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Book Review
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BT Fast Tank
The Red Army’s Cavalry Tank 1931–45
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:

BT Fast Tank The Red Army’s Cavalry Tank 1931–45 from Osprey Publish LTD is part of their New Vanguard series, title number 237. Authored by Steven J. Zaloga and illustrated by Henry Morshead, it has Osprey's short code NVG 237 and ISBN 9781472810656 for the softcover. It is also available in PDF and ePUB formats.

BT tanks and British cruiser tanks were the operational answer to a concept designed by American engineer J. Walter Christie. The Soviets even utilized Christie's feature of allowing the tank to run without tracks on powered steerable road-wheels.
    When the Red Army needed to mechanize its cavalry branch in the 1930s, the BT fast tank was its solution. Based on the American Christie high-speed tank, the Red Army began a program to adapt the design to its own needs. Early versions were mechanically unreliable and poorly armed but by the mid-1930s, the BT-5 emerged, armed with an excellent dual-purpose 45mm gun. It saw its combat debut in the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and was later used in the border battles with the Japanese Kwangtung Army in the late 1930s. The final production series, the BT-7, was the most refined version of the family.

    One of the most common types in Red Army service in the first years of the Second World War, BT tanks saw extensive combat in Poland, Finland, and the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa in 1941 and latterly during the 1945 campaign against the Japanese in Manchuria - this is the story of their design and development history.
    - Osprey

On paper the BT series were formidable with high speed, sloped armor, and a powerful gun. This book explains why it is not as famous as the T-34 it inspired.

BT Fast Tank is 48 pages in length. In those pages Mr. Zaloga tells a concise history of the cavalry tank through 10 chapters:



      *The BT-7 Tank in detail






      * Combat Debut in Spain, 1937
      * Combat in the Far East: Khalkin Gol, 1938-39
      * Deployments in Poland, 1939
      * The Winter War with Finland, 1939-40
      * The BT Tanks in the Great Patriotic War, 1941-45



Mr. Zaloga is well known as an armor and modeling expert. He presents a concise story about the BT series including how the Soviets, without an official relationship with the US Government, received Christie's technology to eventually build over 8,000 tanks of this design.

BT tanks started their combat record in Spain. While they were considered the best tank on either side, their baptism of fire was a macabre farce of military operations. BTs were part of Stalin's horrible invasion of Finland, suffering terribly like the rest of the Red Army against Finnish defenses. Those accounts and the subsequent invasion of Poland and decimation during Barbarossa are revealed in overview.

Originally armed with a 37mm gun, the book explores and explains the evolution of redesigning the tank with different turrets and hulls, and reequipping the BT series with different cannons, machine guns, and engines. Equipping the vehicles with communication gear is discussed along with various comm gear.

In the chapter BT-7 Tank, we learn about the paranoid cancer of Stalin's Soviet system and how it led to a Soviet tanker, N. F. Tsyganov, getting into the design bureaus and ultimately laying the foundation for what became the T-34.

The book also explores the drawbacks of the tank and the Christie system. In The BT Tanks in the Great Patriotic War, 1941-45, in addition to their deployment, we learn of state of repair of the BT fleet, including how many hours of use were expected between major repairs and overhauls. The direct affect of those needs upon the number of "runners" is also presented, and how that contributed to the Red Army loosing 11,000 tanks (to the Wehrmacht's 500) in the opening months of Operation Barbarossa.

Development of the AFV into artillery, engineering, amphibious, nightfighting, and flamethrower designs is covered and discussed. An idea of putting wings and a propeller on a BT to make a flying tank is discussed, too.

The general fate of BTs is presented - some even participated in the Soviet annihilation of the Japanese army in Manchuria in August 1945 - along with a brief summary of the series.

BT tanks were an important part of the Red Army's armored forces. The innovative design survived the war and also proved many of Christie's concepts.

Photographs, Graphics, Art
Dozens of photos support the text. Two color photos of preserved BT-7s in Russian museums are included. While many are of captured and vanquished BTs, many are from Soviet sources, including development projects. There must be a lot of photos of BTs available because almost all are high quality.

There is line art of three cross-sectionals of the BT-2, BT-5, and BT-7RT, showing ammo storage, engine placement, etc., joining a Soviet sketch of the BT-32, Russia's design of the Christie M1932 "Flying Tank".

Artist Henry Morshead contributes a great deal, too.

Color Artwork
A1. BT-2 Model 1933, "Blue Army" Opposing Fores, Kiev Military District, September 1935: this plate discusses in detail the Soviet armor color of camouflage green (zeleno-zashchitniy) - that which ultimately became 4B0.

A2. BT-2 Model 1932, 128th Tank Brigade, Moscow area, November 1941, with a unique camouflage scheme.

B1. BT-7 Model 1935, Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Tank Brigade, Khalkin Gol, August 1939.

B2. BT-7 Model 1937, 6th Tank Brigade, Khalkin Gol.

C. Cut-away: BT-7 Model 1937, with technical data and keyed to 23 components.

D: Operational scene: Finland 1940. BT-7A Artillery Group, 1st Light Tank Brigade, Northwestern Front, Finland, February 1940.

E1. BT-7 Model 1937, 24th Light Tank Brigade, September 1939: demonstrating a Soviet multi-color segmented camouflage pattern.

E2. BT-5, 4th Don Cavalry Division, Bialystok, November 1939, standard tank with bold propaganda markings.

F1. BT-7RT Model 1935, 44th Tank Regiment, 3rd Cavalry Division, Southwestern Front, June 1941.

F2. BT-5, 109th Motorized Division, 5th Mechanized Corps, Western Front, Senso, July 1941.

G. Action scene: Operation Barbarossa In Ukraine, 1941; BT-7 Model 1937, 3r Platoon, 1st Company, 1st Battalion, 53rd Tank Regiment, 81st Motorized Division, 4th Lvovskiy Mechanized Corps, western Ukraine, June 1941.

BT Tank Gun Performance: 37mm, 45mm.

BT Tank Production, 1932-40

BT Comparative Technical Characteristics: armor thicknesses; dimensions and weights; weapons; powerplants and performances for the BT-2, -5, -7 Models 1935 and 1937, BT-7A and BT-7M.

BT Tanks in Red Army Service April 1, 1941 by Type

BT Tank Deployment in Mechanized Corps on June 22, 1941.

Soviet Tank Losses in 1941 by Campaign.

The last page contains 4-view line drawings of both the BT-5RT and BT-7RT Model 1937. No scale is shown although they appear to be 1/72.

That art and graphics greatly enhances the text.

BT fast tanks were a significant component of the Red Army's tank forces. They served from the 1930s through the end of the Second World War. BT Fast Tank The Red Army’s Cavalry Tank 1931–45 is a good overview of the tank. There are no fire fight stories for those who want first-hand accounts. The text is enhanced with a remarkable gallery of art and photos, including two color photos. Tables present data in an easy to digest format.

This is a good overview of the BT series of fast cavalry tanks and I recommend it.
Highs: Concise history enhanced with a remarkable gallery of art and photos, including two color photos. Tables present data in an easy to digest format.
Lows: There are no fire fight stories for those who want first-hand accounts.
Verdict: This is a good overview of the BT series of fast cavalry tanks.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472810656
  Suggested Retail: $18.00
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Jul 18, 2017

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


Excellent, looking forward to getting a copy of this!
JUL 18, 2017 - 04:17 AM

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