In March 1944, the U.S. Army began developing a new tank to counter the Panzer 6B “King Tiger,” as the M26 Pershing was rightly seen as inadequate to properly deal with it. The T29 had a larger 105mm gun mounted in a turret with a coincidence rangefinder (hence the “ears”), and its hull was a lengthened, up-armoured version of the M26. Since the war was over before trials could be completed, the T29 never saw combat, but continued to serve as a test-bed for heavier weapons and more advanced automotive components, leading to the T30 and T34 heavy tanks, and, ultimately, the M103 heavy tank.
The ISU-122 was produced at the same time as the IS-1 and IS-2 heavy tanks, and had the advantages of being much simpler to construct, while also carrying more ammunition. This was a significant wartime advantage, but the ISU-122 simply didn’t have the versatility of a tank. A second version, the ISU-122S, had a semi-automatic breech block, and thus a faster rate of fire, but it still offered no significant advantage once the war was over. Unlike its contemporary, the ISU-152 self-propelled artillery gun, most of both variants of the ISU-122 were converted into engineering tanks or mobile command bunkers.
The second version of the “beast killer,” the ISU-152 took the exact same idea behind the SU-152 and improved on it slightly. The taller, more rectangular casemate could hold more ammunition and provided more room for the crew to work. The extra room allowed for several experimental super-heavy tank destroyers to be built on the platform, such as the ISU-152-1, which was armed with the 8-metre-long 152,4mm BL-8 cannon. Such a vehicle was meant to be a dedicated tank destroyer, for use against the heaviest of German vehicles. However, the BL-8 was longer than optimal, so the shorter BL-10 actually had a higher muzzle velocity, and was put on the ISU-152-2. Neither of these vehicles were seen as particularly practical, possibly because the Panzer 8 “Maus” never entered combat. Unlike its predecessor, the ISU-152 was still seen as a useful self-propelled artillery device well after the war, and a modernised version, ISU-152K, entered production in 1956. This version had a different engine deck, improved armour, and many internal components, including the engine, taken from the T-54 medium tank. A second modernised version, ISU-152M, entered production in 1959, though it appears to be identical to the original on the outside, with only internal differences setting it apart.
After the successive experiments with turretless vehicles on the KV chassis under the nomenclature of KV-7 and KV-14, the SU-152 finally entered production in February of 1943. Because of the problems with ventilating the fumes from the enormous 152,4mm ML-20 howitzer, additional ventilation domes were installed beginning in September. Production of the “beast killer,” as this vehicle is commonly known, then switched over to the IS-series chassis in December.
The above photos show the two different models, in unpainted grey resin, and painted. In both photos, the early-mid production model is on the left, the late production model is on the right.
The British Army used many different bridgelaying tanks, including those built on the chassis of the Valentine Mk 3 infantry tank. The Valentine bridgelayer in particular was supplied to the Red Army through the lend-lease act. The model I currently have available is based on the example preserved at the Kubinka Tank Museum, which appears to have wheels from later Valentine models on it.
The T-100 was a Soviet land battleship project developed in competition, and very similar, to the SMK. Both were meant as a successor to the unreliable and horribly outdated T-35, another multi-turret monstrosity. After the SMK proved to be more trouble than it was worth during the Winter War, several proposals were drawn up to partially dismantle and re-build the T-100. Of those, the T-100Y was chosen, leading to the vehicle we know today as the SU-100Y. The full story of the tank’s development is documented here, but only in Russian.
The second flamethrower tank to be built from a modified KV-1, the KV-8 was also unique, at least for its time. Unlike most of its contemporaries, the KV-8 had an ATO-41 flamethrower mounted in its turret. Unfortunately, there was no room for both a 76mm gun breach and the flamethrower, so the KV-8 was armed with a 45mm cannon inside a dummy tube. The dummy tube is a good bit shorter than any version of the 76mm gun that the KV-1 used, so I don’t know how well it could have fooled anyone. The KV-8S was built at the same time with the same idea, placing an ATO-42 flamethrower in a modified KV-1S. 25 of these were built, along with 42 of the former, and 2 prototypes of the KV-8M, which was armed with a pair of flamethrowers.
When the Wehrmacht attacked Leningrad, they were met with some of the most powerful tanks in the world at the time: the Kirov prototypes. Among these were at least two KV-1s, already dreaded machines, armed with flamethrowers mounted in boxes beside the driver. Unlike other heavy flamethrower tanks, the KV-6 is not missing its hull machine gun. According to some sources, only one such tank was built, while others claim four were built. Photographs show at least two of these tanks were built, one of which was badly damaged by German forces, and the other captured.
Beginning in 1945, several new tank designs were drawn up to replace the IS-2. Object 703 was not the first new design, but it was the first to enter production, hence its designation of IS-3. It did not leave the factories in time to see any fighting, but it was present at the victory parade in Berlin, where it drew the concerned gaze of the other Allied powers.
Nothing about the IS-3 was particularly unique, but both the execution and combination of certain design elements seemed, at first glance, to be quite effective. For instance, the pike nose had first appeared on the A7V, then again on the A38 Valiant. Round turrets were certainly not unique either, but no tank turret had such a low profile or angles so severe before. Finally, the 122mm gun was the new standard for Soviet heavy tanks, making up for a low rate of fire with sheer power. All that said, the IS-3 was not nearly as reliable as its predecessor, and was terribly cramped, even by Soviet standards. A modernised version was produced in the 1950s that addressed some of the problems with this tank, but it was ultimately replaced with the T-10, at which time most IS-3s were sold to either Egypt or Syria, where they performed quite poorly.
With Germany’s rather abrupt defeat in 1945, the Wehrmacht simply abandoned most of their equipment, leaving whoever came across it to do with it as they pleased. The French took advantage of all the abandoned panzers, particularly the Tigers, and used them as a basis to make their own new generation of tanks. This heavy tank project was the AMX M4. Initial designs looked almost identical to the German examples, but then changed significantly as they were up-gunned to counter contemporary Soviet tanks.
British soldiers referred to any AFV armed with the Royal Ordinance QF 17-pounder anti-tank gun as a Firefly, not simply the most famous tank to mount such a gun. In fact, the Sherman Firefly probably wouldn’t even exist if not for the delays in developing a tank around such a weapon in the first place. Other vehicles to mount the QF 17-pounder include the Archer, a turretless tank destroyer built on a Valentine chassis, and the A30 Challenger.
Easily confused with the T-34-85 at a distance, the IS-2 enjoys the similar distinction of being the most widely produced heavy tank of all time. The initial version was nothing more than an up-gunned IS-1, with the turret modified slightly to fit the larger 122mm D25T rifled tank gun. This rare initial production variant is the IS-2 M1943. Tanks produced from 1944 onward used a different hull, distinguished by the single glacis plate in the front, though there are other differences as well. Though the 1944 model is far more common, both variants received a modernisation kit beginning in the early 1950s. A modernised 1943 variant is currently on display at a museum in Poland. There are a remarkable number of photographs from the Battle of Berlin showing both models of the IS-2 missing their fenders, having apparently been removed before they could be damaged. For this reason, I have made these available for sale as well.