During the 1930′s and early years of World War II, the Soviet Union had a reputation for making some really monstrous metal beasts. During Operation Barbarossa and the subsequent Battle of Moscow, German commanders and tankers were often shocked at the steel behemoths that made mincemeat of their piddly little Panzers, tanks such as the famed T-34 and KV-1. However the Soviets also had a reputation for building tanks that were so large that they were impractical and self defeating. The KV-2 tank was one result of that legacy.
Built upon the chassis of the KV-1 heavy tank, the KV-2 was certainly a vehicle that stood out on the battlefield with its unusually large turret. The turret of the KV-2 was large because it was needed to house an exceptionally large gun, a 152mm howitzer. Unlike other tanks of its size, the KV-2 was not really a tank designed to fight muzzle to muzzle with other tanks or spearheading an advance, rather it was an assault gun developed to destroy enemy pillboxes, bunkers, and other heavily armed fortifications. However the KV-2 was equipped with armor piercing rounds as well as high explosives, which would have surely turned any tank to suffer its wrath into a molten pile of scrap metal.
While the KV-2 certainly looks badass, and would have been a frightening sight to any untrained enemy, when it was used against the Germans during World War II its weaknesses were soon made apparent. Firstly the large turret of the tank made an excellent target. When you’re the largest object on the battlefield it is only natural for every enemy gun to fire upon you until you are brought down. Secondly the design of the tank was seriously flawed. The Soviets simply slapped a 12 ton turret onto the chassis of the KV-1 tank. Equipped with 12 cylinder diesel with an output of 550 horsepower, the engine could not handle the extra 12 tons of weight. Hence the KV-2 (45 tons total) was under-powdered and slow, with a maximum speed of 15 MPH in ideal conditions. In combat conditions it was more like 5MPH, with mud and rugged terrain hampering, if not completely negating its mobility. The extra 12 tons put incredible stress on the engine and transmission, thus breakdowns and mechanical problems were common. Thus what resulted was a monstrous behemoth that was slow, unwieldy, unreliable, expensive, and a drain on resources.
Because of its failures, the KV-2 was only produced in 1940, with 255 being manufactured. There was a plan to build a similar tanks called the KV-3, which would have been armed with a larger 170mm high velocity gun, but it was scrapped before production.
Captain Otto Schultze, the Captain of the German tanker Friederich Breme, being interrogated on board HMS Sheffield by Royal Marine officers after her sinking by the British cruiser, North Atlantic - 12th June 1941