“FORMOCHKA” from Polygon №1 - 2000
M.Svirin - tr. Scott Fraser
“While all hexagonal turrets of the model 1943 T-34 were basically similar in appearance, there were slight assembly differences between them. The most easily recognizable among them was produced at ChTZ. The whole upper turret was a single casting with a pronounced rounding around all edges of the turret roof and a peculiar dip along the lower edge of the turret…” This quotation is taken from the monograph “T -34 In Action”, authored by Steve Zaloga and James Grandsen (Janusz Magnuski). We cite it here because from the moment of its appearance in print until today it appears the certain “ultimate source” for all new authors since that time who have taken up the history of the T-34. In this phrase are not less than three gross errors, two of which relate to “the ChTZ” turret. Meanwhile this turret is sufficiently interesting to dedicate to it a separate (let and small) narration, supported by the release of authentic documents and subject illustrations.
First, before telling you about the history of this interesting item, let me explain that ChTZ had no relation to its creation. The turret was born at UZTM (Ural Heavy Machinery Plant im. Sergo Ordzhonikidze), more commonly known as Uralmashzavod, and they were produced only there.
On October 31, 1941 by order of GOKO, Uralmashzavod was involved with the production of armoured hulls for the T-34 and the KV. However, before March 1942, in view of the lack of readiness of some subdivisions of the plant, it issued only kits of cut armoured hull components, assembled at Zavods № 112 (“Krasnoe Sormovo”) and № 183 (UTZ im. Stalin). On March 21, 1942 the factory obtained a new task from the People's Commissariat with respect to the complete assembly of hulls and the production of T-34 turrets. In April UZTM produced the first T-34 armored hulls, which were sent to ChTZ and UTZ. At the same time, the reconstructed foundry shops began to master casting turrets for the T-34 and KV.
In summer 1942 the Front around Stalingrad formed an extreme position that threatened the quick loss of city and the curtailment of tank production there. On July 28, GOKO order № 2120 required UZTM to begin production T-34 at its facility from October 1, 1942; and also to double deliveries of turrets in view of the stoppage of the plant of № 264 (Stalingrad Shipyard).
The foundry shops of Uralmash, occupied with casting KV and T-34 turrets began to reach exhaustion, without managing the increased program of rabid production. A shortage began to be apparent of molding sand, “liquid armor”. The introduction of new hexagonal turret for T-34, widely known as the “nut” for the different simpler form, postponed the crisis somewhat, but it could not relieve it completely. The attempt to organize the production of welded turrets at the factory failed, since the cost and production time per unit of output without using welding machines was excessive.
In the middle of month at a conference of the technological-design services of the plant, the group of OGK designers (Chief Designer - L. Gorlitskiy) proposed to use the 10000-tonne press for the production of the components of T-34 and KV turrets, which was being used to stamp turbine blades. Director N. Muzurukov supported the proposal and to his own fear and the risk ordered group to develop the construction of partially stamped and completely stamped turrets.
After the examination of the proposed projects, the version developed By I. Vakhruev and V. Ananev was selected. At the end of the month the turret mock-up and detailed description were presented for the consideration of the OGK NKTP. The directors of NKTP were initially cool to the project, since that spring attempt to used rolled armour of average and greater thickness were catastrophic. However, toward the end of summer 1942 the situation with output of 45 mm armour plate improved, with rigid standardization, and rigorous control of the process, but the supply of 60 mm plate, from which it was proposed to stamp turret cupolas, was still inadequate. Therefore according to the agreement with OGK NKTP, in September the project was reworked to use 45 mm plate. The matrix and punch for production of the first turret were finished in the middle of month. On September 19 the first three turret cupolas, called by factory workers “formochka”, were stamped from armored plates of average hardness. Experiment showed that in spite of the statements of skeptics, the cupola came out in one piece, without breaks, deformations and cracks. Heat treatment also did not lead to additional problems, but the main thing, the shell-resistant properties of the stamped cupola proved to be better than even the very of best cast turret, in spite of the smaller wall thickness. Its cost, which at 5000 rubles exceeded that of casting, would argue against the turrets at first glance, but labour productivity with stamped turrets was much higher.
On October 1, 1942 the series production of stamped turrets began. In the course of production, the construction of turret changed twice, at least. The first change occurred in December 1942. The essence is unknown, but the cost of the die was reduced because of it, and its longevity was increased. The second change was carried out by the spring of 1943, when the plant began to conduct design work on the U-37 tank. For this the turret was increased slightly in volume so that it would be possible to use a larger turret ring. Somewhat later turrets began to be equipped with welded cupolas, installed above the gunner’s hatch.
Initially the turrets delivered were used for a series of tanks assembled by UTZM, but when UZTM was reoriented to produce SUs and production of T-34s ceased at the factory, stamped turrets together with the turrets for IS tanks went to ChTZ, where they were established on their tanks together with the cast turrets produced locally. The delivery of stamped turrets at UZTM continued until March 1, 1944; when according to plant reports, they had shipped 2050 tanks (according to the Narkomat report, 2062).