Work on the T-41 light armored vehicle project started in late winter 1932. The project was created by employees of the Design Bureau of the Plant No. XXUMX of the All-Union Automobile and Tractor Association (VATO) headed by N.N. Kozyrev. According to some reports, this project was supposed to be a response to a similar British development, the first information about which appeared in the early thirties. According to some sources, at the disposal of Soviet engineers there was only information about the very fact of the creation of the British machine and some information about other foreign technology, while others say that Soviet intelligence managed to extract some of the British documentation that was used to create the T-2 tank.
It was planned to develop a new project using the available developments and technical solutions. In addition, it was proposed to borrow some ideas from existing projects. As a result, in particular, the new T-41 was somewhat similar to the T-33 prototype. Nevertheless, the use of other ideas, including original ones, had a corresponding result: the promising amphibious tank was noticeably different from all the existing equipment of its class developed by Soviet engineers by this time.
Experienced tank T-41. Photo Solyankin A. G., Pavlov M. V., Pavlov I. V., Zheltov I. G. Domestic armored vehicles. XX century
Design team N.N. Kozyrev decided to abandon one of the technical solutions that were popular at the time. Floating armored vehicles of the late twenties and early thirties were equipped with large onboard floats, due to which stability and buoyancy were increased. Such devices had a characteristic drawback - they increased the size and weight of the armored vehicle. The project T-41 proposed to abandon these products, using a new hull shape, which could provide the required buoyancy characteristics without additional floats.
The result of this approach to design was the armor body of a characteristic high shape. With the help of increasing vertical dimensions, it was proposed to increase the reserve of buoyancy and all other characteristics when driving through water. However, this feature of the hull increased the area of the frontal and lateral projections, to a certain extent, increasing the likelihood of a bullet or projectile.
The hull of the T-41 was a box-like structure assembled from straight sheets using welding and rivets. All body parts, with the exception of the 6-mm roof and bottom, were 9 mm thick. A similar design had a machine gun tower. The body was equipped with inclined front sheets, and the top was located at a large angle to the horizontal. Behind him, the height of the hull increased, forming a volume to accommodate the crew and engine. The sides were strictly vertically, and the width of the hull did not change along its entire length. Aft leaf also set with a slope. Above track tracks were located above the upper branch of the tracks. According to some sources, there were small cork floats in the shelves. When assembling the case, the joints were sealed with rubber gaskets. In case of leaks, a special pump was provided for pumping water.
The T-41 tank had a layout that was widely used in armored vehicles projects of the time. In front of the hull placed transmission units that transmit engine torque to the front drive wheels. Behind the transmission compartment housed the volume for the crew. On the left side there was a command post with a driver’s workplace, on the right side there was a shoulder strap for the tower and the seat of the gunner-commander. Feed was given under the engine.
Experienced tank T-41, front view. Photo Solyankin A. G., Pavlov M. V., Pavlov I. V., Zheltov I. G. Domestic armored vehicles. XX century
In order to simplify the design and reduce the cost of the new tank, the designers of Plant No. XXUMX BATO decided to use the Ford-AA serial gasoline engine, which was built in the Soviet Union under an American license. Motor power 2 HP located in the aft compartment of the hull along the axis of the machine. The left side of the hull was provided with a fuel tank for 40 liters of gasoline. The fuel system was also simplified as much as possible: there was no pump in it, the fuel had to flow into the engine by gravity.
Transmission units also offered to borrow from serial technology. As in the case of the engine, the GAZ-AA / Ford-AA truck was supposed to be the “source of spare parts”. This car borrowed the clutch, the propeller shaft, the main differential gear and a five-speed manual gearbox. Part of the transmission units was located in the same compartment with the engine, the other nodes in the front of the case.
The T-41 tank received a tracked propulsion unit with a narrow (200 mm) fine-track caterpillar. On each side of the car there were four interconnected pairs of track rollers. Rear rollers also served as guide wheels. Above the axles of the suspension of the carts there were two supporting rollers. Large drive wheels were raised above the surface and ensured the rise of obstacles of small height.
To achieve the highest possible characteristics when driving on water, an original water propulsion device was proposed. Its base was a propeller, bred through a hole in the stern sheet. Behind the screw there was a movable steering wheel for maneuvering. The transfer of engine power to the screw was carried out through a reversing mechanism and a rigid gear coupling connecting the engine crankshaft and the screw shaft. The similar system successfully solved an objective, however had a characteristic lack. To switch the transmission to the propeller, it was necessary to stop and turn off the engine. Only then could the reversing mechanism and the clutch be turned on. Before going ashore, you had to perform this procedure again.
The crew of two people was located in the central part of the body. The driver's seat was located on the left side and was equipped with an inspection hatch in the inclined front sheet. For landing, the driver should have used a large hatch, which was a section of the roof and swung to the right to the tower.
To the right of the driver's hatch was a shoulder strap tower with weapons. There is also a place commander. The tower was a cylindrical armored unit with a protruding front part, in which a semi-circular movable shield of the machine gun was located. On the roof of the tower was provided with a hatch with a lid, made in the form of a truncated cone.
The only weapons promising amphibious tank was a machine gun DT. By turning the tower, he could fire in any direction. In addition, the movable shield, fixed on the axis, and the installation of a machine gun with a yoke allowed to direct weapons within a sector of width 33 ° without turning the entire tower. There was a vertical slot in the dashboard, which provided vertical guidance within 24 °. Ammunition was stored in disk stores with an 63 cartridge capacity. In the fighting compartment of the tank there were racks for placing 40 of such stores - the total ammunition was 2520 cartridges.
The total length of the T-41 tank reached 3,73 m, width - 1,95 m. Due to the original design of the hull, the construction height was 1,84 m with 285 clearance mm. The combat weight of the tank reached 3,5 t, which is why it was heavier than almost all similar machines of the time.
The development of the T-41 project took only two months. No later than the beginning of the summer of 1932, Plant No. 2 BATO began assembling an experienced armored vehicle. Shortly after the construction was completed, the prototype tank was handed over for testing. The first checks by the testers of the plant showed that the machine needs some modifications. After correcting the deficiencies identified, the car was handed over to the military. Tests were planned to be carried out in Kubinka.
Experienced car, starboard view. Photo Solyankin A. G., Pavlov M. V., Pavlov I. V., Zheltov I. G. Domestic armored vehicles. XX century
Representatives of the Red Army began to test the proposed tank in early August. Tests in Kubinka continued until the end of September. The first claims to the T-41 arose already at the stage of external examination. Representatives of the People's Commissariat of Defense found this tank too high. Due to the increased height of the structure, he could have insufficient survivability, since it turned out to be a relatively simple target for the enemy artillery. The probability of damage was also affected by the shape of the body with an insufficient number of inclined parts.
The 40-strong gasoline engine was too weak for the tank. The power density of the machine did not exceed 11-11,5 hp per ton of weight, which affected mobility. In addition, according to the driving characteristics, a relatively narrow caterpillar struck, which increased the specific pressure on the ground.
During the tests, it turned out that the tank had an unsuccessful centering. The center of gravity of the vehicle was shifted to the front of the hull, which caused the tank to “dive” nose down when it moved through the water. Such a design feature seriously hampered the overcoming of water barriers, limiting the maximum speed and worsening the usability of the crew.
During the tests, an experienced T-41 tank developed a speed of no more than 36 km / h. Propeller allowed to accelerate on the water to 3,5 km / h. Cruising when driving on the highway reached 200 km. The rise on the slope of the 25 ° was provided.
In its current form, a light amphibious tank T-41 could not arrange a customer in the person of the Red Army. In the fall of 1932 of the year, immediately after the completion of the first prototype tests, the specialists of Plant No. XXUMX BATO under the direction of N.N. Kozyrev began to develop a modernized version of the promising armored vehicles. When creating the updated project, the results of the tests were taken into account, as well as the wishes of the military. In the course of the work, it was planned to ease the car, as well as to make some other adjustments to its design.
Tank prototype goes ashore. Photo Aviarmor.net
Until the end of autumn 32-th industry introduced a renewed tank. The car body has undergone fundamental changes. Considering the experience of other projects, the engineers of the All-Union Auto-Tractor Association have designed a new armored hull for the T-41, which, however, included some existing parts. Due to a number of innovations, it was possible to maintain the required buoyancy parameters, but at the same time, to reduce the height of the hull and the entire machine by 140 mm. In addition, the hull lines have changed.
The front part with a sloping top detail remains the same. At the same time, the inclined frontal sheet of the habitable compartment received a three-section "felling" of the driver with viewing instruments located at the left side. Also, the driver's workplace equipped with an updated hatch, open up and back. The aft part of the hull was divided into two main units. The lower "box" located between the tracks, retains its shape and size. The upper part of the hull at the same time received a sloping roof, inclined towards the stern, and protruded beyond the bottom forage sheet. Propeller and rudder, respectively, were located under it.
The turret and weaponry remained the same, but the ammunition was reduced to 34 stores (2124 cartridge). This had almost no effect on the combat effectiveness of the vehicle, but it allowed it to reduce its combat mass.
Due to the use of the updated case, it was possible to significantly reduce the size of the machine. In addition, the combat weight was reduced to 2950 kg. While maintaining the 200-mm track, the ground pressure decreased from 0,67 to 0,60 kg / sq. Cm.
In the fall, the updated T-41 came to the test and, in general, disappointed the military. Despite the cardinal redesign of the project, the armored vehicle barely improved its performance. Only the angle of the slope that the tank could climb increased. Now he was 30 °.
By the time the tests of the T-41 were completed, all tests had passed its main competitor, the T-37. As a result, a modified version of the latter called the T-37A was adopted. The first cars of this type left the assembly line already in 1932. It is noteworthy that Plant No. XXUMX BATO was also involved in the mass production of T-37 amphibious tanks, which was later renamed Plant No. XXUMX.
The loss in the competition, however, did not lead to a halt of work on the project T-41. Due to technological and production problems, full-scale serial construction of T-37А machines was delayed. For this reason, the command of the Red Army was forced to look for possible ways out of this situation. At the beginning of 1933, an order appeared to produce the first batch of serial T-41 tanks.
In order to avoid confusion with the prototype, the new machines, built on the updated project, were designated as "T-41 serial". Plant #2 BATO during the first few months of the year 1933 had to build and transfer to the troops 12 vehicles of this type.
The first and only batch of T-41 serials was transferred to the customer during the first quarter of the year 1933. In the future, the defense industry established the production of T-37A tanks, due to which the need for further production of the T-41 tanks was no longer necessary. The 12 T-41 serial amphibious tanks were transferred to several units of the army, where they were used for training purposes. At the November 7 parade, 1933, a few of the newest floating tanks of two models were shown.
It is known that the operation of the T-41 tanks continued until the end of the thirties. Moreover, some specimens survived until the middle of the next decade. Active use of equipment for training purposes led to the rapid use of the resource of most tanks. In early March, 1938, it was reported that only four armored vehicles remained on the move. The rest are in need of repair and idle idle. The fate of eight damaged cars was determined as follows. Two were planned to be sent to the NIABT training ground for use as training materials. The rest should be dismantled and disposed of.
These plans were not implemented until the fall of 38, when the command decided to send old armored vehicles to the military districts of the western regions of the country for use as a basis for armored firing points. In October of the same year, the General Headquarters of the Red Army ordered the transfer of a large number of various obsolete armored vehicles to the Belarusian Special Military District, including T-41 tanks.
According to reports, BOVO received about half of all the serialized T-41. The remaining machines due to various circumstances remained in warehouses or parking lots of various parts. Information about the combat use of this technology during the Great Patriotic War, in the original configuration or as a firing point, is missing. It can be assumed that the moral and physical obsolescence of tanks led to their decommissioning and disposal even before the outbreak of war.
One of the T-41 amphibious tanks remained in service until the spring and summer of 1945. It belonged to one of the units of the airborne troops of the Moscow military district and was used for training purposes. With the help of this tank and the obsolete bomber TB-3, the paratroopers practiced the transfer of armored vehicles using aviation.
Ultimately, until the end of the forties, not a single amphibious tank T-41 survived. These machines were not supposed to go into the series, but still were produced in the amount of 12 units. Due to active exploitation for educational purposes, the equipment relatively quickly developed its resource and was transferred to other “roles”. The last of the tanks of this type in the mid-forties was decommissioned and sent to the smelter. So far, none of the T-41 tanks survived. Floating armored vehicles of the early thirties are represented in domestic museums by machines of other types.
Solyankin A. G., Pavlov M. V., Pavlov I. V., Zheltov I. G. Domestic armored vehicles. XX century. - M .: Exprint, 2002. - T. 1. 1905 – 1941