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M1917 6-ton


Light Two-Man Combat Tank


United States | 1918



"The M1917 6-ton light tank was an American license-produced copy of the successful French Renault FT-17 design."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 03/21/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The M1917 6-ton light tank was an American license-production copy of the highly successful French-designed Renault "char leger FT-17" light tank appearing in World War 1. The M1917 represented an early American foray into mechanized military doctrine and design and, as America held little in the way of a military industry, copying the popular French design was a major stepping stone. The FT-17 proved popular enough with other nations as well and was either purchased or copied as a result. Despite its mass-production in the United States, only 10 M1917 6-ton tanks made it to Europe before the end of World War 1 (November 1918) and none of these saw combat.

Contrary to today's strategies involving mechanized warfare, tanks in World War 1 was used moreso as infantry support vehicles generally charged with leading the way in a given assault and peppering the enemy with machine gun or cannon fire. Tanks proved useful in navigating the large network of ditches and trenches found on the battlefields of the Great War and held an advantage in breaking through unprepared defenses including the infamous barbed wire arrangements. Tank versus tank duels were a rare occurrence but the use of armored vehicles in conjunction with infantry attacks lay the foundation of mechanized warfare for decades to come - ultimately perfected in the German blitzkriegs beginning World War 2.

The M1917 featured angular armor to help assist in deflection of incoming enemy projectiles (mostly small arms fire) and artillery "spray". The tracks straddled the slim inline hull design though this made for a higher profile and thusly a larger battlefield target. The driver maintained a position directly at center of the hull with the engine behind him. The gunner/commander occupied the cramped turret and managed the armament. The single machine gun was fitted within a traversing turret with an entry/exit hatch was affixed to the top. The turret sat above the superstructure that also featured angled front facing though straight-faced slab sides. Length was listed at just over 16 feet with a width nearing 6 feet. Height was 7.5 feet. Approximate weight was in the vicinity of 7.3 US Short tons. When viewed in person, the M1917 seemingly shares more in common with a child's riding toy than any perceived weapon of war. Regardless, this diminutive tank was designed to kill the enemy.

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The M1917 was fitted with a single Budha HU modified 4-cylinder, 4-cycle vertical L-band gasoline engine delivering some 42 horsepower at 1,460rpm. This supplied the tank with an anemic 5 mile per hour top speed (barely giving it speed to keep up with moving formations of infantry) and a range out to 30 miles - a far cry when compared to the capabilities of today's modern systems but excellent for the time period in question.

The "M1917A1" variant was an improved American design of the FT-17/M1917 that saw the rear hull lengthened to accept a Franklin engine of 100 horsepower. A self-starter was added to take the place of the original crank start process. Additional changes over that of the French copy included all-steel road wheels set within the pair of revolving tracks, an octagonal turret (as opposed to the rounded French-designed turret) and additional viewing slots for the driver. Maintenance was further improved upon to help facilitate repetitive processes in keeping the M1917 running optimally.

Beginning in 1919, the M1917 was fitted with the 0.30 caliber Browning M1919 machine gun in place of the available 0.30 caliber Marlin type. Furthermore, the machine gun could be replaced in the turret with a more formidable M1916 37mm cannon. 4,200 rounds of 0.30 caliber ammunition could be carried aboard or up to 238 37mm projectiles as needed. A total of 526 M1917s were ultimately completed with their standard machine gun armament in place while a further 374 were completed with cannon armament. One other form of the base M1917 existed as a "signal tank" and was fielded sans the listed armament in 50 completed examples.

Van Dorn Iron Works continued post-war production of the M1917 6-ton. Additional manufacturers of the M1917 ultimately included the Maxwell Motor Company and the C.L. Best Company.

The Canadian Army purchased 250 overstock - though obsolete - M1917s in 1940, the tanks already since having reached their pinnacle some decades before.

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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 M1917 6-ton Light Two-Man Combat Tank.
1 x Budha HU (modified) 4-cylinder, 4-cycle vertical L-band gasoline-fueled engine developing 42 horsepower at 1,460 rpm.
Installed Power
5 mph
9 kph
Road Speed
30 miles
48 km
Range
Structure
The physical qualities of the M1917 6-ton Light Two-Man Combat Tank.
2
(MANNED)
Crew
16.4 ft
5 meters
O/A Length
5.8 ft
1.77 meters
O/A Width
7.5 ft
2.3 meters
O/A Height
14,506 lb
6,580 kg | 7.3 tons
Weight
Armament & Ammunition
Available supported armament, ammunition, and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the M1917 6-ton Light Two-Man Combat Tank.
1 x 37mm M1916 cannon OR 1 x M1919 7.62mm machine gun.
AMMUNITION:
238 x 37mm projectiles.
4,200 x 7.62mm ammunition.
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:
Nightvision - NONE.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Protection (CBRN) - NONE.
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the M1917 6-ton family line.
M1917 - 37mm gun tank or machine gun tanks
M1917 - Signal Tank (sans armament)
M1917A1 - Lengthened rear hull to accomodate new engine. Single unit mounting of starter, engine, transmission and clutches for ease of maintenance.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the M1917 6-ton. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national land systems listing.

Total Production: 950 Units

Contractor(s): Van Dorn Iron Works / Maxwell Motor Co / C.L. Best Co - USA
National flag of Canada National flag of the United States

[ Canada; United States ]
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Image of the M1917 6-ton
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Image of the M1917 6-ton
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Design Qualities
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to battlefield requirements.
INFANTRY SUPPORT
TANK-vs-TANK
RECONNAISSANCE
Recognition
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 M1917 6-ton Light Two-Man Combat Tank appears in the following collections:
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