Friday 24 August 2012

So, its been a while... interested in T-34s?

I've been writing my dissertation this past month so all hobby time has ground to a halt. I can't remember the last time I painted something. I've also moved house so everything is packed away. This time of sorrow is over though a week today, so expect some more pictures of shiny things at this point!

Anyways, I was on TMP earlier and for those who missed it we've had the bi-monthly 'why did the Nazis lose the war/why didn't they build more tanks?' shindig. For those who can't be bothered to trawl through this stuff, and I don't blame you, it just serves as excellent procrastination for myself, I found a gem. The following is a report done by a group of Russian? and American engineers on the T-34 as they put it through its paces in the US. Its an interesting read and serves to put the T-34 in perspective. German field commandeers famously asked the War Ministry for T-34 copies; the following document reveals that there were undoubtedly a number of modifications which would be required before a T-34 copy would have been particularly useful. I knew the T-34 was not a perfect machine but the way about which it is spoken makes it seem the 'be-all and end-all', this report seems to give a more balanced view and reflect what I thought I knew about pre-war (and wartime) Soviet industry. 

"Evaluation of tanks T-34 and KV by workers of the Aberdeen testing grounds of the U.S."
(from the Tanker's forum, posted by Misha Veksler)

(Footnote 1 -- reads, "The full name of the document is, "An Evaluation of the T-34 and KV tanks by workers of the Aberdeen Testing Grounds of the U.S., submitted by firms, officers and members of military commissions responsible for testing tanks." The tanks were given to the U.S. by the Soviets at the end of 1942 for familiarization.")

The condition of the tanks
The medium tank T-34, after driving 343 km, became disabled and could not be fixed. The reason: owing to the extremely poor air cleaner on the diesel, a large quantity of dirt got into the engine and a breakdown occurred, as a result of which the pistons and cylinders were damaged to such a degree that they were impossible to fix. The tank was withdrawn from tests and was to be shelled by the KV and its "Z/ 3" (?) -- by the cannon of the M-10 tank. After this it would be sent to Aberdeen, where it would be analyzed and kept as an exhibit.
The heavy tank KV is still functional. Tests are continuing, although it has many mechanical defects.

The silhouette/configuration of the tanks
Everyone, without exception, approves of the shape of the hull of our tanks. The T-34's is particularly good. All are of the opinion that the shape of the T-34's hull is better than that of any American tank. The KV's is worse than on any current American tank.
A chemical analysis of the armour showed that on both tanks the armour plating has a shallow surface tempering, whereas the main mass of the armoured plating is made of soft steel.
In this regard, the Americans consider that, by changing the technology used to temper the armoured plating, it would be possible to significantly reduce its thickness while preserving its protective capacities. As a result the weight of the tank could be decreased by 8-10%, with all the resulting benefits (an increase in speed, reduction in ground pressure, etc.)
The main deficiency is the permeability to water of the lower hull during water crossings, as well as the upper hull during rain. In heavy rain lots of water flows through chinks/ cracks, which leads to the disabling of the electrical equipment and even the ammunition.
The Americans liked how the ammunition is stowed.
Its main weakness is that it is very tight. The Americans could not understand how our tankers could fit inside during winter, when they wear sheepskin jackets. The electrical mechanism for turning the turret is very bad. The motor is weak, heavily overloaded and sparks horribly, as a result of which the device regulating the speed of the rotation burns out, and the teeth of the cogwheels break into pieces. They recommend redoing it as a hydraulic or simply manual system.
KV-1 heavy tank at Bovington Museum (England) (photo by […])
The gun of the T-34 is very good. It is simple, dependable and easy to service. Its weakness is that the initial speed of the shell is significantly less than that of the American "Z/ 3" (3200 feet versus 5700 feet per second).
The general opinion: the best in the world. Incomparable with any existing (well-known here) tanks or any under development.
The Americans very much like the idea of steel tracks. But they believe that until they receive the results of the comparative performance of steel vs. rubber tracks on American tanks in Tunis and other active fronts, there is no basis for changing from the American solution of rubber bushings and pads.
The deficiencies in our tracks from their viewpoint results from the lightness of their construction. They can easily be damaged by small calibre shells and mortar bombs. The pins are extremely poorly tempered and made of poor steel. As a result they quickly wear and the track often breaks. The idea of having loose track pins that are held in place by a cam welded to the side of the hull, at first was greatly liked by the Americans. But when in use under certain operating conditions, the pins would become bent which often resulted in the track rupturing. The Americans consider that if the armour is reduced in thickness the resultant weight saving can be used to make the tracks heavier and more reliable.
On the T-34, it is poor. Suspension of the Christie type was tested long ago by the Americans, and unconditionally rejected. On our tanks, as a result of the poor steel on the springs, it very quickly (unclear word) and as a result clearance is noticeably reduced. On the KV the suspension is very good.
The diesel is good and light. The idea of using diesel engines on tanks is shared in full by American specialists and military personnel. Unfortunately, diesel engines produced in U.S. factories are used by the navy and therefore the army is deprived of the possibility of installing diesels in its tanks.
The deficiency of our diesels is the criminally poor air cleaners on the T-34. The Americans consider that only a saboteur could have constructed such a device. They also don't understand why in our manuals it is called oil-bath. Their tests in a laboratory showed that:
– the air cleaner doesn't clean at all the air which is drawn into the motor;
– its capacity does not allow for the flow of the necessary quantity of air, even when the motor is idling. As a result, the motor does not achieve its full capacity. Dirt getting into the cylinders leads them to quickly wear out, compression drops, and the engine loses even more power. In addition, the filter was manufactured, from a mechanical point of view, extremely primitively: in places the spot-welding of the electric welding has burned through the metal, leading to leakage of oil etc. On the KV the filter is better manufactured, but it does not secure the flow in sufficient quantity of normal cleaned air. On both motors the starters are poor, being weak and of unreliable construction.
Without doubt, poor. An interesting thing happened. Those working on the transmission of the KV were struck that it was very much like those transmissions on which they had worked 12-15 years ago. The firm was questioned. The firm sent the blueprints of their transmission type A-23. To everyone's surprise, the blueprints of our transmission turned out to be a copy of those sent (?). The Americans were surprised, not that we were copying their design, but that we were copying a design that they had rejected 15-20 years ago. The Americans consider that, from the point of view of the designer, installing such a transmission in the tank would create an inhuman harshness for the driver (hard to work). On the T-34 the transmission is also very poor. When it was being operated, the cogs completely fell to pieces (on all the cogwheels). A chemical analysis of the cogs on the cogwheels showed that their thermal treatment is very poor and does not in any way meet American standards for such mechanisms.
Rolling friction clutches
Without doubt, poor. In America, they rejected the installation of friction clutches, even on tractors (never mind tanks), several years ago. In addition to the fallaciousness of the very principle, our friction clutches are extremely carelessly machined from low-quality steel, which quickly causes wear and tear, accelerates the penetration of dirt into the drum and in no way ensures reliable functioning.
General comments
From the American point of view, our tanks are slow. Both our tanks can climb an incline better than any American tank. The welding of the armour plating is extremely crude and careless. The radio sets in laboratory tests turned out to be not bad. However, because of poor shielding and poor protection, after installation in the tanks the sets did not manage to establish normal communications at distances greater than 10 miles. The compactness of the radio sets and their intelligent placement in the tanks was pleasing. The machining of equipment components and parts was, with few exceptions, very poor. In particular the Americans were troubled by the disgraceful design and extremely poor work on the drive/ gear/ transmission links/ blocks (?) on the T-34. After much torment they made new ones and replaced ours. All the tanks' mechanisms demand very frequent adjustments/ fine-tuning.
Conclusions, suggestions
1. On both tanks, quickly replace the air cleaners with models with greater capacity capable of actually cleaning the air.
2. The technology for tempering the armour plating should be changed. This would increase the protectiveness of the armour, either by using an equivalent thickness or, by reducing the thickness, lowering the weight and, accordingly, the use of metal.
3. Make the tracks thicker.
4. Replace the existing transmission of outdated design with the American "Final Drive," which would significantly increase the tanks' manoeuvrability.
5. Abandon the use of friction clutches.
6. Simplify the construction of small components, increase their reliability and decrease to the maximum extent possible the need to constantly make adjustments.
7. Comparing American and Russian tanks, it is clear that driving Russian tanks is much harder. A virtuosity is demanded of Russian drivers in changing gear on the move, special experience in using friction clutches, great experience as a mechanic, and the ability to keep tanks in working condition (adjustments and repairs of components, which are constantly becoming disabled). This greatly complicates the training of tankers and drivers.
8. Judging by samples, Russians when producing tanks pay little attention to careful machining or the finishing and technology of small parts and components, which leads to the loss of the advantage what would otherwise accrue from what on the whole are well designed tanks.
9. Despite the advantages of the use of diesel, the good contours of the tanks, thick armour, good and reliable armaments, the successful design of the tracks etc., Russian tanks are significantly inferior to American tanks in their simplicity of driving, manoeuvrability, the strength of firing [reference to speed of shell], speed, the reliability of mechanical construction and the ease of keeping them running.
Signed -- The head of the 2nd Department of the Main Intelligence Department of the Red Army, General Major of Tank Armies, Khlopo… (end missing: Khlopov?)"

The webpage is currently available from the good ole WayBack Machine

1 comment:

  1. Neat little read, and backs up what I've heard about T-34's from tank enthusiasts and museums. I'd heard that most T-34's would break down after a major engagement or be destroyed during it, and this paired with the large number tanks produced led to reputation of it being a "great" tank. Still wouldn't want to fight fight one, a tank is tank after all. Also I got the 15mm tank stowage mold made, you can check out the results here:
    I think I'll make another sprue with 2 Jerry Cans and 3 ammo boxes.


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