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The TSh-4 or TŠ-4 (ТШ-4, meaning; Танковый шлем; translated from Cyrillics to Latin as Tankovij šlem, to English alphabet as Tankoviy shlem and simply meaning; Tanker's helmet), alternatively known either as Танкошлем (Tankošlem/Tankoshlem - same meaning, but shortened), or somewhat inaccurately as Шлемофон (Šlemofon/Shlemophon and loosely translated as Headset, since any helmet with built-in radio could be referred to as being such) is once Soviet and today primarily Russian tank crew's famous combat helmet, an indispensable headwear of literally any combat vehicle operator, a well known and probably the main recognition symbol (a trademark) of all Soviet, Eastern bloc, Warsaw pact and today post-Soviet tank crews as well as of literally anyone else using any kind of Soviet armor and their combat vehicles in general.

The earliest model, originally designated ТШ-4, made its first appearance back in interwar period (during early 1930s), when then Soviet Red Army started to equip itself with their first armored vehicles (tanks) and was continued to be produced through World War II up until the end of 1940s and beginning early Cold War period. Then, it was replaced with a severely redesigned and modernized model (featuring built-in intercom) in then recently renamed Soviet Army, now designated as ТШ-4М (М standing for Modernizirovannij/Modernizirovanniy, simply meaning Modernized) which was continued to be produced through almost the entire Cold war era and early 1980s, when it was, after the breakup of USSR, completely replaced with only slightly redesigned and still current model used by Russian Army, which, however, retained the same (ТШ-4М) designation.

Among enthusiasts and collectors, the early/first model (ТШ-4) is nowadays colloquially known as either Red Army or somewhat incorrectly as WWII model (since it appeared almost ten years before the outbreak of the war), the second and third (ТШ-4М) are known either as the Cold war or Soviet Army model, while the latest one (same designation) is commonly known as Russian Army or as the Modern model (although it originally appeared during early 1980s, that is, back in the Soviet times).

The modernised model (ТШ-4М) also made introduction of the winter variant, which is designated as the ТШ-4М-3 (TSh-4M-Z). The capital letter 3 (Z) in Cyrillics stands for Зимний (meaning; Zimnij/Zimniy and translated as Winter) and is carachterized by featuring the fur lining inside. Due to introduction of the winter model, the existing summer variants are specified as the ТШ-4М-Л (TSh-4M-L), hence their capital letter Л (L) stands for Летний, meaning Letnij/Letniy (Summer).

Some TSh-4 models even featured a standard metallic Red star nailed directly on their forehead-protective part, which is very rarely found even in the modernized, TSh-4M. They were also occasionally paired with standard Soviet tanker's googles. [2]

As mentioned in the very beginning, this helmet was copied literally far and wide through the world by anyone using any kind of Soviet combat vehicles, due to which it is even today, over ninety years after its first introduction, still very well known piece of equipment and is also relatively easy to acquire. In the English speaking world, it is known simply as the Soviet tank helmet, alternatively as the Soviet tanker helmet or rarely, as the Soviet tank cap.

TSh-4

Red army tankers from T-34-85 medium tank, wearing the original TSh-4 helmet paired with their standard one-piece black coveralls during World War II. In contrast to all of its later models, the orignal TSh-4 was was not a headset, simply due to not featuring any kind of electronics (the intercom) built-in, which was due to the fact that Red army tanks literally never featured any kind of radio set (until post-war T-55).

As mentioned back during introduction section, the first and the earliest variant of the Soviet tank helmet appeared back in 1931, when the Soviet Red army started acquiring its first tanks (most notably the T-24 and then T-26 as well as famous BT series of light tanks). The TSh-4 is easily distinguished from the later and much more common models (TSh-4M), since it was severely different in its design. Firstly, it was originally made out of genuine (calfskin) black-coated (sometimes brownish) leather, although the later and more common TSh-4 variants (starting from 1940s) switched to canvas.

This was due to the fact that the first Red army tanker wraps (jackets) were originally made out of same black-coated (fire resistant) leather (the ones also originating from 1931) what was later (during late 1930s) abandoned in favor to common cotton or canvas-made black one-piece coveralls (as seen on the photo to the right), because of which the helmet material was also changed from leather to canvas and generally remained so until the present day.

By the sole design, this model is fairly easily distinguished compared to the latter ones, firstly by featuring only three, severely divided, bulged-out, vertical (longitudinal) lines on its overhead part (filled with foam sponge which served for protection against impacts), square (cubical) ear coverings on sides, severely narrower neck cover, shorter backhead cover as well as larger and thicker (more bulbous) forehead protecting section.

Due to this design, it somewhat more resembles a pilot's cap rather than tanker's helmet, especially since the Red Army pilots wore relatively similar cap. Also, one of its main differences lies in the fact that it was actually not a headset, since it did not feature any kind of radios/microphones (Red Army tanks and combat vehicles in general never featured radio and were thus never connected via intercom up until post-war period), but was just a simple head-protective cap intended only against punches and impacts.

It was serially produced and officially used by all Red Army tankers up until the late 1940s and beginning of the Cold war period, which means it was commonly used during the entire World War II and in all Soviet (light, medium and heavy) tanks of that period, among others, the famous KV-I and T-34 medium tanks, as well as IS-II heavy tank.

Since not being in production for approximately seventy years, this first and the original version (the TSh-4) is nowadays very rare and much harder to find (especially in preserved condition) at least when compared to the later, newer and longer produced versions.

TSh-4M (early model)

3D model featuring standard appearance of Soviet army tank commander from 1949 until 1972, still wearing the distinctive Red army one-piece-black coveralls from photo above and older model of popular Sapogi jackboots, but using the first model of the TSh-4M helmet, which featured electronics (the intercom set), as was thus intended for Soviet Cold-war era tanks (the MBT's), which all featured radio. The TT pistol was soon replaced with new PM in 1951, while regular tankers received AKMS automatic rifles starting from 1959. These one-piece black coveralls where continued to be used as far as 1972 when they were finally phased out in favor to very similar, but two-piece suits (see photo below).

The existing helmet was for the first time severely redesigned in 1949, due to the fact that then recently renamed Soviet Army introduced their first modern and universal (so-called main battle) tank - the famous T-55, which was their very first tank which finally featured a radio; the R-123 Magnolia which will soon become the standard Soviet radio for all their combat vehicles. Exactly this then directly marked the appearance of the second model of this helmet, now designated as ТШ-4М (TSh-4M), the modernized version, as mentioned back in introduction.

This model was practially a pure hybrid of the original Red Army's TSh-4 and later/second version of TSh-4M, that is, its successor model. By its design, it was visually distinguished only by its ear coverings, which now became circular (rounded, due to having earphones built in) as well as in the fact that it finally featured electronics - the R-124 intercom system built-in, which consisted of two layringophones (the throat microphones) together with earphones and a single plug, the latter which served for indirect connection into mentioned R-123 tank radio device, since the helmet's plug was actually intended to be linked onto the special adapter (a sort of voltage converter) which was then itself linked directly to the R-123 via its own plug. Exactly due to finally featuring an intercom system, the helmet then acquired its alternative and already mentioned name Шлемофон (Shlemophone, meaning; Headset).

It also featured redesigned backhead cover, which was slightly lengthened in order to provide mounting for then newly introduced Soviet tanker's night vision device, the ПНВ-57 (Прицел Ночного Видения), translated as PNV-57 (Pricel Nočnogo Videnija/Pritsel Nochnogo Videniya), meaning Night-vision sight, which was intended specifically for TSh-4M series of helmets. Reason due to which the PNV-57 could be used exclusively with TSh-4 series of helmets, lies in fact that the mounting pins of its battery housing (which is mounted on the back side of the goggles) was designed to be attached onto the middle of the distinctive, three bulged-out longitudial-protective lines on the helmet's overhead. The same practice was also followed in its successor model.

Like many other pieces of Soviet-made equipment and technology in general, the all TSh-4M helmet models were designed to be very easily maintenanced or repaired if experienced any kind of malfunction with the electronics, as they all feature classic buttons located on the back side, which serves for opening the rear cover and removing all the electronic equipment (earphones, layringophones as well as the plug) if needed, which can thus, also be easily replaced with the new ones.

This version was produced for and officially used by the Soviet Army from 1949 until early 1970s. However, it was continuted to be used by the rest of the Eastern bloc and Warsaw pact until the very end, most notably by Czechoslovakian (ČSLA) and East German (NVA) army.

TSh-4M (second model)

Artist Ronald Volstad impression of standard Soviet army tanker appearances from early 1970s until late 1980s (from Osprey title Inside the Soviet Army). All are wearing their distinctive two-piece black suits, paired along with then newest (second) model of TSh-4M helmets and Sapogi jackboots.

Following a decree No. 92 issued directly by Soviet Ministry of Defense starting from 27th April 1972, the existing TSh-4M was severely redesigned, what will become the most iconic, widespread and popular model of all. It was now distinguished by its distinctive four head-protecting, bulged-out longitudinal lines on the overhead part (two located in the middle along with one on each side of the overhead), compared to the previous three (as found in both previous versions - the original Red Army one, as well as its preceding model). It also featured wider neck and again slightly longer backhead cover as well as thinner forehead-protection section. It retained the same R-124 intercom system (twin laryngophones together with plug and earphones) built-in and was produced and officially used by all Army vehicle operators as well as certain Navy personnel from 1972 until 1983.

Due to this, the existing PNV-57 night vision set was also slightly redesigned and because of that redesignated as PNV-57E, in order so that it can accommodate for use to the newly introduced model of the already existing helmet. Among other minor details, it featured slightly different front and back attaching pins (for battery housing), in order so that it can be linked onto the two middle bulged-out lines of the helmet's overhead, since the new model now featured four lines altogether (two at the sides and two in the middle), as mentioned.

Second model of TSh-4M headset fitted with PNV-57E standard Soviet tanker's night vision device, which was designed specifically for usage only with it. This is since the goggles featured distinctive front and back mounting pins which can be attached exclusively to the head-protecting, bulged-out longitudinal lines on the overhead section of TSh-4M helmets, exactly as shown in the photo.

The appearance of the redesigned TSh-4M was actually marked together with appearance of then newly introduced two-piece tanker's suits (the Tankoviy kostyum) as a replacement for previous one-piece suits (Tankoviy kombinezon), retaining the same (black) pattern. Both of these (helmet and suit) being results of Soviet Army's modernization program of the period, which lasted through the few years, and which, among other new technology, introduced the new service uniform (the M-69), headgear (the SSh-68 combat helmet), firearm (AK-74 automatic rifle) and so on.

This variant finally made an introduction of the winter model, designated as ТШ-4М-3 (TSh-4M-Z), which features the fur-filled insides, due to which the summer version soon received the capital letter Л (L) in their designation, in order to properly differ them from the winter versions, as mentioned back during intro section. Many of these summer versions were later (during early 1980s) made in distinctive khaki pattern[3], mainly intended for Soviet tankers involved in Intervention in Afghanistan, but most were still made black colored, in order to match and accommodate to the previously mentioned tanker's coveralls (Tankoviy kombinezon) or later and newer tanker suits (Tankoviy kostyum).

TSh-4M helmet as featured in 1970s Soviet propaganda poster celebrating the tanker's day (День танкистов - Den tankistov), which was from 1946 to 1980 marked every 11th June and since 1980 until today every first sunday in September and which still continutes to do so nowadays, in modern Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

The second model of TSh-4M directly served as a basis for Soviet paratrooper helmet, known as ДШ (DŠ/DSh, meaning Desantnij Šlem/Desantniy Shlem, translated as; Airborne helmet), also popularly called Прыжковый шлем (Prižkovij šlem/Prizhkoviy shlem, meaning; Jump helmet). It was developed directly from TSh-4M and made its first appearance among Soviet paratroopers (VDV) during late 1970s. Basically, it was just a standard TSh-4M helmet with only distinctive ear coverings removed (due to having its headset removed) and replaced with airholes on each side. Also, in contrast to the original TSh-4M, it was produced mainly in cotton instead of the usual canvas and did not feature standard black but distinctive khaki appearance instead (current Russian army versions are now being produced in their newest EMR digital pattern camouflage).[4]

The second TSh-4M model was officially used by Soviet Army from early 1970s until late 1980s (almost until the very end of the Cold war), when it was replaced by again restyled version. However, despite being officially long replaced by its successor model (firstly in Russia and then also by many others using Soviet armor) this version of TSh-4M still remains in widespread use through both Europe and the world as of 2020s and is also the most common model of this helmet available on various military surplus shops and markets.

TSh-4M (latest model)

Soviet tanker of elite Tamanskaja (Tamanskaya) armored division standing atop T-80U tank during unsuccessfull August 1991 Coup d'etat in Moscow's Red square. He is using the newest and latest model TSh-4M headset, which simultaneously appeared together with then new, khaki version of the existing two-piece tanker's suit which he is also wearing.

Following a 1982 decree of Soviet Ministry of Defense, the existing (second) model of TSh-4M helmet was soon once again restyled and updated, receiving just a few trivial, but still very easily noticeable changes. Apart from being equipped with noise-reducing layers inside the ear covers (in front of the earphones) due to which it features sensibly larger and different (more bulged out) ear covers, it also received a slight redesign of the overhead part, by now featuring six (further two at the sides) instead of the usual four bulged longitudinal, protective lines, as found in the previous and most common model. However, due to all these changes being trivial and just a slighter modifications of the existing helmet, it again retained its previous designation, the TSh-4M-Z for winter, or TSh-4M-L for the summer variant, exactly like the previous version.

However, this version is often also known alternatively known as ШШ-1 (ŠŠ-1/ShSh-1), meaning Шлемофон Шумозащищающий (Šlemofon Šumozašišajušij/Shlemophon Shumozashishayushiy), meaning Noise-reducing Headset, exactly due to having additional noise-reducing layer built inside earphone housings, which also explains its visibly larger ear coverings when compared to the preceding model, as previously mentioned.

Modern Russian tankers wearing the latest version of TSh-4M headset, paired with currently newest model of their two-piece tank suits, which is now featured in Navy blue pattern.

Although often being described as the latest and the modern Russian Army model, it was in fact originally still issued to the Soviet tankers during 1980s, together with new, khaki version of already existing and mentioned Tankoviy kostyum (replacing the original, black ones) but was most probably firstly widely-observed on T-80U crewmen of the elite Tamanskaja (Tamanskaya) armored division during failed 1991 Coup d'etat in Moscow's Red Square[5], which is nowadays often known as the so-called August Coup.

Despite being in production and usage far more longer than any of the previous models (for almost 40 years - originally since 1983), this model is actually much rarer and harder to find as well as sensibly less widespread on the market. This however, should not surprise at all, since this model (as being the latest variant) is currently in use by tankers of various armies through the Europe and world, which explains why it is not so common on the military surplus markets, at least when compared to its predecessor. This also simultaneously explains why the prevous version (second model of TSh-4M) is much more popular and widespread on market even nowadays, despite being produced much shorter and sensibly longer time ago.

In contrast to the previous model, the latest version is nowadays (but rarely) again found even in leather-made variants, which is not seen since the original (Red Army's) TSh-4 back from 1930s.[6][7][8][9]

Gallery

In popular culture

Media

Notes

Date

Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis

TSh-4M used by both Soviet and Resistance tank crews

2001
Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin TSh-4 used by Red army tank crews 2002
Codename: Panzers TSh-4 used by Red army tank crews 2004
Soldiers: Heroes of World War II TSh-4 used by Red army tank crews 2004
Battlefield 2 TSh-4M used by T-90 machine gunners 2005
Faces of War TSh-4 used by Red army tank crews 2006
ArmA: Armed Assault TSh-4M used by SLA tank crews 2007
Men of War TSh-4 used by Red army tank crews 2009
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad TSh-4 used by T-34 crewmen 2011
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare The modern TSh-4M is a part of the "Sokoly", "Task Force" and "Brawler" outfits for Bale in multiplayer. 2019

References

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