The T-34/85 is an improved version of the Soviet T-34 medium tank, one of the most mass-produced of the History. It saw service for the first time with the Red Army in 1944, during the Second World War, and it is still in use in some countries.
In 1942 German tanks had improved both their armor and their firepower. Therefore, Soviet vehicles had to come closer for engaging them, but meanwhile they were still vulnerable at longer distances. Moreover, T-34 turrets held only two men, so the commander acted also a a gunner, thus reducing his operational effectiveness. He also lacked an observation cupola, and he could not use the radio, since it was located in the hull.
This new model saw an increase of the armor thickness, whereas a new turret was introduced, hosting three crew members (commander, gunner and loader). An anti-tank versions of the 85 mm M-1939 (52-K) anti-aircraft gun replaced the original 76 mm (2.99"). This weapon, albeit still inferior to the main guns of the German Panthers and Tigers, represented a large improvement to the tank firepower.
The armor of the T-34/85 had sloped plates, with the same layout of its predecessor but with increased thickness: it varied from 90 mm to 50 mm (3.54" to 1.97") in the turret and from 50 mm to 45 mm (1.97" to 1.77") in the hull. The overall weight was 31 t. Its engine was a V12 diesel with a displacement of 38.8 liters and a power output of 500 hp; the maximum roadspeed was 55 km/h (34 mph).
Its main armament was an 85 mm (3.35") ZIS-S-53 gun, supported by two 76,2 mm (0.30") DT machine guns, one coaxial with the main gun and another in the hull front. The crew was 5 people, one more than its predecessor: commander, gunner, loader, pilot and machine gunner. The radio was in the turret, usable by the commander, who could also count on an observation cupola.
The production of the T-34/85 started in January 1944. Since the beginning, the tank showed itself capable of fighting on equal terms against the most powerful German counterparts, being even superior to the Panzer IVs and StuG IIIs. It became the standard medium tank of the Red Army until the end of the conflict. The total number of vehicles produced was 48,950.
Some years after the Second World War it was replaced in frontline duties by the T-54/T-55, but it remained in use in reserve units until the end of 1960s. The Soviets sold many vehicles to their satellite states, who used them in several conflicts during the Cold War (Korean War, Hungarian Revolution, Angolan Civil War, Vietnam War, Yugoslavian War and many others).
The T-34/85 is still in service as reserve in some Middle Eastern and African contries, as well as in North Korea, Cuba and Bosnia-Herzegovina. There are also rumors of its combat use in Eastern Ukraine and Yemen at the end of 2010s, 75 years after its introduction.