A few global operators - including the United States Marine Corps - found value in the Marmon-Herrington CTLS tankette series.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Credit: Image from the Public Domain.
Like the U.S Army of the post-World War 1-era, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) also became interested in adding tanks to their inventory. More specifically, it sought a fighting vehicle with some amphibious capabilities to afford the service an improved ship-to-shore combat capability. As with the Army, the Marine service had a modest beginning when, in 1923, it formed its first tank platoon and this was made up of a fleet of eight ex-Army M1917 6-ton light tanks, the American version of the successful French Renault FT-17 series.
From this was born the mechanized section of the USMC. It was not until the 1930s that more serious thought was given to pursuing a true ship-to-shore vehicle that could be launched by landing craft. The service then focused on a new tankette from car-maker Marmon-Herrington, the "CTL-3" (also "Combat Tank Light Series" = CTLS). Another tank-based platoon was then formed with the CTL-3 at its core in 1935.
As many as 875 of the CTLS vehicles were ultimately produced by the company and, with the lifting of arms exportation restrictions by the U.S. government back in the mid-1920s, the CTLS found its way into the inventories of several foreign customers - namely China and The Netherlands (Indonesia became a post-World War 2 operator).
The tankette weighed 4.7 tons (short) and exhibited an overall length of 11.5 feet, a width of 6.9 feet and a height of 6.10 feet. The operating crew numbered two (a driver and a gunner) and armament centered on 1 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine gun with 2 x 0.30 caliber Browning M1919 medium machine guns. The CTLS lacked a true turret and instead fitted its machine gun armament across several frontal-facing ball mounts.
Power was served from a Lincoln V12 Hercules 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine outputting 120 horsepower. This provided a road speed up to 33 miles per hour and an operational range of 125 miles. A bogie-leaf suspension system permitted cross-country travel. The running gear involved a front-mounted drive sprocket with rear-set track idler. A Two twin-wheeled bogies were held at center as was a single track-return roller. The track link section ran from bow to stern along the sides of the hull.
The CTLS was produced by Marmon-Herrington in several notable variants: The CTL-1 was originally built to a Polish Army order but not accepted so only a single example was completed. The CTL-2 added more armor protection.
The CLT-3 became the first definitive mark of the series and carried the aforementioned machine gun armament fit. Five were manufactured during 1936 and a further five added in 1939. After being updated to the CTL-3M standard in 1941, the group was scrapped in 1943 as World War 2 (1939-1945) raged on. The CTL-3A featured an improved suspension system and the CTL-3M was an all-round improved standard for previous CTL-3 vehicles to follow. The CTL-3TBD was another improvement of the basic CTL-3 line with revised suspension system, an additional M2 heavy machine gun (two installed in a turret) and updated tracks.
The CTLS-4TAC was an export-minded form developed to satisfy Lend-Lease for some of the American allies during World War 2. These tanks carried 3 x 0.30cal machine guns as well as a turret (though manually-operated) while also featuring increased armor protection. Manufacture of this mark numbered 420 and China became the primary beneficiary of this product. The CTLS-4TAY numbered some 420 tanks produced with the driver and turret positions relocated to portside from centerline.
The CTL-6 was the CTL-3 with a new suspension and track systems. However, only twenty of its kind were produced and these were given up as soon as 1943.
The USMC operated CTLS tankettes in training roles during the lead-up to World War 2. After the war began, the series was used in the deterrent role until better options were had. Due to a shortage of combat vehicles in the early going of the Pacific Campaign, the U.S. military shipped some of the CTLS-4TAC and CTLS-4TAY tank stock to Alaska for service in the Aleutian Islands Campaign. These were given the operational designations of "Light Tank T16" and "Light Tank T14", respectively.
A Dutch order of 452 vehicles only numbered about twelve by the time of the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies. While available for combat, they could offer little in the long run. At least 149 of this order were then rearranged for delivery to Australia where they were used solely for training tanker crews there.
Indonesian Army usage of the CTLS tankette was in the post-war period and these were a few ex-Dutch tanks which were operated into the late 1940s.
Manufacturing Marmon-Herrington - USA
Production 875 Units
China (Taiwan); Indonesia (post-war); Netherlands; United States
- Infantry Support
- Tank vs Tank
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
11.48 ft (3.5 m)
6.89 ft (2.1 m)
6.89 ft (2.1 m)
5 tons (4,300 kg; 9,480 lb)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Marmon-Herrington CTL-3 production model)
1 x Lincoln V12 Hercules 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine developing 120 horsepower.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Marmon-Herrington CTL-3 production model)
33 mph (53 kph)
124 miles (200 km)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Marmon-Herrington CTL-3 production model; Compare this entry against any other in our database)
1 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine gun.
2 x 0.30 caliber Browning M1919 medium machine guns.
Ammunition: Not Available.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Marmon-Herrington CTL-3 production model)
CTLS (Combat Tank Light Series) - Base Series Name
CTL-1 - Polish Army order; single example completed when order was cancelled.
CTL-2 - CTL-1 model with additional armor protection.
CTL-3 - Definitive tankette mark; 1 x 0.50cal machine gun with 2 x 0.30cal machine guns as armament.
CTL-3A - Improved CTL-3; revised suspension system.
CTL-3M - Improved CTL-3; standard mark of 1941.
CTL-3TBD - Upgraded CTL-3; revised tracks and suspension systems; 2 x 0.50cal machine guns in turret emplacement; 5 examples completed.
CTLS-4TAC - Lend-Lease variant; 3 x 0.30cal machine gun armament; 420 examples completed.
CTLS-4TAY - Driver and turret shifted to left side of hull; 420 examples completed.
CTL-6 - Improved CTL-3 with revised track and suspension systems; 20 examples completed.
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