The Soviet Military-Industrial Complex and Its Developmental Problems. December 1939 – June 1941
On the eve of the war, the Soviet Union strove to speed up the development and production of new types of military armaments and machinery. In the years preceding the war, a new generation of tanks had been designed and tested: the heavy KV, the medium T‑34 (which would subsequently be considered the best medium tank in the world during WWII), and the light T‑40 and T‑50 tanks. Heavy and light cruisers, destroyers, submarines (S, Shch and M classes), and armoured boats were designed in 1939 and went into production in 1940–1941. Special attention was accorded to the development of the air force. In January 1940, a party and government committee concluded that the Soviet aircraft industry was lagging behind Western powers, including Germany, both in quantitative and qualitative indicators. New types of warplanes were designed and went into production: LaGG‑3, MiG‑3 and Yak‑1 fighter planes; Pe‑2, Pe‑8 and Il‑4 bombers; and the Il‑2 ground-attack plane. Small arms were also improved. In 1940, the Red Army was armed with the Tokarev light self-loading rifle and the Shpagin submachine gun. An outstanding new artillery design was the famous Katyusha multiple rocket launcher.
Despite all these achievements, design shortcomings and manufacturing flaws continued to be a chronic problem that led to numerous accidents. Soviet industry was slow in meeting munition production targets and had not fully met the needs of the army by the start of the war. In February 1941, the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR adopted a mobilization plan called ‘mobilization plan #9’ for civil people’s commissariats.
The rising production targets necessitated longer working hours and harsher labour discipline. A decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of June 26, 1940, increased the workday at all state, cooperative and public enterprises and organisations from 7 to 8 hours and prohibited unauthorized leaves for blue and white-collar workers or their transfer to other jobs.
While many of the targets set for the defence industry had not been attained before the German invasion of the USSR, the material and technical foundations of the Soviet Union’s victory in the war had already been cast.