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
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
37 mm AP3
37 mm HE3
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
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
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
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.
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.