The T-34 was a Soviet-built medium tank used by the Red Army during the Second World War and the first part of the Cold War. It entered service by mid-1940, taking part in major battles of the Eastern Front. Designed in 1937 by the state-run company Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau, the T-34 tank featured an all-round sloped armor plates, which were more likely to deflect anti-armour rounds than perpendicular armor, and a hexagonal turret that could rotate 360º. Weighing 27 tons, it had 45mm-thick frontal armor and 40mm rear armor, and was armed with a 76.2mm gun and two 7.62 mm (0.308 in) DT machine guns. The Soviet Union produced the inordinate amount of more than 84,000 T-34 tanks in two main model: the T-34/76, which was fitted with 76.2mm gun and produced until 1953; the T-34/85 that was equipped with an 85mm gun and was built between 1953 and 1958.
Although it ran faster than the German tanks, the T-34 could not match either the Panzer V (Panther), or the Panzer VI (Tiger I) in both gun power and armor. The 75mm KwK 42 L/70 and the 88mm KwK 36 L/56 guns of the Panther and Tiger respectively featured high muzzle velocity and shot armored piercing projectiles which could penetrate 100mm of armor at a distance of 1,000 m (1km), while the inadecuate Soviet 76.2mm gun had to get to a distance of 500 m in order to be able to put a Panther out of action. The key to the eventual Red Army victory on the Eastern Front was the great number of T-34 tanks produced by the Russian factories. By mid 1944, there were approximately 30 T-34 tanks for each Panther, and 50 for each Tiger tank. The German industry could not catch up with the production requirements the war demanded as it was heavily being bombed by the constant Allied air raids over German territory.
Specifications for the T-34 Tank
Type: medium tank
Engine: 12-cylinder, diesel model V-2 engine, delivering 500 hp (370 kW)
Maximum speed: 53 km/h (33 mph)
Operational range: 400 km (250 mi)
Armor: 45mm front; 45mm hull; 40mm rear; 20mm top
Weapons: one 76.2mm gun (mounted on the T-34/76 model), or a 85mm gun for the Cold War model T-34/85; two 7.62 mm (0.308 in) DT machine guns
Weight: 27 tons
Length: 6.68 m (21 ft 11 in)
Width: 3.00 m (9 ft 10 in)
Height: 2.45 m (8 ft 0 in)
A T-34/76 tank after being hit hard by a Panzer V, Panther, tank at the Battle of Kursk (1943)
A T-34/85 tank, built after World War II