GAZ-60 / T-60 light tank
Mass production of Soviet light tanks in the early years of the Great Patriotic War was mainly a forced response to the Red Army’s crippling initial battle losses, and although tanks such as the T-60 sustained terrible losses in the early months of the war, they played a vital role in stemming the German advance in 1941 until evacuated and reassembled factories could mass produce more powerful fighting machines.
On July 20, 1941, the USSR State Committee for Defense (GKO) adopted Resolution No. 222ss on the Manufacture of 10,000 Light Tanks. Interestingly, at that time the tank, the mass production of which was to be organized, did not even exist on paper. The car, dubbed the T-60, designed a little more than a week. Held on the conveyor for less than a year, from September 1941 to July 1942, the T-60 became the most massively produced small tank in history. During the heavy summer battles, the Red Army lost a large number of tanks, but the simple and technologically advanced T-60 was the machine that could help in this difficult situation. Further serial release was personally monitored by the Supreme Commander. New cars could make up for losses and ensure minimal supply of army tanks.
The T-60 was developed in the chaotic summer of 1941, after Hitler’s armies launched Operation Barbarossa to conquer the Soviet Union. Weighing just 6.4 tons, the scout tank was created by designer Nikolai Astrov using existing automobile production capacities. The vehicle could be built in the same plants as the T-34mediumbattle tank, but far more cheaply. Its downsides were significant, though: With just 3-cm-thick frontal armor and carrying only a 20mm canon and 7.62mm machine-gun, the tank was mainly effective against infantry.
Importantly, theT-60 could measure up to the German PzKpfw II Ausf Flight tank that was built in the same year and carried the same caliber armament. (The German designers had been unable to fit a 20mm cannon to the predecessor light tank PzKpfw I Ausf, which weighed around the same as the T-60.)
Before the Great Patriotic War, light tanks were manufactured by the Moscow plant No. 37, but its production capacity did not allow a sharp increase in their output to ensure the front, and then it was decided to organize the production of light tanks at the Gorky Automobile Plant.
The Gorky Automobile Plant was not chosen by chance, since it was a huge machine-building enterprise with good equipment and modern technologies. Another reason was that in the design of light tanks, many automotive components and assemblies, including GAZ engines. On July 20, 1941, a Resolution of the State Defense Committee (GKO) was issued, according to which GAZ was instructed to master the production of the T-60 light tank, which was developed in Moscow on the basis of the T-40 floating tank. According to the decree of the State Defense Committee No. 222ss was issued “On the manufacture of 10 thousand light tanks”, KTZ (Kharkov) became one of the main producers of the T-60, which accounted for the release of 3,500 tanks. The same number was supposed to release the plant number 37. Another 3,000 T-60s were supposed to be released by GAZ.
On July 23, an order was issued by the NKSM No. 36CC, according to which the design bureau of Plant No. 37 was instructed to develop a simplified hull structure and turret for the T-60 tank. After just two days, a technical meeting was held at plant No. 37, during which the design of the T-60 tank based on the T-40 was discussed and its further production by GAZ and KhTZ factories. However, the real work on the "simplified T-40" began even earlier. The earliest of the drawings of the new tank found by the author are dated July 22, that is, before the order of the KSM no.360ss. The plant design bureau, headed by Astrov, set a world record for tank development speed: the drawings of the last groups were already delivered on July 28, that is, the entire documentation development cycle took a week.
From the telegram of the chairman of the VPK I.V. Stalin to the leadership of the car factory, October 20, 1941: “The defense needs of the country and Moscow require that your plant dramatically increase the production of T-60 tanks and in the next two or three days began producing 10 tanks a day, and by the end of October 15 tanks in a day. Please complete this task. I hope that you and all the workers and engineers of the plant honestly fulfill your duty to the Motherland. "
In August 1941, as a prototype, the T-60 tank was overtaken by the T-60 tank from Moscow personally by its designer Nikolai Ostrov, who was seconded to Nizhny Novgorod to create a head design bureau for the development of light tanks. Designed in Moscow, the tank did not have a detailed study and was very "raw." Specialists of GAZ immediately began to fine-tune it and make a number of changes in its design, which mainly concerned the running gear. The first two T-60 tanks were assembled in August 1941 and received the factory designation GAZ-60.
The tank hull was divided into five compartments. In the forward part of the hull was located the transmission compartment, which gradually passed into the control compartment; in the middle right part of the corps there was the engine compartment, and in the middle left part there was a combat distance, which extended to the tower; The rear compartment housed the aft compartment, in which the engine radiators and fuel tanks were located, and was separated from the crew compartment by a partition to prevent fuel from entering the tank crew in the event of its defeat.
The driver was in the front of the hull, and the commander was in the left middle part of the hull and in the tower, which was mounted on the hull on the underside of the box, shifted from the longitudinal axis to the left. For landing in the tank there were hatches that were located in the roof of the tower and the raised wheelhouse of the hull. For emergency evacuation of the tank there was a lower hatch in the bottom of the hull.
The armored hull was developed on the basis of the hulls of small T-30 and T-40 tanks and welded from rolled steel armor plates of various thicknesses. The frontal part of the body was welded from 35 mm thick armor plates at the top and middle and 30 mm at the bottom. The hull sides were welded from plates with a thickness of 15 mm, and the bottom - 10 mm. The feed was welded from two conjugated upper and lower plates 10 and 25 mm thick, respectively. The roof of the case was an armor plate with a thickness of 13 mm. The body armor plates had rational angles of inclination to the vertical normal in the range from 14 to 76 degrees, which increased its armor protection.
The turret of the GAZ-60 tank was installed offset from the longitudinal axis of the tank by 285 mm. It had a conical octagonal shape and was welded from steel rolled armored plates 25 mm thick, while the armor plates of the sides of the tower had a slope of 25 degrees to the vertical normal. In the frontal part of the tower there was a hole in the form of a rectangular niche for mounting a gun and a machine gun and an armor mask protecting them with an armor thickness of 20 mm. The thickness of the armor roof tank was 13 mm.
A four-stroke inline carburetor six-cylinder engine with a liquid-cooled 76 hp was installed as a power plant on the tank. and a volume of 3,480 liters paired with a 4-speed manual gearbox with a multi-speed gearbox, which included a single-plate clutch, a stepped drive shaft, a bevel main drive, two onboard multidisk clutches and two single-row simple onboard gearboxes. The tank could reach a maximum speed of 45 km / h on the highway and had a cruising range of 450 km.
The main armament was an automatic rifled gun TNSh caliber 20 mm, which was mounted on the axle in the turret of the tank. The ammunition for the gun consisted of 750 shots, which for automatic feeding were filled into a ribbon of 58 pieces with 58 detachable links. The tape was laid in a box that was attached to the brackets at the bottom of the gun. Twenty spare boxes with ribbons were placed along the walls of the crew compartment in the case. While firing, liners were thrown out of the tank, and empty tape was dropped on the bottom of the hull. As a coaxial gun, shifted to the left side, a DT machine gun of 7.62 mm caliber was mounted. Its ammunition consisted of 945 rounds in 15 disk stores.
The T-60’s unequal struggle against the superior enemy tank types that appeared took its toll on the tank’s reputation as well as its numbers. Later, however, military historians gave due credit to the contribution to the war effort made by the 6,000 units in total produced. Since it was clear to the Soviet engineers and the militarycommandthat the T-60 was suffering unacceptable losses on the battlefield, it was decided to upgrade the tank. Astrov led the work until the introduction of the T-70 in early 1942. From August 1941 to February 1943, the Gorky Automobile Plant collected 2,962 light tanks GAZ-60 (T-60), and then it was replaced by a more powerful light tank T-70.
The T-60 turned out to be in the middle between the T-40 and T-50 both in terms of weight and size classification and in terms of its intended use, having no advantages of either one or the other. However, the "sixties" was a big step forward in another respect. A significant part of the losses of the tank forces of the Red Army in the summer of 1941 was of a non-combat character. Therefore, the great work carried out in the pre-war years by the team of Plant No. 37 under the direction of N. A. Astrov to improve small and light tanks contributed to the creation in the shortest possible time of a reliable, cheap, technological and generally efficient machine, which the T-60 became. "Sixties" could be produced in factories that could not produce more complex T-34. The maximum use of automotive components and assemblies already established in the production increased the reliability and maintainability of tanks under the conditions of an extreme shortage of experienced driver mechanics and qualified specialists in repairing tank engines in field conditions. As a result, the losses of the T-60 tanks to a greater degree were in combat. This was the reason for the appreciation of the tank by Comrade Stalin.
By the summer of 1942, the T-60 was objectively weaker than most of the tanks opposing it. His booking was weak against the enemy’s long-barreled guns of 50 and 75 mm caliber. They were dangerous even for heavy KB tanks, so the crew’s attitude to the tank was not very good, it was often called the BM-2- (a mass grave for two), but some tankers considered the T-60 their favorite cars. They often gave them sonorous names -Orel-. “Terrible”, and small maneuverable cars were worthy of their names. To fight the enemy infantry, this was a very suitable tank.
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