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T-18 / MS-1 - First Soviet Serial Production Tank

The first serial tank of domestic production was the MS-1 (Malyj Soprovozhdeniya "Small escort-1" according to the classification system adopted in the mid-20s, the tanks were divided into small, main and maneuverable), which subsequently received the designation T-18. The design experience and production skills obtained during the work on it allowed us to expand a wide release of armored vehicles of various types and purposes in the early thirties, as well as to create a qualitatively new type of troops - armored and mechanized troops.

In the Soviet Union the meaning of a new weapon was realized quickly but no tanks were available in 1920s. The first Soviet tank "Freedom Fighter Comrade Lenin" was manufactured in St. Petersburg. Though a handful of captured Mk V (in Russia known as Ricardo) served in the Red Army, their performance was not satisfactory.

The first tank adopted for serial production in Russia was the Renault FT, however the Russian-built Renault was even worse than its French prototype and only a small series was built. n 1920, fifteen M-type tanks were built at the Krasnoye Sormovo plant in Nizhny Novgorod. They all had their own names. The first was called "Freedom Fighter Comrade Lenin." Others were named Ilya Muromets, Paris Commune, The Tempest, etc. Their design in general corresponded to the French model "Renault FT" sample of 1917. But from the prototype, they differed more universal weapons. So, either the 37-mm cannon or the 7.62-mm machine gun was mounted on the Renault, and both were mounted on the M, and in the same turret. However, due to the absence in this period of the industrial base for the production of armored vehicles with the release of these fifteen machines, the construction of Soviet tanks was completed.

The use of armored vehicles was most fully revealed in the "Interim Instructions for the Battle Use of Tanks", issued in 1928. It provided for two forms of participation of tank units in combat: for direct support of infantry and as an advanced echelon operating outside of fire and visual contact with it. The Army demand for a good tank was answered in 1927 when the MS-1 (T-18) vehicle was developed using the FIAT 3000 as a starting point.

In 1923, the Main Directorate of the Military Industry (GUVP) in which a tank bureau had been established began to take charge of developing new models of armored equipment. The newly created Tank Bureau at the Main Directorate of the Military Industry (GUVP) was attracted to its design. On May 6, 1924 it began work. although there was not a single person in the design team who had previously been involved in tank building, and the necessary documentation was completely absent.

In 1927, a new 5-ton close support tank, the T-16, emerged from the gates of the experimental shop. But on 7-15 June 1927, in the course of its trials, a number of substantial shortcomings was disclosed.

The prototype had to be improved. The work continued until November of that year. The designers in the aim of increasing the cross-country capability of the tank somewhat increased the length of its hull and employed large-diameter road wheels. Changes were also made in the engine and these significantly facilitated its servicing. The tank was developed under the index number T-18.

Without waiting until the end of the testing work, the USSR RVS [Revolutionary-Military Council] adopted the tank, having given it the name MS-1 (small, support). The T-18 became the base design and in the course of the work on it technical ideas were tested out aimed at improving the new armored equipment. For example, in 1929 they built and in 1931 tested the so-called "maneuvering tank" Tl-12 employing the suspension units of the MS-1 tank. The vehicle weighed around 20 tons and was armed with a 45-mm cannon. It differed from the prototype in the presence of a planetary gearbox, a new track tension mechanism floating band brakes. The Tl-12 served as a sort of base for developing the new T-24 Soviet medium tank produced in a small series. A particular feature of the latter was the fact that its armor could withstand the fire of large-caliber machine guns, the main antitank weapon of those times.

The MS-1 was the first tank put into domestic series production. The tank hull was assembled from armored sheets using rivets. Its front, back and side parts as well as the turret were manufactured from 16-mm armored sheet. On the roof and the bottom of the hull was 6-mm armor. The tank crew consisted of two men. The battlefield could be observed through narrow viewing slits which had several versions of protection. With insignificant fire the slits could be opened and with heavier fire could be closed with shutters with cross-like slits. In the event of necessity they could be completely closed. The only optical sight was the monocular periscope of the driver.

The tank's weapons were located in the turret. They consisted of a short-barreled 37-mm cannon which was aimed at the target by a shoulder support and a machine gun of the system of V.G. Fedorov, D.D. Ivanov and G.S. Shpagin with a caliber of 6.5 mm. The machine gun had two barrels combined on a single spherical mounting. Its sight device consisted of a diopter located on the casing and a foresight mounted on the forward edge of the port of the spherical mounting. It was loaded with two magazines with 25 cartridges in each. The rate of fire was 200 rounds per minute. A unit of fire for the weapon included 104 fragmentation high-explosive shells (grenades) and 2,016 cartridges for the machine gun.

The aiming of the cannon at the target, in contrast to the contemporary mountings, was carried out not only by turning the turret but also by moving it in the vertical and horizontal planes in a special armored ball-and- socket bearing. The layout of the vehicle corresponded as closely as possible to the requirements of the times. The specially developed carburetor engine with a power of 35 hp had a common crankcase with a gearbox and was mounted across the hull. This was convenient for the positioning of the crew and ammunition. In endeavoring to increase the maneuvering qualities of the vehicle, the designers employed a suspension with spring shock absorbers and rubberized road and top rollers.

The first 30 MS-1 tanks were delivered by the Bolshevik Plant by May 1929. This series was built using funds of Osoaviakhim [Society for Assistance to the Defense, Aviation and Chemical Construction]. In the same year these vehicles participated in the October Parade on Red Square.

In 1930, the tank was modernized: the suspension for the running gear was strengthened by one roller and the design of the tracks was changed. The installing of a new 40-hp engine and the improving of the running gear made it possible to increase the maximum speed of the vehicles up to 22 km an hour. The armament was also changed. In the turret with an increased rear recess, they mounted the then just developed tank machine gun DT of the V.A. Degtyarev system on a spherical mounting improved by P.S. Shpagin. Up to 1931, over 900 vehicles of this type were produced. Regardless of the appearance of new improved-design tanks, they continued working to improve the fighting qualities of the MS-1. Experiments were conducted to mount various caliber weapons on the tank, they studied different versions of suspension and sought rational angles for the slope of the front armor and an optimum shape of the turret.

Simultaneously with the development of new models of armored equipment the theory of the combat employment of the tank troops underwent development. In 1927, they published the "Infantry Field Manual" Parts I and II. In the manual the questions of the combat employment of tanks held a significant place. In particular, they examined in detail the employment of these fighting vehicles in close cooperation with the infantry in all types of combat. The most important conditions for success were considered to be: the surprise appearance of tanks among the attacking infantry, their simultaneous and massed employment as a consequence of which there was the dispersion of the artillery and other anti-tank enemy weapons; the echeloning of the tanks in depth with a presence of a tank reserve; close cooperation of the tanks with the infantry which reinforced the points taken by the tanks.

With the appearance of the MS-1 tanks, the range of battle tasks assigned to the tanks was also widened. The Temporary Instructions on the Combat Employment of Tanks issued in 1928 provided for two types of their employment: in close cooperation with the infantry and their carrying out of independent tasks in the enemy rear (neutralization of artillery, disruption of communications and command). At the same time, a number of articles was published of which of greatest interest were the works of K.B. Kalinovskiy. The questions of the employment of these combat vehicles were profoundly worked out in his articles "Employment of Tanks and Their Cooperation With Infantry" (1927), "Tanks on the Defensive" (1927), "Tanks in Offensive Combat" (1928), "High-Speed Tanks in a Meeting Encounter" (1929) and others.

Soviet military science in the 1930s determined the most effective organizational forms of the armored and mechanized troops. Tank companies and tank battalions were organized and these were included in the rifle divisions. Mechanized regiments were introduced into the cavalry regiments and armored squadrons into the cavalry brigades. In addition, separate tank brigades, regiments, battalions and companies were organized for reinforcing the combined-arms formations with tanks.

In 1929 they began to organize mechanized formations designed for independent operations. A mechanized regiment was constituted consisting of a tank battalion, a motor vehicle-armored battalion, a motorized rifle battalion and an artillery battery. The first mechanized brigade was constituted in May 1930. It included two tank battalions, two motorized rifle battalions and a reconnaissance battalion, an artillery battalion and special subunits. The brigade was supplied with MS-1 tanks.

The first experience in the combat employment of domestic serially-produced tanks was gained in the autumn of 1929. Some nine MS-1 tanks took part in the fighting on the Chinese East Railway. Participant of the battles, Marshal of the Soviet Union V.I. Chuikov recalled one of the battles: After the artillery preparation 10 tanks moved from the initial positions. Their attack was sudden for the Chinese soldiers, she was surprised no less than the Red Army soldiers. We saw how the Chinese soldiers and the officers almost halfway out of the trenches to look at the tanks. We expected them to run, but the surprise was apparently so great that it paralyzed their will ... Tanks reached the Chinese positions and opened fire along the trenches Machine-gun fire sobered the Chinese. They ran in panic. Ten tanks broke through the enemy defenses without any losses on our part." On the night of 17 November 1929, the first Soviet serial tanks received baptism of fire. Red Army soldiers did not keep up with the tanks, and some looked enchanted at moving steel turtles, spewing fire. It was only 1929. Peasant guys who served in the army, knew about the tanks only by hearsay. It was the year when the first tractors appeared on our fields, and people believed the rumors that they would smell kerosene bread. Tanks easily reached the Chinese positions and opened fire along the trenches. Machine-gun fire sobered up the Chinese. They ran in panic.

The T-18 took part in the initial phase of the the Great Patriotic War in 1941. Most were used as pillboxes, while others that were still able to move - as tanks.

The next step was the T-19 - the first attempt to make a main battle tank with sloped armor but it never made it to serial production. The T-12 cruiser tank prototype was more lucky as it was put into serial production under the T-24 name. At the beginning of the 1930s, the MS-1 tanks began to be replaced by the more advanced T-26, BT-2 and later the BT-7 and multiturret T-28 and T-35 tanks. Nevertheless, the MS-1 which possessed all the elements of what for then was a modern design completely met the tasks of training the future tank troops.

In the mid-1930s and beginning of the 1940s a significant portion of these machines were used as emplacements on territories bordering the Far East and the Karelian Isthmus along the Finnish frontier. Occasionally, the MS-1 is mentioned in the annals of World War II. Today there are no fewer than 10 MS-1s standing as monuments or museum exhibits around Russia.

Specialists of the Eastern Military District (VVO) in Primorye on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War restored the MS-1 tank, found about 25 years ago. This is the first Soviet tank of serial production, in total about nine hundred of them were produced, now only five vehicles have survived in the world, and on the move one is in Primorye.

The hull of the tank was found in the village of Baikal in the Primorsky Territory, and the tower was found at the border post of the Khasansky district, where the Russian border with China and the DPRK passes. In March, the tank turned 100 years old, but the exact date of its "birth" and the full history could not be restored. Parts assembled at the Ussuri tank plant, which is now closed. The original parts for repair could not be found due to the solid age of the tank and had to use the "iron" from other machines.

After that, the tank was placed as a monument in front of the headquarters of the Fifth Army in Ussuriysk, and in 2015 he first took part in the Victory Parade. "Then the engine was already in it, but it was faulty, the chassis was also faulty. The engine came from a small modern car, and other spare parts from other machines had to be used," said the squad commander, senior sergeant Alexander Verkhovtsev, who restored the tank for five years back and in subsequent years. - In 2015, the car participated in the parade in Khabarovsk, after which he returned to Primorye, and he was put back on a pedestal. "

In Khabarovsk, the car was delivered to Kamaz. Once again, the tank was brought to life in 2017. Then he went to the parade on Victory Day in Ussuriysk, after which the MS-1 stood on the pedestal for another three years. In 2020, it was decided to put the tank at the head of the parade column of equipment. This year it was removed again, we revived the engine, checked the running gear, repaired something. Both conscripts and young contractors worked on it, I myself participated in preparing the tank for the parade. Mechanics, welders of it prepared for painting, completely cleaned from old paint. The work took a month," said Verkhovtsev.

Crew Two persons
Gun 37 mm "Gochkis"
Machine guns 2 x 7.62 mm DT (1 spare) or
Two-barrel 6.5 mm System V. G. Fedorova
Stock of cannon shells 104 PCs
The stock of machine-gun cartridges 2016 PCs (DT)
Front, rear and side thickness 16 mm
Roof and bottom 8 mm
Without weapons and ammunition 5300 kg
Full combat 5900 kg
Specific pressure at immersion 100 mm 0.374 kg/cm2
Basic Dimensions
Length without tail 3500 mm
Length with tail 4500 mm
Width 1800 mm
Height 2200 mm
Clearance 315 mm
Caterpillar Reference Surface length On solid ground 1700 mm
Caterpillar Reference Surface length At immersion on 100 mm 2630 mm
Track width 300 mm
Gauge width (counting from the middle Senior 1460 mm
Distance from the axle of the driving wheel to Center of gravity 1088 mm
On the 1st gear 1.9 km/hour
"2nd" 6.5 km/hour
"3rd" 16.4 km/hour
Average (estimated) 14 km/h
Reverse 1.5 km/hour
Fuel and lubricants Supply
Fuel tanks capacity 110 L (2 to 55 L)
Fuel consumption per kilometer Average Speed 14 km/h 0.76 kg
The fuel and grease supply at this Speed 100-120 km away
Tank permeability
Width of the trench to be overcome Up to 1.8 m
Depth of water barrier at solid Ground bottom and the deposited shores Up to 0.8 m
Slope of slopes when driving on Solid Ground Front The course 350
Slope of slopes when driving on Solid Ground Reverse 420
Slope of slopes when driving on Red Soil Front the course 300
Slope of slopes when driving on Red Ground Reverse 350
Lateral roll at Movement on Solid Ground Up to 300
Vertical barrier Height Up to 0.55 m
Breakage of thick trees Up to 20 cm
Motor Mark T-18
Engine type Carburetor, air Cooling
Power 40 HP *
Cylinder diameter 85 mm
Stroke 140 mm
Speed 1800 RPM
Compression ratio 4.7
How Cylinders work 1-3-4-2
*-In the tanks of the first series Engine power equaled 35 hp
T-18 / MS-1 T-18 / MS-1 T-18 / MS-1 T-18 / MS-1 T-18 / MS-1 T-18 / MS-1 T-18 / MS-1 T-18 / MS-1 T-18 / MS-1 T-18 / MS-1

T-18 / MS-1

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 17:21:40 ZULU