In 1944 the Soviets began a redesign of the T-34. Designated the T-44, it appeared in prototype form that summer. A somewhat more streamlined T-34, with a larger turret and thicker turret and hull armor, it also had a torsion-bar suspension system in place of the Christie system on the T-34. The T-44 weighed some 76,100 pounds.
Powered by a 512-hp engine, the T-44 was the first tank to mount its engine transversely. Crewed by only four men (instead of five as in the T-34), it dispensed with the hull gunner and utilized that space for additional ammunition storage. Initially the T-44 mounted the 85mm gun of the T-34, but later this was replaced with a 100mm gun. The T-44 also had two 7.62mm machine guns.
The T-44 entered limited production in 1945, and a few saw service against the Germans at the end of the war. Although it was perhaps the most sophisticated tank design of the war, the T-44 proved to be mechanically unreliable. The transmission, proved troublesome in the initial production batches. An improved version, the T-44M was introduced on the assembly lines after the war, which corrected these defects and introduced other improvements such as a new, wider track which offered better flotation in soft soil and snow. As with the British Centurion, the T- 44 marked the end of the distinction between heavy and medium tanks and the beginning of the all-purpose main battle tank (MBT). This highly influential design was the basis for the postwar Soviet T- 54, T-55, and T-62 tanks.
The T-44 was issued to three tank brigades mustered on September 15, 1944 for training purposes, but these formations (6th Guards, 33rd Guards, and 63rd Guards Tank Brigades) were re-equipped with T-34-85 tanks prior to entering the Battle of Berlin and Prague Offensive. The T-44A was not used operationally during WWII in Europe for several reasons, including the fact that the Red Army was not ready to accept a new tank because of lack of sufficient spares and technical specialists who could repair and maintain the new tank as well as the fact that many of the tank crews would have to be retrained on it. However, three tanks were sent to the 100th Special Tank Company which tested them on the Eastern Front. Many T-44As were sent immediately after they were produced to the Far East regions of the Soviet Union. The first tanks arrived there before the end of the war and were used operationally during last three days of fighting. They continued to arrive after the war and eventually around 600 T-44As were stationed there.