In the period following World War 1, there came a global military movement centering on more cost-effective, light-class combat tanks. For the Soviet Union, established in 1922 after a lengthy and bloody civil war, there proved an additional quality of its light tanks that was sought - amphibious capability - and from this came the T-37 and T-38 series of light tanks appearing during the early- and mid-1930s. In 1938, Plant No 37 of Moscow began design of a 6.5-ton light scout tank to eventually replace the limited-capability T-37/38 series in the same role. Work proceeded on three pilot vehicles, one fitting a torsion bar suspension system and the other two with spring suspension, and these vehicles were made ready for testing in 1939.
During evaluations, the tanks underwent consistent changes to help improve their design. The torsion bar model became the favorite design and, by the end of it all, had received notable modifications to its hull shape, suspension system and powerplant. From this, the vehicle was showcased to Red Army authorities and promptly adopted for service as the "T-40" on December 19th, 1939. Plant No 37 was charged with its production which began in 1940 and ran until 1941. 151 had been produced by the time of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June of 1941 and a further 41 were added to stocks in that month alone. However, only about 18 of the vehicles were actually deemed ready for combat service in a frontline capacity. Post-June models were then stripped of their amphibious capability to reduce manufacture times and these carried the designation of "T-40S" to signify their difference - July through September production netted 136 of these "land-only" tanks.
The T-40 was crewed by two personnel, a driver and the vehicle commander (who doubled as the gunner). Primary armament was a 12.7mm DShK Mod. 1938 heavy machine gun supplemented by a 7.62mm DT machine gun installation in a coaxial arrangement. The machine guns were fitted side-by-side in the front turret facing, the heavy gun to the right and the medium gun to the left. 500 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition were carried for the DShK and 2,060 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition were carried for the DT. The vehicle measured a length of 4.1 meters with a width of 2.3 meters and a height of 1.9 meters. Conditions were expectedly cramped internally but nonetheless suitable for its crewmembers who could readily switch positions if called to. The fighting compartment was set at the center of the hull and slightly offset from centerline to the left. The powerpack took up the right side of the hull. Water capabilities were accomplished through natural buoyancy of the hull for the upper half of the vehicle was purposely designed larger than the lower. An integrated propeller drive allowed for forward movement in water and dual rudders were applied for control. The turret was granted a circular access hatch along its roof while the driver was given a rectangular hatch above his position. The turret allowed for a full 360-degree traversal and limited engagement elevation from -8 to +25 degrees.
Outwardly, the T-40 exhibited a rather stout and squat appearance. It did continue the growing Soviet understanding of sloped, rolled armor plating to provide for basic ballistics protection. Final construction of these plates included both welding and riveting and some surface plates were removable for maintenance/repair access to key components (such as the engine compartment). Armor protection ranged from 4mm to 13mm, the thickest values across the more vulnerable, usually combat-facing surfaces.
The T-40 was powered by a GAZ-202 liquid-cooled engine of 85 horsepower output which allowed the vehicle a maximum road speed of 28 miles per hour (45 kph) and an operational road range of 186 miles (300 km). The engine was mated to a four-speed transmission system. The T-40's hull lacked any method of shock absorption which made for relatively uncomfortable riding. Running gear included four rubber-tired road wheels to a track side with three track return rollers governing the upper track portions. The drive sprocket was located at the front of the hull with the track idler at the rear. The tracks were unprotected across all of their surfaces (i.e. o side skirt armor or fenders were issued).
After the German invasion, the Red Army was throttled backwards to Moscow, having lost tons of armor and material in addition to aircraft and manpower in the process. Stalin's officer purge leading up to the war did not help the situation for many experienced top ranking personnel were cut out of circulation at a most critical time. Some T-40S units were shipped to Moscow factories to have their turrets removed and rocket projectors installed atop their hulls. The reworked vehicles fielded BM-8-24 Katyusha rocket launchers with each launcher mounting 24 x 82mm high-explosive rockets. Other T-40 tanks were then given armor thickness of 15mm and designated as T-30S. Early T-30S tanks retained their original machine gun-only armament while later versions formally adopted a more potent 20mm TNSh autocannon with 7.62mm coaxial machine gun (750 projectiles for the main gun and 1,500 rounds for the machine gun). T-30 production resulted in 335 vehicles between August and October of 1941. A command vehicle (CV) variant of the T-40 was also developed, this as the "C2V". C2V models included 71-TK-3 series radio sets and were easily identified by their antenna stalks.
In combat, T-40s did not respond well to the pressing German strategy and many were lost in just the first few weeks of fighting. Less than a handful of T-40s remained into July of 1941 with low numbers surviving the war, seeing their last days in 1946 as trainer vehicles.
In the end, the T-40 certainly improved upon the qualities of the preceding T-37 and T-38 models but appeared during a time when less-complicated tank systems were being sought by the Soviet government. The German invasion undoubtedly signaled the beginning of the end for this compact tank offering which was eventually overshadowed by the famous T-34 Medium Tank, fully entrenched as the armored spearhead of the Red Army's march into Berlin. The related T-60, a dedicated non-amphibious light tank design (detailed elsewhere on this site), overtook T-40 production and saw nearly 6,300 units produced in comparison to the 663 T-40s built (including variants).
Perhaps the one claim to fame for the T-40 was its use of an independent torsion bar suspension system - the first Red Army tank to feature this.
Manufacturing State Factories - Soviet Union
Production 663 Units
- Infantry Support
- Tank vs Tank
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
13.48 ft (4.11 m)
7.64 ft (2.33 m)
6.40 ft (1.95 m)
7 tons (6,504 kg; 14,339 lb)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the T-40 production model)
1 x GAZ-202 engine delivering 70 horsepower.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the T-40 production model)
27 mph (44 kph)
280 miles (450 km)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the T-40 production model; Compare this entry against any other in our database)
1 x 12.7mm DShK heavy machine gun
1 x 7.62mm DT coaxial machine gun
1 x 20mm TNSh cannon
1 x 7.62mm DT coaxial machine gun
Ammunition: (T-40/T-40S): 500 x 12.7mm ammunition with 2,060 x 7.62mm ammunition; (T-30S) 750 x 20mm projectiles with 1,500 x 7.62mm ammunition.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the T-40 production model)
T-40 - Base Amphibious Tank; 191 examples produced.
T-40S - Non-Amphibious, Land-Only Variant of the T-40; 136 examples produced.
T-40 C2V - Command Vehicle with 71-TK-3 radio sets; communications antenna.
T-30S - Up-armored T-40 with 15mm armor protection; early forms with base T-40 machine gun armament; later production with 1 x 20mm TNSh cannon and 1 x 7.62mm machine gun; 335 examples produced.
T-40 "Katyusha" - T-40S variant with turret removed and mounting BM-8-24 series 24 x 82mm unguided rocket launchers; 44 conversions of existing T-40S hulls.
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