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AH-IV Tankette (1936)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 7/1/2014

The AH-IV Tankette was of Czech origins but saw operational service in foreign hands.

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The AH-IV was an export tankette design of Czech origins that appeared in 1936. Agile and fast, the machine gun-armed combat system was built in limited numbers and all ended up with export parties that included Ethiopia (as the AH-IV-Hb), Iran, Romania (as the AH-IV-R) and Sweden (as the Strv m/37). The diminutive design went on to see combat actions in World War 2, the Eritrean War of Independence (1961-1991), the Ethiopian Civil War (1974-1991), the Ogaden War (1977-1978) and the Ethiopian-Somali Border War (1982). Amazingly, the last AH-IV tankette was retired from operational service in the mid-1980s.

Tankettes were, as the name suggests, small combat tanks, designed to be much smaller than even the light-class series of tanks. Such tracked systems were useful for their speed, relative armor protection, cross-country performance and available armament allowing even the smallest (and poorest) of nations to field an economical mechanized force of somewhat modern consideration. Tankettes served up until World War 2 to which medium-, heavy- and super-tank designs began to take center stage. After the war, the tankette classification was more or less discontinued as were medium-, heavy- and super-heavy tank classes in lieu of the "Main Battle Tank" (the light-class tank still remains to this day). From a military standpoint, the tankette could be used as a fast reconnaissance vehicle or for policing duties thanks to its light design and choice repeating armament. Of course, when forced into direct combat with other "true" tanks or anti-tank weapons and mines, the tankette could suffer greatly.

While similar in scope to the Tancik vz. 33 Tankette before it (appearing in 1934), the AH-IV was designed with a 360-traversing turret for the gunner as opposed to a forward-facing machine gun in a flexible mount. This provided for a more viable tactical machine. Like the Tancik wz. 33, the AH-IV was crewed by two personnel made up of the driver and the commander/gunner. The driver was fitted in the front-left hull while the gunner was set to the left hand side in the offset turret fitted at the middle of the design. The commander also doubled as the gunner and ammunition handler in the turret. The turret sat atop a boxy hull superstructure with angled facings that allowed for the required room within the driving, fighting and engine compartments. Construction was primarily of riveted plates. Primary armament was a pair of 7.92mm heavy machine guns, one installed at the driver's position (ZB vz. 26 or ZB vz. 30 model) and the other installed in the turret (ZB vz. 35 or ZB vz. 37 model). Armor protection was 6mm to 12mm at various facings and overall weight of the tankette was 4.3 tons. As designed, the tankette featured a running length of 10 feet with a width of 5.7 feet and an overall height of 5.5 feet. Power was supplied by a single Praga RHP 6-cylinder, water-cooled engine of 55 horsepower fitted to a rear compartment in the hull. The running gear consisted of four road wheels to a track side with a single track return roller, the drive sprocket at the front and the track idler at the rear. Suspension was by leaf spring. The engine was mated to a Praga-Wilson 5-speed transmission system consisting of five forward and a single reverse gear. Top road speed was listed at 28 miles per hour with an operational range of 110 miles.


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Specifications for the
AH-IV
Tankette


Country of Origin: Czechoslovakia
Manufacturer: State Factories - Czechoslovakia
Initial Year of Service: 1936
Production: 157


Focus Model: AH-IV
Crew: 2


Overall Length: 10.50ft (3.20m)
Width: 5.87ft (1.79m)
Height: 5.48ft (1.67m)
Weight: 3.9 US Short Tons (3,500kg; 7,716lbs)


Powerplant: 1 x Praha RHP 6-cylinder water-cooled gasoline engine developing 50 horsepower.


Maximum Speed: 28mph (45 km/h)
Maximum Range: 99 miles (160 km)


NBC Protection: None
Nightvision: None


Armament:
1 x 7.92mm ZB vz. 35 heavy machine gun OR 1 x 7.92mm ZB vz. 37 heavy machine gun.
1 x 7.92mm ZB vz. 30 heavy machine gun OR 1 x 7.92mm ZB vz. 26 heavy machine gun.


Ammunition:
3,700 x 7.92mm ammunition


Variants:
AH-IV - Base Series Designation


AH-IV-R - Romanian Model Designation

R-1 - Romanian Army Designation

Stridsvagn m/37 (Strv m/37) - Swedish Army Designation.

AH-IV-Hb - Ethiopian Model Designation


Operators:
Ethiopia; Iran; Romania; Sweden