Thursday, August 18, 2011

From Christie to T-72: A-20, A-32 and the origins of T-34

Now I shall return to a subject which I have examined before, the T-34. But first, I shall give some background on its development history.This revolutionary design sprang out of projects to replace the BT-7, most of which used that tank as a basis. But two designs in particular stood out from the rest, and the competition soon narrowed down to these two, the A-20 and the A-32. Both used the christie suspension; and both used sloped armor. This was a relatively bold move for the mid 1930s, as while most tanks used sloping only in the front of the vehicle, these designs would have sloped armor covering the entire upper hull. While both vehicles were revolutionary in concept, the A-20 had thin armor and used the BT-7's 45mm gun. The A-32, however, was a different story. It had very well-sloped armor, which was also quite thick, and it also used a 76mm gun capable of penetrating every tank of its day with almost no exceptions. The importance of this in my view requires a bit of explanation. During the Spanish Civil War (it would drag on until 1939), countries such as France and Germany started to design tanks to deal with the Krupp 37mm anti-tank gun, but in Russia, Stalin's purges had decimated the main tank design team, and new members were hired. One of these, a man named Michail Koshkin, decided that what his country needed was a tank that would not only defeat the 37mm threat, but would also defeat whatever new AT gun was made to deal with the new generation of tanks. And thus the A-32 was born. As a consequence of its revolutionary design, the tank was accepted for service as the T-34.

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