Most, though not all, of these photos have been taken in various Russian military museums, in Moscow and other locations.
T-34: The most widely produced tank of WWII. The photograph depicts the late-war T-34-85, armed with an 85mm gun. This model was introduced in 1943, as a response to the German Panther and Tiger tank, against which the 76.2mm cannon of the earlier T-34 variants was almost helpless. Another improvement introduced in the T-34-85 was a three-man turret, which considerably improved the tank's combat effectiveness. Earlier models of the tank had a two-man turret, which forced the tank commander to double as the tank's gunner, limiting his ability to direct his tank in combat. One of the improvements introduced on the three-man turret was a commander's cupola (the low cylindrical object on the turret roof, toward the near edge of the turret), which greatly enhanced the commander's ability to observe the tank's surroundings while buttoned up.
T-44: This tank was the immediate follow-on to the T-34-85. It entered service in 1945, but was not produced in large numbers. This was due to the tank's teething problems, the end of the war which reduced the Red Army's need for a new tank, and the design's inability to accommodate the 100mm tank gun. As a result, the T-44 became an intermediate step between the T-34 and the T-54.
ISU-152: A heavy assault gun on the chassis of the IS-2 heavy tank, armed with a 152mm gun-howitzer. The vehicle was capable of direct fire only, and was used mainly to reduce enemy strongpoints and other hardened targets. The cannon also had considerable armor-piercing ability, although in the AT role the ISU-152 was hampered by a low ammunition stowage capacity (only 20 rounds) and low rate of fire. ISU-152s were formed into separate regiments of 21 vehicles each, or separate brigades of 65 vehicles.
IS-2: Named after Joseph Stalin, the IS-2 was the late-war Soviet heavy tank which replaced the KV-series. Its main armament was a 122mm cannon which was a quite effective tank killer, although its AT abilities were marred by low rate of fire (up to 4 rounds per minute) and limited ammunition stowage. Nevertheless, what the gun lost in the tank-killing area it made up thanks to its powerful high-explosive round, which was very useful at destroying hardened point targets. Like the ISU-152s, IS-2 heavy tanks were formed into separate regiments of 21 vehicles each (many of which were assigned to Soviet tank and mechanized corps), or separate brigades of 65 vehicles.
T-64: The first Soviet tank to merit
the designation "main battle tank". Thanks to the combination of its powerful
125mm smoothbore gun firing APFSDS rounds and laminated armor, the T-64 was a
major technological leap forward not only in Soviet but also in the world tank
design. At the time of its introduction, few NATO tanks were capable of
penetrating its armor at reasonable battle ranges. The T-64 was upgraded several
times during its career with improved protection (including explosive reactive
armor, seen on photos 2, 3, and 4 below), fire control system, and munitions,
and served in large numbers with the divisions of the Group of Soviet Forces in
Germany (GSFG). Although it practically vanished from Russian Army service, it
continues to serve on active duty in Ukraine.
Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4
T-72: Less sophisticated, expensive
to produce, difficult to train on and maintain, the T-72 tank was introduced as
a mass-production tank to supplement the more capable and expensive T-64. These
vehicles were also exported en masse to Warsaw Pact states and other Soviet
clients, including Iraq. T-72s continue in service with the Russian Army in the
heavily upgraded T-72B variant which features better armor and improved fire
control. The T-72B also served as the point of departure for the T-90 MBT
(originally designated T-72BU), Russia's most modern MBT, that has also been
exported to India.
Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
T-80: The first (and so far, the only) Soviet gas turbine-powered tank. The T-80 entered service in the mid-1970s and was assigned mainly to high-readiness divisions facing NATO, particularly in the GSFG. The vehicle is in service with the Russian Army today, and has been exported to South Korea and Cyprus. However, after the first Chechen conflict, which allegedly 'proved' the T-80s inferior survivability to the T-72, the Russian military opted in favor of the T-90 as its main battle tank. While the T-90s superior survivability claims are doubtful, the T-90 does boast significantly lower operating costs than the T-80-series tanks, a major consideration for the cash-strapped Russian military. The photograph shows an early production model of the T-80.
BMP-2: A follow-on to the BMP-1, the BMP-2
traded the former's 73mm low-velocity gun and AT-3 'Sagger' ATGMs for a 2A42
30mm automatic cannon and AT-5 'Konkurs' ATGMs. The BMP-2's two-man turret
forced the reduction of the dismount element from 8 to 7 infantrymen. Like most
other Soviet light AFVs, the BMP-2 is amphibious. It is also, however, very
thinly protected, and its vulnerability to RPG-7 rockets was clearly shown in
Photos: 1, 2, flanked by a BTR-80 APC on the left, and a BRDM-2 scout car on the right, both vehicles equipped with a one-man turret with a 14.5mm KPVT machine gun and a 7.62mm PKT coax machine gun.
B-4M, a 203mm WW2 vintage howitzer modified after the war by replacing the original tracked chassis with a wheeled one.
2A36, a modern 152mm gun-howitzer. These
high-performance, effective weapons were assigned to artillery regiments and
brigades at army and front level.
Photos: 1, 2. (In the second photograph, the tank in the background is a T-44.)
Aircraft and helicopters
Mi-24: The main Soviet and Russian
attack helicopter type, introduced in the 1970s. Although initially designed to
a KGB Border Guard requirement for an armed troop transport helicopter to patrol
the Soviet-Chinese border (which saw a number of armed clashes in the late
1960s), the Mi-24 'Hind' evolved into a dedicated attack helicopter, although
one penalized by the original troop transport requirement. The helicopter in
question shows a typical weapon fit of the 1970s and early 1980s, with AT-2
'Swatter' ATGM rails under the outer wing pylons, 32-round 57mm unguided rocket
pods under the inner wing pylons, and a 12.7mm YakB four-barrelled machine-gun
in the chin turret. In the 1980s, Hinds began to carry more effective AT-6
'Spiral' ATGMs, 80mm rocket pods, and 30mm cannon. Mi-24s saw extensive service
in Afghanistan, where they suffered considerable losses from enemy fire,
including US-supplied Stinger missiles. They have also been heavily engaged in
Chechnya where, in addition to Chechen guns and missiles, they face the growing
threat of crashes caused by wear and tear and inadequate maintenance. Since the
procurement of replacements for the Mi-24, either Ka-50 or Mi-28 attack
helicopters, is on hold, the Mi-24 will remain in frontline service until at
least the end of the decade. The Russian military hopes to upgrade the Mi-24
with new weapons, rotor blades, fire control systems, and night vision systems,
but these plans may suffer due to shortage of funds.
Photos: 1, 2
MiG-23: The most numerous Soviet fighter of the 1980s, which served as the mainstay of the fighter aviation of the VVS and also served in large numbers with the Air Defense Forces (PVO Strany). The MiG-23 shown here carries a rather unusual combination of weapons, with the relatively ineffective R-23 (AA-7 'Apex') air-to-air missiles being carried under its wing glove pylons, and 32-round 57mm unguided rocket pods under the fuselage. Codenamed 'Flogger' by NATO, the MiG-23 was a relatively unmaneuverable fighter (certainly inferior in that regard to NATO fighters of the 1980s) which also suffered from unsophisticated electronics and poor view from the pilot's cabin, but boasted excellent acceleration. It was also widely exported to Warsaw Pact countries and other Soviet client states, although in a downgraded configuration with poorer performance.
MiG-29: One of the advanced Soviet fighter types that began to enter service during the 1980s. The fighter in question carries R-60 (AA-8 'Aphid') IR-seeking short-range air-to-air missiles under the outer wing pylons, and 57mm rocket pods under the inner wing pylons.
Shmel'-class riverine gunboat, with a 76.2mm gun in a PT-76 turret, a twin 25mm automatic cannon, and a 140mm MRL.Mike J.