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T-34

From Academic Kids

For the military training aircraft, see T-34 Mentor

The T-34 is a Soviet medium tank first produced in 1940. It was the mainstay of Soviet armored forces throughout WWII, and widely exported afterwards. A few T-34s remained in use until the 1990s.

It was developed from the BT series of Fast Tanks, but meant to replace the T-28 medium. When first built, it was the tank with the best balance of firepower, mobility, and protection in existence. By the end of WWII, its production had replaced all other Soviet tank designs except for a small number of Iosef Stalin heavy tanks. This multi-role design greatly influenced the development of Main Battle Tanks in the late 20th century.


(side view)
T-34 General Characteristics
Length: 8.0 m
Width: 3.0 m
Height: 2.7 m
Weight: 26-30,9 t
Speed: 55 km/h (road)
~26 km/h (off-road)
Range: 186 km
Primary armament: 76.2 mm gun
Secondary armament: two 7.62 mm machine guns
Power plant: 373 kW (500 hp) Diesel
Crew: 4
Missing image
Russian_T-34.jpg


T-34/85 General Characteristics
Length: 8.0 m
Width: 3.0 m
Height: 2.7 m
Weight: 32 t
Speed: 55 km/h (road)
~24 km/h (off-road)
Range: 360 km
Primary armament: 85 mm gun
Secondary armament: two 7.62 mm machine guns
Power plant: 373 kW (500 hp) Diesel
Crew: 5
Contents

Production history

The ancestry of the T-34 derives from the BT series of fast tanks developed in the USSR in the 1930s. These were discovered to be too lightly armoured and armed for the sort of combat that would be expected. The T-34 took the BT's Christie-type suspension and incorporated it into a much more robust tank (The BTs were derived from prototype fast tanks built by American tank designer J. Walter Christie, which were sold to the Soviet Union after the American military declined to buy them. The T-34 incorporates elements of the Christie suspension, in particular the large road wheels).

Development proper commenced in 1936, and a prototype was completed in 1939. Full scale production started in 1940. The T-34 was produced in two major variants, the basic T-34/76 with a 76-mm gun (simply called T-34, in Soviet service), and the T-34/85 with an 85-mm gun.

Between 1940 and 1944, nearly 40,000 T-34/76 tanks were produced. Another 31,000 T-34/85s were built in 1944 and 1945. After the war, the T-34 was out of large scale production in the USSR by 1946, and was followed by the T-44 and the T-54. Production was later restarted in Poland and Czechoslovakia where many T-34/85s were made in the 1950s. Some of these ended up in various Cold War conflicts all over the globe.

Variants

  • T-34/76A - Production model of 1940
  • T-34/76B - Production model of 1941 with heavier armor and a cast turret.
  • T-34/76C - Production model of 1942 with heavier armor and a redesigned turret.
  • T-34/76D - Production model of 1943 with welded turret.
  • T-34/76E - Production model of 1943 with a commanders cupola.
  • T-34/76F - Production model of 1943 with a cast version of the T-34/76D turret.
  • T-34/57 - A very few T-34 in 1941 and 1943 were fitted with the ZIS-4 high-velocity 57mm gun to be used as 'tank hunters'.
  • T-34/85 - Production model of 1943 with a 85 mm gun and improved turret.
  • OT-34 - Variant of both 76 and 85mm T-34 fitted with an internal flamethrower replacing the hull machine-gun.
  • Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r) - designation of T-34s captured by Germany.

The T-34 chassis was used as the basis for a series of self-propelled guns such as the SU-122, SU-85 and SU-100.

Post-war, some T-34s were fitted with 122mm howitzers as self-propelled guns by Syria and Egypt.

Combat history

The T-34 is often used as a symbol for the effectiveness of the Soviet counterattack against the Germans. The appearance of the T-34 definitely was an unpleasant surprise for the German commanders, as it could combat all 1941 German tanks effectively. It was faster, had better armament (50 mm was the predominant calibre of German tanks guns) and better armour protection, due to the technical innovation of sloped armour.

However, at the beginning of the war direct tank to tank combat was a relatively rare occurrence; the vast majority of losses suffered were from logistical and mechanical troubles (50% of Soviet tanks at the start of the German invasion), artillery and air strikes, anti-tank guns and later in the war self-propelled guns and tank destroyers.

Combat effectiveness of early war T-34s was also hampered by the cramped two-man turret layout. The commander's battlefield visibility was poor; the forward-opening hatch forced him to observe the battlefield through a single vision slit and traversable periscope. He was also distracted by having to fire the main gun. In contrast, contemporary German tanks had much superior three-man turrets with commander, gunner, and loader. German commanders usually operated "heads-up", with the seat raised and having a full field of view, unless taking fire.

The other key factor diminishing the initial impact of T-34s on the battlefield was the poor state of tank tactics and crew training, a hangover from Stalin's purges of the Soviet officer corps in the late 1930s. This was further exacerbated by the lack of radios during the early war, making it practically impossible to coordinate them in combat.

At the outset of the war, only about 10% of all Soviet tanks were T-34 variants, this number increased to 50-60% percent till mid-1943. By the time the T-34 had replaced older models and became available in greater numbers, newer German tanks (including the improved German design based on the T-34, the Panzer-V 'Panther') outperformed it. Heavier Soviet tanks designs (e.g. the IS-1 and IS-2) were also better-armed and better-armoured than the T-34.

T-34/85s saw action in the Vietnam War (most famously in the attack on Lang Vei) and even as recently as the Bosnian War.

Importance

The T-34 is often called the all-round best tank of World War 2.

It is true that the German Panther, whose design was based on much study of the T-34, may have been the most powerful all around tank of the war, but it was complex to build and suffered from engine problems. The Tiger, like other heavy tanks, had a better gun and thicker armour but suffered from poor mobility and transportability, and had reliability and maintenance problems.

The T-34 was easily mass produced and it was also reliable and easy to maintain in the field. Consequently, large numbers could be deployed and operated simultaneously. These virtues in combination with its very good balance of firepower, armour protection, and mobility, allow it to be classified, all things considered, as the best tank of the war.The American M4 Sherman had many of these virtues but was deficient in armour design and (in most variants) firepower. German industry was never really effectively organised to mass produce tanks in the quantities required and produced too many divergent designs. German tanks were relatively complex and over-engineered, and had long implementation cycles.

The up-gunned T-34/85 remained the standard Soviet medium tank until the end of the War. The huge numbers produced were a deciding factor in the Allied victory. The T-34's balanced design allowed it to replace most light, medium, and heavy tanks in Soviet service, and influenced the development of the main battle tank (MBT) class after the war.

See also

External links

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cs:T-34 da:T-34 de:T-34 eo:Tanko T-34 fr:Char T-34 hu:T-34 he:T-34 ms:Kereta kebal T-34 ja:T-34 no:T-34 pl:T-34 pt:T-34 fi:T-34 sv:T-34

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