IS-3 tank

By MSW Add a Comment 8 Min Read


‘And for sheer visual impact, I would recommend anyone stand in front of the IS-3 at Aberdeen and contemplate what it would have meant to have that pike’s head coming at you. The IS-3, by the way, was not a very good tank, but it sure looks potent.’ – Robert Slayton

The final Soviet heavy tank of the war was the IS-3, with the same 122 mm gun, but completely redesigned hull and turret armor. Peter Gudgin, in his _Armoured Firepower_, (Sutton, 1997) comments that “its appearance in the Berlin Victory Parade in September 1945, however, caused considerable shock to Western observers who knew that nothing as powerfully armed or well armoured existed in the inventories of their own armies.”

The IS-3 was not a terribly successful design, by most accounts. While it represented a revolutionary design in armour configuration it suffered from, even by Soviet standards, poor crew accommodation and “fightability”, while its engine and drive train were apparently unreliable. It never replaced the IS-2 in service and was in turn replaced by IS-5/T-10.

Several countries did receive IS-3s, most notably the Egyptians who used them in 1956 and 1967, without much success. The IS-3 were released for export when the IS-5/T-10 took their places in the Soviet inventory but because so relatively few had been produced, not many other nation’s got them.

A Polish cargo ship was intercepted off Malta early October 1956, this proved to have a cargo of fifty IS-3’s on board, it being allowed on its way. No units of the Egyptian Army were operational with these AFVs on 29 October when hostilities broke out. Probably 11 Egyptian battalions of IS-3 (22 AFVs each) fought in the 1967 War, a small number of T10 Battle Tanks also saw service in this war (with three examples (at least) being handed over to American and British authorities for testing) reports differ in that they were Egyptian or Syrian. In the 1970’s small numbers of T10’s were present on the Revolutionary Day parades, while UN reference documentation in the 1970-80’s period made reference of a small number being in service with Syria.

IS-3 in Combat WW II?!

According to Steve Zaloga and Peter Sarson in IS-2 Heavy Tank 1944-1973 (New Vanguard Issue 7) “no significant number of IS-3s were ready before the end of the war in Europe.” (P. 17) and Steve further states that “Although there have been accounts in Russian publications stating that the IS-3 had been employed during the 1945 Berlin campaign, recent research indicates that this was not the case.” (Military Ordnance Special Number 20, Darlington Productions, Inc.) However, on the flip side, George Forty describes an action on April 12-13 1945 in the German defense of the Floridsdorf Bridge in Vienna. In this action, SS Obersturmfuehrer Arnold Friesen is credited with knocking out an IS-3 with his Panther. (George Forty, “Tank Action, from the Great War to the Gulf”, Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1995 pp 183-190). I believe that Mr. Forty’s reference depends mainly on an article in Armor from Jan-Feb 1986 by Maj. Peter R. Mansoor. Allegedly, Friessen identified the IS-3 before knocking it out through use of a German AFV recognition guide (the tank was knocked out from an ambush position at short range. The ambush was laid after the tank had been spotted and recceed by Friessen on foot.)

Only a few IS-3’s were completed before the war ended. The first test group of IS-3’s left the factory’s gate in mid-May 1945. Despite western opinion (usually I hear about IS-3’s seen on the streets of Vienna), IS-3 tanks weren’t involved in battles on the Eastern Front. The participation of IS-3’s in Far Eastern Front battles (in August 1945) is still unverified: one tank regiment of IS-3 tanks was sent, but the Soviet combat records don’t confirm it.


Continued analysis of the combat performance of tanks, in particular the location and type of damage inflicted on them, led to the development of the IS-3 tank. This was to be the last Soviet heavy tank produced during the war. The vehicle’s design was drawn from ideas which were developed by two separate teams.

One under Kotin developed an unusual frontal armour glacis. This consisted of two plates welded together at an angle, sloping down to the vehicle’s front, termed a Pike nose by its creators. The design reduced the tank’s weight but, it was hoped, increased the strength of the hull and its resistance to enemy fire. The other team under N. L. Dukhov developed a radical rounded-bowl shaped turret, housing a 122mm (4. 8in) gun. This radical shape increased protection by deflecting the kinetic energy of incoming shells, whilst improving the internal layout of the turret and consequently the tank’s fighting efficiency.

The decision to combine the two teams’ novel ideas into a single model was taken by the Minister of Tank Industry, V. A. Malyshev. The first prototype was shown to Marshals G. K. Zhukov and A. M. Vasilevsky in October 1944, and received a strong recommendation for production. Production of the vehicle was continued until mid-1946, by which time a total of 2311 tanks had been produced.



1944 armour redesign, with new rounded turret, angular front hull casting, integrated stowage bins over the tracks. Internally similar to IS-2 model 1944, and produced concurrently. About 350 built during the war.


(1952) Modernized version of IS-3. Fitted with additional jettisonable external fuel tanks.


1944 design, in competition against the IS-3. Longer hull and thicker armour than IS-2. About 250 were built, after the war.


Manufacturer: Kirov, Chelyabinsk

Crew: 4

Armament: 122mm Gun D-25; 1 x 12.7mm DShK machine gun; 2 x 7.62mm DT machine guns

Weight: 102,486 lbs.

Length: 22’4”

Width: 10’6”

Height: 8’11”

Armor: maximum 132mm; minimum 60mm

Ammunition storage and type: 28 x 122mm; 945 x 12.7mm; 1,000 x 7.62mm

Power plant: V-2-IS (V2-K) V-12 600-hp diesel engine

Maximum speed: 23 mph

Range: 100 miles

Fording depth: 4’3”

Vertical obstacle: 3’2”

Trench crossing: 8’2”

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Exit mobile version