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France's Somua S-35, Char S-35; Char de Cavalerie 35S (Somua); Automitrailleuse de Combat (AMC) Modèle 1935 SOMUA


S-35 Cavalry tank at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds:
France's S-35 Cavalry tank at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds
Nick Francis
S-35 Cavalry tank at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds:
France's S-35 Cavalry tank at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds
Nick Francis
S-35 Cavalry tank:
France's S-35 Cavalry tank


In the early 1930s the calvary issued specifications for a Automitrailleuse de Combat (AMC). It was built by a Schneider subsidiary called Société d'Outillage Mécanique et d'Usinage d'Artillerie (SOMUA) at Saint Ouen. It was initially called the AMC SOMUA AC-3 but it was decided to make it the standard medium tank of the French army and was then designated the Char S-35. S being short for SOMUA and 35 the year of it's introduction.

It entered service in 1936 and by June 1940, around 500 had been produced. When Germany invaded about 250 were in front-line service.

A double differential system was used for steering. There were two assemblies of four bogie wheels mounted in pairs on articulated arms that were controlled by semi-elliptic leaf springs. One bogie wheel was mounted independently in the rear on a coil spring. The wheels were made of steel, with rims that ran in a groove in the tracks. Two return rollers also ran in the grooves.

The engine was on the left in the rear and a self-sealing gas tank on the right. The idler was located in front and the drive sprocket in the rear.


The S-35 was made from a cast turret and hull.


One fault that was discovered during combat was that the upper and lower hull halves were joined by a ring of bolts, if an anti-tank round hit the seem it could split apart the hull.


There were three cast sections that were bolted together. The lower section stretched the full length, with the engine, transmission, controls and suspension were mounted. The other armored sections were then bolted to the top rim of the lower section. The rear section covering the engine and transmission. There was a fireproof bulkhead separating the fighting compartment from the engine. The front section covered the fighting compartment and held the turret.


The turret was electrically traversed. The turret only had room for the commander which hampered it in fighting against the Germans. The turret was identical to the one used on the Char B1-bis and the D2. The commander sat on a saddle in the APX 4 turret, which rotated around a pole mounted in the floor.


The driver was located on the left of the hull and had a hatch that was in front of him which was usually left open when the tank moved behind the lines. The radio operator sat on the right. The normal way to enter and exit the tank for the driver and radio operator was through a door on the left side of the hull. There was also a floor escape hatch.


There were supposed to be two radios installed. There was a shortage of radios and about 80% of the S-35s did not have them.


The 47 mm L/34 had a muzzle velocity of 2,200'/sec. The 47 mm AP shell weighed 3.8 lbs and had a muzzle velocity of 2,805'/sec.


  • S-35: 400, 430, ~500
    • Production: 1935 - ?
    • Manufacturer: Somua, Somua Firm (Societe'd'outtillage mechanique d'usinage d'artillerie)


  • S-35:
  • S-40: In 1940 an improved model with a modified suspension and a 220 hp engine was started, but few had been completed by the fall of France.
  • SAu-40: Self propelled gun with a 75 mm gun to the right of the driver and a new turret. Only a prototype was completed.


There were 13 tank battalions in four Divisions Cuirassées de Réserve (Reserve Cavalry Divisions). Each battalion had 34 tanks.

Each mechanized cavalry division would have a regiment of S-35s.

German Attack

There were approximately 250 S-35s in the front lines when the German's attacked.

Attack at Crécy-sur-Serre

On May 11, 1940, Charles DeGaulle was made commander of the 4th Armored Division.

In the attack on the bridge at Crécy-sur-Serre on May 19, 1940, Charles DeGaulle used two companies (20 in each company) of S-35s that he had received at reinforcements. Unfortunately due to poor coordination with air cover, the French S-35s were mauled by Stukas.

German Use

  • PzKpfw 35-S 739(f): Was considered the best tank faced by the Germans in the invasion of France. By mid-1941 many were issued to German units. From 1941-1944 many were used by training units. Used by the 211th Panzerabteilung in Finland in June 1941. Some were also still available in Normandy in June 1944. They were used in Panzer detachments along with the H-38. The commanders being given the S-35s. Several hundred were given to Italy. The Germans installed a FuG5 radio.

After World War II

Some of the recaptured S-35s were used by the French Army well after World War II.


  Somua S-35, Char de Cavalerie 35S (Somua)
Crew Commander, driver, radio operator
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 42,900 lb, 44,200 lb
19.2 tons, 19.5 tons, 20 tons, 22.1 tons
19,500 kg, 20,048 kg
Length 17.33', 17.4', 17' 7.8", 17.9'
5.3 m, 5.38 m, 5.46 m, 5.5 m
Height 8.58', 8.6', 8' 7", 8.8'
2.62 m, 2.7 m
Width 6', 6.9', 6.93', 6.94', 6' 11", 6' 11.5"
2.1 m, 2.11 m, 2.12 m
Ground clearance 1' 4.5"
0.42 m
Ground contact length 128"
Ground pressure 12.1 psi, 13.1 psi
0.85 (kg/sq cm), 0.9 (kg/sq cm)
Turret ring diameter  
Main 1: 47 mm
1: 47 mm L/32
1: 47 mm SA35
1: 47 mm L/34
1: 47 mm SA35 L/34
1: 47 mm SA-35 L/32
MG 1: 7.5 mm MG
1: MG
1: 7.5 mm Model 31 Chatellerault M6
1: 7.92 mm MG
MG - coaxial 1: 7.5 mm MG
1: 7.5 mm Reibel MG
1: 7.5 mm MG
Side arms  
Main 118
MG 1,250
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) Front: 1.4"
Side: 1.6"
20 - 55, 40, 47
Hull: 41
Turret: 56
Hull Front, Upper 35, 40
Hull Front, Lower 35, 40
36 round
Hull Sides, Upper 40
Hull Sides, Lower 40
Hull Rear 35
35@0° & 25@30°
Hull Top 20
20@82° & 20@90°
Hull Bottom 20
Turret Front

2.2", 5556@0°
Mantlet: 56 round

Turret Sides 1.8", 45, 56
Turret Rear 45
Turret Top 28
30@70.5° & 30@90°
Engine (Make / Model) SOMUA
Cooling Water
Cylinders V-8, 8
Net HP 190, 190@ 2,000 rpm
Transmission (type) 5 forward, 1 reverse
Steering Overlapping differential
Electrical system  
Fuel (type) Gasoline
Capacity 109 gallons
410 liters
Fuel consumption - road 1.5 mpg
Fuel consumption - cross country 0.7 mpg
Power to weight ratio 10 hp/ton
Traverse 360°, electric, hand
MG: 10° left and right
Speed - Road 23 mph, 24.8 mph, 24.85 mph, 25 mph, 25.3 mph
37 kph, 40 kph, 40.7 kph, 41 kph
Speed - Cross Country 16 mph
26 kph
Range - Road 143 miles, 160 miles, 161 miles
230 km, 257 km, 260 km
Range - Cross Country 80 miles
128 km
Turning radius 12 m
Elevation limits -18° to +18°
Fording depth 3' 3", 39.4"
1 m
Trench crossing 7', 7.8'
2.13 m, 2.3 m
Vertical obstacle 2' 6", 2' 8"
0.76 m
Suspension (Type) Leaf springs
Wheels each side 9, (4 pairs of 2 on springs, 1 on own spring)
Return rollers each side 2
Tracks (Type)  
Width 14.2"
360 mm
Number of links 102
Pitch 4.1"
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread 5.6'


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20th Century American Military History Crucial Site