It should be noted that the armored troops, before 1929, were called mechanized troops, and since December, 1942 - armored and mechanized troops, before the war had a very complex and constantly changing structure. But in brief its description could be reduced to the following. In the structure of the armored troops troops, two directions are clearly visible:
1. Creation of units and subdivisions for direct interaction with rifle and cavalry divisions;
2. Creation of large mechanized formations capable of independently solving tasks in operational interaction with large all-arms associations, such as the army or the front.
So, as part of the solution of the first task, a large number of individual tank companies, battalions, mechanized squadrons, automobile armies and regiments were formed, which, as a rule, were normally part of rifle and cavalry divisions or brigades. These compounds could not be in the divisional staff, but could exist separately, as a means of strengthening them, attached to the period of the operation. As for the second task, to solve it, beginning with 1930, mechanized brigades were formed, and from 1932, mechanized corps.
The mechanized corps was based on two mechanized brigades, each of which had 4 tank battalions, a self-propelled artillery division, machine-gun and sapper battalions, reconnaissance and chemical companies. In total, the team had 220 tanks, 56 armored vehicles, 27 guns. In addition to the mechanized brigades of the indicated composition, the mechanized corps included a rifle-machine gun brigade and many support units: reconnaissance battalion, chemical battalion, communications battalion, combat engineer battalion, anti-aircraft artillery division, company of regulation and technical bases. It is also interesting that the mechanized brigades that are part of the mechanized corps had their own states that were different from the individual mechanized brigades.
However, the teachings of 1932-34. showed that such mechanized corps proved to be too cumbersome and difficult to manage, which is why in 1935 their states were reformed.
Tanks of the 45 th mechanized corps on Kiev maneuvers, 1935
Their basis was still composed of two mechanized brigades, but now a new composition. The fact is that by that time it was already realized the need to unify them in composition with individual mech-brigades, but, oddly enough, it wasn’t possible at the time. The number of tanks in these compounds has decreased, while the T-26 tanks were excluded from the corps of mechanized brigades and now they were staffed exclusively with BT. However, as can be understood from the descriptions, the corps mech-brigade still remained not equivalent to a separate connection of the same type.
As for the rest of the units and subunits, the mechanized corps retained the rifle-machine-gun brigade, but most of the supporting subunits were withdrawn from them - only the communications battalion and the reconnaissance tank battalion remained. The number of tanks in the mechanized corps according to the state is now 463 units (there used to be more, but it is not clear to the author how). In total, the mechanized corps consisted of 384 BT, as well as 52 flamethrower tank and 63 tank T-37.
In general, the unbalanced compound, which had, in addition to a multitude of tanks, armored vehicles, motorcycles, but had almost no guns (20 units in total) and motorized infantry. Cars on such a mechanized corps relied 1 444 pcs. In total, starting with 1932, 4 of such mechanized corps was formed.
In 1937, the next round of upgrades took place. First, all the mechanized brigades of the Red Army began to be gradually renamed tank (the process was delayed until 1939 g), and were now divided into light and heavy tank brigades. Their staff and the number of military equipment has changed. The number of tanks increased from 157 to 265 combat and 36 training tanks in brigades equipped with T-26, or 278 combat and 49 training for brigades on BT. Now the tank brigade had to include the 4 battalion of tanks (54 of tank and 6 SAU in each), as well as one reconnaissance and motorized rifle battalion, not including support units. Only now it was possible to unify the composition of corps and individual tank brigades, now the number of tanks in one mechanized corps was 560 combat and 98 training.
But then the strange began.
It would seem that the Red Army is gradually getting on the right path: on the one hand, starting to form large independent tank formations, and on the other, gradually realizing that they should not be purely tank, but also have their own mobile artillery and motorized infantry. And suddenly, taking a step forward, the leadership of the army takes two steps back:
1. Established in July, 1939 g, the commission for revising the organizational structure of the troops, although it proposes to preserve tank brigades and mechanized corps, it calls for the exclusion of motor-rifle and rifle-brigade brigades and battalions from their composition.
2. In October, 1939 was sent to the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) and USSR CP, a plan for the reorganization of the Red Army, according to which the mechanized corps was proposed to be disbanded, and again the need to remove the motorized rifle and machine-gun units for the staff of the tank brigade.
It can be assumed that the reason for the abandonment of the motorized infantry is associated primarily with a small number of available vehicles. As we have said, in the state of the same mechanized corps was laid almost 1,5 thousand cars, and this is very much. Recall that the German tank division of the sample 1941 g, having a staff of 16 932 people, that is, surpassing the Soviet mechanized corps arr. 1935 was one and a half times the number of soldiers and officers, had 2 147 cars in the state. But in fact the cars were the eternal Achilles' heel in the Red Army, they were never enough, and it can be assumed that in the brigades and mechanized corps the actual number was much lower than the regular number.
Most likely, a situation arose when the available fleet simply did not even have enough to service the existing tanks, and there was nothing to carry the motorized infantry, as a result of which, in fact, the mechanized corps and brigades were only partially motorized units. That is, the same team could select from its composition a mobile group, but was not completely mobile. Hence the desire of members of the commission to "save" it from infantry in order to ensure mobility of at least tank battalions in its composition.
As for the disbanding of the mechanized corps, there are no mysteries, perhaps not. By the time the final decision was made on them, and it happened on November 21 1939, the 20 mechanic corps (or rather, the tank corps) managed to war on Khalkhin Gol, and the 15 th and 25 took part in the “Liberation campaign” to Western Belarus and Ukraine. Thus, the Red Army had the opportunity to test the real combat capability and mobility of its higher tank formations and, alas, the results were disappointing. It turned out that with the existing level of communication and combat training, as well as the actual capabilities of the tank corps headquarters, the management of three brigades at the same time is very difficult, and the structure is too cumbersome. This may seem strange, but in terms of the pace of advancement, the 25 tank corps in Belarus and Ukraine managed to lose not only cavalry, but even infantry formations. At the same time, individual tank brigades showed significantly better results.
Very often, the author of this article had to deal with online discussions from such a point of view that in 1939 there was a downsizing of the armored troops in the USSR, and that the mechanized corps were abandoned in favor of tank brigades. But this, of course, is wrong, because until the very end of the 30s of the last century, it was the separate mechanized (later - tank) brigades that formed the backbone of the Red Army tank forces.
For example, in 1938-39. the Red Army included at least 28 tank brigades (as many mechanized brigades received new numbers when changing their name), but only 8 of them were included in the mechanized corps. Thus, in addition to the 4 mechanized corps as part of the Red Army, there were at least 20 tank brigades, but most likely they were still 21. According to other sources, the number of individual tank brigades reached 28 by the end of 1937, which, however, is somewhat doubtful, but by May 1940 there were already 39.
In other words, despite the presence of mechanized corps and not taking into account the mass of tanks in the rifle and cavalry divisions, the main type of formation of the Red Army armored troops was a tank brigade, and in this respect the decision to disband the tank corps did not change anything. In addition, it must be borne in mind that according to the decision adopted in November of 1939, instead of the four tank corps to be disbanded, the Red Army should have received 15 motorized divisions.
The number of new connections should have been 9 000 people. (originally planned for a thousand more, but when they started to form, it was already 9 thousand) in peacetime. This was not too different from the states of the mechanized corps, in which, by the state of 1935, in peacetime there should have been 8 965 people. personnel. However, if the mechanized corps had a brigade structure, the mechanized division consisted of 4 regiments, including tank, artillery and two rifle regiments. Thus, with approximately equal number of personnel, the number of tanks in the motorized division in comparison with the mechanized corps was reduced from 560 to 257 units, but the number of motorized infantry and artillery increased significantly.
In other words, the motorized division of 1939 was very close to such a perfect tool of tank warfare, which was the German tank division of the 1941 sample. Yes, of course, the German TD had even more personnel - almost 17 thousand people. against 12 thousand people. Soviet MD in the state of wartime, and there were even fewer tanks in it - from 147 to 229. But, nevertheless, the new Soviet compound, apparently, was much closer to the ideal combination of tanks, artillery and motorized infantry than any similar tank compound of any country in the world in 1939.
But how then did it turn out that later, instead of perfecting such a successful type of tank formation, the Red Army moved along the path of forming giant mechanized corps, which included 3 divisions and more 1000 tanks?
Apparently, the following has happened.
The first. I must say that the motorized divisions, depending on the point of view, were either a little late to be born, or, on the contrary, were far ahead of their time. The fact is that their advantage was universality, that is, they had enough tanks, artillery and motorized infantry for independent and effective combat operations. But alas, the general level of training of the personnel of the Red Army in 1939 simply did not allow to fully benefit from the benefits that the theory of the motorized division could in theory provide. The Finnish War "excellent" showed that the Soviet infantry of that time was poorly trained and did not know how to act either jointly with tanks or with artillery, and the latter did not have a high level of interaction with each other. Such a completely intolerable situation was caused by gaping gaps in combat training, and besides, the Red Army experienced a severe personnel shortage in the part of competent officers of all levels and junior commanders. Here, by the way, it’s not the mythical Stalinist repressions that should be blamed, but the fact that for a long time the number of armed forces of the Soviet Union did not exceed 500 000 people, and of those, a significant number were territorial troops. Only at the end of the 30-s, efforts were made to expand the army, but there was no personnel reserve for this. In other words, to bring four regiments into one division is one thing, but to ensure that they become a combat-ready tool capable of 100% to reveal their potential - this is completely different. At the same time, the Red Army had neither commanders nor headquarters capable of effectively managing such a division, and a large deficit of commanders of its individual units and divisions, not to mention the rank and file Red Army soldiers.
The second. The formation of motorized divisions turned out to be very “blurred” by the Soviet-Finnish “winter war” of the 1939-1940, as they were already started in December of 1939, that is, during the hostilities. Thus, the motorized divisions could not, simply did not have time to properly show themselves in battle - they were simply not ready.
And finally, the third - the Soviet-Finnish war revealed large gaps in the organization of the USSR tank forces, which demanded immediate elimination, but could not be resolved by simply building up the motorized divisions of the above state.
As mentioned above, in the 30s of the last century, it was considered essential to saturate the rifle and cavalry divisions with tanks, which were attached to tank formations from a tank company or battalion up to the regiment. This, again, turned out to be theoretically absolutely correct, but at the same time a premature solution.
Without a doubt, the presence of a trained and combat-ready tank battalion as part of an infantry division significantly increased its capabilities both in defense and in offensive. But for this, in addition to the approved staff of the division and the supply of a certain number of tanks with crews to it, it was necessary:
1. From somewhere take the commanders of divisions and officers of divisional headquarters, well acquainted with the capabilities and needs of the tank battalion entrusted to their command, and the tanks themselves. That is, it was not enough to give the infantry division commander a certain amount of armored vehicles, it was also necessary to teach him to use this armored equipment.
2. Create conditions for the operation of tanks - that is, at a minimum, equip locations, create maintenance services, arrange for the timely supply of spare parts, etc.
3. Create conditions for the normal combat training of tanks as part of infantry and cavalry divisions.
So, in fact, none of the above points have been fulfilled. The Red Army had a chronic shortage of at least some knowledgeable commanders of rifle divisions. Many of those who occupied these positions in their qualifications could not even effectively command a purely infantry formation, and here also tanks ... what tanks, when a significant part of the officers at the radio station looked askance? Of course, this does not mean that there were absolutely no divisions in the Red Army capable of effectively leading divisions with attached tanks, but there were just too few of them.
At the same time, even tankers who came to serve in divisions (combatants and below) often had gaps in education, and did not really know how to organize maintenance of complex equipment, did not have experience in building interaction with infantry and artillery, did not know how to organize combat training . And if they were able, then, often, they were confronted with the fact that for this they simply did not have enough hardware - spare parts for maintenance, etc.
And all this together led to the fact that tank units in infantry formations were, but there was almost no sense in that, the divisional troops did not know how to use tanks in battle, the hardware transferred to rifle divisions was simply not used, so as not to develop a resource, or quickly broke down, if someone still tried to conduct serious training. And therefore the conclusion made by the results of the “winter war” by the armored subcommittee (20 of April 1940) is absolutely not surprising:
“Based on the use in the combat conditions that existed before and the newly created formations: separate tank battalions of the division, MSD of separate tank companies in the page regiments, tank regiments of the division, the commission considers these organized units to be completely unviable. Such organizational forms lead only to the complete dispersal of combat vehicles, their incorrect use (up to the protection of headquarters and rear services), the impossibility of their timely restoration, and sometimes the impossibility of using them. ”
It was a very unpleasant fiasco. In fact, it was said that a significant part of all tanks set up in the Red Army cannot be used for its intended purpose, and if everything is left as it is, it will lead to wear and loss without a noticeable increase in the combat capability of rifle and cavalry units. What did the subcommission propose?
“All separate tank battalions of rifle and motorized rifle divisions, separate light-tank regiments and divisions, with the exception of 1 and 2 OKA and personnel cavalry divisions, disband and create tank brigades ... ... categorically prohibit any formation of tank units, except tank brigades . When there is a need for tanks, send them only by whole brigades. ”
Did this mean that the analysis of the fighting showed the optimality of the brigade for the tank forces? Not. As we know, nothing like that happened. On the contrary, it turned out that tank brigades, being purely tank units, cannot operate effectively without the support of infantry and artillery (we will not recall the Air Force). For example, 17-19 December 1939. The 20 heavy tank brigade, armed with T-28, unsuccessfully tried to break through the Finnish fortified Summa-Hotinen. The problem was that, although the 20 TBR was supposed to support the 50 th rifle corps, in fact he could not do this - it all came down to episodic and weak support of the advancing infantry tanks.
Wounded tanks 20-th brigade after the offensive
In other words, if the rifle divisions did not know how to use tank companies and battalions in their composition, then where did they get the ability to interact with the tank brigade given during the operation? At the same time, the tankers had neither artillery nor motorized infantry; in order to conduct full-fledged military operations, they had to rely only on tanks, which naturally led to their great losses and periodic disruption of combat missions.
It can be assumed that the members of the subcommission saw and understood this perfectly well, so they did not want to abandon the motorized divisions at all. 1939 d. Their recommendations were:
“Save the existing organization of motorized divisions. To form 3 — 4 of such divisions according to the state of peacetime, to test them in exercises and combat operations in various directions, and then to make the appropriate clarification for the new formations. ”
In other words, it turned out like this. In 1940, the tank brigade was the most efficient unit of the Red Army armored troops. Companies, battalions, regiments handed over to infantry and cavalry units demonstrated low efficiency, larger mechanized corps were too sluggish and poorly managed, and motorized divisions had not yet had time to prove themselves. At the same time, the tank brigade, although it was definitely not the ideal of a tank brigade, was still a mastered, understandable for the army unit, which they learned to control, maintain, in peacetime, train and use in battle.
Hence, the commission’s natural and absolutely sensible proposal: to withdraw all (more precisely, almost all) tanks from rifle divisions and unite them into brigades. And, at the same time, in practice, to continue the search for a more optimal connection of the armored troops, to whom the motorized division had just appeared. And only then, when the structure, staff and management issues of such a division will be worked out, it will be possible to gradually re-form the armored troops into new units. In the Red Army, in general, there were no other reasonable options, because leaving tanks in separate companies / battalions in rifle divisions further meant only wasting money on their maintenance, and forming a mass of motorized divisions that could The tanks displayed in this way were impossible. And the same T-26 for motorized divisions did not fit. In addition, of course, no one interfered with the further use of newly formed brigades in order to directly support rifle corps.
Nevertheless, the development of domestic tank forces took a different path - 27 in May 1940. The People's Commissar of Defense, together with the Chief of General Staff, sent a report to the Politburo and SNK with a proposal to form tank divisions consisting of two artillery and motorized rifle regiments. , and anti-aircraft artillery division, and again return to the mechanized or tank corps. It is difficult to say what caused this decision: on the one hand, the idea of creating compounds with more than 1 000 tanks, according to the memoirs of Marshal M.V. Zakharov, voiced by none other than I.V. Stalin. But, according to all the same memories, this was done at the end of May, when NGOs and the Chief of Staff worked out the idea of forming tank divisions and corps with might and main, so Joseph Vissarionovich was hardly the initiator of this process.
Most likely, the leadership of the Red Army was impressed by the Polish campaign of the Wehrmacht and the shock power of its tank divisions and corps. At the same time, in one German tank division, as of 1939, there was a 324 tank (the unbundling began in 1940 g and further), respectively, two such divisions, combined into a hull, gave almost 700 tanks in total. So it was in reality, but it was difficult to say what information the leadership of the Red Army in May 1940 r had - unfortunately, domestic intelligence greatly exaggerated the possibilities of the German tank industry. But in any case, the German tank corps, even in terms of its real strength, seemed much more powerful and dangerous than the separate tank brigades or motorized divisions. It is possible that this is what led to the desire of our commanders to get an equivalent "tank fist."
Nevertheless, the report of NKO from 27 in May 1940 was rejected: the structure of the tank forces needed to be finalized in order to meet the staff of the Red Army at the level of 3 410 thousand, which the government approved. The proposals were redone, and the new states of the mechanized corps approved 6 July 1940 by the decree of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR No. 1193-464ss. The same resolution established the states for the tank division, and for the motorized one, the staff was approved by the resolution of the NKO No. 215ss adopted by 22 in May 1940.
All in all, the mechanized corps should have included the 2 tank and 1 motorized divisions and, besides them, a motorcycle regiment, one air squadron, a road battalion and a corps communications battalion. In addition, by the same decree, each MK secured one airborne unit consisting of two short-range bomber and one fighter regiment. The latter, however, was not fulfilled.
In this form, the MC and existed until the Great Patriotic War, the changes in the structure were minimal. Thus, for example, according to the decree No. 1193-464ss, the tank division should have counted 386 tanks, but then its staff was slightly changed, and in fact their number increased to 413, but later it was reduced to 375 units.
In total, 1940 decided to create 8 mechanized corps. To this end, a new structure of armored troops was introduced, which included the creation of 18 tank, 8 motorized divisions, as well as 25 tank brigades, not counting the attached units to other units. In this case, 16 tank and 8 motorized divisions were intended to form 8 mechanized corps, 2 tank divisions became separate, and tank brigades were considered as a means of reinforcing rifle corps. This plan was even over-fulfilled: at the end of 1940, the Red Army had: 9 mechanized corps, cn 2 separate tank divisions, 3 motorized rifle divisions, aN, 40 tank brigades T-26, 5 tank brigades BT, 20 motorized brigades, ach, ach, a, ma, ach, ach, a, a, a, ma, a, a, a, a, a, 87, a, a, a, a, a), 18 a), 15, 15, 15 a, a) a, a. cavalry divisions, 3 armored divisions of mountain cavalry divisions, as well as other, smaller units that had tanks.
I must say that until this time, the formation of mehorpus looked reasonable and logical. First, they were created on the basis of existing compounds, so they immediately turned out to be “full-blooded”, that is, saturated with both technology and personnel. And, moreover, numerous brigades were also retained in the armored troops, whose task was to provide direct support to the infantry corps. But then the leadership of the Red Army, alas, changed the sense of proportion and, starting in the spring of 1941, it began to form the 21 MK, in order to bring the total number to 30. But they had to be created practically from scratch, and as a result, almost any remaining equipment was transferred to them. And including, of course, that which had separate tank brigades.
As a result of such approaches, the following happened: first, rifle divisions were deprived of tank support, and among the newly formed formations such strange formations appeared as, for example, the 40-Tank Division, whose tank fleet consisted of 19 T-26 and 139 T -37.
In other words, the development of the Red Army automobile armored troops in the 30s was characterized by a polar shift in priorities. If at the beginning of the 30s the main priority was to saturate the rifle and cavalry units with tank units, closer to the beginning of the war the infantry was practically deprived of such support, and the main role was played by the giant mechanized corps. The mechanized (later - tank) brigades at the beginning of the 30s represented the main type of tank formation, intended for independent solution of tasks in operational interaction with other branches of the military, that is, in fact, was the main tool of tank war. But in the 1940 year, tank brigades became a means of supporting rifle corps instead of tank battalions withdrawn from rifle divisions, and then almost completely disappeared from the tank forces. In this case, the reason for this disappearance was not the denial of the utility of the tank brigade, but the priority of the pre-war formation of a huge number of mechanized corps. The service and combat use of tank brigades were well developed, but at the same time, many in the leadership of the Red Army were well aware that a tank brigade was not the optimal mix for a modern tank war. That is why all 30-s continued the search for other compounds, larger than the tank brigade, but at the same time combining in themselves tanks and motorized artillery and infantry. Thus, the mechanized corps of the 1932-35 model were created, which were abandoned in favor of the motorized divisions, and then re-established the mechanized corps, but at a completely different organizational level.