Blitzkrieg era tanks (part of 1)
Zhukov. 152 mm KV guns shoot 09 - 30 projectiles, therefore, order the issuing of 09 - 30 immediately to concrete-breaking shells. and put them in motion. You will hit the enemy tanks with might and main. ”
(GK Zhukov. Memories and reflections.)
Today on the pages of "VO" very interesting materials are published about WWII tanks, and with photos not only from the outside, but also from the inside. However, even they are not always able to give an idea of what was inside the tanks themselves. But they are not only steel, but also copper, nickel, molybdenum, and much more. And, of course, behind each tank is engineering experience, technology level and much more. So let's see how the requirements of the military and the experience of the First World War, as well as technological and various other capabilities of European countries influenced the development and creation of tanks of the blitzkrieg era, that is, the very beginning of the Second World War.
Here they are, the tanks of the Blitzkrieg era. All together and all in the same yard with one person of Vyacheslav Verevochkin, who lived in the village of Bolshoye Oesh near Novosibirsk. Alas, but people on planet Earth are mortal. Even the best and most talented.
Well, of course, we should start with the fact that during the First World War only England, France and Germany built and used tanks in battle. Italy and the United States also began to produce them, but did not have time to try out the machines of their own design. Since 1921, Sweden has entered the number of tank-producing states, since Czechoslovakia with 1925, with Japan, with 1927, with Poland, with 1930, and Hungary after 8 years. Germany re-launched the production of tanks in the 1934 year. Thus, in the 30-ies, tanks produced 11 countries, including the USSR. Moreover, it was in the USSR, and especially in Germany, after the coming to power of Adolf Hitler that this process went the fastest. Hitler understood that neither England nor France would agree to peacefully review the decisions of the Versailles Treaty. Therefore, preparations for a new war began immediately in Germany. In the shortest possible time, the Germans created a fairly powerful military industry capable of producing practically all types of weapons for the BBC / Luftwaffe / Navy / krigsmarine / and the Wehrmacht ground forces. The reformation of the army was carried out simultaneously in all directions, so that not all Germans were able to immediately achieve qualitative improvements. But if we talk about tanks, then almost everything was done at the same time - testing, adoption, elimination of deficiencies, development of instructions for use, training, organization of repair work, and so on. The fact that England and France took two decades, and without much success, took all of the 5 years for Germany - it was during this period that effective tank forces were created using advanced tactics.
In 20, interesting self-propelled guns were developed by Pavezi in Italy. But before their mass release it did not come. For example, such a “tank destroyer with an 57-mm gun was built and tested.
Only the USSR showed similar rates, for which there were very good reasons for this. In the late 30s, the strategic doctrine of Germany was the theory of blitzkrieg - “lightning war”, according to which the main role in the war was assigned to tank troops and aviationapplied in close interaction with each other. Tank units were to dissect the enemy army into several isolated units, which were then supposed to be destroyed by forces of aviation, artillery and motorized infantry. Tanks had to capture all the important control centers of the enemy side as quickly as possible, avoiding the emergence of serious resistance. Of course, everyone wants to win as soon as possible and in the war all means are good for this. However, in this case, the point was only that Germany simply did not have the forces and means to conduct prolonged hostilities.
In 1928-1929 This German Graspractor of the Rheinmetall company was tested in the USSR at the Soviet-German Kama facility. As you see, he didn’t imagine anything particularly revolutionary.
The state of the German economy allowed the army to provide a quantity of weapons, ammunition and equipment for a period not exceeding 6 months. So the strategy of the blitzkrieg was not only attractive, but also dangerous. After all, it was enough just not to meet this deadline, so that the German economy would just begin to fall apart, and what this would have turned out for the army is not difficult to imagine. That is why many German military experts opposed the idea of "war-lightning" and considered it an adventure. And Hitler, in turn, their resistance infuriated. However, not all the military were opponents of the blitzkrieg doctrine. One of those who supported it and cultivated it in every way was Colonel Heinz Guderian, who is rightly considered the “father” of the German Panzerworm - the armored forces of Nazi Germany. He started quite modestly: he studied in Russia, gained experience in Sweden, took an active part in the training of German tankers, in a word - literally built from nothing the tank forces of new Germany. After taking the post of Supreme Commander of the German armed forces, Hitler made Guderian the commander of the armored forces and assigned him the rank of general of tank forces. Now he received new opportunities for the implementation of his plans, which even now was not easy, because even his own chef von Brauchitsch, the head of the German ground forces and very many of his generals, did not recognize his ideas. However, for Guderian was the support of Hitler, who did not trust the old command cadres, and that was what decided the whole thing. However, the situation with equipping the Wehrmacht with new tanks still remained very difficult. It is known that even after the outbreak of the Second World War and the attacks of fascist Germany on Poland, its industry from September 1939 to April 1940 could produce only 50-60 tanks per month. And only from May-June 1940 of the year reached the monthly level in 100 machines.
How could the best tank in the world be in such distress? Eh, if we all knew ... But then, much of what we have in the MO archive is closed to researchers until the 2045 year!
That is why the Führer's order to occupy Czechoslovakia and annex it to the Reich as a protectorate was met with great approval by Guderian. Thanks to this, he had at his disposal all of its tank-producing industry and all Czech tanks, which did not differ too much in their combat qualities from the then German ones. And yet, even after that, Germany continued to produce significantly fewer tanks than the USSR, where factories produced 200 tanks per month back in 1932! Nevertheless, the Wehrmacht soon received Pz II tanks, which had a 20-mm automatic cannon in the turret and a machine gun coaxial with it. The presence of such a gun significantly increased the combat capabilities of this tank, but Guderian understood that such weapons were clearly insufficient to fight Soviet, French and Polish tanks, which had guns of 37, 45 and 76 mm caliber. Therefore, he made every effort to quickly expand the production of such machines as Pz.lll and Pz. IV. The first had a gun and an air-cooled machine gun. The second, which was considered a support tank, two machine guns and a 75-mm short-barreled gun. Therefore, despite the solid caliber, the Pz. IV had a low initial velocity of the projectile - 385 m / s and was primarily intended to destroy infantry targets, and not enemy tanks.
BT-7 work "armored master Verevochkina." Such a wonderful man had such a hobby - to make “models” of tanks in full size!
The release of these machines takes place slowly and, for example, in the 1938 year did not exceed just a few dozen units. That is why Guderian accepted the occupation of Czechoslovakia with such satisfaction: after all, the Czech tanks LT-35 and LT-38, which received the German designations Pz.35 / t / and Pz.38 / t /, were also armed with 37-mm guns, two machine guns and had the same thickness of armor. The Germans put their radio station on them and increased the crew from three to four people, after which these vehicles began to meet their own requirements in almost all indicators. “Almost” meant only that, for example, the Germans considered it necessary to have a crew of five even on light Pz.III, and each of the crew members had their own hatch for evacuation. As a result, the Pz.III main modifications had three hatches in the tower and two evacuation hatches on the hull sides between tracks, a Pz.IV, in which the crew also consisted of 5 people, respectively, two hatches in the hull roof, above the driver’s head and arrow - radio operator, and three in the tower, as in Pz.III. At the same time, the Czech tanks had only one hatch in the roof of the hull and one on the commander's tower. It turned out that four tankers had to leave the tank in turn, which was a serious problem if it was hit. The fact is that a tanker, the first to leave a tank, could be wounded or even killed directly at the moment when he was getting out of the hatch, and in this case, those who followed him had to make maximum efforts to escape and all that was unnecessary seconds in a burning tank, and that, of course, was deadly. Another serious drawback of Czech tanks (as well as most tanks of that time, by the way) was the fastening of armor plates with the help of rivets. When shells hit the armor of the rivets, they often broke off and flew into the tank by inertia, where they caused wounds and even death of crew members, although the tank’s armor itself remained intact. True, at first the Germans put up with this, since in their armament these tanks were not inferior even to the Pz.III, not to mention the Pz.I and Pz.II, and their 37-mm gun had rather high levels of armor penetration.
T-34 looks like just very well. And behind him is also visible “Ferdinand”.
T-34 at the gate of the workshop, in which it was made.
But, when, after meeting with the Soviet T-34 and KV, their inefficiency was revealed, it turned out that they could not be re-equipped with more powerful guns. They did not have any reserves; therefore, later the Germans used only the Pz.38 (t) chassis, and the remaining towers from these tanks went into service with the pillboxes. However, for the Germans, any tank in conditions of complete impoverishment of their country, caused by the payment of reparations under the terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty, was of the greatest value. It took a lot of materials, including very scarce ones, in order to make even such a simple tank as Pz.III. It is not surprising, therefore, that the production of tanks for the future war in Germany grew rather slowly, and the number of tanks produced was relatively small. So, the Pz.I was released in the number of 1493 machines / plus 70 tanks of experienced modifications. Pz.II in May 1937, there were only 115, but by September 1939, they became 1200. Pz.III by September 1939, there were only 98 machines. After the annexation of Czechoslovakia, the Germans got almost 300 units of Pz.35 (t), but only 20 Pz.38 (t). True, the very Polish campaign was already involved 59 tanks of this type. But still, it is clear that on the eve of World War II, Hitler’s army had only 3000 tanks, of which 300 were medium, and all the rest were light vehicles, including 1400 Pz.I with purely machine-gun armament. Meanwhile, in secret negotiations with the British and French military missions in August 1939, our country promised to throw against Germany only in the European part of the USSR 9-10 thousands of tanks of all types, including light, medium and heavy tanks with guns of 45-76,2-mm caliber ! Here, however, it should be clarified that this superiority was mainly quantitative in nature, and about any qualitative superiority over the German Pz tanks. III and Pz. IV in this case, the speech did not go.
As for the United States, there ... the army tried by all means to surpass the tank of the private owner Christie, that is, to create exactly the same wheeled-tracked tank with a machine gun (primarily with a machine gun!) Armament, but nothing came of it. Rather, such pearls were obtained here, as in this figure.
Cavalry wheeled-tracked tank T7.
The fact is that the bulk of Soviet tanks that had 45-mm guns were armed with a 20K cannon of the 1932 model, which was a remake of the German 37-mm anti-tank gun of the Rheinmetall company, which was adopted by the USSR in 1931 and also consisted of in service with the German army under the brand name 3,7 cm RAC 35/36. By the way, the 45-mm caliber kit for our gun was not random, but was justified by two important circumstances. Firstly, the unsatisfactory fragmentation of a 37 mm shell, and secondly, the presence in warehouses of a large number of armor-piercing shells from 47 mm Hotchkiss sea guns on board Russian ships fleet back in the early twentieth century. For this purpose, old driving belts were ground on them and the caliber of the projectile became 45 mm. Thus, both our tank and anti-tank 45-mm pre-war guns received two types of shells: light armor-piercing weighing 1,41 kg and 2,15 kg fragmentation.
And this “thirty-four” with the hexagon tower of the 1943 model of the year is also on the move!
Interestingly, an armor-piercing-chemical projectile weighing 1,43 kg containing 16 g of a poisonous substance was created for the same gun. Such a projectile had to be torn behind the armor and release poison gas to destroy the crew, and the internal damage in the tank itself should have been minimal, therefore, such a tank would be easier to put into operation. The tabular data on the armor penetration of 45-mm guns at that time were quite sufficient, but the whole thing was spoiled by the fact that the head part of the projectiles from Hotchkis guns was of short form, and the quality of their manufacture was unsatisfactory.
German tankers are photographed against the background of the KV-2. For them, the size of this tank was just beyond. I wonder what they thought about the "backward Russians" who managed to create such a tank? And not one !!!
In this regard, our Russian "forty-five" was losing the German 37-mm tank and anti-tank guns and did not pose a real danger to the Pz tanks. III / IV with their 30-mm frontal armor at a distance of more than 400 m! Meanwhile, an 37-mm cannon projectile of the Czech tank Pz.35 (t) at an angle of 60 degrees at a distance of 500 m pierced 31 mm armor, and the guns of the Pz.38 tank (t) - 35 mm. Especially effective weapons German KWK L / 46,5 tank cannon had a PzGR.40 sabot projectile rev.1940, whose initial velocity was 1020 m / s, which at a distance of 500 m allowed him to pierce an armor plate with a thickness of 34 mm.
BA-6 and Czech Pz.38 (t) by V. Verevochkin. That's how they look on one scale!
To defeat the majority of the USSR tanks, this was quite enough, but Heinz Guderian insisted on arming the Pz.III tanks with an even more powerful 50-mm long-barreled gun, which was to ensure their complete superiority over any machines of possible opponents up to the distance of 2000 m. However, even he was unable to convince this of the German Army Armaments Directorate, where, referring to accepted standards of infantry anti-tank guns, they continued to insist on maintaining the 37-mm uniform caliber facilitating production about supplying troops with ammunition. As for the Pz.IV, his 75-mm KWK 37 cannon with a barrel length of only 24 caliber was distinguished by good shells - a high-explosive fragmentation grenade and a stupid-armored piercing projectile with a ballistic tip, but the armor penetration of the latter was only 41 mm at a distance 460 m at a meeting angle with armor 30 degrees.
V. Verevochkin (left) and his grandson (right), and in the center is director Karen Shakhnazarov.
To be continued ...
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