On the eve of war, the Red Army had embarked on two closely-related
projects to reorganize its mechanized forces and re-equip them with
modern designs incorporating the lessons of the Spanish Civil War and
the Finnish Winter War. Some of these designs would leapfrog past the
rest of the world.
Several excellent designs were just entering production in 1940-41. The most significant would be the T-34.
This was originally designed as the successor to the BT series, but
with its heavier armour and heavy dual-purpose gun, it became the best
medium tank of the first half of World War II. The T-34 eventually
replaced almost all other Soviet tanks. The basic design was good
enough to keep it battleworthy beyond 1945, having been upgraded with
heavier guns, new turrets and other modifications. The other
significant design was the KV series tanks. These were armed with the same excellent 76.2 mm gun as the T-34, and had the same V-2 diesel engine. However, the KV had torsion bar suspension and much heavier armour than the T-34. The KV was slow, intended as a breakthrough tank. The KV-2
close-support version was armed with a 152 mm howitzer. The KV series
was the main Soviet heavy tank until 1943, when production ended and
most had been expended. Early in 1944, the KV's successor was the IS-2, armed with a 122 mm gun and with heavier armour and better mobility. The new Infantry-support tank of 1941 was the T-50,
armed with a 45 mm gun but with torsion-bar suspension and excellent
armour for its class. Production problems with its new engine led to
the tank being cancelled after less than 70 were made; however, it was
intended to be the replacement for the T-26. Finally, the light
reconnaissance role was to be filled by the amphibious T-40 and the cheaper non-amphibious T-60.
At the beginning of Operation Barbarossa most of the Soviet Union's tank forces were composed of the T-26 tank series and BT. A few T-40s had appeared, along with about 1363 mechanically unreliable early T-34 tanks,
and 677 KV-1 and KV-2s. Many early T-34s were captured or destroyed.
MAIN BATTLE TANK
JS 1 (Josef Stalin)
SU-122 (Samokhodnaya Ustanovka)