If the T-34 was so good, why didn’t the Germans just copy it and mass produce on their own?
The T-34 is a legendary USSR tank that served during WWII and numerous campaigns afterwards. Designed by engineer Mikhail Koshkin, it was fast-moving, economical, well-protected, easy to build and maintain. So, if the T-34 was so successful, why didn’t the Germans copy it and put on production line? To answer this question we should first look into the details of the tank’s construction.
The new T-34 first went into service to replace the old BT tanks and the T-26 in late 1941. Equipped with thick slope armor that enhanced its strength, the T-34 outperformed its early German counterparts. The Germans were impressed by its speed and strength qualities.
However, after a formal engineer review of several captured T-34s, the Germans evinced a number of drawbacks that encompassed poor quality assembly, low carrying capacity and diesel sensitivity to dust and sand[i]. In my opinion, this was the main reason why the Germans didn’t attempt to copy the T-34 in the first place.
Since 1942 and until the end of WWII Germany designed numerous sophisticated tank models, including 4 versions of Panzer V Panther and 2 versions of Panzer VI Tiger[ii]. They possessed tremendous firepower, excellent off-road capabilities and targeting sights[iii].
To my mind, the T-34’s success was a blow to the Nazi’s vanity; for that reason, they couldn’t simply reuse its design. Instead, they tried to demoralize the Red Army by improving their own tank industry. Unfortunately, the construction of German tanks required expensive equipment that in some cases was produced in haste due to rushed delivery orders[iv]. As a result, by 1944 the tanks lacked reliability and were mostly exploited as anti-tank devices.
To sum up, I believe that the German army chose the path of technical modernization and variety, while the USSR stuck to simplicity and reliability. It was vital for the Red army to dislodge the enemy no matter the cost, but the Nazi desired to demonstrate technical and mental superiority over their enemies. Therefore, blind imitation was not enough for them.
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