Osprey's BT Fast Tank 1931-45


Steven Zaloga, illustrated by Henry Morshead


Osprey Publishing


$18.00 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 48 pages, 7¼ x 9¼ inches, softbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-1065-6

In the years following WWI, the weapons designers of various nations were working with a fairly clean slate when it came to major military equipment. While the aircraft had its design pretty well stabilized, the same could not be said of the tank.

The most successful tanks of the war were those used by the British, but those were obvious dead ends  as much due to their size as well as their design. Where the future of the tank was shown was by the French with their small FT 17. While not at all a large tank, it had all of the main design features that are still in use with tanks today. Based on this, there were a large variety of designs, one of the most interesting by Christie.

The Christie tank was a fairly fast tank as the type goes. It was able to remove the tracks and run on its large, rubber rimmed road wheels at a speed that a tracked vehicle was unable to match. This allowed the tank to move fairly long distances to near the front lines where the tracks would be replaced and the tank operated as usual.

Many nations liked the Christie design and used it with their tanks. One of them was the Soviet Union. The US government was not keen on selling equipment to communists, but things can always be worked around and so it was with the Christie tank. Christie's quality control was pretty poor and tanks built by the company tended to be poorly built. The Soviets took the Christie design, adapted it, and the BT tank design was born.

Initial tanks were powered by surplus Liberty aircraft engines, but were later powered by copied WWI BMW aero engines, and even later a few diesels. The first tanks had 37mm cannon based on US designs, but later the more potent 45mm version. Typical of tanks of the time, the armor was quite thin and while some tanks later had appliqué armor which helped somewhat, the BT series were, like the T-26, easily destroyed by the time's anti-tank guns.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of available BT tanks were lost during the first six months of the German invasion of 1941. They also suffered against the Finns, though were about the equals of the Japanese tanks met in the late 1930s. About the only place where they were king was during the Spanish Civil War, though they were poorly used by inept commanders, a problem that plagued the Soviets for most of wars of the early 1940s.

In this book the author covers the interesting development of this tank as well as all the issues the Soviets had with equipment and their lack of satisfaction on its early reliability. All the various subtypes from the BT-2 to BT-8 are covered with more emphasis put on those which entered large scale production. There are tons of great photos and the art work of Henry Morshead really adds a lot to the reading experience.

I found it to be a most interesting read and learned quite a bit about this interesting vehicle. I can assure you that you will like it as well.

September 2016

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