Tancik vz. 33
Just over seventy of the Czech-made Tancik vz. 33 Tankettes were produced in the run-up to World War 2.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The Carden-Loyd Tankette was a British interwar period very-light-tank, a minimally-armed and -armored fighting vehicle housing a crew of two. For budget conscious global armies of the post-World War 1 period, such tanks filled a need and came at a good price. However, their kind - in concept and execution - would eventually prove flawed and be replaced by other, more viable battlefield solutions by the time of World War 2 (1939-1945).
In 1930 Czechoslovakia managed a purchase of three Carden-Loyd Tankette examples and, with this, also a production license. The Czechs took the opportunity to improve upon the British design and enacted their own share of changes to the light systems resulting in four prototypes. When these fared poorly in testing, more changes were in order. From 1931 to 1933 the vehicles evolved through increased armor protection, better internal space arrangement, improved situational awareness and additional firepower. With the modifications in place, the vehicle was officially adopted for service as the "Tancik vz. 33" in October of 1933. A batch of seventy were ordered built to the newer Czech standard.
Dimensionally the tankette exhibited a length of 8.9 feet with a width of 5.7 feet and height of 4.8 feet. A crew of two managed the vehicle from within. Armament was 2 x 7.92mm ZB vz. 26 series machine guns and power stemmed from a Praga 4-cylinder water-cooled unit of 30 horsepower output. Road speeds reached 35 kph with operational ranges out to 100 kilometers. Armor protection ranged from 4m to 12mm at various facings. The vehicle was essentially a track-and-wheel chassis with a fixed, light armor superstructure seated atop the design. Internal conditions were accordingly cramped for the vehicle's overall size. Overall weight was 2.5 tons (short).
In service, tankettes were generally used for scout duties and infantry support functions, offering a cross-country capability and shock quality once fulfilled by cavalry units. World War 1 ended the reign of cavalry as a useful battlefield measure and the tankette fulfilled a niche role in most modern armies as secondary to the main armored fighting elements. However, some national powers were forced to rely on tankettes as primary frontline solutions simply due to cost.
There was never much faith instilled in the Tancik vz. 33 series design by some in the Czech Army ranks and this was proven some in exercises held from 1934 on. The driver was burdened by not only controlling the vehicle but also managing one of the two fitted machine guns. Accuracy was also reduced due to the herky-jerky nature of the vehicle's motion when on the move. Cross-country performance was lacking and situational awareness was deemed poor. Furthermore, the vehicles were completed without radio forcing crews to rely on hand signals or other visual means across a hectic and dangerous battlefield.
Nevertheless, the commitment to the new tankette had been made and the series was interspersed throughout the Czech Army inventory. First-use was in border control and national security. In 1938, the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia as the world watched and some forty of the tankettes are believed to have fallen to the conquerors who preceded to use them in second-line roles before the tankettes met their end on the scrap heap. Some of the original Czech stock also fell to the Slovakians in the middle of 1939 and were used later in the Slovak National Uprising of 1944. Beyond these instances, the tankettes did little during the war.