I report to you on the current status of armoured telemechanics:
Various organizations (NII-10, NII-20, Red Army NIST) performed work regarding telemechanization of tanks since 1929 under the orders of Red Army US and ABTU. Experimental prototypes of Renault, T-18, T-24, T-37, T-26, T-28, T-20, T-38, and BT-7 teletanks were produced.
By 1935, the issues of automation of the suspension and chemical armament of the tank were resolved, and a commission selected the TOZ-26 T-26 teletank developed by NII-20 as the most suitable teletank out of three experimental T-26 teletanks. This prototype was accepted for mass production. In 1936-37, factory #192 produced 35 groups and another 30 groups in 1938-39, slightly modernized vehicles with the index TOZ-8. In total, 130 special tanks were built, 65 control tanks and 65 teletanks (65 groups).
On February 25th, 1937, T-26 TOZ-26 teletanks were accepted into service with the Red Army. Currently there are two light tank brigades (24th and 36th) that have one teletank battalion each. Presently, the teletank special equipment on TOZ-6 and TOZ-8 tanks is obsolete. Experience in use of the tanks showed that the remote systems were unreliable and the tank's maneuverability when controlled remotely was poor. The telephony equipment was complicated, difficult to use, and expensive. The cost of equipment to make one group is 175,000 rubles (not counting the cost of T-26 tanks). The cost of capital repairs for special equipment of one group is 70,000 rubles. Due to poor reliability of the special equipment, the military has not yet mastered the tactics of applying teletanks. During the Polish campaign, the teletank battalion of the 36th Light Tank Brigade participated in battle, but due to the nature of the fighting the teletanks were not operated remotely and were used as regular manually controlled chemical tanks. At the Finnish theater in Karelia, two teletank battalions and the 7th teletank company were used. Teletanks were used with radio control to discover mines and perform demonstrative reconnaissance. Six teletanks were lost in battle.
Individual groups of teletanks achieved their objectives but gained no tactical experience.
A large amount of resources was spent on tank telemechanics, but the future of teletank development is unclear. NII-20 did note receive any orders for experimental prototypes in 1941, and is closing its tank laboratory to reassign the engineers to other work. Factory #192 is competing the order to repair 10 groups of TOZ-6 and TOZ-8 teletanks in March of this year, after which it will cease work on teletanks due to a lack of new orders.
How should teletanks be developed further? There are no defined conclusions or opinions.
Since 1938, NII-20 performed a large amount of work to simplify and reduce the cost of special equipment and developed a new rapid selection type. By order from the Red Army US with approval from GABRU, NII-20 finished the following prototypes of teletanks equipped with the new equipment:
- Telemechanical BT-7 group
- Telemechanical T-26 group
- Telemechanical group of T-20 and T-38 tanks
The BT-7 group went through government trials and was deemed suitable for producing a test batch. This group has some advantages in its maneuverability and reliability compared to all existing teletanks, but the production of one group is expensive, 200,000 rubles. Since there are no chemical BT-7 tanks, work needs to be performed by three subcontractors on chemical armament, special equipment, and armour. It is reasonable to not spend money on BT-7 teletanks but instead work on simplified removable equipment for T-34 tanks. NII-20 can perform this work in 1941-42.
The new T-26 teletank group passed factory trials. The equipment used by this group is simpler and more reliable than equipment used by T-26 TOZ-6 and TOZ-8 teletanks. Its cost is also significantly cheaper, 30-40,000 rubles per group. Factory #192 will be the only subcontractor for equipment. The weak points of this equipment are the electronic encoder and decoder, but their drawbacks can be resolved by factory #192.
The telemechanical group of T-20 and T-38 tanks did not pass trials due to weak off-road performance and thin armour of the vehicles. Further work on telemechanization of these tanks should cease. Special equipment from the T-38 and T-20 can be used with some adjustments on T-40 tanks.
The Red Army Communications Directorate plans to repair 10 telegroups of obsolete T-26 TOZ-6 and TOZ-8 tanks at factory #192 in 1941 at the cost of 700,000 rubles. These telegroups will be delivered from army units as they wear down. It is necessary to prioritize re-armament of the two teletank battalions from TOZ-6 and TOZ-8 teletanks to T-26 teletanks with new equipment. In order to do this, proving grounds trials of the latest group of T-26 tanks must be accelerated with the goal of ordering a batch of teletanks from factory #192 in February-March of 1941 with the 700,000 rubles allocated for the repair of TOZ-6 and TOZ-8 teletanks. Re-arming the battalions allows us to resolve issues regarding tactical application of teletanks. Issues of telemechanization are technically solved, and only the issue of teletank tactics remains.
In 1941, the Red Army NIST will test a remote television apparatus: a transmitter and a receiver with a 9 by 12 cm screen. This device transmits images over radio (television) of terrain surrounding the tank and objects in its field of view over 100-150 meters. The size of this device allows it to fit into the T-26 turret bay. The use of television may be a solution to the issue of aiming flamethrowers. This work can answer the question of the usefulness of television in tank forces.
The suggested plan for further work in telemechanization is as follows:
- First quarter of 1941: order a batch of new T-26 teletanks at factory #192, for which the trials of these tanks must be accelerated.
- Re-arm existing teletank battalions armed with TOZ-6 and TOZ-8 teletanks to new T-26 teletanks.
- The main task for teletank battalions is to resolve the issue of effective use of teletanks.
- Do not cease scientific research at NII-20. Give NII-20 the task of developing removable equipment for T-34 tanks, which can be made into chemical tanks with powerful armament. This work can give positive results in automation of tank controls (servos, remote controls, etc).
- Perform trials of the television device in T-26 tanks with NIST in 1941.
I ask for your decision regarding these issues.
GABTU BTU chief, Military Engineer 1st Class, Korobkov
GABTU BTU 2nd Department Chief, Military Engineer 2nd Class, Demyanenko"