Saturday, 30 December 2017

Mistimed Improvement

A notable event in the history of Soviet tank building took place in December of 1942. The SU-35, the first Soviet medium SPG, was put into production. There was the SG-122 that predated it, but it was a conversion of the German StuG III. The SU-35, however, was an entirely domestic design. Due to the urgency, the SU-35 was put into production without a second prototype. The SPG went into production straight from the drawing board. Nevertheless, the issue of modernization was raised at the highest levels in January of 1943. The result of the ensuing work was the SU-122M. However, this assault SPG's fate was not as fortunate: it never made it to production.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Assault Gun from the Urals

December of 1942 was a key month in the history of Soviet SPGs. Work on light and medium SPGs reached the stage of preparation for production. The Ural Factory of Heavy Machinebuilding (UZTM) was chosen to produce medium SPGs. There were two reasons for this. In addition to the fact that development of the U-35 SPG was coming to an end in Sverdlovsk, there was a strong manufacturing base here. Local production of T-34s, which started here in late September of 1942, ensured a supply of chassis for SPGs.

Taking into account the factory's abilities, GKO decree #2559 "On organization of production of SPGs at the Uralmash factory and factory #38" was signed on December 2nd, even before the start of U-35 trials. According to this document, UZTM was expected to deliver the first two SU-35 SPGs (later renamed SU-122) in December of 1942.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

DP Autoloader

Ever tried loading Degtaryev disk magazines by hand? I have, and it's not exactly a pleasant experience. Various devices exist to ease this process. Sadly, they weren't perfect.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017


"Report on factory trials of an experimental prototype of the ZIS-19 37 mm tank gun

Basis: order #52 issued on February 20th, 1942, to the I.V. Stalin, Order of Lenin, factory #92

1. History of the issue

On orders from comrade Stalin, the department of the factory Chief Engineer created a 37 mm gun for installation into the turret of the T-60 tank. Ballistics and ammunition are from the 37 mm AA gun used by the Red Army.

From December 20th, 1941, to January 12th, 1942, the department designed blueprints, indexed with the code ZIS-19.

From January 12th to January 19th, an experimental prototype of the ZIS-19 system was built and installed in the turret of a mass production T-60 tank.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

SU-152 Production

"Deliveries for contract USA-936 signed on October 18th, 1943

Customer: GBTU USA
Producer: Kirov factory (Chelyabinsk)

1. SU-152 SPGs

SPGs must be built according to blueprints approved by the GAU Artillery Committee in journal entry #0254 on September 8th, 1943, the GBTU USA, and the NKTP

Delivery in the 3rd quarter of 1943
By month
Unit cost
Delivery in the 4th quarter of 1943


Kirov factory director, Zaltsmann
GBTU USA Chief, Major-General of the Tank Engineering Forces, Alymov"

Monday, 25 December 2017

MKb.42(H) Trials

"To the People's Commissar of Defense, Marshall of the Soviet Union, comrade I.V. Stalin

I report that the Main Artillery Directorate performed trials of the captured German 7.92 mm MKb.42(H) carbine, a new type of small arms. As a result of trials, the following characteristics were obtained, compared in the following table with the domestic submachinegun model 1943 (PP-43) and the Simonov light machinegun.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of my readers who celebrate it!

Sunday, 24 December 2017

The Best French Pre-War Tank

France entered WWII with a rather controversial set of tanks. While most nations began to produce medium tanks, the French army was in a catastrophic position with medium tanks. The prioritization of light Renault R 35 and "battle" (in practice, heavy) Char B1 bis tanks resulted in only 50 medium tanks available for infantry.

Unexpectedly, France built a large number of medium tanks, but for cavalry, and they were officially referred to as armoured cars. These were SOMUA S 35, tanks whose combined characteristics made them the best tanks the French had before the war.

Friday, 22 December 2017

The First Classic Tank

France was the second country in the world to equip itself with tanks. The French were about half a year behind the British, but their designs were a lot more progressive. The French army had the most tanks at the end of WWI, and quality came along with this quantity. At this point, the Renault FT was the backbone of the French armoured force. This was the most numerous tank of its time, the first mass produced light tank, and the first tank in the world of a layout that was later deemed classic. What is the story of the creation of the Renault FT?

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Shooting from Horseback

Yuri Pasholok got his hands on a pile of old military manuals recently, including Shooting from Horseback. It's a somewhat lengthy book, so I'm not going to translate all of it, just interesting bits.

"Peculiarities of firing from horseback

If firing a rifle from horseback is done mainly during patrols and other cases when there is no time to dismount, firing a revolver or pistol is often done by a cavalryman.

In battle, commanding fire from horseback is either very difficult or downright impossible. The soldier must rapidly and independently determine how to act, with a blade or revolver, and if the latter, fire, select targets, find an aiming points, etc. Actions of a cavalryman are further complicated by allied cavalry mixing with enemy cavalry. The cavalryman must fire in a way that does not injure his allies.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

German Ammunition

There is a surprsing amount of interoperability between British and German hardware. The Sten gun could, famously, be fed with German ammunition, and slightly reworked German 75 mm shells went into 75 mm guns received from Americans, but other substitutions could be made in a pinch.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Tougher Armour

"Order of the People's Commissar of the Defense Industry #337ss
August 23rd, 1938

To carry out government order #198/ss/ov issued on August 7th, 1938, and to further improve tanks and armoured cars by increasing their armour, I order that:

The Chief of the 7th Directorate, comrade Tsvetaev, and the director of the Izhor factory, comrade Kazakov, must:
  1. Accelerate experimental work on trials of tank armour 30-70 mm thick. Report on the results of the trials by September 20th, 1938.
  2. Summarize all materials on experiments with spaced armour, and present final conclusions on the use of this armour by September 20th, 1938.
  3. Produce and present the NKO with an armoured car on the ZIS-6 chassis with armour that protects from armour piercing bullets from the front at any range by December 1st, 1938.
  4. Within a month, develop a plan for improvements to the armour of T-26, T-28, and BA-10 tanks and armoured cars, according to the attached list (## 1, 4, 5, 7, 8).
    When developing the plan, consider the necessary time to prepare for production.

Cheating at Statistics 21: Fudging Franz

Like the Tiger, the Ferdinand is a weapon that often has some rather incredible kill ratios attributed to it. Personally, I've seen numbers as high as 50:1, but those tend to not be accompanied by any specific references. However, one battle is frequently cited as proof of the Ferdinand's supremacy: the battle near Nikopol, where the tank destroyer's performance was allegedly quite impressive. From The Combat History of German Heavy Anti-Tank Unit 653 in World War II:

"The first defensive fighting at the bridgehead began on 20 November 1943. The villages of Maryevka (20 November 1943) and Katerinovka (23 November 1943) where particularly critical areas in the German defensive line. The Ferdinande had tremendous success during the engagement at Koschasovka/Miropol from 26-27 November 1943. They destroyed 54 Russian tanks: 21 by Leutnant Franz Kretschmer and his crew."

On one hand, a defensive battle is one where the Ferdinand's tough front armour and long range gun would excel. On the other hand, lack of ground taken by the German forces meant that they had no way to count the knocked out enemy tanks, making it a perfect scenario for some classic overclaim.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Matilda's New Sword

On October 11th, 1941, the PQ-1 convoy arrived in Arkhangelsk: the first British convoy that delivered weapons and military vehicles to the USSR. It was the result of the agreement titled "On joint action of the Soviet and British governments in the war against Germany", signed in Moscow on July 12th. Matilda III tanks were among the cargo. In total, 1084 Matilda tanks were sent to the USSR, of which 933 (918 according to Soviet data) arrived.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Lady with a Thick Skin

The Matilda, or MK-II, as it was called in Soviet documents, became one of the best known foreign vehicles used by the Red Army. Appearing in the USSR in the fall of 1941 along with the Valentine, these tanks made it in time to defend Moscow and participate in many operations in the first half of 1942. This vehicle earned a mixed reputation among Soviet tankers. It was loved for its reliable armour, but cursed for its slow speed and weak gun. Either way, the last large scale application of Matilda Tanks on the Eastern Front was in the summer of 1944, and some vehicles kept fighting until the end of the war.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Birth of the PPS

"To the deputy commander of the Red Army GAU, Major-General of Artillery, comrade Hohlov

Experience shows that the 7.62 mm DT tank machinegun does not provide sufficient volume of fire, due to its 63 round magazine and rapid heating of the barrel. It is desirable to have a belt-fed machinegun, capable of rapidly firing up to 500 rounds.

The PPSh submachinegun is a necessary weapon for tank crews, but is inconvenient to use. The disk magazine is large, and gets in the way. The stock impedes exiting the tank. It is desirable to have a submachinegun with a box magazine that holds 25-30 rounds and a folding stock, like the one on the German SMG.

I ask you to instruct Artkom to begin work on improving firearms for tank crews according to the issues noted above.

Deputy GABTU Chief, Major-General of Technical Forces, Lebedev
BTU Military Commissar, Regimental Commissar Vorobyev
July 27th, 1942"

Wednesday, 13 December 2017


"To the People's Commissar of Armament, comrade Ustinov
To the People's Commissar of Tank Production, comrade Malyshev

June 16th, 1942

RE: production of installation parts and cradle for the 76 mm ZIK-7 gun

In accordance with the decision of the Artillery Committee plenum and NKV and NKTP orders, factories #8 and #37 designed a 76 mm light assault gun with the ZIK-5 tank gun on a chassis made from T-70 components.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

First SU-152s

"To fulfil GOKO order #2883 issued on February 14th, 1943

Deliveries for contract #1489 signed in March of 1943
Customer: GAU UMT and SA
Producer: Kirov factory (Chelyabinsk)

1. SU-14 SPGs

Produce SU-14 SPGs according to blueprints and technical requirements approved by the GAU KA Artillery Committee.

Temporarily, before the blueprints and technical requirements are approved, it is permitted to produce vehicles according to blueprints and technical requirements of the prototype.

Delivery in the 1st quarter of 1943
By month
Unit cost


Kirov factory director, Dlugach
GAU UMT and SA Chief, Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonel Datsyuk

March 18th, 1943"

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.