by Thorleif Olsson
In 1930/31 the Russians bought a number of the Carden-Loyd VI tankettes from Great Britain, and these were tested at Voronezh. After the Voronezh trials, an almost identical version was made by the Russians in 1931. This was the prototype of the T-27 tankette (Tankietka), and it was tested by the Red Army by the end of 1931.
Vickers-Armstrong Ltd. granted USSR to manufacture these vehicles under license, and the T-27 quickly entered production at the AMO (Moscow Automobile Factory) plant. Basically three different models were built: the first designated as T-27, which was a slightly changed British Carden-Loyd. This first model had an air-cooled 7.62mm machinegun instead of the Vickers water-cooled type, and had a built-up rear crew compartment. Two succeeding models, designated T-27A (1932) and T-27B (1933), differed from the first model in the following aspects:
1. In place of a water-cooled Vickers machinegun in an open mounting, an air-cooled 7.62mm aircraft-type machinegun was ball-mounted in a sponson extending from the front left-hand superstructure plate.
2. A redesigned hull with the crew compartment lengthened to the rear of the chassis, and an extra pair of road wheels was fitted on each side. A splash-lip was welded approximately one-third up the glacis plate.
3. In place for the separate head covers for the driver and the commander/gunner, an armoured fairing was riveted to the hull top and extended across the entire width of the vehicle. This modification was meant to better the communication between the driver and the gunner. Because of this, a hatch was required for entry and exit, and this was placed at the front of the superstructure.
4. To extend over the tracks, the superstructure was lengthened and thereby allowed more room for stowage of ammunition and equipment.
5. The tankette utilized components of the GAZ Model A truck which was built by the Molotov Plant in Gorki.
The gearbox and engine was fitted at the front of the vehicle with direct drive to the sprocket via differential, which was protected by an armoured box. A short length of the vehicle was achieved when the engine was mounted between the driver and commander, and the low height resulted from the absence of a rotating turret. With the driver seated to the right and the commander/gunner to the left, both were provided with curved bucket seats which helped the crew to brace themselves against the motion of the vehicle. The working space in the vehicle was extremely poor, with a cramped fighting compartment, and the heat therein being almost unbearable. As an addition, the location of the engine in the crew compartment without adequate ventilation could often cause suffocation, and the fighting compartment was so cramped that the T-27-crews were selected from tank men of short stature. The legs of the crewmen's extended beneath the cowling, were on the driver's side, located the standard foot pedals and a lever for engaging the reduction gears.
To the right of the driver, a lever controlling the epicyclic transmission was located, and a second one which controlled the steering. Moving this forward resulted in a right turn, and pulling it backwards gave a left turn. The steering was carried out by controlling the drive to each track by lever-operated brake-drums. The tankette was able to ascend a slope of 49 degrees in a very low gear. (There were two gear ranges: duration and for high-power.) The fuel, oil and radiator tanks were located immediately behind the seats, whilst the engine was located between and below the seats and was protected by armour plates. The radiator was protected by double doors which could be opened and closed at will, while below this the frame ended in a truss upon which there was a large hook for towing, and an exhaust silencer to the left. All T-27 tankette models and riveted armour, and the T-27B had larger lights on each side of the driver than the T-27A. Other internal differences included improvements in the fighting compartment and the cooling of the engine. The T-27B remained in production until 1941 when it was classified as obsolete and was converted into artillery tractors and rocket-launchers.
A total of 2.540 T-27's of all models were built, and served as a reconnaissance tank in the Cavalry Divisions, receiving limited combat use during skirmishes with guerrillas in the early 1930's.
The T-27 became the first AFV to be carried by aircraft beneath the fuselage of the Soviet Tupolev TB-3 bombers during peacetime manoeuvres in during 1937, as well as in 1940 during the occupation of Bessarabia.