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Soviet heavy tanks were a thorn in the side of the German Army throughout the war. Their armour was almost invulnerable to most German anti-tank weapons and their guns were more than adequate to deal with most German tanks.
GABTU (Main Directorate of Armoured Forces) was determined to maintain this state of affairs. The SKB 2 heavy tank design bureau in Chelyabinsk started the KV 13 program to build a heavy tank with both sufficient mobility and heavier armour.
N V Tseits, recently released from a Gulag concentration camp, headed the project with his old colleague K I Kuzmin working on the hull design. Using castings to get a better shaped tank, his team delivered a tank ten tons lighter than the KV, despite having better armour. Unfortunately its performance was lacking and the project was cancelled.
Iosef Stalin Heavy Tank
On Tseits’ death, N F Shamshurin took over the project. A new transmission, cooling system and lightened tracks solved many of the KV-13’s problems. Meanwhile Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, for whom the KV tank was named, was in disgrace, so the KV-13 was renamed IS-1 in honour of Iosef Stalin, the Soviet leader. One of the oddities of the new tank was a fixed-mounted machine-gun for the driver to replace the one fired by the co-driver in previous heavy tanks. While certainly an interesting concept, the practical usefulness of this machine-gun was nil.
The capture of a Tiger tank in late 1942 led to the April 1943 order to install an 85mm gun in the new IS-1 tank. This required a whole new turret and the lengthening of the hull with an additional road wheel to take the extra weight. The IS-85 as it was now known shared this turret with the KV 85 that was produced while IS-85 production got under way.
This was not the end of the up-gunning. The Battle of Kursk led to the demand for an even bigger gun on the IS chassis that eventually led to the IS-2 armed with a 122mm gun.
Hypothetical Combat Service
The first IS-85 heavy tanks were delivered by the Chelyabinsk Kirov Plant in October 1943. These were issued to Guards Heavy Tank Regiments reforming after the summer’s heavy fighting. The IS-85 heavy tank was issued to 1st, 8th, and 13th Guards Heavy Tank Regiments fighting in the Ukraine. These units were heavily engaged in early 1944 at Starokonstantinov, Korsun-Shevshenkovskiy and Fastov Station west of Kiev.
Designation: Tyazhyeliy Tank, IS-85
Crew: 4 (cdr, gnr, ldr, dvr)
Armament: 1 x 85mm D-5T tank gun; 3 x DT 7.62mm machine-gun
Armour Thickness: 30mm to 120mm
Engine: V-2 12-cylinder diesel; 2368cu in/39 litres, 600hp Suspension: Transverse torsion bar
Maximum Speed: 25mph/40km/h
Road Radius: 93 miles/150km
Vertical Obstacle: 3’3”/1.0m
Trench Crossing: 8’2”/2.5m
The Stalin heavy tank is the pinnacle of Soviet heavy tank design. Innovative casting technology allowed Soviet engineers to make it faster and more reliable than older designs, yet with as thick or thicker armour. The latest 85mm D-5T tank gun gives it more flexibility than the earlier super-heavy tanks, yet retains excellent anti-tank performance capable of knocking out any enemy tank in existence.
In Flames Of War
The IS-85 heavy tank combines the gun of the KV-85 heavy tank with thicker armour and greater mobility. It can take on the German Tiger heavy tank one-on-one and expect to win.
ROF 2; Anti-tank 12; Firepower 3+
Front 10; Side 8; Top 2
With such a high proportion of officers in the company, Guards Heavy Tank Companies use more sophisticated tactics than most Soviet troops. They are not affected by the Hen and Chicks special rule.