During its 25-year service, the Renault FT tank was used in many countries around the world: France, Italy, Poland, the United States, Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Turkey, China, the Baltic countries, Soviet Russia, Japan, Romania, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia. It was in service during both world wars.
The structural arrangement created by L. Renault with its transmission and drive wheels at the rear, combat compartment in the middle of the hull, and a movable turret, has become a classic construction solution for tanks and is still used nowadays. It was a base for new tanks manufactured in the United States, Italy, and the Soviet Union.
The driver sat in the front hull while the commander (who was also a gunner) had his post in the gun turret. The crew had a three-part hatch at the front of the vehicle and a double hatch at the rear of the gun turret. There was a cupola mounted on the roof with a hatch opening to the side. The tank hull was made of angle stock and T-bars to which armor plates and the running gear were fastened with rivets. The thickness of the armor plates ranged from 6 mm to 16 mm.
The Renault FT tank prototype had a cast steel turret with an observation cupola. In serial vehicles it was mounted separately. Renault also developed an octagonal riveted turret that successfully passed the tests and fully met the customers’ requirements (there were only relevant changes to the primary weapon mounting bracket introduced). The octagonal version was more resistant to fire than the cast steel version. At that time, quality of rolled plates was much higher than castings. The boards thickness from which the octagonal turret was made, was 16 mm, whereas the armor thickness of the cast steel turret was 22 mm.
The Puteaux SA-18 caliber 37 mm gun was constructed on the basis of a naval gun. It had a 21 caliber long barrel, a semi-automatic lock, a recoil mechanism, a cast steel cradle cover, a handle, and a telescopic sight. It was mounted in a turret in a semicircular yoke and rested in rotating sockets on horizontal spigots. The elevation of the barrel ranged from -20° to +35° degrees. The main gun fired fragmentation and armor-piercing shells. An anti-tank projectile could pierce a 12 mm thick armor from 500 m. Sustained rate of fire was up to 10 shots per minute.
The tank could also be armed with a Hotchkiss Mle 1914 machine gun with a rate of fire of 600 shots per minute. The rifle was powered from a metal belt loader mounted on the side of the cartridge chamber. In total, 2,100 tanks armed in this way were produced.
The ammunition supply for the main gun totaled 20 fragmentation shells, 25 anti-tank rounds and 12 case shots. The machine gun onboard ammunition supplies totaled 96 cartridges in 50 clips. Ammunition was put on the sides and bottom of the combat compartment.
The tank was powered by the Renault 18CV in-line four-cylinder liquid-cooled engine. A Zenit type carburetor and ignition magneto were used. The engine had a speed regulator. Starting was carried out using a crank located in the rear hull or from the inside of the vehicle.
The running gear had the spring suspension consisting of four suspension bogies on each side, one with three road wheels and three with two road wheels. The suspension bogies were paired with a support arm articulated on a semi-elliptical leaf spring. The ends of the leaf spring were attached to a longitudinal I-beam chassis connector fixed to the side of the hull.
The upper part of the track was driven by six double return rollers attached to a long rail. The rear end of the rail was mounted on the articulation, and the front part was absorbed by a coil spring. The drive sprockets were placed on the rear of the hull, while the track sprockets were fixed in the front hull to the beam that was equipped with a track tension screw gear.
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