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Was the USSR ready for the Great Patriotic War?
Was the USSR ready for the Great Patriotic War?

Speaking about the military-technical readiness of the USSR for war, it is difficult to find accurate data on the quantity and quality of weapons. Assessments of the development of the country's military-industrial complex differ: from the widespread "war caught the USSR by surprise" to "the forces of the parties were approximately equal." Neither one nor the second is true: both the USSR and Germany, of course, were preparing for war.

In the Soviet Union, it was necessary to actually create entire industries for this, which slowed down the pace set by the leadership.

Armaments Commission

In 1938, under the Defense Committee of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR, the Military-Industrial Commission (MIC, originally the Permanent Mobilization Commission) was organized, which became the main body responsible for mobilizing and preparing industry for the production and supply of weapons to the Red Army and the Navy.

It included the heads of the military, industrial sectors and security agencies, and the first meeting was attended by People's Commissar of Defense Kliment Voroshilov, People's Commissar of Internal Affairs Nikolai Yezhov, People's Commissar of Heavy Industry Lazar Kaganovich, First Deputy People's Commissar of the USSR Navy Pyotr Smirnov, Chairman of the State Planning Committee Nikolai Voznesensky, Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army Mikhail Shaposhnikov and others.

The commission had broad powers, but the regulations under which it worked included many stages: collecting applications from military commissariats (and not only for the production of weapons, but also for clothing, food and even veterinary rations), their analysis, approval, checking, drawing up summary mobilization assignments, etc. The system began to slip at an early stage.

Construction of the TM-1-14 artillery railroad transporter with a 356-mm gun, 1932

The collection "Soviet military-industrial complex: problems of formation and development (1930−1980s)" provides an indicative excerpt from a letter from the head of the mobilization department of a road engineering plant in Rybinsk: "The complete stagnation of mobilization work in our plant gives the right to believe stagnation at other factories, Glavkas and People's Commissariats … The appeals of our plant to the Glavk on this issue received almost no answers. During business trips to Moscow, both in the Special Department of your Main Directorate and in the Military Department of the NKMash, you hear that new mob plans are being drawn up and only, no further from the spot. Such conversations have been dragging on for almost a year, but things are still there. It’s not good to work like that.”

The commission acted, but the figures approved by it had to be adjusted, as they say, along the way. So, in 1938, a plan was drawn up for the production of aircraft in the amount of 25 thousand per year. And the results of 1939 were such that only 8% of the target was made of serial combat vehicles. The construction of factories, which were supposed to provide gigantic volumes, proceeded more slowly than planned.

But the pre-war arms race had other problems as well. In particular, they concerned the modernization of equipment, which also did not keep up with the needs of the army.

First of all - planes

Historian Gennady Kostyrchenko believes that the main problem of Soviet aviation by the beginning of the 1940s was the lack of modern technology. The pilots had models of the mid-1930s at their disposal, and they were clearly inferior to the German ones, but there were no dive bombers and attack aircraft at all.

Bomber SB-2, 1939

Steps were taken to overcome this problem: they transferred many enterprises to the People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry of the USSR (among which there were also completely non-core ones, for example, schools or factories of musical instruments), began cooperation with the United States (interrupted after the start of the war with Finland) and with Germany. The Germans, by the way, did not hide their novelties, they even sold more than 30 modern cars to the USSR.

They were not afraid of competition, because the advantage of the German aircraft industry was obvious: 80 aircraft were produced there per day, and in the USSR - 30. Production volumes increased by order of Joseph Stalin, but these were old models. As a result, by the beginning of the war, more than 80% of the aircraft of the Soviet Air Force were either obsolete or simply dilapidated.

Full speed ahead

The development of the navy was determined by a separate plan. So, during the five-year plan of 1938-1942, it was planned to increase the number of large surface ships, because almost all available ships of this class were made even before the revolution. But when the threat of war became apparent, production switched to submarines, destroyers, minesweepers, and torpedo boats. In total, there were 219 ships in operation (including 91 submarines and 45 destroyers), and in the first half of 1941, about 60 of them were put into operation. The remaining ships were completed during the war, and some of them did not have time to take part military operations, something was never completed. By June 1941, the fleet was able to update only 30%.

Some of the ships were generally absent from service. So, in the USSR Navy there were no modern minesweepers necessary for demining (and only in the White and Barents Seas, the Germans delivered almost 52 thousand mines), there were no specially built minelayers, landing equipment, and there were not enough auxiliary ships.

Submarines of the "Pike" type

But there were also successes: in the late 1930s, they developed a Project 122 naval border guard ship and managed to release several units; The Navy used them as submarine hunting ships. By the end of 1938, a model of a squadron high-speed minesweeper appeared (project 59), of which 20 had already been laid by the beginning of the war, and 13 submarines of the Shch type - the famous Shchuk - had also been laid.

Are our tanks fast?

The first tank of domestic development is considered the MS-1 (small escort, later - T-18). It was created on the basis of foreign samples of FIAT and Renault back in the 1920s, and some samples even took part in the Great Patriotic War. But, of course, new models and a modern industry were needed: the USSR had problems with the production of tank engines, bearings, armor, and tracks.

In 1930-1931, the leaders of the Red Army began to act decisively, purchased samples of advanced tanks from the USA and England - the American model J. Christie and the British Vickers-Armstrong tank. In the USSR, the Vickers became the T-26 tank, and the Christie tank became the BT vehicle (a high-speed wheeled-tracked tank). They became the most popular models. Small amphibious tanks (T-37/38), medium T-28 and heavy T-35 were also produced, but not in such quantities.

It would seem that there were both fairly modern models and an understanding that the army needed tanks, but there was not a sufficient number of qualified workers. And this significantly slowed down the development of the industry and led to a high percentage of rejects. In addition, there were not enough engines for domestic tanks: for example, the popular BT model was equipped with American engines decommissioned from aviation. Domestic developments lagged behind refurbishment plans.

Tank T-34 sample 1941

In 1940, the serial production of the most massive T-34 tank, developed by the design bureau of the Kharkov plant, began. He surpassed similar models in cross-country ability, maneuverability, mobility. Despite the obvious successes, the evacuation of 1941 negatively affected the state of the tank industry: it was not possible to complete the work on improving a number of models, it was necessary to urgently release new vehicles to replace those lost in the first days of the war.

In the language of numbers

So is it possible to answer the question of how much and what kind of weapons did the Red Army have on June 22, 1941? Researchers at the Institute of Military History of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation note that there is no reliable data specifically for this date. The documents that were prepared for information on this matter were usually drawn up retroactively, which means that they cannot be considered fully authoritative. The Institute of Military History operates with figures for June 1.

In addition, by the time the war began, several models of equipment were discontinued, but remained in service. This caused difficulties in operation and repair.So, the production of the BT-2 and BT-5 tanks was stopped, and there were a total of about 450 units in the troops. The same applied to the T-37 tank (about 1500 units), T-28 and T-35 (about 350 vehicles in total). There was a similar problem with the aircraft: the I-15 were not produced, but there were about 700 units in service, the same for the I-16 (about 3700 serviceable), DB-3 (about 1000), SB (about 3400) and AR-2 (about 130 serviceable aircraft were in the army). Therefore, the total number of certain types of weapons does not speak about the possibilities of its full use.

The quality side of the artillery park in June 1941 cannot be assessed at all. Researchers at the Institute of Military History note that the last reliable documents found in the archives on this topic date from January 1, 1941, and, according to them, guns continued to be in service, including those produced in 1915 and even earlier. This means that inevitable problems arose with their operation.

The numerical strength of the Red Army and the Navy:

Personnel (people):

- active troops: 2 742 881

- reserve: 618 745

- inactive troops: 2 073 103 *


small arms (active troops, inactive troops, reserve): 7 983 119

artillery armament (active troops, inactive troops, reserve): 117 581


heavy: 563 (mostly serviceable)

medium: 1,373 (serviceable - 1,183)

light: 19 864 (serviceable - 15 882)

special tanks and self-propelled units: 1,306 (serviceable - 1,077)


combat: 18 759 (serviceable - 16 052)

including serviceable bombers - 5912, fighters - 8611, attack aircraft - 57

other aircraft: 5,729 (serviceable - 4,978)


warships, boats, submarines: 910

The forces of the Germans, concentrated for the attack on the USSR, amounted to 4,050,000 people (3,300,000 in the ground and SS forces, 650,000 in the aviation and about 100,000 in the navy). In addition, 43,812 guns and mortars, 4,215 tanks and assault guns, and 3,909 aircraft were in service. By June 22, 1941, Germany's allies had also brought 744,800 people, 5,502 guns and mortars, 306 tanks and 886 aircraft to the borders of the USSR.

Barbarossa's plan

However, these figures can only be called indicative. There are many nuances behind each of them. So, for example, the quantitative ratio of aircraft from the USSR and Germany to the beginning of the war was about 4: 1. And at the same time, the qualitative superiority of the German Air Force was not in doubt. Take training: the average flight training of Soviet aces was 30-180 hours, and German - 450 hours. Each type of weapon had its own nuances.

Nevertheless, on June 22, between 7 and 8 am, Directive No. 2 of the People's Commissar of Defense was formulated, which required: "The troops by all means and means attack the enemy forces and destroy them in the areas where they violated the Soviet border." It took many months to complete it. The war that was expected began suddenly.

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