Military Review

Pre-war tanks and aircraft. Intelligence is a source of inspiration for domestic engineers

Pre-war tanks and aircraft. Intelligence is a source of inspiration for domestic engineers

Domestic light tank T-50. Source:

German technology

In the previous part stories It was about contacts between Soviet intelligence and American tank builders. No less important was the work with Nazi Germany. The Germans from the autumn of 1939 were very reluctant to share modern technical information, despite the fact that our economic cooperation in this area was very lively. Bought a lot and for expensive. If in 1935 the USSR purchased 46 items of German products for 10 million marks for the People’s Commissariat of Defense, then four years later, already 1 billion military equipment were sold for 330 billion marks. Moreover, the materials were considered not so much as an object for copying or creative rethinking, but also to assess the level of development of the technology of a potential adversary.

T-III. Source:

The words of Stalin concerning the German T-III are noteworthy:

“It is extremely important for us to have drawings of this tank or at least an explanatory description of it. And, of course, the main tactical and technical data: weight, maneuverability, engine power, type of fuel, thickness and quality of armor, weapons ... We have no right to lag behind capitalist countries, especially in tanks. The future war is the war of motors. ”

Stalin’s order was even exceeded and, according to the historian Vladimir Vasiliev, they even delivered a real German tank to the Kubinka training ground. They fired at the car, tested their weapons and issued a verdict that the armor is relatively weak and the gun is good. According to other sources, in the autumn of 1940, a 45-mm cemented T-III armor was fired with a 32-mm cannon and it turned out that its strength was 42-44 mm thick at the level of Soviet armor. The results of the study of German technology became one of the reasons for installing a T-34 exactly 76-mm guns, and not 45-mm guns. In general, the entire experience of communicating with German armor in the pre-war period (especially during the war years) made us constantly increase the caliber of the main tank gun.

In 1940, K. Voroshilov reported on some successful engineering solutions of the Germans in T-III. Among the pluses, in particular, there was an evacuation hatch, a commander’s cupola, a radio station placement method, a Maybach gasoline cooling system, a gearbox design and an engine fuel system. Many German advantages did not transfer to domestic armored vehicles, but a number of authors distinguish the following borrowings: the design of internal locks for hatches, large-speed tracks, the execution of seats (now tankers did not slip from them), as well as the development of an electromechanical drive to turn the turret. In many ways, this was implemented on the not-so-common domestic light tank T-50. In the future, the German Eltron fuel and oil heater became one of the objects of borrowing during the modernization of the V-2 tank engine and its modifications. Finally, the T-34 could also be modified taking into account the results of tests of the German car. They planned to install a torsion bar suspension, planetary transmission, commander’s turret and increase the armor protection of the tower with the frontal plate of the hull to 60 mm. If Hitler attacked the USSR a couple of years later, then, quite possibly, he would have met completely with other T-34s. In 1941, it was planned to produce at least 2800 tanks in such an advanced design. Of course, given the excessive demands on the leadership of tank builders, the plan could not be completed on time. But even some of this huge amount would be a serious argument on the battlefield.

In the extensive portfolio of Soviet military-technical intelligence, in addition to German armored assets, there were developments on aviation industry critical to the country. The most important field of activity here has become the United States of America.

USA Wings

In connection with the development of domestic military aviation, one cannot but mention the close economic relations of the USSR with the United States. For the time being, everything went quite successfully, and the American side willingly shared its achievements in exchange for currency. The American researcher Kilmarks describes the features of the corresponding Soviet foreign policy in the field of aircraft construction (excerpt from the book by A. S. Stepanov “The Development of Soviet Aviation in the Pre-War Period”):

“The goals of the USSR were more frank than its methods. Tracking the progress in the aeronautics field and taking advantage of commercial activities and weak standards of secrecy in the West, the Russians sought to obtain advanced equipment, projects and technologies on a selective basis. Emphasis was placed on the legitimate acquisition of aircraft, engines (including turbochargers), propellers, navigation equipment and weapons; specification and operational data; information and design methods; production, testing; equipment and tools; templates and matrices; semi-finished and scarce standardized raw materials. Some licenses were obtained for the production of some modern military aircraft and engines in the USSR. At the same time, in the West, some Soviet scientists and engineers were educated in the best technical institutes. The methods of the Soviets also included the establishment of trade missions abroad, the appointment of inspectors and trainees to foreign factories, and the conclusion of contracts for the services of foreign engineers, technicians, and consultants in Soviet factories. ”

However, in connection with the US condemnation of the Soviet-Finnish war, cooperation was actually frozen for several years. And technical intelligence came to the fore. Since the beginning of 1939, the so-called Washington Bureau of Technical Information has been searching for information on technological innovations in American industry. Naturally, on an illegal basis. In the field of interest were technologies for obtaining high-octane aviation gasoline (there were serious problems with this in the USSR) and the volume of supplies of defense products to Great Britain and France. Even before the organization of the Bureau and the American Finnish "moral embargo" on technical cooperation with the USSR, employees of procurement missions practiced the recruitment of development engineers at US enterprises. So, in 1935, Stanislav Shumovsky, during a big trip to aircraft factories (together with Andrey Tupolev), recruited engineer Jones Oric Yorke. The origin of cooperation took place in the Californian town of El Segundo and lasted until 1943. Shumovsky in the United States was not accidental. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he received a master's degree in aeronautics, after which he worked in a sales office, and during the war, he was already at home with Lendleise technology. After 1945 Shumovsky held important posts in the structure of higher technical education in the USSR. On his example, not only the history of borrowing is very clearly visible, but also the line of formation of the intellectual elite of the Soviet Union, which was educated overseas. And Shumovsky is far from the only example.

The composition of the residency included officers with higher military-technical education. One of them was an employee of Amtorg Trading Corporation (a company engaged in export / import between the USA and the USSR) captain Rodin, a graduate of the Air Force Academy and an intelligence officer. Subsequently, the captain headed the aviation department at Amtorg. By 1941, the largest residency in the United States was engaged in scientific and technical espionage (18 people). At the same time, 13 intelligence officers were engaged in similar work in Germany.

Allison 1710 aircraft engine. Source:

In the book “The Development of Soviet Aviation in the Pre-War Period”, historian Alexei Stepanov cites materials from one of the reports on Amtorg intelligence activities. The date of the report is April 13, 1940. Documents containing assembly drawings of Allison aircraft engines (models 1710 and 3140) and Wright 2600-B, as well as individual Curtiss-Wright assembly drawings, were sent to the Council of People's Commissars. All the material to the specialists of the Main Directorate of Aviation Supply seemed valuable (although in some places the drawings were of poor quality), and Allison drawings were even recommended to send Rybinsk Plant No. 26 to Design Bureau for use in designing aircraft engines.

Later, from the intelligence began to come extensive printed materials, which in the United States, obviously, were subject to limited use. So, on April 21, 1940, 11 articles by Wright engineers came in volume of 59 pages, which described the principles of operation of aircraft engines (in particular, the system of pressurization, power and lubrication). Just before the start of World War II, information came from the USA about the development by one of the Ford Company divisions of mechanized turrets for machine guns with sights that could take into account the relative angular velocity of the target.

The success of the illegal interaction with the engineers of the United States prompted the leadership of the Soviet Union to create aviation bureaus in Germany and Italy in 1940. If it were not for the freezing of contacts in connection with the war with Finland, the Soviet aviation industry would not have had to buy equipment and technologies in Germany. But this is a slightly different story.
Articles from this series:
Illegal borrowing. Intelligence and Soviet tank building
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  1. svp67
    svp67 24 June 2020 05: 20
    "Industrial espionage" was born at the time when human society was born.
    1. bk0010
      bk0010 24 June 2020 13: 48
      Much later. Somewhere with the emergence of urban workshops (not production facilities, but organizations of artisans). Before that, for many centuries, all sorts of "know-how" were considered something like magic, impossible for other families to adopt. I warn you right away: I don’t remember where I read it, I won’t give a link, respectively, but the concept struck (even a direct import of technologies suitable for the level of technological development could not spur progress, blacksmiths would forge in the old way, peasants would plow in the old way, etc.) and therefore I remember it.
      1. svp67
        svp67 24 June 2020 14: 53
        Quote: bk0010
        Before that, for many centuries, all sorts of "know-how" were considered something like magic, impossible for other families to adopt.

        Yes, you drop it, if you throw sticks at your enemy, and in return you get arrows, then if you want to survive with your family, you will do everything to find out how they did it ...
  2. Siberian54
    Siberian54 24 June 2020 05: 48
    From Italy, intelligence delivered several tons of documentation on submarines and in the north the boats of series C and K performed well and probably saved time and folk money ...
    1. mark1
      mark1 24 June 2020 08: 22
      Quote: Siberian54
      Intelligence delivered several tons of documentation from Italy

      I won’t argue over tons, but Project C boats are German.
    2. Undecim
      Undecim 24 June 2020 18: 09
      saved time and folk money ...
      They definitely saved time, but the money ... The project of the C-series boats was bought from the Germans.
    3. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 25 June 2020 11: 16
      Quote: Siberian54
      Intelligence delivered several tons of submarine documentation from Italy

      EMNIP, with Italy and the submarine in general, it turned out funny: before the start of the construction of the first Soviet submarines, a delegation of our shipbuilders visited Italy in order to get acquainted with the submarines under construction there. Officially, they were not allowed to familiarize themselves with the documentation, they arranged a multiple excursion around one of the submarines ... but later an Italian "initiator" gave our submarine drawings.
      In general, in Italy it was possible not to steal documentation - in the 30s the company "Ansaldo" money calmly shared the documentation for the ships under construction and developed projects "to order" (the basis of work on the project 23 is Italian documentation). The Italians even sold us the PTZ system.
  3. knn54
    knn54 24 June 2020 08: 06
    Here with excellent German torpedo boats came a bobble. Tupolev's "brainchild" turned out to be quite unsuccessful.
    Here, most likely, another reason
    1. mark1
      mark1 24 June 2020 08: 32
      German and Tupolev boats were created with a kind of temporary shift. Tupolev focused on the British World War I.
      1. Aviator_
        Aviator_ 24 June 2020 12: 35
        Quite right, the lowered boat had a low seaworthiness. The war began to make keel boats of the D-3 type, but TK was issued for them only in 1938, and the first sample was adopted after state tests as part of the Black Sea Fleet on August 23, 1940. In total, 72 instances were built during the war.
  4. Jurkovs
    Jurkovs 24 June 2020 09: 22
    So what? And now they steal from us.
  5. Undecim
    Undecim 24 June 2020 10: 10
    drawings of Allison aircraft engines (models 1710 and 3140) and Wright 2600-B
    Either the scouts were mistaken, or the author. There were no Allison 3140 engines, there were 3420. Yes, and Wright 2600-B raises big doubts.
  6. pmkemcity
    pmkemcity 25 June 2020 11: 54
    At the same time, in the West, some Soviet scientists and engineers were educated in the best technical institutes.

    And now hucksters, that is, merchants of stolen goods, study in the "best" institutions of the West.
  7. ccsr
    ccsr 25 June 2020 13: 02
    Evgeny Fedorov
    In the extensive portfolio of Soviet military-technical intelligence, in addition to German armored assets, there were developments in the aviation industry, which was of critical importance for the country.

    One of the last special communications on the development of arms in Germany was material signed by F. Golikov on March 11, 1941 No. 660279ss and brought to the top military leadership of the country: