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Soviet Armored Vehicle Industry

The Soviets maintained the world's largest tank fleet and had a correspondingly large production capability to support it. There were about 50,000 tanks in the inventories of active army units; and several thousand more tanks served as training vehicles, maintenance float vehicles, and war reserve weapons. In addition, the Soviets exported substantial numbers of newly produced tanks.

In the first years of its existence the USSR had no tank industry of its own. Tanks were occasionally manufactured and repaired at various Machine Building works of the country. At the same time, defence needs of the country required equipping the Red Army with fighting vehicles, including armoured ones.

The Soviet tank industry dates back to 1920, when the Soviets made their first direct copies of the Renault FT light tank. An important event in the development of the country's tank building was the creation on May 6, 1924 in Moscow, in the system of the Central Administration of Defence Industry, a tank bureau called in 1926-1929 the Head Design Bureau of Ordnance-Arsenal Trust (GKB OAT). This bureau was charged with the tasks of designing combat tracked vehicles and helping plants in putting them into production. However, work of the GKB OAT was greatly hampered due to the fact that this organisation had no production facilities and equipment of its own.

In this connection several Machine Building plants, including the Kharkiv Locomotive Plant, were charged with the task of organising tank development and production facilities, and later on with development of indigenous tanks. This decision was prompted by the availability of production facilities for powerful Kommunar track-laying tractors established at the Kharkiv Locomotive Plant in 1923, which was a good production basis for establishing tank production facilities at the plant.

The official document determining the beginning of tank production activities at the plant was the Resolution of Permanent Mobilisation Council of December 1, 1927, when the Central Administration of metal industry with its letter No. 1159/128 of January 7, 1928 ordered "... to urgently consider the issue of establishing tank and tractor production facilities at the KhPZ..."

Throughout the 1920s, theorists like Marshal Tukhachevskiy saw the need to create armored forces to provide the backbone to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (RKKA). But it was not until 1930, when the Soviets purchased the British Vickers Six Ton Tank, and the U.S. M1931 Christie wheel-and-track tank chassis in 1931, that their industry and their tank corps begin to grow.

During that period, the Soviets built tanks in one of two places. They either built them at the Kharkov Steam “Komintern” Locomotive Factory in Kharkov, Ukraine, or they built them at one of three factories in Leningrad. Each factory had a design bureau in charge of the tank design process, headed by a chief designer. The factory leadership was composed of the factory chief, the chief designers of various bureaus in these factories, the chief engineers, the head of the Party political committee at the factory, and the lead workers in charge of mechanical assembly.

As far back as during the years of the pre-war five-year plans, under the guidance of the party and the government the Soviets created a powerful material and technical base for the country's defense. Plants for producing artillery and rifle armament, ammunition, and explosives, and enterprises for producing optical instruments, shells, and other military equipment were expanded and built at a rapid pace. The tank industry also expanded.

The line production method had just begun to be introduced and was being assimilated slowly. Scientific-research institutes did not have solid links to industry, and because of this, experimental-design work developed slowly on a narrow scientific-technical and production base, without clearcut and purposeful direction. The construction of backup factories developed at a slow pace. As a result of these factors by the beginning of 1937, an obvious lag in the production of guns, mortars, small arms and ammunition began to be felt.

Of all the branches of the defense industry, much attention was given in the prewar years to the production of artillery, mortars, and small arms. The heightened interest in the artillery industry was expressed by the General Secretary of the CC AUCP Ob), I. V. Stalin. In the report of the Military-Industrial Committee of the Defense Committee of the People's Commissars of the USSR, dated 17 October 1938, he set forth his view that artillery, despite the emergence of new, exceptionally important types of combat equipment (aviation and tanks), remained a powerful and decisive factor in war, and should be given special attention.

On 05 February 1939 Vlyacheslav A. Malyshev (1902-1957) was named as the Peoples’ Commissar for Medium Machinery Production, which then included all tanks. Malyshev was perceptive and intelligent, and a very tactful individual in a society which prized stealth and craftiness. Of all the apparatchiki who could have held this position, Stalin had picked one who actually was perfect for the job.

In a short period of time the Red Army was equipped with sufficient amounts of effective artillery systems. However, the unprecedented scale of military operations and the great losses which the Soviets suffered during the first days of the war required a sharp increase in the output of armament, especially ammunition and various combat equipment. The reorganization of industry on a war footing proceeded under exceptionally unfavorable conditions.

At that time, there were 14 artillery plants, 9 plants for the production of small arms ammunition factories 8 and 12 optical-mechanical plant. All of them (43 companies) were part of the USSR People's Commissariat of weapons.

On the eve of the Great Patriotic War, the Red Army adopted an excellent example of a medium tank T-34. A powerful diesel engine and wide tracks provided a good cross into the tank off-road conditions. The optimum shape of the tower and the hull was raised. German 37 mm guns and 45 mm did not break through the armor "Thirty," a 76-millimeter cannon mounted on the T-34 easy to hit the German tanks T-III and T-IV, even at extreme distances. Good tactical and technical data was also put into service before the war heavy tank "KB." In the second half of 1941 in spite of difficult conditions, Soviet industry produced 4649 units of armored vehicles (including 2819 tanks T-34 and KV and 1830 light tanks T-20, T-60 and T-70).

During the war, armored engineering offices enterprises industry were led N.A.Astrova, AI.Gorlitskogo, AS.Ermolaeva, ZhL.Kotina, Morozov, L.S.Troyanova, M.N.Schukina et al. Thry designed and produced in the metal 27 armored vehicles, 18 of which the Red Army adopted. New and revised pieces of Soviet armored vehicles left the enemy no chance to achieve qualitative superiority.

The industrial-technological complex for the production of armored vehicles entered all tank, armored and diesel plants in the country. General economic and technical management of these enterprises has been assigned to the People's Commissariat of Soviet tank industry.

A considerable portion of the enterprises had to be evacuated to the eastern part of the country from the areas ccupied by the German fascist troops. Eyewitnesses testify how the defense industry workers, overcoming incredible difficulties of the fall and severe winter of 1941 and steadfastly enduring the deprivations of conditions of the evacuation, accomplished in record times the rebasing and reconstruction of plants at the new sites. Suffice it to say that after only a few months in unadapted and unheated buildings, and sometimes simply under the open skies, many of the enterprises began producing goods needed by the front.

  1. Kirov factory in Chelyabinsk (total area of 418 thousand plants. Sq. Meters) was Formed as a result of radical reconstruction of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, at which expand the area of the evacuated equipment was taken by the Leningrad Kirov Plant and the Kharkov plant number 75 for the production of diesel tank. In 1944, at the Kirov factory employed about 150 thousand people.
  2. The factory number 183 in Nizhny Tagil (total area of 312 thousand plants. Sq. Meters). Formed as a result of the reconstruction of Uralvagonzavod, an area which was taken evacuated equipment Mariupol Ilyich and Kharkov tank factory #183. Besides armored vehicles and body bronedetali produced IL-2 and IL-4.
  3. The plant number 112 - "Red Sormovo" - with a total area of shops 465 thousand sq. M. meters. The plant was transferred from the system of the People's Commissariat of the shipbuilding industry and redeveloped from the production of submarines to produce armored vehicles and tank armor.
  4. Ural Heavy Machinery Plant (UZTM) in Sverdlovsk (total area of 286 thousand Sq. Meters). Besides armored vehicles manufactured equipment for metallurgical plants, aviapokovki, blank artillery barrels, bombs, etc. housing
  5. The factory number 174 in Omsk (the total area of 113 thousand plants. Sq. Meters). It was evacuated in 1941 from Leningrad.
  6. Stalingrad Tractor Plant. In the second half of 1942 turned out to be in the front line and as a result, failed.

Production of components and assembly of light tanks (T-60, T-70 and T-80) was organized at the plants number 37 (Sverdlovsk), number 38 (Bratislava) and number 264. For the production of light tanks T-60 and T-70 was connected GAZ NKSredmasha. In 1941-1943. car factory produced more than 10 thousand. Tanks of this type {266} and assembling heavy tanks (KV and IS) was carried out on the production lines of the Kirov factory in Chelyabinsk.

Along with the tanks enterprise NKTankproma produced self-propelled artillery pieces, which are weapons, armor protection and mobility were close to the tanks, but differs from the latter his appointment in combat operations. ACS was mainly used to support the infantry. ACS Production was put on stream in the shops Ural Heavy Machinery Plant, the Kirov plant, and the plant number 38 and 40. Production of diesel engines for tanks, armored self-propelled guns, and was organized at the Kirov plant, number 76 and 77.

Post-War production of armored vehicles was carried out mainly at the enterprises producing armored vehicles and equipment for the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War. In peacetime, the number of such plants was reduced to 11, but at the same time, the number of enterprises and organizations involved in the development of armored vehicles increased.

The Red Sormovo plant (Plant No. 112) at the end of 1946 ceased the production of T-34-85 tanks; The production of T-54 tanks at the plant was planned, but not organized. Until 1953, the plant was engaged in the development of flame-throwing and commander tanks, as well as systems of fire-fighting equipment and OPVT. In February 1953, he simultaneously with the plant number 264 (Stalingrad Shipyard) was returned to the Ministry of Shipbuilding Industry for use for its intended purpose. By the Decree of the USSR Council of People's Commissars of October 14, 1945 at the Ural Heavy Machine-Building Plant named after S. Ordzhonikidze (Uralmash) stopped the production of self-propelled artillery installations, and the plant was focused on the development and production of equipment for the oil and gas, mining, metallurgical industry and heavy engineering. At the same time, the design office was retained at plant No. 50, which was part of the Uralmash plant, for further work on the development of self-propelled artillery. The production of tracked armored vehicles at the Gorky Automobile Plant was discontinued.

The production of tanks was preserved: medium - at plants No. 183 in Nizhny Tagil and No. 174 in Omsk (in addition, the production of an average self-propelled SU-100 unit was transferred to Uralmash), and heavy ones at ChKZ in Chelyabinsk.

Destroyed during the German occupation Kharkov Locomotive Plant them. The Comintern was partially restored as a tank repair base No. 4 of the 2nd Ukrainian Front. In October 1943, the refurbished plant was assigned number 75. The staff of the plant included former Kharkiv citizens seconded from the factories No. 183 (Nizhny Tagil) and No. 75 (Chelyabinsk). In July 1944, Kharkov Plant No. 75 was returned to the NKTP system, and in August 1944 Plant No. 38 was transferred from Kirov to Kharkov (most of it was made by specialists from the Kolomna Locomotive Plant), which became part of the restored plant.

In November of the same year, Plant No. 222 was re-evacuated from Kazakhstan and engaged in the production of flamethrowers. First of all, metallurgical procuring shops were launched at plant No. 75, equipment and machinery were restored and modernized. Already at the end of November 1944, the factory was charged with the mass production of the medium tank T-44, which lasted until 1947 - before the organization of the mass production of the medium tank T-54. A branch of Experimental Plant No. 100, formed on the territory of the LKZ in 1944 after the blockade of Leningrad was lifted, was transformed into the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute-100 (from 1966 - VNIITransmash), and the Experimental Plant No. 100 of NKTP in Chelyabinsk from 4 August 1951 entered composition of ChKZ as a workshop. At the end of August of the same year, a Special Design Bureau of Heavy Tanks, the OKBT, which became part of the reconstructed tank production of the LKZ, was allocated as an independent unit from the VNII-100.

After the restoration of the Stalingrad Tractor Plant them. F.E. Dzerzhinsky, tank production on it in the first post-war years was not organized. The country needed a peaceful product — an agricultural tractor. With the transfer to the factory of mass production of a light amphibious tank PT-76 on it, on November 28, 1950, the Special Design Bureau was organized. Thus, in addition to national economic products, in the first post-war period, mass-produced armored vehicles were produced:

  • Plant No. 75 (from March 1957 - Production Association Kharkiv Transport Engineering Plant named after VA Malyshev) in Kharkov - medium tanks T-44, T-54, T-54A, T-54B, T-55, flamethrower tanks TO-54 and TO-55, tank bridge laying MTU-12;
  • Plant No. 183 (from 1945 - the Ural Tank Plant named after IV Stalin, from September 1963 - the Ural Carriage Works) in Nizhny Tagil - medium tanks T-34-85, T-54, T-54A , T-54B, T-55, T-62, BTS-2 armored vehicle, MT-55 tank bridge laying system;
  • Plant No. 174 (Transport Engineering Plant named after the October Revolution) in Omsk - medium tanks T-34-85, T-54, T-54A, T-54B, T-55, T-55A, flamethrower tanks TO-54 and TO-55, self-propelled unit SU-100 (based on the T-34-85 tank), self-propelled unit SU-122 (based on the T-54 tank), anti-aircraft self-propelled unit ZSU-57-2 and MTU-20;
  • Chelyabinsk Kirov Plant (from June 20, 1958 - Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant (ChTZ), from May 1968 - ChTZ named after VI Lenin) - IS-3, IS-4, T-10, T heavy tanks -10A, T-10B, T-10M;
  • Leningrad Kirov Plant - T-10M heavy tanks (until January 1964), self-propelled missile launchers;
  • Stalingrad Tractor Plant imeni F.E. Dzerzhinsky (since 1961 - Volgograd Tractor Plant) - light tanks PT-76, PT-76B, self-propelled chassis of the Luna missile system, tracked armored personnel carriers BTR-50P, BTR-50PK, command and control vehicle BTR-50PU;
  • Plant No. 40 (from September 26, 1948 - Mytishchi Machine-Building Plant) - the ZSU-23-4 anti-aircraft self-propelled unit of the Shilka anti-aircraft artillery complex, the ASU-57 self-propelled self-propelled unit, the SU-85 self-propelled artillery unit, an artillery observation post APNP-1 and AT-P artillery tractor;
  • Plant No. 50 (from January 1967 - the Ural Transport Engineering Plant named after Ya.M. Sverdlov) in Sverdlovsk - self-propelled chassis for the Krug anti-aircraft missile complex 2K11, tracked minelayer GMZ;
  • Gorky Automobile Plant imeni V.M. Molotov - wheeled armored personnel carriers BTR-40, BTR-60P of various modifications, wheeled armored reconnaissance and patrol vehicles BRDM, BRDM-2, BRDM-RH, anti-aircraft machine gun unit ZPTU-2 based on the BTR-40 armored personnel carrier;
  • Moscow Automobile Plant imeni I.V. Stalin (from 1956 - Moscow Automobile Plant named after IA Likhachev) - BTR-152 wheeled armored personnel carrier of various modifications, ZTPU-2 anti-aircraft machine gun based on the BTR-152 armored personnel carrier;
  • Kharkov Tractor Plant imeni S. Ordzhonikidze - lightweight multi-purpose tracked armored transporter-tractor MT-LB;
  • Kurgan Machine-Building Plant, which began operations in 1954, initially produced unarmored tracked artillery tractors ATS and ATS-59 and started production of the infantry fighting vehicle BMP-1 only in 1968.
On 14 October 1945 the people's Commissariat of the tank industry was renamed to people's Commissariat of the USSR Automotive Industry. From the year 1946 it was called the Ministry of Transportation Engineering (MTM). With the death of Stalin on 05 March 1953, industry was caught up in the wave of party and government reorganization. On March 15, Malenkov announced to the Presidium a consolidation of eight manufacturing ministries in two ministries. Concurrently, the Ministry of Armaments Production and the Ministry of Aviation Industry were merged to form the Ministry of Defense Industry USSR

From 05 on March 1953 the Ministry of Transport Engineering of the USSR became a part of the united Ministry of transport and heavy machinery of the USSR [Law of the USSR on March 15, 1953 "On the transformation of ministries of the USSR"]. The united ministry included Minstroydormash USSR Minsudprom Soviet Union, as well as the Ministry of Heavy Machinery.

An obituary notice was published in Pravda on 08 September 1953, on the occasion of the death of Lieutenant General Boris G. Vershinin, the Russian armored warfare expert and head of the Lenin armored and mechanized warfare military academy. Signatures in order the notice was signed by Nicolai A.Bulganin, V.A.Malyshev. I.I.Nosenko, S.A.Akopov, Marshals C.K. Zukov, A.M.Vassilevsky and V.D.Sokolovsky, in that order, and by about 25 other top military officers and vice ministers.

By 1953 Malyshev was the minister of medium machine building industry, Nosenko was minister of transport and heavy machine building and Akopov was minister of machine building. According to Soviet practice, the obituary notice of an important officials were signed by the most important man of the group of mintsteries to which the dead man belonged, and then by other ministers and officials who are subordinate to the top name. Under Army Control it would appear that Bulganin controlled all the three ministries responsible for machine building, all of them presumably connected with the building of tanks and other military vehicles.

Because of the high cost of procuring large numbers of increasingly complex and expensive tanks, the Soviets apparently planned to meet part of this requirement by modernizing substantial numbers of T-54s, T-55s, T-62s, and early-model T-72s. Even so, they would have to continue to produce large numbers of new tankS every year for at least the rest of the 20th century.

The Soviets maintained four main tank assembly plants, in Khar'kov [in Ukraine], Nizhniy Tagil, Omsk, and Chelyabinsk. The Soviets also maintained at least 20 capital repair facilities throughout the USSR and Eastern Europe. All four assembly plants fabricate major tank components as well as assemble tanks, but they all are dependent on producers around the country for a variety of components and subassemblies. Technicians at the capital repair facilities refurbish tanks after the vehicles have been subjected to heavy use. Often the rebuilding includes improvements to the vehicles that result in a product that is more combat capable than the original design.

The Soviets' traditional excess of tank production capacity appeared to be growing even larger towards the end of the Cold War. Since 1965, the area devoted to military production at the three major tank plants-Khar'kov, Omsk; and Nizhniy Tagil - increased significantly. In addition to this recent expansion of production area, the tank assembly plants were retooled with a variety of modern assembly equipment. Indeed, the production expansion may have been undertaken in part to accommodate these new tools, many of which have been imported from the West. The Soviets also developed new fabrication techniques to take advantage of the capabilities of this new machinery.

These improvements probably did not presage a significant increase in output - they probably were undertaken in an attempt to at least maintain previus production levels in spite of the difficulties involved in the manufacture of vehicles incorporating sophisticated features like laminate armor and requiring the precise assembly of complex components.

These improvements should offset the strain that this growing sophistication olaces oo both human and material production resources. New industrial robots had been purchased to reduce the number of workers needed in the production process, and the latest generation of machine tools can help workers with relatively modest skills to accomplish a variety of difficult and exacting manufacturing tasks. oreover, some of these new tools would allow tank assembly workers to batch-oroduoe different types of components and vehicles in relatively rapid succession without the need to halt production and retool whenever a different vehicle must be produced.

By the late Cold War, tanks of the T-64, T-72, and T-80 series probably were being serially produced in the USSR. In addition, the Soviets were beginning to modernize extensively their older tanks that would be in service in the 1990s.

According to the Defense Industries Ministry (Minoboronprom), in January 1997 the production of both civilian and defense goods by the enterprises belonging to the Ministry was only 17.8 percent of the output in January 1991. The total number of enterprises belonging to the Minoboronprom has fallen from 1,800 to just 500 in the past few years. By the end of February 1997 the Defense Industries Ministry had not received a single defense order for the current year.




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