T-26 Light Tank
The T-26 tank was built on the basis of a two-turret machine-gun tank, the Vickers MKE, 6-ton, the production license of which was purchased by the Soviet Union in England in the early 1930s. It was extremely difficult to organize the production of such a complex machine for its time, and even in the conditions of chaos, the lack of an industrial base, technology, and skilled personnel in a country where most of the population couldn’t even read and write. And, nevertheless, it was possible not only to carry out serial production, but also to significantly improve and modernize the English machine.
The T-26 was the most massively produced tank of the period of the 1930s-early 1940s. Virtually all of its components and assemblies, the hull, the turret, the armament, with the exception, perhaps, of the undercarriage, were repeatedly upgraded. On its base, various combat vehicles, self-propelled guns, flamethrower tanks , tractors and engineering vehicles, and even teletanks were built. T-26 participated in the battle in Spain, beat the enemy in 38-39g on the river. Khalkhin Gol and Lake Hassan, fought in Finnish and, of course, fought in World War II. It even managed to take part in the defeat of the Japanese army in 1945.
By the beginning of the 1930s, the USSR tank fleet consisted of a massive light tank escort infantry MS-1 (T-18) - a modernized version of the French Renault FT-17 tank from the First World War, and various British type vehicles of the same period, outdated morally and physically . In connection with the lack of proper experience of the Soviet tank designers and the underdevelopment of the industrial base, it was decided to appeal to foreign experience. A special commission established for this purpose visited the UK in the spring of 1930, the recognized world center for tank building. As a result of her work, an agreement was concluded on the supply in the USSR of fifteen two-turret Vickers 6-ton tanks (aka Vickers Mk. E) and its licensed production in the Soviet Union.
On February 13, 1931 RVS USSR decided to adopt the Red Army tank "Vickers" Mk. E under the designation "T-26" (in those years, this tank was also called "low-power fighter") and recommended to start the mass production of this machine. The main manufacturer of tanks was to be the Stalingrad Tractor Plant, each year it was planned to produce 13,800 tanks of this type! However, by that time the STZ was still under construction, so the order was temporarily placed at the Bolshevik plant in Leningrad. Soon the tank department of the plant was allocated to an independent plant number 174 to them. KE Voroshilov.
In the design of the tank was used at that time popular multi-turret scheme. The turret of the tank rotated independently of each other in sector of 270°. Each of them housed one crew member, who fired from a 7.62-mm machine gun DT. In addition to the modification with purely machine-gun armament, a tank with a cannon-machine-gun armament was also produced, in the right turret of which a 37-mm “Hotchkis” gun was mounted, or a B-3 with a shoulder rest.
These tanks were intended for platoon and company commanders and therefore were often equipped with receiving and transmitting radio stations 71-TK-1 with a frame antenna in the rear of the hull. Both versions of the tanks - with machine-gun armament and with cannon-machine-gun - were produced in parallel. In total, the troops received more than one and a half thousand twin-turreted T-26 tanks, only a third of which had cannon-machine gun weapons.
T-26s were designed to directly support infantry as part of rifle formations (the T-26 battalion was part of a number of rifle divisions) and further support infantry as part of motorized units, as well as to perform independent tactical and operational tasks. One of the ways to use T-26 tanks, equipped with two turrets, was the "sweep" of enemy trenches. The tank got up to the trench, turned the right turret to the right side, and the left - to the left. Then the machine-gunners fought a dense, aimed fire at the infantry, shooting through the entire trench in one queue.
The experience of using double-turret T-26 tanks showed that it was almost impossible to coordinate the fire from the turrets, therefore, beginning in 1933, the industry began to switch to the production of single-turret tanks with much stronger weapons. By 1934, on the assembly lines, the single-mounted version of the T-26 had completely supplanted its two-towed counterpart.
In 1933, the production of a one-mounted modification of the T-26 tank, equipped with a large-diameter cylindrical turret, began, in which a 45-mm cannon 20K of the 1932 model with a twin DT machine gun was placed. During serial production, the tank design underwent numerous changes and modifications: the capacity of the fuel tanks was increased, starting from 1935, welding was used instead of riveting, since 1937 all the tanks were radioed (radio station 71-TK-3), the gun was cast sights In 1938, a new welded conical turret was installed on the T-26, and in 1939 the location of the body armor plates was changed and the air intake louvres were improved (to protect against incendiary bottles - according to the experience of fighting in Spain). All modifications had to be paid for by an ever-increasing mass.
In July 1938, the Soviet-Japanese armed conflict broke out on Lake Hassan, which quickly turned into a full-scale multi-day battle involving numerous military units and a large number of vehicles. On the Soviet side, the 2nd separate mechanized brigade of the commander A.P. Panfilov and the 32nd and 40th separate battalions of T-26 tanks participated in the battles. In total, the listed units numbered 257 T-26 tanks. The ten-day battle did not bring either side of a decisive victory. Almost a third of the original number of T-26 tanks was damaged or burned.
A large amount of damage among the T-26 was due not only to the poor training of driver mechanics, but also to technological reasons, and not too high quality armored vehicles. Installed at first on the T-26 commander’s tanks, the hand-held antennas perfectly disarmed them, and as a result, on the very first day of the fights, almost all the commander’s vehicles were knocked out, since it was the enemy who concentrated the fire on them. In the future, the handrail antenna was replaced with an inconspicuous pin. It became clear that, despite the multiplicity, the T-26 tanks could not fulfill the tasks assigned to them and have any significant effect on the outcome of the battle. In the further battles that took place in July-August 1939 at Khalkhin-Gol, the main role was played by the BT, which had become the main Soviet tanks by that time.
On June 22, 1941 in the Red Army, there were about 10 thousand T-26 of all modifications. The anti-bullet reservation and the low mobility of the tank were among the factors that led to the low effectiveness of the use and the large losses of the T-26 in the initial period of World War II. Nevertheless, in some sectors of the Soviet-German front, for example, Leningrad, they were used until 1944. The last combat use of the T-26 dates back to 1945 in the Far East. Several tank brigades, armed with these combat vehicles, participated in the defeat of the Kwantung Army.
Nevertheless, by the middle of 1941 the T-26 tank was hopelessly outdated, the technical capabilities of its modernization were exhausted. However, the large losses of these tanks, as well as the entire Red Army of that period, were caused not only by a technical lag. In 41, the Soviet Union collided with the most advanced military machine of that time. The land army of Nazi Germany utterly surpassed all the armies of the world taken together, of that time, not only and not even so much in technical equipment, as in training, coordination, combat experience, tactics and strategy. in all aspects of military art.
Before assessing the T-26, it is necessary to determine the classification. In most modern directories, this car belongs to light tanks. In fact, the T-26 is a light infantry tank, or light infantry support tank. To be precise, the tank escort infantry - machine-gun version of the T-26. That is the complete analogue of the British "Vikkers", which was purchased by the USSR. After equipping the T-26 with a 45-mm gun, they got something like a fighter tank. From the infantry tank remained limited speed.
Regardless of the nuances of the classification, it must be admitted that the "Vickers 6 tonne" and its analogue T-26 of the 1931 type fully corresponded to the tasks set for them. Their maneuvering qualities and weapons fully fit into the concept of a light infantry tank. A bulletproof defense at the beginning of the 1930s cannot be considered a disadvantage; at the end of the 20s, not a single army in the world had specialized anti-tank guns. There was no theoretical and practical base of the anti-tank defense system, the tank dominated the battlefield completely.
But by the time the T-26 was adopted in 1933, the situation had already changed. In assessing the tank's armor, there is the following criterion: his armor must "hold" the shells of his own gun. The protection of the T-26 does not meet this criterion. She did not "hold" the shells of anti-tank guns of a smaller caliber, which appeared by that time abroad. Reservations for the T-26 should be recognized as outdated by 1933. However, an understanding of this came only after the application of the T-26 in Spain. The final sentence of the T-26 was received during the Soviet-Japanese conflicts and the "winter" war.
The appearance of the conical tower, and then the sloping armor of the turret box, of course, led to greater armor bulletproofness. But only bulletproof. From shells she still did not save. The cardinal strengthening of the reservation was impossible. And so the last production models of the T-26 weighed 12 tons, which most negatively affected its technical reliability. By and large, it was necessary to remove the outdated and technically and morally T-26 from production in 1937, but it continued to produce until the second half of 41 years. To evaluate the actual capabilities of an obsolete machine in battles with Panzerwa tanks can only be hypothetical. Take three basic parameters: mobility, security and firepower.
The mobility of the T-26 was bad - it was inferior to all Wehrmacht tanks, with the exception of the Czech 35 (t) . The latter was generally close in terms of performance characteristics to the T-26, since it was created within the framework of the same concept of a light infantry tank. The security of the T-26 was even worse - even the German Pz-I, in fact a wedge with a rotating turret, had thicker armor than the T-26. All other light German tanks of 1941 were protected by armor of 25-30 mm, and medium ones up to 50 mm.
Perhaps, only with weapons at the T-26 was all right. The powerful (for 1939) gun to some extent compensated for the lack of armor protection of the T-26 and partially equalized the chances of a fire duel with German tanks.
However, it was not the flaws of the T-26 caused such high losses in 1941. Most T-26s were lost during the first months of clashes against the Wehrmacht. The key reason was not, however, German fire, but the poor technical condition of the tanks, which needed a total overhaul. Broken-down tanks were often abandoned by their crews because they could not be repaired.
|Years of production||1933-1939|
|Produced, PCs.||8 136|
|Curb weight, t||9.4|
|Steel rolled homogeneous armor|
|-Body forehead, mm
|-by highway, km/h
Power Reserve, km
|T-26, 4-cylinder, carburetor, air-cooled|
|Engine power, HP||97|
|Cannon||45-mm Tank gun 20k sample 1934 year|
|-Machine gun||2 x 7.62 mm machine gun DT|
|-Artillery shots, pieces||136 (in the commander's tank-96)|
|-Cartridges for 7,62-mm machine guns, PCs.||2 898|
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