The T34 tank was one of the most revolutionary designs ever. There was nothing individually startling about a 76.2mm gun, a 500hp diesel V 12 engine or 47mm armour plate, but it was the way that Mikhail Koshkin and Alexander Morozov put them together. They were the first to use properly sloped armour. If you place 47mm of armour vertically that’s how thick it is, but if you slope the same plate at 45 degrees or so, the horizontal path through the plate is 94mm. This, coupled with the excellent (and later improved) 76.2mm gun, a first class aluminium block diesel and wide tracks, created a design which came as a great shock to the Germans who had nothing to match it and whose initial response was to copy it.

Still a viable design at the end of the Second World War and by now up-gunned with an 85mm gun, the tank was produced and licence produced in incredible numbers, some 53,000, initially from factories which had been bodily moved east out of the path of the invading Germans. The vehicle was not perfect of course; the excellent Christie designed suspension took up valuable space inside the hull, the early two man turret was inefficient in operation with no cupola and a large forward opening hatch which exposed the crew. The transmission was also not as good as the rest of the vehicle, but some of these faults had been rectified by 1944 with the introduction of the T34/85, which was the principal version used at the end of the war and in the Cold War.

By the early years of the Cold War the T34 was no longer first line equipment with the Soviet Union, not being a match for the later Western tanks such as the M26 aeries and Centurion. In time honoured fashion it was cascaded down to Soviet bloc Allies, in some cases being licence built, and the type rendered sterling service in the post-war conflicts and confrontations like Korea and the Hungarian uprising.

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