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|?|||One of the most famous tanks of World War II, and the spiritual forefather of almost every modern MBT, the T-34's almost mythical reputation leads some to believe that it will be a kind of "wonder tank" in-game, which is not the case. The ||+|||One of the most famous tanks of World War II, and the spiritual forefather of almost every modern MBT, the T-34's almost mythical reputation leads some to believe that it will be a kind of "wonder tank" in-game, which is not the case. The the T-34 , , in .|
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|//Unable to match configuration for query: gun:t-34::top|damage1/Unable to match configuration for query: gun:t-34::top|damage2/Unable to match configuration for query: gun:t-34::top|damage3 HP Damage|
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One of the most famous tanks of World War II, and the spiritual forefather of almost every modern MBT, the T-34's almost mythical reputation leads some to believe that it will be a kind of "wonder tank" in-game, which is not the case. The 57mm Zis-4 gun is a great gun for its tier, with a high penetration and fantastic DPM. However, its mobility is only on par with other tier 5 mediums, but with much less armour to spare. All in all the T-34 is not a grind by any stretch of the imagination, and it can be a deadly weapon on the battlefield if used properly, but it lurks in the shadows of tanks like the M4 Sherman.
The <value_unset_error> marks the end of its line.
Modules / Available Equipment and Consumables
|Rate of fire
Pros and Cons
- Highly versatile and adaptable tank.
- Good camouflage value for a medium tank.
- Good top speed.
- Good firepower.
- Good sloped armour layout, allowing it to deflect shells with some reliability.
- Fairly thin hull armour.
- Somewhat sluggish acceleration due to high terrain resistance.
- Somewhat vulnerable fuel tanks on the hull sides.
- Extremely poor stock configuration.
The Soviet counterpart to the American M4 Sherman medium tank, the T-34 shares the M4's status as a Jack-of-All-Trades. The T-34 is a versatile tank, offering good firepower, decent armor and HP, and good mobility. Stock, it is a pretty bad tank, armed with the underwhelming 76 mm L-11 gun previously used on the A-20. The stock turret's vision range is astoundingly bad at 240 m (worse than a stock MS-1's!), which reflects the fairly poor vision that plagued the original T-34 historically. The stock V-2 engine also previously used on the A-20 is likewise fairly disappointing, making it rather sluggish. However, once fully upgraded, the T-34 really begins to shine.
Asides from the L-11, the T-34 has a choice of three guns. The 76 mm F-34 is somewhat of an improvement over the L-11, with somewhat better accuracy and penetration, and a fairly good rate of fire. The 57 mm ZiS-4 is generally considered the best gun on the T-34, with the best penetration, accuracy, rate-of-fire, and damage-per-minute of all the guns. It is more than capable of dealing with any Tier 5 tank, and is powerful enough to penetrate the sides and rear of the heaviest Tier 7 tank the T-34 may face. The Enhanced Gun Laying Drive is almost mandatory with the ZiS-4, for the aim time is longer then the reload time (even without the Medium Caliber Tank Gun Rammer) and it will dramatically improve the T-34's ability to snipe at long ranges. The ZiS-4's primary strength is in its ability to perform well both at long range and in close combat. The 76 mm S-54 offers higher damage per shot, but is generally the inferior choice with worse penetration, damage-per-minute, and accuracy than the ZiS-4.
The T-34's sloped 45 mm hull armor is fairly reliable at bouncing rounds from most Tier 3 or 4 vehicles, but should not be relied upon against Tier 5 or higher vehicles. While it will occasionally deflect rounds from such tanks, the T-34 will be very quickly destroyed under concentrated fire. The second turret has slightly better armor at 52 mm, but not quite enough to make the T-34 a good tank to go hull-down in.
In terms of mobility, the T-34 has the best top speed of the three main Tier 5 mediums (the M4 Sherman, and the Pz.Kpfw. IV). The acceleration and turning are not quite as good as that of the M7 or Pz.Kpfw. III/IV, but they are good enough to allow the T-34 to perform well as a flanking medium and even circle most heavy tanks.
The T-34 also has surprisingly good camouflage values, which allow it to function as a pseudo-scout in a pinch and also help it flank unsuspecting enemies more successfully.
Overall, the T-34 is a tank that rewards an adaptable play style that can exploit the weaknesses of its opponents. It almost always has an advantage of some sort over any of its possible opponents. It can take up nearly any role on the battlefield if required and perform adequately at the very least. Against lighter opponents, the T-34's superior armor and firepower will allow it to almost always come out on top. Against heavier opponents, the T-34 is a flanker, using its superior mobility and deceptively high damage output in the form of the ZiS-4 to punish heavy tanks that underestimate it.
- Repair as the first skill for all the crew members is a solid choice, allowing broken tracks or other damaged modules to be brought to operational condition as quickly as possible. Camouflage is also quite viable due to the T-34's already good innate camouflage values. This can help when flanking, allowing it to remain undetected longer.
- A more specialized set of first skills would be Snap Shot (Commander/Gunner), Smooth Ride (Driver), Situational Awareness (Radio Operator). The loader only has perks available, which are not useful until they have reached 100%, Repair or Camouflage are viable options for the loader, which may later be swapped out for his perks. The combination of Snap Shot and Smooth Ride act like a Vertical Stabilizer (which the T-34 does not have access to), reducing the accuracy penalties while moving or turning the turret, and by extension, allowing the T-34 to get an accurate shot off faster after stopping. Situational Awareness increase the tank's decent 350 m view range further. Mentor may also be used instead of Snap Shot if the emphasis is on getting the other crew members' skills up faster. Smooth Ride may be substituted with Off-Road Driving for improved overall mobility. Clutch Braking is generally not as useful, as the T-34 already has excellent hull traverse.
- Upon reaching 100% on the first skills, dropping the commander's skill for Sixth Sense is highly advised, as it is one of the most important perks in the game, especially for a medium tank. The loader's skill may be dropped in favor of Safe Stowage or Adrenaline Rush. However, the T-34 does not have a particularly vulnerable ammunition rack, while Adrenaline Rush is highly situational, so neither of these perks are particularly essential.
- Brothers-in-Arms is a good perk to have on any tank, but requires all crew members to have it at 100% before it works. The bonus to crew skills is particularly noticeable when combined with Improved Ventilation. It improves nearly every aspect of the tank's performance, but is generally better saved for later in favor of more important skills and perks like Repair and Sixth Sense.
- The V-2-34 engine carries over from the A-20. It has the same weight as the V-2 engine and should be installed immediately.
- The 57 mm ZiS-4, arguably the best overall gun, can be researched on the T-28. It is imperative for an early increase in firepower. If the ZiS-4 has not yet been unlocked, prioritizing it is a good idea.
- The T-34 Mod. 1942 turret dramatically increases the T-34's view range, turret traverse speed, and rate-of-fire, so it makes a good module to research after the gun, or even before it, depending on preference.
- The 76 mm S-54 is required to unlock the T-34-85
- The stock Mod. 1940 suspension has enough load limit for all of the modules, if used with the 57 mm ZiS-4, so the upgraded Mod. 1942 suspension can be researched last. However, it does provide a noticeable boost in the T-34's hull traverse speed, useful in close combat.
The T-34 was the most important weapon fielded by the Red Army in World War II. When first produced in 1940, commentators considered it one of the finest tank designs in the world. Sloping armour increased protection, the V-2 diesel engine used a less flammable fuel, the Christie suspension was fast on rough terrain and wide tracks gave low ground pressure for good mobility in mud and snow. By mid-war, the T-34 may have no longer technically outclassed its opponents but it remained effective in combat.
Early developmentIn 1937, the Red Army assigned engineer Mikhail Koshkin to lead a new team to design a replacement for the BT tanks at the Kharkiv Komintern Locomotive Plant (KhPZ) in Kharkiv. The prototype tank, designated A-20, was specified with 20 millimetres of armour, a 45 mm gun, and the new model V-2 engine, using less-flammable diesel fuel in a V12 configuration. It also had an 8×6-wheel convertible drive similar to the BT tank's 8×2, which allowed it to run on wheels without caterpillar tracks. This feature had greatly saved on maintenance and repair of the unreliable tank track of the early 1930s, and allowed tanks to travel over 85 kilometers per hour (53 mph) on roads, but gave no advantage in combat. By then, the designers considered it a waste of space and weight. The A-20 also incorporated previous research (BT-IS and BT-SW-2 projects) into sloped armor: its all-round sloped armor plates were more likely to deflect anti-armor rounds than perpendicular armour.
Koshkin convinced Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to let him develop a second prototype, a more heavily armed and armored "universal tank" which could replace both the T-26 and the BT tanks. The second prototype Koshkin named A-32, after its 32 millimeters of frontal armor. It also had a 76.2 mm gun, and the same model V-2 diesel engine. Both were tested in field trials at Kubinka in 1939, with the heavier A-32 proving to be as mobile as the A-20. A still heavier version of the A-32, with 45 millimeters of front armor and wider tracks, was approved for production as the T-34. Koshkin chose the name after the year 1934 when he began to formulate his ideas about the new tank, to commemorate the decree expanding the armored force, and the appointment of Sergo Ordzhonikidze to head tank production.
Lessons from Khalkhin Gol, regarding armor protection, mobility, welding, and main guns were incorporated into the new Soviet T-34 tank, and Koshkin's team completed two prototype T-34s in January 1940. In April and May, they underwent a grueling 2,000-kilometer drive from Kharkiv to Moscow for a demonstration for the Kremlin leaders, to the Mannerheim Line in Finland, and back to Kharkiv via Minsk and Kiev. Some drivetrain shortcomings were identified and corrected. Resistance from the military command and concerns about high production cost were finally over-ridden by anxieties about the poor performance of Soviet tanks in the Winter War in Finland and the effectiveness of German tanks during the Battle of France. The first production tanks were completed in September 1940, completely replacing the production of the T-26, BT, and the multi-turreted T-28 medium tank at the KhPZ. Koshkin died of pneumonia at the end of that month (exacerbated by the drive from Kharkov to Moscow), and the T-34's drivetrain developer, Alexander Morozov, was appointed Chief Designer. The T-34 had the coil-spring Christie suspension of the BT, using a "slack track" tread system with a rear-mounted drive sprocket and no system of return rollers for the upper run of track, but dispensed with the weighty and ineffective convertible drive. It had well-sloped armour, a relatively powerful engine, and wide tracks.Firepower
The initial version had a 76.2 mm gun, and is often called the T-34/76 (originally a World War II German designation). In 1944, a second major version began production, the T-34-85 (or T-34/85), with a larger turret mounting a larger 85 mm gun. In 1942 a new hexagonal turret design, derived from the abandoned T-34M project and improving the cramped conditions, entered production. Eventually a commander's cupola for all-round vision was added. Limited rubber supplies led to the adoption of steel-rimmed road wheels, and a new clutch was added to the improved five-speed transmission and engine. After German tanks with the superior long 75 mm gun were fielded in 1942, Morozov's design bureau began a project to design an advanced T-43, aimed at increasing armor protection, while adding modern features like torsion-bar suspension and a three-man turret. The T-43 was intended to be a universal tank to replace both the T-34 and the KV-1 heavy tank, developed in direct competition with the Chelyabinsk heavy tank design bureau's KV-13 project. Unfortunately, the T-43 prototype's heavier armor was still not proof against the Tiger's 88 mm gun, and its mobility was found to be inferior to the T-34's, even before installing a heavier 85 mm gun. Although it shared over 70% of its components with the T-34, a commitment to manufacturing it would have required a significant slow-down in production. In consequence, the T-43 was cancelled, and the Soviet command made the difficult decision to re-tool the factories to produce a new model of T-34 with a turret ring enlarged from 1,425 mm to 1,600 mm, allowing a larger, three man turret to be fitted.
By the end of 1945, over 57,000 T-34s had been built; 34,780 original T-34 tanks in 1940–44, and another 22,559 T-34-85s in 1944–45. A total of 84,070 T-34s in all variants are estimated to have been built, plus an additional 13,170 self-propelled guns built on the T-34's chassis.
The T-34 came to symbolise the effectiveness of the Soviet counterattack against the Germans. One of the first known encounters with a T-34 was by the 17th Panzer Division, which spotted it near the Dniepr River. The T-34 crushed a 37 mm anti-tank gun, blew up two Panzer IIs, and went on to leave nine more miles of destruction in its wake before being destroyed at close range by a howitzer. The appearance of the T-34 in the summer of 1941 was a psychological shock to German soldiers, who had been prepared to face an inferior Soviet enemy: this is shown by the diary of Alfred Jodl, who seems to have been taken by surprise at the appearance of the T-34 in Riga.
The puzzling discrepancy is that on one hand, these corps within weeks had lost most of their T-34 and KV tanks, but on the other hand, German reports did not note such a massive elimination in combat. The number of non-combat losses was unprecedented. Destroyed T-34
The combat results for 1941 show the Soviets lost an average of over seven tanks for every German tank lost. From a total of 20,500 Soviet tanks lost in 1941, approximately 2,300 were T-34s and over 900 were mostly KV heavy tanks. It is very likely that a large proportion of the combat ready T-34s in 1941 were lost due to operational issues in large part due to the situation the Red Army found itself in during Operation Barbarossa in the summer of 1941. For example, the serious state of soviet supply and logistics in spring 1941, resulted in a lack of armour piercing ammunition (AP) for many tanks including the T-34s, although this situation was partially remedied did in the months that followed. In addition, during the German invasion, supply problems persisted and many T-34s were abandoned and lost due to breakdown, lack of fuel or becoming bogged down. The Red Army’s tank divisions, already short of tractors and recovery vehicles, were even less capable and had time to recover these tanks after the invasion. Thus, it is likely that a large number of the approximately 2,300 T-34s lost were due to operational issues which would suggest that T-34’s loss ratio in tactical combat would be closer to 2 or 3 to 1 in the German favour during 1941.
The T-34 could take on all 1941 German tanks effectively. However, the new tank suffered severe problems; from engines literally grinding to a halt due to dust and sand ingestion (the original Pomon filter was almost totally ineffective), and serious mechanical troubles beset its transmission and clutch. At least half the first summer's total tank losses were due to breakdowns rather than German fire, although this also included older tanks in disrepair. There was a shortage of repair equipment, and it was not uncommon for early T-34s to go into combat carrying a spare transmission on the engine deck. Improvements were made throughout production, with a new gearbox in 1942, as well as many individually-minor updates. During the winter of 1941–42, the T-34 again dominated German tanks through its ability to move over deep mud or snow without bogging down: German tanks could not move over terrain the T-34 could handle. The Panzer IV used an inferior leaf-spring suspension and narrow track, and tended to sink in deep mud or snow. The German infantry, at that time armed mostly with PaK 36 37 mm antitank guns, had no effective means of stopping T-34s. Even during the Battle of France, the PaK 36 had earned the nickname "Door Knocker" among French and British tank crews due to its inability to penetrate anything but the lightest tank armor, though it worked very well at announcing the presence of the gun crew. Crews of these weapons fighting on the Eastern front found it even more badly outmatched by the armor of Soviet tanks, often having to rely on heavier towed-firepower, such as the relatively rare but effective PaK 38, the newer and much heavier PaK 40, and especially the 88 mm Flak guns that could not be moved into location as easily. Only the poor level of Soviet crew training, the ineptitude of Soviet commanders, mechanical teething troubles, and sparse distribution prevented the T-34 from achieving greater success.
By the last years of the war, the Soviet's improving tactics were still inferior to the German's, but the Red Army's growing operational and strategic skill and larger inventory of tanks helped bring the loss ratios down. The T-34-85 in early 1944 gave the Red Army a tank with better armor and mobility than German Panzer IV and Sturmgeschütz III, but it could not match the Panther in gun or armor protection. To the Soviet's advantage, there were far fewer Panthers than T-34s, and the T-34-85 was good enough to allow skilled crews and tactical situations to tip the balance. At the onset of the war, T-34 tanks amounted to only about four percent of the Soviet tank arsenal, but by the war's end, they comprised at least 55% of the USSR's massive output of tanks. By the time the T-34 had replaced older models and became available in greater numbers, newer German tanks, including the improved Panzer V "Panther", outperformed it. The Soviet's late-war Iosif Stalin tanks were also better-armed and better-armored than the T-34.
Tanks were expected to have many roles on the battlefield, the foremost being infantry support and exploitation. The tank-versus-tank role was also important. German tank production was limited to relatively small numbers of superior, but complex vehicles, —in part because of production diversion into self-propelled guns, but also due to Allied bombing of German factories and the loss of key metal supplies such as molybdenum, which put them at a numerical disadvantage. The Soviet decision to build large numbers of T-34s, gradually improving and simplifying the design, proved to be a superior strategy that helped win World War II.
In 1941, the thick, sloped armor of the T-34 could defeat all German anti-armour weapons at normal combat ranges except the towed 88 mm Flak guns. By mid-1942, the T-34 had become vulnerable to improved German weapons and remained so throughout the war, but its armor protection was equal to, or superior to, comparable tanks such as the US M4 Sherman or German Panzer IV.
Early war combat and design assessment
Early-war T-34s proved, in theory, to have effective armour, firepower, and mobility, drawbacks include poor crew comfort, vision devices, and internal layout. In 1941, the thick sloped armour could defeat all German anti-armour weapons except the towed 88 mm flak guns at normal combat ranges. By mid-1942, the T-34 had become vulnerable to improved German weapons and remained so throughout the war, but its armour protection was equal or superior to contemporary tanks such as the M4 Sherman or Panzer IV.
In terms of firepower, the T-34's 76 mm (3 in) gun with anti-tank ammunition could penetrate any 1941 German tank with ease. This gun also fired an adequate high explosive round. In 1943, the 76mm could not penetrate the Panther's hull front armour and was out-ranged by the Panther's long 75mm and the Tiger's 88mm. The introduction of the Soviet 85mm gun in 1944 did not make the T-34/85 equal in firepower, but could penetrate the armour of both Panthers and Tigers at up to 500 m (550 yd); the German 88mm could destroy a T-34 at 500 m (550 yd) or more.
In terms of mobility, in theory the T-34's wide tracks, good suspension, and late war, a more powerful engine, should have given it unparalleled cross-country performance, though poor ergonomics, reliability, questionable manufacture quality and opertaional crew comforts negated much of this advantage. First-generation German tanks, although more reliable, could not keep up cross country. But starting in 1941, with the harsh realities of the rapid German in invasion, the situation was rather different. Quality control and proper manufacturing and finishing techniques were dropped in favour of rushed production by a less than skilled workforce (the retreating soviet army had a habit of pressing every able bodied man into the army regardless of skill set).A long road march could be a punishing exercise for a T-34 tank at that time. When in June 1941 D.I. Ryabyshev's 8th Soviet Mechanized Corps advanced towards Dubno, the corps lost half of its vehicles. A.V. Bodnar, who was in combat in 1941–42, recalled:
"From the point of view of operating them, the German armoured machines were more perfect, they broke down less often. For the Germans, covering 200 km was nothing, but wiht T-34's something would have been lost, something would have broken down. The technological equipment of their machines was better, the combat gear was worse."
In terms of ergonomics, the T-34 was poor, despite some improvements during the war. All 76mm-armed versions were greatly hampered by the two-man turret layout. The commander's battlefield visibility was poor; the forward-opening hatch forced him to observe the battlefield through a single vision slit and traversable periscope. He also had too many tasks to perform since he was responsible for firing the main gun. In contrast, most contemporary German and U.S. medium tanks had much superior three-man turrets with commander, gunner and loader. The three-man turret layout allowed the tank commander to concentrate on leading his crew and co-ordinating his actions with the rest of his unit, without having to manage an individual task such as laying or loading the gun. This makes an enormous contribution to crew effectiveness. This problem, which had been recognised before the war, was corrected in the T-34/85. Many German commanders liked to fight "heads-up", with the seat raised and having a full field of view. In the 76mm-armed versions of the T-34, this was impossible.
In terms of armour, The T-34 was a revolutionary design in that it was one of the first tanks to make use of all-around inclined armour plate which, along with wide tracks and comparatively low silhouette was a fundamental part of its combat effectivness -- at least in theory. The inclined plates incorporated in the design along with a minimisation of shot-traps did provide an equivalently greater armour thickness for a given plate thickness and potentially lead to more shot deflections. However, shell penetration mechanics is a complex affair and inclination is not always more effective for a given weight ratio, as one needs more volume and more plate to cover a given area, as opposed to flat plate. The underlying structure supporting and joining the plates is also more complex to weld and assemble with inclined pieces. Finally, many T-34s suffered, not from inherent design flaws, but rather from poor workmanship and quality control during the rushed assembly of the armoured plate, resulting on many occasions in gaps and misaligned amroured plate; this was especially noticeable on those T-34s built hastily at certain factories under harsh conditions during the German advance after 1941. The following is an example of the relative effectiveness of the T-34's armour and relative impunity when faced with available German anti-tank guns of the time:
"Remarkably enough, one determined 37mm gun crew reported firing 23 times against a single T-34 tank, only managing to jam the tank’s turret ring."
However, what should also be highlighted is that although the German Anti-Tank gun crew managed to score 23 hits, the T-34 referred to didn’t even manage to hit the AT gun once, which begs the question as to quality, optimisation and effectiveness of the T-34's fire control and visibility related systems.
In terms of visibility, that from the driver's seat was also poor, which affected the driver's ability to see folds in the ground as well, or have as wide a range of vision as in some other tanks. A mallet was also needed to shift gears, increasing the time needed to maneuver the tank. As was driver comfort with the seat usually consisting of nothing more than a hard bench, and limited visibilty. Tactically, this affected the driver's ability to endure the vibrations and shocks of combat on rough terrain for long periods in comparison to the ergonomic comfort of the seats in an M4 Sherman, for instance. As well, use of terrain to the tank's advantage was inferior, since he could not see folds in the ground as effectively, or have as wide a range of vision as in some other tanks. A mallet was also needed to shift gears reducing response times during manoeuvrings
In addition, the T-34 suffered from the same two-man turret syndrome as other contemporary Soviet tanks; namely, that the tank’s commander was also required to aim and fire the gun while potentially aklso being a platoon commander. Exacerbating this was the fact that the T-34/76 had a relatively cramped and low turret (the gun could not depress more than three degrees severely restricting use on a reverse slope or at close range), poor turret drive reliability, no radios, and generally poor target observation and indicator devices (including no turret cupola and only one vision periscope for the tank’s commander) Further, the gun sights and range finding for the T-34's main gun, the 76.2 mm F-34 L/42.5, TMFD-7, or PT4-7, were rather crude, especially compared to those of their German adversaries, thus significantly affecting accuracy and the ability to engage at long ranges.
The loader also had a difficult job due to the lack of a turret basket (a rotating floor that moves as the turret turns). This problem was shared with many other tanks, for example, the U.S. M-3 Stuart. The floor under the T-34's turret was made up of ammunition stored in small metal boxes, covered by a rubber mat. There were nine ready rounds of ammunition stowed in racks on the sides of the fighting compartment. Once these initial nine rounds were fired in combat, the crew had to pull additional ammunition out of the floor boxes, leaving the floor littered with open bins and matting. This distracted the crew and affected their performance.
As a result of the T-34/76’s two man turret, weak optics and poor vision devices, German tankers noted:
"T34's operated in a disorganized fashion with little coordination, or else tended to clump together like a hen with its chicks. Individual tank commanders lacked situational awareness due to the poor provision of vision devices and preoccupation with gunnery duties. A tank platoon would seldom be capable of engaging three separate targets, but would tend to focus on a single target selected by the platoon leader. As a result T-34 platoons lost the greater firepower of three independently operating tanks."
The Germans noted the T-34 was very slow to find and engage targets while the Panzers could typically get off three rounds for every one fired by the T-34.
Russian veterans condemned the turret hatches of early models. Nicknamed pirozhok (stuffed bun) because of its characteristic shape, it was heavy and hard to open. If it jammed, the crew were trapped. Tank commander Nikolai Evdokimovich Glukhov remembered: "A big hatch – very inconvenient, very heavy." The complaints of the crews urged the design group led by A.A. Morozov to switch to using two hatches in the turret.
The tracks were the most frequently repaired part. Crews took spare parts even in combat. A.V. Maryevski later remembered:
"The caterpillars used to break apart even without bullet or shell hits. When earth got stuck between the road wheels, the caterpillar, especially during a turn – strained to such an extent that the pins and tracks themselves couldn't hold out."
Other key factors diminishing the initial impact of T-34s on the battlefield were the poor state of leadership, tank tactics, and crew training, a consequence of Stalin's purges of the Soviet officer corps in the late 1930s, aggravated by the loss of the best-trained personnel during the Red Army's disastrous defeats in 1941. Many crews went into combat with only their basic military training plus seventy-two hours of classroom instruction. These problems were exacerbated by the T-34's poor ergonomics and lack of radios during the early part of the war, making it practically impossible to co-ordinate tank units in combat. German tank soldiers found that the Soviet armour attacked in rigid formations and took little advantage of terrain. By 1943–44, these problems had largely been corrected.
Further combat and performance (1942–1943)
The combat results for 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 show that the Soviets lost an average of 6, 4, 4 and 1.2 tanks respectively, for every German tank lost. It should be noted that the figures for1945 are not much use as the majority of German losses were operational or strategic, not combat related.
In 1942 the most common Soviet main battle tank was the T-34/76 and at the operational level the Germans and Soviets were most evenly matched. In comparison, the most common German tanks were PzIIIs with long and short 5cm KwK 38 L/42 and later the 5cm KwK 39 L/60 and PzIVs, most still with the short low muzzle velocity 7.5cm KwK 37 L/24. Some Pz IV and StuG assault guns with longer, higher velocity 7.5cm KwK 40 L/43 or L/48 guns had also begun appearing on the Eastern Front in 1842, albeit initially in limited numbers and only begame more widely available in larger numbers in 1943. This later gun was capable of destroying a T-34 frontally at around 1 000 metres. With the above relative tank numbers in mind, the Soviets still managed to loose some 15,100 fully tracked AFVs in 1942 including 6,600 T-34s and 1,200 of the KV heavy tanks. Thus, the total soviet loss ratio for 1942 was similar to that of 1941, but when the T-34/76 is considered by itself, the loss ratio is worse than for 1941 because in this case over half the tanks destroyed were T-34 and KV tanks. Also by 1942 the majority of T-34/76's losses can no longer be attributed to operational issues as the situation was not as dire as during the retreat in 1941, therefore most were likely lost due to direct enemy fire. A Soviet wartime study indicates the following weapon types as responsible for T-34’s destroyed from June 1941 to September 1942:
Weapon Calibre 2.0cm 3.7cm Short 5.0cm Long 5.0cm 7.5cm 8.8cm 10.5cm Unknown
% Lost 4.7 10 7.5 54.3 10.1 3.4 2.9 7.1
The above table should be read with caution, as it is based primarily on soviet field intelligence reports and actual German gun types could easily have been mistaken, especially the long 5.0cm and 7.5cm.
What is most striking about the soviet study is the fact that the majority of T-34s were destroyed by the long 5.0cm gun and not by, as is widely perceived to be the case, by the long range 8.8cm Flak 18/36. During 1941 and to a lesser extent 1942, the ‘88’ is often credited with stopping T-34s and KVs when all else had failed, however, it is clear from the soviet study that relatively few T-34s were destroyed by them and that in fact almost as many were destroyed by artillery (10.5cm+).
The German infantry, at that time armed mostly with PaK 36 37 mm (1.46 in) antitank gun, had no effective means of stopping T-34s. Even during the Battle of France the PaK 36 had earned the nickname "Door Knocker" among French and British tank crews, due to its inability to penetrate anything but the lightest tank armour, though it worked very well at announcing the presence of the gun crew. Crews of these weapons fighting on the Eastern front found it even more badly outmatched by the armour of Soviet tanks, often having to rely on heavier towed firepower, such as the relatively rare but effective PaK 38, the newer and much heavier PaK 40 and especially the 88 mm Flak guns that could not be moved into location as easily. Burning T-34, 1941
The T-34 could engage any 1941 German tank effectively, but it suffered severe mechanical problems. For example, engines would grind to a halt from dust and sand ingestion as the original "Pomon" air filter was almost totally ineffective, and transmission/clutch assemblies were prone to serious mechanical problems. At least half the first summer's total tank losses were due to mechanical failure rather than German fire, though this figure includes older tanks in disrepair. There was a shortage of repair equipment, and it was not uncommon for early T-34s to enter combat carrying a spare transmission on the engine deck. Improvements were made throughout production, with a new gearbox in 1942, as well as many individually minor updates. A T-34 from factory 112 destroyed at the village Pokrovka
During the winter of 1941–42, the T-34 again dominated German tanks through its ability to move over deep mud or snow without bogging down; German tanks could not move over terrain the T-34 could handle. The Panzer IV used an inferior leaf-spring suspension and narrow track, and tended to sink in deep mud or snow.
There is no doubt that on average German tank crews in 1942 were probably still the best trained and most experienced in the world. However, this does not explain how apparently obsolete and inferior German tanks and anti-tank guns achieved a kill ratio of better than three to one against T-34s in direct combat, unless the overall combat power of the T-34 is historically overrated. Most significantly, approximately three quarters of T-34s were destroyed by standard issue 1941-42 German tanks and Anti-Tank guns. These weapons (2.0-5.0cm) would have needed to get very close to a T-34/76 to penetrate it frontally, or, what more likely, hit it in its more vulnerable side or rear armour. This would suggest that the large majority of T-34s were destroyed because their crews could not pre-empt these weapons from getting into a killing position, and as indicated previously, were slow to acquire the enemy target once it became known again likely due to poor visibility, optics, crew training, and in-effective fire control systems.
By 1943, however the strategic initiative had generally swung in favour of the Soviets --with notable exceptions such as Operation Zitadelle. However, as better German AFVs and anti-tank guns reached the battlefield the combat power and effectiveness of individual tanks had started to shift in their favour, albeit not in absolute quantity of combat ready vehicles. Despite the Germans starting to lose large numbers of tanks as operational losses mounted during their retreat, just as the soviets had during their retreat in 1941, and the continued erosion of German tank crew quality (lack of sufficient training time for reinforcements and replacements), they still achieved a tank kill ratio of around 3 to 1 during 1943. That is in 1943, the Soviets lost a staggering 23,500 fully tracked AFVs including around 14,700 T-34s, 1,300 heavy tanks and only 6,400 light tanks! More specifically, nearly two thirds (~63%) of the soviet lossses in 1943 were T-34s, a 3 to 1 kill ratio just as in 1941 and 1942. It also follows, that the vast majority of these losses were due to direct enemy fire and cannot be attributed to operational losses, because by 1943 the Soviets were recovering almost all disabled and partially destroyed tanks. In fact by late 1943, it was the Germans who were suffering increasing numbers of operational losses, so if anything the T-34’s tactical loss ratio in 1943 was probably closer to four or five to one. Even the Soviets realised that the 1943 loss/kill ratio was unsustainable. In order to restore the technological balance they reduced T-34/76 production and moved quickly to manufacture the up-gunned the T-34/85 with a new turret and the 85mm M-1944 ZIS-S53 L/51.5 gun.
Introduction of T-34-85 and combat Performance (1944-1945)
As the war went on, the T-34 gradually lost the advantage it had at the beginning. By the end of 1943 or by 1944, it had become a relatively easy target for German 75 mm armed tanks and anti-tank guns, while hits from 88 mm-armed Tigers, anti-aircraft cannons, and PAK 43 anti–tank guns usually proved lethal. German weapons could pierce the turret relatively easily. Its armour was softer than that of the other parts of the tank and it offered poor resistance even to the 37 mm shells of automatic AA guns. Rear view of a T-34-85. In the centre is a circular transmission access hatch, flanked by exhaust pipes, MDSh smoke canisters on the hull rear, and extra fuel tanks on the hull sides.
The 85 mm ZiS gun greatly increased firepower over the previous 76.2 mm F-34 cannon. The length of the 85 mm gun barrel (4.645 meters) made it necessary to be careful not to dig it into the ground on bumpy roads or in combat; A.K. Rodkin commented: "the tank could have dug the ground with it in the smallest ditch. If you fired it after that, the barrel would open up at the end like the petals of a flower."
By the last years of the war the Soviets' improving tactics were still inferior to the Germans', but the Red Army's growing operational and strategic skill and its larger inventory of tanks helped bring the loss ratios down. The T-34-85 in early 1944 gave the Red Army a tank with better armour and mobility than German Panzer IV and Sturmgeschütz III, but it could not match the Panthers armour or 7.5 cm KwK 42 gun. To the Soviet advantage there were far fewer Panthers than T-34s, and the T-34-85 was good enough to allow skilled crew and tactical situations to tip the balance.
By 1944 the Soviets had the absolute strategic initiative, with massive numerical superiority, and in terms of supply distribution and logistics, also operational superiority. They had the luxury of being able to concentrate large armoured forces at any points on the front they desired while still being able to strongly defend everywhere. In terms of tactical combat proficiency, it is likely that the Soviet tank crews were on average, nearly as well trained and experienced as their German counterparts. The Soviets also attained critical air superiority for the first time, albeit not always and not everywhere. However, in 1944 the Soviets still managed to lose 23,700 fully tracked AFVs of which only 2,200 were light tanks: that is, the highest number of AFV losses in a single year by any country in history. 58% of the losses were T-34s, the majority being the new up-gunned and improved T-34/85s. Despite having the operational and strategic advantage and despite massive German operational losses during 1944, the Soviets still managed to loose around 3 Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) for every German AFV destroyed; more specifically, around 4 tanks (again, mostly T-34/85s) for every German tank destroyed!
At the start of the war, T-34s were about four percent of the Soviet tank arsenal, but by the end it comprised at least 55% of tank production (based on figures from; Zheltov 2001 lists even larger numbers). By the time the T-34 had replaced older models and became available in greater numbers, newer German tanks, including the improved Panzer V "Panther", outperformed it. The Soviets' late-war Iosif Stalin tanks were also better-armed and armoured than the T-34.
The improved T-34-85 remained the standard Soviet medium tank with an uninterrupted production run until the end of the war. The Germans responded to the T-34 by introducing completely new, very expensive and complex second-generation tanks, greatly slowing the growth of their tank production and allowing the Soviets to maintain a substantial numerical superiority in tanks. Production figures for all Panther types reached no more than 6,557, and for all Tiger types 2,027. Production figures for the T-34-85 alone reached 22,559. The T-34 replaced most light, medium, and heavy tanks in Soviet service.
The T-34-85 tank initially cost about 30 percent more to produce than a Model 1943, at 164,000 rubles; by 1945 this had reduced to 142,000 rubles. During the course of the Great Patriotic War the cost of a T-34 tank reduced by almost half, from 270,000 rubles in 1941, while in the meantime its top speed remained about the same, and its main gun's armour-penetration and turret frontal-armour thickness both nearly doubled.
Comparisons can be drawn between the T-34 and the U.S.'s M4 Sherman tank. Both tanks were the backbone of the armoured units in their respective armies, and both were upgraded extensively and fitted with more powerful guns. Both were designed for ease of manufacture and maintenance, sacrificing some performance for this goal. Neither were equals to Germany's heavy tanks, the Panther or the Tiger, the Soviets used the IS-2 heavy tank and the U.S. the M26 Pershing as the heavy tanks of their forces instead.
Tanks were expected to have many roles on the battlefield, the foremost being infantry support and exploitation. The tank-versus-tank role was also important. German tank production was limited to relatively small numbers of superior but complex vehicles—in part because of production diversion into self-propelled guns, but also due to Allied bombing of German factories and the loss of key metal supplies such as molybdenum—which put them at a numerical disadvantage.
WW2 T-34 Combat Performance Conclusions
It is important to distinguish the tactical or combat effectiveness and performance of the T-34 from that of its strategic 'war winning' design and production quantity; the fact remains that the USSR produced 54,550 T-34s (the most widely produced tank of WWII) which, undoubtedly was a significant factor in enabling the USSR to win the war. However, the price was in men and materiel was huge, with approximately 44,900 of T-34s, or 82% of total production, being ultimately destroyed or lost.
To put some perspective on the tactical performance of individual soviet tanks; soviet fully tracked AFV output during WWII was 99,150 (this includes all types of fully tracked assault and self-propelled guns) produced between June 1941 and May 1945, with an additional 11,900 tanks and self-propelled guns received via Lend Lease. In comparison, the Germans, who are often criticised for producing too few high quality tanks with too many refinements and excessive quality control during production, produced a total of 26,925 tanks, 612 command tanks, 232 flame tanks, 10,550 assault guns, 7,831 tank destroyers, and 3,738 assault and self-propelled artillery AFVs, between 1938 and May 1945. For a combined total of around 49,900 fully tracked AFVs (out of a total production of 89,254 AFVs of all types). 49,900 German fully tracked AFVs is only half (~50%) of the total number Soviet fully tracked AFV produced during WWII. Soviet tanks had a generally rough and ready finish, and lacked many ergonomic and refinement features which were deemed essential by German and to a large extent by Allied tankers as well.
The importance of separating the tactical performance of individual tanks and strategic 'war winning' design and production quantity of the the T-34 becomes clear when one considers that there were more Soviet tanks produced (including T-34s) than were destroyed; a fact which ultimately helped them to win the war regardless of individual tactical performance. The Soviets chose (whether through happenstance, doctrine or need) to mass produce more lower quality and less refined AFVs. Conversely, it was exactly those same refinements, manufacturing quality and subtleties of design which gave German tank crews significant edge in combat at the tactical level. The soviets achieved strategic success, but payed an exceptionally high price in terms of human life. In terms of AFVs, this ‘price’ was the loss of 96,500 fully tracked AFVs compared to only 32,800 German fully tracked AFVs (which includes all SP guns, SP artillery, and several thousand vehicles captured when Germany surrendered on the East Front) during WWI; a ratio of 2.94 to 1.
These conclusions also give the lie to the fact that the Soviets (largely due to the huge number of T-34s produced) could have won WWII on their own, without the aid of the US or Commonwealth forces. If the 11,900 AFVs contributed by the Allies to the Soviets via Lend Lease were not available, and all German WWII fully tracked AFVs produced had been allocated to the East Front then the Germans would have required a kill ratio of only 2.45 to 1far less than the 2.94 to 1 actually achieved, in order to have destroyed all Soviet fully tracked AFVs that existed on 22nd June 1941, 23,300, and those that were produced during the war, 99,150(for a total of 122,450 soviet fully tracked AFVs). This is before we even consider the cumulative effects of increased German production (of all weapon types) due to the absence of the Allied strategic bombing campaign, the direct effects of German air superiority on the East Front from 1943 onwards, as well as the effects of the Red Army loosing over half its motorised transport (which had been received from the Allies due to lend lease), and the effects of 9-10 000 additional (and fully supplied) heavy 88mm flak guns on the East Front from 1941 onwards.
In the T-34’s case however, there appears to be confusion between the strategic features of the T-34’s design (ease of manufacture, simplicity of design, etc) and the tactical features of its design (he overall combat power (innovative armour layout, wide tracks, low silhouette, etc). To put it another way, the T-34 was a ‘war winning’ tank on a strategic level, but this should not detract from the fact that at a tactical level its performance during four years of continuous war was relatively poor.
Other key factors diminishing the initial impact of T-34s on the battlefield were the poor state of leadership, tank tactics, and crew training, a consequence of Stalin's purges of the Soviet officer corps in the late 1930s, aggravated by the loss of the best-trained personnel during the Red Army's disastrous defeats in 1941. Many crews went into combat with only their basic military training plus seventy-two hours of classroom instruction. These problems were exacerbated by the T-34's poor ergonomics and lack of radios during the early war, making it practically impossible to co-ordinate tank units in combat. German tank soldiers found that Soviet armor attacked in rigid formations and took little advantage of terrain. By 1944–45, these problems had largely been corrected, although certain quality control problems persistent and Soviet crew training never reached the level of German training.
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