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France's Renault FT-17 Light Tank, Renault FT 17 Infantry Tank, Char Léger 17R (Renault FT-17)

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Design

Origins in World War I

General Estienne came up with the concept of a light vehicle to support the infantry.4,8 Renault came to the project in mid-1916 as the potential order would be for 1,000 vehicles.4

The design, by Louis Renault8, was ready by the end of 1916 and it had a crew of two with a machine gun.4 This design was not approved as it was to cramped and wasn't armed with a heavy enough gun.4 Even with this an order for 2,500 was placed for a vehicle that would have a 37mm gun.4 Even with this requirement some early models only had a machine gun for it's main armament.4

The turret could rotate 360°, which was a first for tanks8, and the tracks were on each side of the hull.4 The engine was in the rear.4 There was a large idler wheel in front that helped it climb over large obstacles.4 There was also a tail that helped it cross trenches.4

Armament

Early models of the FT-17 had the 8 mm Hotchkiss machine gun for main armament and these were later replaced by a 7.5 mm machine gun.8

Round Weight Muzzle Velocity
37 mm AP3 1.1 lb3 1,273'/sec3
37 mm HE3 1.2 lb3 1,204'/sec3

Maintenance

There was little thought to designing the FT-17 for easy maintenance so as a result many were out of action due to being broken down.7

Production

In March 1917 an order for 150 was placed.8

Early productions models had a molded steel turret, but due to manufacturing difficulties it was replaced by an 8 sided riveted turret.4

Renault wasn't able to produce all the tanks so work was farmed out to other factories.4

  • FT-17: over 3,0007, 3,177, over 3,7005, 5,0003
    • Production 1916 - ?3, 1917 - 19215
    • Manufacturer: Renault& Co.3

Variants

  • FT-17:
  • Renault BS4: Armed with a short barrel 75 mm gun.4 970 were ordered before the end of World War I, but only a few were completed. The turret was redesigned to have 7 sides. The escape hatch as offset to the left and there was an extension on the turret to allow for the recoil of the gun. Some were used in North Africa.
  • Char démineur, Renault FT-17: Had 2 plough shares mounted on the front to sweep mines out of the way.1 Only in prototype stage.
  • Char fascine FT-18: Had a cradle for a fascine in the front which could be released from inside the vehicle.
  • Char projecteur: Turret had 4-legged mast installed that had 2 searchlights on top.1
  • Char Renault TSF: Command version that had box like structure installed where turret was.1
  • Char Reanult TSR: Had a special radio.4

Usage

They were first delivered in March 1917 to the French army.4

Originally used during World War I, first appearing in the Forest of Retz on May 31, 1918.8

At first the tanks weren't used in masses, but at the counterattack at Soissons, in July 1918, there were 480 FT-17s used.4,7

Around 1,300 FT-17s were operational in 1940.5 Eight tank battalions were equipped with 63 FT-17s each.5

United States Use in World War I

On September 12, 1918, the 344th and 345th Light Tank Battalions, commanded by Lt. Colonel George S. Patton, used FT-17s at the battle of St. Mihiel Salient.8

Spanish Civil War

France supplied the Spanish Republicans with 32 FT-17s and Poland supplied 64 to the Nationalists.6

World War II

Oldest tank used in World War II. Between wars tanks were extensively modified. Around 2,500 were in France in 1940. Some were used by the Vichy French in North Africa and Syria.

Supplied to Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Holland, Japan, Poland, Spain, and the United States.

German Use

Many were scrapped. Some turrets were mounted in Atlantic Wall defenses, others used as training vehicles, and others used for occupational duties in occupied countries. Some were used in the fall of Paris in 1944.7 Some had dozer blades installed and used to clear Luftwaffe airfields of snow.

Specifications

  FT-17, Char Léger 17R (Renault FT-17)
Crew Commander, driver.
21,2,3,4,5,7,8
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 14,520 lb7, 14,560 lb, 14,750 lb, 15,432 lb
6.5 tons1,5,8, 6.7 tons2, 7.4 tons3
6,600 kg7, 6,604 kg8
Length 13' 2.5"1, 13' 3", 13' 5"5,8, 16.4'3, 16' 5"4,7
4.04 m2, 4.09 m5,8, 5 m4,7
Length - without tail piece 13.3'3
Height 6' 7", 7'1,4,5,7,8, 7.5'3
2.13 m4,5,7, 2.133 m7, 2.14 m2
Width 5.67'1, 5' 7"5,8, 5' 7.33"7, 5' 7.5"4, 5' 8.5", 5' 9"3
1.7 m5,8, 1.71 m4,7, 1.74 m2
Ground clearance 18"3
0.5 m2
Ground contact length 82"3
Ground pressure 7 psi3, 8.5 psi
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 1: 8 mm MG1
1: 8 mm Hotchkiss MG8
1: 37 mm2,7
1: 37 mm SA185
1: 37 mm Puteaux L/213
1: 37 mm Char-canon FT 17 4
OR 1: MG2,7
1: 7.5 mm MG5
1: 8 mm Hotchkiss 1914 MG3
1: 37 mm8
Secondary  
MG 1: 7.5 mm MG
1: MG Char-mitrailleuse FT 174
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main 2402
Secondary  
MG 4,8002
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 6 - 221,2, 164,7, 228
0.3 - 0.6"3
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) Renault1,3,4,5,7,8
Cooling method Water1,4, Thermo-syphon3
Cylinders 41,3,4,5,7,8
Net HP 35@1,500 rpm1, 354,5,7, 393, 402
Transmission (type) Sliding gear3
4 forward, 1 reverse3
Steering Clutch brake3
Starter  
Electrical System  
Ignition  
Fuel (type) Gasoline1,5,7,8
Octane  
Capacity 24 gallons3
Fuel consumption - road  
Fuel consumption - cross country  
Power to weight ratio  
Performance  
Traverse 360°3,7, hand3
Speed - Road 4.8 mph1,4,5,7,8, 6 mph3
7.68 kph, 7.7 kph4,5,7,8, 8 kph2
Speed - Cross Country 4.4 mph
Range - Road 21.7 miles5,8, 22 miles4,7 , 37 miles
35 km5,8, 35.4 km4,7, 60 km2
Range - Cross Country 24 miles3
Turning Radius  
Elevation Limits  
Fording depth 27"3, 3'
0.7 m2
Trench crossing 4' 6", 6.5'3
5' 9", 5' 11" with tail
1.8 m with tail
Vertical Obstacle 2'3
Climbing ability 45°2
Suspension (Type) Coil and leaf spring, and pivoted bogies3
Vertical coil8
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type) Dry pin3
Length  
Width 13"3
Number of links 323
Pitch 10"3
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread 4.65'3
  Renault BS
Crew  
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 7.2 tons1
Length  
Height  
Width  
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 75 mm1
75 mm Char-canon Renault BS4
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm)  
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)  
Cooling method  
Cylinders  
Net HP  
Transmission (type)  
Steering  
Starter  
Electrical System  
Ignition  
Fuel (type)  
Octane  
Capacity  
Fuel consumption - road  
Fuel consumption - cross country  
Power to weight ratio  
Performance  
Traverse  
Speed - Road  
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road  
Range - Cross Country  
Turning Radius  
Elevation Limits  
Fording depth  
Trench crossing  
Vertical Obstacle  
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  

Sources:

  1. Tanks of the World, 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  2. Atlas of Tank Warfare From 1916 to the Present Day, Dr. Stephen Hart, 2012
  3. Tank Data, Aberdeen Proving Grounds Series, 1968?
  4. Tanks - Over 250 of the World's Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles, Chris Chant, 2004
  5. Western Allied Tanks 1939-45, David Porter, 2009
  6. Atlas of Tank Warfare From 1916 to the Present Day, Dr. Stephen Hart, 2012
  7. Armored Fighting Vehicles, 300 of the World's Greatest Military Vehicles, Philip Trewhitt, 1999
  8. World War I and II Tanks, George Forty, 2012
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site