Disputes about whether to attack or defend on this main sector of the front, have been going on since April 1943, both in the German and in the Soviet command. Wehrmacht generals offered Hitler two options: “realistic” - the continuation of active defense on the Kursk-Orlovsky ledge and “optimistic” - striking the ledge from two directions. The second option - the plan of the offensive operation, which the Germans received the code name "Citadel" - Hitler was supported, but postponed for two months under the pretext of the need to replenish the troops with the latest technology to create a guaranteed advantage in forces.
There were two points of view of the Soviet command. Marshal Zhukov in his book describes it this way: “Army General N.F. Vatutin. Without denying defensive measures, he offered the Supreme to deliver to the enemy a preemptive strike on his Belgorod-Kharkov grouping. In this he was fully supported by the member of the military council N.S. Khrushchev. Chief of the General Staff A.M. Vasilevsky, A.I. Antonov and other employees of the General Staff did not share such a proposal by the military council of the Voronezh Front. I fully agreed with the opinion of the General Staff, as reported by I.V. Stalin. However, the Supreme himself still hesitated whether to meet the enemy with the defense of our troops or deliver a preemptive strike. I.V. Stalin feared that our defense could not withstand the blow of the German troops, as it happened more than once in 1941 and 1942. At the same time, he was not sure that our troops were able to defeat the enemy with their offensive actions.
After repeated discussions around the middle of May 1943, I.V. Stalin finally firmly decided to meet the German offensive with fire of all kinds of deeply echeloned defense, with powerful blows aviation and counterattacks of operational and strategic reserves. Then, having exhausted and bleeding the enemy, finish it off with a powerful counterattack on the Belgorod-Kharkov and Oryol directions, and then carry out deep offensive operations in all major areas. "
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The Germans gathered for the Kursk battle, according to their data, 2.000 tanks (according to Soviet sources, 2.772). In addition to their main tanks T-III (armor - 30 – 20 mm, gun - 37 mm) and T-IV (armor - 80 – 30 mm, gun - 57 mm), they were going to use the latest armored vehicles in the Battle of Kursk VI "Tiger" with 100 mm armor and guns not previously used 88 mm caliber, TV "Panther" with 85 mm armor and 75-mm gun, Ferdinand self-propelled gun with an unprecedented 200-mm frontal armor and 88-mm gun with an extended trunk , as well as captured Soviet T-34 and KV. The Germans "prudently" used Soviet-made tanks captured in the first months of the war. Recall, they twice took Kharkov, and KhPZ (Kharkov Locomotive Plant) - the birthplace of the T-34 tank. After the occupation, the Germans organized the repair of tanks there, including captured ones.
Our help. In the Wehrmacht, the captured T-34 received the designation PzKpfw.747 (r). They were armed with units of the 1, 8 and 11 tank divisions and the SS division "Reich" (her 8 T-34 tanks participated in the Battle of Prokhorovka).
The Germans were preparing to destroy Soviet tanks precisely and with the help of aircraft cannons and for this purpose they installed anti-aircraft 129-mm and even 190-mm guns on the Henschel-87, Focke-Wulf-37 and Junkers-50 airplanes. For Me-109 fighters, a method of vertical diving on tanks and self-propelled guns was developed, which culminates in precision bombing.
Soviet troops had 3.600 tanks (according to Zhukov, the Germans believed that they opposed them before the Soviet cars 5.000). At that time, the Soviet army had several vehicles: the medium tank T-34-76 (frontal armor - 45, airborne - 40 mm, cannon - 76 mm), which was the most massive tank that participated in the Battle of Kursk (70 percent of all tanks ); T-70 light tank (armor - 35-15 mm, gun - 45 mm, 20-25 percent) and a small amount (5 percent) of heavy tanks KV-1C and KV-1 (armor - 75-40 mm, gun - 76-XNUMX mm, gun - XNUMX-XNUMX mm (armor - XNUMX-XNUMX mm, gun - XNUMX-XNUMX mm (gunnumber - XNUMX-XNUMX mm, gun - XNUMX-XNUMX mm (armor - XNUMX-XNUMX mm, gun - XNUMX-XNUMX mm) mm).
On the Soviet side, self-propelled artillery guns also took part: 2 regiment (24 vehicles) Su-152 “Hypericum” (armor - 75-60 mm, gun - 152 mm), 7 regiments (84 machines) SU-122 (armor - 45- 40 mm, cannon - 122 mm) and several dozen heavy British Churchill tanks received under Lend-Lease (armor - 76-102 mm, gun - 57 mm).
After comparing the combat capabilities of these tank armadas, the advantage of the Germans becomes obvious - their heavy armored vehicles were able to penetrate the frontal armor of any Soviet tank with a aimed fire at a distance of up to 2 km. While only a part of the Soviet tanks could do it, and having approached them at a distance of 200-400 m. And the 45-mm gun (which made up half of the entire Soviet anti-tank artillery) could not penetrate it at all.
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On the first day of the Battle of Kursk, 5 July 1943 of the year, a nearly two-hour meeting of the T-bills and military equipment designers took place in Stalin's office. Air Force Marshal Novikov (with Air Force Chief Engineer Lieutenant-General Repin, Head of the Air Force Armament Scientific Test Ground, Major-General Gurevich, and Commander of the NIVA Test Pilot Major Zvonaryov), Head of the State Air Force, Colonel-General Yakov, were invited to attend. the commander of the Artillery Committee, Lieutenant-General Khokhlov). The chairman of the technical council of the People’s Commissariat of Armament Satel also participated. Thus, there were only people responsible for the creation and testing of artillery and missile weapons of the Ground Forces and Aviation.
It should be noted that even in the unique edition “At the Reception at Stalin. Notebooks - logs of persons taken by I.V. Stalin "two participants of the meeting - Khokhlov and Zvonarev - were mistakenly identified, and two more participants - Rashkov and Charnko - were not identified at all.
A group of designers was invited to the meeting. weapons. Let's call them.
Glukharev - the chief and chief designer of the OKB-16, who developed aircraft guns. (The one who saved and brought to production the world's first automatic 37-mm air cannon 11-P-OKB-16, created by Taubin and his co-author Baburin, arrested by 16 on May 1941 of the year "for developing the enemy gun.")
Spitny is the chief and chief designer of the OKB-15, who developed aircraft cannons, participated in the development of the automatic cannon TNSh-20 (Nudelman's tank - Spit) for the T-60 and T-70 tank.
Grabin - the chief and chief designer of the Central Artillery KB, developing anti-tank and tank guns, the creator of 57-mm ZIS-2 and 76-mm ZIS-Z.
Charnko - the chief and chief designer of OKBL-46 (later KB-10 - SRI-88), developing special landing recoilless air cannons "Cheka" (Charnko - Komaritsky). The successor of the case of the designer-inventor Kurchevsky - the creator of the world's first recoilless guns.
Kostikov, the chief and chief designer of the State Institute of Jet Technology (formerly the Jet Research Institute), which developed Katyushas and rocket projectiles for her and for airplanes (their creators, the director and chief engineer of the RNII, Kleymenov and Langemak, were arrested in 1937 year).
Nudelman - Lead Designer of OKB-16, representing it at the 11-P-OKB-16 Aircraft Manufacturing Plant No. 74, participant in the development of the TNSh-20 gun for the T-60 and T-70 tank (later head and chief designer of the OKB-16) .
Rashkov - the lead designer OKB-16, the creator of the anti-tank gun RES (Rashkova - Ermolaeva - Slutskogo) and gun RSHR (Rashkov - Shentsova - Rozanova).
This suggests that at the meeting the question was about only one thing: how and how to destroy the newest German tanks T-VI "Tiger" and T-V "Panther", SAU "Ferdinand". Most likely, the leader wanted to get from the designers themselves accurate data on the weapons available in their troops, capable of hitting German heavy tanks, hearing recommendations on the most effective methods of applying development against powerful armor (on using tungsten cores in anti-tank shells, etc.).
It is noteworthy that exactly on this day, July 5, the resolution of the State Defense Committee No. 3692 “On the release of V.M. Molotov was adopted. from controlling the production of tanks and entrusting these duties to Beria L.P. (he was entrusted with this section by the decree of the State Defense Committee No. 1250 of 6 in February 1942 of the year, and the title of Hero of Socialist Labor was awarded 30 of September 1943 of the year "for special services to the Soviet state in the development of the tank industry during the Great Patriotic War ").
What was said at the meeting in the Kremlin is unknown. We can only guess. Perhaps it was Grabin who suggested to the commanders to conduct aimed fire 45-mm, as well as the newest 57-mm anti-tank guns on the tracked tracks of German heavy tanks, and then finish off stopped vehicles with explosives and incendiary bottles. He could also recommend placing 76-mm anti-tank guns not uniformly along the front of the onslaught of German tanks, but in groups at intervals that ensured their penetration not by frontal, but by side armor.
Due to a significant increase in the thickness of armor of tank hatches of German heavy armored vehicles, Kostikov could remind that they were able to penetrate concrete and armor-piercing bombs with a rocket booster created in the RNII in 1940 year to neutralize the pillars of the “Mannerheim line” that the "Katyusha" has already been put on the Lend-lease "Studebaker" and the T-60 tank chassis. He also had information that the Red Army had 320 mm caliber missiles at its disposal.
Glukharev had the opportunity to report that the 37-mm 11-P-OKB-16 air cannon, mounted on the Yak-9Т fighter (engine version) and the Il-2 attack aircraft (wing version), began military trials, participating in the military actions on the Kursk Bulge. At that time, it was the largest automatic air gun in the world (the Germans would use 37-mm and 50-mm cannons in the Battle of Kursk, but these would not be anti-aircraft guns, but anti-aircraft guns adapted for airplanes).
Rashkov could tell about his new anti-tank rifle, the RES of an unprecedented 20-mm caliber and its armor-piercing 20-mm projectile with a tungsten core (only on the Central Front, 432 PTR was involved in the battles - most likely of this particular caliber).
Charnko developed the 37-mm recoilless landing assault gun Chek. Stalin did not forget about the development of the Airborne Forces in 1943 either. It was not for nothing that 4 June 1943 of the year adopted the resolution of the State Defense Committee No. 3505ss "On the additional formation of 13 Guards airborne brigades". In his CB Charnko continued the work of his predecessor - Kurchevsky, repressed in the 1937 year. Maybe then Stalin said about the tragic fate of Kurchevsky: "They threw out the child with the water."
And another interesting fact. Shortly before the Battle of Kursk, 19 June, the decree of the State Defense Committee No. 3612 “On amnesty with the removal of conviction from specialists E.O. Berkalov, E.P. Ikonnikova, S.I. Lodkina, A.F. Smirnova, G.N. , Tsirulnikova M.Yu. ” They were all artillery designers.
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In conclusion, I would like to note that in the history of the rivalry between Soviet and German tank builders, the Wehrmacht had a great deal of assistance from pre-war contacts with the USSR in the military-technical sphere. It is known that the company "Porsche" performed the main work on a heavy tank together with Soviet specialists in 1920-x - the beginning of 1930-s in the USSR. After Hitler came to power, she managed to take the manufactured samples to Germany under the guise of the "heavy tractors" chassis. In the USSR, the KV-1 and KV-2 were created on such a chassis on six rinks. And the Porsche used these chassis to create the Ferdinand assault gun.
Before the war, the Germans, it is not excluded, received “in exchange” several copies of Soviet tanks. We carefully looked at what was said about tanks in the prewar Soviet-German agreements. It turned out that the “Special Orders and Purchases Program in Germany” drawn up in October 1939 of the year in section XII “Auto Benefit” states: “p. 1. The latest models of medium and heavy tanks with full equipment and weapons - 2. This means that the Germans were supposed to put the USSR two medium and two heavy new tanks (a letter from the People's Commissar of Defense Voroshilov to the Central Committee to Stalin and to the SNK to Molotov, ref. No. 3438ss from 20 of October 1939). Whether the USSR sent its tanks to Germany, so to speak, in parity, is not known for certain, but we found on the Internet a few German photos of the KV-2 tank. In this case, as we assume, the photographs could have been taken before the war.
One thing is clear: German designers closely followed Soviet tank building. And it was not by chance that the commander of the 2 Guards Tank Army Lieutenant General Rotmistrov reported G.K. Zhukov: “The T-5“ Panther ”tank ... in fact, is a complete copy of our T-34 tank, but in quality it is much higher than the T-34 tank, and in particular in terms of weapon quality.” But this is a separate topic ...
In the photo: SAU-152 “Hypericum” from the battery of Major Sankovsky (13-I Army of the Central Front), his crew destroyed in the first battle during the Kursk battle 10 enemy tanks.