The Soviet T-34 is considered the most successful tank of its time, it combined high speed, manœuvrability and fuel economy, low silhouette, good armour protection and firepower. The vehicle had 60 mm of sloped frontal armour, as much as the modern Leopard II, making it immune to 3.7 cm PaK 35/36 anti-tank guns. Even the powerful 8.8 cm L.71 gun of the Jagdpanther tank destroyer had only a calculated 11% probability of penetrating the T-34’s sloped frontal armour at 500 m range. By comparison, the German Tiger I tank was twice as heavy, but it lacked the sloped armour which would have reduced the probability of an effective hit against it by as much as 34%.
The T-34 came as a big surprise to the Wehrmacht, this modern tank seriously outclassed German Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks, and it became available in large numbers as production topped 2000 units per month. To counter the threat, the Germans hastily introduced the Tiger tank in 1942, followed by the Panther in 1943, but neither would stem the tide of 40,000 Soviet T-34s advancing toward Berlin. The T-34 is a classic, it deserves a spot in every collection of armoured fighting vehicles.
The T-34’s two-stroke diesel engine, was small and light-weight, it provided three times the power and three times the torque of a comparable four-stroke petrol engine. The T-34 consumed 480 litres of diesel fuel over its cruising range of 300 km, compared to the Tiger tank which consumed 535 liters of petrol per 100 km on level ground. Many Tigers were lost when they ran out of fuel and could not be recovered later.
The table lists allied vehicle designations introduced to classify the different versions of the Soviet T-34 medium tank. The Soviet Army used only three basic designations for the T-34 tank, namely T-34/57, T-34/76 and T-34/85, although the month and year of an important design change was noted as well.
|Tank||1:72 Scale Kit||1:76 Scale Kit|
|Armed with the 76 mm L.30.5 gun. The gun mantlet seems to be upside down. This version had serious gear box problems. T-34/76.A are easily recognized, because they typically carry spare gear box and clutch units on the rear engine deck. The engine access cover on the rear plate is square.|
|Armed with the 76 mm L.42 gun, and the later gun mantlet. This version had 60 mm of sloped frontal armour. The engine access cover changed to a round plate.|
|Similar to the above, but armed with the 57 mm L.73 Zis.2 tank/anti-tank gun. The Airfix T-34/76.B may be converted to a T-34/57.B by adding a longer gun barrel. The 57 mm L.73 gun has better armour penetration than the 76 mm L.42.|
|Armed with the 76 mm L.42 gun; improved optics and turret design.|
|Similar to the above, but with a larger hexagonal turret with twin hatches. The German nickname was «Mickey Mouse», because both hatches would pop open when the tank was knocked out. For reasons of production economy, the vehicle had only 45 mm of sloped frontal armour.|
|Similar to the above, but with some production differences, most noticeable of which were the all metal wheels. The Fujimi T-34/85 may be downgraded to represent this earlier version. Spare turrets with twin hatches are available from Vac-U-Cast.|
|Similar to the above, but with some production differences again.|
|Used as an assault tank. The vehicle was similar to the above, but it had additional frontal armour. The ESCI T-34/76.F may be uparmoured with plastic card to meet this specification.|
|T-34/85||ESCI 8626; AER 72009||Airfix; Fujimi 76009|
|Armed with the 85 mm L.54 gun. Some of these vehicles were upgrades of older T-34s, including T-34/76.A. The Airfix model is a retrofitted T-34/76.B, Fujimi offers a retrofitted T-34/76.D/E/F.|
|This vehicle is basically a T-54 hull with a T-34/85 or KV-85 turret, it had 75 mm of vertical side armour and 90 mm of sloped frontal armour. The vehicle had no hull LMG. T-44/85 did not prove very successful, it was only used in limited numbers from late 1944 onwards. Mobility was very good.|
|Armed with the 100 mm L.56 gun, it was more than a match for Panther and Tiger I tanks. The T-44/100 saw limited action in 1945, a very modern tank with excellent mobility.|
|Developed from the T-44 series, this vehicle sported over 100 mm of armour. T-54 tanks still served in the Gulf War.|
The table list 1:72 and 1:76 scale model kits which match the historic variants of the T-34. Most of the important types are available, and there are a number of turret conversion kits on the market today which add even more variety.
Andrew Mark Reid