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Amphibious Light Tank

Soviet Union | 1937

"Despite it being outclassed on the battlefields of World War 2, the T-38 Amphibious Light Tank series served up until 1943."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 11/11/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The Soviet Army had always prized amphibious vehicles and undertook various projects to find sound solutions even prior to World War 2. This led to the introduction of the T-37 Light Tank series which held inherent amphibious capabilities. However there resulted in many flaws in this design which came to light and forced the improved T-37A to take shape. Operational service continued to show limitations with the line (unreliable gearboxes, tracks coming off their lines) and thus more development work ensued through Plant No.37 from 1934 onward.

For June of 1935, a pilot vehicle form emerged and changes were enough to warrant the new designation of "T-38". For the new design, the driver's position was flipped from left-to-right in the hull and the turret followed by being flipped right-to-left over the hull. A wider hull dimension was instituted for more internal volume and better weight displacement. The primary armament remained the turreted 7.62mm DT machine gun and the turret's design was still based on the follow-up T-37A production model. The GAZ-AA engine of 40 horsepower output was also retained and this powered a three-bladed propeller at the rear of the hull for when traversing water sources. Interestingly, the gearbox, suspension system and track arrangement were all largely held over from the original T-37A. The track arrangement held a pair of double-wheeled bogies along each hull side. The track link sections were left exposed and ran the length of the vehicle. Its standard operating crew was two - a driver in the hull and a commander/gunner in the turret. Armor protection spanned 3mm to 9mm in thickness across the vehicle's various facings.

Overall weight was 3.3 tonnes and dimensions included a length of 3.78 meters, a width of 3.33 meters and a height of 1.63 meters. Performance form the GAZ-AA engine provided road speeds up to 40 kmh and operational ranges reaching 170 kilometers. The suspension system comprised a sprung bogie design which allowed for some light cross-country travel.

The T-38 exhibited enough potential that it was adopted for service and ordered into serial production. 1,228 vehicles were ultimately delivered from the period spanning 1936 to 1937. Of this stock about 165 were outfitted with radio gear. With the rise in issues during early operational service, the lines were restarted in 1939 and another 112 example of a slightly improved form followed. Problems with buoyancy continued despite measures to improve this quality and overheating proved a common complaint during land service. The T-38M (prototype T-38M1) model of 1937 was introduced to rectify these issues but only seven examples were delivered. The T-38M2 followed with an improved transmission system and GAZ M1 engine. The T-38RT (radio-equipped) was outfitted with a 20mm ShVAK cannon to bolster offensive capabilities.

Other variants included the T-38TU command tank version with extra communications equipment, the proposed SU-45 Self-Propelled Gun (SPG) fitting 45mm armament and the T-38TT, a remote-controlled tank used during testing in 1939.

The T-38 went on to see disastrous service during the Winter War against Finland (1939-1940) and proved itself no better than the earlier T-37s. They were also highly susceptible to enemy fire due to their thin armor scheme while their machine-gun-only armament proved marginally effective, primarily against infantry foes and little else. German forces overtook stocks of T-38 tanks during their march to Moscow during June of 1941 (through "Operation Barbarossa") but there appears little evidence that these were reconstituted to serve their new masters - the Germans made it common practice to rework captured foreign weapons for their own purposes. Therefore T-38s largely fell out of use after 1941 as there was little need to replenish these lost stocks for the Soviets.

The T-40 light amphibious tank was adopted in 1940 as something of a successor though only 222 were produced. These served from 1941 into 1946 before being given up for good.

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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-38 Amphibious Light Tank.
1 x GAZ-AA engine developing 40 horsepower driving conventional track-and-wheel arrangement.
Installed Power
25 mph
40 kph
Road Speed
106 miles
170 km
The physical qualities of the T-38 Amphibious Light Tank.
12.4 ft
3.78 meters
O/A Length
10.9 ft
3.33 meters
O/A Width
5.3 ft
1.63 meters
O/A Height
8,020 lb
3,638 kg | 4.0 tons
Armament & Ammunition
Available supported armament, ammunition, and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the T-38 Amphibious Light Tank.
1 x 7.62mm DT General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) in turret.
Not Available.
Nightvision - NONE.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Protection (CBRN) - NONE.
Notable series variants as part of the T-38 family line.
T-38 - Base Series Designation.
T-38RT - Radio-Equipped T-38; appearing in 1937.
T-38M1 - One-Off Prototype showcasing planetary suspension system; never mass-produced.
T-38M2 - Improved transmission; GAZ M1 series engine; appearing in 1938.
T-38TU - Command Tank Variant.
T-38TT - Evaluation Remote-Controlled Tank; appearing in 1939.
OT-38 - Flamethrower Tank; appearing in 1938.
SU-45 - Prototype 45mm self-propelled gun; never produced; appearing in 1936.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the T-38. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national land systems listing.

Total Production: 1,300 Units

Contractor(s): Factory No. 37 - Soviet Union
National flag of the Soviet Union

[ Soviet Union ]
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Image of the T-38
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-38 Amphibious Light Tank appears in the following collections:
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