One characteristic of World War Two on the Eastern front was a rapid escalation in the size of armored fighting vehicles.
Let’s take a look at one beast that helped start that race.
When Germany launched its war against the Soviet Union in June of 1941 they expected to just run over poorly led, trained and equipped forces. For a variety of reasons those first two expectations were largely met. But from that very start, the Germans were dismayed by some of the newer equipment the Red Army had.
This is where readers should expect a long description of the T-34. But Soviet doctrine required a number of heavier, “breakthrough” tanks too. Going back to the Spanish Civil War Soviet observers had noted that more armor and bigger guns always seemed to be needed. They needed tanks that could resist all battlefield portable weapons, and even a step beyond for dealing with fortifications.
During the Winter War against Finland (1939/40) they experimented with three different pre-production versions of these heavy tanks and chose the KV-1 as the best of the bunch. Its frontal armor was proof against any such battlefield weapon and difficulties were only encountered from very well prepared defenses or flanking movements.
The Germans apparently knew nothing about this until the start of Barbarossa. Then they were shocked by these tanks that were so resistant to damage. The best German tanks of the time, Panzer III and Panzer IV, simply could not knock out a KV from the front with their standard guns. German training and tactics were superior and other explosives could be used from the rear or flank, but only an 88mm gun could take one from the front.
So obviously this led to a scramble to improve German tanks.
Meanwhile the Soviets were having some serious problems with their new monster tanks. This was mostly about mobility and reliability. The drive train on the KV was a 20 year old Caterpillar design, and the engine was the same as used on the much smaller T-34. Supposedly crews kept a sledge hammer handy just to change gears in the difficult transmission. Visibility was poor and crew layout inefficient. Basically, the KV was twice the size and cost of a T-34 with little or no improvement in effectiveness.
Some improvements were made, but ultimately an all new heavy tank in the “IS” series was introduced later in the war.
This particular tank fought at the Battle of Kharkiv, May 1942. This is the Tamiya kit.