This material is a continuation of the cycle dedicated to the evolution of the famous Soviet tank T-34, links to which are given at the end of the article. But so that the dear reader does not have to study my work on this topic, I will briefly summarize the main conclusions I made earlier. Of course - without detailed evidence. Thus, those who do not want to waste time studying my old articles will not lose anything.
And those who have read this cycle may still be interested, because the "conclusions of early materials" are made in the form of a comparison of the evolutions of the famous Soviet and main German medium tanks. We are talking, of course, about the T-34 and T-IV of all modifications.
About revision of views
It is well known that in Soviet times, the T-34 was hailed as the best tank of all times and peoples of the Second World War era. But later, after the collapse of the USSR, a different point of view appeared. Many quite rightly noted a number of advantages of the T-IV, which the German tank had at the initial stage of the war in comparison with the "thirty-four". We are talking about a high-quality engine and transmission, general technical reliability, ergonomics, a crew of 5, which allowed the tank commander to focus on observing the battlefield and control, and, of course, good (for a tank) opportunities to conduct this very observation. When the not quite long-barreled 75-mm cannon KwK 40 L / 43 was added to these indisputable advantages of the "brainchild of the gloomy Aryan genius", the superiority of the T-IV became completely indisputable. The installation of the more powerful KwK 40 L / 48 increased the gap in the combat capabilities of the T-34 and T-IV even more. Finally, the appearance of the T-34-85 neutralized or at least to a certain extent reduced the lag of the thirty-four from the T-IV, but by this time the German tank formations were receiving the Tigers and Panthers ...
In other words, today you can often see the point of view that the German T-IV with a long-barreled 75-mm cannon was superior to any modifications of the thirty-four with 76-mm artillery systems, and only the T-34-85 became its analogue, and even then with some reservations. But is it?
I must say that the T-IV is significantly older than our thirty-four. The first vehicles of this type were the T-IV Ausf. A (model "A"), were created in 1936-1937.
Battle tanks Ausf. And it is very difficult to name it, if only because the thickness of the armor did not exceed 15-20 mm. However, only 35 of these machines were built, so modern historiography quite logically considers them to be pre-production.
The next were the Ausf. Q. They had some design differences, a better engine, a more modern gearbox, and the thickness of the frontal armor was increased to 30 mm. But even such machines were produced only 42, or 45 units, they were created in 1937-1938.
Thus, the first more or less serial modification was the Ausf. S. These machines were produced as much as 140 units, although 6 of them were immediately converted into bridgelayers. The differences from the previous version were minimal, so in principle Ausf. B and C, perhaps, can be counted in one series of relatively decent sizes. But this is already pure taste.
The armament of the tanks of the aforementioned modifications was completely the same type and included a short-barreled 75 mm KwK 37 L / 24 push gun with an initial speed of 385 m / s and one 7,62 mm MG-34 machine gun. The increased armor protection, of course, affected the mass, which increased from 17,3 tons for the Ausf. And up to 18,5 tons for the Ausf. FROM.
Between the beginning of World War II and the Great Patriotic War
The next modification of the "four" - Ausf. D, was produced after the German attack on Poland, that is, in the period from October 1939 to May 1941. The release information differs: according to M. Baryatinsky, 229 tanks were produced, and either from this number, or an additional 10 vehicles were converted into bridges. According to other sources, a total of 248 vehicles began to be built, of which 232 were commissioned as tanks, the remaining 16 as bridgelayers, but then 3 units of this sapper equipment were converted back into tanks. The main difference was the outer mask of the gun (before that it was internal), the strengthening of the protection of the course machine gun, bringing the thickness of the armor of the sides and rear of the hull and turrets to 20 mm and the appearance of a second 7,62 mm machine gun. Now the tank had a thickness of the frontal parts of the hull and turret of 30 mm, the sides and stern of 20 mm, and the gun mantlet reached 35 mm. But it would be wrong to think that thereby the frontal armor of the Ausf. D then reached 65 mm - in fact, the frontal sheet and the gun mask practically did not overlap.
Almost parallel to the Ausf. D, the next modification of the Ausf. E.
M. Baryatinsky points out that from September 1940 to April 1941, 223 such vehicles entered service, according to other sources - 202 tanks and 4 more bridgelayers based on them. Difference from Ausf. D consisted in some reinforcement of the reservation - the lower frontal plate received a thickness of 50 mm. In addition, the upper and side armor plates of the hull received additional protection - 30 mm (forehead) and 20 mm (sides) plates were hung on them. Thus, the thickness of the armor of the vertically located armor plates of the hull was either 50 or 30 + 30 mm (forehead) and 20 + 20 mm (sides), but the tower remained the same - 35 mm gun mask, 30 mm forehead and 20 mm - side and stern. The commander's tower "thickened" from 50 to 95 mm.
It is Ausf. E should be considered the first modification of the T-IV, in which combat experience was taken into account. And this very experience irrefutably testified that the "four" with its 20-30 mm armor was too weakly protected and quite successfully hit by anti-tank artillery shells, even from long distances. Accordingly, it became necessary to urgently strengthen protection, which led to the addition of additional armor to the Ausf. E. Late T-IVDs received similar additional protection, but how much is unknown to me.
Of course, such attachment armor is noticeably better than nothing. However, such "shielding" by German designers was quite rightly revered as a half measure, and therefore in the following models the Germans switched from shielding to monolithic slabs. The forehead and turret mask, as well as the front frontal part of the Ausf. F was protected by 50 mm armor, the thickness of the sides and stern of the hull and turrets was increased to 30 mm. In total, from April 1941 to March 1942, either 462 (according to M. Baryatinsky), or 468 of these tanks and 2 chassis for them were produced, and 3 more tanks were converted into vehicles of the next modification. Interestingly, after the appearance of the next modification - Ausf. F2, these tanks changed their names to Ausf. F1.
In total, by the beginning of World War II, the German armed forces had 439 T-IV tanks of various modifications.
As for the T-34, I mentioned its characteristics earlier and I see no reason to detail them again. I will only note that the "thirty-four" was initially heavier than the T-IV, a vehicle - 26,5 tons, carried more powerful armor - 45 mm with rational angles of inclination and had a much more powerful 76-mm gun. In 1940, the L-34 was installed on the T-11, and later - the F-34 with an initial armor-piercing projectile speed of up to 655 m / s. Alas, possessing such significant advantages, the T-34 did not have a gunner in its crew, its observation devices turned out to be significantly worse than that of its German "colleague", and the engine was completely damp, like many other structural elements. In addition, the T-34 was at that time completely inconvenient to operate.
In total, in 1940 and the first half of 1941, 1225 "thirty-fours" were produced, while the troops numbered 1066.
Very, very many fans of military stories today the dampness of the pre-war T-34s is perceived as evidence of the well-known "curvature" of domestic designers. Another thing is German quality standards, which we could only envy. Formally, this is the case, but there is a nuance.
Indeed, at the beginning of World War II and, even more so, the Great Patriotic War, the T-IV was a technically quite reliable vehicle. But what provided this very reliability? The genius of German design thought, coupled with the skill of German workers, or is it the fact that this tank has been in operation since 1937, and all design flaws have simply been corrected on it?
After all, if you look impartially, it turns out that the products of the German tank industry immediately after launching into production did not at all amaze the imagination with their unsurpassed quality. The first modifications of the T-I and T-II entered the troops from 1934 and 1936. accordingly, and, it would seem, the German military had more than enough time to test this military equipment before the Anschluss of Austria. But in 1938, German tank forces literally collapsed during the campaign to Vienna. They collapsed on quite decent roads and without any enemy resistance: according to some reports, up to half of the German tanks that participated in that operation were out of action. I think everyone has heard a lot about the technical rawness of "Tigers" and "Panthers" of the first issues. Accordingly, there is no certainty that the first serial T-III and T-IV were distinguished by some kind of super-reliability. It is entirely possible to assume that the technical quality of the "triplets" and "fours" that hit the USSR in June 1941 is a consequence of their many years of operation in the troops, during which the vehicles were brought to the required level. But our T-34s, which were transferred to the troops in some significant quantities only from November 1940, these "file modifications" had yet to go through.
In other words, if we are to compare the level of design thought and technology, then we should compare the technical reliability of the T-34 mod. 1941 with that of the T-IV Ausf. B or C immediately after leaving the conveyor. And here, it seems to me, the result may not be as devastating for the T-34, which arises when comparing the "thirty-four" mod. 1941 and T-IV Ausf. F.
By the time of the attack on the USSR, the Wehrmacht formations located on the Soviet-German border did not have medium tanks at all comparable in armament to the T-34, and only a small part of them possessed ... no, not that good, but at least somewhat adequate booking.
The most massive at that time "four" modifications of the Ausf. C and Ausf. D with their frontal armor of 30 mm and sides - 20 mm by the standards of 1941 were frankly weakly protected. Of course, the Ausf. E, with its overhead armor plates on paper, looked much more solid, with its combined armor thickness of 50-60 mm (forehead) and 40 mm (side). But this is if we forget that two armor plates have less durability than monolithic armor of the same thickness.
When in 1942 British engineers got their hands on the T-IV Ausf. E, they, having properly “mocked” the “miracle of hostile technology”, came to rather unexpected conclusions. It turned out that a standard British two-pounder anti-tank gun, firing a 40 (42) mm AP round with an initial velocity of 792 m / s, penetrated the frontal armor of the Ausf. E, starting at 500 yards, or 457 m. The side armor did not withstand impact from almost a kilometer (1000 yards). The Soviet 45-mm anti-tank gun of the 1937 model sent an armor-piercing projectile into flight with an initial speed of 760 m / s, that is, if it was inferior to the British two-pounder, it was by no means an order of magnitude. Thus, only about 100 Ausf had more or less acceptable armor protection. F (T-IV release in April-June 1941), and, of course, not all of them were concentrated in the East by the beginning of the invasion.
As for the T-IV armament, all the modifications listed above carried the 75 mm KwK 37 L / 24 push. This artillery system with a barrel length of as much as 24 caliber significantly surpassed the 37-mm "beaters" installed on most other German tanks in terms of impact on targets unprotected by armor. Shooting a convoy of trucks, “throwing” shells at the positions of an anti-tank battery, suppressing infantry in trenches - the KwK 37 L / 24 coped well with all this. But it was almost useless for dealing with tanks with anti-cannon armor, such as the T-34 and KV. Today they talk a lot about German cumulative shells, and yes - they really gave some chances to hit Soviet armored vehicles. But still, these shells then did not become effective yet. weapons, which is why, despite their mass production, Germany still had to rely on a drastic increase in calibers and an increase in the characteristics of guns used as anti-tank guns.
Undoubtedly, in 1941 Germany was able to use its tanks, including the T-IV, much more efficiently than the Red Army - its own, including the T-34 and KV. Of course, a huge role here was played by the better training of the Wehrmacht tankers of all ranks, together with the great combat experience accumulated in Poland and France. All this was embodied in a tactical advantage that allowed the Germans to send their tanks into battle where and when and where they were really needed. In 1941, the Germans perfectly knew how to use tank formations, which consisted of diverse forces - infantry, field artillery, anti-tank equipment and, in fact, tanks. They skillfully "juggled" on their own, constantly winning in "rock-paper-scissors": they suppressed the infantry defense with artillery and tanks, substituted anti-tank weapons under our tank counterattacks, etc. Of course, the total advantage in communication means played a huge role here. possessed by the German troops. For example, this is how E. Manstein, who commanded the 56th Panzer Corps, describes communications:
Of course, I could constantly move and still continue to command the troops only because I constantly took a radio station with me in a car under the command of our excellent communications officer, later Major of the General Staff Kohler. With surprising speed, he skillfully established radio communication with the divisions, as well as with the command post, and supported it during the trips. Therefore, I was always aware of the situation in the entire corps sector, and those orders that I gave on the spot were immediately sent to the operational group of the headquarters, he himself received information in the same timely manner
In other words, Manstein did not even need to be at the headquarters in order to constantly have information about his troops. In the Red Army, things were, to put it mildly, much worse. Even much later, having launched an offensive, the commanders of large formations often had to personally go around the units in the evening to find out what they had achieved over the past day. And in 1941 it happened many times that the transmission of information to the headquarters of the corps or army and the delivery of orders to the units based on this information was so late that the orders themselves became completely irrelevant.
But if we take a purely technical aspect, then the German T-IV of all modifications, miserably losing to the T-34 in artillery and defense, nevertheless had an advantage in:
1) Technical reliability
3) Situational awareness
And this, together with other advantages, alas, turned out to be enough to dominate the battlefields. Did all of the above mean that the T-IV was superior to the T-34? Still - hardly. Yes, the Soviet tanks, in comparison with the German ones, were literally "blind" at that time, but ... The rhino sees badly too. However, with its weight and skin thickness, these are not his problems.
What happened next? June 1941 - December 1942
In March 1942, production of the Ausf. F, and the next modification of the T-IV - Ausf. F2. This tank was almost identical to the Ausf. F except that it housed a 75mm KwK.40 L / 43 with a barrel length, as seen from the designation, 43 caliber. The exception was 8 machines, which were either welded or bolted onto the 50 mm frontal parts with an additional 30 mm armor plate. Formally, this modification did not last long, only 3 months from March to April 1942, and during this time only 175 T-IV Ausf. F2, and 25 more have been converted from Ausf. F (or Ausf. F1, if you like).
The next "type" of T-IV was Ausf. G., produced from May 1942 to June 1943 in the amount of 1687 units. In fact, it is hardly possible to call it a modification, because initially there was no modification. It's just that the Arms Directorate didn't like the designation Ausf. F2, and it replaced it with Ausf. G. The tank itself remained unchanged, so in fact the same Ausf. F2, but under a different abbreviation.
However, time passed, and Ausf. G. has received significant improvements. First, the armor was strengthened, as it became clear that even a 50 mm "forehead" against Soviet 76-mm artillery systems was such a protection. Accordingly, an additional 30 mm armor plate was welded onto the vertically located frontal part (or mounted with bolts). Of the total number of 1687 units. T-IV Ausf. G, about 700 tanks received such protection, in addition, the last 412 vehicles received the 48-mm KwK.75 L / 40 cannon extended to 48 calibers.
And what about the T-34?
Alas, our tank, from the point of view of purely combat characteristics, at the end of 1942 differed little from the pre-war vehicles. The size of the crew, armament and booking remained approximately the same, the observation devices remained practically unchanged, etc., etc.
Of course, in June 1941, the armor of the T-34 could be considered cannon-proof. This does not mean, of course, that the tank could not have been knocked out from the 37 mm Pak 35/36 anti-tank gun, the most common in the Wehrmacht, but it was very difficult to do this. And the Germans, faced with our tanks, during 1942 made tremendous efforts to saturate their battle formations with 50-75-mm anti-tank artillery, not shying away from putting Soviet and French captured guns into operation. And these are not isolated cases. The share of French guns in the total number of 75-mm anti-tank guns received by the German Armed Forces in 1942 was more than 52%.
Accordingly, the armor of the T-34 gradually lost its anti-cannon-protection status, and the superiority over German tanks in armament was nullified by the installation on the T-IV, starting with the Ausf. F2, 75 mm KwK.40 L / 43. This artillery system in its "armor-piercing" capabilities surpassed the domestic F-34, which was equipped with "thirty-four" both in initial speed (the difference was about 80-100 m / s for different types of armor-piercing shells), and in the quality of these same armor-piercing shells.
Thus, the advantages of the T-34 were gradually lost, but the disadvantages in the form of poor visibility, etc., remained evident. To this should be added the still less combat skill of our tank crews in comparison with the most experienced Panzerwaffe. Although we studied quickly, so at least this gap by the end of 1942 had already been largely closed. But the Germans still had the most important advantage of the German tank forces, namely: the ability to competently use heterogeneous forces - tanks, anti-tank guns, field artillery, infantry, etc. The German tank division was an excellent tool for mobile warfare. At the same time, the Red Army at the end of 1941 was compelled to return altogether to the tank brigades attached to the infantry units in one direction or another. This tactic turned out to be vicious: firstly, the combat coordination with the infantry and artillery turned out to be at an unacceptably low level, and secondly, the infantry commanders, being older in rank, often did not know the specifics of the tank forces and simply "plugged" the "For them, parts of the gap in the defense. Or thrown into attacks, regardless of losses.
Yes, starting in March 1942, the Red Army began to create tank corps, but the lack of material led to the fact that it was still not possible to form formations like the German TD. With a more or less comparable number of tanks, the German tank division had two regiments of motorized infantry, our MK - one brigade. At the disposal of the German tank commanders were much more numerous and powerful artillery: field, anti-tank, anti-aircraft. The German division was also in the lead in cars both in absolute terms and in terms of a thousand personnel. And in addition to combat formations, it had numerous support units, which the Soviet tank corps in 1942 were deprived of.
Of course, in 1941-1942, our tank forces were inferior to the German ones. And a natural question arises - why did our designers not try to modernize the "thirty-four" in order to somehow neutralize this German advantage? Moreover, the shortcomings of the T-34 were obvious, in general, even before the war. That is why at the beginning of 1941 the T-34 was viewed as a tank of a transitional period: it was planned that our enterprises would smoothly switch to the production of a much more advanced T-34M, which had a wide turret ring, and a crew of 5 people, and a torsion bar suspension, and a commander's turret. Interestingly, the first 500 T-34Ms were expected already in 1941.
However, the war made its own adjustments - the T-34M needed a different diesel engine, and all forces were sent to fine-tune the B-2, moreover, in its original form, the thirty-four remained a rather formidable battle tank. But it was not at all that reliable and relatively easy-to-manufacture combat vehicle, which we used to imagine. As a result, in 1941-1942. The T-34 has undergone major, though not very noticeable, changes. They concerned not the combat performance characteristics of the thirty-four, but improving the design, adapting it to mass production and increasing the reliability of the tank's mechanisms.
So, in January 1942, 770 tank parts were changed, and 1 names of parts were excluded from the design. Later, in 265, 1942 more names of parts were no longer used in the T-34. The introduction of automatic welding "dropped" the requirements for the qualifications of workers and labor costs for production. The refusal to machine the welded edges of the armored parts led to a decrease in labor intensity from 4 to 972 machine-hours per set. The rental of measuring strips reduced labor costs for parts by 280%, consumption of armor steel by 62%, etc.
In other words, yes, the performance characteristics of the T-34 in 1941-1942. did not grow. But thanks to the efforts of our designers and technologists, the T-34 from an expensive and complex machine in production has turned into a relatively cheap and suitable for mass production product. This, in turn, made it possible to quickly expand the production of thirty-fours at factories that had not previously created medium tanks. And here is the result: if in 1941 only 3 cars were produced, then in 016 - 1942!
The successes of the German tank industry were much more modest. The T-IV was produced in 1941, 480 vehicles, and in 1942 - 994. Of course, it should be borne in mind that in addition to the T-IV, the Germans also made other armored vehicles that performed the tasks of medium and heavy tanks, but still.
In general, it can be stated that in the period 1941-1942, producing the T-34 in the "initial" pre-war version and refining its manufacturing technology, parts and assemblies, the USSR industry provided itself an excellent reserve for the future. If before the war only 2 factories could produce T-34s, and one of them (STZ) fell into the hands of the enemy, then by the end of 1942 the thirty-four was assembled at 5 factories. At the same time, in June 1941, 256 tanks were produced, and in December 1942 - 1 tanks. Also, the technical reliability of the T-568 was significantly improved.
Alas, for this, in every respect, impressive result had to pay dearly. In 1942, our tank industry laid the foundation for a future victory, but it was generously watered with the blood of tank crews, who perished, among other things, for technical reasons: poor visibility, lack of a gunner, etc.
Did we have any other choice then? Most probably not. To switch to a new model of a medium tank, to train new factories in its production, to face a mass of "childhood diseases" ... Yes, of course, many people argue in the style of "better less, but better quality." But, firstly, the same T-34M would have had to be finished for a long time, and it would have become technically reliable later than it happened with the T-34. And secondly, I'm not at all sure that one T-34M could replace two or three T-34s of the 1941 model at the end of 1942. Of course, the losses of tank crews in this case would be much lower. And who will consider the additional losses among those who survived only because they were covered by tanks, albeit not ideal, but still? It is far from a fact that the transition to the same T-34M would reduce the losses of our troops as a whole. Tankers would have died less, but infantrymen, artillerymen and our other soldiers who had to fight without the support of "armor" - clearly more.
On the other hand, the question remains - could it really have been impossible to carry out at least some point improvements, like equipping the thirty-fours with the same commander's cupola?
The conclusion from the above will be this: in 1941, in the "dispute" between the T-34 and T-IV, it was very difficult to give the palm to one or another tank - both had distinct advantages, but also equally obvious disadvantages. If in 1942 the Germans significantly improved the fighting qualities of their "fours", then the T-34 in this respect remained what it was. Accordingly, taking into account the other factors listed above, 1942 can be safely considered the time when the superiority of the German Panzerwaffe over our tank forces in general and the superiority of the T-IV over the thirty-four in particular reached its climax. But then ...
To be continued!
Articles from this series:
Why did the T-34 lose to the PzKpfw III, but beat the "Tigers" and "Panthers"
Why did the T-34 lose to the PzKpfw III, but beat the Tigers and Panthers? Part 2
Why did the T-34 lose to the PzKpfw III, but beat the Tigers and Panthers? Part 3
Why did the T-34 lose to the PzKpfw III, but beat the Tigers and Panthers? Completion of the design
Pre-war structure of the armored troops of the Red Army
Why did the T-34 lose to the PzKpfw III, but beat the Tigers and Panthers? Return to the brigades
Why did the T-34 lose to the PzKpfw III, but beat the Tigers and Panthers? Revival of tank corps
Soviet and German tank losses in 1942 year. Be careful with the statistics!
1942 year. German response to T-34 and KV
Top of "thirty-four" with 76,2-mm cannon, or T-34 model 1943 against T-IVH
The loss of Soviet and German armored vehicles in 1943 year. Kursk arc
About the irretrievable loss of armored vehicles of the USSR and Germany in 1943
TV "Panther": "thirty-four" of the Wehrmacht
T-V "Panther". A little more about the "Panzerwaffe cat"
The evolution of medium tanks in 1942-1943 in the USSR. T-43