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Feb 27, 2013

Czechoslovak T-34/85 and T-34/100 tanks


The history of the Czechoslovak T-34 tanks was long and somewhat colourful. They served in the Czechoslovak People's Army (CSLA) for quite a long time and had several modifications made. Let's have a look at their history in detail.

In order to begin our story, we have to go back to 1945. Germany was just defeated after the worst war in human history and people were slowly recovering from the horrors of nazism, oblivious to the fact that the Soviets weren't the liberators they had hoped for - but they'd soon find out they weren't freed, they just changed one master for another. But for now, freedom was the word of the day. Leftist ideas (supported by the heroic pictures of Soviet troops in Prague on their iconic T-34 tanks) helped to shift the whole political system to the left. The situation escalated in February 1948, when the communists took over the country - and this is where it all started.

In months following the takeover, the army was consolidated, anti-communist elements eliminated and the independent development (notably in tanks) was stopped and fully transferred under Soviet command. Several promising projects were scrapped (for example the TVP and LP tanks) and the technology acquisition focused on Soviet tech. In july 1949, a license to produce a local copy of the T-34/85 tank was acquired from Soviet union and by November, the drawings and plans needed to manufacture the vehicle were transferred from Factory No.183. Along with the plans, Soviet "advisors" (some of them were intelligence agents) were transferred to Czechoslovakia. They helped to build the ČKD plant in Sokolovo and prepare it for production - it was ready by the end of 1950. The (by then nationalized) ČKD thus became the main contractor for the production of the T-34/85 tanks, with Škoda Pilsen being a subcontractor for engines, SMZ Dubnice nad Váhom a subcontractor for the guns and the J.V.Stalin Factory in Martin manufactured the hulls.

The first T-34 tanks were assembled partially from parts imported from Soviet Union. The first tank was assembled on 1.9.1951. Eight more were produced until October and they were subjected to series of army trials (whcih - under the pressure from Soviet Union - were made quicker than usual). The trial results were however a partial failure due to the low manufacture quality of the first vehicles (notably the steering, the clutch, the sprocket drive and the electroinstallation were problematic). However, despite this setback, the tank was given a green light by the government and serial ČKD production started in February 1952 (it continued until december 1953). Imported parts were used until winter of 1952, when the first fully Czechoslovak-made tank rolled from the assembly line. In the meanwhile, a political decision was taken to transfer the manufacture plant from ČKD Sokolovo to Martin (Slovakia) (the reason was the "expected American aggression", in which case Martin wouldn't be anywhere near the frontlines). First tanks in Martin were produced in May 1952 (the production ran for more than a year simultaneously in both plants) and they were manufactured here until the end of 1956.

Between 1951-1956, 2736 T-34/85 tanks were manufactured in Czechoslovakia in total (other sources however claim s many as 3185 tanks in total - it's possible this number includes the VT-34 engineering vehicles, JT-34 crane vehicles and the MT-34 bridgelayer vehicles, PBCHT-34 NBC-proof recon vehicle and PB-34 heavy bulldozer). The early series had their flaws (notably the gearboxes remained problematic for years, their quality was in the first year allegedly even lower than of those manufactured in Soviet union). All the vehicles produced in 1955 and 1956 however went for export (1437 went to the Czechoslovak army, 1299 were exported). In the last 3 years, the quality of the vehicles improved significantly and some improvements were made. The export desitnations were mainly Egypt (820 vehicles) and Syria (120 vehicles), Romania and Bulgaria, but also other exotic destinations, such as India, Iraq and Yemen. Cuba recieved 100 machines (possibly phased out from CSLA service) for 33 percent of their original price and Mali recieved another 10 machines like this also and so did Mozambique.

Apart from the locally manufactured T-34/85, Czechoslovakia also recieved wartime surplus machines directly from the Soviet Union - from 1945 to 1950, 366 vehicles in total (plus 5 T-34/76 in 1945). The 1945 machines weren't new however, they served before with the Red Army Czechoslovak units (1st Czechoslovak Army Corps).

Both the manufactured and the imported T-34 tanks were introduced to the Czechoslovak tank corps from 1952 to 1958 - in 1956, the number of active T-34/85 tanks peaked at 1701 machines in service. From that point, the numbers went down, but the tank remained in active service for very long. In 1967, the ČSLA still had 1120 of those tanks in active service and in 1971 around 780 of these vehicles. Last of these vehicles were apparently phased out in late 70's.

Differences from Soviet vehicles

The most significant difference remained the manufacturing quality. Despite the fact the initial series were quite bad quality-wise, the level of manufacture steadily improved and by 1954, the vehicles were better made than the ones in Soviet union. Notably the technical allowances were lower.

Other changes included:

- installing the German (captured) "Notek" night-lamps on the early vehicles
- shifting the commander's copula more to the left from the axis of the turret
- mounting the light/infralight combo under the common construction on the hull
- the infantry signal horn moved to the back of the vehicle under an armored "roof"
- mounting the compressor for filling the emeregency start gas canisters directly into the tank
- installing the new BTI-3 air purifiers
- bigger 107l fuel tanks
- left oil canister replaced by an additional fuel tank
- different fuel feed system (BNK-12B rotary fuel pump and 12-plunger injecting fuel pump)
- improved clutch
- improved transmission (5+1 with reduction possibility)
- different brake pads
- the braces for attaching logs to the vehicle on the left side of the tank
- special fording kit
- special CSLA one-shot smoke grenades.

The vehicles were armed with the Slovak-manufactured Vz.44 cannon, which was basically an improved version of the Soviet ZIS-53 gun. The ammunition was unified with the Soviet original.


Since early 50's, there have been attempts to improve the design of the T-34/85 to increase its combat value. In 1953, the army technical institute recieved an order to arrange the installation of the Soviet D-10S gun (resp. slightly improved Czechoslovak copy thereof under the name of 100mm vz.44 S, produced in Slovakia for the SD-100 - a Czech copy of SU-100) in the regular T-34/85 turret, if possible without changing the original turret parameters. In September 1953, the Slovak company Konštrukta Trečín was tasked with the development of this project. The initial evaluation of the project stated that the turret modifications would result in changes to depression and gun elevation (-3/+20 degrees), with the rate of fire of 8 rounds per minute.
On 6.4.1954, two design variants were presented by Konštrukta developers to the VTU (army technical institute), along with a preliminary price calculation. Both variants presumed the removal of TŠ-20 indirect fire sights. The gun was also modified by adding a coaxial DTM machinegun to its right side. Both variants differed by solving the gun mantlet and by positioning the gun. Both were also viable, but the price was far less space for the gunner and the loader in the turret. It was absolutely clear that the gun aiming and loading time would suffer. Worse still, it was found out that the ammunition load would suffer too - for both variants, only 6 ready rounds would be able to be stored in the turret itself. Both variants were however sound stability-wise and the designers hoped the handling characteristics of the tank wouldn't be diminished.

Despite this, the project was judged as fundamentally flawed. Even though the army command still wanted to increase the firepower of the T-34/85, it was clear this wouldn't be the way. In April 1954, one army general issued yet another demand for firepower increase for the T-34 for the production years 1955-1960, but this time, they had a completely different weapon in mind (an indigenous Czech 100mm autoloaded and fully stabilized cannon, possibly the still-developed AK1, originally meant for the TVP project). This demand however was not accepted by the high command and that was the end of the attempts to increase the firepower of the T-34. The project was officially cancelled on 30.6.1954 - the main reason for it (apart from the aforementioned flaws) being the successful negotiations about the T-54 production licenses.


As mentioned above, the T-34 served in the Czechoslovak army until the 70's and in that time, it became an icon. First - an icon of liberation from nazism, then an icon of the brutal practices of the 1950's new "people's army" and ultimately a symbol of Soviet oppression. Nevertheless, it has proved its qualities over and over - it was a rugged war machine, that got the job done. In World of Tanks, we can already play this vehicle - personally, I wouldn't mind seeing a Czechoslovak copy thereof in the game. But, I guess that's up to the Wargaming guys.


Czech T-34 in Syria

Czech T-34 in Havana, Cuba

Reconstructed T-34

M.Dubánek - Od bodáku po tryskáče


As you know, the patch 8.4 has been announced (comes out tomorrow on Russian server). English full patchnotes for example here.

- when the enemy tanks damagets your periscope (rangefinder, vision device) while being out of range for the damaged visor (but not the repaired one), it will disappear with the next cycle of visibility check (SS: the visibility checks frequency varies from splits of second to up to 3 seconds I think)
- damaging the rangefinder (periscope, visor) works even for open-topped vehicles (SS: there it apparently counts as the binoculars being destroyed)
- the top German (Bundeswehr) LT's and meds won't be Bundeswehr-green, they will be gray
- the devs won't remove the possibility of changing your tank models (remodelling)
- HESH shells in game work just like HE shells, this won't change
- Q: "There are rumors the IS-7 will have the speed increased in 8.5, is it true?" A: "Interesting, where did you here these rumors?" (and after the player posted the source - some blog post) "Ah, okay. Not rumors. I don't read posts/suggestion for tank rebalance at all, because history shows that they're wrong in 99 percent of cases."
- no plans to allow the crews to retrain for tanks of other nations, not even for gold
- there is no special medal for dealing damage, as dealing damage is already rewarded with silver
- Conqueror will not be made a premium tank
- torque isn't take into consideration when calculating engine performance
- Leopard and Luchs don't have historically drum-autoloaders, but magazines
- VK3002DB a part of the second medium branch? "Wait for official announcement"
- the VK7201 FaiLowe isn't a fake (confirmed by Storm)
- New branch of German heavies planned? "No comment"
- Sturmtiger will not come in 2013

Poll results

Alright, the first FTR poll is officially over. What are its results?

First and foremost, lets look at Overlord's poll - after all, it was the inspiration for the one of mine. Overlord asked, what kinds of tanks do we want. His results were:

Votes: 2017
Expansion of current trees: 40 percent
Japanese tree: 16 percent
Mixed EU tree: 24 percent
Separated EU minitrees: 12 percent
Something else: 5 percent

This is a general result for the EU and NA server - I assume those are the people who read Overlord's blog. The "expansion of current trees" victory is not surprising - after all, this category includes the Leopard 1 branch, the German TD's, the British Firefly and other highly-requested vehicles. I am rather sure that if Overlord asked after their introduction, the results would be a lot, lot lower.

The result of the Japanese tree come (IMHO) mostly from the US server - while the US community has a strong "faction" focusing on Japanese tanks, such a "faction" is missing on the EU server. Altogether the Japanese tree result is unsurprising - if anything, I expected it to be lower (since the US server has nowhere near as many players as the EU one).

EU tree results - altogether 36 percent - are not surprising either. After all, 2 out of 3 biggest EU communities (Czech and Polish) don't have their own vehicles yet (unless you count the Panzer 35t and 38t, used by Germans, which is not exactly the same thing as having Czechoslovak crews). What is surprising is the difference between Overlord's poll and FTR poll. Here's how the FTR poll ended:

EU tree - what would you prefer?
Votes: 2006
Separate smaller national trees: 43 percent
One big EU supertree with everything mashed together: 56 percent

Here, the difference between audiences probably takes place. Only about 15 percent of this blog's readers are Americans, the rest is Europe and Asia (China, Vietnam, Hongkong, Korea - altogether roughly 5 percent). Thus, it can be concluded that the Europeans are much more in favour of the separate national minitrees than Americans (roughly 50:50), while Americans would prefer one big EU tree (roughly 75:25 or even more). This is logical due to the EU server demography.

It is already decided that the Japanese tree will come first (possibly end of 2013 or early 2014), but I really hope Wargaming takes a long hard look at their EU pre-concept and will start working on series of minitrees, leaving only the most exotic vehicles for the "EU mashup". After all, considering we do now have a Chinese tree (even though the Chinese civil war was brutal, original Chinese World of Tanks vehicles had very little impact on the world history of tank designs), Polish, Czechoslovak, Italian, Swedish, possibly Hungarian and other vehicles do warrant their own separate minitree as a tribute to the tank history contribution