T-34-85 tank column of the 2nd Far Eastern Front
There are vehicles in military history that became the symbol of the times and embodiment of success in the battle field. That is how the T-34-85, that entered service in the Red Army 80 years ago on 23 January 1944, may be described. The armored giant was developed by the engineers of Urals Tank Factory No.183 (today it is Uralvagonzavod included in Rostec) under the direction of General Designer Aleksandr Morozov. The T-34-85 is rightly seen as one of the most successful and advanced tanks of the times.
The Soviet T-34 medium tank outfitted with a 76mm gun faced problems in confrontation with the reinforced Wehrmacht Tigers and Panthers already in the course of the battle of Kursk. The combat power and protection of the T-34 were not sufficient any longer, a new tank was needed. However, due to the lack of time and resources for a new development, a decision was made to upgrade the base T-34.
Design Bureau of Urals Tank Factory No.183 got down to work. The Design Bureau experts installed a more powerful 86mm gun on the T-34-85 starting with the D-5T gun and then proceeding to the S-53 gun. Thus, Soviet tanks were provided with guns comparable in power with German 88mm cannons.
To install a more powerful cannon, a new turret suitable for the new gun was required. The improved turret of the T-34-75 was more spacious and had sufficient space for the commander, gunner and loader. The driver and radio operator were placed in the vehicle hull.
The turret armor was also reinforced: Front, side and rear armor thicknesses were 90mm, 75mm and 52mm, respectively, and, thus, the tank weight increased by 2 tons. However, the T-34-85 retained the advantages of the base vehicle in cross-country capability, maneuverability and mobility, that, together with ease of manufacture and quick repair capability, determined the future success of the tank.
Since the early days, the T-34-85 was an active participant of the major battles of the Great Patriotic War. The tank fought in Operation Bagration for Byelorussia liberation, participated in the assault-crossing of the Dnieper, the Vistula-Oder and Berlin operations.
The T-34-85 were manufactured not only by Urals Tank Factory No.183 in Nizhny Tagil, but also by Krasnoye Sormovo factory in Nizhny Novgorod and Factory No.174 in Omsk. A total of 16,000 vehicles were produced by the end of the war. Mass production of the T-34-65 was terminated after the war, however, the tank was produced under the license in Poland and Czechoslovakia in the 1950s.
The T-34-85 is the true witness and hero of history. It took part in many armed conflicts in the second half of the 20th century and was in service in some countries even in the early 2000s. Today the tank is displayed in museums throughout the world and as a monument in parks and streets of towns. The T-34-85 was often used in movies. And certainly, the T-34 takes pride of place in the Victory Day parade usually opening the march of heavy vehicles.