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date of publication: 19-01-2013


Heavy Tank T-35

Initial Heavy Tank Designs (continuation)

Heavy Tank: T-35 Model 1938 fitted with a radio antenna

The inspiration for the T-35 is design has caused disagreement between western and Russian historians. The former argue it was copied from the British Vickers A-6 Independent tank, but this is rejected by many Russian specialists. It is impossible to know the truth for certain. bur there is strong evidence to support western claims, nor least failed Soviet attempts to purchase the A-6. At the same time, the influence of German engineers developing similar designs in the late 1920s at their Kama base in the Soviet Union cannot be discounted. What is clear is that borrowing military technology and ideas from o ther nations was common to the majority of armed forces in the interwar years. , with its purchase of British Vickers Carden-Loyd tankettes, Vickers-Armstrong E-Light and Mk 11 Medium tanks, and the American Christie suspension, was clearly one of the leading exponents of this practice.

Although intended for mass production, only around 61 T-35s were built between 1933 and 1939. Delays were caused by the problems which had been experienced with the DT Fast Tank and T-26: poor quality control and assembly, and poorly processed parts. The performance of the tank suffered from a number of problems. Its large size and inadequate steering made it difficult to manoeuvre, particularly over obstacles: one officer exclaimed that it couldn't cross as much as a large puddle. The crew compartment was confined. and unless the tank was stationary it was difficult to coordinate and accurately fire its guns. With each tank costing as much as nine BT tanks, the Soviets sensibly concentrated resources on building o ther, more versatile, models.

Heavy Tank: T-35 Operation Barbarossa

During their service lives, the T-35s served in three battalions of the 5th Separate Heavy Tank Brigade in the Supreme Command Reserve. With less than 60 of the 9-1 tanks listed on the brigade's inventory. had to be used to increase its combat effec tiveness. The T-35 saw no action in the Russo-Finish War (1939-1940); its main purpose seems to have been to appear in the May Day and November parades as a celebration of the apparent achievements and might of the Soviet Union. Such a representation was false. Advances in weaponry had made the T-35 unsuitable for front-line service, and in 1940 a conference of armoured specialists recommended re-assigning it to training duties at Russia's military academies. In the end it was decided to run them down in service. bur this was pre-empted by the outbreak of war with Germany in June 1941. Little is known about its fate during the opening year of the war with Germany in 1941. A few were used as fixed strongpoints during the defence of Moscow in December. The majority were probably lost through mechanical failure during the summer battles in the Ukraine, serving with the 67th and 68th Tank Regiments of the 34th Tank Division of VIII Mechanized Corps.

Development of the KV-1

The employment of in support of Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) demonstrated the weakness of their armour in the face of new 37mm (1.46in) antitank guns and large-calibre artillery guns. Although actual losses to this direct fire were light, and no T-35 heavy tank were sent to Spain. it was clear thar specifications for tank armour to withstand machine-gun fire and artillery splinters were becoming obsolete.

Heavy Tank: Tank T-35 1940

Consequently, in November 1937 the Directorate of Armed Forces (ABTU) laid down new requirements for a new heavy tank T-35 specification. The new tank was to be able to withstand fire from a 76.2mm (3in) gun up to 1200m (3937ft) and be powered by a diesel engine; petrol, unlike diesel, exploded in a fireball if the vehicle was fatally hit. Continuing from the , it was initially suggested that the tank have five turrets. but on the appeal of the design teams involved, this was subsequently revised to three, mounting one 76.2mm (3in) and two 45mm (1,77in) guns. The new design was to be capable of performing the dual roles of supporting a breakthrough and destroying enemy armour.

Initial work was begun at the KhPZ, but the lack of resources and loss of engi neers caused by Stalin's ruthless purges of Russian society led to the work being re-assigned to two competing teams in Leningrad. These were the OKMO team under. Barykov, and the Zirovskiy Factory led by Lieutenant Colonel Zh. Kotin. Kotin was to prove one of the most imaginative and resourceful designers of the World War II period, and he was responsible for the powerful IS (Josef Stalin) series of tanks.

On 4 May 1938 both teams presented their initial designs to a joint committee of the Politburo and Defence Council. Barykov's T-100, and Kotin's (named after the deceased Bolshevik leader S. M. Kirov) were similar in configuration, with an upper main turret mounting a 76.2mm (3in) gun and two lower front sub-turrets with 45mm (1,77in) guns. A new innovation was the use of a torsion bar suspension for the chassis, instead of the T-35 is older and less effective spring suspension. A wide cast track was also used o n both vehicles, lowering ground pressure and improving the tanks' cross-country capability, which was essential, considering both the T-100's 58,9 tonne (58 ton) and SMK's 45,9 tonne (45 ton) weights.