Germany attacked the Soviet Union, the Red Army had over 1,000 T-34 tanks. But they could not prove their worth in border clashes. The German army was superior to the Red Army on nearly all counts, including the number of troops, the quality of command and control, combat experience, and logistics, and therefore easily neutralized the Soviet Union's superiority in tanks.

    The Germans noticed the T-34 in the fall of 1941, when Soviet tank brigades started delivering very painful blows to the German units weakened by months of heavy fighting. With good drivers and commanders, the T-34 tank quickly and convincingly demonstrated its fire and armor superiority, as the Germans grudgingly admitted.

    The production of the T-34 was increased while the country's industries were still being evacuated to the eastern regions. Much was also done to simplify the tank's design, which helped roll out more tanks and form more tank units. Soon the T-34 became the biggest concern for the Germans, who had previously taken legitimate pride in their tanks.

    Germany could not increase the production of tanks as fast as the Soviet Union did, and so decided to improve its medium tanks and design the new-generation Tiger and Panther tanks. At that time, the role of tanks was changing, and tank duels became increasingly frequent toward the middle of the war.

    The Germans created unmatched tanks for such duels but failed to make up for their strategic deficiency relative to the Soviet tanks. As the number of Red Army and Allied mobile units increased, Germany started feeling increasingly constrained.

    Soviet designers improved the T-34 to be able to stand up against Germany's new tanks. In late 1943, the T-34 was equipped with a long-barrel 85 mm gun whose munitions could slice through the armor of German Tigers and Panthers. The T-34-85 tank became the calling card of the Red Army, the fast symbol of victory that was kept as a monument in many liberated European cities.

    A survivor, the T-34 tank remained on combat duty in the Soviet Union for 20 years after the end of World War II in 1945. It was also exported to other countries and fought valiantly in wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East and in Africa.

    Yet the most glorious page in the tank's history was the Great Patriotic War against Germany (1941-1945). This is a fact accepted not only in Russia but also in many other countries, including the Soviet Union's enemies who were nevertheless the first to declare it the best tank of WWII, and also its allies who said it was the world's best tank of all time.

    The T-34 medium tank weighed 26 tons and had a crew of four, a speed of 55 km/h (34 mph), and a range of 115 miles.
     
  2. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Not taking it against you, Syscom, but:
    a) KV was much better tank design
    b) no T-34s took part in SCW, not even in Winter war
    c) 85mm was bare minimum to fight Panthers, let alone Tigers

    All said, the tank itself was much better then a doctrine that employed it for couple of years.
     
  3. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Im just posting a story I came across. I have no clue what youre talking about.
     
  4. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    I'm talking about a tank.
     
  5. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    I agree on all points Tomo.
     
  6. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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  7. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    There's no doubt that the T-34 was a good tank, and it's one of those cases where timing was everything.

    But the world's best tank of all time? Hardly...
     
  8. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The best tank of WW2, considering all aspects of it.
     
  9. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    Not even close. Better tanks were built at similar prices during the war.

    Also despite what some people might say, combat performance weighs just as much as production when it comes to rating a combat vehicle.
     
  10. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Producability: Excellent
    Maintainability under field conditions: Excellent
    Armor protection: Good to excellent
    Gun: Good
    Cold weather performance: Excellent

    Could the Soviets have won the Eastern front without it? No.

    Overall, the best tank of WW2. A great tank on its own, combined with the right attributes of being able to be mass produced, operated by semi-trained troops and then maintained in the field by same.
     
  11. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

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    I'm gonna side with Syscom here. While the KV may have been more heavily armored than the T34, the 34 gave you the one thing that a tank is supposed to give you-mobility.
     
  12. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    The T34 may not have been the best tank of WW2 but its timing was spot on and no one would really question its importance. Had it been 12 months later then the war may well have taken a different turn. It was better than the opposition when it needed to be better.

    To use a different example. The Cromwell with the Meteor engine arrived in early 43 when there was little call for it and by the D Day landings took place it could be described as an average tank, outclassed by the Panthers and Tiger I. Had it been 12 months earlier then it could have made a serious difference in the desert and had a similar reputation to the T34.

    Timing is almost as important as the overall quality.
     
  13. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Exactly.

    Just like the P51.
     
  14. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    Sorry but the T-34, while very cheap to produce, was from mid 1942 a death trap. The number lost is so mindblowingly high that I feel sorry for the poor sods who had to go into battle in that thing.

    Maintainability: Yes it was good..... in the end. In the beginning it was very poor, many T-34's breaking down due to a factor as simple as dust accumulation.

    Armour protection: Great in 1941, decent in 1942, insufficient in 1943, very poor in 1944, disastrously weak in 1945. The turret armour was so soft that it was vulnerable to fire from German 37mm AA guns

    Gun: Decent in 1941 (although nothing to write home about), insufficient in 1942, poor in 1943, poor in 1944, poor in 1945. (Performance on the 85mm Zis 53 gun was poor to say the least) Add to this the abysmal optics and crew compartment.

    Cold weather performance: Great, owing to its fuel tank heating system.

    The only REALLY good thing about the T-34 was one thing..... its' price tag.
     
  15. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Gun ammo (76mm) themselves were as good as US 75mm we know from Sherman, while 85mm was as good as US 3in German 7,5/43, or /48 (topping them against 'soft' or 'house targets). The optics were the issue, and observability was problem too - Germans mounted the commander's cupolas from damaged Panzers atop of turret.
    The 76mm gunned lacked dedicated loader, and had cramped turrets. Radio was a rare thing prior 1944 in T-34.
    Armor was indeed good for 1941, but Germans rarely encountered T-34 in that year - T-26 and BT-5/7 were the main types. I've read more stuff about Germans taking on KV1/2, then on T-34, for 1941. In 1942, with introduction of longer 7,5cm cannon, armor was to thin.
    Reliability was the issue in 1941, gradually improving as people got the grip on it - both producers and operators.
    It was maneuvre where T-34 shined, due to hefty engine broad tracks. The tracks were a issue in 1941, stuff got better later. The 30 ton tank still had manualy-operated gearbox, again a shortcoming.

    FWIW, it's hard to find an information about Russian tankers speak a word against Sherman or Valentine. Therefore I'd say they loved those :)

    I suggest reading the "T-34, mythical weapon" book, and the US Aberdeen Proving Ground evaluation of both T-34 and KV-1.
     
  16. riacrato

    riacrato Member

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    #16 riacrato, Dec 22, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2009
    The chassis, tracks, suspension and engine combination was certainly better than any other medium tank of its era. The turret was poor initially but good later. The gun was always mediocre as were optics.

    Overall it was still the tank with the best ratio of effectiveness/cost and the one with the most consistent performance from late '41 to '45.
     
  17. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    It might surprise you but both the German 7.5cm Kwk40 L/43 48 and the US 76mm gun were better than the 85mm gun when it comes to actual armour penetration capability.

    Aberdeen results against vertical 240 BHN RHA armour:

    Range:..........................100m/500m/1,000m/1,500m/2,000m/2,500m/3,000m

    7.6cm M1 L/52 (APCBC): 125mm / 116mm / 106mm / 97mm / 89mm / 81mm / 74mm
    7.5cm KwK40 L/48 (APCBC): 135mm / 123mm / 109mm / 97mm / 86mm / 76mm / 68mm
    8.5cm Zis53 L/52 (APBC): 139mm / 121mm / 102mm / 88mm / 77mm / 69mm / 63mm

    On top of this the larger turret put on the T-34 in late 43 in order to accommodate the 85mm gun was made from so soft a steel that German 37mm AA guns were capable of penetrating it at ranges in excess of 500m and were thus a real threat.

    The T-34 is praised by a lot of people concentrating only on its initial success in 1941 where it most definitely surprised the Germans in a bad way. But what is forgotten is that it was litterally a matter of nomore than a couple of weeks before the Germans adapted and effectively dealt with the threat. Soon after the 7.5cm L/43 armed Pz.IV's and StuG III's arrived and they litterally put the T-34 to shame.

    The KV-1 on the other hand proved more of a problem for the Germans. It was such a hard nut to crack that even when surrounded it didn't stop seriously bothering the Germans until the 7.5cm L/43 armed Panzers started arriving. Up until then 8.8cm Flak pieces were needed to silent the beast quickly effectively.
     
  18. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Soren - Have you got anything to support this statement as I find it hard to believee that a 37mm AA gun will do anything but scratch the paint off a tank at 500+ meters.

    This is where my statement of timing comes in. My understanding was that the 75mm armed Stug III and PzIV didn't arrive at the front in numbers until the third quarter of 42 and it took time to re-equipe all the units around the end of 42. By that time the drive had been blunted and the German adance slowed. It should also be remembered that the PzIVF2 had pretty thin armour.
     
  19. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    Glider, yes ofcourse, otherwise I wouldnt say it. I thought you trusted me on such matters.

    The late war turret for the T-34 was constructed using cast armour, which is nowhere near as strong as rolled homogenous armour, thus making the T-34/85's turret very vulnerable to fire even from German 3.7cm AA guns.

    German 3.7cm L/45 gun performance against vertical 240 BHN RHA armour plate:
    Range: 100m / 500m / 1,000m / 1,500m / 2,000m / 2,500m / 3,000m
    Penetration (APCR): 97mm / 75mm / 57mm / 43mm / 33mm / 25mm / 19mm

    Now keep in mind that the performance against cast armour is significantly higher, making the 3.7cm L/45 gun potentially lethal to the T-34/85 past 1,000m.

    The 7.5cm L/43 armed StuG III's and Pz.IV F2 both arrived in March of 1942, and despite its thinner armour it proved a far superior combat vehicle to the T-34. The Panzers had excellent optics, communication systems and crew compartment ergonomics, making sure that they usually not only got in the first shot but also usually hit with their first shot. The easy communication between Panzers also proved a huge tactical advantage. In short the PzIVF2 and StuGIII quite litterally put the T-34 to complete shame on the battlefield once they arrived in March 1942.
     
  20. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Soren, check those penetration figures again - the 3,7 beats 5cm pak with that.
     
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