|Manufacturer||Factory No. 174, Leningrad, Russia|
|Primary Role||Light Tank|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThe T-26 light tanks were developed by the OKMO of Bolshevik Factory in Leningrad, Russia based on the British firm Vickers-Armstrongs' Mk. E 6-ton light tank design, purchased by Russia in 1930. Production began on 26 Jan 1931, and the first examples entered service on 13 Feb. As time went on in the 1930s, the T-26 design slowly grew apart from the original British design. In 1931, the machine gun turrets' firing ports were converted from their original circular shape to a rectangular shape in order to better accommodate Degtyarev machine guns. In Mar 1932, air intake systems were upgraded to deal with snow. In 1933, the T-26 Model 1933 variant design was unveiled, which upgraded the design's primary weapon from two machine guns to a single 37-millimeter cannon or, more commonly, a single 45-millimeter cannon. Through the 1930s, T-26 tanks received armor upgrades.
ww2dbaseOn 15 Oct 1936, 50 T-26 Model 1933 light tanks arrived in Spain to aid the Republic forces in the Spanish Civil War; this was the first of many shipments of T-26 tanks that eventually total 281 vehicles. In response, Germany delivered tanks to the Spanish Nationalists weeks later. T-26 tanks first saw combat in Spain on 29 Oct 1936. These tanks were found to be far superior to German and Italian light tanks used by the Nationalists, but they were still vulnerable to infantry and towed anti-tank guns. Experiences acquired by the Russians during the Spanish Civil War contributed greatly to the improvement of Russian tank warfore doctrine in the late 1930s.
ww2dbaseIn Nov 1937, Chinese delegate to Russia Ji Yang negotiated a deal in which Russia would sell 88 T-26 Model 1933 light tanks and 20 BT-5 or BA combat vehicles to China, plus a generous credit line for various supplies. The vehicles arrived in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China in spring 1938, and were assigned shortly after to the Nationalist Chinese 200th Infantry Division. These Chinese T-26 light tanks would later participate in the Battle of Lanfeng in 1938, the Battle of Kunlun Pass in 1939, and the Battle of Yunnan-Burma Road in the Burma campaign in 1942.
ww2dbaseIn 1938, the T-26 Model 1937 was introduced with thicker frontal armor. In 1939, the T-26S variant design was introduced, replaceing riveted armor with welded armor to provide better armor protection.
ww2dbaseT-26 light tanks played important roles during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol in 1939, where General Georgi Zhukov effectively deployed T-26 light tanks and infantry in cooperation and defeated the Japanese.
ww2dbaseIn Sep 1939, Russia jointly invaded Poland with Germany during the opening chapter of the European War. At this time, the Russian Army had about 8,500 T-26 light tanks in service, which represented the majority of the entire Russian Army armored force; 878 T-26 tanks crossed into Poland from Belorussia and 797 crossed from Ukraine. Only 15 tanks were lost during the Polish campaign, but 302 were put out of commission due to mechanical failures.
ww2dbaseDuring the Winter War with Finland in 1939-1940, the Russian Army fielded over 6,000 tanks, a large number of which were T-26 light tanks. They performed poorly against Finnish Army infantry; this was largely attributed to poor tank-infantry coordination. Many tanks, including T-26 tanks, were captured by Finnish forces and pressed into service.
ww2dbaseIn Jun 1941, when Germany invaded Russia, the Russian Army had 10,268 T-26 light tanks. By this time, the T-26 design was becoming obsolete in the face of more modern German Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks. By the end of 1941, a great number of T-26 tanks were captured or destroyed. The captured examples were put back into German service in the roles of artillery tractors, self-propelled guns, and infantry support; very few of the captured T-26 tanks were used as front line battle tanks.
ww2dbase1,272 T-26 light tanks participated in Operation August Storm at the end of the war in Asia, which saw Russian forces attacking Japanese positions in the Manchurian region of Northeast China.
ww2dbaseProduction of T-26 light tanks ceased in 1941. By that time, 10,300 tanks were built.
ww2dbaseAfter WW2, the Nationalist Chinese T-26 light tanks saw action in the Chinese Civil War; many of them were destroyed, but a few were captured by the Communists in 1949. In Finland, T-26 light tanks captured by Finnish forces during the Winter War and Continuation War remained in service until 1961. The Spanish inventory of over 100 captured Republican T-26 light tanks were in service until 1954. Turkey purchased 63 T-26 light tanks from Russia in 1935, but had already retired them from service in 1942.
|26 Jan 1931||Production of T-26 light tanks began in Bolshevik Factory in Leningrad, Russia.|
|13 Feb 1931||The first T-26 light tanks entered Soviet military service.|
|15 Oct 1936||50 Soviet T-26 Model 1933 light tanks arrived in Spain to aid the Republic forces in the Spanish Civil War.|
|29 Oct 1936||T-26 tanks saw their first combat action in Spain.|
T-26 Model 1933
|Machinery||One 6,600cc 4-cylinder air-cooled T-26 engine rated at 90hp|
|Suspension||Leaf quarter-elliptic springs|
|Armament||1x45mm 20K mod. 1932/34 tank gun (122 rounds), 1x7.62mm DT machine gun|
|Armor||6mm bottom, 6-10mm top, 15mm hull, 15mm turret|
|Speed||16 km/h off-road; 31 km/h on-road|
|Range||130 km off-road; 240 km on-road|
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Winston Churchill, 1935