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Soviet Union's T-38 light tank

Design

The T-38 was an improved design of the T-37, and was developed at Zavod Nr 37. The T-38 didn't have any great enhancements over the T-37. However, it did float better.

The turret was moved to the left side and the driver on the right. Friction couplings were added to transmit power to the tracks. A new running gear suspension was installed that helped provide a vibration free driving.

The hull was redesigned which gave the T-38 a lower profile and less weight. Wider tracks for the T-38 also improved handling.

Prototype

In the prototype a 20 mm SchWak gun was installed and was intended to be operated by the driver but this was dropped due to cramped conditions inside the fighting compartment.

In 1935 the prototype was constructed in Factory No. 37 in Moscow.

Production

  • T-38: 1,300
    • Production: 1936 - 1939, 1937 - 1939
    • Manufacturer: Factory No. 37 in Moscow
  • T-38-M1:
  • T-38-M2:
    • Production ? - 1938
  • T-38TM:
    • Prototype: 1940

Variants

  • T-38:
  • T-38-M1: New transmission which was too complex for mass production.
  • T-38-M2: In 1938 improvements were made to the gearbox and the engine was replaced with a GAZ M1 / GAZ N-1. Some vehicles had a 20 mm ShVAK gun replace the machine gun as a field modification.
  • T-38TU: Command version with extra antenna.
  • T-38TM: Experimental. Longer chassis.
  • NII-20: Was a T-38 equipped with special radios to remotely control a T-26 that was filled with explosives to be directed at a target. May have been used in the Winter War.

Usage

During the 1936 peace maneuvers the tanks were installed under the tails of TB-3 bombers and landed during air landing exercises.

Infantry-tank battalions were issued 38 each. Airborne armored battalions were supposed to issued 50 each.

Based on experience in Finland, in 1940 experiments were carried out with the T-38 being a guide for a radio controlled T-26 explosives carrier. However this never got beyond prototype stages.

Some were used as immobile gun positions during the German invasion.

Winter War

It was found that the T-38s were too lightly armored to even protect against machine guns. They were kept in combat as there was nothing to replace them.

T-38s used in the Winter War with Finland. Many were captured in 1941 and turned over to the Luftwaffe and used in the defense of airfields.

Defending the Motherland

The T-38 was used until 1942 despite very heavy casualties against the invading Germans.

Specifications

  T-38
Crew Commander, driver
2
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 7,230 lb, 7,275 lb
3.28 tons, 3.3 tons
3,300 kg
Length 12' 4.8", 13' 3.5", 12.35'
3.75 m, 3.78 m
Height 5' 4.2", 5.33'
1.63 m
Width 8' 3", 7.65', 10' 11.1"
2.33 m, 3.33 m
Ground clearance 0.3 m
Ground contact length 5.33'
Ground pressure 0.55 kp/(cm)
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 7.62 mm DT MG
7.62 mm MG
OR 20 mm ShVAK
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main 1,512
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 4 - 9
Hull Front, Upper 6.5, 9, 9.5
Hull Front, Lower 9
Hull Sides, Upper 9
Hull Sides, Lower 9
Hull Rear 9
Hull Top 4, 6
Hull Bottom 4
Turret Front 4 - 6, 9
Turret Sides 9
Turret Rear 9
Turret Top 6
Engine (Make / Model) GAZ-AA
OR GAZ M-1
Bore / stroke 4 stroke
Cylinders 4
Net HP 40 - 50, 40, 40@2,200 rpm
Power to weight ratio 12.1 HP/ton
Transmission  
Fuel type Gasoline
Octane  
Capacity 100 liters
Performance  
Traverse 360°
Speed - Road 24.9 mph, 28 mph, 28 - 40 mph
40 kph
Max speed - water 3.7 mph, 6 kph
Speed - Cross Country 15.5 mph
Range - Road 105.6 miles, 155.7 miles, 156 miles
170 km, 230 km
Water radius 12 hours
Turning Radius  
Elevation Limits  
Fording depth Amphibious
Trench crossing 1.6 m
Vertical Obstacle 0.5 m
Climbing ability 40°
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Track length  
Tires  
Track width 7.5"
Track centers/tread  
  T-38 M2
Crew 2
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 3.8 tons
Length 12.35'
3.75 m
Height 5.15'
1.63 m
Width 7.65'
2.33 m
Ground clearance 0.3 m
Ground contact length 5.15'
Ground pressure 0.55 kp/(cm)
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 1: 7.62 mm DT MG
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main 1,512
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm)  
Hull Front, Upper 9, 9.5
Hull Front, Lower 9
Hull Sides, Upper 9
Hull Sides, Lower 9
Hull Rear 9
Hull Top 4, 6
Hull Bottom 4
Turret Front 4 - 6, 9
Turret Sides 9
Turret Rear 9
Turret Top 6
Engine (Make / Model) GAZ N 1, GAZ MI
Bore / stroke 4 stroke
Cylinders 4
Net HP 50, 50@2,800 rpm
Power to weight ratio 13.2 HP/ton
Transmission  
Fuel type Gasoline
Octane  
Capacity 100 liters
Performance  
Traverse  
Speed - Road 40 mph
46 kph
Max speed - water 6 kph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road 160 miles
230 km
Water radius  
Turning Radius  
Elevation Limits  
Fording depth Amphibious
Trench crossing 1.6 m
Vertical Obstacle 0.5 m
Climbing ability 40°
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Track length  
Tires  
Track width 7.5"
Track centers/tread  
  T-38 1937
Crew 2
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 3.28 tons
3,332 kg
Length 3.76 mm
12' 4"
Height 1.62 m
5' 4"
Width 1.95 m
6' 5"
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 7.62 mm MG
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 0.39"
10
Hull Front, Upper  
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper  
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear  
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom  
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model)  
Bore / stroke  
Cylinders  
Net HP  
Power to weight ratio  
Transmission  
Fuel type  
Octane  
Capacity  
Performance  
Traverse  
Speed - Road 40 kph
25 mph
Max speed - water  
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road 150 km
93 miles
Water radius  
Turning Radius  
Elevation Limits  
Fording depth  
Trench crossing  
Vertical Obstacle  
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Track length  
Tires  
Track width  
Track centers/tread  

Sources:

  1. Russian Tanks of World War II Stalin's Armored Might, by Tim Bean & Will Fowler, 2002
  2. Russian Tanks and Armored Vehicles 1917-1945, by Wolfgang Fleischer, 1999
  3. Tanks of the World, 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  4. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  5. Airfix Magazine Guide 22 Russian Tanks of World War 2, John Milsom and Steve Zaloga, 1977
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site