T-43 Medium Tank – The Iron Triangle Sweet spot…. Or not?

T-43 Medium Tank – The Iron Triangle Sweet spot…. Or not?

T-43 Medium Tank – The Iron Triangle Sweet spot…. Or not?
With Adam Brooker
The new Eastern Front compilation brings us a peculiar cousin of the T-34, a tank that was trying to find the sweet spot between firepower, protection, and mobility, what the US calls the Iron Triangle, but did it find it? Or was it lacking?The T-43 tank, was a proposed Soviet medium tank design, with heavier armour than the T-34, so it could replace both the T-34 and KV-1 tank. It was thought that if they could improve the armour of the tank, but keep the mobility of the T-34, they could just produce one tank design, instead of two different medium and heavy tank designs.

In 1941 and early 1942 German tanks with only the short barrelled 75mm and 50mm guns, had great difficulty in dealing with the T-34 tanks unless at very short range or hitting it in the flanks, and they had absolutely no real way to deal with the heavier armoured KV-1 and KV-2 tanks… They often had to use the 88mm Flak 36 or demolition charges to destroy them, with many cases of stubborn KV tanks holding up the German advance in Operation Barbarossa for days until they could be dealt with, or whole companies of lighter German tanks being mauler by a few KV-1s in a good position and plenty of ammunition…

The Germans were shocked that the Soviets had such advanced tanks and even more shocked that the weapons in their own tanks were so ineffective in stopping them, but they soon had the answer, and that was to up-gun the Panzer IV which had been previously designated as a support tank, with the 75mm infantry gun, the Pak 40. It was modified to fit in a tank turret and was first put in the Panzer IV F2 variant, with a round muzzle break.

In May 1942 Soviet armour started to face German Panzer IV tanks fielding the long 75mm KwK 40 L/43 gun, which could penetrate frontally the T-34 at range, and could even defeat the armour of the KV-1 at short ranges. The Soviets had realised the Germans had found a solution to the T-34, and were now looking at ways to either increase its protection, or increase its firepower. The T-43 attempted to do both. The designers were asked to design a “Universal Tank”, which would include the armour of a Heavy tank, and the mobility of the T-34, and two design bureaus were tasked with solving this.

The SKB-2 Bureau, came up with the KV-13 heavy tank at the Kirov Plant, which would eventually become the IS-2 series of tanks two years later, while the Morozov Design Bureau in the Uralvagonzavod complex, who had designed the T-34, were able draw on their work with the cancelled T-34M project, to create the T-43. The advanced T-34M design had improved hull armour, a hexagonal turret and improved fuel and ammunition storage, but it had been cancelled when the USSR was invaded by the Germans.  

The first protype was produced in March 1943, and still kept the 4 crew of the T-34, but instead of the forward MG/radio operator and  Commander/Gunner, Loader and Driver layout due to the cramped 2-man turret on the early T-34, the T-43 had an enlarged 3-man turret, and removed the forward hull mounted machine gun for more armour. 

 T-43 Medium Tank – The Iron Triangle Sweet spot…. Or not?

The first protype was produced in March 1943, and still kept the 4 crew of the T-34, but instead of the forward MG/radio operator and Commander/Gunner, Loader and Driver layout due to the cramped 2-man turret on the early T-34, the T-43 had an enlarged 3-man turret, and removed the forward hull mounted machine gun for more armour.

It corrected a lot of the errors in the T-34, the enlarged 3-man turret with commanders’ cupola and radio allowed the tank commander to focus on commanding the tank and spotting targets, and not trying to be both gunner and commander unsuccessfully in the smaller turret. German tank commanders had noticed previously that T-34s took a very long time to find and engage targets, with German tanks often being able to fire 3 rounds for every 1 fired by a T-34.  

The commander’s cupola also allowed the Soviet tank commander a more protected viewing position, and gave them a better field of view than the small vision slit previously. The larger turret also allowed room for the loader and gunner to work together un-impeded, and while a larger target, it was more heavily armoured, with 90mm of armour compared to the 60mm of armour in the T-34. It also importantly allowed them to possibly fit a larger gun in this turret, which will become relevant later on.

The overall armour was also increased, as mentioned the turret armour was increased to 90mm, and the sloped front armour was increased from 47mm to 60mm at 60°, and the side armour was increased to 75mm from 60mm previously. It still retained the same 76mm gun as the T-34, and only have one co-axial machine gun in the turret, and for ease of production it still shared 70% of its parts from the T-34. 

Also, while there was space to put a larger more effective 85mm gun into the turret of the T-43, the extra armour added to the hull was putting it close to its weight limit. The additional weight of the 85mm gun would decrease the mobility too much, a  nd it would not be able to fulfill its design criteria.

 T-43 Medium Tank – The Iron Triangle Sweet spot…. Or not?

Unfortunately testing at Kubinka had shown that it could not beat the mobility of the T-34, with a slightly slower top speed 48 km/h compared to 53 km/h, the extra armour slowing the vehicle and while it was capable of defeating the long 75mm guns of the Panzer IVs at range, the larger 88mm guns starting to be fielded on the Tiger, Ferdinand and Hornisse would still defeat the frontal armour of this tank at ranges exceeding 1000m. It was also seen after Kursk that the 76mm gun on the T-34, and T-43 is now insufficient, with much tougher and more common German designs like the Tiger or Panther almost impervious to the 76mm gun, unless using expensive and rare Tungsten rounds at shorter ranges. So it was seen by the Soviets that a more effective gun was more preferrable than thicker armour and reduced mobility.

The Germans had shown while having double the production capacity of the Soviet Union, had by focusing on multiple technically superior tanks tank designs, suffered a string of logistical and production issues and actually stunted their output. In contrast the Soviets had chosen to maximise productivity, with a standard design, while improving their main tank design considerably, to the effect that the Soviets could produce 1,200 T-34/85 tanks a month, compared to the Germans producing only 180 Panther tanks a month. 

 T-43 Medium Tank – The Iron Triangle Sweet spot…. Or not?

As can be seen above, in game the T-43 does have a stronger frontal armour, with the same weapon and no Overworked penalty, but it pays for this with slower Dash speeds and a worse cross rating over difficult terrain. It will also have one less MG shot, so a RoF 3 MG instead of the RoF 4 MG in the T-34. I suspect a lot of players will make this trade, especially for the extra front armour and no longer having the Overworked penalty, so you will be able to advance and still have a reasonable chance to hit on the move, although you will still be 3+ to hit.

 T-43 Medium Tank – The Iron Triangle Sweet spot…. Or not?
 T-43 Medium Tank – The Iron Triangle Sweet spot…. Or not?

 As a comparison, three Hero T-34 are 24 points, while three T-43 are 28 points, the extra 2 front armour, 1 side armour, and no Overworked penalty for only 4 more points, to me is a price I’m willing to pay. 4 T-43 medium tanks are 38 points which with another cheap unit could easily be made into your 40 point reserve option in Missions that require reserves.

The T-43 for me is the best fast medium tank option for the Soviets on the Eastern Front in Midwar, The FA of 8 means it will shrug off most other medium tanks at range, and its speed allows it to close quickly. It also still has the excellent 12” tactical move, which may not seem like a lot, but if you push your movement values, and make the most of it, two turns of 12”, or a dash and a tactical move (32”) will hopefully be enough to turn what would have been a front armour shot, into a flank shot. You can also now fire on the move effectively with the loss of Overworked in the larger turret.

The Formation itself gives you some decent options of other tanks to take alongside the T-43, with Hero T-34s, Hero T-70s, and Hero Valentines also being an option in the 2nd and 3rd armour slots. The cheaper options like the Hero Valentine or T-70 can fill out your formation and at the same time fill a useful role, eg the T-70 could be used to intimidate armoured cars or infantry platoons, or the Valentine could be used to sit back and help hold the objective while still having decent AT and armour.

You also have the Hero SMG and 82mm mortar company, which I would b taking 6 x 82mm Mortars and the largest 7 stand Hero SMG company, for 10 points. The SMGs to hold the objective and the mortars to help take out anti-tank guns or infantry or gun teams not dug in, provided they can range in of course.

You can certainly take this formation up to 100 points if you wanted, but some extra support, maybe some multi-use SU-76 assault guns and more artillery can help this formation as well. Another large infantry platoon can help to. 

For me the T-43 is a welcome upgrade to the T-34, I don’t think it would have had the effect the T-34/85 did late into the war, but in this period of the war it is still very effective with its mix of speed, armour and firepower. I will be getting a few of these for sure!