Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Hotchkiss H.39 French cavalry tank - Poland
Hotchkiss H.39 French cavalry tank - Poland Hotchkiss H39, a French light tank variant developed around 1939. The Hotchkiss H35 or Char léger modèle 1935 H was a French cavalry tank developed prior to World War II. Despite having been designed from 1933 as a rather slow but well-armored light infantry support tank, the type was initially rejected by the French Infantry because it proved difficult to steer while driving cross-country, and was instead adopted in 1936 by the French Cavalry. From 1938 an improved version was produced with a stronger engine, the Char léger modèle 1935 H modifié 39, which from 1940 was also fitted with a longer, more powerful 37 mm gun. It was intended to make this improved variant the standard light tank, with at least four thousand produced to equip new armored divisions of both the Cavalry and the Infantry, but due to the defeat of France in June 1940 total production of both subtypes was limited to about 1200 vehicles. For the remainder of the war, Germany and its allies used captured Hotchkiss tanks in several modifications. As the Cavalry wanted an even better top speed, it was decided to bring to fruition experiments already conducted from October 1936 to install a stronger engine. A new prototype was made in 1937, with a 120 hp instead of a 78 hp engine. The hull was enlarged, giving it a higher almost level engine deck, to accommodate it. The track and the suspension elements were improved, raising the weight to 12.1 tonnes. This improved type was faster, with a top speed of 36.5 km/h (22.6 mph), but also was much easier to drive. Therefore, it was first presented to the Commission d'Expérimentations de l'Infanterie on 31 January 1939 to see whether the original negative decision could be changed. The commission indeed accepted the type, the Char léger modèle 1935 H modifié 39; and it was decided on 18 February to let it succeed the original version from the 401st vehicle onwards, which was just as well as both in 1937 and 1938 an order had been made of 200 vehicles and production had already started, the total orders of the improved type thereafter being expanded to 900. The factory identifier, however, was Char léger Hotchkiss modèle 38 série D, its predecessor having been the série B. The designation has caused much confusion; this was still officially the same tank as the H35, only in a later variant. However even at the time, many began to refer to it as the 38 H or the 39 H.
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