Soviet T-10: Q&A with Stephen “Cookie” Sewell

Stephen Sewell croppedTank and AFV News corresponded recently with Stephen “Cookie” Sewell, co-author of the new book Soviet T-10 Heavy Tank and Variants published by Osprey.  Mr. Sewell was born in New York and is a retired US Army chief warrant officer and Department of the Army intelligence analyst.  Trained in both the Vietnamese and Russian languages, Mr. Sewell has written numerous intelligence articles as well as many pieces on American and Russian armor.  He is an enthusiastic scale model builder and the founder of the Armor Model Preservation Society in 1992.  He is also a prolific reviewer of model kits and books.


Can you give us a description of your career in the US Army and US government?

I entered the Army in September 1968 and was trained as a Vietnamese linguist. After a short tour in Vietnam and then at NSA was retrained as a Russian linguist in 1973. Spent a total of nine years on strategic intelligence assignments and nine years tactical ones. Retired in 1990 as a Chief Warrant officer. Due to expertise hired back three months later into same job I retired from and arrived two weeks before Desert Shield/Desert Storm started. Changed to the National Ground Intelligence Center predecessor in 1991 and then to that organization when created in 1994. Retired from there in 2011

How did you get the nickname Cookie?

I came back from Vietnam in 1971 and my brother wanted me to see a new kids’ show on PBS called “Sesame Street”. First Muppet I saw was the Cookie Monster, who in the space of two minutes ate an entire box of cookies, the box, and a telephone. My kind of guy! When I got to NSA I started drawing him doing stuff like eating MiG-21s and people in my office started referring to me as “Cookie Monster”. Stuffed my desk with chocolate [Read more…]

Book Alert: Dubno 1941: The Greatest Tank Battle of the Second World War

According to Amazon, today marks the North American release of the new book Dubno 1941: The Greatest Tank Battle of the Second World War by Aleksei Isaev.  This is a 224 page hardcover published by Helion and Company.  Mr. Isaev has written numerous books on the Eastern Front during WWII, primarily in Russian.

Publisher’s Description:

In June 1941 – during the first week of the Nazi invasion in the Soviet Union – the quiet cornfields and towns of Western Ukraine were awakened by the clanking of steel and thunder of explosions; this was the greatest tank battle of the Second World War. About 3,000 tanks from the Red Army Kiev Special Military District clashed with about 800 German tanks of Heeresgruppe South. Why did the numerically superior Soviets fail? Hundreds of heavy KV-1 and KV-2 tanks, the five-turret giant T-35 and famous T-34 failed to stop the Germans. Based on recently available archival sources, A. Isaev describes the battle from a new point of view: that in fact it’s not the tanks, but armored units, which win or lose battles. The Germans during the Blitzkrieg era had superior T&OE for their tank forces. The German Panzer Division could defeat their opponents not by using tanks, but by using artillery, which included heavy artillery, motorized infantry and engineers. The Red Army’s armored unit – the Mechanized Corps – had a lot of teething troubles, as all of them lacked accompanying infantry and artillery. In 1941 the Soviet Armored Forces had to learn the difficult science – and mostly ‘art’ – of combined warfare. Isaev traces the role of these factors in a huge battle around the small Ukrainian town of Dubno. Popular myths about impregnable KV and T-34 tanks are laid to rest. In reality, the Germans in 1941 had the necessary tools to combat them. The author also defines the real achievements on the Soviet side: the Blitzkrieg in the Ukraine had been slowed down. For the Soviet Union, the military situation in June 1941 was much worse than it was for France and Britain during the Western Campaign in 1940. The Red Army wasn’t ready to fight as a whole and the border district’s armies lacked infantry units, as they were just arriving from the internal regions of the USSR. In this case, the Red Army tanks became the ‘Iron Shield’ of the Soviet Union; they even operated as fire brigades. In many cases, the German infantry – not tanks – became the main enemy of Soviet armored units in the Dubno battle. Poorly organized, but fierce, tank-based counterattacks slowed down the German infantry – and while the Soviet tanks lost the battle, they won the war.

Video: Military Museum under Construction

This video showed up last month on Youtube showing a small boy running around a military museum under construction.  According to the description, the boy is the son of the museum architect.  Little other information is given in the video description, although it would appear that this facility will house quite a few tanks and armored vehicles.  The location of this museum is not provided.  Obviously, it’s somewhere in the Middle East (perhaps Egypt?)  If anyone knows the answer, please say so in the comments.  Also, beware the bad pop-music soundtrack to the video.

AFV News from Around the Web

Another installment of AFV news from around the web. Click in the headline to go to the full article.


IHS Jane’s – Israel unveils Namer turret upgrade

1706884_-_mainThe Israeli Ministry of Defense (MoD) has unveiled a prototype of an upgraded version of its Namer heavy armoured personnel carrier (APC) fitted with a turret that is armed with a 30 mm gun.  In a statement released on 31 July, the MoD said the prototype was developed by its Merkava Tank Administration together with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Ground Forces and will begin a series of trials in the coming days.


IHS Jane’s – First Polish Army unit receives full complement of Krab SPHs

1706908_-_mainDeliveries of Krab 155 mm self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) to the Masurian Artillery Regiment (11 MPA) will be completed this month, marked by a ceremony on 31 August in the presence of officials from the ministry of defence, the unit said on its website. Fourteen Krabs were delivered to the regiment by tank transporters on 31 July.


Defense News – Turkey goes ahead with armored amphibious vehicle program

3GHEUMX3TVHMZALWDMH7RSCNKQANKARA — Turkey’s procurement authorities have decided to go ahead with a draft program for the local production of scores of armored amphibious assault vehicles. Turkey’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) and FNSS, the company that has been tasked to design, develop and manufacture the vehicles, held a “successful” review meeting over the program mid July.


Defense News – Ukraine in talks to sell Pakistan 100 tanks

NCIR4RK3LZH5XIE3BG4MVWMVGIWARSAW, Poland — Ukraine is negotiating the sale of 100 T-84 Oplot main battle tanks to Pakistan, and plans to use the funds to modernize the production capacities of its state-owned defense industry and invest in research and development, according to daily Gazeta Wyborcza.  The potential deal, which is to be handed to Ukraine defense group Ukroboronprom, would mark another export contract for the supply of the tanks following a deal signed in 2011 with Thailand. Bangkok is to obtain a total of 49 Oplots.


War is Boring – What’s the Democratic Republic of Congo Doing With These Ukrainian Tanks?

T-64BV1-ukrajinski-glavni-bojni-tank--900x350Three years ago, Ukraine announced it would sell 50 of its T-64BV-1 tanks to an unspecified foreign customer, rumored to be the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This became official in 2016 with the delivery of 25 of the tanks to the country, according to information just released by Ukraine to the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms.


The National Interest – France Just Showed off a New Tank Sporting a Massive Main Gun

bastille_day_2014_paris_-_motorised_troops_063_1.jpgIn the summer of 2016, a French magazine published some curious photos of a Leclerc main battle tank of the French Army, painted in the jagged new Scorpion camouflage scheme—and sporting a massive 140-millimeter, fifty-five-caliber gun. You can check out pictures here and here and here.  The huge smoothbore gun came from the experimental T4 gun turret built in 1996 by GIAT and the Bourges arsenal.

DoD Buzz – Chief Wants Tanks with Active Protection, New Armor, Driverless Option

161016-A-AP268-131The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff said he wants future versions of its main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, and other ground combat vehicles to feature active protection systems, as-yet-undeveloped lighter armor and a driverless option.  Gen. Mark Milley outline such technologies when speaking Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He was responding to a question about whether he was concerned that Russia plans to field a new tank, the T-14 Armata, in 2020.


Herald Sun – Tanks in blast from the future as Defence Force contract up for grabs

20061811276047d826551341de2812afA FINAL series of blast tests have been completed on the two short-listed contenders vying for a multi-billion-dollar Australian Defence Force contract to build its new Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle.  The bid — hotly contested between Victoria and Queensland — would be based at the old Holden factory should defence giant BAE Systems be awarded the $5 billion contract to build 225 combat vehicles.

Video: Chi-Ri & Chi-To Tanks Scrapped at Aberdeen

This rather intriguing video showed up on Youtube yesterday and appears to answer the question of what ever happened to the Japanese Type 5 Chi-Ri Heavy tank prototype. Sources generally state that the vehicle was either scrapped at Aberdeen Proving Grounds or lost at sea during shipment. If this video is what it says, we may have proof that it did indeed make it to Aberdeen where it was scrapped. The video is said to be from October 4, 1952 and shows a number of vehicles, including several Japanese tanks. Both a Type 4 Chi-To and the Type 5 Chi-Ri are visible. That these vehicles were scrapped rather than preserved is a rather depressing thought.

Here is a screen capture of the Chi-Ri.

Chi Ri aberdeen

Photo of the Day: A Bit of Dirt in the Barrel

From the recent Tank Biathlon in Russia comes this picture of a T-72 landing a bit too aggressively after negotiating an obstacle and burying the gun into the dirt.  Ouch.



Translated Articles from

It’s time to pay a visit to the Tank Archives blog to see what Russian language articles they have translated to English.  Highlights from the July assortment of articles includes several pieces chronicling the history of the German Panzer I and II as well as a couple Lend Lease tanks in Soviet service, and the German Maus super-heavy tank .  Article previews are posted below, click on the headline to see the full piece.


Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf. c-C: At the Spearhead of Blitzkrieg

pz2c03-2aa3bf82e096bf3403161d68a424f44dThe story of the PzII tank was an unusual one. In many ways, it owes its “accidental” existence to the attempts of mounting a 20 mm autocannon in the Kleintraktor (future PzI). Due to issues with production of the Z.W. tank (future PzIII), the PzII was the most numerous front line tank for the first two years of WWII. Germany’s most common tank was not even originally included in the armament plans.


Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf.a through b: An Unplanned Tank

pz2a02-5c621ff79743816897f5878092e69bd8The light PzII tank played an important role in the structure of the German tank forces. Despite the opinion born of German generals’ memoirs, this was not a training tank. On the contrary: at the time of its inception, the PzII was one of the best light tanks in the world. It appeared almost by accident, but occupied a significant part of the Wehrmacht’s order of battle. The PzII remained in production for five years, with some small breaks. What is the history of the PzII, and what did its first versions look like?


M4A2(76)W: Emcha With a Long Hand

m4a276wussr03-e0d722afb74a5c89558b4ff816075a25The Americans considered improving the firepower of the Medium Tank M4 back in September of 1941. A year later, experiments with installing the 76 mm T1 gun into the stock turret commenced. Even though the gun fit, the military was unsatisfied with this rearmament. A decision was made to equip the M4 with the turret from the Medium Tank T23, which did not enter production. This was not hard, since the turret ring diameter was the same.


M24 Chaffee: Test Drive at the End of Lend Lease

m24ltussr01-1c9c98f143e28014b8bf6aa5e1abb71aStarting in the second half of 1943, the approach to sending British and American Lend Lease armoured vehicles to the USSR changed. Instead of immediate large scale shipments, the Western Allies sent a few samples of new vehicles. If the tank or SPG was satisfactory for the Soviet side, full scale shipments followed.  The first vehicle to arrive on this trial basis was the Light Tank M5A1. By that point, production of light tanks in the USSR was wrapping up, so the American novelty never made it into service.


SG-122: Assault Gun on a Foreign Chassis

sg122s07-9342fa6c05a58948d71e4ecaffd60830Work on SPGs, especially heavy ones, stopped in the USSR after the start of the Great Patriotic War. This was largely caused by the fact that the factories were busy with other orders. In addition, many factories were evacuated eastward. Only light SPGs were put into production at the start of the war, and these were largely improvised.  Meanwhile, due to the number of factories that switched from making artillery tractors to tanks, the artillery branch was forced to revisit SPGs towards the end of 1941.


Superheavy Trophy

mausussr02-8a5b6ff864d9a3928af986f06ec44264The German superheavy Maus tank left a mark in the history of tank building. This was the heaviest tank in the world, developed as an assault tank, practically invincible to enemy fire. In many ways, its fate was the same as the fate of another giant, the French FCM 2C, which holds the title of the world’s largest tank to this day. Like the French heavyweight, the German tank never saw combat. In both cases, the tanks were blown up by their own crews. Another similarity was that the tanks became the subject of a careful study.


Small, But Fierce

panzerjager1s02-5c106248489f7004540de199447f4dbcOne of the distinguishing characteristics of German tank building in WWII was an aim to use up obsolete vehicles, including those which used to be the backbone of the German tank force. If a German tank became obsolete, that didn’t mean that it would be scrapped. Some tanks were sent to training units, other were modernized. Obsolete tanks, especially light ones, were often converted to SPGs or engineering vehicles. This was the fate that awaited the PzI, Germany’s first mass produced tank, which was already obsolete at the start of WWII.


Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. F: Pocket Tiger

pz1f02-c6c820213c566fb51f61bb5918d7bb47Coming up with tank ratings is a hobby of many tank experts, as well as people who consider themselves as such. As a rule, the creators try to determine the best tank. While some kind of systematic approach was developed over the years, picking out the worst tanks is usually more complicated. Often, creators of lists of the worst tanks make their choices according to no set system and end up naming a number of tanks that didn’t earn such a shameful label.


Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. C: Kniepkamp’s Latecomer

pz1cs05-2fddacc4461e71c02ae7fac489888663Putting the PzI Ausf. B into production was the correct decision, albeit a late one. The problem wasn’t only that the concept of a light tank with machineguns for armament was obsolete. The 6th Department of the Armament Directorate was disappointed in the chassis developed by Krupp’s engineers overall. Even though the power to weight ratio of the PzI grew from 11.1 to 17.2 hp/ton after modernization, there was no drastic improvement in mobility. 40 kph is not what was expected with such a boost.


Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. B: All Grown Up

pzkpfw1b05-3df99b437de7812a0798c2d5ae5e7034The creation of the PzI light tank did not come easily for German tank building. The tank was redesigned several times while still in the development stage, starting out as a 3 ton tank with a 20 mm autocannon, and ending up as a 5 ton tank, where nothing larger than a pair of MG-13 machineguns could fit into the turret. Even though the PzI entered production and became a mass produced tank, easily numbering over 1000 units, the German tank forces were not completely satisfied with its characteristics even before production began. Modernization was only a matter of time. What results did it bring?

Photo of the Day: Namer with 30mm gun

This POTD is taken from IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, who are reporting that the IDF has unveiled a prototype of the Namer APC with a 30mm gun mounted in an unmanned turret.  This represents a considerable upgrade in firepower over the existing Namer armament of a single .50 cal machine gun.  Read more here.


Ropkey Museum shuts down

RAMCoverAs of the end of July, 2017, the Ropkey Museum in Crawfordsville Indiana has permanently closed its doors.  Housing one of the largest collections of military vehicles in the country, the museum was the work of Frederick Noble Ropkey Jr.  Mr. Ropkey, a tank platoon commander during the Korean War, passed away in November 2013, leaving the museum to his wife Lani.  After keeping the museum open for four years following his death, Mrs. Ropkey has decided it is time to close the museum.  According to an article from the Crawfordsville Journal Review, the contents of the museum are being shipped to other museums across the country.

Journal Review article excerpt:

Fred Ropkey’s favorite World War II-era Sherman tank will soon roll out of the building housing his renown collection of restored military vehicles, but a “for sale” sign doesn’t tell the entire story of closing the Ropkey Armor Museum.

It’s the story of a Marine who took a single scout car and built the world’s largest private collection of military tactical vehicles. And it’s the tale of a city girl who followed her husband to the countryside, taking on his passion for preserving Armed Forces heritage.

Now almost four years after Fred’s death, his widow, Lani, feels she has honored his commitment.

The museum hosted its final visitors last weekend and Lani is moving home to Indianapolis, where she’s ready to find her own life’s passion.

Read the full Journal Review article here.

To view photos of the Ropkey Museum collection, check out this SmugMug gallery by photographer Paul Hannah.

Collings Foundation gets approval for new museum

CollingsMetroWest Daily News is reporting that the Planning Board of Stow, Massachusetts and the Collings Foundation have reached a settlement that will allow construction of a new museum to move forward.  In 2014 the Collings Foundation came into possession of much of the AFV collection from the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation.  The MVTF collection was the largest privately owned collection of tanks and armored vehicles in the world, and was the work of Jacques Littlefield, who died in 2009.  While some of the collection has been auctioned off, the most interesting and valuable items have been retained by the Collings Foundation.  Construction of a museum to house many of these rare and unique vehicles has been delayed as the Collings Foundation and the town of Stow have worked out an agreement.  According to the MetroWest Daily News article, the Collins Foundation says they hope the new museum will open this time next year.


Article excerpt:

STOW — With a new road being built off Main Street in Hudson, the Collings Foundation hopes its new museum will open this time next year.

The project is allowed to proceed after the Stow Planning Board and the foundation reached a settlement in Middlesex Superior Court earlier this month. The roadwork is being done under a temporary building permit, which expires Sept. 1.

This weekend’s Race of the Century event will be the last event where traffic comes in off Barton Road in Stow, a tiny lakeside street the many neighbors say is too narrow for increased traffic.

Bob Collings, co-founder of the foundation, said the road from Hudson is only major change to the plans. For several years, neighbors resisted the nonprofit’s plan to expand its collection of tanks and warplanes into a full-scale museum about American combat.

The Planning Board unanimously signed the settlement after receiving guidance from town counsel, said Planning Board Chairwoman Lori Clark during a public hearing last week.

Read the full MetroWest Daily News article here.