Thursday, December 30, 2010

There is no word in the German language for "fluffy"...

...and there is no word in Russian for "ergonomics".

In an epiphany that I'm sure will interest about three of my readers, while I was reading a book yesterday, I was looking at a cutaway of the Russian T-34-85 tank and it suddenly hit me that they sat their loader on the right side of the gun's breech. Either they have a lot of left-handed young men in Russia, or the guys that designed them didn't actually spend much time riding around in them...

(For those unaware, the loader's job is to, in a cramped space, pick up a fairly long, bulky, heavy shell, stick the nose of it in the breech, ram it home with one arm, and then quickly get that arm clear of the breech mechanism. Ideally, this would be the stronger and more... er... dexterous of his two arms...)

39 comments:

mailleman said...

Dexterous... I see what you did there.
:-D

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

No, you see, this way you save wear and tear on your good right arm, and you won't need assistance, as quickly, on cleanup after you do your bidness in the smallest room as you reach your more senior Hero of Soviet Peoples Dotage Home years.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

T34 gunners are sinister.

Actually, T34 gunners are demanded to be sinister by the state.

Anonymous said...

Actually you are usually stronger in your off hand but have better fine motor control in your on hand...

Boat Guy said...

Few weapons-systems have operator input incorporated into the design. Those that DO ask, usually wait until it's too late in the production run to make changes...

Craig S. Miller said...

The Russians have always had little regard for comfort at the risk of efficiency. A bit of a stretch but a side note The U.S. Space program bought the Fisher Space Pen which cost about a million dollars to develop and could write in zero gravity, The Russians used a pencil.

tomcatshanger said...

the flip side Craig is that the space pen didn't generate fine dust in a zero-g environment like a pencil does.

Tam said...

Craig S. Miller,

"The Russians have always had little regard for comfort at the risk of efficiency."

Yes, but this has nothing to do with comfort and everything to do with efficiency. Rate-of-fire would be impacted by forcing your loader to use his weaker, non-dominant hand.

Bram said...

The more expendable arm?

Anonymous said...

Russians, _DESIGNERS_ are STILL doing that: anyone worked on their own modern car lately?

A simple example: the Dodge Caravan, the back 3 spark plugs are basically impossible to change by non-professionals. They can't be accessed.

_spark plugs_

I saw a nice german car the other day with most of the front engine bay and bits (radiator, bumper, battery, etc.... ripped out so you could chnage something dumb like a water pump.

Oil filter chnages? Dear god, you'd think it was an AFTERTHOUGHT that they'd ever have to be removed on most vehicles given the stupid arse places they are put.

Honestly would be cost/weigh much more to out some room under the hood? Or at least make modern car engines like tank engines, so you can swap the entire assembly in 30-60min. That would let you have access to things. even if ever repair instructions started with: " See chapter 1, how to pull your engine"

Wayne said...

If you were a short and lefty Russian in WWII, they had a career path for you. The loader's hatch was also a weak point that German gunners learned ot aim at, so it was a short career path.

Peter said...

The Soviet Union tended to put ergonomics and user safety dead last on its weapon design priority list. Witness the early T-72 tank's automatic loading system. It was renowned for occasionally grabbing a member of the crew, rather than a shell, and attempting to load him into the breech - forcibly. It's rumored that most of the Red Army's soprano section was recruited in this fashion . . .

:-)

Tam said...

"Or at least make modern car engines like tank engines, so you can swap the entire assembly in 30-60min."

Funny you should mention that.

The Porsche Boxster is not designed for the home mechanic. You can access fluid checks and such, but that's it; you can't even see the engine. The car is designed so that when you take it in for service, they just drop the entire powerpack, transaxle and all, to work on it.

"A simple example: the Dodge Caravan, the back 3 spark plugs are basically impossible to change by non-professionals. They can't be accessed."

That's not a design flaw: Car companies haven't wanted you dicking around under the hood for at least the last thirty years. Their thinking is basically "You might break something and you don't have an OBD-II analyzer and why are you changing spark plugs when the first scheduleed spark plug change isn't for 100k miles anyway?"

Hard-to-change sparkplugs? Have you noticed they've been burying the whole engine under stylized plastic cladding for years now? Belive me, if they could get away with closing the hood with tamper-proof bolts, they would.

Anonymous said...

The right hand is needed for holding the vodka bottle.

D.W. Drang said...

As noted by others, the Russkies "recruited" short guys for their armor crews, and short southpaws for the position of loader.
AFAIK, they still do.

Jim said...

Tam - I watched the pit crew change the entire back half of an ALMS Audi R8 in eight minutes. They didn't win it but they were a long way back in it at the end. I nearly wept.

Granted no automaker has the budget for $100 quick disconnect fittings, but it'd sure be nice if they were a factory option. (That and nice seats!)

Jim

BGMiller said...

I've got a buddy that's a VW tech at the local dealership. Every so often I swing through his shop just to see if there's anything I can do to wind him up. If there's a Taureg on the lift the jokes practically write themselves. And if it's a Routan on the rack....that's just comedy gold Jerry. I can mention German engineering and get a twenty minute, slightly bug-eyed and psychotic tirade about Chrysler engineers and marketing types.

I miss my '67 SAAB 95. You could fix anything on it.

BGM

perlhaqr said...

I've got no complaints about German engineering. I've owned a number of Mercedes models that were complicated, but well thought out. For instance, I once needed to remove the fuse panel on my Unimog (I was swapping the cab out) and there was a screw that was mostly hidden behind some brace. The brace had a hole in it which aligned with the screw, so you could actually take the damned thing apart.

Rob said...

A bit of a stretch but a side note The U.S. Space program bought the Fisher Space Pen which cost about a million dollars to develop and could write in zero gravity, The Russians used a pencil.

Urban legend. NASA also used pencils, and Fisher developed the pen at their own expense.

http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp

GuardDuck said...

Heck, the T-34 didn't even have a turret basket. Leaving the crew to sit or stand on ammo boxes stacked on the floor of the hull. Loaded ammo boxes tend to be poor spall liners.

Sigivald said...

Flockig.

treefroggy said...

[snark on]

As we all know, lefties are mentally deficient to begin with. This was just part of the Stalinist eugenics movement to keep them from reproducing.

[snark off]

Kristopher said...

GuardDuck: The T-34 also had a vertical steel post in front of the breach to prevent the ejected shell from hitting the loader in the teeth.

Sometimes ( if the gun was at the right elevation ), the shell missed the post, but not the gunner.

Joel said...

"Ask a Soviet engineer to design a pair of shoes, and you'll get something that looks like the box they came in. Ask him for something to kill Germans with, and he'll become Thomas Edison."
- Neal Stephenson

alath said...

Odd to analyze T-34 vs. M-26. The T-34/85 was a wartime upgrade of a tank developed in the early 30's. The M-26 was developed after WWII trends in armored combat became obvious. The T-34 was a cheap and easily mass-produced medium tank; the M-26 seems more like a heavy to me. I am not surprised that the M-26 should outperform in combat; it had better, being almost a totally different generation design. Between the two, I would still tip my hat to the T-34's designers as making the more impressive leap forward and creating the best tank of its day and class.

McThag said...

To be fair to the Soviet tank designers, the vaunted National Socialist tanks had a right side loader too.

Pzkw III, IV, Panther and Tiger all.

Anonymous said...

A simple example: the Dodge Caravan, the back 3 spark plugs are basically impossible to change by non-professionals. They can't be accessed.

The primary reason for this is to improve the weight distribution (and thus handling) of the minivan-- half of the engine is below the windscreen getting it as far back and down as possible. It is because of this that a modern minivan corners as well as a 1970s sports car. The bottom line is that consumers were doing less and less maintenance themselves, and were demanding handling instead. The market responded.

Rob said...

treefroggy said...

[snark on]

As we all know, lefties are mentally deficient to begin with. This was just part of the Stalinist eugenics movement to keep them from reproducing.

[snark off]


I think you're confused. Since the left hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, only left handed people are in their right mind.

Tam said...

McThag,

"To be fair to the Soviet tank designers, the vaunted National Socialist tanks had a right side loader too."

That's probably where it stemmed from: monkey-see, monkey-do.

The Jerries parked the T/C on the left of the gun because, well, aircraft pilots and auto drivers were on the left... When you start stuffing a bunch of guys in a tank turret, you don't necessarily figure why you're putting them ther, but if you're starting with the T/C on the left, then...

I find it interesting that the M26 had the gunner on the right and the T/C and loader on the left, but by the M60, they'd left the loader where he was and moved the T/C over to the right side of the turret...

Tam said...

alath,

"Odd to analyze T-34 vs. M-26."

Not so odd at all.

Both were designed in '43 as responses to the Panther/Tiger threat.

Both were their nation's spearpoint in the late '40s/early '50s.

Both went toe-to-toe in Korea in the Fall of '50. (Incidentally, in Korea, the much-despised-by-armchair-tank-buffs M4A3E8 totally pwnd the vaunted T-34-85...)

Chris said...

I was in the Army at Ft Knox in the mid-1970s, and managed to get the chance to inspect one of the T-62 tanks the Israelis captured and sent over here. Another interesting configuration in those was that the gunner's head, during operations, would be approximately between the track commander's thighs. Watch those bumps! And while I'm a short guy (5'7"), I'd be an inch too tall for a Soviet tank crew.

Marja said...

Well, I'm a lefty and I learned to drive a stick shift... maybe the designer was a lefty. And either didn't think, or did and it was a revenge on the world, lefties of that age were still forced to learn to use their right hands.

Or more likely it just never occurred to the designer to think of such things as handedness, good Russian soldiers can learn what they have to in order to use what they are given. Hey, that was the Soviet age.

staghounds said...

"I miss my '67 SAAB 95. You could fix anything on it."

And if was like my 900, you needed to.

Kristopher said...

BTW ... the M-26 was a medium tank, by weight. And the M-46 Patton was simply a tricked out Pershing.

Army Ordinance decided to not go the Tiger/IS heavy tank route. The Soviets did the same. The T-55 is really a T-34 descendant.

Ed Foster said...

SAAB 95. Just remember to buy the world's longest and most bent box wrench (sold only by the dealer) to remove/replace the starter bolts. Damned thing was 18 inches long, bent through 160 degrees, and could only index the bolt one sixth of a turn at a time.

Fun little car though. Mine came with the knockdown plywood assembly that turned the entire inside of the car into a double bed.

The front seat backs pivotted up against the dashboard, the rear seat disassembled into a mattress, and your feet went into the carpetted trunk, the contents of which you first restashed on the front floor. With practice you could shift the goodies in the trunk, assemble the framework, cover it with the two seat components, and be napping (or something) in 3 or 4 minutes.

With an alcohol stove (no fumes) for warmth and one downwind window cracked half an inch, it worked quite well during deer season, with washups at McDonald's in town.

I miss the little stinker. I wish it had been a 96. It might still be alive.

I loaned it to Terry Wishnevsky to run down to New Haven one day. The gas tank was about empty, so he filled it up, not realizing he had to add 2-stroke oil to it.

The 96's had a seperate oil setup that mixed it with the gas as needed.

Anonymous said...

I read once that the T34-A had some gear that should rotate with the turret (I think seats, but that could be wrong) fixed to the hull. So when the turret rotated (@ up to 60 degrees per second), the turret crew had to dodge them. Several men were killed by being too slow to dodge the fixed item, and were crushed against it by the gun. The T-34B fixed that problem.

But as for using the left arm to load the main gun, there's a technique for loading the M1 called the "IWishICouldRemember Flip". I've been trying to find a video of it, but haven't succeeded (if I could remember the name, it would doubtless help). What happens is (ammo door operations ignored, door must be open for this, of course):

1) Right hand releases retainer on round, which results in the round being popped out of storage tube a bit.

2) Loader grabs butt plate of round with left hand, and starts to pull round out of storage tube.

3) As round nears complete removal, loader puts right hand under round.

4) at complete round removal loader, while still gripping the round's butt plate, drops left hand towards the turret floor, while simultaneously using the right hand to push the top of the round towards just left of his left shoulder.

5) The round's upper end falls onto the top of the open breech (M1 breeches open downward).

6) The loader lifts the bottom of the round with his left hand/lower arm to facilitate the simultaneous shoving of the round into the gun with his right arm.

With practice, this technique can result in a new round loaded in less than 4 seconds. Steps 4-6 require that the majority of the round's weight be supported by the left arm.

As I recall, this technique was named after the man that invented it. But after 30 minutes of searching for a video of an M1 loader in action, I haven't found one with this technique in it (I have seen such a video, perhaps on TV). And, as I mentioned above, I can't recall the name used for it.

Ed Foster said...

Reminds me of the loading proceedure for the 5 inch/38 Naval gun.

Minimum 12 rounds per minute, but God help the Marine crew that couldn't get out 18 or more for short periods of time, and maintain 15 to 16 for extended firing.

How come nobody ever put the 5 inch into a tank? The German 88mm started life on German destroyers.

The newest 5 inch naval gun, the 5/62, could replace the 120mm Abrams and the 155mm, both howitzer and Long Tom. The shorter 155mm tube used by the U.S. has us at a serious range disadvantage in counter battery fire, only partially offset by MLRS.

I grant that the Mk. 71 mount in 8inch is really the way to go for naval fire support, but the weenies would rather use expensive missiles for area coverage.

Still, the extended range munitions for the 5"/62 would equal or exceed the range of the MLRS for a lot less money, in a far more survivable vehicle, and the Abrams turret is big enough to handle the naval gun with minimal rework. I'm suprised the Marine Corps hasn't given it a try.

Geodkyt said...

Ed,

There's a reason the Brits dubbed their MLRS launchers "The Grid Square Killer". It can whack a HUGE footprint.

5" naval guns just aren't the same.

Nor would they do as well in the tank gun mode, as they are rifled.

I'm not sure, but Ibelieve the 5" projos are also significantly worse off in the payload department compared to modern 155mm (just like howitzers suck in payload compared to an equivalent caliber mortar).

Don;t get me wrong -- I love me some naval gunfire. Ballistic projos can't be spoofed, and the firesupport from a cruiser of 8" or a BB has proven to be highly warm-and-fuzzy making to US troops, especially Marines. I think we should have a big gun nuke powered cruiser with every Phib group.

But a 5" ain't a tank gun, and it ain't a howitzer.

GreyLocke said...

"I miss my '67 SAAB 95. You could fix anything on it."

"And if was like my 900, you needed to."

I loved my '86 Saab 900 with the standard 8 valve H engine, the 16 valve S and Turbo engines on the other hand, I think were specifically designed by the spawn of Beelzebub. Yes my parts were expensive but when I bought it for $50.00 it had 134k miles on it. When I sold it 5 years later I had replaced the starter, Clutch, Water Pump and alternator in addition to regular maintenance items, and it had over 350k miles on it when I sold it. And it was still getting 38 mpg when I sold it.