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France's Renault Modèle R-35, Char Léger 35R light tank

Design

In 1934 requirements were sent out for a tank to replace the FT-17. Compagni Général de Construction des Locomotives, Delaunay-Belleville, FCM, and Renault submitted designs.

In May 1935 an order of 300 of the Renault models (known as the Renault ZM) were selected for production. Even with urgent construction the R-35 never replaced the FT-17 as only 1,600 were available by 1940. These were to equip 23 battalions before the German invasion. It was based on the Automitrailleuse de Reconnaissance 1935 Type ZT that was designed for the cavalry. The suspension and running gear were similar.

The prototypes of the R-35 were still being tested when the Germans reoccupied the Rhineland in March 1935. The prompted an urgent demand for rearmament and the ZM was immediately put into production with 300 being ordered initially.

Became standard infantry tank in April 1935.

Initially there was no radio in the R-35, but later models had one installed. This ended up just being a further burden on the already overworked tank commander.

Layout

The engine was to the right in the rear with the self sealing fuel tank on the left. There was a fire proof partition between the engine and fighting compartment.

The side plates carried bogies and front driving sprocket.

Steering levers controlled the brake bands in the differential and the epicyclic gears. The final drive and differentials were housed under nose plates. The engine compartment had two access door and carried the idler wheels. It was steered through a Cletrac geared differential and brakes. The turret had a domed cupola with vision slits and had to be hand cranked.

Some were fitted with tails to help in trench crossing.

Construction

Three cast sections that were bolted together. The turret was also made of cast construction.

Main Armament

Early vehicles were fitted with the L. 713 (APX-R) turret mounting the 37 mm Sa18 gun. Next the L.739 turret with 37 mm Sa18 M37 gun. Last production vehicles had the L.767 turret with the long barrel 37 mm Sa38. The machine guns spent shells went down a chute through a hole in the floor. The 37 mm AP round weighed 1.1 lb, and went 1,273'/sec.

Crew

The driver was located on the left and the engine and transmission on the right. The driver also had 2 visor doors. The commander had to stand on the floor of the main compartment. The commander did have a seat that rotated with the turret. There was a hatch in the rear of the turret that opened down and could be used as a seat.

Production

  • R-35: 1,600, ~2,000
    • Manufacturer: Renault, Renault et Cie
    • Production: 1935 - ?, 1935 - 1940

Variants

  • R-35:
  • R-35 Avec Tourelle FCM-36: Had welded FCM turret installed. Only in prototype stages.
  • R-35 Avec Nouveau Tourelle: Had cast FCM turret installed. Only in prototype stages.
  • R-35 Fascine carrier: Had a frame mounted over the hull and turret with a fascine for dropping into trenches.

Usage

There were 900/945 R-35/R-40 tanks in the front lines by May 1940. 810 were mixed in with the army as infantry support and 135 were with the 4th DCR (Division Cuirassée de Réserve).

The R-35 was exported to Poland, Turkey, Romania, and Yugoslavia.

Battle of France

Against the Germans in the Battle of France the R-35 performed very poorly against the Panzers. The gun wasn't able to penetrate the armor on the lightest of German tanks.

German Use

Some turrets from the R-35s were used in Atlantic wall defenses.

Large numbers fell into German hands and had turrets removed and used for artillery tractors and ammunition carriers. A few also were converted into self-propelled artillery or antitank guns.

  • PzKpfw 35R 731(f): Used in occupational duties in France and 6 platoons to the Channel Islands. Used in reconnaissance units during invasion of Russia. Issued to the 100th Panzerbrigade of the 21st Panzer Division when it was being reformed in 1943. Many were scattered through the infantry divisions in France. Had a FuG5 radio installed.
  • Munitionspanzer 35R (f), Munitionsschlepper 35R(f): Turret removed and used as ammunition carrier.
  • 4.7 cm Pak (t) auf Gw R-35 (f):
  • 10.5 cm Le FH 18 auf Gw 35R (f): Turret removed with open superstructure and had howitzer installed. Produced during 1943-1944.
  • Mörserträger 35r (f): Had 80 mm mortar installed.

Italian Use

Approximately 124 were taken over by the Italians. Radios were installed and were used in Sicily.

Specifications

  Renault R-35, Char Léger 35R
Crew Commander, driver
2, 2 or 3
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 22,046 lb
9.8 tons, 10 tons, 10.43 tons, 10.8 tons, 14.3 tons
10,000 kg, 14,500 kg
Length 13.1', 13.16', 13' 2.27", 13' 9.25", 14' 11"
4 m, 4.02 m, 4.2 m, 4.55 m
Height 6.9', 6.83', 6' 11.8", 7' 6.5", 7' 9.25"
1.94 m, 2.13 m, 2.1 m, 2.3 m, 2.37 m
Width 5' 11.8", 6.075', 6.08', 6' 0.75", 6.1', 7' 2.5"
1.85 m, 1.87 m, 2.13 m, 2.2 m
Ground clearance 12.6", 1' 0.5"
0.32 m
Ground contact length 85.8"
Ground pressure 9.52 psi, 12 psi, 12.23 psi
0.86 (kg/cm2)
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 1: 37 mm (see notes)
1: 37 mm L/21
1: 37 mm
1: 37 mm SA-18
1: 37 mm SA18, L/21
Secondary  
MG 1: 7.5 mm MG
1: MG
1: 7.5 mm MG31
1: 7.5 mm Model 31 Chatellerault MG
MG - coaxial 1: 7.5 mm MG
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main 58
Secondary  
MG 2,500, 2,400
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) Front: 1.2"
Side: 1.6"
40, 45
Hull Front, Upper 32@15° & round
32
Hull Front, Lower 32@round
Hull Sides, Upper 40@10°
40
Hull Sides, Lower 40@0°
Hull Rear 40@11° & 40@35°
40
Hull Top 15
13@90°
Hull Bottom 14
14@90°
Turret Front 45@0° & 25°
Mantlet: 45@round
1.8", 45
Turret Sides 40@30°
1.6", 40
Turret Rear 40@30°
40
Turret Top 30, 12@90°
Engine (Make / Model) Renault 5.8 liter, Renault
Cooling method Water
Cylinders 4
Net HP 82, 82@2,200 rpm, 80@2,200 rpm, 180
Transmission (type) 4 forward, 1 reverse.
Steering Cleveland tractor type
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (type) Gasoline
Octane  
Capacity 44 gallons, 45 gallons
168 liters
Fuel consumption - road  
Fuel consumption - cross country  
Power to weight ratio  
Performance  
Traverse 360°, hand
Speed - Road 12 mph, 12.4 mph, 12.5 mph, 26 mph, 26.1 mph
19 kph, 20 kph, 42 kph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road 80.1 miles, 86 miles, 87 miles, 90 miles, 99 miles, 99.4 miles
130 km, 138 km, 140 km, 160 km
Range - Cross Country 50 miles
80 km
Turning Radius 8.5 m
Elevation Limits  
Fording depth 1' 11.6", 2' 7"
0.6 m, 0.8 m
Trench crossing 5' 3"
1.6 m
Vertical Obstacle 1' 7.7", 1' 10"
0.5 m
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type) Cylinder, articulated bogies (bellcranks with springs)
1st mounted independently, other 4 on 2 bogies
2 pairs on bellcranks
Cletrac
Hotchkiss scissors with concentric coil springs
Wheels each side 5 rubber tired
Return rollers each side 3
Tracks (Type) Dry pin
Length  
Width 10.5", 11"
260 mm
Number of links 123
Pitch 2.76"
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread 5.1'

Sources:

  1. The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles - The Comprehensive Guide to Over 900 Armored Fighting Vehicles From 1915 to the Present Day, General Editor: Christopher F. Foss, 2002
  2. Panzer Truppen The Complete Guide to the Creation and Combat Employment of Germany's Tank Force 1933-1942, Thomas L. Jentz, 1996
  3. Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two, Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle, 1999Tanks of the World, 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  4. Tanks of the World, 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  5. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  6. Western Allied Tanks 1939-45, David Porter, 2009
  7. Tanks of World War II, Duncan Crow, 1979
  8. Tank Data, Aberdeen Proving Grounds Series, 1968?
  9. Armored Fighting Vehicles, 300 of the World's Greatest Military Vehicles, Philip Trewhitt, 1999
  10. World War I and II Tanks, George Forty, 2012
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site