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NI Tank (Odessa Tank)

Improvised Light Tank

Soviet Union | 1941

"The NI Light Tank was an improvised solution for the Soviets during the German Siege of Odessa in World War 2."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/01/2017 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Operation Barbarossa was the German codename for the invasion of the Soviet Union which began on June 22nd, 1941. When Axis forces moved to take the strategically-important Black Sea port of Odessa, the Soviets put up such a fight as to make the city's ultimate fall costly to the invaders. At the end of a seventy-three day siege and four offensives conducted by the combined German-Romanian force to take the city, over 90,000 Axis members lay dead. The siege would last from August 8th until October 16th, 1941.

As Soviet forces in Odessa fought on to the last, the January Uprising Mechanical Plant within the city retained some of its production facilities that allowed for plant workers to, at the very least, enact repairs on returning, damaged Red Army tanks. This also meant that there were enough facilities to concoct a make-shift Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) to reinforce defenses and replace losses to an extent. In the latter case, this gave birth to the "NI" tank - better remembered as the "Odessa Tank" - a diminutive light tank system born out of sheer desperation.

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The 7-tonne design was based on the existing, and available, STZ-5 series agricultural tractor which provided the track-and-wheel arrangement needed. Four roadwheels were in play to each hull side with the drive sprocket at rear and the track idler at front. Two track return rollers guided the upper track section along. To this established base was added a simple box structure comprised of mixed metal/wood/rubber construction that provided basic protection for the crew against small arms fire. The operating crew would number three. To complete the design, a traversable turret was set atop the armored hull superstructure. Power came from a single 1MA 4-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine developing 44 horsepower allowing for a top road speed of under 5 mph. Armament was variable and based largely on available stocks found within the city: this meant that machine guns (7.62mm DT series) were typically fitted - one to the turret and another in a bow-mounting. Alternative known armament fits included 37mm mountain guns and 45mm Anti-Tank (AT) weapons - whole turrets taken from other destroyed tanks were sometimes simply remounted to the NI hull.

The initial vehicles arrived in August of 1941 and first combat exposure was had the following month. The NI proved slow and noisy due to their hastily improvised arrangement but they were enough of a confusing initial surprise to the Germans and Romanians to force a temporary pull-back of forces. As many as 70 Odessa tanks may have been completed during the siege but it proved only a temporary measure - the city fell in time and the legacy of the tank itself fell to the history books.

Until 1944, Odessa fell under the rule of the Romanians as part of Transnistria. Tens of thousands of Odessans were murdered by their new overseers and it wasn't until April 10th, 1944 that the city was once again claimed by the Soviets.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one land system design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the NI Tank (Odessa Tank) Improvised Light Tank.
1 x 1MA 4-cylinder gasoline engine developing 44 horsepower.
Installed Power
4 mph
7 kph
Road Speed
87 miles
140 km
The physical qualities of the NI Tank (Odessa Tank) Improvised Light Tank.
14.1 ft
4.3 meters
O/A Length
7.5 ft
2.3 meters
O/A Width
9.8 ft
3 meters
O/A Height
15,432 lb
7,000 kg | 7.7 tons
Armament & Ammunition
Available supported armament, ammunition, and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the NI Tank (Odessa Tank) Improvised Light Tank.
1 x 7.62mm DT machine gun in turret
1 x 7.62mm DT machine gun in bow-mounting

1 x 37mm howitzer OR 1 x 45mm Anti-Tank (AT) Gun
Highly variable. Dependent upon armament fit.
Nightvision - NONE
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Protection (CBRN) - NONE
Notable series variants as part of the NI Tank (Odessa Tank) family line.
Tank NI - Base Series Name
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the NI Tank (Odessa Tank). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national land systems listing.

Total Production: 65 Units

Contractor(s): January Uprising Mechanical Plant (Odessa) - Soviet Union
National flag of the Soviet Union

[ Soviet Union ]
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Image of the NI Tank (Odessa Tank)
Image from the Public Domain.

Design Qualities
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to battlefield requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The NI Tank (Odessa Tank) Improvised Light Tank appears in the following collections:
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