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T-34 - Design

The T-34 was small and comparably light, while the tank's water-cooled diesel engine minimized the danger of fire and increased the tank's the radius of action. The T-34 had a more powerful cannon than German tanks, a higher top speed (32 MPH versus 25 MPH), and superior sloped armor and superior welded construction. The design overcame the technological superiority of German forces during the Great Patriotic War.

At its introduction, it was the tank with the best balance and attributes of firepower, mobility, and protection in existence, although initially its battlefield effectiveness suffered from the unsatisfactory ergonomic layout of its crew compartment, lack of radios and poor tactical employment. The two-man turret crew arrangement required the commander to also serve as the gunner, an arrangement common to most Soviet tanks of the day; this proved to be inferior to the German arrangement of three men (commander, gunner and loader).

The T-34 is a modified Christie-type tank. It has an overall length of 19 feet 1 inch and is 9 feet 8 inches in width. The low silhouette of the tank (8 feet 6 inches), beside maintaining 1 foot 3 inch road clearance, is an obvious advantage. The tank weighs 29.7 tons and has a maximum speed of 28-34 miles per hour on roads and 18.5 miles per hour across country. It can surmount the same cross-country obstacles as the "KV" except that its length limits the width of the trenches it can jump to about 11 feet.

The turret is of the built-up, welded type, equipped with two rotating periscopes mounted on top. Two visors, fitted with bulletproof glass are located on the sides of the turret. The turret may be revolved 360 to permit all-around fire.

The T-34 was powered with a 500-HP diesel motor similar in design to that in the "KV" and can be started either by electricity or compressed air. The track also is similar to that used on the "KV." It is narrower (21 1/2 inches wide) but has the same design and method of interlinking the plates.

Carrying its normal capacity of 120 gallons of diesel oil, the radius of operation of the T-34 is 150-175 miles. However, this range may be extended by carrying extra fuel tanks strapped to the hull above the fenders.

The tank is manned by a crew of four. The commander, who also acts as loader, and the gunner take stations in the turret. The driver and radio operator are in the forward seats of the hull.

Radio is used only to communicate with higher echelons. Inter-tank communication is by visual signal, while telephone and laryngophones are used between members of the crew.

The Model 1940, the first T-34 production variant, was armed with the L-11 76.2 mm gun, which was considerably shorter than the subsequent F-34 76.2 mm main gun of the 1941 and later models. The mantlet was also round in contrast to the more square mantlets of later models.

The T-34 was superior to the German Pz-III in terms of protection and firepower, but that was all. The Pz-III had a three-man turret with a commander's cupola. Each crewman had an internal communication device at his service. In contrast, the T-34 had a very cramped two-man turret without a commander's cupola. Only the tank commander and the driver had internal communication. The German tank had a very smooth motion and wasn't as noisy as the T-34: moving with maximum speed the Pz-III could be heard from 150-200 metres while the T-34 could be heard from 450-500 meters.

Sloping armor was a relatively new concept that allowed for increased protection by presenting a surface that induced deflection of horizontal shot and presented an increased cross section compared to the same thickness of armor. Tankers should not be protected from bullets and shrapnel, but from anti-tank cannon shells, which will perforate thin armor, whatever the inclination of it. The streamlined form of the hull was a real innovation in tank building. The armor should be made inclined, and not only the sides, but also the frontal part, and the stern. It was necessary to create a universal, unprecedented tank, which would become the best in the army. This needed armor - thick, and strong, and viscous - so that the projectile could not penetrate, and put the sheets at the right angle, welding these sheets, because riveting is fragile.

Until late 1942, the T-34 was capable of defeating all German tanks. The T-34 was an excellent design and a formidable weapon. It emphasizes the ability of the Soviets to design weapons while still dependent on the West for production facilities and basic technical advances. The T-34 was a technologically innovative design which addressed the short-comings of the earlier BT series of wheel/track tank. Supporters of wheels argued that tracks were "galoshes on boots that have some meaning only in rain and mud". And besides, the enemy will kill one of the tracks - and the entire tank will become a fixed target. The army needed fast vehicles with mixed propulsion, and not a thick-armored, barely crawling tank. But only a tank with tracks could eliminate the contradiction between weight and maneuverability.

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Page last modified: 05-03-2019 18:34:14 ZULU