What Sort of Weapons?
I adore weapons. Of every sort. I love military equipment and military uniforms. One day I shall open a small museum, and the first exhibit which I shall buy for my museum will be an American jeep. This is a real miracle weapon. It was designed before the Second World War and it served from the first day to the last, like a faithful soldier. It was dropped by parachute, it was soaked in salt water, it smashed its wheels on the stony deserts of Libya and sank into swamps on tropical islands. It served honourably in the mountains of Norway and of the Caucasus, in the Alps and the Ardennes. And, since the war, can any other military vehicle have seen so many battles-Korea, Vietnam, Sinai, Africa, the Arctic, South America, Indonesia, India, Pakistan? And is there any sort of weapon which has not been installed on a jeep? Recoilless guns, anti-tank rockets, machine guns. And it has worked on reconnaissance duties, as an ambulance, a patrol vehicle, a commander and an ordinary military workhorse.
And how many types of tanks, guns, aircraft, rockets have come and gone in the time of the jeep? They were important and impressive, the jeep was grey and undistinguished. But they have gone and the jeep is still there. And how many times have they tried to replace the jeep? But it is indispensable. In the desert, more reliable than a camel, in the grasslands faster than a leopard, in the Arctic hardier than a Polar bear.
Another exhibit in my museum will be a Kalashnikov automatic assault rifle. Not one of those the terrorists used to kill the Olympic athletes or the one I had with me in Czechoslovakia or one of those the Communists killed doctors with in Cambodia. No, it will be one of the thousands captured by the American marines in Vietnam and used in their desperate attempt to halt Communism and to avert the calamity which threatened the Vietnamese people.
American soldiers in Vietnam often mistrusted their own weapons and preferred to use their Kalashnikov trophies. This was not so simple, for they could hardly expect to be supplied with the proper rounds for these weapons but they used them nevertheless, capturing more ammunition as they fought. What is the secret of the Kalashnikov? It is uncomplicated and reliable, like a comrade-in-arms, and these are the two qualities of greatest importance in a battle.
My museum will have weapons from everywhere-from Germany and Britain, France and Japan. But the greatest number will come from the Soviet Union. I hate the Communists, but I love Soviet weapons. The fact is that Soviet designers realised, decades ago, the simple truth that only uncomplicated and reliable equipment can be successful in war. This is as true as the fact that the only plans which will succeed are those which are simple and easily understood and that the best battledress is the simplest and most hard wearing.
Soviet requirements from a weapon are that it must be easy to produce and simple in construction, which makes it easier to teach soldiers to use it and simpler to maintain and repair.
Although the Soviet Union produced the same amount of steel as Germany, it built a much greater number of tanks. Moreover, because of the simplicity of their construction, it proved possible to repair tens of thousands of these tanks and to return them to battle two or even three times.
General Guderian admired Soviet tanks and wrote about them, enthusiastically and at length. He was insistent in urging that Germany should copy the T-34. The design of this Soviet tank was taken as a basis for the `Panzer' and shortly afterwards for the `Tiger-König'. But the German designers were unable to meet the most important requirement-simplicity of construction. As a result only 4,815 Panzer tanks were built in all, while no more than 484 `Tiger-König' tanks were ever produced. In the same period the Soviet Union built 102,000 tanks, 70,000 of which were T-34s.
In considering these figures it should be remembered that, while most German tank factories were subjected to bombing, many Soviet factories were lost altogether-the Kharkov plant was captured by the Germans in the first months of the war, and this was the largest Soviet factory and the birthplace of the T-34; the Stalingrad tank factory was the setting for the fiercest fighting it is possible to imagine. Leningrad was besieged, but, despite being without steel or coal, the tank factory there, which was subjected to constant artillery bombardment, continued to repair tanks for three years. On some occasions tanks which still were under repair had to be used to fire through gaps in the walls at advancing groups of German soldiers. The only factory that was left was in the Urals and it was to this that the machinery was taken and set up, virtually in the open air, to produce the world's simplest and most reliable tank.
It should not be thought that Soviet equipment suffers any harmful effects because of its simplicity of design. Quite the reverse. In its time, the T-34 was not only the simplest but also the most powerful tank in the world.
When a MIG-25 landed in Japan, the Western experts who examined it marvelled at the simplicity of its design. Naturally, for propaganda purposes, the fighting qualities of this excellent aircraft were disparaged. One not particularly perceptive specialist even commented, `We had thought it was made of titanium but it turns out to be nothing but steel.' It is, in fact, impossible to reach the speeds of which the MIG-25 is capable using titanium: yet the Soviet designers had managed to build this, the fastest combat aircraft in the world, from ordinary steel.
This is a most significant fact. It means that this remarkable aircraft can be built without especially complicated machine tools or the help of highly skilled specialists, and that its mass-production in wartime would be unaffected by shortages of important materials. Furthermore, this aircraft is exceedingly cheap to produce and could therefore be built in very great numbers if this were necessary. This is its most important characteristic; the fact that for two decades it has been the fastest interceptor aircraft in the world, with the highest rate of climb, is of secondary significance.
Technology is developing and each year equipment becomes more and more complex. But this does not conflict with the overall philosophy of Soviet designers. Of course, decades ago, their predecessors used the latest equipment available in their combat vehicles and aircraft and this equipment must then have been considered very complex. But the iron, unbreakable principle observed by Soviet designers retains its force. Whenever a new piece of equipment is being developed, making the use of highly complex tools and techniques unavoidable, there is always a choice of hundreds, even thousands of possible technical procedures. The designers will always select the very simplest possible of all the choices open to them. It would, of course, be feasible to produce an automatic transmission system for a jeep, but it is possible to get by with an ordinary one. This being so, there can be only one Soviet choice-the ordinary transmission.
I once saw a film comparing a Soviet and an American tank. A driver was given both models to drive and he was then asked-`Which is the better?' The American one, of course,' said the driver. `It has automatic transmission, whereas in the Soviet tank you have to change gear, which is not easy in a heavy machine.' He was quite right-if you see war as a pleasant outing. But Soviet designers realise that any future war will be anything but this. They consider, quite correctly, that, if there are mass bombing attacks, if whole industrial areas are destroyed, if long-distance communications break down, mass production of tanks with automatic transmission would be out of the question. Equally it would be impossible to repair or service tanks of this sort which had been produced before the war. Accordingly, there can be only one choice-the ordinary, non-automatic transmission. This may be hard on the tank driver-he will get tired. But it will be easier for industry and for the whole country, which will continue to produce tanks by the ten thousand on machines which have been set up virtually in the open air.
The simplicity of Soviet weapons surprises everyone. But each type of equipment which is produced is turned out in two variants-the normal one and the `monkey-model'.
The `monkey-model' is a weapon which has been simplified in every conceivable way and which is intended for production in wartime only.
For instance, the T-62 tank is one of the simplest fighting vehicles in the world. But as it was being designed, a still simpler version was also being developed, for wartime use. The `monkey-model' of the T-62 does not have a stabilised gun, carries simplified radio and optical equipment, the night-vision equipment uses an infra-red light source to illuminate targets (a method which is twenty years old), the gun is raised and turned manually, steel rather than wolfram or uranium is used for the armour-plating piercing caps of its shells.
Soviet generals consider, justifiably, that it is better to have tanks like these in a war than none at all. It is intended that the `monkey-model' approach will be used not only for building tanks, but for all other sorts of equipment-rockets, guns, aircraft, radio sets, etc. In peacetime these variants are turned out in large quantities, but they are only issued to countries friendly to the Soviet Union. I have seen two variants of the BMP-1 infantry combat vehicle-one which is issued to the Soviet army and another which is intended for the Soviet Union's Arab friends. I counted sixty-three simplifications which made the second `monkey-model' different from the original version. Among the most important of these were: The 73mm gun has no loading or round selection equipment. Whereas in the Soviet version the gunnerjust presses the appropriate buttons and the round which he requires slides into the barrel, in the simplified model all of this has to be done by hand, and furthermore, the gun is not stabilised. The turret is rotated and the gun is raised mechanically. In the Soviet version this is done electrically-the mechanical system is there only as a back-up. The `export' version is armed with the Malyutka rocket, the Soviet one with the `Malyutka-M', which differs from the other model in having an automatic target guidance system. The `monkey-model' is without the lead internal lining on the walls, which protects the crew against penetrating radiation and against flying fragments of armour in the event of a direct hit. The optical system is greatly simplified, as is the communications equipment, there is no automatic radiation or gas detector, there is neither an automatic hermetic sealing system nor an air filtration system, for use in conditions of very heavy contamination, no automatic topographical fixation system is fitted and many other systems are missing.
When one of these `monkey-models' fell into the hands of Western specialists, they naturally gained a completely false impression of the true combat capabilities of the BMP-1 and of Soviet tanks. For what they were looking at was no more than a casing, or a container, like an empty money box which is of no value without its contents.
The Soviet Union is currently making deliveries abroad of T-72 tanks, MIG-23 fighters and TU-22 bombers. But these are different from the models with which the Soviet Army has armed itself. When one of a man's pockets contains banknotes and the other simply holds pieces of paper, it is quite impossible to tell which is which from the outside.
The current Soviet policy concerning equipment is a wise one-to amass first-class but very simple equipment in quantities sufficient for the first few weeks of a war. If the war continues, equipment will be produced on an enormous scale, but in variants which have been simplified to the greatest possible extent. Experience of producing both standard and `monkey' models is being gained in peacetime; the simpler variants are being sold to the `brothers' and `friends' of the USSR as the very latest equipment available.
Learning from Mistakes
The winter of 1969 was an exceptionally bitter one in the Soviet Far East. When the first clashes with the Chinese took place on the river Ussuri, and before combat divisions reached the area, the pressure exerted by the enemy was borne by the KGB frontier troops. After the clash was over, the General Staff held a careful investigation into all the mistakes and oversights which had occurred. It was quickly discovered that several KGB soldiers had frozen to death in the snow, simply because they had never received elementary instruction in sleeping out in temperatures below zero.
This was alarming news. A commission from the General Staff immediately carried out experiments with three divisions, chosen at random, and came to a depressing conclusion. Wartime experience had been irrevocably lost and the modern Soviet soldier had not been taught how he could sleep in the snow. Naturally he was not allowed a sleeping bag and of course he was forbidden to light a fire. Normally a soldier would spend nights when the temperature was below freezing-point in his vehicle. But what was he to do if the vehicle was put out of action?
The chiefs of staff of all divisions were immediately summoned to Moscow. They were given a day's instruction in the technique of sleeping out in snow at freezing temperatures, using only a greatcoat. Then each of them was required to convince himself that this was possible, by sleeping in the snow for three nights. (It should be remembered that March in Solnechnogorsk, near Moscow, is a hard month, with snow on the ground and temperatures below zero.) Then the chiefs of staff returned to their divisions and immediately the entire Soviet Army was put to a very hard test-that of spending a night in the open in numbing cold and without any extra clothing. It seemed as if those who were stationed in deserts in the south were in luck. But no-they were sent by turns to either Siberia or the north to be put through the same tough training. Thereafter, spending a night in the snow became a part of all military training programmes.
Two years before this, following the shameful defeats in Sinai, when it had become clear how much Arab soldiers fear tanks and napalm, urgent orders had been issued, making it compulsory for all Soviet soldiers and officers, up to the rank of general, to jump through roaring flames, and to shelter in shallow pits as tanks clattered by just above their heads, or, if they could not find even this protection, to lie on the ground between the tracks of the roaring vehicles.
The Soviet Army re-learned its lessons within a single day. I have felt napalm on my own skin, I have crouched in a pit as a tank crashed by overhead, and I have spent terrible nights in the snow.
At the beginning of the war, the Red Army had no idea how to organise the defence of the country or, particularly, of the large towns. It had never been taught how to do this. It had only learned how to attack and how to `carry the war on to the enemy's territory'. However, the war began in accordance with the plans of the German General Staff rather than of their Soviet opponents. One catastrophe followed another. Attempts to defend Minsk lasted for three days, to hold Kiev for two days. Everyone was at their wits' end to know how to organise things better. Kiev fell at the end of September and by October Guderian was approaching Moscow. Suddenly, something quite astonishing happened. Soviet defences became impenetrable, specifically those around Moscow, Tula and Tver'. For the first time in the course of the Second World War, the German military machine was brought to a standstill. It is said that freezing weather played its part in turning the tide. This was true enough in November and December, but in October the weather was sunny. Something had happened; a radical change had occurred. The next year, the battle for Stalingrad took place-the city was defended throughout the summer, and frosts played no part in the outcome. This campaign will go down in history as a model for the defence of a large city. A second such model is the defence of Leningrad which held out for almost three years, during which one and a half million of its citizens lost their lives. It was under attack for two winters and three summers. Freezing temperatures played no role here either-the city could have been taken during any season in these three years.
In the Soviet Army the dividing line between inability to perform a particular role and the capacity to carry it out with great professional skill is almost indiscernible. Transitions from one to the other occur almost instantaneously, not only in tactics, strategy and the training of personnel but also in equipment programmes.
At the beginning of the 1960s a discussion developed in the Western military journals about the need for a new infantry combat vehicle: this must be amphibious, well armoured, and highly manoeuvrable, and must have considerable fire-power. The Soviet military press responded only with a deathly silence. The discussion gathered strength, there was much argument for and against the proposition, intensive tests were carried out... the Soviet Union remained silent.
One night towards the end of 1966 heavy transporters arrived at our military academy carrying unusual vehicles of some sort, which were covered in tarpaulins. These were BMP-1s-amphibious, fiendishly manoeuvrable, well-armoured and heavily armed. By 1967 this vehicle was being produced in great numbers: meanwhile the discussion in the West continued. Only West Germany took any positive steps, by building the `Marder'-which was an excellent vehicle, but was not amphibious and carried almost the same armament as previous German armoured personnel carriers. Sadly, it was also exceptionally complicated in design.
In the early 1980s, the discussion is still in progress in the West; the first tentative steps have been taken, but at present, as before, the United States has armoured personnel carriers which are armed only with machine-guns. Of course, Western specialists have found many faults in the construction of the BMP-1. But this is yesterday's product-and the `monkey model' of it at that. The Soviet Union has been producing a second generation of BMPs in massive quantities for a long time now while, in the West, discussion continues.
The same has happened with military helicopters, self-propelled artillery, automatic mortars and many other types of equipment.
When will we be able to dispense with the tank?
One day, in Paris, I bought a book, published in 1927, on the problems of a future war. The author was sober-minded and reasonable. His logic was sound, his analysis was shrewd and his arguments unassailable. After analysing the way military equipment had developed in his lifetime, the author concluded by declaring that the proper place for the tank was in the museum, next to the dinosaur skeletons. His argument was simple and logical: anti-tank guns had been developed to the point at which they would bring massive formations of tanks to a complete halt in any future war, just as machine guns had completely stopped the cavalry in the First World War.
I do not know whether the author lived until 1940, to see the German tanks sweeping along the Paris boulevards, past the spot at which, many decades later, I was to buy my dusty copy of his book, its leaves yellowing with age. The belief that the tank is reaching the end of its life is itself surprisingly long-lived. At the beginning of the 1960s, France decided to stop production of tanks, because their era was over. It is fortunate that this delusion was shattered by the Israelis' old `Sherman' tanks in the Sinai peninsula. Israel's brilliant victory showed the whole world, once again, that no anti-tank weapon is able to stop tanks in a war, provided, of course, that they are used skilfully.
The argument used by the tank's detractors is simple-`Just look at the anti-tank rockets-at their accuracy and at their armour-piercing capability!' But this argument does not hold water. The anti-tank rocket is a defensive weapon-part of a passive system. The tank, on the other hand, is an offensive weapon. Any defensive system involves the dispersal of forces over a wide territory, leaving them strong in some places and weak in others. And it is where they are weak that the tanks will appear, in enormous concentrations. Even if it were possible to distribute resources equally, this would mean that no one sector would have enough. Try deploying just ten anti-tank rockets along every kilometre of the front. The tanks will then choose one particular spot and will attack it in their hundreds, or perhaps thousands, simultaneously. If you concentrate your anti-tank resources, the tanks will simply by-pass them. They are an offensive weapon and they have the initiative in battle, being able to choose when and where to attack and how strong a force to use.
The hope that the perfection of anti-tank weapons would lead to the death of the tank has been shown to be completely unfounded. It is like hoping that the electronic defences of banks will become so perfect in the future that bank robbers will die out as a breed. I assure you that bank robbers will not become extinct. They will improve their tools, their tactics, their information about their targets and their methods of misleading their enemies and they will continue to carry out raids. Sometimes these will fail, sometimes they will succeed, but they will continue so long as banks continue to exist. The robbers have the same advantage as tanks-they are on the offensive. They decide where, when and how to attack and will do so only when they are confident of success, when they have secretly discovered a weak spot in the enemy's defences, whose existence is unknown even to the enemy himself.
Soviet generals have never been faced with problems of this sort. They have always known that victory in a war can only be achieved by advancing. To them defensive operations spell defeat and death. In the best case, such operations can only produce a deadlock, and not for long, at that. Victory can only be achieved by means of an offensive-by seizing the initiative and raining blows on the enemy's most vulnerable areas.
Thus, to win, you must attack, you must move forward unexpectedly and with determination, you must advance. For this you need a vehicle which can travel anywhere to destroy the enemy, preferably remaining unscathed itself. The one vehicle which combines movement, fire-power and armour is the tank. Perhaps, in the future, its armour will be perfected, perhaps it will not have tracks but will travel in some other way (there have been wheeled tanks), perhaps it will not have a gun but be armed with something else (there have been tanks armed solely with rockets), perhaps all sorts of things will be changed, but its most important characteristics-its ability to move, to shoot and to defend itself-will remain. As long as there are wars, as long as the desire for victory lasts, the tank will exist. Nuclear war has not only not written it off, but has given it a new lease of life-nothing is so suited to nuclear war as a tank. To survive a nuclear war you must put your money on these steel boxes.
The Flying Tank
Drive a tank on to an airfield and park it near a military aircraft. Next put a helicopter between the tank and the aircraft. Now, look at each of them and then answer the question-which does the helicopter resemble more-the tank or the aircraft?
I know what your opinion will be. You don't need to tell me. But the Soviet generals believe that to all intents and purposes the helicopter is a tank. In fact they find it difficult to distinguish between the two. Certainly there is very little in common between the helicopter and the aircraft. Small details, like the ability to fly, but nothing more.
Of course, they are right. The helicopter is related to the tank, not to the aircraft. The reasoning behind this is simple enough-in battle a tank can seize enemy territory and a helicopter can do the same. But an aircraft cannot. An aircraft can destroy everything on the surface and deep below it, but it can not seize and hold territory.
For this reason, the Soviet Army sees the helicopter as a tank-one which is capable of high speeds and unrestricted cross-country performance, but is only lightly armoured. It also has approximately the same fire-power as a tank.
The tactics employed in the use of helicopters and tanks are strikingly similar. An aircraft is vulnerable because in most cases it can only operate from an airfield. Both the helicopter and the tank operate in open ground. An aircraft is vulnerable because it flies above the enemy. A helicopter and a tank both see the enemy in front of them. To attack, a helicopter does not need to fly over the enemy or to get close to him.
The introduction of the helicopter was not greeted with any particular enthusiasm by the Air Forces, but the Land Forces were jubilant-here was a tank with a rotor instead of tracks, which need not fear minefields or rivers or mountains.
It is therefore not surprising that the airborne assault brigades (which are carried by helicopter) form part of the complement of Tank Armies or of Fronts, which use them for joint operations with Tank Armies.
At the present moment the Soviet MI-24 is the best combat helicopter in the world. This is not just my personal opinion, but one which is shared by Western military experts. Knowing the affection which Soviet Marshals have for their helicopters, I prophesy that even better variants of these flying tanks will appear in the next few years. Or are they, perhaps, already flying above Saratov or somewhere, even though we have not been shown them yet?
The Most Important Weapon
Before the Second World War each army had its own approach to questions of defence. Drawing on their experience of the First World War, the French considered that their main problem was to survive artillery bombardments, which might continue for several days or even several months. The German generals decided that they must make their forces capable of repelling attacks by all enemy arms of service. The Soviet generals concluded that they must avoid diluting their resources and that they must concentrate on the most important of the arms of service. Since for them this was the tank, they saw defence purely as defence against tanks. Their defence system could therefore only be considered complete when their forces were asked to repulse tank attacks. If we can only stop the enemy's tanks, the generals reasoned, everything else will be halted, too.
They were right, as many German generals, the first of whom was Guderian, have acknowledged. Many of the battles which took place on Soviet territory followed a standard scenario. The German forces would launch a very powerful tank attack, which, from the second half of 1942 onwards the Soviet troops always succeeded in halting. This was the course of events at Stalingrad, at Kursk and in Hungary, in the Balaton operations. From 1943 onwards, having exhausted their capacity for launching such attacks, the German forces were ordered by Hitler to adopt a strategy of defence in depth. But this was not the way to oppose tanks. This strategy did not enable the German army to halt a single breakthrough by Soviet tanks.
Remembering the war, Soviet generals insist that defence must mean, first and foremost, defence against tanks. The enemy can gain victories only by advancing and, in the nuclear age, as before, offensive operations will be carried out by tanks and infantry. Other forces can not carry out an offensive: their only role is to support the tanks and the infantry. Thus, defence is essentially a battle against tanks.
The most important weapon in achieving victory is the tank. The most important weapon in depriving the enemy of victory is the anti-tank weapon. The Soviet Union therefore devotes great attention to the development of anti-tank weapons. As a result, it is frequently the first in the world with really revolutionary technical and tactical innovations. For example, as early as 1955, the USSR began production of the `Rapira' smoothbore anti-tank gun, which has an astonishingly high muzzle velocity. In its introduction of this weapon it led the West by more than a quarter of a century. In the same year a start was also made with production of the APNB-70 infra-red night sight, for the `Rapira'. Sights of this type were not issued to Western armies for another ten years.
The, Soviet Army takes exceptionally strict measures to safeguard the secrets of its anti-tank weapons. Many of these are completely unknown in the West. The Chief Directorate of Strategic Camouflage insists that the only anti-tank weapons which may be displayed are those which can be exported-in other words the least effective ones. The systems which may not be exported are never demonstrated but remain unknown from their birth, throughout their secret life and often, even, after their death. We will say something about these later.
Because they consider anti-tank warfare to be so important, Soviet generals insist that every soldier and every weapon system should be capable of attacking tanks.
Every soldier is therefore armed with a single-shot `Mukha' anti-tank rocket launcher. These rocket launchers are issued to all motor transport drivers and to those belonging to staff, rear-support and all other auxiliary sub-units.
When the BMP-1 infantry combat vehicle was being developed, the designers suggested a 23mm gun as its armament-this would be effective against infantry, and is simple and easy to load. But the generals opposed this; as a first priority, the vehicle must be capable of opposing tanks; it must have anti-tank rockets and a gun which, even though small, could be used against tanks. The BMP-1 was therefore fitted with a 73mm automatic gun, capable of destroying any enemy tank at ranges of up to 1,300 metres, with anti-tank rockets which can be used over greater ranges. The fact that 20mm automatic guns are fitted to Western infantry combat vehicles is met with friendly incomprehension by Soviet military specialists: `If such a vehicle is not capable of taking on our tanks, why was it built?'
It is true that a light anti-aircraft gun has recently been mounted on the BMP. But this does not indicate any alteration in its main function. This gun is installed as an auxiliary weapon, to supplement the anti-tank rockets and also as an anti-helicopter weapon. In other words, it is intended for use against the flying tank. Incidentally, the decision to fit it was taken only after the designers had been able to demonstrate that it could also be used against conventional, earthbound tanks.
All other Soviet weapon systems, even if they are not primarily intended as anti-tank weapons, must also be able to function as such. Accordingly, all Soviet howitzers are supplied with anti-tank shells and anti-aircraft guns are much used against tanks-their teams are trained for this role and are issued with suitable ammunition.
But this is not all. The new AGS19 Plamya rocket-launcher and the Vasilek automatic mortar can also be used against tanks, as a secondary function. They each have a rate of fire of 120 rounds a minute and both are capable of flat trajectory fire against advancing tanks.
Finally, the BM-21, BM-27, Grad-P and other salvo-firing rocket launchers can fire over open sights and flood oncoming tanks with fire.
Why are Anti-tank Guns not Self-propelled?
Why does the Soviet Union not use self-propelled anti-tank guns? This is a question which many are unable to answer. After all, a self-propelled gun is far more mobile on the battle-field than one which is towed, and its crew is better protected. This question has already been partially answered in the last chapter. The Soviet Union has some excellent self-propelled anti-tank weapon systems-but it does not put them on display. Nevertheless, it is true that towed guns are in the majority. Why is this so? There are several reasons:
Firstly: A towed anti-tank gun is many times easier to manufacture and to use than one which is self-propelled. In wartime it might be feasible to reduce the production of tanks; the effect of this would simply be to reduce the intensity of offensive operations. But a drop in the production of anti-tank weapons would be catastrophic. Whatever happens, they must be produced in sufficient quantities. Otherwise any tank breakthrough by the enemy could prove fatal for the whole military production programme, for the national economy, and for the Soviet Union itself. In order to ensure that these guns are turned out, whatever the situation, even in the midst of a nuclear war, it is essential that they should be as simple in construction as possible. It was no chance that the first Soviet smoothbore guns to be produced were anti-tank guns. Smoothbore guns for Soviet tanks were brought out considerably later. Although a smooth barrel reduces the accuracy of fire, it enables muzzle velocity to be raised considerably, and, most important of all, it simplifies the construction of the gun.
Secondly: A towed gun has a very low silhouette, at least half that of a tank. In single combat with a tank, especially at maximum range, this offers better protection than armour plate or manoeuvrability.
Thirdly: Anti-tank guns are used in two situations. In defence, when the enemy has broken through, is advancing fast and must be stopped at any price. And in an offensive when one's own troops have broken through and are advancing rapidly, and the enemy tries to cut through the spearhead at its base, with a flank attack, cutting off the advancing forces from their rear areas. In both these situations, anti-tank guns must stop the enemy's tanks at some pre-determined line, which he must not be allowed to cross. Towed guns are compelled, by the weight of their construction, to fight to the death. They are unable to manoeuvre or to move to a better position. Certainly, their losses are always very high. That is why they are traditionally nicknamed `Farewell, Motherland!' But by stopping the enemy on the predetermined line, the anti-tank sub-units can save the whole division, Army and sometimes the whole Front. This is what happened at Kursk. If the anti-tank guns had been self-propelled, their commander would have been able to withdraw to a more advantageous position when he came under enemy pressure. This would have saved his small anti-tank sub-unit, but it might have brought catastrophe to the division, the Army, the Front and perhaps to several Fronts.
Lest seditious thoughts should enter the head of the anti-tank commander, and so that he should not think of pulling back in a critical situation, his anti-tank guns have no means of propulsion. In battle their armoured tractors are housed in shelters; they would scarcely be able to pull the guns away from the battle, under the deadly fire of the enemy. Only one option is available to the crews-to die on the spot, as they prevent the enemy from crossing the line which they are holding.
During the war, one of the main reasons for the unyielding stability of the Soviet formations was the presence among them of huge but virtually immobile units of anti-tank guns.
The Favourite Weapon
The Soviet commander's favourite weapon is the mortar. A mortar is simply a tube, one end of which rests on a base plate, while the other end points skywards, supported on two legs. It would be difficult to devise a simpler weapon, which is why it is such a favourite.
In 1942, a terrible year for the USSR, during which military production fell to a catastrophically low level, the mortar was the one weapon which remained available to every commander.
In three and a half years of war, the Soviet Union produced 348,000 mortars. In the same period, Germany produced 68,000. All the remaining countries put together produced considerably less than Germany. Furthermore, the Soviet mortars were the most powerful in the world and the number of bombs produced for each was the highest recorded anywhere.
Soviet commanders value the mortar so highly because of its reliability and its almost primitive simplicity, because it only takes a few minutes to teach a soldier how to use it, and because it needs almost no maintenance-its barrel is not even rifled! And they also like its immediate readiness, in any situation, to fire quite heavy bombs at the enemy, even though it lacks complete accuracy.
The pressure generated inside a mortar barrel when it fires is relatively low and therefore a mortar, unlike a gun or a howitzer, can fire cast-iron rather than steel bombs. This adds two further advantages-firstly, simplicity and cheapness of production, secondly the fact that when a cast iron bomb bursts it shatters into very small splinters, which form a dense fragment pattern. Steel gun and howitzer shells are not only more expensive but are more solidly constructed and therefore produce a smaller quantity of splinters, which do not cover the area so densely.
In France and the US, after the war, mortars were improved. They had rifled barrels which gave them greater accuracy. As early as 1944, a Soviet designer, B. L. Shavyrin, had suggested that Soviet mortars should be rifled, but he was firmly rebuffed-it was simpler to make ten smoothbore mortars than one with rifling. Even if a rifled mortar was twice as effective as a smoothbore one, the latter would therefore still be a far better proposition, if it was only twice as effective, but cost ten times as much to produce, it must rate as a very poor weapon. I entirely agree with this point of view.
But what about accuracy? you will ask. It is of no significance. Soviet commanders have chosen a different way of approaching the problem. If you have to pay for accuracy with complexity of design, you are following the wrong path. Quantity is the better way to exert pressure. Since two simple, smoothbore mortars can do the work of one rifled one we will use the two simple ones, which will have the additional advantage of producing a lot more noise, dust and fire than one. And this is by no means unimportant in war. The more noise you produce, the higher the morale of your troops and the lower that of the enemy. What is more, two mortars are harder to destroy than one.
Yet another approach to the problem was devised. The lack of accuracy of Soviet mortars is more than made up for by the explosive power of their bombs. To Soviet commanders, the best mortar is a large one-the bigger it is the better. At present the largest American mortar is their 106.7mm, while the smallest Soviet one is 120mm. The biggest American mortar tar bomb weighs 12.3 kilogrammes, the smallest Soviet one 16 kilogrammes. But besides this small mortar, the Soviet Army has a 160mm version, which fires a 40 kilogramme bomb and a 240mm version which fires a 100 kilogramme bomb.
Anyone who has seen 120mm mortars firing, especially if he was near them, will never forget the experience. I have actually seen 12 240mm mortars in action together. These fire not 16 kilogramme but 100 kilogramme bombs. Within twenty minutes, each mortar fired 15 bombs. This represented, as I later calculated, a total of 18 tons of explosives and cast-iron splinters. I found the noise absolutely staggering. It was amazing that men could retain their sanity in the midst of it. While the firing was in progress, one had the impression that thousands of tons of explosive were going off each second and the whole process seemed to last an age. The astonishing destructive power of these mortars makes up for any inaccuracy in aiming or in dispersion. I believe that this is the correct approach. Only one country, Israel, has had a chance to test the value of this exceptionally cheap and effective policy. Her army has 160mm mortars. I sincerely hope that she will progress further-she is on the right path.
The outstanding simplicity, reliability and ease of maintenance of the 240mm mortar are vital qualities, and they played a decisive role when the moment came to decide which should be the first artillery weapon to fire nuclear projectiles. It was the obvious choice and it is now many years since it was selected for this role. It was also a good choice, being comparatively small, manoeuvrable and easier to conceal than a gun. At the same time, it has a huge calibre, which solves several technical problems. Its muzzle velocity is considerably lower than that of a gun or a howitzer. There is therefore no danger that the bomb will explode as it is fired or that it will detonate accidentally. What could be better?
In 1970, a self-propelled version of the 240mm mortar was introduced. It was installed on a tracked GMZ chassis. This greatly increased its mobility, its ability to move across rough country and the protection provided for the crew. This development further increased the affection which the Soviet generals reserve for the mortar. At this period only Fronts and General Headquarters reserves were equipped with these weapons. However, Army and divisional commanders, as one man, implored every meeting they attended at the Ministry of Defence to give each divisional commander a battalion of these mortars and they also asked that each Army commander should have at least a regiment of them. Their pleas were heard and soon they received the mortars. And why not? It is after all, the simplest and the most economical weapon imaginable.
It's all right for the generals, you will say, but what about the battalion commanders? Must they be content with what their predecessors had in the Second World War? The number of mortars in a battalion could hardly be increased, for that would mean that half the infantry would have to be reclassified as artillery. Nor is it possible to increase the calibre of battalion mortars. This would make them too heavy to follow the infantry wherever it goes.
A way out of this situation, too, has been found. In 1971 the `Vasilek' automatic mortar was issued to battalions. Its introduction did not mean that the insistence on simplicity had been dropped. This automatic weapon is as uncomplicated as a Kalashnikov. When necessary, it can fire single shots. As an automatic weapon it fires 120 bombs a minute. It differs from all earlier mortars in being capable of both high and flat trajectory fire. It can fire both normal and anti-tank bombs. If necessary, a battalion commander can move his whole mortar battery to a sector threatened by enemy tanks and can shower them with 720 anti-tank bombs every minute.
The Vasilek is being produced on a self-propelled, armoured chassis and also in a towed variant. Six of them give a battalion commander greatly increased capability to bring concentrated fire to bear on a decisive sector.
Why do Calibres Vary?
When the Soviet Union first displayed the BMP-1 infantry combat vehicle in a parade, its designation and the calibre of its guns were unknown. From careful examination of photographs, Western analysts concluded that the calibre of the gun must be between 70 and 80mm. In this range there was only one gun-the 76mm, which is still, as it has been for many years<,> a standard weapon in both the Soviet Army and the Soviet Navy. This gun was the most widely distributed of all Soviet artillery weapons before, during and after the war and its calibre occurs again and again in designations of Soviet equipment (e.g. T-34–76, the SU-76, the PT-76). Since this seemed a safe deduction, Western handbooks listed the new Soviet vehicle as the BMP-76.
Then several BMP-1s were captured in the Middle East and carefully examined. To the amazement of the specialists, it was established that the calibre of the gun was 73mm. This was virtually the same as the 76mm, so why were the Soviet designers not using this trusted calibre? Why the variation?
Meanwhile, photographs of new Soviet tanks-the T-64 and T-72-had begun to appear in Western journals. Painstaking analysis showed that the calibre of the gun carried by both these tanks was 125mm. But this calibre did not exist, either in the USSR or elsewhere. Many of the experts refused to accept the analysts' conclusion, asserting that the new tanks must have 122mm guns. 122mm-like 76mm-is a standard calibre, which has been in continuous use since before the Revolution. The 122 howitzer is the largest in use in the Soviet Army. Most heavy armoured vehicles had and still have guns of this calibre-the IS-2, IS-3, T-10, T10-M, SU-122, ISU-122, IT-122 and most recently the new, self-propelled `Gvozdika' howitzer, even though this appeared considerably later than the T-64. But then the new Soviet tanks began to appear abroad and all doubt ended-they did have 125mm guns. What was all this about? Why were all previous standards being abandoned? What lay behind it all?
The switch from existing calibres was not the result of a whim; rather, it was a carefully thought-out policy-one which has a long history. It was initiated by Stalin himself, a few hours before Germany's surprise attack on the USSR.
It was on the eve of the war that the Soviet naval and coastal artillery were first issued with the excellent 130mm gun. This was subsequently used as an anti-tank gun and as a field gun and finally, in a self-propelled variant. Also just before the war, in the spring of 1941, a highly successful rocket launcher was developed in the USSR. This was the BM-13, which could fire 16 130mm rockets simultaneously. It later became known to the Soviet Army as the `Katyusha' and to the Germans as the `Stalin Organ'. Naturally, the existence of both the gun and the rocket launcher were kept entirely secret.
In the first days of June 1941 the new rocket launcher was shown to members of the Politburo, in Stalin's presence. However, it was not fired, because artillery shells instead of rockets had been delivered to the test range. The mistake was understandable, in view of the great zeal with which secrecy was being preserved-how could the ordinance officers possibly have known of the existence of the 130mm rockets, which bore no resemblance to artillery shells?
Knowing Stalin, those present assumed that everyone responsible for this mistake would be shot immediately. However, Stalin told the Chekists not to get involved and went back to Moscow.
The second demonstration took place on 21 June at Solnechnogorsk. This time everything went off very well. Stalin was delighted with the rocket launcher. Then and there, on the range, he signed an order authorising its issue to the Soviet Army. However, he directed that henceforth, in order to avoid confusion, the rockets should be referred to as 132mm, not as 130mm.
Accordingly, while the rocket launcher continued to be known as the BM-13 (13cm being 130mm), the rockets were henceforth referred to, despite their true calibre, as 132mm. That very night the war began.
During the war, projectiles of all types were fired in enormous quantities, reaching astronomical totals. They were transported for thousands of kilometres, under constant enemy attack. While they were being moved they had to be trans-shipped again and again and this was done by schoolboys, by old peasants, by convicts from prisons and camps, by German prisoners and by Soviet soldiers who had only been in the army for two or three days. Orders and requisitions for the rockets were passed hastily by telephone from exchange to exchange and made all but inaudible by interference. But there were no mistakes. Everyone could understand that `We need 130s' was a reference to artillery shells and it was equally clear that `1–3–2' meant rockets.
In 1942 the design of the rockets was modernised and their grouping capability and destructive effect was improved. In the process, they became slightly thicker, and their calibre was increased to 132mm-thus coming to match their designation.
Stalin's decision had proved correct and, as a result, a series of artillery weapons with unusual calibres were developed during the war. They appeared, of course, only when an unusual shell or rocket was designed. For instance, in 1941 a start was made with the development of a huge mortar which was needed to fire a 40 kilogram bomb. The calibre of the mortar could have been, for instance, 152mm, like the great majority of Soviet guns and howitzers. Obviously, however, a howitzer shell would be unsuitable for a mortar and vice versa. A mortar fires a particular type of projectile, which must itself be of a certain calibre. This was the requirement which resulted in the development of the 160mm mortar. Immediately after the war, 40mm grenade launchers appeared. There had never before been a weapon of this particular calibre in the Soviet Army. There were 37mm and 45mm shells. But a grenade launcher uses its own type of projectile and a special calibre was therefore selected for it.
Soviet designers took steps to correct past mistakes, which had been tolerated until Stalin's sensible decision. The calibre of the standard Soviet infantry weapon is 7.62mm. In 1930, a 7.62mm `TT' pistol was brought into service, in addition to the existing rifles and machine-guns of this calibre. Although their calibre is the same, the rounds for this pistol cannot, of course, be used in either rifles or machine-guns.
In wartime, when everything is collapsing, when whole Armies and Groups of Armies find themselves encircled, when Guderian and his tank Army are charging around behind your own lines, when one division is fighting to the death for a small patch of ground, and others are taking to their heels at the first shot, when deafened switchboard operators, who have not slept for several nights, have to shout someone else's incomprehensible orders into telephones-in this sort of situation absolutely anything can happen. Imagine that, at a moment such as this, a division receives ten truckloads of 7.62mm cartridges. Suddenly, to his horror, the commander realises that the consignment consists entirely of pistol ammunition. There is nothing for his division's thousands of rifles and machine-guns and a quite unbelievable amount of ammunition for the few hundred pistols with which his officers are armed.
I do not know whether such a situation actually arose during the war, but once it was over the `TT' pistol-though not at all a bad weapon-was quickly withdrawn from service. The designers were told to produce a pistol with a different calibre. Since then Soviet pistols have all been of 9mm calibre. Why standardise calibres if this could result in fatally dangerous misunderstanding?
Ever since then, each time an entirely new type of projectile has been introduced, it has been given a new calibre. Naturally, shells for the BMP-1 gun are not suitable for the PT-76 tank-that was already obvious when work on the design of the new vehicle and of its armament was begun. Therefore it should not have a 76mm gun but something different-for instance, a 73mm one. The shells for the new T-62 tank were of a completely new design and would obviously not be suitable for use in the old 100mm tank guns. In that case, the calibre here too, should be something quite different-for instance, 115mm. The same went for the T-64 and T-72. Their shells had to be quite different from those of the old heavy tanks. So that the old and the new types of ammunition should not be mixed up, it was decided that the new shells should be 125mm whereas the old ones were 122mm. There are dozens of similar examples.
There are exceptions. In some cases it is essential to use a particular calibre and no other. For example, the 122mm, 40-barrel multiple rocket launcher must be of precisely that calibre-no more and no less. Its rockets are therefore given a special designation; they are called `Grad' rockets. This is the only way in which they are ever referred to-they are never called `122mm' rockets. One makes this a habit from one's very first day. Then, if someone orders `1–2–2' he is referring to howitzer shells, but if he orders `Grad', he means rockets.
Western analysts find it hard to understand why the Soviet Union has turned away from its old, well-tried standard calibres. Soviet analysts, for their part, wonder why Western designers stick so stubbornly to old specifications. The British have an exceptionally powerful 120mm tank gun. An excellent weapon. They also have a useful 120mm recoilless gun. One of them was developed some time ago, the other more recently. Obviously, they use quite different shells. Why not use different calibres-one could be 120mm, the other 121mm? Or leave the calibres as they are; just change the designation of one to 121mm. Why not?
The same applies to West Germany and to France. Both countries have excellent 120mm mortars and both are working on the development of new 120mm tank guns. Of course this works well enough in peacetime. Everything is under control when the soldiers are professionals, who are quick to understand a command. But what happens if, tomorrow, middle-aged reservists and students from drama academies have to be mobilised to defend freedom? What then? Every time 120mm shells are needed, one will have to explain that you don't need the type which are used by recoilless guns or those which are fired by mortars, but shells for tank guns. But be careful-there are 120mm shells for rifled tank guns and different 120mm shells for smoothbore tank guns. The guns are different and their shells are different. What happens if a drama student makes a mistake?
The Soviet analysts sit and scratch their heads as they try to understand why it is that Western calibres never alter.
Secrets, Secrets, Secrets
The 41st Guards Tank Division was issued with T-64 tanks at the beginning of 1967. Of course, its soldiers knew nothing about this. They joined the division, served it honourably for two years and then went back to their homes; other soldiers came, learned something about tanks but went home having heard nothing about the T-64 and never having seen one. In 1972 the division was reequipped with the new T-72s and the T-64s were sent to Germany. The soldiers, of course, knew nothing about this-neither that the division had received new tanks nor that the old ones had gone. The soldiers serve in a division, they are trained by it for war but they know nothing about its tanks.
To the Western reader this may seem rather strange. However, when I came to the West and took my first look at Western armies, I was astounded to discover that Western soldiers knew the names of their tanks, and that they drive and fire from them. This seemed absurd to me, but I was unable to obtain any explanation of this strange policy.
In the Soviet Army everything is secret. When the war began it was not only the German generals who knew nothing about the T-34 tank-even the Soviet generals knew no more than they did. It was being mass-produced, but this was kept secret. Not even the tank forces knew of its existence. The new tanks were moved from the factories to some divisions, but only to those which were a long way back from the frontiers. They were ferried by a factory team (totalling 30 drivers for the whole of the Soviet Union) in convoys, the like of which had never been seen before, escorted by NKVD officers, who were forbidden even to talk to the drivers. They travelled only at night and the tanks were always completely covered with tarpaulins. The routes they took were closed to all other traffic and heavily guarded. When the tanks reached their destination, they were off-loaded by the factory team, who then drove them into vehicle parks, surrounded by high walls, inside which they were put into storage.
The tank crews were quickly instructed on various features of the new tanks, but they were not told what the new tanks were called or shown them. The gunners were, however, introduced to the new gunsights and taught how to use them, firing from old tanks. The drivers were given intensive training in the old tanks after being told that there was a new tank in the offing, which had to be driven rather differently. The drivers did not, of course, know whether the division already had this new tank or not. The tank commanders, too, were told a certain amount and shown how to service the engine, but they were not told the name of the tank from which the unusual engine came or given its horse-power. In short, the division was simply retrained, but only used the old tanks.
Then came the war, unexpected and terrifying. The first echelon divisions, which had good, although not secret equipment, were torn to pieces in the first battles. While this was happening, the divisions in the rear areas received orders to go into the tank parks, to take the tanks out of storage and to familiarise themselves with them. It took them two weeks to do this and after a further two weeks they reached the front. Then in these completely unknown tanks, the divisions took on Guderian's armoured columns. It was soon clear that they could operate them very well. After all, a driver who can handle a Volkswagen like a champion would not take long to master a Mercedes. That is how it was done in the Soviet Army then and how it will be done in future-they learn on a Volkswagen, but keep the Mercedes secretly hidden away until it is really needed.
But, of course, the T-34 was not the only surprise awaiting the Germans. They discovered the existence of the `KV' heavy tank only when they met it in action; before that they had not even heard of it. Nor, for that matter, had its Soviet tank-crews had any idea of its existence-the KV had been secretly stored away. The German troops soon met the `Stalin Organ' for the first time, too, and panicked when they did so. In peacetime sub-units armed with these excellent weapons had masqueraded as pontoon-bridge battalions, whose uniforms they had worn, with the result that most of their own soldiers had not realised that they were in reality rocket troops. Their retraining started only when the war began, but even then only the battery commanders knew the correct designation of their rocket launchers. The remaining officers, NCOs and other ranks did not even know what the equipment which they were using in battle was called. The launchers were marked with the letter K (standing for the Komintern factory in Voronezh). Naturally, no one, even the battery commanders, knew what this stood for and the result was that the soldiers on every front almost simultaneously christened these splendid weapons `Katerina', `Katya' or `Katyusha'. It was under this last name that they went down in history. Their correct designation-BM-13-was only allowed to be used in secret documents from the middle of 1942 onwards and it was not used in unclassified papers until after the end of the war.
The policy of observing the strictest rules of secrecy has completely justified itself. For this reason it is universally accepted and is applied with ever greater rigour. As a result, officers serving in a nuclear submarine may know, for instance, the output of the boat's reactor, if they are involved in its maintenance, but they will not know the maximum depth to which the boat can dive, since this does not concern them. Others may know this maximum depth, but will not know the range of the missiles which the submarine carries.
This policy of secrecy is applied to the production of heavy assault guns, mounted on tank chassis. A tank with a fixed turret is an excellent weapon. True, its arc of fire is reduced, but against this, a more powerful gun can be installed, the quantity of ammunition it carries can be increased, its armour can be strengthened without increasing its overall weight and, most important, it is much easier to manufacture. Guns of this sort are indispensable, when used in close conjunction with tanks with normal turrets. Both the Soviet and the German generals came to realise their value during the war, but since then only the former have continued to produce them. In order that other countries should not be tempted to introduce this simple but excellent weapon, all Soviet heavy assault guns are protected by strict security measures. Their production has continued, without a break, ever since the war. Every motor-rifle regiment (inside the USSR, but not abroad) has one battery of heavy assault guns. In the 1950s the powerful D-74 (122mm) was mounted on a T-54 tank chassis, then the M-46 gun (1 30mm) was installed on the T-62 tank chassis. All regiments, without exception, have heavy assault guns of this type. They are kept in mothballs for decades, never seeing the light of day. Their crews train on T-54 and T-62 tanks. Sometimes they are shown the gunsights of the assault guns. They know the tactics which will be used and they know how to service the engines. If war should break out their commander would disclose to them that instead of tanks they were about to be equipped with something which was similar but far more powerful and better armoured. In the middle of the 1970s all these guns were replaced by more powerful models but, naturally, they were not melted down. Instead they were either sent to the Chinese frontier to be installed in concrete emplacements or sent to holding depots, in case they should come in useful one day.
The same secrecy is maintained around the IT-1 and IT-2 anti-tank rocket launchers and the Rapira-2 and Rapira-3 anti-tank guns.
The IT-1 is built on a T-62 tank chassis but is armed with the `Drakon' anti-tank rocket instead of a gun. Each Army has one battalion of IT-1s, which are kept in mothballs, well concealed and never seen even by the battalion's own soldiers. If the Army to which it belongs is posted abroad, the battalion remains on Soviet territory, to all appearances an ordinary tank battalion. Its soldiers are given instruction in tactics and driving and maintenance of the vehicles but ordinary tanks or training simulators are used for this.
In this way it is possible to serve out your time in the Soviet Army, learning nothing-or very little-about its equipment.
How Much Does All This Cost?
Nothing at all. I will repeat that. All this costs nothing at all.
Let us imagine that you work at a full-time job, but that your wife does not. You give her an allowance and she has no other source of income. You start to give her driving lessons and decide to make yourself some money by doing so. After all, you are using up energy, time, labour, nerves and petrol. But now answer a question-is it more in your interest to make your wife pay through the nose for her lessons, or to keep the price low? Which will be more profitable for you?
If you were giving lessons to a neighbour, of course, you would ask as high a price as you felt you could. But what should you do when you are teaching your own wife? The more money you make her pay, in the hope of becoming rich, the more she will need from you, for where else could she get it?
If you lower your fee, you will need to give your wife less, and she will let you have less back. You soon realise that whatever you charge she will just be taking money from your pocket and then returning it to you.
Now, turn your thoughts to the 6th Guards Tank Army, with its thousands of tanks and tens of thousands of men. Imagine yourself to be the Communist Pharaoh, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Something strange-goodness knows what-is going on in Czechoslovakia. To safeguard yourself you decide to move the 6th Guards Army up to your frontier with this fraternal state. It is only possible to move a thousand tanks over a distance of a thousand kilometres by rail, for tanks wear out roads very fast-and vice versa. How much is this going to cost you? You summon the Minister of Railways (being nationalised, the railways are fully controlled by the people-in other words by the government-that is, by you personally) and put this question to him. He tells you-`100 million rubles'. This means that you will have to take 100 million rubles out of the State's pocket and give it to the Army; the Army pays the money to the railways, which, in turn, puts this, the profit they have made, back into the State's pocket. What on earth is the point of taking it out in the first place, if it was going to be put back almost immediately? So, in fact, it does not get taken out in the first place. The General Secretary just summons the Minister and tells him to move the 6th Guards Tank Army. The Minister says `Yes, Sir', clicks his heels and does as he has been told. That is all. No money is needed for the operation. The same system applies to any movement by individual soldiers. An officer comes to a railway station and shows papers which say that in the national interest he is to proceed to the Far East. What would be the point in giving the officer money, for him to pay a State organisation, which must then refund the same money to the State?
In the Soviet Union everything has been nationalised. Private deals are forbidden. Since everything is in the hands of the State, prices for goods produced for the State have no meaning. Tanks, guns, rockets-none has any price inside the State. It is like growing a strawberry in your garden, selling it to yourself and eating it, moving the money you pay for it from your right pocket to your left one. Your strawberry only acquires a price if you sell it to someone else and put the money he pays you into your pocket. In the same way, Soviet tanks acquire a price only when someone abroad buys them.
For the State, which owns all the safes in the land, to move billions of rubles from one safe to another is meaningless. So nothing is moved. A Ministry simply receives an order to produce a thousand tanks or rockets or bombers and to deliver them to the armed forces. That is all. If a minister does not carry out his orders he loses his place at the ministerial feeding-trough. Money of a sort is paid to the workers but it is really nothing but the equivalent of ration cards. Workers are given just enough to buy bread or potatoes, a poor quality suit every three years and vodka every day. This money is printed by the State but it is not recognised by anyone abroad, since it can not be exchanged for gold.
In the Soviet Union there are virtually no taxes, because they are not needed. Everything is in the hands of the State, everything has been nationalised. A Soviet banknote is essentially a ration card, issued by the State for work done in its interests. Why hand out ten ration cards and then take five of them back again? The State does not grow any richer by re-acquiring these cards, which do not help to make more meat available in the shops. Accordingly, the State, which prints these cards, produces only enough to buy the amount of bread, potatoes, rotten meat and old fashioned clothes which it is prepared to distribute to its citizens. The latter eat the meat and give the ration cards back to the State, which hands them out again.
Sometimes the State becomes more concerned about producing tanks than food, but it must continue to hand out ration cards to the people. This creates inflation, since now the ration cards can not even purchase bread and this soon has a calamitous effect on the whole huge military machine.
It is a good thing that there are capitalists in the world, ready to come forward with help at times like these.
The Soviet Union has designed a large number of first-class weapons, among them the T-34 tank, the Kalashnikov automatic assault rifle and the IL-2 Shturmovik ground attack aircraft. Even today, in the early 1980s, no one has succeeded in improving on the performance of the Soviet 130mm gun, although it was developed as long ago as 1935. The Soviet Union was the first to use rockets fired from an aircraft-this was in August 1939 in Mongolia, in combat with Japanese aircraft. A Soviet motor torpedo boat (under Egyptian colours) was the first in history to use rockets to sink an enemy ship. The Soviet Union was the first to use the BM-13 salvo-firing rocket launcher. The Soviet Union was the first, many years ago, to realise the value of smoothbore guns, with their astonishingly high muzzle velocity, and it was the first to mass-produce automatic mortars and many other excellent types of weapon.
At the same time, the Soviet intelligence services, the largest in the world, search unceasingly for anything new in the field of military equipment. The enormous extent of Soviet activity in this sphere beggars description. Soviet intelligence succeeded in obtaining all the technical documentation needed to produce nuclear weapons, in winning over a number of distinguished scientists and in ideologically recruiting others as agents.
Since the war, the Soviet Union has succeeded in copying and in putting into mass production the American B-29 bomber, British Rolls-Royce aircraft engines, American lorries and German V-2 rockets. It has also completed the development of a number of German rocket designs which were still unfinished at the end of the war. It has stolen plans for the construction of French anti-tank rockets, American air-launched missiles, laser range-finders, stabilisers for tank guns, rocket fuel, special dye-stuffs and many, many other highly important products.