This was basically an upgrade to the ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) protection. The “V” stood for Vzryvnoj (or “explosive”). Not all T-55s were upgraded this way, many still kept the standard passive BDD/appliqué armor. The standardized ERA bricks (EDZ for “elementi dinamicheskoj zashchity”) are mounted on the hull, turret front and hull sides. The Elite units of the Soviet Naval Infantry were first to deploy these tanks, followed by the rest of the army in a gradual process after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and extended to previous versions like the T-55AMV (AM) and T-55MV (T-55M). These were also exported, notably to some Iraqi elite republican guards units. The sub-variant V-1 received the V-46-5M engine upgrade.
In 1943, improved model operated by five men crew and armed with 85mm gun and machine gun was introduced. It was designated as T-34/85 and by the end of the war some 29430 tanks were produced. Only few were captured and even fewer were pressed into service, since German Army Office wanted to examine and test this new Soviet tank. In mid 1944, 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking" during heavy fighting on the Vistula front near Warsaw captured and pressed T-34/85 into service. 252nd Infantry Division during their combat in East Prussia also pressed captured T-34/85 into service. It is also reported that 7th Panzer Division also captured atleast one T-34/85. It is unconfirmed, but reported that one T-34/85 was fitted with 88mm gun removed from a damaged Tiger and used during fighting in East Prussia.
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