Soviet Union (1940)
Medium tank – 35,467 built

A landmark in tank history

The T-34 was and remains a legend. It is not only the most produced tank of WWII, with 84,000 built (compared to the 48,966 Shermans of all versions) but also one of the longest-serving tanks ever built. Many are still stored in depots in Asia and Africa, and some served actively during the 90’s (such as during the 1991-99 Yugoslavian war). They formed the backbone of countless armored forces around the globe from the fifties to the eighties. The basic design was drawn for the first time in 1938 with the A-32, in turn partially derived from the BT-7M, a late evolution of the US-borne Christie tank.

The first version of the T-34/76 came as a nasty surprise for the overconfident German troops in the fall of 1941, when it was first committed en masse. Not only were they able to cope with the mud and snow with their large tracks, but they came with a perfect combination of thick and highly sloped armor, efficient gun, good speed and autonomy and, above all, extreme sturdiness, reliability, ease of manufacturing and maintenance. A perfect winner for an industrial war and a significant leap in tank design. While the T-34 did have a number of deficiencies (see below), the T-34’s influence on the future designs and the concept of the main battle tank is unquestionable.

Medium tanks lineage : BT-7, T32, T34 1940 et T34 1941.
Links in the evolution of the T-34, left to right: BT-7M, A-20, T-34 mod. 1940 (L-11), T-34 mod. 1941 (F-34).

Early precursor: The A-32

From the BT-IS, A-20, the BT-SV’s sloped armor (1936) to the five-roadwheel A-32, the blueprint of the T-34 was set up far before the war. The team lead by engineer Mikhail Koshkin promised Stalin to replace the BT series with a better “universal tank”. The bureau designed a sloped armored box encasing a powerful diesel V12 engine which was less sensitive than the high-octane petrol engines used in previous Soviet tanks. This was done both to increase the range and to avoid bursting in flames too easily, as the BT-5 and BT-7 did during the war against Japan in Manchuria.

See this article for more information about the vehicles leading up to the T-34.

The first prototype of the T-34 was an improved A-32 with thicker armor, which successfully completed field trials at Kubinka and was simplified for mass production. It was ready as early as the beginning of 1939, as USSR was undergoing a major rearmament plan. The first two pre-series vehicles rolled out of the KhPZ factory in Kharkov (Ukraine) during the very first month of 1940, under the patronage of Sergey Ordzhonikidze. From April to May they underwent a large array of difficult trials, rolling through 2000 km (1242 mi) from Kharkov to the Mannerheim line in Finland and back to the factory via Moscow (sadly, Mikhail Koshkin, the lead designer who took part in the grueling march, became ill and passed away soon after).

T-34 model 1940

The T-34 was largely improved during trials and mass production was set up in September by Koshkin’s successor, chief designer Alexander Morozov. All previous models, the T-26, the BT-7 and the heavy multi-turreted T-28 were all dropped from production to make room for the new medium tank. Production was also separated, Leningrad furnishing the L-11 gun, Kharkov – the diesel V12, Moscow – the electrical components and the armored hull, while the final assembly was performed at the Stalingrad tractor factory. After July 1941, all these vulnerable production centers saw a huge relocation effort to the east.

The T34 1940, the first mass production model. The 1941 has many differences, mostly turned towards an easier production.
The A-34 prototype with the L-11 76 mm gun, almost identical to the first production model, the T-34 model 1940.

Only Stalingrad production remained in place until the very end of the battle, when Von Paulus’ army capitulated in early 1943. But the model 1940 was hampered by various deficiencies. The complex hull front armor piece was difficult to manufacture, there was a shortage of V12 diesels, so most of the model 1940 series tanks were equipped with the BT tank’s Mikulin M-17 engine at Gorky factory, as well as provisional transmission and clutch. The initial L-11 76 mm (2.99 in) gun was criticized for having a low muzzle velocity and the F-34 was designed instead at Gorky. It was later put into production, equipping the first units in July 1941.

General overview

When all designed components were brought together, the new T-34s series was equipped with the final 76.2 mm (3 in) gun, and was the basis for all versions until 1944. It was known as the T-34/76 (to differentiate it from the later T-34/85). A new and improved coil-spring Christie suspension was fitted, as well as the intended V12 diesels and adapted clutch and transmission. The 10-RT 26E radio set was replaced by the 9-RS model and the tracks were slightly enlarged. The frontal armor was simplified for mass production, as well as many other elements. When out in business, the T-34 had no equivalent in the world. It was able to combine almost to perfection the magic triangle of speed, armor and armament.

The sloped armor was a good solution to deflect most hits while retaining some thickness. First encounters in July 1941 proved that no German tank was able to reliably score a penetration. To the disappointment of the enemy officers, their shots simply bounced off these well-armored machines. The need for a more powerful gun, with very high velocity was the origin of the Panther design (Panzer V).

The T-34 was equipped with a variety of hatches and turrets during its lifespan, but almost all had their upper hull equipped with railings to allow Soviet troops to travel on the tank, supplementing the lack of transports. None were ever equipped with an anti-aircraft mount and many were lost because of this in 1944 due to the new Stuka dive bomber antitank conversions (Ju-87G).

The T-34/76 was the mainstay of the Red Army from 1941 to the end of 1944, when sufficient numbers of T-34/85’s, a new tank in some aspects, gradually replaced them. The T-34 was a real shock for the Germans, as they had nothing like it. The sloped armor proved highly effective, despite their relatively low muzzle velocity gun, which was favorably compared to the guns of Panzer III and IV of the time. Their diesel was sturdy and able to cope with extreme weather conditions, their wide tracks were perfectly shaped to cope with the “raspoutista” (a sea of mud) in autumn and the snow in winter. It was much easier to produce than any Panzer model before it, and for many frontline German units the T-34 seemed invincible. Of course, that was not always true. A well placed hit between the tracks and wheels could still disable them. And on the defensive the German 88 mm (3.46 in) guns had no issues dealing with them.

The T-34 model 1941/42 interior. The floor where the commander stands is made of ammunition cases. The finishes and equipment were limited to the bare minimum.
The T-34 model 1941/42 interior. The floor where the commander stands is made of ammunition cases. The finishes and equipment were limited to the bare minimum.

Tactics

At the end of 1942 came a new version, the model 1942, limited to minor improvements to crew comfort and vision systems. The 76 mm (2.99 in) gun could fire high explosive rounds as well as armor-piercing ones. These were fatal to all Panzers except the late, heavily protected versions of the Panzer IV. They were sometimes paired with the slower but heavily armored KV-1 tanks. But German tactics, like in France, proved superior, and both well-coordinated Stuka attacks as well as the 88 mm (3.46 in) guns prevented the Russian T-34s from overwhelming the enemy. During the Moscow winter campaign and later at Stalingrad, the T-34s were massively engaged for the first time and overwhelmed German defenses. German tanks (and troops) were crippled by the icy weather.

The rubber from the wheels peeled off, the engines were slow to start and had to be slowly warmed up, machine-guns often jammed and mobility was almost impossible as the narrow tracks of the Panzer III and IV caused them to literally sink in the snow. Additionally, bad weather interfered with the aerial support, preventing any help from the Luftwaffe.

However, the new Panther proved lethal at long range against the T-34, which still had to catch its prey in close combat in order to penetrate the German tank. These tactics proved decisive at Kursk, when hundred of Panthers and Tigers, while being efficient at long range, were overwhelmed by thousands of T-34s striking from all sides. Just like Sherman tanks, two or more T-34s were sacrificed in order to allow others to flank their foe, hitting their vulnerable rear.

Production problems

The T-34 was not the “perfect” tank the Germans had sometimes thought it was. Poor quality assembly, roughly welded joints, combined with overall very harsh running conditions as well as low training skills, sometimes inept commanders, took their toll on every division equipped with the T-34. In some occurrences, more than half of the tanks engaged in combat were lost due to mechanical breakdowns and other teething problems.

The diesels were particularly sensitive to dust and sand. The first filters proved ineffective. The transmission and clutches often caused a serious amount of vibrations and occasionally failed. The T-34/76 was also often criticized for its cramped fighting compartment. Regardless of its quality, large numbers of T-34’s were lost due to lack of communications and poor doctrine.


A file of newly produced T-34 model 1942, en route for the frontline. These can be identified by their hexagonal turrets and the open twin “Mickey Mouse ears” hatches.

It was not unusual to see entire spare transmissions and other mechanical parts stowed on the tank, between extra fuel tanks, next to the tarpaulin, shovel, pick axe, iron cable and, of course, spare tracks sections. At times, the lack of support vehicles forced the T-34’s to become their own support vehicles. In a major relocation effort due to the rapidly advancing German forces the assembly lines were relocated to the Dzerzhinski Ural Railcar Factory in Nizhny Tagil and Stalin Tractor Factory in Chelyabinsk (“Tankograd”), undoubtfully a difficult task for the thousands of people involved. But until the fall of 1942, the biggest production was in the eastern Stalingrad. There, the T-34s were thrown into combat right at the factory door.

The T-34/76 model 1941

This model was similar to the the previous 1940 model. The most important improvement of Model 1941 was the more efficient, longer-barrelled F-34 76.2 mm gun. Many components were put under scrutiny for mass production, like the new gun mount, the welded turret with a new, single, wide hatch, and many other parts. The single hatch was added for ease of production, but it was heavy and easily jammed, trapping everybody inside. In fact it was hated by the crews (which suffered from poor comfort and poor ergonomics), being quickly dubbed the “pirozhok” (stuffed bun). The very large rear exhaust covers were another feature, which did not last long. The turret lacked sufficient protection for the commander, with no special-purpose hatch, or the traversable periscope.

Russian T-43
The T-34 model 1942 (left) and T-43 (right) side to side. The T-43 was a heavier derivative of the T-34, with the aim to replace both the KV-1 and the T-34. It had a much thicker armor, torsion-bar suspension and a three-man turret. After the Kursk Battle the project was canceled, as both mobility and armor thickness were insufficient facing the Tiger’s 88 mm (3.46 in) gun.

The single heavy, forward opening hatch had a single vision slit, often blurry or dirty. Moreover, the commander was also responsible for loading the gun, due to the four men crew. This was not corrected until the introduction of the three-man turret with the T-34/85. Later on, many models had additional armor plating like the T-34E (“ekrany” – armor plates) to answer the latest German gun development. The armor was largely improved compared to the 1940 model. Some 324 T-34’s were rearmed with a special high-velocity 57 mm (2.24 in) gun ZiS-4 or ZiS-4M, under the name of T-34/57, and used as tank-hunters, notably during the battle of Moscow.

The T-34/76 models 1942 to 1944

As the standardized machine tools used for the T-34 were not easily adaptable, changes were rarely introduced into the production process. Many features of the T-34 remained unchanged until 1942, despite the complaints of the crews and their commanders. The process was made simpler and the parts cheaper. For example, the commonly used F-34 gun was simplified to the point that nearly 200 pieces less were needed (from 861 to 614).

The gun sights and range finder remained crude, despite the fact that several gun mounts were alternatively used. The poor optics prevented the crews from using their guns at long range like the Germans often did. This led to aggressive tactics based on constant maneuvering, while the German tanks could stand in place and fire at approaching targets from a distance.

The lack of rubber often prevented the use of the standard rubberized wheels, and many bare-metal wheels of various designs were used. This can be seen on photographs as a strange mix of random wheels. But the early 1942 saw the introduction of a new, much better hexagonal turret, a sub-product of the abandoned T-34M project, which was a great improvement over previous models. Notably, the big hatch was removed and replaced by separated hatches (dubbed “Mickey mouse” by the Germans, due to the way it looked from the front with the hatches open).

In the fall of 1943, the turret received a new specially-designed all-round vision commander cupola. Despite this, production cost was halved and production time reduced by 50% despite the fact that most of the male workers left for the battlefield by that point, and were replaced by women, children, disabled, or the elderly. In 1943 T-34 production rate was about 1300 per month. Quality standards were poor and they were roughly finished, even by US mass production standards. The last model was the T-34/76 G or model 1944, with the simplified ZiS S-53 gun, turret radio and improved commander sights. However, production was gradually decreased to make way for the significantly better T-34/85.

The T-34/85

As the war went on, German Panzers greatly improved, mostly to deal with the T-34. Not only did many tank-hunters appear, but also the later generations of the Panzer IV with additional armor plates, the Panther and, of course, the Tiger. The Morozov design bureau was well aware of the limitations of their 76 mm (2.99 in) gun, especially after the battle of Kursk, such as its insufficient range and armor-piercing capabilities. A new high velocity model was needed, which was derived from a successful anti-aircraft gun, the ZiS 85 mm (3.35 in), mimicking the legendary German Flak 88 mm (3.46 in). The project targeting to replace both the KV-1 and the T-34 was the T-43.

The T-34-85 turret - a significant improvement over the T-34 model 1943 hexagonal turret.
The 3-man T-34/85 turret – a significant improvement over the T-34 model 1943 hexagonal turret.

After the battle of Kursk the T-43 project was abandoned while its turret was used to improve the T-34, in what will become known as the T-34/85. This brought two major improvements, the first being the new, greatly more effective gun, and the brand new turret itself with more internal space for the five crew members. With the new dedicated gunner position, the commander could concentrate on commanding the tank. This new version proved far superior and gradually replaced earlier versions.

Eventually, the overall T-34 production rate significantly increased. By 1944 the Red Army had a large number of both T-34/76 and the T-34/85, in various versions. The T-34/85 was not immune to the Tiger, the 88 mm (3.46 in) gun and the PaK 40. While the new turret was better sloped, it also made the tank taller and thus an easier target. Production of the T-34/85 reached 22,559, outnumbering the superior Panthers and Tigers.

Captured T-34/76’s

As the war had the Soviets at a disadvantage until December 1942, many T-34’s were captured during the Blitzkrieg. Abandoned tanks were often found in somewhat good condition. Mechanical problems were likely the cause, due to the still relatively new design, hasty production with poor quality standards, lack of maintenance and fuel, and overall rough service conditions. Entire units were also captured or even depots which not evacuated on time. Additionally, some tanks were disabled in combat, but not beyond repair. During this process the Wehrmacht incorporated an estimated 400 tanks of nearly all models from the model 1940 to the 1943, under the name of Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r) or T-34 747(r) for the T-34/76. Since the Germans were impressed by these tanks (Guderian, Von Kleist and Blumentritt among others), they took all possible means to restore and return to battle those valuable trophies. Most of the time few changes were made except for the proper German camouflage and very large Balkenkreuz’ painted on the turret, hull and roof. Large swastikas were also used to make the tanks recognizable by the German tank and air crews. The Germans also added equipment and, eventually, additional armored plates.

T34 into German service
T-34 pressed into service for the Wehrmacht.

The first Axis user of the T-34 was the regular Wehrmacht, which incorporated many models 1941 and far more models 1942 in the 1st, 8th and 11th Panzer Divisions during the summer of 1941. All captured units were sent to a Riga workshop, but also Marienfeld and Goerlitz, receiving new radios, fitted with a German-style commander cupola, new hatches and other minor equipment. Many badly damaged T-34s were kept as spare part reserves. Some turrets were removed and mounted on the many armored trains (Panzerzug) which roamed the Eastern front. Other served as training tanks, but the biggest part were used in regular units and some by the SS units, like the 3rd SS Panzer Division “Totenkopf” and “Das Reich”. They added Schürzen (armor skirts), Notek lights, storage boxes, tools, radios and commander cupolas removed from damaged Panzer IIIs and IVs. These units also incorporated a handful of supply T-34 conversions (Munitionspanzer T-34(r)) and a few AA conversions (Flakpanzer T-34(r)). The Ukrainian “Liberation Force” of Vlasov also used many captured T-34s, which showed a blazon with the traditional St Andre cross and “ROA” (for Russian Volunteer Army). The Finns also captured many T-34s and painted them with a three-tone camouflage and large swastikas.

A Polish T34-85.
A Polish T-34/85 in 1945. Notice the Polish eagle on the turret. The T-34/85 was a massive export success. The last were seen fighting in ex-Yugoslavia in 1996.

The Cold War & exports

The T-34/85 was still produced after the end of the war in September 1945. They formed the bulk of the Soviet summer offensive in Manchuria in August 1945. They proved far superior to any Japanese tanks or guns. By that point it was quite cheap to produce, relatively easy to maintain and was overall superior to many Allied tanks at the time, but inferior to the British Centurion, the American M26 Pershing and the later developments of the M4 Sherman. With huge stocks available and the new tank generation derived from the IS-3 (like the mass-production T-54/55), many T-34s were sent to the USSR allies and satellite states behind the iron curtain. They ultimately formed the bulk of their armored force until the early 1960s, seeing action during the Korean war, with North Korean and Chinese forces (which also used the locally built Type 58 version).

They also formed the core of many Arab countries’ armored forces in the Middle East (like Syria and Egypt), then opposing upgraded Shermans and the definitely better Israeli Centurions. They also formed an essential part (alongside the more recent T-54s and T-55s) of the North Vietnamese regular armored regiments. They were sold to many emerging countries, sometimes barely modernized with better optics and electronics, and remained in service until the end of the Cold War. Current or former operators include: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Cuba, Finland, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Laos, Mongolia, North Korea, Palestine, Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, Syria, Vietnam, South Yemen, North Yemen, Africa, Algeria, Angola, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, and Zimbabwe.

T-34/76 Mod. 1940 Specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h) 5.95 x 3 x 2.40 m (19’6″ x 9’10” x 7’10” ft.in.)
Total weight, battle ready: 26.8 tonnes
Crew 4
Propulsion V12, 500 hp @1800 rpm
Speed 54 km/h (33.5 mph)
Range, off road/on road 227 km (141 mi) / 292 km (181 mi)
Fuel capacity 455 liters (120 US gal)
Armament Main: L-11 76.2 mm (3 in) gun
Secondary: 3x DT 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine-guns (1 stowed)
Armor Hull front and sides up to 45 mm (1.77 in)
Hull top/bottom 16 mm (0.63 in)
Turret 45 or 52 mm (cast turret) (1.77 or 2.03 in)
Total production 35,467 total T-34/76 (84,070 with T-34/85)

T-34/76 Mod. 1941 Specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h) 5.92 x 3 x 2.40 m (19’5″ x 9’10” x 7’10” ft.in.)
Total weight, battle ready: 28.12 tonnes
Crew 4
Propulsion V12, 500 hp @1800 rpm
Speed 55 km/h (34 mph)
Range, off road/on road 250 km (155 mi) / 300 km (186 mi)
Fuel capacity 465 liters (123 US gal)
Armament Main: F-34 76.2 mm (3 in) gun
Secondary: 3x DT 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine-guns (1 stowed)
Armor Hull front and sides up to 45 mm (1.77 in)
Hull top/bottom 20 mm / 16 mm (0.79 / 0.63 in)
Turret 45 or 52 mm (cast turret) (1.77 or 2.03 in)
Total production 35,467 total T-34/76 (84,070 with T-34/85)

Sources

“Domestic Armored Vehicles. 20th Century. Vol 1: 1905-1941” A.G. Solyankin, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov, E.G. Zheltov / Отечественные бронированные машины. ХХ век. Том 1: 1905-1941. А.Г. Солянкин, М.В. Павлов, И.В. Павлов, Е. Г. Желтов.
T-34 video on Youtube
The T-34 on Wikipedia
The T-34 on Soviet-empire.com
Captured T-34 in German service (Achtungpanzer)
Other T-34s in German service

T32
The T-34/76 model 1940 was the first production version, largely derived from the previous A-32 prototypes. Hundreds of them were about to be put in service in July 1941. Around 1066 were ready when Operation Barbarossa was launched. They performed well despite the lack of training of their crews and inept command, just like the KV-1. The Panzers couldn’t match them in one-on-one combat, but the poor doctrine and low numbers of T-34’s available made the new tank quite vulnerable, and many were lost.T34 model 1940
A T-34 Model 1940 of the Moscow Rifles Guard Battalion, summer 1941 (with the L-11 76 mm gun). This three-tone camouflage pattern was quite rare and only appears in a handful of photographs.T34
A T-34/76 model 1941 with a very unusual two-tone winter livery of the Soviet Red Guards, in the fall of 1941 (note the new F-34 76 mm gun). This scheme was perhaps obtained through chemical treatment of the washable white paint over the factory olive green.

T34/76 modele 1941
The T-34/76 model 1941 was a cheaper and simpler production version of the 1940 model, with many improvements. These included welded elements and a new two-piece cast turret, with a new wide hatch which became one of the striking characteristics of the T-34. By this point most T-34’s were equipped with the new F-34 76 mm gun. Railings were added on the hull, sometimes a standard piece with two folds or a simpler version with a simple tube running all along the upper part of the sloped hull. T-34’s were used as improvised transport in the heart of battle, mostly due to their impressive off-road capabilities that few trucks could match at that time. Here is a model 1941 from the Moscow sector, January 1942. Slogan: “For Stalin, for the USSR.”

T-34
A T-34/76 model 1941. Unknown unit. The painted slogan: “For the Komsomol.”

T-34/76 model 1942 Eskranami
Up-armored T-34/76E model 1941 “S Ekranami” (with extra bolted appliqué armor). Caucasus Region, spring 1942. Slogan: “For Russia”.

T34/76 model 1941/42
Model 1941, unknown unit, Northern sector, early 1942. Slogan: “For the Fatherland”.

T-34/76 model 1942, 5th Army Guards
T-34/76 model 1941, 5th Guards Army, November 1942.

T34/76 model 1942
A late model 1941 with all-metal wheels. The two-tone camouflage is attested through photographic evidence, but was rare. Central front, spring 1943.

T34/76 model 1941/42
T-34/76 model 1941/42, transition production from the STZ factory, Stalingrad, January 1942.

T34/76 model 1942
Early production T-34/76 model 1941, with a makeshift sand painted camouflage, unknown unit, southern front, summer 1942.

T34/76 model 1942 Finland
T-34/76 model 1941, Finnish sector, lake Ladoga, winter 1942/43. Notice the camouflage made of crossed white paint bands. This created a pattern when seen from far away.

T34 model 1942 late production
A T-34/76 model 1942 in winter livery, Stalingrad, January-February 1943 offensive.

T34/76 model 1943
The T-34/76 model 1942 had some improvements over the 1941 model. A handful of them received the new twin hatches, earning it he “Mickey Mouse” nickname from the Germans. The addition of a better turret and mass production were the main goals of the model 1943 version, with many simplified parts to lower the cost and increase the rate of delivery. At Stalingrad these models, famously built at the “Red October” and “Barricade” factories, were literally thrown into battle at the end of the production line, in bare metal finish, often without any kind of markings.

T34/76 model 1943
T-34/76 model 1943, Belgorod-Kharkov Offensive, August 1943. Notice the makeshift extra protection, comprising of a wooden crate filled with sand and a pruned tree trunk.

T32
T-34/76 model 1942 at Kharkov, spring 1943. Notice the rare two-tone camouflage, probably applied using sand and some adhesive, and the mixed metal and rubberized road wheels. The T-34/76 model 1943 received the new turret with twin hatches and better optics, which improved the efficiency of the commander.

T34 model 1944
During the fall of 1943, all vehicles received a new commander cupola, which greatly improved his visibility on the battlefield. However, production standards were poor and many tanks were lost due to mechanical breakdowns. The model 1944 was systematically equipped with the new turret, with a wider commander cupola and some extra armor. External equipment included spare tracks, tools boxes, fuel tanks and improvised protection of all kinds. Of these, for example, were entire pruned trunks, rails, scrap metal and, during the battle of Germany and especially in Berlin, an improvised Panzerfaust defense made of spring beds or various metal frames.


Captured vehicles (Beutepanzer)

T34 axis
Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r), with the dunkelgrau livery. Ukraine, Panzergruppe South, spring 1942.

T34 axis Kursk
Panzerkampfwagen T-34b(r) 1942, Kursk salient, summer 1943.

Beutepanzer T34cBeute Panzerkampfwagen T-34c(r) in autumn camouflage, Poland, fall 1944.


Variants & derivatives

T34-85
T-34/85:
the main evolution of the T-34/76. They were basically late production T-34s rearmed with the high-high velocity, long barrel ZiS-S-53 85 mm (33) gun, a derivative of an AA gun, and a brand-new, three-man turret to house it. This version far outlived the war, as the last left the factory in 1958, after a staggering 48,950 had been delivered. It formed the basis for all Russian MBTs to come during the Cold War.

SU85M
SU-85:
this was the most proficient derivative of the T-34. It used the same chassis, but was equipped with the high velocity 85 mm (3.35 in) ZiS-S-53. Around 3000 were built, but the production was stopped as the first T-34/85s rolled of the production line.

Su-122
SU-122
: a 122 mm (4.8 in) howitzer SPG (1150 built in 1943-44).

Gallery

The hull machine gun.A Su-122.

T-34/85
T-28
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12 Responses to T-34/76

  1. MaxRavenclaw says:

    The single hatch on the T-34 M1941 existed on the M1940 as well. Every single picture of the T-34 M1940 shows a single hatch. I couldn’t find any evidence that it was added on the M1941 and not simply taken over from the M1940.

  2. Phil says:

    Great website. So much data. Many thanks.

  3. Shrimpman says:

    Hi. Excellent article. Found a little boo boo though (you can’t be an expert in all branches of the military hardware i guess) 🙂 “None was ever equipped with an anti-aircraft mount and many were lost because of this in 1944 due to the new Stuka antitank conversions (Ju-47D).”. I believe you meant Ju 87? Actually G model, the famous Kanonenvogel, was the specialised anti-tank version.

    • Stan Lucian says:

      You are correct! The modification has been made!

    • Stiltzkin says:

      The Stuka G version was already used at Kursk, Rudel was one of the famous pilots. However during wartime, tactical air raid effectiveness on tanks have been extremely overstated by all factions (you can read this up in TDI dupuy institute “effectiveness of tactical air strikes ETO 44-45).
      Dr. Zetterling on Air strikes “According to a document I have (Fremde Heere Ost, IIc, 10.10.1944, BA-MA RH 2/2101), the German army units reported that they had destroyed 23,070 Soviet tanks and assault guns from 1 January 1944 to 30 September 1944. During the same period the Luftwaffe claimed to have destroyed 1,847 Soviet tanks and assault guns. These figures refer to claims by combat units, which almost invariably are exaggerated. The OKH was well aware of this and applied corrections. For ground combat units a 30 % reduction was applied, except for July and August, when a 50 % reduction was used. Probably the latter percentage was justified by the more desperate situation, which made it more difficult for the combat units to verify their claims. For the Luftwaffe a 50 % reduction was always applied. Consequently the OKH arrived at 14,527 Soviet tanks and assault guns destroyed by ground units and 921 by air units. This suggests that air units were responsible for 6.0 % of the “kills”. However, it seems that the OKH was too drastic in its reductions. If we rely on Krivosheev, we find that the Red Army lost 23,700 tanks and assault guns during 1944 (complete write-offs). This corresponds to 1,975 per month, or 17,775 for the period 1 January – 30 September. During the first nine months of 1944, the most intensive fighting for that year occurred, hence it seems likely that at least 18,000 tanks and assault guns were lost during that period. Possibly the error was to use a 50 % reduction during July and August (if a 30 % reduction is used, the total number destroyed would increase with some 1,650 tanks and assault guns) or else the reductions applied were generally to harsh.
      The use of a 50 % reduction for the Luftwaffe seems however not enough. I have yet to encounter an engagement were air unit claims were “only” twice as high as the actual outcome.
      Considering this, it seems quite likely that in 1944, the Luftwaffe share of destroyed tanks in the east was well below 5 %.
      It is actually quite remarkable that the claims by air units have filled so many pages in the literature on WWII. First of all, they are notoriously and greatly exaggerated. Second, the emphasis on destroyed equipment is more in line with attrition warfare, rather than the maneuver warfare almost everyone pays lip service to.
      It must be remembered that destruction of equipment is not the only way of conducting war. It can be more important to affect the enemy’s behaviour, tactics, morale, plans or decision-making.”

  4. Stiltzkin says:

    The T-34 the “mythical, weapon” which can hardly live up to its reputation. It does not deserve to be called ” the best tank of WW2″ (I don’t think any tank can). The more I digged into combat reports and the journal of slavic military studies, the more eyeopening it was. My judgement would not be that harsh if it wasn’t for the constant overglorification. I wish there was just one Simulation that would depict the truth (even Steel Fury made mistakes and Red Orchestra is just one big idealized insult). It surely holds the record for the most destroyed tank in history (out of 55000 produced 45000 perished).

  5. Stiltzkin says:

    You should correct the datatable, it says “main armament L-11” , which is only true for the mod40s early versions, it was replaced by the F-34 (the T34 was a series of tanks not just the prototypes and the 76, there were the KhPZ, STZ, Gorki, 183 Plant, Uralmash, Sormovo etc. (they weren’t even standardized).
    Furthermore, I would be very careful about posting Wikipedia stats as they are notoriously taken out of context or simply wrong/utopic. 400km was hardly achievable, the average range for Diesel cruiser tanks (no the USSR was not the country of the Diesel and the T34 was not the first sloped or diesel tank, compare FCM-36) of that time was 300km. The Aberdeen trial T34s in 43 managed to do 343 km before their engines went down to unfiltered dust.
    Most of the time the V12 overheated, shifting from the 2nd to 3rd gear was hard and the 2nd gear was a very fast one (thats where the myth of the fast T34 comes from, Newsreel propaganda maneuvers and 2nd gear charges, due to individual tactics, poor visibility and a lack of coordination/WRLS). From captured T34, Panzer tracts “Regardless of our limited experience, it can be stated that Russian tanks are not suitable for long road marches and high speeds. It has turned out that the highest speed that can be achieved is 10 to 12 km/h. It is also necessary on marches to halt every half-hour for at least 15 to 20 minutes to the the machine cool down.
    Most combat reports state that the T34 would usually break down after 80-90km but that was sufficient as most T34 were usually destroyed after 66km.
    The guns were actually quiet good and I don’t know where the myth of Soviet inaccurate guns was born (maybe because of the intitially poor optics).

  6. Stiltzkin says:

    “The Panzers couldn\’t match them in single combat, but there were a only handful of them, largely spread on a gigantic front.”
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/9akj09lxra449lo/Causes%20ofT34Losses.jpg?dl=0 , Krivosheev

    I forgot to add Askey : “The T-34 in WWII: the Legend vs. the Performance
    However, if battle performance was (and indeed still is) the ultimate determinant of the effectiveness of any weapon system, then unlike some legends in WWII, the tactical combat record of the T-34 does not match up to its legendary status.

    There is no doubt that a large proportion of T-34s in 1941 fell victim to operational type losses, especially in the situations the Red Army found itself in during the summer of 1941. Many T-34s had little or no armour piercing ammunition in June 1941, although they did in the months that followed. Many T-34s were abandoned and lost due to breakdown, being bogged down or simply out of fuel. The Red Army’s tank divisions, already short of tractors, had little to no recovery vehicles or even time to recover these tanks. However, even if we assume a staggering 40-50% of T-34s were operational losses (which is probably too high an estimate), then the T-34’s loss ratio in tactical combat is still around two-three to one in the German favour.

    The combat results for 1941 show the Soviets lost an average of over seven tanks for every German tank lost. If all German fully tracked AFVs (assault guns, tank destroyers, SP artillery, etc) and losses from Germany’s allies are included in the German figures, then the ratio drops to 6.6 to 1 in the German favour.
    Of the total of 20 500 Soviet tanks lost in 1941, approximately 2 300 were T-34s and over 900 were mostly KV heavy tanks. Even if the T-34’s loss ratio was better than seven for every German tank, it was still most likely in the region of four or five to one.

    The T-34/76’s one great weakness was its fire control efficiency. It suffered from the same two-man turret syndrome as other Soviet tanks in this period, namely that the tank’s commander, gun aimer, gun firer and platoon commander (if a platoon leader), were all the same person. Exacerbating this was the fact that the T-34/76 had relatively poor main gun optics quality, no turret basket, a very cramped and low turret (the gun could not depress more than three degrees severely restricting use on a reverse slope or at close range), poor turret drive reliability, no radios, and generally poor target observation and indicator devices (including no turret cupola and only one vision periscope for the tank’s commander).

    So what was the result of the T-34/76’s two man turret, weak optics and poor vision devices (that is a poor overall FCE factor)? German tankers noted “T34s operated in a disorganised fashion with little coordination, or else tended to clump together like a hen with its chicks. Individual tank commanders lacked situational awareness due to the poor provision of vision devices and preoccupation with gunnery duties.

    In comparison Soviet tanks had a generally rough and ready finish, and lacked many features which were assumed essential by German tankers and to a large extent by their Western Allied counterparts. There were of course considerably more Soviet tanks, which ultimately helped them to win the war.”

  7. Stiltzkin says:

    ” but there were a only handful of them, largely spread on a gigantic front.”

    Operation Barbarossa: the Complete Organisational and Statistical Analysis, and Military Simulation Volume I , Askey

    “From June to December 1941, the Soviets either already had in service or placed in service, a total of at least 3 017 T-34s out of a manufactured total of 3 111.(3) This is not a small number even by later WWII standards. With this number, the T-34 tanks must have been much more established than common perception.

    The total number of German Pz IIIs, Pz IVs and StuG assault guns committed to the East Front during the entire period under consideration, was 2 686.(4) This figure includes Pz IIIs with only 37mm guns, all the tanks in all the units that arrived as reinforcements, and all replacements up to December 1941. These were the only general issue German AFVs with any reasonable chance of success in one to one combat with a T-34 or KV tank, and based on a cursory analysis of armour and firepower, this chance was theoretically low. In other words, even in 1941 the Red Army fielded over 1.1 times more T-34s than any German AFV ‘theoretically’ capable of taking them on. (If we add the 1 563 even more powerful KV I and II tanks fielded by the Soviets in 1941, this figure increases to 1.7). This is before we even consider the thousands of other tank types, that the same German Pz IIIs, Pz IVs and StuGs had to fight against during 1941.”

    “On 22nd June 1941 the majority of T-34 tanks were actually concentrated in several powerful units, and not dispersed in small packets. For example, the 4th and 7th Tank Divisions, 6th Mechanised Corps, Western Special Military District had 238 T-34s and 114 KVs on strength on 22nd June 1941. The 8th and 32nd Tank Divisions, 4th Mechanised Corps, Kiev Special Military District had 313 T-34s and 99 KVs on strength on 22nd June 1941”

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