The first production model was the T-34/76, which was actually the German designation for the T-34; the first T-34 production model is also named the model 1940 or even the T-34/76A.It had a crew of four and it was powered by a diesel Model V-2 engine. The T-34/76 had a top speed of around 32 mph and it could store around 142 gallons of fuel. It also had two DT machine guns and a 76.2 mm main gun (L-11, F-34, or S-54). One of these machine guns was mounted in the bow. It could also be equipped with a 57 mm ZiS-4, hence making the T-34/57 mm. The T-34/76 was difficult to command as the tank commander had to both load the gun and command the tank. Without a commander's cupola, the tank commander also had to stand in the open to be able to command more effectively. This put the commander in serious risk of being killed.
The T-34/76 could carry seventy-seven rounds of 76 mm ammunition and about 2,400 rounds of ammunition for its machine guns. It weighed about 26,000 kg and it was about 5.92 meters long. The suspension of the T-34/76 was the same as all future variants and it was a Christie suspension system. The armor protection was about 45 mm thick in the front and back part of the hull and the turret had about 45-40 mm of armor; although, in some places, the armor was only 15-22 mm. The early T-34/76s were death traps to escape from as the gunner and tank commander shared a single hatch. The T-34/76's curved turret, while effective, led to many tanks getting a shell lodged to their turret, and therefore, tearing the turret off from an enemy shell fired at that area.
The first variant of the T-34 series was the model 1941 or T-34/76B had thicker armor in most places. These included the turret and the hull which both had around 50-60 mm armor. It also had a new F-34 main gun. Other than the difference in armor and the new main gun, the model 1941 was fairly similar to the model 1940. Similarities included the same 500 hp engine, the same 76.2 mm main gun, and the same maximum speed.
The Model 1942 or T-34/76C came after the model 1941 and it could carry about 135 gallons of fuel. It also had a new weight of about 28,000 kg. However the Model 1942 also was similar to the original and the model 1941 in several different ways. Some of these include it having the same length as both earlier models, another similarity is that the model 1942 has the same F-34 main gun as the model 1941. The model 1943 or T-34/76D had a new hexagonal shaped turret and it also had several improvements made to it which became the sub-variants the T-34/76F and the T-34/76E. It could also carry 100 main rounds instead of 77 as the other previous variants had. Another difference is a weight of 30 tonnes and increased armor thickness. Another common variant, simply referred to as the T-34-57 was a model which had removed the original 76mm gun in favor of a higher velocity ZiS-2 anti-tank gun.
The T-34/85 was introduced in late 1943 and had a crew of five men. It also had a larger weight of 32,000 kg and significantly increased armor ranging from 45 mm to 90 mm. The T-34/85 even was equipped with a new 85 mm main cannon based on a former anti-aircraft gun and it's length was increased to 8.15 m. It had the same engine as the other variants and it also could carry the same amount of ammunition for the MGs. The T-34/85 came in two versions which were produced in 1943 and 1944. The 1943 version had the D-5T main gun while the 1944 version was updated with the ZiS-S-53 main gun.
The T-34 was first designed by Mikhail Koshkin and was originally designated the A-20 and after later modification the A-32. Finally it was designated the T-34 and it was put into production. It came as a shock to the Germans, who invaded the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa, that the T-34 was quite capable of defeating German tanks whilst being impenetrable to most German anti-tank munitions.
The T-34 and all of its variants were used widely throughout World War II in many different battles. Some of these include the Operation Typhoon and the Battle of Kursk. They were critical to most, if not all Soviet offensives in the Eastern Front. The key to their mass production was that the T-34 was simple to assemble and had a relatively low cost to manufacture.
However, the T-34 had flaws, including poor ergonomics and safety for the crew. Furthermore, mechanical reliability problems and the use of low-quality steel plagued many of the early-era T-34's, resulting in many of them being abandoned and destroyed by Soviet crews. The inadequate training of the tank crews didn't help with many of these mechanical problems.
T-34s that were captured by German forces were designated Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r). There were several changes made to these T-34s including new radio systems and a new commander's cupola. Other changes were made as well such as custom symbols and signs. For example, the new T-34 were repainted with swastika symbols instead of the Communist Red Stars. Some T-34s were even adopted into panzer divisions.
- ↑ http://www.wwiivehicles.com/ussr/tanks-medium/t-34-76-1940.asp
- ↑ http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=38
- ↑ http://ww2db.com/vehicle_spec.php?q=177
- ↑ http://www.soviet-empire.com/1/military/tanks/t34/
- ↑ http://www.achtungpanzer.com/panzerkampfwagen-t-34r-soviet-t-34-in-german-service.htm
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