Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The German response against the Soviet T-34 and KV tanks

When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 they were surprised to come across tanks that were superior to their own in armor and firepower. The T-34 and KV tanks had 76mm guns that could penetrate the armor of the Panzers even at long ranges while their sloped armor protected them from the German A/T and tank guns.

The appearance of these vehicles forced the Germans to take emergency measures. The immediate effort was concentrated in:

1). Introducing a new A/T gun
2). Up gunning and up armoring their Pz III, Pz IV and Stug vehicles

3). Using the chassis of old vehicles (like the Pz II and Pz 38) coupled with captured Soviet 76mm A/T guns or the new Pak 40 as mobile tank destroyers.
The long term solution was of course to design new tanks that could deal with the T-34 and KV. These were the Tiger and Panther vehicles.

Let’s take a look at the German effort:

1). The Pak 97/38 A/T gun
The Germans had captured a large number of French 75 mm ‘Model 1897’ guns and these were used together with the carriage of the 50mm Pak 38. This was an interim solution till the Pak 40 went into mass production. In 1942 2.854 Pak 97’s were built and in 1943 858.

The Pak 40 – KwK 40 gun
The new gun that could deal with the Soviet tanks was the 75mm Pak 40 L/46 and its tank version KwK 40 in the L/43 and L/48 models. The Pak 40/ KwK 40 had great penetration statistics (armor penetrated at 30 degrees from vertical):

ammo
weight
Velocity (m/s)
500
1,000
1,500
2,000
KwK40 L/43
Pzgr 39
6.8
740
89
78
68
60
Pak 40 L/46
Pzgr 39
6.8
750
91
80
KwK40 L/48
Pzgr 39
6.8
770
96
84
74
65

The Pak 40 was built in large numbers in the period 1942-45 and the KwK version was installed in the Pz IV and Stug III:

1942
1943
1944
1945
Total
7.5cm Pak 40
2,114
8,740
11,728
721
23,303

 2). Upgrading the tank fleet
The main German tank in the period 1941-43 was the PzIII. It weighed roughly 22 tons and was armed with a 50mm gun. Initially it had 30mm of frontal hull and turret armor and its gun was the 50mm L/42. In 1942 it received the more powerful 50mm L/60 gun and armor was upgraded to 50mm (plus 20mm plates bolted on in some vehicles). The last version built (Ausf N) had the 75mm L/24 gun. Roughly half of the Pz III’s in the East in the summer of 1942 had the long 50mm L/60 gun.

The PzIV was the main German tank in the period 1943-45. It weighed 25 tons and was equipped with a 75m caliber gun. In 1941 it had a low velocity 75mm gun effective against infantry but not armored targets and its armor was 30mm for front hull and turret. In 1942 it received the KwK 40 L/43 and armor was upgraded to 50mm for hull and turret (plus 30mm bolted on for the hull in some vehicles). In 1943 the hull armor was raised to 80mm and the Kwk 40 L/48 was installed. More than a third of the Pz IV’s in the East in the summer of 1942 had the Kwk 40 gun. However in the area of AGS the ratio was significantly higher as almost half had the new gun.
The Stug III was used by infantry and tank destroyer units. In 1941 it had a low velocity 75mm gun and frontal armor was 50mm. In 1942 it received the KwK40 and armor was upgraded to 50mm plus 30mm bolted on plates. From 1943 the G version had 80mm standard armor and all Stug’s had the kwk 40 L/48. Units in the East started receiving Stug III’s with the KwK 40 gun in the first half of 1942.

Production in 1941-43 for these vehicles was the following:
 
1941
1942
1943
Pz III 50mm L/42
1,649
251
Pz III 50mm L/60
64
1,907
22
Pz III 75mm L/24
449
213
Pz IV 75mm L/24
480
117
Pz IV 75mm L/43
877
598
Pz IV 75mm L/48
2,425
Stug III 75mm L/24
540
93
Stug III 75mm L/43
330
Stug III 75mm L/48
365
3,011
 
3). Marder series tank destroyers
The chassis of the obsolete tanks Pz II and Pz 38 was used to mount captured Soviet 76mm A/T guns and once it went into mass production the Pak 40:


1942
1943
Sum
Pz 38 76.2mm Pak
344
19
363
Pz 38  Pak 40 Marder III
110
799
909
Pz II Pak 40 Marder II
327
204
531
Pz II 76.2mm Pak
184
8
192
Sum
965
1,030
1,995

 
Superiority of the Pak40/Kwk40 gun

As we can see the main German response was the introduction of the Pak 40/Kwk 40 and its installation in the Pz IV, Stug and Marder vehicles. This gun gave the Germans a big advantage in armored warfare as it could reliably penetrate the Soviet vehicles at long ranges.
The Kwk 40 was as powerful as the US 76mm M1 tankgun (used on the improved M4 Sherman) and the Soviet 85mm ZiS-S-53 (used on the T-34/85) but it was introduced 2 years earlier!

The superior performance of the German gun is confirmed by a Yugoslav test which showed that the Pak 40 could penetrate the T-34/85 at the following distances:

hull front
hull sides
turret front
turret sides
75mm Pak 40
1,300
1,750
1,000
1,750
76mm M1
1,100
1,500
900
1,500
85mm ZiS-S-53
1,200
1,750
1,000
1,500

The vulnerability of the T-34 to the Pak40/Kwk40 is also shown in a Soviet report, presented in ‘Armored Champion: The Top Tanks of World War II- chapter 1. It shows that from summer 1943 till March 1945 the probability of the T-34’s armor being penetrated if hit was from 88-97%. This percentage was roughly 50-50 in the preceding period. Considering the mass use of the Pak 40/Kwk 40 by the Germans in the same period (and the limited number of heavy 88mm guns) it is clear that most of the T-34’s were destroyed by the Pak40/Kwk40.
Combat reports

The following are excerpts from German combat reports found in ‘Panzertruppen’ volumes 1 and 2:
Report of Panzer Regiment 33, dated 31 July 1942:

‘Penetration ability of the long 75mm gun KWK 40 /L43 panzergranate 39 against the T-34: The T-34 is cleanly penetrated at every angle that it is hit at ranges up to 1.200 meters’
T34: The T34 that was far superior to the German Panzers up to the beginning of the Spring of 1942 is now inferior to the German long 5 cm Kw.K. L/60 and 7.5 cm Kw.K.40 L/43 tank guns. After the Russians attacked the German Panzer forces in several battles with the T34 and received heavy losses, they didn't send the T34 tank against the German Panzers so long as they had a chance to with-draw

Report of 5th Panzer Division for period 22 February to 20 March 1943:
7.5cm KwK 40 L/43 in 4 Pz IV: 17 KW-1, 26 T-34, 1 T-26, 1 Mark II, 3 Mark III, 1 General Lee. Pzgr.39 was fired at ranges from 1.200 to 1.600 meters. Every hit caused a destructive effect with the tank going up in flames. Two to three Pzgr.39 rounds were expended per tank killed. Gr.38 HL/E1 ammunition was seldom used. One to five rounds were required to set an enemy tank on fire.’

April 1943 report by Grossdeutschland division:
1. In the period from 7 March to 20 March 1943, 250 T34, 16 T60 or T70 and 3 KW-1 tanks were knocked out.

2. The number of kills scored by each type of weapon were:
188 by Pz.Kpfw.IV 7.5 cm lang,

41 by Sturmgeschuetz 7.5 cm lang,
30 by Pz.Kpfw.VI (Tiger),

4 by 7.5 cm Pak (mot Zug),
4 by 7.5 cm Pak (Sfl),

1 by a direct hit from a s.I.G.

1 using a Hafthohlladung (hand-held shaped charge)

Sources: ‘Panzertruppen’, ‘Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933 – 1945’, ‘Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.G, H and J 1942-45’, ‘Encyclopedia Of German Tanks Of World War Two’, ‘Kursk 1943: a statistical analysis’, tanknet forum, ‘Armored Champion: The Top Tanks of World War II’

3 comments:

  1. Check this interesting report on the Tiger capabilities

    http://imgur.com/a/H1Anq#12

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Antonio are you trying to make me mad? The report you linked to doesn’t even have one source for all the statements, that should give you a hint…

      The statements made are basically all wrong. Don’t make me write another WWII Myths piece…

      Delete
  2. The data is mostly correct. The Germans went with the 7,5 cm PzGr 39 armor piercing projectile in a big way.

    ReplyDelete