The LT vz. 34 Light Tank of Czech origin appeared in the run-up to World War 2 and saw service under multiple banners during the conflict.
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Credit: Image from the Public Domain.
In 1930, Czechoslovakia acquired local production rights (and three working examples) of the Carden-Loyd Tankette from Britain and this design was used to forge the Tancik vz. 33 Tankette (detailed elsewhere on this site) of which four prototypes were built ahead of seventy production vehicles. When the design, along with the Carden-Loyd examples themselves, failed to impress Czech Army authorities during testing, it was decided to develop an all-new indigenous light tank solution instead of attempting to modify an existing tankette design. This provided engineers with a clean slate approach and the opportunity to institute such modern features as a fully-enclosed / fully-traversing turret mounting the main gun armament - a quality lacking in the earlier vz. 33 vehicle.
Ceskomoravska Kolben-Danek (CKD), founded in 1927, was charged with the new tank's design which lasted from 1932 until 1934. After successful evaluation, production began during the latter and lasted until 1935 to which fifty serial vehicles joined a sole prototype in being realized. The vehicle stood as an 8.3 ton (short) creation featuring an overall length of 15 feet, a width of 6.9 feet and a height of 7.3 feet. Internally tit was crewed by three and armed through a 37.2mm UV vz. 34 Anti-Tank (AT) gun as well as 2 x 7.92mm ZB vz. 35 series machine guns. Power was from a Praga 4-cylinder liquid-cooled engine developing 62.5 horsepower output. The transmission system allowed for four forward and one reverse speeds and the suspension system was of the leaf spring variety. Road speeds reached 20 miles per hour with a range out to 100 miles. Armor protection ranged from 8mm to 15mm in thickness.
The lot of fifty vehicles arrived in pre-determined batches - six were preproduction units set aside to work out the design's various kinks prior to full service entry and these were taken in hand during April of 1934. Following this were a batch of twenty-four vehicles and twenty vehicles of which the last was received in August of 1936. Issues surrounding general quality control and overall design plagued the vz. 34's production phase and some models were sent back to the factory to rectify their shortcomings.
Once in service, the vz. 34 series was set as a tanker trainer while work progressed on a more potent form in the LT vz. 35 Light Tank series (it was thought that the LT vz. 34 lacked the armor protection needed against more modern threats). As such, the vz. 35 directly succeeded in the vz. 34 series almost as soon as the former became available.
With the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938, the conquerors took over twenty-three of the Czech vz. 34 stock though eighteen were saved from this fate by the Czechs and rerouted to the 3rd Armored Regiment of newly-founded Slovakia. Some were used in the 1944 Slovak Uprising and Slovakia eventually claimed about twenty-seven of the light tanks under their banner.
During its service life the vz. 34 served primarily as a training platform and those that managed to see action fared poorly against more modern tank types and Anti-Tank solutions. For the Germans, there is little evidence of the tanks having been used in practical battlefield roles and many are believed to have been deliberately destroyed once captured - a rare action considering the Germans favored reconstituting captured enemy vehicles for policing / defense duties in newly acquired territories. The condition of the tanks may have warranted such action.
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