Interestingly, Soviet authorities were beginning to deviate away from the heavy tank concept by 1942 where its slow, plodding nature did little to endear the type to commanders and subsequent battlefield results. In combat actions, these tanks proved a mixed blessing and it was deemed that a lighter, streamlined force was in order to the point that the heavy tank concept in the Red Army was nearly lost to history. The arrival of the Panther tank in 1943 quickly changed such thinking and forced the design and development of a new counter-system - this becoming the KV-85. The KV-85 was based on the original KV heavy tank series encompassing the KV-1 and KV-2 tank designs. The KV-1 was the more streamlined of the two, operating with a squatter profile and long barrel 76mm armament. The KV-2 was the more cumbersome and taller of the two designs but it wielded thick armor and a powerful main gun (152mm) able to lob explosives about the battlefield.
The KV-1 was selected for modification into the new solution and became the KV-1S. A new turret was already in development for the new KV-13 tank system so this assembly was set onto the existing KV-1 chassis. The armament of choice became the 85mm main gun, the same proven DT-5 model as fitted to the SU-85 tank destroyer vehicle. This fitting ultimately gave the new KV-1S tank its final designation as the KV-85. The end-product was nothing more than the KV-1C with a larger gun assembly.
The KV-85 sported a typically Soviet appearance. Its profile included a height of 9 feet, 6 inches. The length measured in at 28 feet, 3 inches with the width of the system coming it at 10 feet, 8 inches. The turret was noticeably set well-ahead of amidships and sported rounded cast armor perfect for deflecting incoming enemy projectiles and artillery spray. The barrel protruded a ways ahead of the hull front. The engine was fitted to a compartment at the rear of the vehicle. There were six road wheels to a track side with the track idler fitted to the front of the hull and the drive sprocket mounted at the rear. Three track return rollers was situated under the upper face of the track system. The KV-85 weighed in at just over 45 tons. Armor protection was between 30- and 110-mm in thickness across the various facings. Primary armament centered around the 85mm main gun and secondary armament consisted of up to three 7.62mm DT-series general purpose machine guns - one fitted coaxially and another added to the rear of the turret - facing rear to help combat any infantry assaults from the vehicle's vulnerable rear quadrant. A third machine gun covered the tank from anti-aircraft attack.
Power was supplied by a single V-2 series 12-cylinder diesel-fueled engine delivering 600 base horsepower at 1,900rpm. This supplied the vehicle with a top operating speed of 25 miles per hour (in ideal conditions and across ideal terrain) as well as an operational range equal to 155 miles.
Production in 1943 and continued into the new year. However, the popularity of the chosen gun system, the DT-5, consequently led to slow production rates. As such, only about 130 to 150 examples were available before the Red Army committed to its bloody offensives in the critical 1944 war year. These subsequent hard-fought combat actions resulted in many KV-85 tanks being lost to enemy action but attention was already being passed from the KV-85 to more formal tank-killing solutions. Lessons learned in the development and operational use of the KV-85 led directly to the development of a Soviet war classic - the IS (Joseph Stalin) heavy tank series - just in time to tackle the Fall of Berlin and end the European conflict for good.
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