Kliment Voroshilov tank

The Kliment Voroshilov (KV) tanks were a series of Soviet heavy tanks named after the Soviet defense commissar and politician Kliment Voroshilov and used by the Red Army during World War II. The KV series were known for their extremely heavy armour protection during the early part of the war, especially during the first year of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

They were practically immune to the 3.7 cm KwK 36 and howitzer-like, short barreled 7.5 cm KwK 37 guns mounted, respectively, on the early Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks fielded by the invading German forces. Until more effective guns were developed by the Germans, the KV-1 was invulnerable to almost any German weapon except the 8.8 cm Flak gun. Even then, the sloped and reinforced front armor and turret of the KV-1 caused some hits from the 8.8 cm Flak gun to ricochet.

Prior to Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion of the USSR), about 500 of the over 22,000 tanks then in Soviet service were of the KV-1 type. When the KV-1 appeared, it outclassed the French Char B1, the only other heavy tank in operational service in the world at that time. Yet, in the end, it turned out that there was little sense in producing the expensive KV tanks, as the T-34 medium tank performed better (or at least equally well) in all practical respects. Later in the war, the KV series became a base for the development of the IS (IS - Josif Stalin) series of tanks.

Kliment Voroshilov tank
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Kirov Plant
Production Period 1939 - 1943
Origin Russia (USSR)
Country Name Origin Year
Russia (USSR) 1939
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Russia (USSR) 1939 1945 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Kirov Plant 1939 1943 View

After disappointing results with the multi-turreted T-35 heavy tank, Soviet tank designers started drawing up replacements. The T-35 conformed to the 1920s notion of a 'breakthrough tank' with very heavy firepower and armour protection, but suffered from poor mobility. The Spanish Civil War demonstrated the need for much heavier armor on tanks, and was the main influence on Soviet tank design just prior to World War II.

The doctrine of Soviet deep battle called for the existence of relatively slow, but heavily armoured, siege tanks that were supposed to keep pressure on enemy troops during the siege phase. Thus, the requirements for KV-1 were heavily skewed toward a less agile but heavy tank.

Several competing designs were offered, and even more were drawn up prior to reaching prototype stage. All had heavy armour, torsion-bar suspension, wide tracks, and were of welded and cast construction. One of the main competing designs was the SMK, which in its final form had two turrets, mounting the same combination of 76.2 mm and 45 mm weapons as the T-35. The designers of the SMK independently drew up a single-turreted variant and this received approval at the highest level. Two of these, named after the People's Defence Commissioner were ordered alongside a single SMK. The smaller hull and single turret enabled the designer to install heavy frontal and turret armour while keeping the weight within manageable limits.

When the Soviets entered the Winter War, the SMK, KV and a third design, the T-100, were sent to be tested in combat conditions. The KV outperformed the SMK and T-100 designs. The KV's heavy armour proved highly resistant to Finnish anti-tank weapons, making it more difficult to stop. In 1939, the production of 50 KVs was ordered. During the War, the Soviets found it difficult to deal with the concrete bunkers used by the Finns and a request was made for a tank with a large howitzer. One of the rush projects to meet the request put the howitzer in a new turret on one of the KV tanks.

Initially known as Little Turret and Big turret, the 76-mm-armed tank was designated as the KV-1 Heavy Tank and the 152 mm howitzer one as KV-2 Heavy Artillery Tank.

The KV's strengths included armor that was impenetrable by any tank-mounted weapon then in service except at point-blank range, that it had good firepower, and that it had good traction on soft ground. It also had serious flaws: it was difficult to steer, the transmission (which was a twenty-year-old Caterpillar design) was unreliable (and was known to have to be shifted with a hammer), and the ergonomics were poor, with limited visibility and no turret basket. Furthermore, at 45 tons, it was simply too heavy. This severely impacted the maneuverability, not so much in terms of maximum speed, as through inability to cross many bridges medium tanks could cross. The KV outweighed most other tanks of the era, being about twice as heavy as the heaviest contemporary German tank. KVs were never equipped with a snorkelling system to ford shallow rivers, so they had to be left to travel to an adequate bridge. As applique armor and other improvements were added without increasing engine power, later models were less capable of keeping up to speed with medium tanks and had more trouble with difficult terrain. In addition, its firepower was no better than the T-34. It took field reports from senior commanders "and certified heroes", who could be honest without risk of punishment, to reveal "what a dog the KV-1 really was."

While initially the Soviets made a lot of poor defense decisions, worsened by recent "cleansings" of Soviet military command, the KV-1 was unlike anything the German army had expected to encounter, and some of the battles against numerically superior Axis forces became legendary. Even though the operations of the KV family of tanks were severely hampered by restrictions due to its weight, they were fearsome and formidable weapons through most of the Second World War.

Raseiniai

When Operation Barbarossa began, the Red Army was equipped with 508 new KV tanks.[19] So effective was its armour that the Germans were incapable of destroying it with their tanks or anti-tank weapons and had to rely on 88 mm anti-aircraft guns (flak) or 105 mm guns to knock them out. Only a few of these tanks were used to good effect, but one event of the Battle of Raseiniai was a notable example. On 23–24 June, a single KV-2 effectively pinned down elements of the 6th Panzer Division–the spearhead of Panzergruppe 4–for a full day at the bridgeheads of the Dubysa river near Raseiniai, Lithuania, playing a prominent role in delaying the German advance on Leningrad and destroying around two dozen German tanks.

Krasnogvardeysk

On 14 August 1941, the vanguard of the German 8th Panzer Division approached Krasnogvardeysk (Gatchina) near Leningrad (now known again as Saint Petersburg), and the only Soviet force available in an attempt to stop the German advance consisted of five well-hidden KV-1 tanks, dug in within a grove at the edge of a swamp. KV-1 tank No. 864 was commanded by the leader of this small force, Lieutenant Zinoviy Kolobanov.

German forces attacked Krasnogvardeysk from three directions. Near Noviy Uchkhoz settlement the geography favoured the Soviet defenders as the only road in the region passed the swamp, and the defenders commanded this choke point from their hidden position. Lieutenant Kolobanov had carefully studied the situation and readied his detachment the day before. Each KV-1 tank carried twice the normal amount of ammunition, two-thirds of which were armour-piercing rounds. Kolobanov ordered his other commanders to hold their fire and await orders. He did not want to reveal the total force, so only one tank would expose itself at a time and engage the enemy.

On 14 August, the German 8th Panzer Division's vanguard ventured directly into the well-prepared Soviet ambush. Kolobanov's tank knocked out the lead German tank with its first shot. The Germans wrongly assumed their lead tank had hit an anti-tank mine, and failed to realize they had been ambushed. The German column stopped, giving Kolobanov the opportunity to destroy the second tank. Only then did the Germans realize they were under attack, but they failed to find the source of the shots. While the German tanks were firing blindly, Kolobanov knocked out the trailing German tank, thus boxing in the entire column.

Although the Germans correctly guessed the direction of fire, they could not spot Lieutenant Kolobanov's tank, and now attempted to engage an unseen enemy. German tanks moving off the road bogged down in the surrounding soft ground, becoming easy targets. Twenty-two German tanks and 2 towed artillery pieces fell victim to Kolobanov's tank before it ran out of ammunition. Kolobanov ordered in another KV-1, and 21 more German tanks were destroyed before the half-hour battle ended. A total of 43 German tanks were destroyed by just five Soviet KV-1s (two more remained in reserve).

After the battle, the crew of No. 865 counted a total of 135 hits on their tank, none of which had penetrated the armour. Lieutenant Kolobanov was awarded the Order of Lenin, while his driver Usov was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. Later on, former Captain Zinoviy Kolobanov was again decorated by Soviet authorities, despite having been convicted and downgraded after the Winter War for "fraternizing with the enemy." After the end of World War II, Lieutenant Kolobanov served in the Soviet occupation zone in East Germany, where he was convicted again when a subordinate escaped to the British occupation zone, and was transferred to the reserves.

The battle for Krasnogvardeysk was covered up by Soviet propaganda. A monument dedicated to this battle was installed in the village of Noviy Uchkhoz in 1980, at the place where Kolobanov's KV-1 was dug in, due solely to the demands of the villagers. Unfortunately it was impossible to find a KV-1 tank, so an IS-2 heavy tank was installed there instead.

The Soviet victory was the result of a well-planned ambush in advantageous ground and of technical superiority. Most of the German tanks in this battle were Panzer IIs, armed with 20 mm guns, and a few Panzer IIIs armed with 37 mm KwK 36 L/46.5 guns. The German tank guns had neither the range nor the power of the 76 mm main gun of a KV-1, and the narrower track width of the German tanks caused them to become trapped in the swampy ground.

Some KVs remained in service right up to the end of the war, although in greatly diminishing numbers as they wore out or were knocked out. The 260th Guards Heavy Breakthrough Tank Regiment, based on the Leningrad front, operated a number of 1941-vintage KV-1s at least as late as the summer of 1944 before re-equipping with IS-2s. A regiment of KVs saw service in Manchuria in August 1945, and a few KV-85s were used in Crimea in the summer of 1944. The Finnish forces had two KV-1s, nicknamed Klimi, a Model 1940 and Model 1941, both of which received minor upgrades in their service, and both of which survived the war.

KV-1
Type Heavy tank
Place of origin Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1939–45
Used by Soviet Union
Wars Winter War, World War II
Production history
Designer Zh. Kotin, TsKB-2
Designed 1938–39
Manufacturer Kirov Factory, ChTZ
Produced 1939–43
Number built 5,219[1]
Variants KV-2, KV-8 flamethrower, KV-1S, KV-85
Specifications (KV-1 Model 1941)
Weight 45 tonnes
Length 6.75 m (22 ft 2 in)
Width 3.32 m (10 ft 11 in)
Height 2.71 m (8 ft 11 in)
Crew 5
Armour 90 mm maximum
Main
armament
76.2 mm M1941 ZiS-5 gun
Secondary
armament
3× or 4× DT machine guns
Engine Model V-2 V12 Diesel engine
600 hp (450 kW)
Power/weight 13 hp/tonne
Suspension Torsion bar
Operational
range
335 km
Speed 35 km/h (22 mph)


Kliment Voroshilov 2
Type Heavy tank/assault gun
Place of origin  Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1939–45
Used by Soviet Union
Wars World War II
Production history
Designer Zh. Kotin, TsKB-2
Designed 1938–39
Manufacturer Kirov Factory, ChTZ
Number built 334
Specifications
Weight 52 tonnes
Length 6.95 m (22 ft 10 in)
Width 3.32 m (10 ft 11 in)
Height 3.25 m (10 ft 8 in)
Crew 6
Elevation about 37°
Armour 60–110 mm (2.4–4.3 in)
Main
armament
152 mm M-10T howitzer (20 rounds)
Secondary
armament
2×DT machine guns (2,079 rounds)
Operational
range
140 km
Speed 28 km/h (17 mph)

End notes