|T-38 amphibious scout tank|
|Type||Amphibious light tank|
|Place of origin||Soviet Union|
|Wars||World War II|
|Designer||Nicholas Astrov & N. Kozyrev, Factory No. 37, Moscow|
|Manufacturer||Factory No. 37|
|7.62mm DT machine gun|
40 hp (30 kW)
Designed in 1934–36 by N. Astrov's bureau at Factory No. 37 in Moscow, the T-38 was a development of the earlier T-37, based in turn on the French AMR 33 light reconnaissance tank. The tank was powered by a standard GAZ (Ford) engine and was cheap to produce. Buoyancy was achieved by the large-volume hull and large fenders. In water, the vehicle was propelled by a small three-bladed propeller mounted at the rear.
The tanks were intended for use for reconnaissance and infantry support. As a scout tank the T-38 had the advantages of very low silhouette and good mobility through its ability to swim. The T-38 was also intended to be air-portable; during the Kiev maneuvers in 1936, the tanks were transported by Tupolev TB-3 bombers, mounted under the fuselage. Infantry battalions were each issued 38 T-38s, with 50 being designated for each airborne armored battalions. However, the thin armor and single machinegun armament made the tank of only limited use in combat while the lack of radios in most T-38s was a serious limitation in a reconnaissance vehicle. The T-38's limitations were recognized, and it would have been replaced by the T-40, but the outbreak of the Second World War meant that only a few T-40s were produced.
Around 1,500 T-38s were built, illustrating the importance of amphibious scout tanks to the Red Army. Some were up-gunned with a 20 mm ShVAK cannon, and designated the T-38RT.
The tank served with the Red Army in the Winter War with Finland in 1940, but was unsuccessful due to its light armament and thin armour, which was easily penetrated by rifle and light machine gun fire. In the confined terrain of Finland, the tank was a deathtrap; it also did not do well in the early stages of World War II, and large numbers were captured by the Germans during Operation Barbarossa. The T-38 was rarely seen in direct combat after 1941 and mostly relegated to other roles such as artillery tractor, although it was reported to have been used in the Dnieper River crossing of 1943. During World War II, the main amphibious scout vehicle of the Red Army was the Ford GPA amphibious jeep, an open unarmored vehicle provided through Lend-Lease.
The German Army did not generally use captured T-38s as gun tanks (unlike captured T-26s, T-34s, or other more valuable vehicles). It is reported that some were re-used by converting them into self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery, mounting a 37 mm anti-aircraft gun on the T-38 chassis, although this would seem to be a very large piece for the chassis.
- T-38RT (1937), version equipped with radio.
- OT-38 (1937), flamethrower-equipped version.
- T-38M1 (1937), prototype with superior planetary transmission, considered too complex for production.
- T-38M2 (1938), modification improving the gearbox and replacing the engine with GAZ M1.
- T-38TU, command version with extra radio antenna.
- SU-45 (1936), experimental 45 mm self-propelled gun.
- T-38TT (1939), experimental remotely controlled tank (teletank).
- Zaloga 1984, pp. 77–78.
- Bean, Tim & Will Fowler (2002) Russian Tanks of World War II - Stalin's Armored Might
- Bishop, Chris (1998) The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II
- Chamberlain, Peter & Chris Ellis (1972) Tanks of the World, 1915-1945
- Fleischer, Wolfgang (1999) Russian Tanks and Armored Vehicles 1917-1945
- Zaloga, Steven J.; James Grandsen (1984). Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two. London: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 0-85368-606-8.
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