Aircraft / Aviation Vehicles & Artillery Infantry Arms Warships & Submarines Military Ranks Military Pay Chart (2024)
Land Systems / Battlefield

M1917 6-ton

Light Two-Man Combat Tank [ 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.

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.©MilitaryFactory.com
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.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Service Year

United States national flag graphic
United States

Not in Service.

Van Dorn Iron Works / Maxwell Motor Co / C.L. Best Co - USA
(View other Vehicle-Related Manufacturers)
National flag of Canada National flag of the United States Canada; United States
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Infantry Support
Support allied ground forces through weapons, inherent capabilities, and / or onboard systems.
Engage armored vehicles of similar form and function.
Can conduct reconnaissance / scout missions to assess threat levels, enemy strength, et al - typically through lightweight design.

Track-and-Wheel Arrangement
Vehicle utilizes a track-and-wheel arrangement to provide enhanced cross-country travel capability.
Primary Turret
A modern tank quality, this vehicle sports its main armament in a single turret.

16.4 ft
5 m
5.8 ft
1.77 m
7.5 ft
2.3 m
14,506 lb
6,580 kg
7.3 tons
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base M1917 6-ton production variant. Length typically includes main gun in forward position if applicable to the design)
Powerplant: 1 x Budha HU (modified) 4-cylinder, 4-cycle vertical L-band gasoline-fueled engine developing 42 horsepower at 1,460 rpm.
5.5 mph
(8.9 kph)
29.8 mi
(48.0 km)
(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the base M1917 6-ton production variant. Compare this entry against any other in our database)
1 x 37mm M1916 cannon OR 1 x M1919 7.62mm machine gun.

Supported Types

Graphical image of a tank automatic cannon
Graphical image of a tank medium machine gun

(Not all weapon types may be represented in the showcase above)
238 x 37mm projectiles.
4,200 x 7.62mm ammunition.

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.

Military lapel ribbon for the American Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of the Bulge
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Kursk
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Ukranian-Russian War
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental military vehicles

Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns / operations.

Images Gallery

1 / 2
Image of the M1917 6-ton
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
2 / 2
Image of the M1917 6-ton
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2024 Military Pay Chart Military Ranks DoD Dictionary Conversion Calculators Military Alphabet Code Military Map Symbols

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content; site is 100% curated by humans.

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, WDMMA.org (World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft), WDMMW.org (World Directory of Modern Military Warships), SR71blackbird.org, detailing the history of the world's most iconic spyplane, and MilitaryRibbons.info, cataloguing military medals and ribbons. Special Interest: RailRoad Junction, the locomotive encyclopedia.

©2023 www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-2023 (20yrs)