Though a medium tank, with its three turrets the T-28 looked superficially like a heavy tank and could be mistaken for the multi- turreted T-35. The T-28 had been developed in 1932 at the Leningrad Kirov Plant or Bolshevik Factory as a break-through tank, and it drew on the British A6 medium and German NbFz Grosstraktor design. The Soviet forces had seen this German vehicles when they were employed in field exercises at the Kazan training area in 1929. After trials with the prototype, heavier armour and more powerful armament were reques red, and the original Model 27/32 45mm (1,77in) gun was replaced by a 76,2mm (3in) gun. The first model was accepted for adoprion by the Red Army on 11 August 1933.
The T-28 had a crew of six who manned the central turret armed with a very effective dual-purpose 76,2mm (3in) gun wirh three DT machine guns, a co-axial DT, and two in two forward turrets. During 1938, further modifications saw the existing 16,5-calibre gun being replaced by a 26-calibre L-10, and this tank was designated the T-28 Ob.1938. The T-28 carried 70 rounds of main armament ammunition and 7938 for the DT machine guns.
The tank weighed 32,000kg (31,50 tons), and it was 7,44m (24ft 5in) long, 2,86m (9ft 3in) wide, and 2,86m (9ft 3in) high. It was powered by a M-17L V-12 372kW (500bhp) petrol engine that developed 1400rpm. The maximum road speed of 37km/h (22mph) was quite fast for vehicles of this type, while crosscountry it wos 20km/h (12,4mph) and the road range was 220km (135 miles). Maximum armour protection was 80mm (3,14in) and minimum 20mm (0,79in). The T-28 had multi-wheel suspension with a front idlers and rear drive; much of this suspension was covered by skirting with mud chutes.
When the decision was taken to authorize production of the T-28, production was taken over by the Red Putilov Factory in Leningrad, because by now the Bolshevik Factory was fully committed to manufacturing the T-26 light tank. The first producrion batch of 10 vehicles took part in the May Day parade in Moscow in 1933.
Medium Tank T-28 went through four modifications during its production run from 1933 to 1940. The T-28A that appeared in 1933 had modified suspension that consisted of 12 bogie rollers with four return rollers. It had in creased frontal armour. German intelligence designated it the T-28V. The T-28B was a further modernization that the Germans designated T-28M. Work for this was undertaken berween 1938 and 1939. A ball-mounted machine gun was fitted in the turret rear and the main gun uprated.
By the time the Winter War against Finland had begun, there were two T-28 Brigades: these were the 10th and 20th Heavy Tank Brigades. Both suffered heavy losses from the smail number of Finnish antitank gun crews, who nicknamed the clumsy vehicles The Mail Train. In an attempt to improve the level of protection, the T-28C was developed. The frontal armour on the hull and turret was increased from 50mm (1,96in) to 80mm (3,14in) and the rear and sides to 40mm (1,57in) by additional screened armour, The weight increased to 32,513kg (32 tons). The up-armoured tank performed extremely well in the breakthrough attacks against the Mannerheim Line in 1940.
The BT tank that was the mainstay of the prewar tank forces was known to its crews as 'Betka' - (Beetle) - the affectionate girl's diminutive 'Betushka', or 'Tri-Tankista' (Three Tank Men). It had original1y been imended for an indepenclem mechanized cavalry role. complemented by the T-28 that would provide infanrry suppon. By the late 1930s, this distinction had disappeared and all tanks, including the BTs, were relegated to infamry support. The designations given ro this vast range of light tanks differ in Western literature. In the 1930s when they were being developed, the USSR was, highly secretive, and even the plants that built BTs were often more interested in technical improvement than recording by date and designation exactly when these changes were made. By the time production ceased. a total of some 7000 BT tanks had been manufactured.
The significance of J. W Christie's suspension, used in the BTs, cannot be over-emphasized. It transformed Soviet tank design and laid the foundations for a large and successful line of AFVs. Before World War I, Christie's From Drive Motor Company had built tractors, a racing car and fire engines, and in 1919 it designed and built a light tank.
With the promise of cash reward in mind, Christie tanks had produced a new tank in 1928. It proved very unreliable in testing at Fort Benning and it had inadequate engine cooling. Nevertheless, seven designated Medium Tank T3s or Combat Car T1s were ordered in June 1931 and they were produced by Christies US Wheel Track Layer Corporation. The T3 was armed with a 37mm (1,46in) M1916 Trench Cannon and powered by a Liberty V-12 engine. The improved T3E2 had a completely new two man turret, five machine guns, thicker armour, a 324.6kW (435bhp) Curtis engine and higher speed: 56,3km/h (35mph) on tracks and 96,6km/h (60mph) on wheels.
In 1929 a US cavalry officer, C. C. Benson, had enthused in two US military journals about the vehicles that he called The New Christie tank, Model 1940 because, he said, it was 'easily ten years ahead of its time'. These articles had attracted the interest of a Soviet officer, Innokenti Andreyevich Khalepsky, who was at that time head of the Red Army Military Technical Board.
The USSR had set up purchasing organizations in the United Kingdom and the USA to buy new technology. In the UK the company was Arcos Ltd, and it made considerable efforts to acquire tanks and technical intelligence from Vickers-Armstrong. The British-based team bought commercially available tanks, but the War Department put a bar on the export of Soviet vehicles that were in service with the British Army. Moscow soon realized that their operation in the USA had found something far more valuable. In the USA, that organization was the Amtorg Trading Company.
The facility to operate with or without tracks fascinated the Soviet engineers; however, it was the suspension that enabled tanks to move at high-speed cross-country that was the lasting benefit of the Christie system. The track-and-wheel system was attractive, since it would allow a fast approach march on wheel along roads and then, after an operation that rook about 30 minutes, the crew would switch to tracks. In the 1930, all tank designs were plagued by unreliable tracks whose performance was blighted by a short running life.
Five T3E2s were built by fire-engine maker La France, since Christie tank was too busy with his next project. He was also too inclined to make changes in designs when they were already in production, stich as improving the angle of the armour or turret design.
On 29 April 1930, Christie signed a contract with an Amtorg vice-president, A. V. Petrov, for two improved models of his tank. The ceremony was witnessed by Khalepsky and Joseph Michael, Amtorg's resident attorney. Michael had drafted a tough contract. It would be effective for 10 years. and init Christie agreed not to 'transfer or otherwise dispose of his patent rights or interest in said tanks to any third party'. In addition, he agreed 'not to assign [the] agreements to any third parties without the previous written consent' of Amtorg. In addition. Christie was expected to provide technical aid, such as drawings, parts and instructions. In order to monitor the tanks' construction effectively. Khalepsky assigned an engineer to work with the US Wheel Track Layer Corporation.
Two turretless T3s were bought by the Soviet Union and shipped out in the guise of agriculrural tractors. Lieurenant Colonel J. K. Crain of the US War Depanment and S. L. Parker from the State Department's Division for Eastern European Affairs had attempted to halt the export to a country that the USA did not recognize officially. By the time they began to question Christie. it was too late: the 'tractors' had been shipped our of New York on 2-4 December. Soviet engineers were impressed by its speed and the suspension that gave it an enhanced cross-country mobility, and these vehicles were to form the basis of the BT-2, which would enter full production in September 1931.
At the same that Christie had signed an exclusive contract with the USSR, he had also entered into negotiations with Poland, had contacted France and would eventually sign a se parate contract with the UK. The British used his suspension in a series of fast but poorly-armoured (and poorly-armed) (read also Armoured forces) so-called 'cruiser' tanks, like the Crusader and Covenantor. However, by the end of the war, the suspension had matured into tanks like the Comet and Cromwell, the forebears of the superb Centurion.
Soviet Tank in the Soviet Army, Andreyevich Khalepsky and the Amtorg Trading Company had by now become in creasingly suspicious of Christie tank who, as his company faced bankruptcy, was making in creasingly unrealistic demands for payment in gold. Christie died during World War II, still embroiled in lawsuits with the US Government.
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