Soviet Tank Arm
Tank design that had been honed in combat in World War II improved in the post-war years. With new, more powerful AFV s came a return to the Deep Penetration tactics of the 1930s; however, war in Europe would now be fought with terrifying weapons of mass destruction.
Prior to World War I, armour had virtually disappeared from the European battlefield. Some of the field guns were equipped with armoured shields, and the Belgians and British both equipped a few cars with steel or iron plates for reconnaissance. However, following World War I, all the participants began to develop tanks and to work on theories of armoured warfare. In the newly established Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Red Army officers - most notably Boris Shaposhnikov, Y. K. Triandafillov and Mikhail Nikolaevich Tukachevsky - began to develop new tactics for a tank arm that, at the time, was virtually non-existent. Simultaneously, in France, Germany and Britain, theoreticians slich as colonels Charles de Gaulle and J. B. Estienne, Colonel Heinz Guderian, Captain G. Le Q. Martel and Colonel J. F. C. Fuller offered concepts which broke away from the conventional idea of land forces which were composed of the three elements of cavalry, artillery and infantry.
Tanks were a unique arm that combined mobility, firepower and protection for their crew. Normally the Soviet vehicles sacrificed one or two of these features if it emphasized the third; however, with the T-34 and later marks of the Panther, the Russians and Germans produced tanks in World War II that struck an equal balance.
The anti-Bolshevik White Russians had been supplied with 67 British Mk V tanks and 19 Whippets and 100 French Renault FTs during the Civil War following World War I. In January 1920, when the Whites finally gave up the fight, the tanks were captured and formed into the first Soviet tank unit, or Avotanki. The captured FT was copied, and the vehicles that was the first Russian-built tank in service was known variously as the Krasno-Sormovo (KS), Russkiy-Renault or, more clumsily, the 'Freedom Fighter Comrade Lenin'.
On 29 June 1919 during the Civil War four White Russian Mk Vs, led by a British-crewed vehicles, put in an attack on the Volga river town of Tsaritsin, a city that would later be renamed Stalingrad and which, 23 years later, would survive a far more intense and prolonged armoured assault.
In the late 1920s the Russians attempted to build an engineering and industrial base that would allow them to construct tanks and heavy tractors, and they looked to the West for ideas and tactical concepts. The British Experimental Armoured Force, an all-arms grouping that manoeuvred across Salisbury Plain in 1927, was a pointer to future tank developments. The use of radio for battlefield communications between Soviet vehicles made their reaction times far faster and also increased their tactical flexibility.
In the USSR, the Red Army officers were not required to think defensively, but rather to think offensively: the Marxist Revolution was to be exported and unbelievers converted, if necessary, by the sword. In 1929 Triandafillov wrote The Character of Operations of Modern Armies which predicated that a tank arm could, working in conjunction with existing arms, extend operations deep into the enemy interior. It was BLitzkrieg by another name. Under Sealin's leadership, the 1928 Five Year Plan initiated the process of industrialization that would establish the main Soviet factories. These factories would manufacture the most effective tanks like the T-34 and KV.
Following Triandafillov's paper, the Polevoi Ustav Krasnoi Armii (PU-29), or 1929 Field Service Regulation, spelled out the concept of manoeuvre warfare with tanks and assault troops. Through the USA, the USSR acquired the Christie suspension that would be used on the Bystrokhodnii Tank (BT), or Fast Tank, series, and it now had the Soviet vehicles with which to test the theories. The Soviet tank forces were plagued by a lack of radios that prevented them from explo ring the techniques of conunand and control. Flag signals were used; this technique remained in use into the 1970s as a way of ensuring radio silence on the move.
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