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A light tank is a tank variant initially designed for rapid movement, and now primarily employed in the reconnaissance role, or in support of expeditionary forces where main battle tanks cannot be made available. Early light tanks were generally armed and armored similar to an armored car, but used tracks in order to provide better cross-country mobility. The fast light tank was a major feature of the pre-World War II buildup, where it was expected they would be used to exploit breakthroughs in enemy lines created by slower, heavier tanks. Numerous small tank designs and "tankettes" were developed during this period and known under a variety of names, including the "combat car". The light tank has been one of the few tank variants to survive the development of the main battle tank, and has seen use in a variety of roles including the support of light airborne or amphibious forces and reconnaissance. Modified IFVs are assuming these roles in many militaries due to their immediate availability, and as a cheaper alternative to developing and fielding a pure light tank.

Contents

1 History

1.1 World War I 1.2 Interwar 1.3 World War II

1.3.1 Soviet 1.3.2 Germany 1.3.3 Allies 1.3.4 Japan

1.4 Cold War 1.5 Post–Cold War

2 Modern light tank design

2.1 Countermeasures 2.2 Weapons 2.3 Mobility

2.3.1 Tactical mobility 2.3.2 Strategic mobility

3 Role 4 See also 5 Notes 6 References 7 Bibliography 8 External links

History[edit] World War I[edit]

US Army operating Renault
Renault
FT tanks

In World War I
World War I
industrial initiative also led to swift advances. The car industry, already used to vehicle mass production and having much more experience in vehicle layout, designed the first practical light tanks in 1916, a class largely neglected by the British. It would be Renault's small tank design the FT, incorporating a proper[citation needed] climbing face for the tracks, that was the first tank to incorporate a top-mounted turret with a full rotation. In fact the FT was in many respects the first truly modern tank having a layout that has been followed by almost all designs ever since: driver at the front; main armament in a fully rotating turret on top; engine at the rear. Previous models had been "box tanks", with a single crowded space combining the role of engine room, fighting compartment, ammunition stock and driver's cabin. The FT would have the largest production run of any tank of the war - with over 3,700 built (most of those in 1918) it was more numerous than all British and German tanks combined.[i] Interwar[edit]

British light tank Mk V

Type 95 Ha-Go
Type 95 Ha-Go
tanks in New Britain
New Britain
following the Japanese surrender

The Carden Loyd tankette
Carden Loyd tankette
and its derivatives were adopted by several nations as small tracked vehicles carrying a machine gun for armament. In 1928, the British firm of Vickers-Armstrong
Vickers-Armstrong
started promoting another design by John Carden and Vivien Loyd as the "six-ton tank". Although rejected by the British Army, it was bought by a large number of nations in small numbers. It formed the basis of the Soviet T-26 (around 10,000 built) and the Polish 7TP
7TP
tank and influenced the Italian Fiat M11/39. The British Army did not use the design as a light tank themselves but a developed version of the Carden-Loyd tankette as the starting point for a series of British light tanks intended for use in imperial policing and expeditionary warfare. As the only tank fit for immediate manufacture, it was a key element in the expansion of the British Army in the period leading up to the outbreak of war.[1] In general, French tanks of the 1930s were well-armored, innovative vehicles that owed little to foreign designs. However, the light tanks lacked firepower and almost all French tanks were handicapped by their one-man turrets, even the larger tanks such as the Char B, which overworked the commander who, besides directing the vehicle, or even a troop, had to load and aim the turret gun. The lack of radios with the light tanks was not seen as a major drawback, since French doctrine called for slow-paced, deliberate maneuvers in close conformance to plans. The role of small unit leaders was to execute plans, not to take the initiative in combat. In 1939, a belated effort was made to improve flexibility and increase the number of radios. Throughout the interwar period the US produced only a few hundred tanks. From the end of World War I
World War I
to 1935, only 15 tanks were produced. Most were derivatives or foreign designs or very poor quality private designs. The Christie designs were among the few better examples, but the US Army acquired only three Christies and did not pursue the idea any further. Budget limitations and the low priority given to the army meant that there were few resources for building tanks. The US Army instead developed and tested tank components such as suspensions, tracks, and transmissions. This paid off when production had to be initiated on the outbreak of war. World War II[edit]

German Panzer I
Panzer I
in combat during the German invasion of Norway

Soviet[edit] The Soviet BT tanks[citation needed] were the most advanced in the 1930s, extremely fast and mounting high velocity 45 mm cannons. Their only drawback were their petrol engines which caught fire often and easily during the Nomonhan fighting which lasted from about May through September 1939.[2] The Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go
Type 95 Ha-Go
light tank was equipped with a diesel engine, and although mounting a 37 mm cannon, it was a low velocity gun with a maximum effective range of about 700 meters. However, this conflict would be instrumental in developing the famous T-34
T-34
medium tank. Germany[edit] Germany's armored Panzer
Panzer
force was not especially impressive at the start of the war. In the invasions of Poland and France, the German forces were mostly made up of the Panzer I
Panzer I
and Panzer
Panzer
II light tanks. The Panzer I
Panzer I
was little more than a training vehicle armed only with machine guns, the Panzer
Panzer
II with a 20 mm cannon. The Panzer division also included some Czech designed light tanks - the Panzer 35(t) and the Panzer
Panzer
38(t). Allies[edit] American light tank development started with the M2 light tank
M2 light tank
series. These light tanks were mechanically very reliable, with good mobility. However, they had a high silhouette, and only a few saw combat. The M3 Stuart series was an improvement of the M2 with better armor. The new medium tank just entering production in 1940 was the M2A1. This was a poor design with thin armor and a high silhouette. The M3 Stuart
M3 Stuart
saw use in the North African Campaign
North African Campaign
but was relegated to reconnaissance as soon as US-built medium tanks became available. Further light tank development in the war included the M24 Chaffee. The British withdrew their light tank designs from their armored divisions early in the war, but used some later designs for minor amphibious operations and airborne operations.[3] In general they used armored cars for reconnaissance and the last of the light tank designs, the light tank Mk VIII "Harry Hopkins", was produced in small numbers. Japan[edit] The Japanese made extensive use of light tanks that were much better suited to jungle warfare than larger designs[4] Cold War[edit]

South Vietnamese M41 Walker Bulldog
M41 Walker Bulldog
tanks during a training operation

Light tanks continued to be built, but for very limited roles such as amphibious reconnaissance, support of airborne units, and in rapid intervention forces that were not expected to face enemy tanks. The Soviet PT-76
PT-76
is a specialized light tank -amphibious with sufficient firepower to engage other reconnaissance vehicles, but very lightly armored. The US fielded small numbers of the M41 Walker Bulldog
M41 Walker Bulldog
with a high velocity 76mm gun, and better armor, but it suffered from range limits, and its weight was too heavy for most air transport of the day. The US M551 Sheridan
M551 Sheridan
had similar strengths and weaknesses, but could also be airdropped, either by parachute or LAPES. The British FV101 Scorpion, the fire support variant of the combat vehicle reconnaissance (tracked) series of vehicles that replaced armored cars in British service has been described as a light tank and was sold to many smaller nations. Another light tank in the cold war era was the Swedish IKV 91 armored vehicle. It had a low-pressure 90mm gun, strong armor against 20mm grenades, and it was full amphibious. Post–Cold War[edit]

FV101 Scorpion

Light tanks, such as the PT-76, continue to play a small role in tank warfare, although many are losing favor to cheaper, faster, lighter armored cars. The light tank still fills an important niche in many armies, especially for nations with airborne divisions, or those without the resources and funding for main battle tanks. They have important advantages over heavier tanks in Southeast Asia and other nations in the Equatorial region. Their compact dimensions and short to nonexistent barrel overhang lets them maneuver through thick rain forests, and their weight reduces the risk of getting stuck in mud, and simplifies recovery of stuck or damaged tanks. This makes the light tank the preferred choice for infantry support in Equatorial nations. Post–Cold War light tanks include the Stingray light tank, Scorpion 90, and the M8 AGS. Light tanks based on infantry fighting vehicles chassis include the CV90105T, 2S25 Sprut-SD, Tanque Argentino Mediano, ASCOD
ASCOD
LT 105, and Black Tiger. With recent trends towards lighter and smaller combat vehicles achieving multiple roles, some nations have begun experimenting with lighter tanks as is the case with Poland's PL-01, Turkish-Indonesian Black Tiger, Chinese VT-5, and American Griffin light tank. Modern light tank design[edit] Countermeasures[edit] Typically, the armor in contemporary light tanks is modular, sometimes up to three configurations.[5] The flat hull necessary for amphibious light tanks to plane across the surface of the water is not nearly as blast-resistant as the V-shaped hull.[6] It has been suggested that underbelly armor appliqué could be applied after the light tanks come ashore and before they encounter explosive devices.[7]

An example of a modern light tank, the Polish PL-01

Weapons[edit]

Missile fired from an M551 Sheridan

A gun capable of defeating modern tanks at reasonable ranges requires a large vehicle to carry it. Gun weight is typically the product of caliber and muzzle velocity. Large caliber guns on light tanks often sacrifice muzzle velocity in interest of saving weight. These guns are effective against close-quarter targets but lack the power and/or accuracy to effectively engage heavier vehicles at a distance. Mobility[edit]

The design of the PT-76
PT-76
allows for easy transition from land to water with little preparation

A C-130
C-130
delivering an M551 Sheridan
M551 Sheridan
(now retired from service) using a low-altitude parachute-extraction system (LAPES).

Tactical mobility[edit] Some light tanks such as the PT-76
PT-76
are amphibious, typically being propelled in the water by hydrojets or by their tracks. Most amphibious light tanks weigh little and often utilize aluminum armor. Some light tanks require no modifications for river crossings. Crews simply raise the easily accessible cloth sides around the hull, cover the hatches, turn on the bilge pump and shift the transmission to water operations. Often, a fold down trim vane is erected to stop water from flooding into the hatch. Strategic mobility[edit] Some light tanks, such as the M551 Sheridan
M551 Sheridan
armored reconnaissance vehicle, could be rigged for low-velocity airdrops from cargo aircraft.[8] With this method the tank is pulled out of the aircraft by brake chutes and skids to a stop. The crew does not ride in the tank during extraction, but parachutes from another plane. Upon landing, they go to their tank, release the lines, and drive it away. Role[edit] The modern light tank supplements the main battle tank in expeditionary roles and situations where all major threats have been neutralized and excessive weight in armor and armament would only hinder mobility and cost more money to operate. They have also been used for reconnaissance and in some cases, infantry support. See also[edit]

Main battle tank Tankette Light tanks of the United Kingdom History of the tank Tanks in World War I Comparison of World War I
World War I
tanks Tanks of the interwar period Tanks in World War II Comparison of early World War II tanks Cold War Tanks Post-Cold War Tanks Armoured fighting vehicle

Notes[edit]

^ By comparison the French built about 800 medium and heavy tanks in total.

References[edit]

^ Harris, J.P. (1995). Men, Ideas, and Tanks: British Military Thought and Armoured Forces, 1903-1939. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-4814-2. p275 ^ Coox p. 437, 998 ^ Flint, Keith (2006). Airborne Armour: Tetrarch, Locust, Hamilcar and the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Regiment 1938–1950. Helion & Company Ltd. ISBN 1-874622-37-X p13 ^ JAPANESE TANKS and TANK TACTICS (PDF). United States Government Printing Office. 1944.  ^ John Pike (2005-04-27). "M8 Armored Gun System". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 2010-04-11.  ^ JSF Not Too Hot For Carriers ^ RS22947 The Marines Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV): Background and Issues for Congress ^ "M551 Armored Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle". Gary's Combat Vehicle Reference Guide. Inetres.com. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 

Bibliography[edit]

Bishop, Chris (2002). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,500 Weapons Systems, Including Tanks, Small Arms, Warplanes, Artillery, Ships and Submarines. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. ISBN 1-58663-762-2.  Chamberlain, Peter; Ellis, Chris (2001). British and American Tanks of World War Two: The Complete Illustrated History of British, American, and Commonwealth Tanks 1933–1945. Cassell & Company. ISBN 0-7110-2898-2.  Coox, Alvin D. Nomonhan; Japan Against Russia, 1939. Two volumes, 1985. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1160-7. Doherty, Richard (2007). The British Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Corps in World War II. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-122-9.  Fitzsimons, Bernard (ed.) (1978). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons & Warfare. 16. Phoebus. ISBN 9780839361756. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) Fletcher, David (1989). The Great Tank
Tank
Scandal: British Armour in the Second World War - Part 1. HMSO. ISBN 978-0-11-290460-1.  Fletcher, David (1989). Universal Tank: British Armour in the Second World War - Part 2. HMSO. ISBN 0-11-290534-X.  Harclerode, Peter (2005). Wings Of War – Airborne Warfare 1918–1945. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-304-36730-3.  Jackson, Robert (2010). 101 Great Tanks. Roseb Pub Group. ISBN 978-1-4358-3595-5.  Otway, Lieutenant-Colonel T.B.H (1990). The Second World War 1939–1945 Army – Airborne Forces. Imperial War Museum. ISBN 0-901627-57-7.  Tucker, Spencer (2004). Tanks: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-995-3.  Zaloga, Steven. Japanese Tanks 1939-45. Osprey 2007. ISBN 978-1-84603-091-8.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Light tanks.

Tank
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Museum:Light Tank
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Category

v t e

World War I
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armoured fighting vehicles

List Category

British

Little Willie "Female" tank "Male" tank Mks I, II, III Mk IV Mk V Mk VI Mark VII Mk VIII Mk IX Medium Mk A "Whippet" Medium Mk B Medium Mk C Flying Elephant Killen-Strait Armoured Tractor Lancelot de Mole's proposal* (1912)

French

Schneider CA1 Saint-Chamond Renault
Renault
FT Breton-Prétot machine Boirault machine Frot-Laffly landship Souain prototype Levavasseur* (1903)

German

A7V K-Wagen LK I LK II Oberschlesien

Armoured Cars:

Büssing A5P Ehrhardt E-V/4

Austro-Hungarian

Günther Burstyn's Motorgeschütz* (1911) Austro Daimler
Austro Daimler
armoured car (1905)

Italian

Fiat 2000 Fiat 3000

American

M1917 light tank Ford 3-Ton M1918 Holt Gas-Electric Skeleton tank Steam tank Steam Wheel Tank

Russian

Tsar Tank Vezdekhod Mendeleev Tank* Rybinsk tank*

Belgian

Minerva Armoured Car

Italics—experimental prototypes; * concept only

Tank

history classification

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v t e

Interwar tanks

List Category

Tankettes

L3/33 L3/35 Carden Loyd Morris-Martel T-27 TKS Type 92 tankette Type 94 tankette Type 97 Te-Ke Tančík vz. 33 AH-IV

Light

H35 R35 Fiat 3000 Leichttraktor Light Tanks Mk I–V Light Tank
Tank
Mk VI Light Tank
Tank
Mk VII M1 Combat Car M2 Light Tank Panzer
Panzer
I Panzer
Panzer
II LT vz. 34 LT vz. 35 LT vz. 38 T1 Light Tank T7 Combat Car T-18 T-13 T-15 T-19 T-26 T-37 T-38 7TP Type 95 Ha-Go Vickers 6-Ton Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tank

Medium

Char D1 Char D2 Grosstraktor Medium Mk I Medium Mk II Medium Mk III Panzer
Panzer
III T-24 T-28 Type 89 I-Go Type 97 Chi-Ni Type 97 Chi-Ha Type 98 Chi-Ho

Cavalry, Cruiser and Fast

AMC 34 AMC 35 AMR 33 AMR 35 BT tank Cruiser Mk I Cruiser Mk II Cruiser Mk III SOMUA S35

Infantry

FCM 36 Infantry Mk I, Matilda Renault
Renault
R35 T-26 Type 89 I-Go

Heavy

Char B1 Neubaufahrzeug SMK T-35 T-100 Type 95 Heavy Tank Vickers A1E1 Independent

Super-heavy

FCM F1 Char 2C T-42

Armoured carriers

UE Chenillette Bren Gun Carrier

Tank

history classification

WWI Interwar WWII Cold War Post–Cold War

v t e

World War II tanks

List Category

Light

7TP Fiat L6/40 M3/M5 Stuart M22 Locust M24 Chaffee Marmon-Herrington CTLS Renault
Renault
R40 Schofield T-26 T-40 T-60 T-70 Tetrarch Toldi Type 98 Ke-Ni Type 2 Ke-To Type 2 Ka-Mi Type 4 Ke-Nu Type 5 Ke-Ho

Medium

Carro Armato P 40 40 M Turan I Fiat M11/39 Fiat M13/40 Fiat M14/41 Fiat M15/42 M2 Medium M3 Lee/Grant M4 Sherman Panzer
Panzer
III Panzer
Panzer
IV Panzer
Panzer
V Panther T-34 T-43 Type 97 ShinHoTo Chi-Ha Type 1 Chi-He Type 3 Ka-Chi Type 3 Chi-Nu Type 4 Chi-To Type 5 Chi-Ri Type 5 To-Ku Sherman Firefly

Cruiser

AMC 35 AMR 33 AMR 35 BT-2/BT-5/BT-7/BT-7M Cruiser Mk III Cruiser Mk IV Covenanter Crusader Cavalier Cromwell Mk VIII Challenger Comet Grizzly Ram Sentinel

Infantry

Black Prince Churchill Matilda I Matilda II T-26 T-50 Valentine Valiant Type 2 Ho-I

Heavy

IS tank KV tank M26 Pershing Tiger I Tiger II T-35

Assault

Excelsior T14 Sherman Jumbo Tortoise

Super-heavy

T28 TOG1 TOG2 O-I Panzer
Panzer
VII Löwe Panzer
Panzer
VIII Maus Panzerkampfwagen E-100 Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster

Tank

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Cold War tanks

List Category

MBTs

AMX-30 AMX-40 Centurion Challenger 1 Chieftain Chonma-ho EE-T1 Osório K1 88 Leopard 1 Leopard 2 M1 Abrams M60 Patton M-84 Magach MBT-70 MBT-80 Merkava Object 187 Object 292 Object 785 OF-40 Panzer
Panzer
68 Stridsvagn 103 T-62 T-64 T-72 T-80 TAM TR-85 Type 59 Type 61 Type 69/79 Type 74 Nana-yon Type 88 Vijayanta Vickers MBT WZ-122

Light

AMX-13 ELC Expeditionary tank M8 Armored Gun System M41 Walker Bulldog M551 Sheridan PT-76 Scorpion SK-105 Kürassier Spähpanzer SP I.C. Stingray Stridsvagn 74 T71 Light Tank T92 Light Tank Type 62 Type 63 Type 64 WZ-132

Medium

Charioteer M26 Pershing M46 Patton M47 Patton M48 Patton Panzer
Panzer
58 Panzer
Panzer
61 T-44 T-54/55 T95 Type 58

Heavy

AMX-50 Conqueror IS-3 Object 279 M103 T-10 T30 Stridsvagn KRV WZ-111

Tank
Tank
destroyers

Infanterikanonvagn 73 Infanterikanonvagn 91 Kanonenjagdpanzer M56 Scorpion M50 Ontos

Tank

history classification

WWI Interwar WWII Cold War Post–Cold War

v t e

Post–Cold War tanks

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Under 120 mm gun

Ch'ŏnma-ho Ramses II

Under 50 tonnes

Al-Zarrar Al-Khalid P'okpoong-Ho PL-01 PT-91 Twardy T-84 T-90 Type 10 Type 59G Type 96 Zulfiqar

Over 50 tonnes

Ariete Arjun BM Oplot Challenger 2 K1 88-Tank K2 Black Panther Leclerc Leopard 2 M1 Abrams M60-2000 Merkava Sabra Type 90 Type 99 tank T-14 Armata VT-4 Main Battle Tank

Not in service

Altay Black Eagle EE-T1 Osório M-95 Degman M-84AS Black Tiger T-95 Tank
Tank
EX Type 99KM

Tank

History Class

WWI Interwar WWII Cold War Post–Cold War

Authority control

GN

.