T-26 tank: Wikis


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T-26 in Kirovsk.JPG
T-26 mod. 1933 at the museum "Breaching of the Leningrad Blockade" near Kirovsk, Leningrad Oblast. This tank was raised from a river bottom at Nevsky Pyatachok in May 2003.
Type Light infantry tank
Place of origin  Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1931–45 in USSR, –1953 in Spain, –1961 in Finland
Used by Soviet Union, Spain, Finland, China, Turkey, Nazi Germany, Romania, Hungary, Afghanistan
Wars Spanish Civil War, Second Sino-Japanese War, Soviet–Japanese Border Wars, Soviet invasion of Poland, Winter War, Great Patriotic War, Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran, Soviet-Japanese War 1945, Chinese Civil War
Production history
Designer Vickers-Armstrongs, OKMO of Bolshevik Factory in Leningrad
Designed 1928–1931
Manufacturer Factory No. 174 named after K.E. Voroshilov in Leningrad, Stalingrad Tractor Factory
Produced 1931–41
Number built 10,300 tanks and 1,701 other vehicles[1]
Specifications (T-26 mod. 1933[2])
Weight 9.6 tonnes (10.6 short tons)
Length 4.65 m (15 ft 3 in)
Width 2.44 m (8 ft 0 in)
Height 2.24 m (7 ft 4 in)
Crew 3 (commander, gunner, driver)

Armour 6 mm (0.24 in) bottom, 6–10 mm (0.24–0.39 in) roof, 15 mm (0.59 in) hull (front, rear, sides) and turret
45 mm 20K mod. 1932/34 tank gun (122 rds.)
7.62 mm DT tank machine gun (2,961 rds.)
Engine 4-cylinder gasoline flat air-cooled T-26 (Armstrong Siddeley type); engine volume 6,600 cc
90 hp (67 kW) at 2,100 rpm
Power/weight 9.38 hp/t
Transmission single-disk main dry clutch, drive shaft, gearbox with five gears, steering clutches, final drives
Suspension leaf quarter-elliptic springs
Ground clearance 380 mm (15 in)
Fuel capacity 290 L (64 imp gal; 77 U.S. gal) [with additional 110-L fuel tank]
220–240 km (140–150 mi) - high-road; 130–140 km (81–87 mi) - off-road;
Speed 31.1 km/h (19.3 mph) - high-road; 22 km/h (14 mph) - by-road; 16 km/h (9.9 mph) - off-road
For other uses, see T26
For armoured combat vehicles based on the T-26 chassis, see T-26 variants
For combat use of the T-26 light tank, see T-26: combat history

The T-26 was a Soviet light infantry tank used during many conflicts of the 1930s as well as during World War II. It was a development of the British Vickers 6-Ton tank and is widely considered one of the most successful tank designs of the 1930s.[3]

It was produced in greater numbers than any other tank of the period, with more than 11,000 produced.[4] During the 1930s, the USSR developed approximately 53 variants of the T-26, including other combat vehicles based on its chassis. Twenty-three of these were mass-produced.[5]

The T-26 was used extensively in the armies of Spain, China and Turkey. In addition, captured T-26 light tanks were used by the Finnish, German, Romanian and Hungarian armies.[6]

Though nearly obsolete by the beginning of World War II, the T-26 was the most important tank of the Spanish Civil War and played a significant role during the Battle of Lake Khasan in 1938 as well as in the Winter War. The T-26 was the most numerous tank in the Red Army's armoured force during the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.[7] The Soviet T-26 light tanks last saw use in August 1945, in Manchuria.[8]

The T-26 was reliable and simple to maintain, and its design was continually modernised between 1931 and 1941. However, no new models of the T-26 were developed after 1940.


British origin

The British Vickers Mk.E Type A light tank.

The T-26 was a Soviet development of the British Vickers 6-Ton (Vickers Mk.E) light tank, which was designed by Vickers-Armstrongs company in 1928-1929. The simple and easy to maintain Vickers 6-Ton was intended especially for export to less technically advanced countries: the Soviet Union, Poland, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Thailand, China and many others. Vickers advertised the tank in military publications, and both the Soviet Union and Poland expressed interest in the Vickers design indeed.

In spring 1930, the Soviet buying committee, under the direction of S. Ginzburg, arrived in Great Britain to select tanks, tractors, and cars to be used in the Red Army. The Vickers 6-Ton was among four models of tanks selected by Soviet representatives during the visit to Vickers-Armstrongs company. According to the contract signed on 28 May 1930, the company delivered to the USSR 15 twin-turreted Vickers Mk.E (Type A armed with two 7.71 mm water-cooled Vickers machine guns) tanks together with full technical documentation to enable series production of this tank in the USSR. The ability of Type A to turn the two turrets independently made it possible to fire to both the left and right at once, which was considered advantageous for breakthroughs of field entrenchments.[9] Several Soviet engineers participated in assembly of those tanks at the Vickers Factory in 1930.[10]

The first four Vickers 6-Ton tanks arrived in the USSR at the end of 1930. The last tanks arrived only in 1932, when series production of the T-26 was already in progress. The British tanks were issued to Soviet factories for study in preparation for series production and to military educational institutions and training units. Later, some tanks were given to military supply depots and proving grounds.

The Vickers-built 6-Ton tanks had the designator V-26 in the USSR. Three British tanks were successfully tested for cross-country ability at the small proving ground near Moscow on Poklonnaya Hill in January 1931, also one tank hull was tested for gunfire resistance in August 1931. The "Special Commission for the RKKA new tanks" under the direction of S. Ginzburg was created according to the order of K. Voroshilov to define the tank type suitable for the Red Army. The T-19 8-ton light infantry tank, developed that time by S. Ginzburg at the Bolshevik Factory in Leningrad, was a theoretical competitor to British Vickers 6-Ton, although the first prototype of the complex and expensive T-19 was not finished until August 1931. Because both tanks had advantages and disadvantages, S. Ginzburg suggested developing a more powerful, hybrid tank (so called "improved" T-19) with the hull, home-developed engine and armament from the T-19, and the transmission and chassis from the Vickers 6-ton.[9][11]

However, on 26 January 1931, I. Khalepsky (chief of the Department of Mechanization and Motorization of the RKKA) wrote a letter to S. Ginzburg with information obtained via the intelligence service that the Polish government had decided to purchase Vickers 6-Ton light infantry tanks as well as Christie cavalry tanks and to mass produce them with the assistance of both the British and French. Because Poland was then considered, in Soviet military doctrine, to be the USSR's main enemy, the Soviet Revolutionary Military Council took this erroneous information into consideration and decided to pass the aforementioned foreign tanks into Red Army service immediately in order to counter possible aggression. At that time, the RKKA had only several dozen outdated Mk.V, Mk.A and Renault FT-17 tanks, captured during the Russian Civil War, together with various armoured cars and obsolescent domestic MS-1 (T-18) light infantry tanks. On 13 February 1931, the Vickers 6-Ton light infantry tank, under the designator T-26, officially entered service in the Red Army as the "main tank for close support of combined arms units and tank units of High Command reserve".[9][11]

One of the Vickers 6-Ton tanks (equipped with Soviet-made turrets for the T-26) was tested for gunfire resistance in August 1931. The hull was subjected to rifle and Maxim machine gun fire with the use of normal and armour-piercing bullets at a range of 50 m (160 ft). It was found that the armor withstood gunfire with minimal damage (only some rivets were damaged). Chemical analysis showed that the front armour plates were made from high-quality cemented armour (S.t.a Plat according to Vickers-Armstrongs classification), whereas the homogenous roof and bottom armour plates were made from mediocre steel. Nevertheless, the British armour was better than armour produced by Izhora Factory for the first T-26s due to a shortage of modern metallurgical equipment in the USSR that time.[12]

The prototype of TMM-1 light infantry tank during tests. Spring 1932.

At the same time, the Faculty of Mechanization and Motorization of the Military Technical Academy named after F.E. Dzerzhinsky developed two tank models (TMM-1 and TMM-2) based on the purchased Vickers 6-Ton tank design but with an American Hercules 95 hp (71 kW) six-cylinder, water-cooled engine, improved front armour (to 15–20 mm) and a driver's position on the left side. TMM stands for tank maloy moshchnosti or "tank of low power". The TMM-1 was equipped with transmission details from the Ya-5 truck and a ball mount for the DT tank machine gun in front of the hull, whereas the TMM-2 was equipped with an improved gear box, a steering device without clutches and a 37 mm Hotchkiss gun in the right turret. However, representatives from the main Soviet tank manufacturers together with officials from the RKKA Mobilization Department, considered the Hercules engine to be too difficult to produce, and the engine tended to overheat inside the engine compartment. Furthermore, tests of TMM-1 and TMM-2 prototypes performed in the beginning of 1932 demonstrated no advantage over the Vickers 6-Ton and the T-26 (the TMM-2's maneuverability was found to be even worse).[13][14]


Maintenance of the T-26 mod. 1931 (with riveted hull and turrets). The tank was produced in the first half of 1932 - note the mounting of exhaust muffler with two clamps and the cover over the air outlet window. The Moscow Military District. Summer 1934.

The Soviets did not simply replicate the Vickers Six-Ton.[15] Like its British counterpart, the T-26 mod. 1931 had a twin-turreted configuration and was designed to carry two machine guns, mounting one in each turret. A major difference between the Soviet T-26 mod. 1931 and the British 6-Ton were higher T-26's turrets, complete with observation slit. Also Soviet turrets had round firing port for DT tank machine gun, as opposed to the rectangular ports used by the original British design for Vickers machine gun. Also the front part of a hull was slightly modified.[16]

Hulls of twin-turreted T-26s were assembled using armoured plates riveted to a frame from metal angles. Some tanks, produced in 1931, had sealing zink shims at the hull bottom at the interface between armoured plates for fording water obstacles. After experiencing problems with precipitation entering the engine compartment, a special cover was installed over an air outlet window after March 1932. A number of T-26s produced in the end of 1932-1933 had riveted-and-welded hull. The T-26 mod. 1931 had two cylindrical turrets mounted on ball bearings, each turret turned independently through 240°. Both turrets could provide common fire in front and rear arcs of fire (100° each). Nevertheless, the disadvantage of such configuration was impossibility to use all tank fire power per each side. Four technological modifications of turrets existed, and they were mounted on a tank in different combinations (for instance, a tank with riveted hull could have riveted and welded turrets).[17]

Around 1,627 T-26 tanks with twin turrets were produced between 1931 and 1933; of these, 450 were armed with the 37 mm PS-1 in one of the turrets.[18]

In 1933, the Soviets unveiled the T-26 mod. 1933. The Model 1933, with a new single cylindrical turret carrying one 45 mm cannon and one 7.62 mm machine gun,[19] would become the most common T-26 variant. The 45 mm 20K tank gun was based on the German Pak 35/36 cannon acquired in 1930.[19] The T-26 could carry up to three secondary DT 7.62 mm machine guns in coaxial, rear, and antiaircraft mounts. This increased firepower was intended to aid crews in defeating dedicated anti-tank teams, as the original machine gun armament had been found insufficient.[20] The turret rear ball mounting for the additional DT tank machine gun was installed on the T-26 tanks since the end 1935 till 1939.

Interior of T-26 mod. 1933 turret. Left-side ammunition stowage. Note also the side observation device and the porthole for revolver closed with the plug. Parola Tank Museum in Finland.
Interior of T-26 mod. 1933 turret, looking forward at the 45 mm 20K tank gun breech. Note the TOP-1 telescopic sight to the left, the coaxial DT tank machine gun and PT-K commander panoramic sight to the right. Parola Tank Museum in Finland.

The T-26 Model 1933 carried 122 rounds of 45 mm ammunition, firing armour-piercing 45 mm rounds with a muzzle velocity of 820 m/s (2,700 ft/s), or lower-velocity high-explosive munitions.[4] Tanks intended for company commanders were equipped with a radio set and a hand-rail radio antenna on the turret. Later the hand-rail antenna was replaced with a buggy-whip antenna, because the Spanish Civil War and Battle of Lake Khasan demonstrated that the hand-rail antenna unmasked commander tanks for enemy fire.

The tank was powered by a T-26 90 hp (67 kW) flat row 4-cylinder air-cooled petrol engine which represented a Soviet full copy of Armstrong Siddeley engine of the Vickers 6-Ton. The engine was located in the rear part of the hull. In the beginning, Soviet-made tank engines were of bad quality, they were improved toward 1934 only. The T-26 (Armstrong Siddeley) engine did not have overspeed limiter which often resulted in overheat and engine valves breakage (in summer, especially). A fuel tank for 182 L (40 imp gal; 48 U.S. gal) and an oil box for 27 L (5.9 imp gal; 7.1 U.S. gal) were placed alongside of the engine. The engine required top-grade petrol, the use of second-rate petrol could cause a damage of valve unit because of engine detonation. From mid 1932, a more capacious fuel tank (290 L instead of 182 L) and a simplified oil box were introduced. An engine cooling fan was mounted over the engine in special shroud. From spring 1932, an exhaust muffler was affixed by three clamps instead of two.[17]

A transmission of the T-26 consisted of single-disk main dry clutch, gearbox with five gears in front part of the vehicle, steering clutches, final drives and band brakes. The gearbox was connected with the engine by a drive shaft passing through the vehicle. A gear change lever was mounted directly on the gearbox.[17]

A tank suspension (for one side) consisted of two bogies, four rubber-covered return rollers, a track driving wheel and a track idler. Each bogie consisted of a cast box, four twin rubber-covered road wheels connected by balancing levers and two one-quarter elliptic leaf springs. The cast track driving wheel with removable sprocket ring was located in front, and the track idler with a crank lever tightener was located in the rear part of the vehicle. A track made from chrome-nickel steel was 260 mm (10 in) wide and consisted of 108-109 links.[17][21]

The T-26 mod. 1931 did not have a radio set. A tank commander communicated with driver by speaking tube which was replaced with a signalling lamp in 1932. The T-26 was equipped with one fire extinguisher, a kit of spare parts tools and accessories (including a tank jack), a canvas stowage, and a tow chain fixed on the rear of the hull.[17]

The T-26 could cross 0.75 m high vertical obstacles and 2.1 m wide trenches, ford 0.8 m deep water obstacles, cut 33 cm thick trees and climb 40° gradients. The T-26 proved to be easy for driving[2]

The hull of the T-26 mod. 1931 had a maximum armor thickness of 15 mm (instead of 13 mm of original Vickers design), which was sufficient to stop small artillery fragments and light machine gun fire, including German 7.92 mm armour-piercing rounds, but would later prove too light against newer German anti-tank weapons in 1941. In 1938, the T-26 was upgraded to the model 1938 version which had a new conical turret with better anti-bullet resistance but the same welded hull as the T-26 mod. 1933 produced in 1935-1936.[22] This still proved insufficient, and the tank was upgraded once more in February 1939 (after the Battle of Lake Khasan took place in 1938) to have an underturret box with sloped (23O) 20 mm side armoured plates. The turret featured an increase to 20 mm at 18 degrees sloping.[23] This time it was designated T-26-1 (known as the T-26 mod. 1939 in modern sources). There would be subsequent attempts to thicken the front plate, but T-26 production soon ended in favor of other designs, such as the T-34.

Beginning in 1937, there was an effort to equip many tanks with second machine gun in the rear of the turret and anti-aircraft machine gun on the top of it, as well as the addition of two searchlights above the gun for night gunnery, a new VKU-3 command system, and a TPU-3 intercom. Some tanks had vertically stabilized TOP-1 gun telescopic sight. Ammunition stowage for the main gun was improved from 122 rounds to 147.[24] In 1938, the cylindrical turret was replaced with a conical turret, with the same 45 mm model 1934 gun.[25] Some T-26s mod. 1938/1939, equipped with radio set, had a PTK commander's panoramic sight.[26]

Series production


The beginning

The only factory suitable for the T-26 production was the Bolshevik Factory in Leningrad which had experience in manufacturing of MS-1 (T-18) light tanks since 1927. It was planned also to use the Stalingrad Tractor Factory which was under construction at that time. But the production of the T-26 proved to be much more complicated than a semi-handicraft assembly of the MS-1, so a plan to produce 500 T-26s in 1931 became impossible. The Bolshevik Factory needed to convert all tank drawings from inch scale into metric scale, to develop a production technology, special tools and equipment. The first 10 T-26s were assembled in July 1931 – they were identical to British Vickers 6-Ton tanks except armament. Soviet tanks were armed with the 37 mm Hotchkiss (PS-1) gun in a right turret and the 7.62 mm DT tank machine gun in a left turret. These T-26s from development batch were of low quality and made from unarmored steel, but that was an important test of the new tank production technology.[27]

The series production of the T-26, equipped with new higher turrets with observation window, began in August 1931. Such turrets proved to be more suitable for mass production. The production of the T-26 encountered many problems: a lot of armoured hulls and turrets supplied by the Izhora Factory were of low quality (with cracks) and were 10 mm in thickness instead of planned 13 mm. Poor production standards were the reason of often failures of tank engines, gear boxes, springs in suspension, tracks and rubber-covered road wheels of early T-26s. Thirty-five T-26s from 100 tanks, produced by the Bolshevik Factory in 1931, had hulls and turrets made from unarmoured steel. Later, it was planned to replace these hulls with armoured ones as well as to mount engines of better quality. Nevertheless, a business plan for 1932 was 3,000 T-26s (!). For this, a tank workshop of the Bolshevik Factory was reorganized into the Factory No. 174 named after K.E. Voroshilov in February 1932. The director of the tank factory became K. Sirken and the chief engineer - S. Ginzburg. But the problems with organization of new complicated technological process, poor production planning of parts suppliers, great shortage of qualified engineers and technicians as well as of necessary equipment still resulted in large percentage of flawed tanks which were not accepted by army representatives. On October 26th 1932, the Trust of Special Machine Industry, consisting of four factories, was established to solve the problem with tank production in the USSR. The plan of T-26's production for 1932 was decreased significantly and a special attention was given to increase the quality of tanks. A production of the new model, single-turreted T-26 armed with the 45 mm gun, was launched in the middle of 1933.[28][29]

The Factory No. 174 manufactured also a few T-26s for military educational institutions - these were dissected tanks to demonstrate a relative position and function of tank components during training of tankers.[30][31]

Production of T-26 tanks at the Factory No. 174 named after K.E. Voroshilov1[1][32]
1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 TOTAL
T-26 twin-turreted 100 1361 576 1 - - - - - - - 2,038
T-26 with a single turret - - 693 4892 553 447 - - 945 1,018 473 4,192
T-26 with a single turret (and a radio) - - 20 457 650 826 550 716 3504 3185 - 3,887
TOTAL 100 1,361 1,289 947 1,203 1,273 550 716 1,295 1,336 47 10,117
1The production of armoured combat vehicles based on T-26 chassis is not included (see T-26 variants) 2Besides, the factory produced 6 dismantled sets of T-26 tanks which were sent to the Stalingrad Tractor Factory 3According to the army data - 116 T-26 tanks were accepted from the factory in summer 1941, but such data includes tanks after overhaul with possible mounting of turrets from KhT-133 flame-throwing tanks with 45 mm guns 4Including 267 tanks with anti-aircraft machine guns 5Including 204 tanks with anti-aircraft machine guns

Production in Stalingrad

The prototype of STZ-25 (T-25) wheeled-tracked light tank during tests at the Kubinka Tank Proving Ground. September 1939.

The Stalingrad Tractor Factory (STZ) was considered as one of the factories for a production of the T-26 from 1932, but the production in Stalingrad started in August 1933 only. This process went very slowly, with great difficulties because of delay with deliveries of machining equipment and press-tools for the new just built factory. Besides, in 1936-1939 the Design Office of the STZ developed several experimental tanks (6 TK, 4 TG, STZ-25, STZ-35) based on the T-26 tank and the STZ-5 transport tractor. For instance, the STZ-25 (T-25) had the turret, rear part of the hull, engine and some transmission details from the T-26 mod. 1938, but the STZ-25 wheeled-tracked tank weighted 11.7 tonnes (12.9 short tons) and had 16-24 mm sloped armour. Needless to say that factory managers tried to promote the tanks of own design instead to produce the someone else's T-26. As the result, the STZ failed to organize the series production of the T-26 but this experience helped to bring the T-34 into production in Stalingrad in 1941. The T-26s produced by STZ had no visual differences from other T-26s, but Stalingrad tanks were less reliable and more expensive.[33]

Production of T-26 tanks at the Stalingrad Tractor Factory[1]
1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940
T-26 5 23 115  ? - 301  ? 10
115 with a cylindrical turret and a radio, 5 with a conical turret and a radio, and 10 with a conical turret.

Modernization and repair

T-26 mod. 1931 (with welded turrets) after repair and modernization. The Military Academy of Mechanization and Motorization named after I. Stalin. 1940.

Some number of early T-26 tanks were repaired in tank units or at factories with the use of later production details. This meant replacing all-rubber road wheels (except front wheels) and track idlers with new strengthened ones. In addition, armour was added for the headlight, the driver's hatch lower door of twin-turreted tanks was increased in armour thickness from 6 to 10 mm and armoured PT-1 or PTK observation devices were installed. Furthermore, a common hatch above the engine, oil tank, and fuel tank was mounted since May 1940. In 1940, 255 T-26s were modernized in this way and in the first half of 1941 - about 85 tanks. A central factory responsible for the T-26's repair and modernization was the Factory of Carrying-and-Conveying Machines named after S. Kirov in Leningrad, and since the beginning of the Great Patriotic War till 1945 - the Factory No. 105 named after L. Kaganovich in Khabarovsk.

Production in 1941

The Factory No. 174 produced its last T-26 tanks in the beginning of February 1941. After that, the factory began retooling to produce the new and much more complex T-50 light tank. This work was slowed by delays in the delivery of new equipment and series production of the T-50 did not begin on schedule (planned for June 1st 1941). As a result, factory management decided to resume the production of the T-26, using T-26 hulls, turrets, and other parts already in stock. About 47 T-26 tanks were assembled and 77 were repaired in such a way in July-August 1941 before the factory was relocated from Leningrad to Chelyabinsk in the end of August 1941 and then to Chkalov in the end of September 1941. In addition, the Factory No. 174 produced engines and spare parts for the T-26, installed additional armour plates on some T-26s, replaced flame-throwers with 45 mm tank guns in turrets of 130 KhT-133 flame-throwing tanks, repaired tanks in army units (846 T-26s since the beginning of 1941) and mounted about 75 turrets from the T-26 and the T-50 as bunkers for the defense of Leningrad.[34]

Combat history

The T-26 entered active service in the RKKA in 1932 and it was used in many conflicts of 1930s as well as during World War II. The T-26 together with the BT was the main tank of the RKKA during the interwar period.

The Spanish Civil War was the first conflict in which the T-26 participated. The Soviet Union provided Republican Spain with a total of 281 T-26 mod. 1933 tanks since October 1936. T-26s were used almost in all military operations of the Spanish Civil War in 1936-1939 and demonstrated there a superiority over the German Panzer I light tanks and Italian CV-33 tankettes armed only with machine guns.

The first military operation of the RKKA in which T-26 light tanks participated was the Soviet-Japanese border conflict, the Battle of Lake Khasan in July 1938. The 2nd Mechanized Brigade, the 32nd and the 40th Separate Tank Battalions had 257 T-26s, from which 76 tanks were damaged and 9 burnt towards the end of battle action. A small amount of T-26 tanks and flame-throwing tanks based on the T-26 chassis participated in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol in 1939.

On the eve of World War II, T-26s served mainly in separate light tank brigades (each brigade had 256–267 T-26s) and in separate tank battalions of rifle divisions (one company of T-26s - 10-15 tanks). Such types of tank units participated in the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939 and in the Winter War in December 1939-March 1940. The Winter War proved that the T-26 was obsolete and its design reserve was totally depleted. Finnish anti-tank guns easily penetrated T-26's thin antibullet armour, and tank units equipped with the T-26 suffered significant losses during the breakthrough of the Mannerheim Line in which the flame-throwing tanks based on the T-26 chassis played a significant role.

On June 1st 1941 the Red Army had 10,268 T-26 tanks of all models, including armoured combat vehicles based on the T-26 chassis. T-26s composed a majority of fighting vehicles in Soviet mechanized corps of border military districts. For instance, the Western Special Military District had 1,136 T-26 tanks on June 22nd 1941 (52% of all tanks in the district). The T-26 (mod. 1938/39, especially) could withstand against German tanks (except Panzer III and Panzer IV) participated in the Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. The majority of the Red Army's T-26s were lost in the first months of the Great Patriotic War, mainly to enemy artillery and air strikes. Many tanks broke down for technical reasons because of dead-line rate.

Nevertheless, the remaining T-26s participated in combat with Germans and their allies during the Battle of Moscow in winter 1941-1942, the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of the Caucasus in 1942. Some tank units of the Leningrad Front used their T-26 tanks till 1944.

The defeat of the Japanese Kwantung Army in Manchuria in August 1945 was the last military operation in which Soviet T-26s were used.

In the 1930s, T-26 light tanks were delivered to Spain (281), China (82), Turkey (60) and Afghanistan. They were used in the Second Sino-Japanese War by the Chinese in 1938-1944. A considerable number of captured T-26s of different models were used by the Finnish Army during the Continuation War, some tanks served in Finland till 1960. Captured T-26s were also used by the German, Romanian and Hungarian armies.


Specifications of the T-26 of different models (according to Factory's No. 174 data)[2]
Weight, t Front armour, mm Side and rear armour, mm Roof armour, mm Turret armour, mm Armament Ammunition (gun rds./MG rds.) Engine power, hp Range (high-road/off-road), km
Twin-turreted T-26, produced in 1932 8.2 13-15 13-15 6 13-15 2 x 7.62mm DT /6615 90 130-140/70-80
Twin-turreted T-26 with gun plus machine gun armament, produced in 1932 8.7 13-15 13-15 6 13-15 1 x 37mm + 1 x 7.62mm DT 222/3528 90 130-140/70-80
T-26 with cylindrical turret (and a radio), produced in 1933-1934 9.4 15 15 6-10 15 1 x 45mm + 1 x 7.62mm DT 124(84)/2961 90 130-140/70-80
T-26 with cylindrical turret, additional fuel tank (and a radio), produced in 1935-1936 9.6 15 15 6-10 15 1 x 45mm + 1 x 7.62mm DT 122(82)/2961 90 220-240/130-140
T-26 with cylindrical turret armed with rear MG, produced in 1935-1936 9.65 15 15 6-10 15 1 x 45mm + 2 x 7.62mm DT 102/2961 90 220-240/130-140
T-26 with cylindrical turret, radio (and P-40 anti-aircraft MG mounting), produced in 1937 9.75 15 15 6-10 15 1 x 45mm + 2 x 7.62mm DT 111(107)/2772(3024) 93 220-240/130-140
T-26 with conical turret armed with rear MG, radio and straight sides of underturret box, produced in 1938 9.8 15 15 6-10 15 1 x 45mm + 2 x 7.62mm DT 107/2772 95 220-240/130-140

Twin-turreted tanks

  • T-26 model 1931 — twin-turreted version armed with two DT tank machine guns. The first series-produced variant of the T-26 which was equipped with turrets differ from the initial Vickers design (Soviet turrets were higher and had an observation window). Tanks produced from 1931 to the beginning of 1932 had riveted hull and turrets, a muffler affixed with two clamps, and lacked any cover over the air outlet window. About 1,177 T-26 mod. 1931 tanks armed with machine guns were accepted by the Red Army, which had 1,015 such twin-turreted tanks on 1 April 1933.
  • T-26 model 1931 with gun plus machine gun armament[35][36] — twin-turreted version with a 37 mm gun in the right turret (some modern sources mention this tank as T-26 model 1932). There were two models of 37 mm guns in the USSR suitable for mounting in light tanks that time - the Hotchkiss gun (or its Soviet improved variant PS-1), and the more powerful PS-2 gun developed by P. Syachentov. The latter was superior, but only experimental models existed. Therefore, the first 10 pre-production T-26s, which had design identical to Vickers 6-Ton, were equipped with the Hotchkiss gun in the right turret to increase fire power compared to the machine gun armed Vickers tank. The experimental PS-2 gun was mounted on three T-26 tanks only, the right turrets of which were replaced with small gun turrets from the T-35-1 (prototype of the T-35 heavy tank).
Twin-turreted T-26 mod. 1931 with riveted hull and turrets, armed with the 37 mm Hotchkiss gun (PS-1) in the right turret. Battle of Tolvajärvi. December 1939.

As the series production of the PS-2 gun was delayed, the Main Artillery Agency of the RKKA gave preference to a new gun. That was a development of the Artillery Design Office of the Bolshevik Factory constructed from parts taken from the previously purchased German 37 mm anti-tank gun developed by Rheinmetall and the PS-2 gun. This system was successfully tested and the Artillery Factory No. 8 named after M. Kalinin started its series production under the designator B-3 (5K). The B-3 gun had less recoil and smaller breech compared to the PS-2, so it could be easily mounted in the normal machine gun turret of the T-26. The first twin-turreted T-26 was armed with the B-3 gun in the right turret in autumn 1931. Unfortunately, series production of the B-3 gun proceeded slowly due to poor production standards (none of 225 guns produced in 1931 were accepted by army representatives; it took until 1933 to complete the original order for 300 guns placed in August of 1931). In addition, completed B-3 guns would be mounted on BT-2 light tanks after summer 1932. This meant that twin-turreted T-26 tanks would continue to be equipped with old 37 mm Hotchkiss (PS-1) guns. As production of the PS-1 gun had ended, some guns were taken from military supply depots and scrapped MS-1(T-18) tanks.

The initial plan was to arm every fifth T-26 with the 37 mm gun in the right turret, but the final proportion was somewhat higher. About 450 twin-turreted T-26 mod. 1931 tanks mounting the 37 mm gun in the right turret were produced in 1931–1933 (including only 20-30 tanks with the B-3 gun). There were 392 T-26 mod. 1931 tanks with gun plus machine gun armament in the Red Army on 1 April 1933.

Twin-turreted T-26 armed with the 76.2 mm recoilless gun designed by L.V. Kurchevsky in the right turret. 1934.
  • T-26 (BPK)[37][38] (BPK stands for batal'onnaya pushka Kurchevskogo or "battalion gun by Kurchevsky") - twin-turreted version with a 76.2 mm recoilless gun (or "dynamic reaction gun", as it was called at the time) in the right turret. At the end of 1933 M. Tukhachevsky suggested equipping some T-26 mod. 1931 tanks with the 76.2 mm BPK recoilless gun designed by L.V. Kurchevsky in a right turret to increase a fire power. One prototype of such a tank was built in 1934. BPK had a muzzle velocity of 500 m/s (1,640 ft/s) and a range of 4 km (2.5 mi). The tank was able to carry 62 4-kg rounds. The test performed on 9 March 1934 demonstrated a significant increase in firepower, but the recoilless gun proved difficult to reload on the move and the powerful jet blast projected behind the weapon when fired would be dangerous to infantrymen behind the tank. Shortcomings were also observed in the design of the gun itself, and so the planned rearmament of twin-turreted T-26 tanks with recoilless guns did not take place.
Twin-turreted T-26 (with the 37 mm Hotchkiss gun (PS-1) in the right turret), equipped with the radio station No. 7N and the hand-rail frame antenna on the hull. Military exercises. 1934.
  • T-26TU[39] (TU stands for tank upravleniya or "command tank") - twin-turreted version with a simplex radio station No. 7N (communication range - 10 km) and a hand-rail frame antenna on the hull. Antenna lead located in front part of underturret box roof between turrets. The vehicle was intended for platoon (and higher) commanders. Three such tanks were successfully tested in September 1932 and seven more radio stations were delivered to the Factory named after K.E. Voroshilov, but it is unknown whether they were mounted on twin-turreted T-26 tanks or not. Series production of twin-turreted command radio tanks was scheduled to begin on January 1st 1933, but this did not occur because radio stations No. 7N were in short supply and introduction of single-turreted T-26s with radio stations.

Additionally, one twin-turreted T-26 was given to the Research Institute of Communication in March 1932 to develop special tank communication devices. The plan was to equip each tank with a keyphone, while a platoon commander's tank would be equipped with a telephone switch for 6 subscribers (4 tanks in platoon, communication lines with infantry and higher headquarters). A special terminal block was mounted on the rear of the tank so that communication wires could be connected. The work remained experimental.

Single-turreted tanks

  • T-26 model 1933 — single turret version armed with 45 mm 20K tank gun and DT tank machine gun. A new cylindrical turret with a large rear niche. Some tanks were equipped with 71-TK-1 radio station with a hand-rail antenna around the turret. Upgraded in 1935 with a welded hull and turret, and again in 1936 with a rear DT tank machine gun in the turret. In 1937, some tanks were equipped with an anti-aircraft machine gun and a searchlight. The model 1933 was the most numerous variant.
  • T-26 model 1938 — new conical turret, small changes in hull parts, increased volume of fuel tanks. Tank gun mod. 1937 and mod. 1938 were equipped with an electric breechblock and a vertically stabilized TOP-1 telescopic sight (or a TOS telescopic sight on the 1938 model).
  • T-26 model 1939 (T-26-1) — underturret box with sloped armoured plates, rear machine gun removed on some tanks, 97 hp engine. Tanks built after 1940 were equipped with an underturret box made from 20 mm homogeneous armour, a unified observation device, and a new turret ring. Some tanks were equipped with armoured screens. About 1,975 T-26 tanks with conical turret (T-26 mod. 1938, T-26 mod. 1939) were produced.
T-26 mod. 1933 with applique armour after running trials. Spring 1940.
  • T-26 screened[40] - tank with additional armour plating (applique armour). Some modern sources mention this tank as T-26E (E stands for ekranirovanny or "screened"). The Factory No. 174 developed the design of 30-40 mm applique armour for all types of single-turreted T-26s during the Winter War. On 30 December 1939, the factory tests proved that the T-26 with applique armour successfully resisted fire from 45 mm anti-tank gun at a range from 400-500 m. Side and front armoured plates were mounted with the use of blunt bolts and electric welding. Toward the middle of February 1940, the RKKA received 27 screened T-26 mod. 1939 tanks and 27 KhT-133 flame-throwing tanks, additional 15 T-26 mod. 1939 tanks were armoured by workshops of the 8th Army in Suoyarvi in the beginning of March 1940. All in all, 69 T-26s with applique armour were used during the Winter War and 20 more were delivered to tank units after the end of the war. The combat proved that Finnish light anti-tank guns could not penetrate armour of these tanks.

The T-26 mod. 1939 with applique armour weighted 12 tonnes (13 short tons) which caused strong overload of chassis, transmission and engine of the light tank. It was recommended for drivers to use low gears only.

During the Great Patriotic War, a mounting of 15-40 mm applique armour on some amount (about a hundred) of different T-26s was performed by local factories in Leningrad in 1941-1942, during the Siege of Odessa (1941), the Battle for Moscow and the Siege of Sevastopol (1941–1942). A cutting of armoured plates was more rough than developed during the Winter War, the majority of such tanks did not have moving armoured gun mask in contrast to the Factory No. 174's original design and some tanks had front applique armour only.

Artillery tanks

T-26 mod. 1931 with the A-43 welded turret developed by N. Dyrenkov. Note a ball mount for the DT tank machine gun. Leningrad. 1933.
  • T-26 with the A-43 turret[41][42][43] - artillery T-26 or "tank of fire support" with a turret developed by self-taught inventor N. Dyrenkov at the Experimental Design Office of the Department of Mechanization and Motorization of the RKKA (UMM RKKA). Two types of turrets, armed with the 76 mm regimental gun mod. 1927 and DT tank machine gun in a ball mount, were assembled by the Izhora Factory: partially pressed and welded. The first one was installed on the T-26 in February 1932 and the second one – in November 1932 (in the last case, the rear armoured plate of underturret box was made sloping). It was found that the A-43 turret was very tight for two crewmembers, it had insufficient observation field, there was no any turret ventilation which made continuous gun fire difficult and it was hard to rotate the turret manually. In the beginning of 1933, a new 76 mm KT tank gun mod. 1927/32 with reduced recoil length was installed into the A-43 turret. Nevertheless, it was proved again that the turret still had a very tight place for crewmembers. In addition, the ammunition stowage for 54 rounds was unsuccessful. As the result, the military refused the A-43 turret.
  • T-26-4 — artillery tank with enlarged turret and 76.2 mm KT mod. 1927/32 tank gun (some modern sources mention this tank as T-26A, A stands for artilleriysky or "artillery"). Five vehicles were built in 1932-1934.

Armoured combat vehicles

A large amount of different armoured combat vehicles were developed on the T-26 chassis in the 1930s. Among them were KhT-26, KhT-130 and KhT-133 flame-throwing tanks (552, 401 and 269 vehicles were produced, correspondingly); T-26T artillery tractors (197 were produced); TT-26 and TU-26 radio-controlled tanks (162 radio-controlled tanks of all models were produced), ST-26 bridge-laying tanks (71 were produced), SU-5 self-propelled guns (33 were produced), experimental armoured cargo/personnel carriers, reconnaissance vehicles and many others. Also different vehicle-mounted equipment was developed for the T-26, including tank mine sweeps, inflatable pontoons and snorkel for fording water obstacles.


There are about 45 T-26 tanks preserved in different museums and military schools (Russian, Spanish and Finnish mainly).[44][45] The most notable of them are:

T-26 mod. 1931 with riveted hull and turrets. Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow, Russia. 2008.
  • Twin-turreted T-26 mod. 1931 in the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow (Russia) - this tank from the 115th Rifle Division with shell holes was raised from a river bottom on the site of river crossing at Nevsky Pyatachok in July 1989 by Katran diving club. The vehicle was restored in the Pyarnu Training Tank Regiment of the Leningrad Military District, it was donated to the museum in February 1998. Only two such vehicles are preserved at the moment.
  • Twin-turreted T-26 mod. 1931 with gun plus machine gun armament and riveted hull in the Kubinka Tank Museum in Moscow Oblast (Russia). The single survived twin-turreted T-26 armed with the 37 mm gun.
  • T-26 mod. 1933 in the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow (Russia) - this tank of late production variant was transferred from Kubinka Tank Museum in 1980s.
  • T-26 mod. 1933 in the Museum-Diorama "Breaching of the Blockade of the Leningrad" in Mar'ino village near Kirovsk, Leningrad Oblast (Russia) - this tank with a large shell hole on the right side of the hull and without turret was raised from a river bottom at Nevsky Pyatachok in May 2003.
  • T-26 mod. 1933 in the Museum of the Northwestern Front in Staraya Russa, Novgorod Oblast (Russia) - this tank was raised from the Lovat River in 1981 and became a monument to Soviet tankers in Korovitchino village (Novgorod Oblast). The vehicle was given to the museum in May 2004. The tank has inauthentic tracks.
T-26 mod. 1933. El Goloso Museum in Madrid, Spain. 2007.
  • T-26 mod. 1933 in the El Goloso Baracks Museum in Madrid (Spain) - the tank (Spanish tactical number 135) in Nationalist Spanish markings with pressed gun mask is armed with Hotchkiss machine gun instead of DT tank machine gun. Produced in 1936. The anti-aircraft machine gun and the hand-rail radio antenna are late dummies.
T-26 mod. 1933. Parola Tank Museum, Finland. 2006.
  • T-26 mod. 1933 in the Parola Tank Museum (Finland) - Finnish tactical number Ps 163-33, in drivable condition.
  • T-26 mod. 1933 in the Parola Tank Museum (Finland) - this tank is described in many sources as early version of the T-26 mod. 1933. But in reality this is the Finnish war-time modernization (Finnish tactical number Ps 163-16) of a hull from KhT-26 flame-throwing tank (which can be identified by rivets for mounting of a burning mixture tank, rivets for hinges of a filling hatch on the left side and a welded drain port on the right side behind a front track bogie) with a mounted riveted turret with a small rear niche from the early BT-5 light tank.[46]
  • T-26 mod. 1933 in the Parola Tank Museum (Finland) - the Finnish war-time modernization (Finnish tactical number Ps 163-28) of a hull from KhT-26 flame-throwing tank with a mounted turret from the BT-7 light tank.
  • T-26 mod. 1939 in the Kubinka Tank Museum, Moscow Oblast (Russia) - this tank with pressed gun mask is in drivable condition (the GAZ-41 engine from the BRDM-2 was installed in 2005). The tank has combat damages taken during the Great Patriotic War (many marks from armour-piercing bullets and a welded hole on the right side of the turret from 50 mm shell).
  • T-26 mod. 1939 in the Parola Tank Museum, (Finland) - the Finnish war-time modernization (Finnish tactical number Ps 164-7): a hull from KhT-133 flame-throwing tank with a mounted turret from the T-26 mod. 1938/1939 and a ball mount for the DT tank machine gun in a hull front armoured plate.
  • KhT-130 flame-throwing tank in the Kubinka Tank Museum, Moscow Oblast (Russia) - in reality this is the TU-26 teletank control vehicle with a dummy flame-thrower.
  • KhT-130 flame-throwing tank in the Military Unit No. 05776 in Borzya, Chita Oblast (Russia) - monument (since 1995) with an incomplete chassis (one track bogie is lacking, tracks and driving wheels were taken from the M3 Stuart American light tank). Before 1990 the vehicle stood in the territory of one of military units of the Soviet 39th Army (located in Mongolia) of the Transbaikal Military District. The single preserved KhT-130 at the moment.


  1. ^ a b c Kolomiets (2007), p. 125
  2. ^ a b c Kolomiets (2007), p. 124
  3. ^ Franco, El Tanque de la Guerra Civil Española, p. 74
  4. ^ a b Candil, p. 34
  5. ^ Svirin, Kolomiets (2000), p. 4
  6. ^ Kolomiets (2007), p. 5
  7. ^ Baryatinskiy, pp. 34-35
  8. ^ Baryatinskiy (2003), pp. 44-57
  9. ^ a b c Kolomiets (2007), pp. 6-9
  10. ^ Baryatinskiy (2003), p. 2
  11. ^ a b Svirin (2007), pp. 162-172
  12. ^ Svirin (2007), pp. 173-174
  13. ^ Baryatinskiy (2003), pp. 3-4
  14. ^ Solyankin et al. (2002), pp. 89-91
  15. ^ Baryatinskiy, p. 20
  16. ^ Baryatinskiy, p. 24
  17. ^ a b c d e Kilomiets (2007), pp. 16-17
  18. ^ Baryatinskiy, p. 27
  19. ^ a b Franco, p. 74
  20. ^ Baryatinsky, p. 25
  21. ^ Baryatinsky (2003), p. 6
  22. ^ Kilomiets (2007), p. 50
  23. ^ Solyankin et al. (2002), p. 76
  24. ^ Baryatinsky, pp. 30–31
  25. ^ Baryatinsky, p. 31
  26. ^ Baryatinsky (2003), p. 17
  27. ^ Kilomiets (2007), p. 10
  28. ^ Kilomiets (2007), pp. 11-14
  29. ^ Svirin (2007), pp. 172-180
  30. ^ Kilomiets (2007), p. 61
  31. ^ Svirin (2007), pp. 177-178
  32. ^ Baryatinskiy, Mikhail (2006). Light Tanks: T-27, T-38, BT, T-26, T-40, T-50, T-60, T-70. Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allen. pp. 96. ISBN 0-7110-3163-0. 
  33. ^ Kilomiets (2007), pp. 60-61
  34. ^ Kolomiets (2007), pp. 64-65
  35. ^ Kolomiets (2007), pp. 18-21
  36. ^ Baryatinskiy (2003), pp. 6-9
  37. ^ Kolomiets (2007), p. 21
  38. ^ Solyankin et al. (2002), p. 92
  39. ^ Kolomiets (2007), p. 14
  40. ^ Kolomiets (2007), pp. 66-77
  41. ^ Kolomiets (2007), pp. 22-24
  42. ^ Svirin (2007), pp. 333-336
  43. ^ Solyankin et al. (2002), p.91
  44. ^ Preserved Soviet armoured vehicles of 1930s-1940s
  45. ^ Surviving T-26 Light Tanks
  46. ^ Kolomiets, p. 78-81


Published sources

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  • Baryatinskiy, Mikhail (2006). Light Tanks: T-27, T-38, BT, T-26, T-40, T-50, T-60, T-70. Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allen. pp. 96. ISBN 0-7110-3163-0. 
  • Baryatinskiy, Mikhail (2006) (in Russian). Sovetskie tanki v boyu. Ot T-26 do IS-2 (Soviet tanks in action. From T-26 to IS-2). Moscow: YAUZA, EKSMO. pp. 352. ISBN 5-699-18740-5. 
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  • Franco, Lucas Molina (2005) (in Spanish). Panzer I: El inicio de una saga. Madrid, Spain: AF Editores. pp. 64. ISBN 84-96016-52-8. 
  • García, José María; Lucas Molina Franco (2005) (in Spanish). La Brunete. Valladolid: Quiron Ediciones. pp. 80. ISBN 84-96016-28-5. 
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  • House, Jonathan M. (1984). Toward Combined Arms Warfare: A Survey of 20th-Century Tactics, Doctrine, and Organization. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-6900: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. pp. 231. 
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  • Tank T-26, T-26 mod. 1939 in drivable condition from the Kubinka Tank Museum, Russia (with short historical background about the armoured forces of the USSR at that time, in Russian)
  • Tank T-26, another video of this T-26 mod. 1939 in drivable condition from the Kubinka Tank Museum (Russia)
  • Tank T-26, replica of T-26 mod. 1933 (with a historical scene, in Russian)
  • Finnish T-26 tank, T-26 mod. 1939 in drivable condition from the Parola Tank Museum (Finland)
  • T-26 display, another video of this T-26 mod. 1939 in drivable condition from the Parola Tank Museum (Finland)
List of armoured fighting vehicles of World War II  · Soviet armored fighting vehicle production during World War II


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