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The heavy armour of the latest Soviet tank designs ensured that they made a major impact on the battlefield, even in the hands of the hastily-trained conscripts that were all that was available after the disasters of 1941. When the Germans started fielding tanks armed with new long-barrelled 7.5cm guns, there was an urgent need for a better armoured and easier to use tank than the T-34 medium tank.
In June 1942, the GABTU (Main Directorate of Armoured Forces) ordered work to begin on two prototypes. The SKB 2 heavy tank design bureau in Chelyabinsk started the KV-13 program, which eventually became the IS-1 heavy tank. The Morozov Design Bureau that had been responsible for the T-34, now working at the Uralvagonzavod complex, developed the T-43 based on the advanced T-34M project, which had been cancelled in 1941 when Germany invaded the USSR. The first prototype T-43 was finally completed in March 1943. Thicker armour means a heavier tank, so the designers made the tank as small as possible to minimise the amount of armour needed.
The bulky Christie suspension was dropped for a more space efficient torsion bar suspension, the engine was mounted transversely, and the turret was pushed as far forward on the hull as possible to shorten the crew compartment. The turret had a three-man crew and a cupola giving the commander all-round vision for the first time on a Soviet medium tank.
The first two prototypes were sent to the NKSM Independent Tank Company for combat trials in the middle of 1943 and recommended the T-43 for production to replace the T-34.
Hypothetical Combat Service
The first units of the new T-43 were just entering service as the Battle of Kursk began. They were rushed to the front to fight with 5th Guards Tank Army in its successful counterattack at Prokhorovka. There they proved far superior to the old T-34 and all German medium tanks.
Unfortunately the appearance of large numbers of German heavy Tiger, Panther and Ferdinand tanks highlighted the need for a bigger gun as well as heavier armour. The compact form of the T-43 prevented it from accepting a bigger turret and production was eventually phased out in favour of the re-armed T-34/85 with a long 85mm gun.
T-43 Medium Tank Specifications
Designation: Sredniy Tank, T-43
Crew: 4 (cdr, gnr, ldr, dvr)
Armament: 1x 76.2mm F-34 tank gun; 1x DT 7.62mm machine-gun
Armour Thickness: 16mm to 90mm
Engine: V-2 12-cylinder diesel; 2368cu in/39 litres, 500hp
Suspension: Transverse torsion bar
Maximum Speed: 30mph/48km/h
Road Radius: 186 miles/300km
In Flames Of War
The T-43 medium tank combines the best features of a heavy tank with the mobility of a medium tank. With 90mm of frontal armour, the T-43 has nothing to fear from any enemy medium tank. Safe behind their thick armour, a full ten-tank company has the firepower to shatter almost any resistance in short order.
ROF 2; Anti-tank 9; Firepower 3+
Front 8; Side 7; Top 1