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8 December 2015

A very Soviet Reserve: BT-5 Light Tank



World War 1 introduced “mobile armor” but the ideal design was anyone's guess. John Walter Christie was an incredibly gifted and prolific automotive designer who threw his talents into designing war vehicles and by war's end, designed a chassis tracked vehicle that could also drive on its very large road wheels for fast on road driving. The 1920’s the US Army was mostly experimenting with armor and Christie’s abrasive attitude slowed progress despite very impressive speed and mobility, such as 60mph top speed! Frustrated with lack of US commitment to his designs Christie started to look for foreign buyers, with Poland, the Soviet Union and Great Britain (see Cruiser Mark III A13 in upcoming article) interested.



Being a true capitalist, Christie found eager buyers in the Soviets more than willing to pay his asking price. Using a trade organization the Soviets were able to get around export restrictions (not the only one to do so) and acquired not just two turretless M1931 vehicles with spare parts, but a licenses to build more. Those two were designated Быстроходный танк 1 (Bystrokhodny tank 1), "high-speed tank 1", BT-1. The BT-2 was the first built in Russia; with -3 a metric conversion and -4 highly customized to Russian operational demands, yet retained the overall highly sloped and pointy nose of original.  

The BT-5 finally satisfied the desires of the Soviet command of a legally licensed chassis design with original equipment. It fulfilled what they, and Christie, wanted, a fast tank off road, and faster on road. In 30 minutes the tracks could be removed, stowed, and a drive chain engaging engine to rear wheels for high speed on road travel, only Russia did not have an extensive paved road network so in the long run it was not useful (In game, one can see the steering arm for the front road wheels beautifully modeled). Regardless, with tracks it was still fast and its speed in game is easily obvious. Not as obvious Christie feature was a highly articulating “Christie suspension” that allowed tremendous terrain handling ability for its time thus navigate rough terrain at high speed. Быстроходный танк indeed! 


The BT-5 in War Thunder has been accurately recreated with thorough precision. The many details of the model give it a
truly life-like appearance. Click on the thumbnails to view the pictures with maximum resolution. 

The main gun is a 45mm 20-K cannon; however its penetration is less than others of same class often taking many, many hits to kill a target even point blank. Up to 1000m the BP-240SP (AP) has best penetration, but <1000m the default BP-240 (APHEBC) is better, AND has explosive head but penetration is still only 68mm at 100m. Choose the round wisely and aim carefully. Fortunately reload is a quick 3.4 seconds.

The Achilles heel of the BT series is thin armor, with 40/15/13 hull and 20/15/15 turret. Christie’s vision was a tank to penetrate front lines and cause destruction and distraction behind it, an idea in response to the static frontline meat grinders of WW1, an armor implantation theory somewhat proven in the Blitzkrieg. If you face a BT, then you are at an advantage! It is somewhat small and of course quick so take your time aiming. One can take a hit from a BT, so it is better to chance a hit for a certain kill than miss and be two or more times as you reload.



BT drivers take heart! Speed is your armor! Like the M2A4, this is a flanking monster! Acceleration is a slower than, but top speed is faster. Just as envisioned the ability to get around the enemy and attack from behind is easily achievable. The best tactic is forgo capping or quickly set up ambush and instead go around the front and attack from side or rear. Because it is Reserve BR (1.0) one will encounter many players new to tank warfare and needlessly expose themselves to attack; however skilled gamers with fully trained crew could take on BR 3.0 armor and win. A favorite tactic is to run up to armor, especially assault guns like a StuG, and drive around in circles pumping rounds until enemy destroyed. The high mobility can readily make up for light armor. Don’t forget Artillery! It is a wonderful tool of distraction and dislocation, not only destruction.

While in the end the BT series was barely useful in World War 2, the Soviets did learn valuable lessons in chassis design and incorporated them into what would become the best balanced and effective tank for its time, the T-34. Meanwhile seeing the fruits of Soviet industry promoted the British to commit to earlier interest resulting in the Cruiser Mark III A13, and Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk of Czechoslovakia likely decided to copy the eight large wheel idea (but not suspension) for its LT-38, eventually known as the Pz 38(t).


Author: Joe “Pony51” Kudrna

Want to read more about the vehicles in War Thunder? Find other Vehicle Profiles on our website!


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