At the beginning of June, Wargaming.net released a huge update to “World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition” – the Russian-themed “Soviet Steel” expansion. And in August, the tanks keep rolling with the massive Combat Ready Starter Pack, which includes all kinds of in-game goodies at a bargain price.
“Soviet Steel” provides a whole new arsenal to play with, with 29 killer USSR vehicles and two all-new maps. For “World of Tanks” fans, this is an exciting opportunity to experience some of the most iconic tanks of World War II, but also to dive into some of the lesser-known ones. Here’s a helpful guide, to walk you through what’s hot and what’s not in 1940s communist armor fashion.
- The T-18, styled as the “MS-1” in “World of Tanks,” was the first-ever Soviet-produced tank. Based on a French design from the 1920s, this tank didn’t see much service, and was not particularly successful when it did.
- The T-26 light tank was one of the Soviet Union’s most successful and heavily produced tanks, with over 11,000 having been built. It was shipped in large numbers to Spain to take part in the Spanish Civil War, fought off the Japanese during an attempted invasion from Manchukuo, supported the Russians against the Finns in the Winter War, and was the primary tank – despite being totally outclassed – against the Germans during their invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II.
- The BT series of tanks (the BT-2 and BT-7 are available in “Soviet Steel”) were tanks designed for speed, rather than toughness. Lightly armored and highly maneuverable, they were among the most successful tanks of their time. The BT-2 was derived from a U.S. design, while the later BT-7 used a Soviet-modified version of a BMW engine, and featured a more resistant hull design and much more powerful guns.
- The T-46 was a tank that never really came to fruition. It had been originally designed as an improvement on the T-26, but was scrapped after it was found to be too expensive, thinly armored, and poorly armed. Prototypes did see a little service in the Winter War against Finland, but these did not fare well.
- The A-20 was a transitional design between the BT series and T-34 medium tank (see below). It retained the trackless drive feature of the BT, but lost out to a slightly heavier, full-tracked variant (A-20G, later A-32) which the start point for T-34.
- The T-50 helped to invalidate the doctrine of light infantry tanks in the warfare of the time. Because armored cars and half-tracks could assume the reconnaissance and infantry-support roles that they had once done, light tanks – with their thin armor and weak weapons – were phased out. However, the T-50 was an excellent design for its time, and would have been produced in large numbers if not for the lack of V-4 engines necessary to its mass production.
- The T-28 was one of the world’s first medium tanks ever produced, and was extremely important in the history of tank design. While not particularly successful in combat in its own right, it paved the way for many important developments in tank design and tank doctrine. It was one of the first to feature multiple turrets (with different classes of guns mounted independently on each), it had relatively heavy armor, and it was designed to punch through enemy defenses, as well as support friendly infantry. An important milestone, if not a killer beast.
- The T-34 medium tank was one of the most successful medium tanks of World War II and beyond. It has contributed significantly to every area of tank theory – engineering, design, tactics, combined-arms strategy, and even aesthetics. Even today, some modern tanks use the T-34’s design as the basis for their own, and some countries’ armed forced still operate this tank. Without question, this is the touchstone by which all others will be judged, and “World of Tanks” fans should be extremely excited to have this one in the mix. “Soviet Steel” also includes the T-34-85, a variant which has an 85mm gun in place of the original design’s 76.2mm gun, along with some other improvements.
- The T-43 tank was an attempt to improve on the T-34 tank by giving it heavier armor to allow it to go toe-to-toe with the German heavy tanks of World War II, but it was soon discovered that what was needed wasn’t heavier armor, but bigger guns. This tank was scrapped soon after that discovery, in favor of putting a bigger gun on the existing T-34.
- The T-44 was designed at the end of World War II to be a real successor to the T-34, with an integrated 85mm gun, a lower profile, more ammunition capacity, a three-man turret, better suspension, and more fuel capacity. While just a few thousand were built, this design became the basis for:
- The T-54, which would go on to become the most produced medium tank in world history. Appearing just at the end of World War II, these tanks (along with their close cousin, the T-55 series) were produced in numbers estimated to have been as many as 100,000, and some are still in use worldwide, often with sophisticated retrofits.
- The T-62 tank is a bit of a departure for “Soviet Steel,” as it was built long after World War II, in the 1960s. It was one of the world’s first “main battle tanks,” a class of tanks designed to be more-or-less self-sufficient in combat, although the Soviets did not specifically designate it as such. This tank was used by the Soviets in Afghanistan, and also by Soviet-allied countries around the world in a variety of conflicts, including Syria during the Yom Kippur War and Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. The variant in “World of Tanks” is actually the T-62A, a version with a rifled cannon, rather than the standard variant’s 115 mm smooth-bore gun.
- The Kliment Voroshilov series of tanks (“Soviet Steel” features the KV-1 and KV-1S) were a group of World War II-era heavy tanks, known primarily for having extremely heavy armor. They were slow, and didn’t have particularly powerful guns, but the Germans had a difficult time knocking them out of service. The KV-1S variant was a more lightly armored, faster moving version – but nearly all KV-series tanks were phased out when it was found that the medium T-34 tanks were performing pretty much just as well in a practical sense.
- The Joseph Stalin series of heavy tanks, called “IS” in “Soviet Steel,” since “Joseph” is usually rendered as “Iosif” from Cyrillic, was developed late in World War II mainly as a tip-of-the-spear solution to be used for breaking through fortifications. These tanks were extremely heavily armored and had very powerful guns, and later vehicles could stand up to even the famous 88 mm long gun of King Tiger and Pak-43. “Soviet Steel” includes several of these behemoths, including the IS-7 – which weighed 68 metric tons, and was the largest and heaviest tank ever produced by the Soviet Union. It was never mass-produced, but was extremely innovative for its time.
Assault Guns and Tank Destroyers
- The AT-1 was a variant of the T-26 light tank, fitted with a 76.2mm cannon to give it enough punch to be able to take out heavier tanks, while still having the mobility to move quickly across the battlefield. Or at least, that was the plan. Only a couple of these were actually built before the program was canceled in 1936.
- The SU-76 was the second most produced armored vehicle of the World War II era, being amazingly simple to operate and drive, and therefore beloved by its crews. Famous for being able to operate in swamps without any modifications, the SU-76 outflanked the Germans during Operation Bagration in Belarus on multiple occasions, often sneaking around their lines and blasting them to bits. A true icon of World War II, the SU-76 was a match for all but the heaviest German tanks, and is a very welcome addition to “World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition.”
- The SU-85 was the first of the Soviet World War II-era tank destroyers based on the T-34 tank chassis, and saw some action on the Eastern Front through most of the war. While produced in fairly large numbers, its 85mm anti-tank gun was found too weak to penetrate the armor of many of the heavier German fighting vehicles and tanks, and it was eventually replaced by:
- The SU-100, which was essentially the identical chassis, but with a much more powerful gun installed into a casement. The SU-100 was capable of taking out the most powerful German tanks in the war. Indeed, this tank saw action long after World War II in the Red Army and in other armies around the world; it’s still in use today in the armies of Vietnam and North Korea, as a matter of fact.
- Take a gigantic, 152mm howitzer and strap it onto the chassis of the heavy KV-1S heavy tank, and you end up with the SU-152. Put the same gun on top of the later-model Josef Stalin-class heavy tank, and you get the ISU-152. These assault guns were critical in Operation Uranus, the counteroffensive to retake Stalingrad, where they earned the nickname Zveroboy (“beast-killer”) for their consistent ability to take out the heaviest German Panther, Tiger, and Elephant tanks and tank destroyers.
- “Soviet Steel” also includes an unproduced variant of the ISU-152, called Object-704, which theoretically would have had thicker armor and steeper sloping angles – making for a tougher-to-destroy target. It never went into production, though, since the steep slopes and thicker armor left little room to maneuver in the crew compartment, making life difficult for those who tried to operate the machine.
- The Object-268 was a prototype heavy tank destroyer that was designed post-war. It was never put into production, but is known for being the last of the dedicated tank destroyers the Soviet Union ever designed, and produced specifically for that purpose.
- Komarin is a map featuring summer camouflage, and features three primary routes across a central body of water – including one large central peninsula. Players don’t start near any flags, so taking advantage of the map’s ample opportunities for cover and concealment en route to objectives is critical.
- Ensk is a map divided by railroad tracks running north to south, with cityscape to the west and an open field in the east. Ample cover means players need to watch their angles carefully, so as not to get surprised and surrounded. Establishing choke points is of vital importance here, and long-range artillery becomes a viable option for funneling enemies into kill zones.
Tanks for reading! If you haven’t yet joined in on the fun, you can download “World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition” for free* (now decked out with the new “Soviet Steel” content) on the Xbox Live Marketplace. And don’t forget about the Combat Ready Starter Pack, coming to participating retailers beginning August 12. For just $19.99, you’ll get the premium Panzer 38H Tier II German light tank, 200,000 in-game silver, 1.500 in-game gold, three days of premium account time (which grants a 50% boost to experience and silver), and a 30-day voucher code for Xbox Live status.
*Xbox Live Gold membership (sold separately) required. Additional in-game content available and sold separately.