Anatomy of the T-34

The T-34 was built up by the following components; hull and turret, engine, steering unit, transmission, chassis and suspension, stowage and equipment. The most characteristic feature was the design of its chassis. Using Christie-type suspension, having five road wheels on each side with a gap between the the second and third wheels. There was two types of wheels; cast and pressed. Each wheel had an independent suspension mounted, transversely swinging on a vertical coilspring which is located on the inside of the hull. The drive sprocket was located at the rear to reduce vulnerability, and was of the roller type used on the BT-tank, and a drove cast manganese steel track with center guide-horns on alternate track blocks. An interesting feature of the T-34 was the method of retaining its track pins; welded to each side of the hull at the rear of the vehicle, level with the upper track, was a curved "Wiper" plate; the round-headed pins were inserted from the inner side of the track blocks, with no retention device at the outer end, and as the tracks rotated, these pins were pushed in. This resulted in a very fast removal and replacement of track blocks. The hull was made up of rolled armor plates which was electro-welded throughout, although the upper rear plate along with the enginecover plate was fastened with screws, so that they easy could be removed if repairs on the transmission or the engine was necessary. All plates were well-sloped, giving the T-34 better immunity to AP-ammunition. With few exceptions, only three different thicknesses of rolled armor plates were employed. The hull interior was divided into four sections: Transmission, Engine, Driving and a Fighting compartment. Within the vehicle, just one bulkhead was fitted, separating the engine and fighting compartments. The rear deck immediately behind the turret was raised a little and accommodated a row of engine compartment grills and an engine access plate, with an exhaustpipe on each side. Handrails was fitted on each sides of the hull to be used by tank-borne infantry.

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In the driving compartment in the front, two seats with inclined backs could be found, intended for the driver/mechanic and the gunner/radio operator, together with engine, instrument panels, a lever for opening and closing the shutters on the engine cover, two compressed air bottles, control for varying the revs of the engine and the controls; man clutch pedal, foot-brake, brakes, fuel-injection pedal, two steering levers and a gearchange lever. Here also some ammunition could be found, and sometimes also radio equipment, (originally only provided to command tanks). In the front left of the hull top was the entrance hatch for the driver/mechanic. On the cover three observation periscopes were mounted (From Model 1942 and further on, this hatch was altered, equipped only with two periscopes in armored movable covers). On the right side of the of the glacis plate, the forward-firing DTM-machine gun was located.The DTM:s horizontal fire arc was 24 degrees and had a vertical arc of -6/+12 degrees (From Model 1942 and further on, additional armored covers were provided over the machine guns mounting). In a foot position at the bottom of the hull, there was a pedal (sometimes referred to as "Desantov"), which enabled the driver to render the tank immobile, even under enemy fire. The driver/mechanic compartment wasnīt separated from the rest of the fighting compartment by bulkheads, and hence was accessible with the turret at any position. On the floor and walls, the the main ammunition bins could be found; a proportion of the ammo was placed in special containers, the remainder in boxes. On the side hull were also the fuel tanks as well as elements of the suspension. The steering and transmission shafts passed under the floor. The fighting compartment was enclosed by the turret, which rested in a bed. On all models the turret was very low, resulting in lower total height of the tank. This feature restricted the depression of the armaments, especially when firing on a reverse slope or nearby ground troops. In the turret, with no basket, the 76mm gun was located, coaxially mounted with a DT or DTM machine gun. There was also sighting and observation devices along with some ammo for the gun and machine guns. Two seats for the commander/gun layer and loader was placed in the turret. The turret was traversed with the aid of a special traversing mechanism driven by an engine, meanwhile the gun itself was traversed with the aid of a hand wheel operated by the commander/gun layer. A bulkhead separated the fighting compartment from the engine compartment. Here the V-2 12cyl. water-cooled diesel-engine could be found along with the fuel injection, cooling, lubrication, ignition systems and four batteries. The transmission compartment housed the main clutch, ventilators, gearbox, final drives, brakes, electric starter, transfer box and the two main fuel tanks. Another 6 fuel tanks could be carried in reserve; four cylindrical tanks on the sides and two smaller cylindrical tanks on the rear hull plate. The transmission system was found to be generally troublesome, as the T-34 was steered by the clutch and brake method and controlled by steering-levers, and there was no power-assisted control gear used on this tank. All the T-34/76 models were armed with a semi-automatic 76mm gun with self-locking breech block. Following the Soviet practice of a high degree of standardization, the T-34 and KV tanks, had a great number of interchangeable parts like: engine, armament, transmission, periscopes, etc. In its design the Russians had aimed on mechanical simplicity. All models had the same hull and suspension components, although there were differences in the type of track and bogie wheels employed. Some tanks were fitted with steel-tyred wheels due to a lack of rubber in the early stage of the war. These wheels had internal shock-absorbers to reduce wear. When rubber once again became available in 1943, production of rubber-tyred bogie wheels was resumed. The T-34/76A Model 1940 had a long engine deck and a welded turret with distinctive overhang.

The T-34/76 Model 1940 with the welded turret..

..and the T-34/76 Model 1940 with the cast turret.

Some were also fitted fitted with a cast turret. The turret hatch was very clumsy - occupying the entire rear part of the turret, making it heavy to lift and also blocking the commanders view when open. Only one periscope was fitted on the turret; at the front on the the left-hand side. The tank had a flat, linked plate track. The second model, appearing in 1941, had a rolled plate turret with the more powerful Model 1940 (F-34) 76,2mm L/41.2 gun. The F-34 Model 1940 gun was heavily improved and had a barrel length of 41.5 caliber's. At first the gun fired an anti-tank round weighing almost 14lb with a muzzle-velocity of 2.000fps, and at ranges of 500, 1.000, 1.500 and 2.000 meters, penetrations of 69, 61, 54 and 48mm could be achieved. During 1943 a sub-caliber (arrowhead) round was introduced, weighing almost 7lbs and had a muzzle-velocity of 2.950fps. At ranges of 500 and 1.000 meters it could achieve armor penetrations of 92 and 58mm. The 76mm gun could be fired in two different ways, either by hand or foot pedal. The 7.62mm DT machine-gun (or itīs later version DTM), mounted both coaxially with the main armament and in the hull front, was a model derived from the well known DTMG which was designed by Degtyarev, specifically for tank use; it could could fire at the rate of 600rpm and each magazine stored 60-63 rounds. There were many detail cariations and changes in the T-34 during its production run. The most important features were unchanged even though there were structural alterations. For example the T-34/76B Model 1942 featured a new cast turret, and a greatly modernized vehicle, the T-34M, appeared. As originally designed the T-34M retained the features of the Model 1942 but had torsion bar suspension with small wheels as on the KV-tanks, instead of the old Christie-suspension. However, as this would have caused much disruption in changing the production lines, the Christie suspension was retained. A new hexagonal turret, designed by A. Morozov, was produced specifically to eliminate a shell trap which was discovered under the rear overhang of the early type turrets. The T-34/76 Model 1943 was a further improved type, with a commanders cupola and a five-speed gearbox replacing the old four-speed type. Stronger tracks and cast wheels were other changes.