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T-34 Improvements, 1943

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"To the Chief of the GABTU Technical Directorate, Major-General of the Tank Forces, comrade Afonin
CC: NKTP Main Inspectorate Chief, Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonel comrade Gutman

I attach excerpts from proposals to improve the T-34 tank and its armament from the 3rd Ukrainian and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts for December of 1943.

From the report of the 3rd Ukrainian Front:
  1. On the design of the commander's cupola in the T-34 tank:
    1. The commander's cupola cannot provide 360 degree vision to the commander as the vision slits are too high and cannot be used with a closed hatch (the eyes are lower than the slits). On the other hand, the cupola impedes viewing through the PT-4-7 periscope. Also, the slits are very narrow.
      Proposal: use mirror periscopes like in the KV-1S cupola. This will allow reduction of the size of the turret and improve vision.
    2. The two piece hatch is heavy and uncomfortable, and has an inconvenient and difficult to operate latch. Opening the latch and cupola hatch takes a lot of time. If the commander is wounded, this almost always leads to his death.
      It is necessary to make the cupola hatch one piece and easy to open.
    3. There were cases of penetration of the cupola by enemy aircraft, as the cupola does not have a shape that facilitates ricochet and the armour is thin.
      Using mirror periscopes will allow for the reduction of the cupola's height and introduction of an aerodynamic shape.
  2. The escape hatch on the T-34 is inconvenient as it opens outwards by unscrewing nuts holding it to the floor. It is necessary to make the hatch open inwards and unlatch easily, while making sure that it cannot be blown off and that it remains watertight.
  3. The trigger mechanisms in our tanks are slow, which can lose a target if the tank is moving. In addition, they can jam.
    It is desirable to use electric firing mechanisms in our tanks like the German StuG tank or English Matilda and Valentine tanks. In case this is not possible, put a manual firing mechanism on the elevation or traverse handles like on the PzIV German tank.
  4. Sights: the existing diopter sight for the hull gunner/radio operator gives a very small range of vision. It is hard to find targets through it. Experienced hull gunners observe and correct fire through the upper driver's periscope (KV-1S).
    The hull gunner in the T-34 is in an even more difficult position.
    It is necessary to install either a sniper's sight or a periscopic sight. Add a mechanism to clear the periscopes of snow.
  5. The spare tracks on T-34s are placed on the fenders. Experience shows that the fenders are torn off in battle and those tracks are lost. Immobilized tanks are left without spare tracks.
    It is necessary to place the tracks on the rear angled armour, the least vulnerable area to enemy fire.
  6. Spare fuel tanks installed on the rear of the T-34 tank at factory #184 are inconvenient to use. After they are emptied, they are thrown away due to their inconvenient angled shape. The best fuel tanks are installed at the Kirov factory, and all factories should produce these. For rapid identification, it is desirable to label the tanks "fuel" or "oil".
  7. Install smoke grenade launchers on subsequently produced tanks in order to conceal the tanks if they are disabled. A deployed smoke grenade will help the crew leave the tank. In addition, smoke can play a significant role after penetration of the enemy's defenses, hiding the tank from the AT guns that it passed.
  8. It is desirable to install additional spaced armour on the sides of the tank, along the turret platform. 
  9. It is necessary to install the D-5 85 mm gun on T-34 tanks. In the future, include a high velocity gun. When installing the D-5 gun, make sure that:
    1. The gun does not stick into the ground when driving off road.
    2. The gun barrel is protected.
  10. Replace glass periscopes with metallic ones..."
From the report of the 2nd Ukrainian Front:

"The commander's cupola on the T-34 still has not proven itself, as it is easily penetrated by even small caliber artillery and the hatch jams in battle, which can lead to wounding or isolation of the commander.

The most convenient way to open the cupola hatch is not upwards, but to the side, similar to how it's done on the German Panther tank."

I ask you to give your conclusions regarding these suggestions and send them to the commanders of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Front Armoured Forces, and a copy to GBTU.

Chief of the GBTU UET, Major-General of the Tank Engineering Service, Pechenikin"


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