A-20, A-32 and T-32

Medium tank (1938)
Soviet Union - unknown number built


The T-34 lineage can be traced back to the Christie tank. This tank was associated with the revolutionary suspension system which was the backbone of the Russian light tank industry from 1936. The BT series was upgraded to the extent that the last BT-IS prototype, itself derived from the successful BT-7, was nearly a medium tank rather than a light scout tank. The A-20, the next tank in the line, combined the chassis and suspension of the BT-IS with a new turret and the sloped armor tested on the BT-SV (1936).

A-20, the true T-34 forerunner

The A-20 had a much larger, simpler hull than the previous BT-IS, which retained many features of the Christie tank. This allowed faster manufacturing and a new, slope sided turret was mounted. It was equipped with the standard BT 45 mm (1-77 in) quick firing, antitank and anti-personal gun. The hull was quite heavier, at about 31 tons, compared to the 25 of the BT-IS. Despite of this, it was not better armoured, was slightly slower, but had a greater range and more ammunition.

The upgraded A-32

The A-32 prototype was directly derived from the A-20. The eight wheeled tracks were insufficient to cope with the extra weight of the hull, so two more roadwheels were added. The tracks were slightly widened, armour was thickened, but the main feature was to mount the ordinance short barreled L10 76.2 mm (3 in) gun, which had much more power than the flimsy 45 mm (1.77 in). The A-32 was now properly called a medium tank, but it was faster than many medium tanks in service then. Although the sloped armor was still relatively weak, it gave this tank good deflecting power against many tanks, which still fired low velocity shells. The A-32 passed all tests and was quickly put into a limited production.

The T-32

The T-32 was in fact a kind of "pre-production" testbed for the T-34. It was nearly identical to the A-32, except the replacement of the short barrel L10 with the new L11 high velocity gun. This gun was usable both against tanks and ground objectives alike, although it lacked some punch. The recipe for success and mass production of a well-balanced, medium tank was set for the Russian army. This experience paved the way for a new model, with heavier armour, the T-34.

The T-32 was the true production forerunner of the highly successful T-34. It was built after numerous trials with the A-32, itself derived from the A-20 (1937). The A20 was a new light tank concept with sloped armor which, upgrading gunnery and thickening armor as well as having wider tracks, led to the successful T-32, from which a handful were thrown in the furnace of Barbarossa, during the summer. They remain completely unknown because of their few appearances. They were soon shadowed by the extraordinary T-34 in the autumn and winter of 1941. The sloped armor of these 1937-38 tanks was not properly answered by the Germans until the Panther (1943).

T-32 specifications
Dimensions (l-w-h) 5.92 x 3 x 2.45 m (19.42x9.84x8.04 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 19 tons
Crew 4
Propulsion V12, 450 bhp @2200 rpm
Speed 65 km/h (38 mph)
Range/consumption 320 km (200 mi) -800 liters
Armament Main: L11 76.2 mm (3 in) gun
Secondary: 2xDT 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine-guns
Armor From 13 to 30 mm (0.51-1.18 in)
Total production Unknown
a20 A20 Prototype

a32 A32 Prototype

T32 T32 Prototype - Operational first line T-32 near Kharkov, during the summer of 1941. This was a kind of pre-production test bed for the first T-34

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