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In the wake of the fiasco in Finland, the Red Army laid down requirements for a mine-clearing vehicle based on a tank, which would permit engineer units to clear heavily protected minefields from within a tank without exposing themselves to fire. It was to be designed to withstand the blast of heavy anti-tank mines. A team was formed under P.M. Mugalev at the Dormashina Factory in Nikolayev.
In 1940, a prototype, using a T-28 tank was completed, but no production ensued, probably because of problems uncovered during testing. Further work was interrupted by the outbreak of war, but in 1942, Mugalev began investigating a new design for various sizes of tanks, including the T-60, KV and T-34. The new unit consisted of a fork on a multi-wheeled axle. Each wheel consisted of a solid centre disc with H-beam girders radiating outwards like a starfish. The whole unit was quite heavy, and on contact with a mine would detonate it, losing an arm or two in the process. Production versions used large cast wheels. Because of the detrimental effect on the clutch and transmission, only the T-34 was adjudged suitable for the role.
The first mine-rolling detachments were formed in May 1942. During the Voronezh fighting in August, the 233rd Tank Battalion of the 86th Tank Brigade had at least two experimental units of mine trawls in action. Further development work was undertaken to improve the system, and the first major commitment of an entire unit took place in October 1943 with the 166th Independent Engineer Tank Regiment attached to the 3rd Guards Tank Army. These regiments had 18 trawls and 22 T-34 tanks. Only a portion of the tanks had the trawls fitted and were designated PT-34, while the other tanks provided covering fire. A trawl could withstand from eight to ten detonations of 5-10 kg anti-tank mines.
At least five of these regiments were formed: the 148th and 253rd Engineer Tank Regiments with the 3rd Byelorussian Front, the 92nd Engineer Tank Regiment with the 5th Shock Army and the 119th and 166th Engineer Tank Regiments with the 1st Byelorussian Front. They were used throughout the war.
Top photo shows a T-34/76 Model 1943 fitted with a Mugalev mine roller of the Polish Army. The bottom photo shows the mine roller fitted to a T-34/85.
The above text and attached photos were taken from 'Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two', by Steven J. Zaloga and James Grandsen.
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