Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Bystrochodya Tank

by Phil Gardocki

BT-5 Command tank on maneuvers.
Image shamelessly stolen off of the internet.

The Bystrochodya, or “Fast Tank” was a light and  fast vehicle. The BT-5 was a nearly a copy of the American Christie Convertible tank. Convertible means the tank can run with or without its tracks.  When operating with its road wheels, on a paved road, this tank could move at an impressive 70 kph.
When it was designed in 1933, the BT-5's 10 ton
weight put it in the medium tank range. However, by the time World War II started, The BT's were religated to scouting and support roles of a light tank. Even so, it’s 4.5cm/L46 gun could punch 4.3cm at 500 meters, giving it reasonable power against medium tanks.

The BT-7 was an incremental improvement over the BT-5 where both the armor thickness and engine horsepower were increased.  The gun was also a later model, but of the came calibre.  Some BT-7's were converted to an infantry support gun by adding a 7.62 cm/L16 gun.  The practice of being convertible was discontinued as a needless production complication given the dearth of paved roads in Russia.  Initially the BT's were assigned to the Mechanized Divisions and to Tank Battalions of 1939 vintage divisions. Production never caught up with the Tables of Organization requirements and many formations had tanks on paper only.

Tactically, the BT was used as a mobile swarm around a core of heavier T-34 or KV-1 tanks. A tactic not unlike the Mongols with a mix of light and heavy cavalry. The thoughts being that if the enemy was focused on the heavy tanks, then the BT's would get in a shot. If the enemy shot at the BT's, then the heavy tanks would survive longer. The fallacy of the fast tanks being difficult to hit was that the tank could not hit anything while moving, and when it stopped, its hand cranked turret traverse was too slow to line up a shot before being hit.  And with its light armor, any hit on the BT could be a kill.  However defective the theory, the Soviets continued to produce tens of thousands light tanks, continuing with the T-50, T-60, T-70, and T-80's.

Weight11 tonnesWeight14 tonnes
Max Hull Armor1.3 cmMax Hull Armor2.2 cm
Top Speed50/72 kphTop Speed62/86 kph

Image shamelessly stolen off of the internet.

Image shamelessly stolen off of the internet.

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