Tank Medium T-34/85-11 (E1952.44)
Most nations underestimated the scale and quality of Soviet tank production before World War II, and the Germans were no exception. They were certainly not prepared for the T-34 which they encountered during the 1941 invasion. The T-34 had evolved from earlier designs in 1940, all of which featured the American Christie suspension system. What set the T-34 apart was the skilful use of sloped armour to increase the effective thickness and deflect shot.
In the original design the T-34 carried a 76mm gun in a two-man turret and it is a measure of the quality of the design that when the tank was up-gunned to 85mm in 1943 the Russians were able to fit a larger turret to accommodate three men. Total production of T-34 series tanks, including those built after the war and in other Warsaw Pact countries is believed to have exceeded 70,000 and they remained in war reserve well into the sixties.
T-34/85 tanks have been used in combat in most of the world's trouble spots and may still be found in the armies of some third world countries, being tough and simple to maintain. Our exhibit was serving with Chinese Communist forces during the Korean War; it was captured and returned to Britain for evaluation.
T-34/85s were manufactured at Zavods Nr. 112, 174 and 183. This tank is a post-war model with improved transmission, fire control system armour and vision equipment.
Precise Name: Medium Tank T34-85
Introduced in 1944 as a counter to the German Panther and Tiger 1, the T-34 was one of the best tanks to fight in World War II. Nearly 50,000 were built between 1944 and 1958 and it was produced in larger numbers than any other World War II tank.
The T34-85 mounted an S-53 85mm gun carried in a three-man turret. There were many variants:
- The T34-85 Model 1943. Further testing showed that the S-53 gun fitted to the prototypes had a defective recoil system and it was decided to produce an interim series of tanks fitted with the D5S 85mm gun already proven in the SU-85 tank destroyer. Just under a 1,000 Model 1943 tanks were built
- The T34-85 Model 1944. The D5S 85mm gun was not entirely satisfactory and a modified version of the S-53, called the ZiS-S-53, was designed that incorporated the best features of four other 85mm guns. An electric turret drive was introduced.
- T34-85 Model 1945. The commander’s cupola was enlarged. Perforated rubber tyres were replaced with solid rubber tyres during 1945
- T34-85 Model 1946. This variant was had a modified turret with a ventilator at the front and the rear. Confusingly the original version with two ventilators at the rear continued in production
- T34-85 Model 1960. Fitted with a revised engine cooling and lubrication system,
Infrared searchlight and driving lights, new radio etc.
- T34-85 Model 1969. A modernised version fitted with new wheels, modern radio etc.
The plants building the T34-85 were supplied with components from many sources. The parts produced by the subcontractors could differ in appearance, changing the look of the tank without any change in the vehicle’s designation. For example one of the factories introduced a cast, spoked, wheel while the other wheel manufacturers continued to supply the original concave pattern. The shape of the turret depended upon where it was made; one foundry built turrets with flattened sides, the other, made turrets from a number of castings with a pronounced joint at the lower rear. Mixtures of the different kinds of wheels and tyres could even be seen on the same tank.
War time production amounted to about 18,500 tanks. Production in the USSR finished in 1950. Tank plants in Poland and Czechoslovakia started making the T34-85 in 1951. Tanks from these assembly lines had a more refined finish than those manufactured during the war. Post war, about 30,400 T34-85s were built in the USSR, Poland and Czechoslovakia, bringing total production to just under 49,000 vehicles.
During the 1950s and 60s many T34-85 gun tanks were converted to support vehicles. The turret was removed and the turret ring plated over to create a tractor. The Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia all produced recovery and maintenance vehicles based on the T-34. The Czechs also developed an Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB) that carried a scissors bridge.
The Soviet Union and its allies supplied T34-85s to at least 28 countries. The Tank Museum’s T34-85 was captured from Communist forces in 1951 during the Korean War. It was manufactured after World War II, probably at the tank plant in Omsk.
Summary Text by Mike Garth V1.0