The T-35 was one of the major disappointments for the Soviet tank designers before World War II. It had its origins in design studies that began in 1930, and the first prototype was rolled out in 1932. In appearance and in many other ways the T-35, via the T-28, was greatly influenced by the design of the British Vickers Independent, a tank that was produced as a one-off only and which featured in a notorious 'spy' court case of the period. The T-28 carried over from the Vickers design one major feature, namely the multi-turret concept.
Although there were changes between the various production batches, the tanks of the main batch (produced between 1935 and 1938) were longer than the originals. This increase in length made the T-35 an unwieldly beast to steer, and its ponderous weight did little to improve matters. The multi-turret approach to tank weaponry also proved to be of doubtful value, Aiming and co-ordinating the fire of the five turrets proved very difficult, and the overall effectiveness of the armament was further limited by the relatively small calibre of the main gun, ,In fact the main gun and turret were exactly the same as those used on the lighter T-28 medium tank. Armour varied from 10 to 30 mm (0,39 to 1.18 in) in thickness. Production of the T-35 was slow and limited compared with that of other Soviet tank programmes of the time.
Only 61 were produced between 1933 and 1939, and all of these vehicles served with just one tank brigade stationed near Moscow. This was politically handy, for the T-35s featured regularly in the Red Square parades of the time and thus provided a false impression of Soviet tank strengths. The massive vehicles made a great impression as they rumbled past, but'the service reality was considerably different, When they had to go to war in 1941 only a relative handful actually saw action, for many were retained in Moscow for internal duties and for purely local defence. There appears to be no record of any T-35s going into action around Moscow, but the few used elsewhere to try to halt the German advances did not fare well. They were too lightly armed and their weight and bulk made them easy meat for the Panther.
Specification T-35 Crew: 11 Weight: 45 tonnes Powerplant: one M-17M V-12 petrol engine developing 373 kW (500 hp) Dimensions: length 9.72 m (31 ft 10.7 in); width3.2 m (10 ft 6 in); height 3.43 m (11 ft 3 in) Performance: maximum road speed 30 km/h (18.6 mph); maximum road range 150 km (93,2 miles); fording not known; gradient 20∞; vertical obstacle 1.20 m (4 ft); trench3.50 m (l l ft 6 in)