August 01, 1998

The Tank that Turned the Tide

In August, Russia remembers the 55th anniversary of the WWII victory at Kursk. Key to that victory was the participation of the Russian T-34  tank in the tank battle near the village of Prokhorovka.

Interestingly, the ÒgrandpaÓ of the legendary T-34 was the American M-1931 tank -- two of them, without weapons and turret, were bought by the Red Army via Amtorg in December 1929. Russia modernized and adapted the M-1931 by replacing its American engine with a Russian one of the same power and by substituting the 37-mm gun with a 45-mm gun. The tank’s thin armor and gasoline-based engine were its major shortcomings. This became obvious when the tank (dubbed the A-20 at this stage) was Òbroken inÓ during the Spanish Civil War by Soviet “volunteers.�

In 1937, the Kharkov plant design bureau was assigned to design, develop, manufacture and test a new machine with 10-20 mm thick armor and a 45 mm gun. The Kharkov bureau was headed by the Mikhail Koshkin. This 36-year old engineer, a graduate of the Leningrad-based Polytechnical Institute, teamed up with Alexander Morozov and Nikolai Kucherenko and concluded that the Russian army needed an entirely new tank.

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