T-44 Medium Tank wasn't in large-scale producing like the T-26 or so widespread in use like the T-34, also it wasn't the main battle tank for the post-war period like the T-54 and T-55, but it took a worthy place in the history of Soviet tank development.
From the end of 1943 on, work on the new project T-44 started from the design bureau of the factory #183 (Chief engineer A. A. Morozov). Of course many elements of the famous T-34 were used for the new T-44 tank, but simultaneously two another tanks influenced the T-44 design: the T-34M and the T-43.
The new project «Object 136» was undertaken by Morozov's design bureau. Later, this tank did receive the T-44 designation. Besides torsion bar suspension and perpendicular engine layout there were some other technical inventions applied.
Had these features been applied on several different vehicles separately, they had not been so effective. The revolutionary design of the T-44 has defined the whole Soviet tank development for the next several decades.
The height of the engine compartment was lowered by relocating the air-filter. By the way, the V-44 engine was equipped with an improved fuel system thus it's power was increased from 500 to 520 h.p.
Besides this, the tank had an improved cooling system, a new 5-speed gearbox and side clutches taken from the T-34. It had a new turret fitted with the ZIS-S-53 gun. The turret was relocated from the front to the center of vehicle, making shooting more accurate. The frontal armor was increased up to 120 mm.
To increase the strength of the hull's frontal armor (glacis), the driver's hatch was relocated from the frontal plate to the roof and the bow machine-gun was completely removed. The T-44-85 prototype had a distance between the first and the second road wheel, on production T-44's between the second and the third road wheel. In 1944, the tank successfully passed all trials and was accepted for service.
The T-44 was mass produced by the factory #75 in Kharkov. From the end of 1944 through 1945, 965 tanks were manufactured. The T-44 didn't take part in any battle of the Second World War because the Red Army was not ready to accept a new tank; In case of lack of sufficient supplies, inexperienced tankcrews and technical specialists, who could repair and maintain the new tanks.
The end of the war was close, our army was successfully advancing, so the Soviet High Command delayed introduction of the T-44; but known, that three tanks were added to the «Special Tank Company #100» and tested on the Eastern Front.
The production tank was preceded by several prototypes: the T-44–85 armed with the 85mm D-5T gun and the T-44-122 armed with the 122mm D-25T gun. After the tests it became clear that 122 mm guns were not for medium tanks, rather for heavy ones.
In 1945, a new turret was developed to accept a 100 mm D-10T gun or an LB-1 (abbreviation «LB» means Lavrenty Beria). Over the loader's hatch a 12.7mm DShK AAMG was installed. The sides and chassis of the T-44 were protected with 6 mm anti-HEAT skirts.
In 1946, after the introduction of the T-54, which was the «direct descendant», the further development of the T-44 was canceled, though it remained in service. It was in mass production until 1947. In 1961 the main parts of the T-44 (engine, transmission, chassis, etc.) were unified with the T-54, and in 1966 the T-44 was equipped with a gun stabilizer.
The modernised T-44M and T-44S served in the Soviet Army up to the end of 1970's. There were many vehicles which were based on the T-44M: artillery and tank tractors, engineer tanks, etc.
Also, it went down in history of Soviet tank development as the predecessor of a large family of T-54/55 and T-62 main battle tanks as well as... movie actor! It played a T-34's role in the movie «Soldier's father» and played even a Tiger's role in the movie «Act by situation».
The third prototype T-44-2 was armed with the 122 mm Tank Gun D-25-44T. This gun was very similar to its basic model D-25 but distinguished itself with some minor details.
The only new feature that was included was: the gun used cartridge loading shots instead of separate loading. Expecting that cartridge loading would increase the rate of fire. The first trials were in February-March 1944 but were unsuccessful due to gun failure. The gun was returned to the factory #9 for repair and improvement of the revealed drawback.
In April-May 1944 the trials were resumed, however the practical ROF didn't increase and still remained 2–3 shots per minute. The tank's turret was too cramped to operate with such long and heavy ammunition and besides the T-44–2 had limited ammunition stowage — only 24 rounds, being insufficient for a medium tank. After it was realized, trials were stopped all further work was cancelled.
|Paramenter ||Production T-44 |
|Crew, men ||4 |
|Combat weight, kg ||31 800 |
|Length, m ||7,65 |
|Width, m ||3,18 |
|Height, m ||2,41 |
|Armament ||85 mm ZiS-S-53 Main Gun, |
2×7,62 mm DTM MG
|Ammo ||85 mm: 58 rounds |
7,62 mm: 1890 rounds
|Engine ||V-44, 12-cylinder diesel, 520 h.p. |
|Range, km ||300 |
|Max speed, km/h ||51 |
Sources: S. Gryankin «The T-44», a historical issue of the «Tankomaster»
«Soviet tanks in combat 1941–1945. The T-28, T-34, T-34–85 and T-44», Concord publications company
S. Zaloga, J. Grandsen «T-34 in action»
M. Baryatinsky «Soviet tanks of the World War Two», 1995