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"East Front Tanks - Let's try this again" Topic

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World War Two on the Land

1,053 hits since 4 Jan 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Blutarski04 Jan 2019 7:04 p.m. PST

I'm guessing that my last post was deleted by Editor Bill as spam due to my unwise exhortation to "buy this book" in the post header.

So let me try this again

I recently purchased "The Tanks of Operation Barbarossa – Soviet versus German Armour on the Eastern Front" by Boris Kavalerchik. It is one of the finest books I have read on the nut and bolts of Soviet armor design, development, technology, production and tactics from the mid-thirties through 1942/1943. The author has taken an immensely deep dive into original Soviet correspondence and secret wartime technical analyses and delivered up an array of information, insights and data that I have never come across in any other source.

Some examples drawn at random -

> "In addition, the T-34 in the first half of the war had only four gears – plainly inadequate for matching the tank's range of speeds with the engine's range of rpms; especially because a diesel engine's range of rpms, as a rule, is noticeably more limited than that of a petrol engine. In the ideal scenario, after shifting to a higher gear, the engine's rpms corresponding to its maximum power (in the V-2 engine, 1,800 rpms) should fall down to the rpms corresponding to its maximum torque (in the V-2 engine, 1,100-1,200 rpms). But in the T-34, the V-2 diesel engine's revolutions fell so precipitously in the process that it almost dropped to its minimum sustainable rpms (in the V-2 engine, 600 rpms, where its torque was much less than the maximum. Given the slightest delay in shifting gear or significant road resistance, the engine would stall and die. Loss of movement in combat conditions meant the tank became a sitting duck, so T-34 crews fought as a rule in second gear, with no gear shifts and without fully exploiting its speed capabilities.

> "….. the actual rate of the T-34's main gun, which was revealed in the course of field tests at the end of 1940, didn't exceed two or three shots per minute. Only after improving its ammunition stowage in May 1941 was it able to achieve four shots per minute. Yet at this time, on paper at least, its rate of fire was twice that."

> The reason that the T-34/85 with the three-man turret did not begin serial production until February 1944 was that, having been forced to abandon certain essential imported machine tools in their earlier strategic retreat and lacking a domestic machine tool industry able to replace them, the Soviets had no machine tools capable of turning/milling turret rings greater than 1500mm in diameter until replacements were finally delivered via Lend-Lease.

> It was impossible for the gunner to simultaneously operate the T-34's power turret traverse and maintain vision through the gunsight due to clumsy mechanical layout of controls. Not to worry, though, since large numbers of T-34's were delivered to the front without power traverse systems.

> In the first year or so of the war, there was such a shortage of AP ammunition (much of which was defective in any case) that the Soviets resorted to firing shrapnel shells at tanks! Apparently the shrapnel shell casing could act in a manner similar to a die punch and gave a better chance of holing thin armor than HE.

It just goes on and on in similarly fascinating detail I read the entire book in one long sitting and have already gone back to re-visit certain topics.

If you're reading this Wolfhag, this book will be right up your alley!


Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2019 7:38 p.m. PST

I'm on page 210 right now.

I just finished reading this one:

and this one:
PDF link

Contact me at, I want to get you on my distribution list. We've got a great group of guys including some successful commercial game developers, tankers including ones with Cold War, Sherman, T-34/85 and Panther experience and a guy at Kubinka that can answer technical details on Russian tanks (he recovers, rebuilds and drives them).


Blutarski04 Jan 2019 9:36 p.m. PST

Check your personal email.


Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2019 2:02 a.m. PST

Got it.


Andy ONeill05 Jan 2019 3:31 a.m. PST

I think "the bug" ate your previous thread.
Which seems most likely to be however bill's code generates the unique id for a thread. Giving the same id for multiple threads.

Marc the plastics fan05 Jan 2019 5:54 a.m. PST

That is some interesting detail there. Wonder if rule makers will incorporate some of these. The combat speed was a very interesting snippet.

Mr Jones05 Jan 2019 6:13 a.m. PST

It's on my wishlist, so will buy the book soon.

Legion 405 Jan 2019 9:02 a.m. PST

"Tanks for the Memories" … evil grin

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2019 9:29 a.m. PST

What did you find interesting about the combat speed?

What other aspects of the book would you like to see represented?


donlowry05 Jan 2019 9:35 a.m. PST

Very interesting, especially the lack of tracking ability and the slow rate of fire.

Combat Colours Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2019 3:33 p.m. PST

Bought it after reading your post and reading the Amazon reviews.
Arrived today and very pleased.
Thanks for posting about it.😀

Marc at work07 Jan 2019 6:27 a.m. PST


That the T34 fought in 2nd gear, with no gear changes. Most rules make the T34 very fast across all terrain due to its wide tracks. SO I wonder if its speed in rules is an anomaly.

The slow rate of fire is also interesting. I am always trying to understand why some armies were effective or not on the battlefield.

I have this with Austrian Napoleonics. As their units are so big, in most rules they end up very effective. Yet history does not seem to show that, at a unit level, they were particularly effective.

Same with WW2. I know I am influenced by pro Western narrative after the war, but the Germans did seem to be quite good with their tanks, so trying to understand why that should be is interesting to me.

Does that make sense?

Rdfraf Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2019 2:47 p.m. PST

Just ordered it! Thanks!

Blutarski07 Jan 2019 8:32 p.m. PST

Combat Colours & Rdfraf -

Very happy you gents are pleased with the book.


wrgmr107 Jan 2019 11:02 p.m. PST

I'm not sure if some of you have seen this YouTube. Dr. Robert Citino talks about tank production. It's very interesting.

The first part is about Kursk, nothing new really.
Advance to 26 mins and 20 seconds to start with Dr Citino.

YouTube link

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP08 Jan 2019 5:48 a.m. PST

I just finished reading the book.

There were basically three different T-34/76 versions and the earliest one, pre-war, had the most problems, many did not have motorized turret traverse and suffered the same teething problems as any new weapon system. The early ones had a gun with a MV 610 m/s and the later one with 680 m/s. The AP rounds had a brittle nose and could break up against face-hardened armor.

I'm not sure about the second gear problem but I'll check with my Russian driver/mechanic contact at Kubinka about that. One reason for the transmission difficulties was the complicated linkage going to the transmission that was on the rear of the engine.

The RoF in a T-34/76 is going to vary quite a bit. On the loader's side, he has a ready rack on the hull side with 3 rounds and on the TC's side 6 rounds he could not reach. The TC was the gunner and may have also loaded shells too while the loader was getting more rounds. The floor that the TC and loader stood on was 6-8 ammo bins with 6-9 rounds each covered with a rubber mat. The loader had to pull up the mat, open the can, find the right type of round (HE or AP) and pull out the 20-pound shell and load them while staying out of the way of the recoil of the gun. There was no turret basket so when the turret traversed he had to make sure he did not trip over any spent rounds, the mat or empty ammo bins (the lids do not come off). All this in a cramped turret. If he was taller than 5'5" he'd have an even harder time. It was a semi-automatic gun so the round ejected itself.

The TC had his problems too. The early T-34/76 had a turret hatch the covered about half of the turret roof, was very heavy and opened forwards. Since he was also the gunner, he had to be buttoned up while spotting, acquiring and aiming at the target. His gunsight had a FoV of 15 degrees and only 39% light transmission. His periscope had a FoV of 25 degrees but poor quality meant it was good only out to 800m. You can imagine how poor his situational awareness was. Later models did get the MK-4 periscope with a 360-degree view and a cupola.

The DT machine gun in the hull and coax overheated easily (cannot change barrels) and the drum magazine had limited rounds and jammed easily.


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