Improvised armored vehicles appeared on the battlefields during the First World War, but then such vehicles were created only in single copies, and indeed Tanks were still real exotic. Such equipment was used more massively during the years of the Spanish Civil War, but then it was mainly about creating improvised armored vehicles on a wheeled chassis. In the USSR, armored tractors gained a certain distribution, the development of which in the country began in the 1930s.
An armored tractor, armored tractor or ersatz tank is an improvised combat vehicle (most often an analogue of an armored vehicle, an improvised tank or self-propelled gun), built on the basis of a conventional tractor. The reason for the emergence of such unusual combat vehicles was originally a low patency of armored vehicles. The idea of creating an armored car on a tractor base belonged to Colonel Artillery Gulkevich, who in July 1915 even managed to get a patent for his invention. In the future, such combat vehicles were most often created in the conditions of acute need for armored vehicles with a shortage of real tanks or the impossibility of their production, as happened in the USSR in the first months of World War II.
One of the most mass serial armored tractors in stories The USSR, and possibly throughout world history, became an XT-16 armored tractor, this ersatz tank was also sometimes called the T-16. It was produced in the autumn of 1941 at the Kharkov Tractor Plant, the information that this armored tractor was also produced at the Stalingrad Tractor Plant is not confirmed. The combat vehicle was a rework of an ordinary agricultural tracked tractor CXTZ-NATI, which was sheathed with sheets of armor steel and received gun-guns.
During the 1930-1932 years in the USSR, a large-scale experiment was conducted on the development of agricultural tractors based on agricultural tractors for direct support of infantry on the battlefield. In total, about ten different prototypes of armored tractors (D-10, D-11, D-14 and others) were tested. By the spring of the 1932 of the year, the Department of Motorization and Mechanization of the Red Army, having received the results of tests of armored tractors of various designs, concluded that it was impossible to create a full-fledged combat vehicle from a conventional tractor. The equipment received in the course of work could not effectively solve the combat missions assigned to it.
However, the fact that in peacetime looked unnecessary in the harsh realities of the war began to seem quite justified. The heavy losses of the Red Army in armored vehicles in the summer of 1941, forced the army leadership to look for a way out of the current situation, using all possible means for this. Already 20 July 1941 saw the light of the decree of the State Defense Committee No. 019 “On the screening of light tanks and on booking tractors”. In accordance with this decree, mass production of brontraktors was planned to be established at two plants: the Kharkov Tractor Plant (HTZ) and the Stalingrad Tractor Plant (STZ). It was assumed that the improvised ersatz tanks will be armed with 45-mm guns and will be used as self-propelled guns.
The project for the reservation of tractors, as well as all the documentation necessary for serial production, was developed by the design bureau of the tank unit of NATI. This KB has already had experience in this field. In July, the 1941 of the year here was implemented the project of installing the 37-mm anti-aircraft gun on the chassis of the 1TMV tractor. ATI engineers A. V. Sapozhnikov, A. M. Cherepin, V. Ya. Slonimsky and E. G. Popov were involved in the implementation of the new project. A group of engineers under the leadership of the chief designer M. S. Sidelnikov joined the work directly at KhTZ. For contacts with him on the spot, a brigade of the CBI tank department of NATI made several trips to Kharkov.
Already in the first days of August 4 built various models of armored tractors with 45-mm 20K guns on the basis of 1ТМВ, STZ-3, СХТЗ-NATI (agricultural) and STZ-5 (transport). Some sources indicated that the STZ-3 base was chosen for the release of the armored tractor, in particular, Mikhail Kolomiets wrote in the article “Armored tractors. Part 3 », M-Hobby, №3-1997. At the same time, Yury Pasholok, the historical consultant of Wargaming, notes that the agricultural tractor СХТЗ-НАТИ, the design of which had to be modified in 16 groups of nodes, became the base for the XT-27 armored tractor.
According to the original plans, in August-September 1941 of the year in Kharkov it was planned to collect an impressive number of ersatz tanks - 750 XTZ-16. For them, the Novokramatorsk machine-building plant (NKMZ) was supposed to supply armor for them. In turn, the latter was to receive armor plates (rental) from the Mariupol Ilyich plant, where supplies were made in small quantities, which slowed down the process of building armored tractors. As a result, by the beginning of the evacuation of NKMZ (October 9 1941) - this plant shipped the order 100 armor sets for XTZ-16 armored tractors to Kharkov. At the same time, the number of armored vehicles launched in Kharkiv has been debated; most likely, the 142 armored trooper managed to be assembled here. In this case, the 33 first machines were manufactured using non-armored steel housings.
It is reliably known that the production of HTZ-16 was established only at the beginning of September of the 1941 year, and since September 18 began work on the evacuation of the plant. In October, 20, the battles were fought both close by and directly in Kharkov itself. According to reports of the Kharkov Tractor Plant in Kharkiv, the наход 16 tractor tracked chassis XT-809 tracked chassis chassis in the work in progress were left unpatched during evacuation, their production could not be produced by the company due to the short supply of armored steel enterprises and a number of parts.
HTZ-16 prototype, August 1941 of the year
The design of the XT-16 riveted-welded armored case was extremely simple. The designers were faced with the task of ensuring reliable protection of the crew against bullets and shell fragments, which was done in full. Technologically, the body of the armored tractor could be divided into two sections. The front of them protected the power plant, it was assembled from 4-x rolled sheets of armor steel, while the frontal armored plate (covering the radiator) was solid and fastened with bolts. The intake of air for engine cooling and exhaust gas had to be moved to the lower part of the building where armored shutters were installed. For maintenance of the power plant and access to the engine in the sides of the hull of the engine compartment there were large hatches of rectangular shape (one on each side). The rear section of the HTZ-16 was located in the control section, which was also a fighting compartment.
The landing and disembarking of the crew was carried out through a small-sized door located in the right side of the crew compartment. In case of emergency evacuation, there was also an additional hatch in the aft armored plate. Two more hatches were in the roof of the hull, but they were more designed to observe the terrain on the march, in a pinch, the combat vehicle could be left through them.
The main armament of the XT-16 armored tractor was the 45-mm gun 20K, which was installed in the front armor plate closer to the port side. On the right side in the case was the place of the driver. Here was located a small hatch opening upwards with a viewing slot. There were no specialized tank viewing instruments on the armored tractor. To improve visibility on the ersatz tank, there were the simplest viewing slots located along the sides of the fighting compartment, as well as in the frontal and stern armor plate. For firing from personal weapons 3 loopholes were provided, which were located near the viewing slits.
It should be noted that the armor plates in frontal projection were located at rational inclination angles. In front of the frontal armor sheet with a thickness of 30 mm (in front of the motor) was located at an angle of 20 degrees, at the crew compartment the angle of inclination of the armor could be brought to 25 degrees. The hull sides of the plans were to receive a reservation 13 mm. In the frontal projection, such armor provided reliable protection against large-caliber small arms and 20-mm automatic guns. At the same time, HTZ-16 was an easy target for any anti-tank gun. For the sake of justice, it is worth noting that no one planned to provide an ersatz tank with anti-missile booking.
As noted by Yuri Pasholok in the article “Industrial Improvisation»The power of the 1-MA tractor engine, which was installed on the HTZ-16, was increased from 52 to 58 horsepower. Growth is small, but taking into account the increased weight from 5,1 to 8,6 tons, each additional horsepower was not superfluous. Due to the increase in mass due to the installation of the armored hull and 45-mm guns, as well as the engine speeding up, the gearbox has also undergone changes. The frame was also changed, it was extended, and the rollers of the rollers were arranged in the type of the STZ-5 transport tractor, and the sloths were brought forward. From the STZ-5 tractor, the developers also borrowed tracked belts, as they are more suitable for a combat vehicle. In relation to each board, the chassis consisted of two carts with two paired support rollers, a front guide and rear sprocket wheel, and also two supporting rollers.
The uniqueness of the HTZ-16 lies not only in the fact that it is most likely the most massive armored tractor in history, but also in the fact that the improvised combat vehicle has passed a full-fledged test program (running and firing). Yes, the military was not enthusiastic about the armored tractor, but this is not surprising, especially in a country where the production of T-34 and KV tanks was launched before the war.
According to the original plans, the armored vehicle should have covered 500 kilometers. During the tests, the XTUM-16 passed 470 kilometers, including 240 kilometers on a cobblestone highway, 139 kilometers along a country road, 69 kilometers on an unpaved grader road, and another 22 kilometer in other road conditions. For an improvised combat vehicle based on an agricultural tractor, this was a fairly decent result. On the highway, the average speed of the HTZ-16 reached 17 km / h, the range on the highway was estimated at 119 km. When driving on rough terrain, the average speed of the armored troop carrier was 8,9 km / h, while the cruising range was reduced to 61 kilometers.
HTZ-16, lost in battles
During the tests, an overheating of the power plant was noted. Given the increased mass and the fact that the tests were carried out at an ambient temperature of almost 30 degrees, this was not surprising. During the tests for patency, the XT-16 managed to overcome the 25-degree rise, the maximum allowable roll was 24 degrees. In addition, an armored tractor could cross the moats 1,3 meter wide and a vertical wall 0,55 m in height, it could also cross the ford with a depth 0,6 meter. With large elevation angles from the XT-16 gloh engine, the problem could be solved by topping up the fuel. In addition, during the tests, cases of track breakage were noted.
During the fire tests, 247 shots were fired from an 45-mm 20K cannon mounted on the XT-16. Of these, 147 shots were made by armor-piercing shells. During the tests, the accuracy of shooting was below the table values. The average rate of fire at the same time was up to 5 shots per minute. The reduction in shooting accuracy was explained by the presence of backlash in the mechanism for pointing a gun mount. It caused criticism and armor of the gun, which allowed bullets and shell fragments and mines to get inside the fighting compartment of the vehicle.
On the combat use of HTZ-16 detailed information has not been preserved. But it is quite obvious that most of these armored tractors were used directly in the battles near Kharkov. Most likely, the anti-tank company of the 14 tank tank brigade received the first data of the armored vehicle, where in September 1941 was transferred to 8 XTZ-16, in the same period 10-15 armored tractors in a separate division took part in defensive battles near Poltava. All of them were irretrievably lost in battles with the enemy. It is surprising that with such a small series and limited use, the Wehrmacht soldiers were able to take a large number of photos of damaged and destroyed XT-16 armored tractors, a large number of them are now available online.
HTZ-16, lost in battles
It is also known that HTZ-16 took part in the defense of Kharkov in October 1941. At the same time, very modest forces were allocated to protect the city, and the Germans had an absolute advantage in armored vehicles. This paradoxical situation has arisen due to the situation at the front. The breakthrough of the German troops in the area of Vyazma and Bryansk forced to send almost all of the Kharkov tanks to the west, while the defenders of Kharkov were left almost without armored vehicles. For the defense of the city, it was possible to "scrape" only the hotel anti-tank unit, which included 47 units of various tanks and armored vehicles. The composition of this compound was rather mixed: the X-NUMX T-25 tanket was taken from the training units, the 27 X-NNXX 5 light-weight T-26 light tanks and the X-NUMX multi-turret heavy T-1933 X-tanks were recovered from the repair units. In addition, the squad included 1938 XT-4 armored tractors.
At the time of the first assault on Kharkov, the total number of its garrison was a little less than 20 thousand people with 120 guns and mortars. During October 23-24, Soviet troops retreated under the blows of German units, providing well-organized resistance only in the city center. In general, the organized defense of a large industrial center failed. Almost immediately, battles in the city took on a focal character, and "a separate anti-tank detachment" was literally "ripped off" in parts. At first it was divided into two groups - one of them was on the border of the October and Chervonobavarsky sectors of defense, and the second focused on the junction of the October, Stalin and Chervonozavodsky sectors. The XTUMX 16 armored tractors, judging by the recollections of the combatants, became part of the second group, along with several T-26 tanks and presumably two T-35 tanks. They withstood the brunt of the fighting in the city. Quite well known is the XTUM-16 photograph, which was shot down and burned down near the TSUM building. During the retreat of the Soviet troops from the city, the entire armored equipment of the detachment was lost. Part destroyed during the fighting, the other abandoned during the retreat, if possible it tried to incapacitate.
HTZ-16, which was destroyed and burned down near TsUM in Kharkov in October 1941, the crew died. Photo: waralbum.ru
There is also information that a certain number of HTZ-16 armored tractors in the 133 tank brigade participated in the defense of Moscow. In addition, according to some data, the last combat use of the XTX-16 occurred during the attack on Kharkov in May of the 1942 year. The bulk of these ersatz tanks was destroyed in the battles of the fall of 1941. There is little reliable information about the participation of these machines in the battles, since very few official documents of that time period remained.
XTZ-16 performance characteristics:
Overall dimensions: length - 3,8 m, width - 1,9 m, height - 2,3 m.
Reservations: the forehead of the hull is up to 30 mm, the brow forehead is 25 mm, the beads are 10-13 mm.
Mass - about 8,5 t.
Engine power - 58 HP
The maximum speed is 15-20 km / h (on the highway), to 9 km / h on rough terrain.
Power reserve - up to 120 km (on the highway).
Armament - 45-mm gun 20K, one 7,62-mm machine gun DT.
Crew - 2 person.
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