This is the final installment of my lockdown look at the Support options for the Mid and Late War Soviets, not covered in Duncan’s Air Power Chronicles series or Andy’s look at Soviet self propelled guns, and I’m going to finish with the hottest of soviet heavy metal – Flame Tanks!
The Soviets deployed two variants of flame tank in combat operations during the mid and late war periods. First up we have the KV-8, a variant on the mighty KV-1, with a new turret equipped with a 45mm main gun to make room for the turret mounted flamethrower.
Now, the Soviets didn’t build that many of these beasts; just 45 in two batches, the first 20 being built on KV-1 hulls with the ATO-41 flame thrower whilst the second batch of 25, known as the KV-8S, used the KV-1S hull and sported the improved ATO-42. In both cases the turret had to be reconfigured to allow the extra room for the flame thrower but, to make the Germans think it was a standard KV-1, the 45mm barrel was covered with a sleeve to look like the standard 76mm gun of the regular tank. There was also a third variant, developed but not put into production, sporting two flame guns in the turret.
In FoW we only have access to the KV-8 variant. In game terms the KV-8 is a pretty useful vehicle in the MW period with its massively thick armour. There is very little that seriously threatens it and the 45mm gun has a useful if not spectacular AT7, so including a platoon of three tanks as a support option for a MW infantry formation is not a bad choice. In late war they are a bit costly for what they bring, given that the 45mm gun by this stage is pretty near obsolete with the increases in tank armour and the increasing prevalence of AT12+ gun platforms makes them a lot more vulnerable.
Our second option for a flame thrower tank is the OT-34 series. Development of these began in 1941. The initial production runs of the OT-34 again carried the ATO-41 flame gun, but this time it is hull mounted, replacing the bow machine gun, and mainly used the T-34 model 1941 hull. The later ones are mainly T-34 Model 1942 hulls equipped with the ATO-42 flame thrower. Unlike on the KV-8, with its turret mounted weapon, the hull mounted flame gun has a more limited field of fire. However, this means the tank does retain its original fighting capability. The inclusion of the flame gun does use up extra space inside the tank so, on the already cramped 76mm armed T-34, it is also rated as overworked. The result of this is that most of the time you will need 6’s to hit with it, making it a pretty ineffective weapons platform and not really a very good option to include in a Force.
The later model again carried a better flame weapon (this has no in game benefit) but it also sported the new larger turret creating more room, so it loses the overworked rule on the main gun and as a bonus it now houses the new 85mm AT12 gun. The flame gun is still overworked making it a tricky weapon to get the most out of but it is as effective most of the time as a regular T-35/85 so, as a Support unit, it makes a pretty good choice to provide some armoured support to your Strelkovy and can even be used with a Tank company, where these can be used in place of infantry to clear building and other entrenched positions.
Now, I know I have already said I don’t rate the OT-34/76 very highly, and I certainly wouldn’t bother with it in Mid War very often, but where they are useful is in a mixed Late War unit to absorb the initial casualties.
My preferred ten tank battalion build is a mix of 6x 85mm tanks and 4x 76mm for 37 points. You can even push it up to 41 if seeking a single reserve option.
So there you have it. I hope you’ve found these articles useful and they have given you some ideas on how to include the Support options in your own Forces – Martin