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Tankette / Light Tracked Combat Vehicle Prototype

Soviet Union | 1929

"The Soviet T-23 tankette was a true prototype and ultimately abandoned when it was found to cost as much as the existing T-18 series - which offered much more to the modern battlefield."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 11/05/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The personal road for the Soviets in developing their iconic World War 2-era T-34 Medium Tank and, later, the classic T-72 Main Battle Tank (MBT) of Cold War fame ran through a myriad of light, medium, and heavy designs appearing from the middle of the 1920s onward. Many early Soviet tanks were simply purchased from foreign suppliers or arranged locally to copy these foreign designs outright. By the middle of the 1920s, the Russian Civil War (1917-1923) was over and local industry could concentrate on bringing about all-new indigenous tank designs.

The T-23 was a product of the period, a "tankette" which attempted to produce a very-lightweight tracked combat vehicle housing two crew and basic machine gun armament. The tankette proved a popular economical solution for many European parties of the time and this Soviet approach followed the first true locally designed, developed and produced Soviet tank, the "T-18" (MS-1) Light Tank (detailed elsewhere on this site).

Origins of this tank were in 1924 in an attempt to fulfill a local Red Army requirement and the work resulted in the "T-16" prototype of March 1927 which was greatly influenced by the revolutionary French Renault FT-17 Light Tank vehicle of The Great War (1914-1918) - of course with changes to suit the Red Army need. The vehicle was driven by a copy of the original Renault engine and included running gear of three paired bogie wheels with upper track supports. Primary armament was still the French 37mm SA18 series cannon and secondary armament was a 6.5mm Fyodorov machine gun.

While the T-16 was influential in bringing about the T-18, it was also the basis for other tank offshoots appearing at about the same time - work began in 1926 and originally focused on a one-man reconnaissance-minded fast tank in the "T-17". A prototype was made available for review in 1929 but the one-man-crew approach was found to be too burdensome for such a complex machine, particularly under the expected rigors of combat. Two-man versions then appeared as the "T-20" and "T-21" and, from this pair, the T-22 and T-23 tankette prototypes were evolved.

The T-22 differed in seating its two crewmembers in a side-by-side arrangement while the T-23 sat its two-man crew in tandem. Each was also driven by a slightly different engine installation but armament centered on just a single 7.62mm Type DT machine gun fit. In service, these vehicles were to be fast compliments to the main fighting force so they had to be light, agile and basically armed.

Soviet authorities sided with the more promising T-23 which resulted in a contract for five pre-series vehicles based on the pilot (prototype) form. Of course the Army service had a list of changes to be made in the T-23 which meant the vehicle that entered production was different than the one that was actually outputted. The hull was extended by some 11.8 inches and an uprated engine was installed (the original was to carry 1 x 4-cylinder horsepower unit from the T-18). The under-workings of another prototype tank, the T-19, were also used in forming the production-quality T-23.

Construction of the vehicle took place at the Bolshevik Works of Leningrad and the finalized vehicle had a combat weight nearing 3,180 kilograms, an overall length of 3.3 meters, a beam of 1.6 meters and a height of 1.85 meters. Power was from a single Otto 4-cylinder gasoline-fueled unit outputting 60 horsepower to the track-and-wheel arrangement. The running gear centered on a multi-bogied design with thin tracks. Road speeds could reach 40 kmh and range was out to 190 kilometers. The crew was two and armament was 1 x 7.62mm FT machine gun buried within the fixed hull superstructure (the tankette featured no traversable turret emplacement). Armor protection (riveted iron) reached up to 10mm at critical facings. A trench-crossing "tail" was affixed to the aft-end of the vehicle for managing rough terrain.

Despite its promising nature, the T-23's per-unit cost was found to be as much as the T-18 Light Tank for the numbers required. Furthermore, the T-23 lacked the traversing turret of the T-18 and could not carry similar armament. As such, the T-23 was not continued beyond the stated prototype/developmental work, ultimately falling to the pages of Soviet armored warfare history. Of note is that the T-23 became the last tankette-type vehicle to be developed by the Soviet Union as future attention firmly centered on light tank forms to compete with designs emerging from Britain, France and elsewhere.

To fulfill the T-23 need, the British Carden Loyd tankette was procured and these became the modified T-27 tankette in Soviet Army service from 1931 onwards (2,540 were built).

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one land system design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the T-23 Tankette / Light Tracked Combat Vehicle Prototype.
1 x 4-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine developing 60 horsepower driving a conventional track-and-wheel arrangement.
Installed Power
25 mph
40 kph
Road Speed
118 miles
190 km
The physical qualities of the T-23 Tankette / Light Tracked Combat Vehicle Prototype.
10.8 ft
3.3 meters
O/A Length
5.2 ft
1.6 meters
O/A Width
6.1 ft
1.85 meters
O/A Height
7,011 lb
3,180 kg | 3.5 tons
Armament & Ammunition
Available supported armament, ammunition, and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the T-23 Tankette / Light Tracked Combat Vehicle Prototype.
1 x 7.62mm DT machine gun in static mounting in hull superstructure.
Not Available.
Nightvision - NONE.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Protection (CBRN) - NONE.
Notable series variants as part of the T-23 family line.
T-23 - Prototype vehicle with tandem seating arrangement for its crew of two; single example completed.
T-22 - Prototype vehicle with side-by-side seating arrangement for its crew of two; single example completed.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the T-23. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national land systems listing.

Total Production: 5 Units

Contractor(s): Bolshevik Works (Leningrad) - Soviet Union
National flag of the Soviet Union

[ Soviet Union (cancelled) ]
1 / 1
Image of the T-23
Image from the Public Domain.

Design Qualities
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to battlefield requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The T-23 Tankette / Light Tracked Combat Vehicle Prototype appears in the following collections:
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