Tanks, as everyone knows, were born in the First World War. And they were not born in Russia. You can talk as much as you like about Lebedenko's wheeled tank, about Porokhovshchikov's tank, about the projects of our Da Vinci - Mendeleev, but these are drawings and prototypes that everyone dabbled in, but brought to mind some, namely the British and French already during the Great War. And the machines with unreliable engines, unfinished running gear and unbalanced weapons proved to be so-so. They, of course, pushed through the defense, but somehow they didn’t manage to dive into the depths. And in Civic, where the whites received a few tanks from the allies, they also did not shine. Yes, yesterday's peasants were frightened by a healthy fool who thundered with iron, but ... As practice has shown, you can fight tanks, but blood, however, goes away ...
Nevertheless, the newborn Red Army became interested in tanks, and already in the years of the Civil War, a Soviet tank was born - the Russian Renault, aka "Comrade Lenin, a freedom fighter." Released these replicas Renault FT-17 as many as 15 pieces, and for the times of the Civilian it is akin to a small miracle. So the tank troops of the USSR-Russia were born, the very ones to which marches will be dedicated, like "Armor is strong, and our tanks are fast", monuments and postage stamps, books and films.
Twenties: Time to Search
Tank troops were born slowly and painfully, there was not enough money, there were not enough factories and there was not enough knowledge of designers and customers. At first, there were painful attempts to create a tank of our own, but the T-12 turned out to be non-functional, the T-24 was frankly unsuccessful, and the series was already in 24 pieces, which was clearly not the case. The rest of the projects generally read like unscientific fiction, in the end they decided to return to the good old Renault, this time under the name MC-1 (small escort). Later they will be renamed T-18. Their industry, which had grown stronger by the second half of the twenties, built not just a lot, but a lot - 959 units before 1931. Then a philosophical question arose - what to do with a ten-year-old model tank, extremely weakly armored and armed, and its low maneuverability. No, the Chinese on the CER were easily crushed by our MCs, although not without problems, it turned out that the sight was bad, and 40 grams of explosives in the shell was not very good, but still ...
“After all,” it was that our engineers got acquainted in the West with prototypes of various Vickers and Christies there, and other Carden-Lloyds, and realized that we were lagging behind, and we were lagging far behind. We are lagging behind both in tanks and in their armament (37 mm of Hotchkiss did not dance), and we are lagging behind in the design school. As a result, it was decided to buy, just buy, and not improve the foreign one, but built 10 years before.
The thirties: light and numerous
It was during these years that the massive tank troops of the Red Army appeared, a clear division of tanks into tankettes, light, medium and heavy, appeared, and there were a lot of them, however, based on foreign samples. The pre-war Red Army was proud of its tanks, and was proud not without reason - the largest tank armada in the world, tested in battles and campaigns, with a powerful theory of their massive use summed up ... That's right, and in theory and practice we were ahead of the rest of the world, but the theory was crude and largely erroneous, and the tanks ... First, the number.
We had a heavy tank of the same model - the T-35. And the tasks for this tank were specific - breaking through the defenses in the style of the First World War. Their 61 units were built, all were part of the 5th heavy tank brigade and did not participate in the battles, but they were the stars of the parades. The huge five-tower fool impressed with both power and size. Another question is that it was unrealistic to coordinate the fire, the armor was weak, and the technical reliability ... Let's not talk about sad things, during the Great Patriotic War, the T-35 in Ukraine died not from enemies, but from marches. To be fair - the French, British and Germans jumped on the same rake. Another conversation - the Germans made three of their monsters, the French - ten, the British - only one, and we are 61.
We had 28 T-503s as medium tanks. Three-turret tank, unreliable, but relatively successful. It was successful because the two machine-gun turrets were carried forward, the commander was well placed and well armored. These tanks showed themselves well in the Winter War, with a powerful repair base in the near rear, and failed in the Patriotic War, precisely because of the lack of normal repair capacity and a lack of spare parts. On the other hand, the Finns exploited their trophies right up to 1951, which also speaks volumes. If the T-35 is difficult and unreliable, then the T-28 is just a lot. There were capacities to build, there were modernization projects, but there was no structure for operation. And if in peacetime they somehow managed, not far from the manufacturing plant in Finnish, too, then in the conditions of a global war ... In Leningrad, the T-28E (modernization of armor and weapons), having a manufacturing plant behind them, held out until 1944 ...
With light tanks it was more difficult - we had two families of them - T-26 (nee Vickers) and BT (nee Christie). And they built a lot, a lot, in line with the views that tanks are such a cavalry, which in large dense masses should rush to the rear of the enemy and smash everything in its path. The view was generally correct, but particulars ... The Germans involved in the blitzkrieg STRUCTURES - tanks plus motorized infantry, plus mechanized artillery, all this was multiplied by excellent reconnaissance and communications, while here ... Again, in pursuit of records quantitative did not work out very well with armor and reliability. In more detail:
1. BT family: BT-2 - 620 units, BT-5 - 1884 units and BT-7 - 4800 units. In addition, the BT-7M with a diesel engine - 783 units and the BT-7A with a 76 mm gun - 155 mm. More than 8000 BT. And as a result, zero benefit - a racing tank was simply not needed, and weak armor and aviation the engine also made it dangerous for the crew.
In addition, the problem of personnel, tankers need to be trained, technicians and commanders are needed, communication is needed, repair capacities and spare parts are needed ... And the wheeled-caterpillar propulsion system is not the best solution, like any attempt to improve some characteristics at the expense of others.
2. Family T-26, aka Vickers six-ton. 11 units were produced in various modifications. A good tank, average in performance, but good. And in Spain, and Finland, and other local conflicts he showed his best side. The British on Vickers, in general, created an excellent machine, which was produced by many, and Soviet engineers brought the two-turret tank to mind, turning it into a completely formidable tool. But ... What was high-tech at the end of the twenties, by the mid-thirties became mediocre, and by the end - an outdated machine.
I leave the wedges out of the brackets, and they were riveted by 3342 pieces of the T-27 model, I leave the amphibious tanks - 2640 T-37A and 1430 T-38, and all the same - the numbers are cosmic. And these numbers are a cosmic mistake. In the thirties, the era of the late 19th century was somewhat repeated, when the fleet did not have time to finish building the ship, as it was already outdated. Only now it was about tanks - anti-tank artillery was growing, the Air Force was developing, a coherent theory was created, under which the machines were made, and we built tens of thousands of tanks of the last decade's concept, and sharpened the tactics of application for them. By 1939, everything was sad, and by 1941 it was hopeless, within the framework of the existing tank forces, which the war showed.
About the war next time, as well as about the pre-war tanks, but for now a small conclusion - feats are different. The creation of the Red Army tank forces is a feat, a feat, accomplished from scratch and with unparalleled efforts, but a senseless feat - a huge armada of tanks did not play its role. The concept itself turned out to be erroneous and inflexible, which, of course, does not negate either the heroism of the workers or the heroism of the tankers, it just largely leads to the inflation of their efforts.