- This article is about the Soviet medium tank. For the American heavy tank, see T34.
|USSR||Medium Tank||Tier V|
The legend of the Soviet armored forces and the most widely-produced Soviet tank of World War II, with a total of 33,805 vehicles manufactured. Three variants of this model were produced at several Soviet factories from 1940 through 1944.
One of the most famous tanks of World War II, and the spiritual forefather of almost every modern MBT, the T-34's almost mythical reputation leads some to believe that it will be a kind of "wonder tank" in-game, which is not the case. The 57mm Zis-4 gun is a great gun for its tier, with a high penetration and fantastic DPM. However, its mobility is only on par with other tier 5 mediums, but with much less armour to spare. All in all the T-34 is not a grind by any stretch of the imagination, and it can be a deadly weapon on the battlefield if used properly, but it lurks in the shadows of tanks like the M4 Sherman.
|Guns compatible with this Turret:|
|Guns compatible with this Turret:|
Pros and Cons
- Highly versatile and adaptable tank.
- Good camouflage value for a medium tank.
- Good top speed.
- Good firepower.
- Good sloped armour layout, allowing it to deflect shells with some reliability.
- From 8.8, It has the second best penetration of top gun(76mm Sherman has 128mm penetration value)
- Fairly thin hull armour.
- Somewhat sluggish acceleration due to high terrain resistance.
- Somewhat vulnerable fuel tanks on the hull sides.
- Extremely poor stock configuration.
- SU-85 costs almost almost double the experience when taken from this tank.
- 76mm S-54 has longest aim time for Tier V mediums, limit its gun's characteristic as brawler as heavy gun.
The Soviet counterpart to the American M4 Sherman medium tank, the T-34 shares the M4's status as a Jack-of-All-Trades. The T-34 is a versatile tank, offering good firepower, decent armor and HP, and good mobility. Stock, it is a pretty bad tank, armed with the underwhelming 76 mm L-11 gun previously used on the A-20. The stock turret's vision range is astoundingly bad at 240 m (worse than a stock MS-1's!), which reflects the fairly poor vision that plagued the original T-34 historically. The stock V-2 engine also previously used on the A-20 is likewise fairly disappointing, making it rather sluggish. However, once fully upgraded, the T-34 really begins to shine.
Asides from the L-11, the T-34 has a choice of three guns. The 76 mm F-34 is somewhat of an improvement over the L-11, with somewhat better accuracy and penetration, and a fairly good rate of fire. The 57 mm ZiS-4 is generally considered the best gun on the T-34, with the best penetration, accuracy, rate-of-fire, and damage-per-minute of all the guns. It is more than capable of dealing with any Tier 5 tank, and is powerful enough to penetrate the sides and rear of the heaviest Tier 7 tank the T-34 may face. The Enhanced Gun Laying Drive is almost mandatory with the ZiS-4, for the aim time is longer then the reload time (even without the Medium Caliber Tank Gun Rammer) and it will dramatically improve the T-34's ability to snipe at long ranges. The ZiS-4's primary strength is in its ability to perform well both at long range and in close combat. With 8.8, the 76 mm S-54 has been buffed to match the American M1A1 gun in penetration, but the poor rate of fire and somewhat long aim time make it less than ideal in most circumstances.
The T-34's sloped 45 mm hull armor is fairly reliable at bouncing rounds from most Tier 3 or 4 vehicles, but should not be relied upon against Tier 5 or higher vehicles. While it will occasionally deflect rounds from such tanks, the T-34 will be very quickly destroyed under concentrated fire. The second turret has slightly better armor at 52 mm, but not quite enough to make the T-34 a good tank to go hull-down in.
In terms of mobility, the T-34 has the best top speed of the three main Tier 5 mediums (the M4 Sherman, and the Pz.Kpfw. IV). The acceleration and turning are not quite as good as that of the M7 or Pz.Kpfw. III/IV, but they are good enough to allow the T-34 to perform well as a flanking medium and even circle most heavy tanks.
The T-34 also has surprisingly good camouflage values, which allow it to function as a pseudo-scout in a pinch and also help it flank unsuspecting enemies more successfully.
Overall, the T-34 is a tank that rewards an adaptable play style that can exploit the weaknesses of its opponents. It almost always has an advantage of some sort over any of its possible opponents. It can take up nearly any role on the battlefield if required and perform adequately at the very least. Against lighter opponents, the T-34's superior armor and firepower will allow it to almost always come out on top. Against heavier opponents, the T-34 is a flanker, using its superior mobility and deceptively high damage output in the form of the ZiS-4 to punish heavy tanks that underestimate it.
- Repair as the first skill for all the crew members is a solid choice, allowing broken tracks or other damaged modules to be brought to operational condition as quickly as possible. Camouflage is also quite viable due to the T-34's already good innate camouflage values. This can help when flanking, allowing it to remain undetected longer.
- A more specialized set of first skills would be Snap Shot (Commander/Gunner), Smooth Ride (Driver), Situational Awareness (Radio Operator). The loader only has perks available, which are not useful until they have reached 100%, Repair or Camouflage are viable options for the loader, which may later be swapped out for his perks. The combination of Snap Shot and Smooth Ride act like a Vertical Stabilizer (which the T-34 does not have access to), reducing the accuracy penalties while moving or turning the turret, and by extension, allowing the T-34 to get an accurate shot off faster after stopping. Situational Awareness increase the tank's decent 350 m view range further. Mentor may also be used instead of Snap Shot if the emphasis is on getting the other crew members' skills up faster. Smooth Ride may be substituted with Off-Road Driving for improved overall mobility. Clutch Braking is generally not as useful, as the T-34 already has excellent hull traverse.
- Upon reaching 100% on the first skills, dropping the commander's skill for Sixth Sense is highly advised, as it is one of the most important perks in the game, especially for a medium tank. The loader's skill may be dropped in favor of Safe Stowage or Adrenaline Rush. However, the T-34 does not have a particularly vulnerable ammunition rack, while Adrenaline Rush is highly situational, so neither of these perks are particularly essential.
- Brothers-in-Arms is a good perk to have on any tank, but requires all crew members to have it at 100% before it works. The bonus to crew skills is particularly noticeable when combined with Improved Ventilation. It improves nearly every aspect of the tank's performance, but is generally better saved for later in favor of more important skills and perks like Repair and Sixth Sense.
- The 57 mm ZiS-4 is the best overall gun, and may have been already researched on the T-28. It is imperative for an early increase in firepower. Prioritizing it is a good idea.
- The T-34 Mod. 1942 turret dramatically increases the T-34's view range, turret traverse speed, and rate-of-fire, so it makes a good module to research after the gun, or even before it, depending on preference.
- The stock Mod. 1940 suspension has enough load limit for all of the modules, if used with the 57 mm ZiS-4. However it is inexpensive and offers a massive improvement to terrain resistance, improving your speed more than the engine upgrade.
- If you came from the A-20 you may have the V-2-34 engine already unlocked. If you did not, you can optionally choose to skip this entirely; while it does improve your acceleration a little, you unlock it for free with the T-34-85. Use your judgment to decide if the small upgrade is worth grinding an extra 5000 XP.
- The 76 mm S-54 is required to unlock the T-34-85, but like all the other T-34 weapon options is inferior to the 57mm.
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armor and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II. First produced at the KhPZ factory in Kharkov, it was the mainstay of Soviet armored forces throughout World War II, and widely exported afterwards. It was the most-produced tank of the war, and the second most-produced tank of all time, after its successor, the T-54/55 series.
The T-34 was the most important weapon fielded by the Red Army in World War II. When first produced in 1940, commentators considered it one of the finest tank designs in the world. Sloping armor increased protection, the V-2 diesel engine used a less flammable fuel, the Christie suspension was fast on rough terrain and wide tracks gave low ground pressure for good mobility in mud and snow. By mid-war, the T-34 may have no longer technically outclassed its opponents but it remained effective in combat.
By the end of 1945, over 57,000 T-34s had been built; 34,780 original T-34 tanks in 1940–44, and another 22,559 T-34-85s in 1944–45. A total of 84,070 T-34s in all variants are estimated to have been built, plus an additional 13,170 self-propelled guns built on the T-34's chassis.
At the onset of the war, T-34 tanks amounted to only about four percent of the Soviet tank arsenal, but by the war's end, they comprised at least 55% of the USSR's massive output of tanks. By the time the T-34 had replaced older models and became available in greater numbers, newer German tanks, including the improved Panzer V "Panther", outperformed it. The Soviet's late-war Iosif Stalin tanks were also better-armed and better-armored than the T-34.
The T-34 was developed from the BT series of fast tanks and was intended to replace both the BT-5 and BT-7 tanks, and the T-26 infantry tank in service.
In 1937, the Red Army assigned engineer Mikhail Koshkin to lead a new team to design a replacement for the BT tanks at the Kharkiv Komintern Locomotive Plant (KhPZ) in Kharkiv. The prototype tank, designated A-20, was specified with 20 millimeters of armor, a 45 mm gun, and the new model V-2 engine, using less-flammable diesel fuel in a V12 configuration. It also had an 8×6-wheel convertible drive similar to the BT tank's 8×2, which allowed it to run on wheels without caterpillar tracks. This feature had greatly saved on maintenance and repair of the unreliable tank track of the early 1930s, and allowed tanks to travel over 85 kilometers per hour (53 mph) on roads, but gave no advantage in combat. The A-20 also incorporated previous research (BT-IS and BT-SW-2 projects) into sloped armor: its all-round sloped armor plates were more likely to deflect anti-armor rounds than perpendicular armor.
Koshkin convinced Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to let him develop a second prototype, a more heavily armed and armored "universal tank" which could replace both the T-26 and the BT tanks. The second prototype Koshkin named A-32, after its 32 millimeters of frontal armor. It also had a 76.2 mm gun, and the same model V-2 diesel engine. Both were tested in field trials at Kubinka in 1939, with the heavier A-32 proving to be as mobile as the A-20. A still heavier version of the A-32, with 45 millimeters of front armor and wider tracks, was approved for production as the T-34. Koshkin chose the name after the year 1934 when he began to formulate his ideas about the new tank, to commemorate the decree expanding the armored force, and the appointment of Sergo Ordzhonikidze to head tank production.
Lessons from Khalkhin Gol, regarding armor protection, mobility, welding, and main guns were incorporated into the new Soviet T-34 tank, and Koshkin's team completed two prototype T-34s in January 1940. In April and May, they underwent a grueling 2,000-kilometer drive from Kharkiv to Moscow for a demonstration for the Kremlin leaders, to the Mannerheim Line in Finland, and back to Kharkiv via Minsk and Kiev. Some drivetrain shortcomings were identified and corrected. Resistance from the military command and concerns about high production cost were finally over-ridden by anxieties about the poor performance of Soviet tanks in the Winter War in Finland and the effectiveness of German tanks during the Battle of France. The first production tanks were completed in September 1940, completely replacing the production of the T-26, BT, and the multi-turreted T-28 medium tank at the KhPZ. Koshkin died of pneumonia at the end of that month (exacerbated by the drive from Kharkov to Moscow), and the T-34's drivetrain developer, Alexander Morozov, was appointed Chief Designer. The T-34 had the coil-spring Christie suspension of the BT, using a "slack track" tread system with a rear-mounted drive sprocket and no system of return rollers for the upper run of track, but dispensed with the weighty and ineffective convertible drive. It had well-sloped armor, a relatively powerful engine, and wide tracks.
At its introduction, it was the tank with the best balanced attributes of firepower, mobility, protection, and ruggedness. The tank featured a two man turret crew. The two-man turret-crew arrangement required the commander to aim and fire the gun, an arrangement common to most Soviet tanks of the day: this proved to be inferior to three-man (commander, gunner, and loader) turret crews of German Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks. The initial version had a 76.2 mm gun, and is often called the T-34/76 (originally a World War II German designation).
The T-34 was a revolutionary design in that it was one of the first tanks to make use of all-around inclined armor plate which, along with wide tracks and comparatively low silhouette was a fundamental part of its combat effectiveness. The inclined plates and minimization of shot-traps did provide a greater effective armor thickness and potentially lead to more shot deflections. In 1941, the thick, sloped armor of the T-34 could defeat all German anti-armor weapons at normal combat ranges except the towed 88 mm Flak guns. By mid-1942, the T-34 had become vulnerable to improved German weapons and remained so throughout the war, but its armor protection was equal to, or superior to, comparable tanks such as the US M4 Sherman or German Panzer IV.
The T-34 could take on all 1941 German tanks effectively. However, the new tank suffered severe reliability problems; from engines literally grinding to a halt due to dust and sand ingestion (the original Pomon filter was almost totally ineffective), and serious mechanical troubles beset its transmission and clutch. At least half the first summer's total tank losses were due to breakdowns rather than German fire, although this also included older tanks in disrepair. There was a shortage of repair equipment, and it was not uncommon for early T-34s to go into combat carrying a spare transmission on the engine deck. Improvements were made throughout production, with a new gearbox in 1942, as well as many individually-minor updates.
The T-34 always suffered from poor ergonomics despite later improvements. All 76mm-armed versions were greatly hampered by the two-man turret layout. The commander had too many tasks to perform since he was responsible for loading and laying the main gun in addition to crew and possibly platoon command. In contrast, most contemporary German and U.S. medium tanks had much superior three-man turrets with commander, gunner and loader. The three-man turret layout allowed the tank commander to concentrate on leading his crew and co-ordinating his actions with the rest of his unit. Despite only have two crew members, the turret was also low and cramped.
The commander's battlefield visibility was poor; the forward-opening hatch forced him to observe the battlefield through a single vision slit and traversable periscope. Many German commanders liked to fight "heads-up", with the seat raised and having a full field of view. In the 76mm-armed versions of the T-34, this was impossible. Visibility from the driver's seat was also poor, which affected the driver's ability to see folds in the ground as well, or have as wide a range of vision as in some other tanks. Further, the gun sights and range finding for the T-34's main gun were rather crude, especially compared to those of their German adversaries, affecting long range accuracy.
The T-34's ergonomic problems weren't limited to the commander. The drivers seat was nothing more than a hard bench, affecting the driver's ability to endure the vibrations and shocks of combat on rough terrain for long periods. A mallet was necessary to shift gears, increasing the time needed to maneuver the tank.
The loader's job was made difficult due to the lack of a turret basket. The floor under the turret was made up of ammunition stored in small metal boxes covered by a rubber mat. Nine ready rounds of ammunition were stowed in racks on the sides of the fighting compartment. Once exhausted the crew had to pull additional ammunition out of the floor boxes, leaving the floor littered with open bins and matting.
The T-34 suffered from poor turret drive reliability and the gun could not depress more than three degrees severely restricting use on a reverse slope or at close range.
Russian veterans condemned the turret hatches of early models. Nicknamed pirozhok (stuffed bun) because of its characteristic shape, it was heavy and hard to open. If it jammed, the crew were trapped. Tank commander Nikolai Evdokimovich Glukhov remembered: "A big hatch – very inconvenient, very heavy." The complaints of the crews urged the design group led by A.A. Morozov to switch to using two hatches in the turret.
The tracks were the most frequently repaired part. Crews took spare parts even in combat. A.V. Maryevski later remembered:
"The caterpillars used to break apart even without bullet or shell hits. When earth got stuck between the road wheels, the caterpillar, especially during a turn – strained to such an extent that the pins and tracks themselves couldn't hold out."
Production quality problems
At the same time, T-34s, which had been "beautifully crafted machines with excellent exterior finish comparable or superior to those in Western Europe or America", were much more roughly finished in 1941. The sloped armor provided greater protection but the underlying structure supporting and joining the plates was also more complex to weld and assemble with inclined pieces. Many T-34s suffered from poor workmanship during the rushed assembly of the armored plate, resulting on many occasions in gaps and misaligned armored plate; this was especially noticeable on those T-34s built hastily at certain factories under harsh conditions during the German advance after 1941.
This lack of quality control and poor craftsmanship likely did not affect overall performance much, owing to soviet tank implementation and build doctrine; which was one of design to suit. The soviet designers understood the limitations of their crews and the industrial workers, and as such added in what innovation they could and mass produced the result, which could then be tactically operated around the 'known' limitations.
In 1942 and 1943, the Red Army emphasized rebuilding the losses of 1941. T-34 production increased rapidly, but the design was "frozen": only improvements that sped production were adopted. Soviet designers were well aware of the need to correct certain deficiencies in the design, but these improvements would have cost production time and could not be implemented. In 1943, production of T-34s had been ramped up to an average of 1,300 per month, much higher than the German rate. However, Soviet losses greatly exceeded German losses due to continued tactical inferiority. Production time was cut in half by the end of 1942, even though most experienced factory workers had been sent to the battlefield and replaced by a workforce that included 50% women, 15% boys and 15% invalids and old men.
However, soviet tankers still suffered from a lack of quality control during the production of shells, which severely restricted the performance of their guns. Rheir AP rounds tended to shatter against the face hardened plate of the German mid-later war models, something that wasn't really remedied until post war.
An up-armored version was introduced in 1943 that featured greater fuel capacity, reliability improvements and a modified turret. In early 1944, the improved T-34-85 was introduced, with the more powerful 85 mm ZiS AA/AT gun and a three-man turret design.
In 1941 the German infantry was mostly armed with PaK 36 37 mm antitank guns that were completely ineffective at stopping T-34s. During the Battle of France, the PaK 36 had earned the nickname "Door Knocker" among French and British tank crews due to its inability to penetrate all but the lightest armor. Crews on the Eastern front found it even less effective against the thicker Soviet armor, often relying on heavier towed-firepower, such as the rare but effective PaK 38, the newer and heavier PaK 40, and especially the 88 mm Flak guns that could not be moved into location easily. The following is an example of the effectiveness of the T-34's armor against available German anti-tank guns of the time:
"Remarkably enough, one determined 37mm gun crew reported firing 23 times against a single T-34 tank, only managing to jam the tank’s turret ring."
By mid-1942, the T-34 had become vulnerable to improved German weapons and remained so throughout the war, but its armor protection was equal or superior to contemporary tanks such as the M4 Sherman or Panzer IV.
In terms of firepower, the T-34's 76 mm gun with anti-tank ammunition could penetrate any 1941 German tank with ease. This gun also fired an adequate high explosive round. In 1943, the 76mm could not penetrate the Panther's hull front armor and was out-ranged by the Panther's long 75mm and the Tiger's 88mm.
In terms of mobility, the T-34's wide tracks and good suspension should have given it unparalleled cross-country performance but poor driver ergonomics and reliability problems negated much of this advantage. First-generation German tanks, although more reliable, could not keep up cross country. During the winter of 1941–42, the T-34 again dominated German tanks through its ability to move over deep mud or snow without bogging down; German tanks could not move over terrain the T-34 could handle. The Panzer IV used an inferior leaf-spring suspension and narrow track, and tended to sink in deep mud or snow.
A long road march could be a punishing exercise for a T-34 tank at that time. When in June 1941 D.I. Ryabyshev's 8th Soviet Mechanized Corps advanced towards Dubno, the corps lost half of its vehicles. A.V. Bodnar, who was in combat in 1941–42, recalled:
"From the point of view of operating them, the German armored machines were more perfect, they broke down less often. For the Germans, covering 200 km was nothing, but with T-34's something would have been lost, something would have broken down. The technological equipment of their machines was better, the combat gear was worse."
As a result of the T-34/76’s two man turret, weak optics and poor vision devices, German tankers noted:
"T34's operated in a disorganized fashion with little coordination, or else tended to clump together like a hen with its chicks. Individual tank commanders lacked situational awareness due to the poor provision of vision devices and preoccupation with gunnery duties. A tank platoon would seldom be capable of engaging three separate targets, but would tend to focus on a single target selected by the platoon leader. As a result T-34 platoons lost the greater firepower of three independently operating tanks."
The Germans noted the T-34 was very slow to find and engage targets while the Panzers could typically get off three rounds for every one fired by the T-34.
The T-34 came to symbolize the effectiveness of the Soviet counterattack against the Germans. One of the first known encounters with a T-34 was by the 17th Panzer Division, which spotted it near the Dniepr River. The T-34 crushed a 37 mm anti-tank gun, blew up two Panzer IIs, and went on to leave nine more miles of destruction in its wake before being destroyed at close range by a howitzer. The appearance of the T-34 in the summer of 1941 was a psychological shock to German soldiers, who had been prepared to face an inferior Soviet enemy: this is shown by the diary of Alfred Jodl, who seems to have been taken by surprise at the appearance of the T-34 in Riga.
The combat results for 1941 show the Soviets lost an average of over seven tanks for every German tank lost. From a total of 20,500 Soviet tanks lost in 1941, approximately 2,300 were T-34s and over 900 were KV heavy tanks. It is very likely that a large proportion of the combat ready T-34s in 1941 were lost due to operational issues in large part due to the situation the Red Army found itself in during Operation Barbarossa in the summer of 1941. The dire state of soviet supply and logistics in spring 1941 resulted in a lack of armor piercing ammunition for many tanks including the T-34s. Supply problems persisted and many T-34s were abandoned and lost due to breakdown, lack of fuel or becoming bogged down. The Red Army’s tank divisions were dramatically short of tractors and recovery vehicles. Thus, it is likely that a large number of the ~2,300 T-34s lost were due to operational issues which would suggest a loss ratio from combat closer to 2 or 3 to 1 during 1941.
The combat results for 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 show that the Soviets lost an average of 6, 4, 4 and 1.2 tanks respectively, for every German tank lost. It should be noted that the figures for 1945 are not much use as the majority of German losses were operational or strategic, not combat related.
In 1942 the most common Soviet main battle tank was the T-34/76. In comparison, the most common German tanks were PzIIIs with long and short 5cm KwK 38 L/42 (later the 5cm KwK 39 L/60) and PzIVs, most still with the short low muzzle velocity 7.5cm KwK 37 L/24. Some Pz IV and StuG assault guns with longer, higher velocity 7.5cm KwK 40 L/43 or L/48 guns (capable of destroying a T-34 at 1000 meters) had also begun appearing on the Eastern Front in 1942, initially in limited numbers and only became available in larger numbers in 1943. By late 1942 and into mid-1943, Germany had also begun to field the powerful Tiger I heavy tank and Panther medium tank. The high-velocity PaK 40 75 mm gun, both towed and self-propelled, made up most of the anti-tank artillery by 1943.
Even with the limited number of superior German vehicles available in 1942, the Soviets still managed to loose 15,100 fully tracked AFVs including 6,600 T-34s and 1,200 KV heavy tanks. The Soviet loss ratio for 1942 was similar to that of 1941, but when the T-34/76 is considered by itself the loss ratio is worse than for 1941 because over half the tanks destroyed were T-34 and KV tanks. By 1942 the majority of T-34/76's losses can no longer be attributed to operational issues, therefore most were likely lost due to direct enemy fire.
A Soviet wartime study indicates the following weapon types as responsible for T-34’s destroyed from June 1941 to September 1942:
|Calibre||2.0cm||3.7cm||Short 5.0cm||Long 5.0cm||7.5cm||8.8cm||10.5cm||Unknown|
The above table should be read with caution, as it is based primarily on soviet field intelligence reports and actual German gun types could easily have been mistaken, especially the long 5.0cm and 7.5cm.
What is most striking about the soviet study is that the majority of T-34s were destroyed by the long 5.0cm gun and not by, as is widely perceived to be the case, the long range 8.8cm Flak 18/36. During 1941 and to a lesser extent 1942, the ‘88’ is often credited with stopping T-34s and KVs when all else had failed. However, it is clear from the soviet study that relatively few T-34s were destroyed by them; almost as many were destroyed by artillery (10.5cm+).
There is no doubt that on average German tank crews in 1942 were probably still the best trained and most experienced in the world. However, this does not explain how inferior German tanks and anti-tank guns achieved a kill ratio of better than three to one against T-34s in direct combat. Approximately three quarters of T-34s were destroyed by standard issue 1941-42 German tanks and Anti-Tank guns. These weapons (2.0-5.0cm) would have needed to get very close to a T-34/76 to penetrate it frontally, so more likely were hitting it in its more vulnerable side or rear armor. This would suggest that the large majority of T-34s were destroyed because their crews could not pre-empt these weapons from getting into a killing position, and as indicated previously, were slow to acquire the enemy target once it became known due to poor visibility, optics, crew training, and in-effective fire control systems.
By 1943, however the strategic initiative had generally swung in favor of the Soviets --with notable exceptions such as Operation Zitadelle. In 1943 the Soviets lost a staggering 23,500 fully tracked AFVs including around 14,700 T-34s, 1,300 heavy tanks and only 6,400 light tanks! Germany was destroying 3 Soviet tanks to every German loss. It is important to look at several factors affecting Soviet and German losses in 1943 to understand the significance of the Soviet loss ratios. By 1943 the Soviets were recovering most disabled or partially destroyed tanks, improving their loss ratio. Conversely, the Germans were in retreat and were abandoning disabled or partially destroyed vehicles at higher rates. Despite better AFV's and anti-tank guns arriving for Germany, the average quality of their crews was being decreased by inexperienced replacements. Further, these numbers reflect total (operational plus combat) losses. Given that Germany was probably suffering increased operational losses we can assume that combat losses for Soviet tanks were higher, perhaps closer to 5 to 1. Even the Soviets realized that the 1943 loss/kill ratio was unsustainable. In order to restore the technological balance they reduced T-34/76 production and moved quickly to manufacture the up-gunned the T-34/85 with a new turret and the 85mm M-1944 ZIS-S53 L/51.5 gun.
Combat Performance Conclusions
A natural comparison can be made between the T-34 and the U.S. M4 Sherman medium tank. Each tank formed the backbone of the armored units in their respective allied armies. The T-34 was a "world-beater" at the time of its debut in 1940, while the Sherman was a strong contender when introduced in 1942. Both models were upgraded and improved extensively throughout their service life, receiving new turrets with more powerful guns. Both were designed for ease of manufacture and maintenance, sacrificing some performance for this goal. However, the T-34 went beyond the M4 in this regard. The T-34 suffered greatly from poor manufacturing quality in the effort to produce the staggering 54,550 units. It can be argued that this strategic decision paid off, as 44,900 (82%) T-34's were eventually destroyed.
Other key factors diminishing the initial impact of T-34s on the battlefield were the poor state of leadership, tank tactics, and crew training, a consequence of Stalin's purges of the Soviet officer corps in the late 1930s, aggravated by the loss of the best-trained personnel during the Red Army's disastrous defeats in 1941. Many crews went into combat with only their basic military training plus seventy-two hours of classroom instruction. These problems were exacerbated by poor ergonomics and lack of radios during the early part of the war, making it practically impossible to coordinate tank units in combat. German tank soldiers found that the Soviet armor attacked in rigid formations and took little advantage of terrain. By 1943–44, these problems had largely been corrected.Despite the many design issues, the T-34 had a very strong initial design allowing for all ongoing engineering to emphasis manufacturing improvements. This enabled the Soviets to push a strategy heavily reliant on numerical superiority that allowed them to eventually defeat Germany.