BT-2 (Bystrochodnij Tankov) Fast Light Tank
The BT-2 Fast Tank officially began the BT-series of Soviet light tanks featured in World War 2.
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Like many of the military powers prior to World War 2, the Red Army adopted a series of light, fast tanks intended to overwhelm enemy positions through speed and numbers. The Soviets began development of such a system in the early 1930s when, in 1931 out of the Kharkov heavy industry facility, engineer M.N. Toskin went to work on a new light tank in the mold of a design originating with American engineer John Walter Christie. The initial prototype was nothing more than the Christie design completed without a turret and designated simply as "BT-1". The design was further evolved with more Soviet influence by A.O. Firsov to become the "BT-2" and formally adopted by the Red Army on May 23rd, 1931. Serial production for the BT-2 was scheduled the following year and manufacture of hulls and turrets were to be handled by separate facilities.
Design of the BT-2 incorporated a distinct wheel-and-track system in which the track sections could be removed, allowing the vehicle to run on its road wheels (the removal process taking approximately 30 minutes to complete). The hull was a highly faceted design with angles intended to deflect basic small arms fire and artillery spray. Construction of the hull included use of heavy riveting and thickness of up to 13mm. The general internal arrangement of the vehicle was highly conventional with the driver at the front center of the hull, the fighting compartment at the middle (along with the turret emplacement) and the powertrain at the rear. The turret was located along the hull roof as a cylindrical installation with unfettered access to engage at all angles about the vehicle. The installation was also noticeable fitted well-ahead of amidships, a design element to be carried over into the war-winning T-34 Medium Tank to follow. The original design called for a two-man crew in which the commander would double as his own gunner and loader of the primary weapon. However, this was given up in favor of incorporating a third crewmember to manage the loading of the main gun, leaving the commander available to direct his crew and manage the main gun proper. The wheel-and-track arrangement constituted four large road wheels with the drive sprocket at the front of the design and the track idler at the rear. When in "wheeled" mode, the front set of wheels were steerable. These were locked when the track links were set in place, turning then accomplished by managing each entire track side as normal. Though trialed with onboard radio sets as early as 1933, official production BT-2 tanks did not incorporate communications equipment due to their poor showing in tests.
Power was served through an American-originated Liberty 45V 12-cylinder, liquid-cooled gasoline-fueled engine of 400 horsepower. In Soviet nomenclature, this became the "Model M-5-400". Maximum road speed peaked at approximately 62 miles per hour with an operational range of 75 miles on tracks and up to 120 miles on road wheels (the tracks having been removed). As a Christie design, the BT-2 was suspended atop a Christie suspension system - common to several Soviet tanks of the period.