soviet-steel

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2B1 Oka & 2A1 Kondensator Nuclear Artillery

Some of the most monstrous SPGs to ever developed surpassed only by the Karl-Gerat, these artillery systems are in the same vein as the US M65 “Atomic Annie” atomic cannon. These were highly impractical weapons and served  as better propaganda than actual nuclear delivery systems. By 1960 they’d been replaced by tactical ballistic missiles such as the 2K6 Luna.

2A1 Kondensator: Pictures 1 through 4. Developed in response to the M65 atomic cannon. Over 65 tons and sporting a 406mm gun with a maximum range of 25 km. Steven J. Zaloga erroneously reports the caliber to be 310 mm. At any rate, a colossal beast developed in 1956. Only four were produced and they were retired by the mid-1960s. 

2B1 Oka: Pictures 5 through 7. Fifty-three tons of Soviet steel and overcompensation. The barrel is over 20 m long and fires a 420 mm, 750 kg projectile, conventional or nuclear, over 45 km. Due to the size of the projectile its practical rate of fire was one round every five minutes. Testing revealed that the recoil was too strong for many components: it damaged drive sprockets, tore the gear-box away from its mountings, etc. and the sheer length and size rendered it incredibly difficult to transport

“The design requirements of the early 1950s resulted in a spate of new nuclear artillery systems in 1956-57. Two self-propelled artillery systems were developed on a common chassis by the Central Artillery Design Bureau: the SU-310 [2B1] mechanized super-heavy gun and the related SU-420 [2A1] mechanized superheavy mortar. Both weapons were paraded in Moscow from 1957 and were crowd pleasers if only for their gargantuan proportions. They did not prove to be tactically successful and their further production was curtailed by Nikita Khrushchev’s personal disapproval.” 

-Steven J. Zaloga and James W. Loop’s book “Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles: 1946 to Present,” p. 128, 1987

The Rocket Launcher Heard Round The World: The RPG-7 - 40mm

The RPG-7, a weapon that has become as infamous as the AK-47. To the NATO soldier, it’s the weapon they loathe. From the sands of the Middle East to the mud of Southeast Asia, it’s one of the most prevalent rocket launchers in the world.

The RPG-7 begins back to the dust and rubble of World War II. In the span of 4-5 years anti-tank weapons went from single shot high caliber rifles to a number of different explosive options. The US had the Bazooka series, the Commonwealth had the PIAT, the Germans had developed the big changer, the Panzerfaust.

This German single-shot anti-tank weapon had managed to become the bain of the Allied Armor Corps. It’s basic idea was a hollow shaped charge that on detonation would become a super-hot ball of plasma that would go through tank armor like butter. And while it didn’t stop the Allied victory, the USSR took it’s basic idea as well as the prototype for the Panzerfaust 250, a reloadable model with them and made the RPG-2.

The RPG-2 was the first, but it had limited armor piercing capabilities and soon faded into second-line use by most of the ComBloc when in 1961 the RPG-7 was made.

The RPG-7 was and is a absurdly simple rocket launcher. The rocket is fired via a hammer mounted on the grip that hits a firing pin that hits the powder charge in the rocket, this launches it out of the launcher before it activates the actual rocket, sending it far into a car, tank or window.

With the launcher came a number of rockets. These include the iconic PG-7V and VM, with a penetration of 280mm of reinforced steel armor, the PG-7VR tandem warhead which ups penetration to 500mm. The offensive OG-7 and TBG-7V for use against troops, though a lot of AT rounds are used for the same purpose. The most recent rocket is the GSh-7VT, a bunker buster round.

Ever since, the RPG-7 has been the most successful rocket launcher ever made. Production has been varied, but almost always at around 9 million launchers and millions more rounds. It’s the standard issue rocket launcher for the former Soviet states, countless Middle Eastern countries, African armies and Asian militaries rely on the RPG as their AT weapon. Russia makes them today with little design change over the original Soviet models. 

Insurgencies have relied on the RPG-7 as their rocket of choice. It’s reasonably lightweight, very cheap and very powerful against tanks and cars. Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon and more have seen the RPG-7 used by insurgent forces. It started all the way in Vietnam by the NVA and VC and has continued to this day.

With manufacturers from Romania to Iran, some modified copies have been made, including the Chinese Type 69 and the Airtonic RPG-7. But neither can supplant the RPG-7 in service. It’s an icon of the 3rd World. The bridge between the irregular and the insurgency. It’s the bane to the NATO standard, and it’s a common sight everywhere.

The RPG-7 and the movie have gone together ever since the 1980′s. While in the early movies such as Back To The Future and Red Dawn used mockups, modern movies have used real steel Soviet RPG-7′s as well as Type 69′s and Airtonic RPG’s. Any movie showing an opposing force almost guarantees that an RPG-7 will show up. The Somalian irregulars of Black Hawk Down, the RUF of Blood Diamond, the MNU of District 9, they all share something in common. They all use an RPG-7.

With a prolific use by the 2nd and 3rd World, the RPG-7 is a common sight in video games. Most games based on modern combat feature it as the standard arm for the opposing force, whether it be a real life terrorist organization, Russian ultra-nationalists, in-general Islamic terrorist style soldiers, and otherwise. Open world games use it as their launcher of choice, given the RPG-7′s prevalence in the illegal arms circuit. Whether it’s Smash Brothers or Battlefield, the RPG’s familiar shape will always be there.

And that is the RPG-7, the most common rocket launcher ever made. It’s an icon from the real world to the virtual world and it hasn’t stopped since 1961. It’s the Soviet’s answer to the M72 LAW, simplicity over technical, mass produced to every Soviet client state and then some. From the IRA to the NVA to the Crips, it’s big, loud and really powerful.

Some say the devil is dead, the devil is dead, devil is dead. Some say the devil is dead and buried in Kilarney. More say he rose again, more say he rose again, more say he rose again and joined the British Army!”

3

The not so mighty Soviet T-35 Heavy Tank,

The Soviet T-35 tank was one of those ideas that was great in concept but not so great in practical application.  During the 1920′s and 1930′s, a short lived popular design concept was the “landship” design, basically the idea was to have an exceptionally large tank with multiple turrets and machine guns.  Essentially a land bound gunboat, the landship could engage multiple enemies with it’s many weapons, blasting through and plowing through all opposition with its firepower and armor.  The T-35 was the ultimate application of the landship concept.  Its main armament was a 76.2mm gun mounted on a 360 degree turret.  Two secondary guns of 45mm caliber were mounted on the front and back, and bristling all over the tank were at least six 7.62mm machine guns.  At a weight of 45 tons, it was among the heaviest tanks in the world by 1930′s standards, it was also almost 10 meters long, 3.2 meters wide, and 3.4 meters high.  Its thickest armor, at the front, was 30mm thick, with the rear and sides being 11mm thick.  It took a crew of 11 to man and operate this giant steel behemoth.

While the T-35 was certainly an impressive sight, a metal monster with an aura of strength and indestructibility, in reality the T-35 was an inherently flawed design.  While having a steel beast bristling with guns may seem badass, in reality each and every gun turret and machine gun port was a weak point in the tank’s armor which could be targeted and exploited.  While the T-35 might appear monstrous on the outside, in the inside it was cramped and claustrophobic.  On paper the T-35 could manage a speed of 30 KPH, in realistic combat conditions the tank could only manage a slow crawl. In combat, smaller tanks could easily outmaneuver and overwhelm such a slow hulking vehicle.   Due to its long length, large width, and overall large size, it was not uncommon for the T-35 to become saddlebagged on hills or stuck in trenches. Turning and maneuvering this gigantic vehicle must have hell for the driver.  The greatest failure of the T-35 was its mechanics.  Often, the T-35 suffered terrible reliability issues, constantly breaking down and requiring ridiculous amounts of maintenance from its crew.  Finally, the T-35 was difficult to produce, using up a lot of resources and work hours to manufacture.

Production of the T-35 began in 1935 and ended 1938, only 61 were produced.  By 1940 the flaws of the T-35 became apparent to the Soviet Red Army, which planned to relegate their use to training vehicles and parade vehicles, or convert them into self propelled artillery pieces.  However in 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and there was a desperate need for combat vehicles as the war was going badly for the Soviets at the time.  The 61 T-35 tanks were assigned to the 67th and 68th tank regiments of the 34th tank division.  90% of those tanks broke down and were scuttled by their own crews before entering combat.  Most of the break downs were due to transition problems. One was captured by the Germans and shipped to Germany for testing and examination.  I doubt the Germans had a high opinion of their prized Soviet steel turd.  The last combat action of T-35 occurred during the Battle of Moscow.  Today only one T-35 survives, on display at the Kubinka Tank Museum near Moscow.

Portrait of a young Soviet POW in a steel breastplate SN-42, made of 2mm steel (.08") and weighing 3.5 kg (7.7 lbs), captured by Finnish troops during the Finnish-Soviet Continuation War. A testament to the breastplate’s effectiveness, the young soldier had been shot three times in the chest and left unharmed. Near Syskyjärvi, Karelia, Finland (now, Syuskyuyarvi, Republic of Karelia, Russia.) 15 July 1944. Image taken by Esko Töyri.

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Portrait of a young Soviet POW in a steel breastplate SN-42, made of 2mm steel (.08") and weighing 3.5 kg (7.7 lbs), captured by Finnish troops during the Finnish-Soviet Continuation War. A testament to the breastplate’s effectiveness, the young soldier had been shot three times in the chest and left unharmed. Near Syskyjärvi, Karelia, Finland (now, Syuskyuyarvi, Republic of Karelia, Russia.) 15 July 1944. Image taken by Esko Töyri.