Factory #183 in Kharkov was the center of Soviet heavy tank development in the interwar period. The T-35 powerful (heavy) tank developed in Leningrad by N.V. Barykov was produced here. Production was set up with the participation of I.S. Ber, who was appointed as the head of HPZ (factory #183) Diesel Department design bureau T-35K. Iosif Solomonovich Ber played a key role in the fate of the T-35 tank. It was he who produced the technical documentation for the tank and further development of the design was done under his direction. Work to replace the T-35 moved to Leningrad in 1938 and Ber was promoted to the position of deputy chief of the KB-520 design bureau. Work on heavy tanks in Kharkov ended, but not for long.
|I.S. Ber, a key player in the creation of T-35, T-34M, and T-44 tanks.
The Kirov factory in Leningrad became the main location for development and production of heavy tanks by the spring of 1941. The KV-1 heavy tank and the KV-2 assault tank were produced there. Work on the KV-3 tank (the improved T-150) was also conducted here. However, after Soviet intelligence reported that Germany was working on 90 ton tanks, these plans went awry. The name KV-3 was attached to a completely different tank, one that was much heavier and armed with a 107 mm gun. Work on the KV-4 and KV-5 also kicked off. The last heavy tank designed in Kharkov was born in this atmosphere. As a result of a mistake in a report composed at the Mariupol factory it is called A-44 today, but at the time the tank was called T-44.
|Initial requirements for the T-44 tank, April 1944.
Factory #183, the source of almost all available information on the T-44, never called it a heavy tank. However, the purpose of the project that appeared in late March-early April of 1941 was clear. I.S. Ber and KB-520 were aiming for the niche left by the KV-1 and T-150 in addition to their T-34M project. The difference was that Kharkov's candidate had much higher mobility. At a mass of 29-29.5 tons, it had 75 mm thick front armour angled at 60 degrees. This kind of armour would protect from the 88 mm Flak 18 at least at medium distances. The armament was the same as on the T-150: a 76 mm ZIS-5 gun with 3-K ballistics. The top speed on a highway was estimated at 55-60 kph. The tank had the same V-5 engine as the T-150. It worked unreliably on the heavy tank, but the T-44 would be 1.5 times lighter.
|This model was shown to Voroshilov.
|The lightest variant with a 57 mm ZIS-4 gun.
|The 36 ton tank had two machine guns in every mount.
|The heaviest variant of the tank with a 107 mm ZIS-6 gun.
|Left: requirements for the T-44 issued in May of 1941, right: requirements dated May 1942
Original article by Yuri Pasholok.