Germany's surrender was signed on the night between May 8th and May 9th, 1945. The core part of the Second World War, the largest war in history, was over. The German army was not the only loser in this war. German industry also lost the battle fought in factories and on drawing boards. The Soviet Union won this battle, finishing the war with the largest tank force in the world. Unlike in the summer of 1945, this was a qualitative rather than merely a quantitative advantage. More importantly, German tank building hit a dead end, while Soviet tank building evolved down a road that later proved correct. Nevertheless, there were plenty of dead ends along the way. This article tells their story.
|A comparison between two next generation medium tanks.
|Even the mass produced T-44 kept its weight within reasonable limits.
|The T-54 tank entered trials in the spring of 1945. It had superior armour and armament to foreign medium tanks, but considerably lower weight.
|The Kirovets-1 tank entered trials in late 1944. It had the same mass as the IS-2, but more reliable armour protection.
|The Kirovets-1 was followed by the IS-3 with even tougher armour. As later developments showed, it was thick enough to withstand fire from even the 105 mm L7 gun.
|The Object 704 heavy SPG was a great success, but fate was not on its side.
|Quality of welding was a problem for Soviet tanks, T-44 included.
|Type of steel was another issue. It caused problems with early IS-3s, but was solved in the spring of 1945.
|Factory #174's light tank, a victim of the GBTU's constantly growing requirements.
|This tank could have replaced the IS-3 in production, but the NKTP knew full well how it would end. The IS-4 was therefore postponed to 1946-1949.
|The result of excessive protection requirements. The working conditions inside the SU-101 were worse than the original concept, the mass increased, reliability dropped, but desired protection of the sides was still not achieved.
|The requirement for side armour also affected the Object 704, although not as much. The death of the Object 704 was not due to this, but the desire to have a more powerful gun and the same vehicle on the Object 701 chassis.
|This is how the Soviet military envisioned the next generation of heavy tanks by late 1945. One question remains unanswered: who is this 65 ton monster supposed to fight?
|V-12, the only high power tank engine put into production.
|V-2-44, later V-44, later V-54. This wartime engine was used on Soviet medium tanks for decades after the war.
|Plan for experimental work on tank and SPG armament for 1946. In practice, all of these programs continued into the 1950s.
|For various reasons, none of the high caliber anti-tank guns that started development in 1943 ever saw mass production.
|The need to maintain high rates of production meant that the USSR's main tank factories continued building the T-34-85 rather than the T-44.
In conclusion, tank building all over the world was in a crisis in 1945. Development of various components (especially guns and engines) could not keep up with rising requirements. This coincided with weapons of medium tanks and SPGs reaching the weight limit these platforms could support. As a result the Americans stopped building tank destroyers in 1946. There was no longer a need for them, as a tank could have the same armament. Experience from the war was also reviewed. Many nations took until the 1960s to draw conclusions from it.