MOSCOW, December 3. /TASS/. The Soviet legendary T-34 tank defined the architecture of the armor of all the world’s tank powers after World War Two, former Head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Armor Department Colonel-General Sergei Mayev told TASS on the 120th birthday of the T-34’s Chief Designer Mikhail Koshkin.
"The T-34 has been in service in some countries of the world up until recently. It served as some foundation, the basis for the development of the armor in actually all the tank-manufacturing powers in the post-war period. The architecture of post-war tanks in Germany, Great Britain and America was identical to that in the T-34 tank," Mayev said.
The Russian general also explained why the T-34 was called the tank of the Victory and the best tank of World War Two. According to him, the pre-war period was the time of the abundance of various tank concepts. The developers of the T-34 tank managed to look into the future and develop the weapon most fit for battles of the approaching war.
"Koshkin and his work collective were the only ones in the eve of World War II who managed to predict what a battlefield would be, what weapons would be dangerous for a tank and which tasks a tank would have to address. They foresaw the picture of the battle and realized earlier than anyone else what a tank should be. Based on this vision, which was undoubtedly supported by calculations and estimates, the T-34 tank was created," Mayev said.
The Russian general dwelt on the properties that made the T-34 most of all suited for the war and made it the Victory tank.
"The balance of some basic positions must be observed in every combat vehicle, especially in tanks. In the tank, these are the firepower, the armored protection and the high level of mobility. So, by the balance of all these three properties, the T-34 excelled all the other tanks of World War Two," the general explained.
The balance of mobility and the armored protection in the T-34 was achieved through original solutions for that time and they eventually defined the development of the entire tank-building in the world, he said.
"The extremely rational layout of the tank’s hull provided for the maximum protection against shells. This was a well-adjusted hull with an uneven distribution of the armor depending on the most dangerous areas of the approach of striking weapons," Mayev said, noting the T-34 design specifics.
The engine plays a major role in ensuring the tank’s mobility, the general said.
"For the first time ever, the diesel engine was used on a large scale in this tank. Before that, normally gasoline engines were used. During the war, the German troops used gasoline engines and it was after the war that all started to switch to diesel motors," Mayev said, adding that this solution largely provided for the possibility of the tank’s mass production and its suitability for repairs in field conditions.
The T-34 tank was developed at the design bureau of factory No. 183 (currently the Kharkov Transport Machine-Building Factory named after V.A. Malyshev) under Koshkin’s direction.
In May 1939, the BT-20 and A-32 prototypes were developed. Following their tests, the Defense Committee under the USSR Council of People’s Commissars resolved on December 19, 1939 to name the A-32 prototype as the T-34 and accept it for service on condition of further developing it: increasing the basic armor to 45 mm, improving its visibility range, mounting the 76mm cannon and additional 7.62 mm machine guns.
In March 1940, the T-34 pre-serial tanks underwent trials at a practice range in Kubinka outside Moscow and on March 31, 1940 the Defense Committee under the USSR Council of People’s Commissars instructed to immediately start the tank’s mass production. By the beginning of the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 against Nazi Germany, 1,066 T-34 tanks had been manufactured. Based on this tank, self-propelled Su-122, Su-85 and Su-100 artillery guns were produced and its chassis was used to manufacture other hardware, including the OT-34 flamethrower tank.
The T-34 took part in many armed conflicts in Europe, Asia and Africa in the 1950s-1980s. The last documented combat use of the T-34 tank in Europe was registered during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in 1991-1999. Overall, more than 84,000 T-34 tanks were produced. Dozens of T-34s were installed in various countries of the world as monuments and museum exhibits.