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T-34M Experimental Tank

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Written by Valeri Potapov
Created Tuesday, 20 September 2005 21:14
Last Updated on Saturday, 09 January 2010 14:51

In January 1941 the GOKO approved the A-43 project (a modernised variant of the T-34, also known as the T-34M) and the production of the first two prototypes of the T-34M were planned for March 1941.

Proposed, that new tank will be superior to production T-34. It's seems, that this superiority played a negative role in its fate.

A new V-5 diesel engine was developed specially for that tank. The worth that it was turned on 90 degrees to main axis of tank. It was used before on several light tanks but such layout wasn't effective for weak engines. Another matter with long, narrow but powerful V-2 engine. With perpendicular layout the total length of vehicle become smaller, so the ammunition storage could be increased.

The four-speed gearbox was left unchanged, but it was equipped with a new de-multiplier, so the T-34M had 8 front gears and 2 reverse gears. The Christie suspension was replaced by torsion bar suspension which resulted in the ground clearance of the T-34M being increased by an additional 50 mm.

The tank had a pressed turret with a commander's cupola and two rounded hatches. Initially the turret had been designed for the A-41. The radio was relocated from the turret to the hull, allowing the ammunition load to be increased from 77 to 100 anti-tank shells, and from 2,898 to 4,536 MG rounds.

V. S. Nitsenko's designer group in the Mariupol factory had developed the turret with 45 mm armour thickness. By May 1941 the factory had produced five of these turrets and was preparing for mass production. When the factory was evacuated in autumn 1941 it had produced 50 pressed turrets for the T-34M and had also started the production of 52 mm cast turrets for the T-34–76.

The following order is a reflection of all the disputes surrounding the T-34 and T-34M. The Central Committee of the Communist Party issued this order on May 5, 1941:

«1. To affirm the following annual plan for 1941:
a. tanks — 2800, of which for factory No.183 — 1800 and for STZ — 1000.
2. Require Comrade Malyshev and director of factory No.183 Comrade Maksarev to add the following improvements to the T-34's design:
a. increase the frontal armour of the turret and glacis to 60 mm;
b. use torsion bar suspension;
c. expand the diameter of the turret ring to no less than 1600 mm and install a commander's cupola on the turret;
d. install vertical side armour belts and increase their thickness to be equivalent to 40 mm thickness sloped at 45 degrees.

3. Fix the full combat weight of the improved T-34 tank: 27.5 tonnes.

4. Require Comrade Malyshev and director of factory No.183 Comrade Maksarev to maintain the production of 500 improved T-34 in 1941.»

To all appearances, this document is about the T-34M which was ready for mass production. KhPZ had produced three hulls of the T-34M by April 17, 1941, and it was ready to produce the improved chassis with torsion bar suspension. However the V-5 diesel engine wasn't ready, so final assembly of the T-34M was firstly delayed and then, after the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, it was abandoned completely.

Sources: «About manufacturing of the T-34 tanks in 1941» AP RF. F.93. Document collection;
Bronekollektsiya No.3, 1999;
I. Shmelev «The T-34», Technics and Armament No.11–12, 1998

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