T-70 Light Tank

The T-70 was the last light tank to be produced in significant numbers in the Soviet Union during the Second World War, but although it was an improvement on the T-60 was still too lightly armed and armoured and struggled to operate alongside the T-34.

The T-70 was designed to replace the T-60 light tank, which was itself a non-amphibious version of the T-40 amphibious tank which had been about to enter production when the Germans invaded in 1941, and had remained in production in an attempt to replace some of the thousands of tanks lost in the first few months of the war. 

T-70 Light Tank passes destroyed Panzer IV T-70 Light Tank passes destroyed Panzer IV

The T-70 was designed by the same design team that had produced the T-60, led by N. Astrov. When it designed the T-60 it had been based in Moscow, but it was then moved to Zavod Nr.38 at Kirov. 

In the original design the two GAZ-202 engines were placed on either side of the hull, each one powering one track through unsynchronised transmissions. This was impractical in use, and was soon replaced with a more normal system with the two engines arranged in-line, powering a conventional transmission and differential assembly. At the same time the original conical turret was replaced with a sloped sided welded turret. Officially the version with the modified engines and new turret was designated as the T-70M, but in practise just as the T-70 as so few of the original design had been built.

The original T-70 had a conical turret similar to that of the T-30, armed with a standard 45mm tank gun, offset to the left. This wasn’t great against enemy tanks, but it was an improvement over the 20mm canon of the T-60. From April 1942 a new turret made up of flat sloped panels replaced it. The T-70 had thicker armour, with the front armour designed to be proof against 37mm (1.46in) anti-tank guns. However it still only had a crew of two, so the commander also had to act as the gunner and loader. It had five pairs of road wheels and three return rollers. During its production run a more powerful GAZ-203 engine was introduced.

Left-rear view of T-70 Light Tank Left-rear view of T-70 Light Tank

The driver was positioned at the front-left of the tank, directly behind the sloping front armour. A hatch was located directly in front of him, and could be opened upwards to give good visibility out of combat. In combat the original version had a vision slit in the middle of the hatch, while later tanks had a traversable MK-4 periscope

A total of 8,226 T-70s were built, with production split between Zavod Nr. 37, Zavod No.38 and GAZ. It remained in production until October 1943. Production then moved to the improved T-80, but only about 120 of these were built before production ended and the factory was used to produce components for the SU-76 self propelled gun.  

The T-70 and T-60 formed part of the standard Soviet Tank Brigade. In December 1941 a brigade at full strength had 20 light tanks, 16 T-34s and 10 KV heavy tanks. By July 1942 that had changed to 21 T-60s or T-70s and 32 T-34s while the KV-1s had been moved to independent tank regiments. By November 1943 the light tanks had also been removed from the tank brigades, which were now entirely equipped with the T-34. The light tanks remained in use with mechanized artillery units and for scouting and liaison duties with some other units. Some were used as HQ defence vehicles, to escort convoys or to two artillery.

The T-70 became the basis of the SU-76 light mechanized gun, which used many of the same components, but carried a 76.2mm gun in a new superstructure.

An attempt was made to produce an anti-aircraft version of the T-70. Work on a turret armed with twin 12.7mm DSkK heavy machine guns with optical sights began in 1942 using the T-60. When the T-70 replaced the T-60, work on the AA tank also moved to the new version. The T-70 armed with AA turret was given the designation T-90, but work on the project ended in 1943 in favour of the ZSU-37, which combed the chassis of the SU-76 with a heavier 37mm anti-aircraft gun. 

T-70 Light Tank between haystacks T-70 Light Tank between haystacks

The T-70 was an acceptable but unremarkable reconnaissance vehicle. Like the T-60 it struggled to match the speed of the T-34 cross country, which meant that the light tanks often ended up fighting without heavier support. They weren’t capable of coping with any German tanks in a straight fight, although they did have the odd occasion success. On 26 March 1944 1944 Sergeant Alexander Pegov took out two Panthers with flank shots using APCR ammo fired at 220m and survived to be promoted and decorated as a Hero of the Soviet Union. The T-70 did take part in some of the major battles of the war – 261 T-70s were involved in the fighting around Prokhorovka during the battle of Kursk, making up just under one third of the Soviet total, but many of them were lost in the heavy fighting. The T-70 remained in service until 1948.

Production: 8,000+ (1942-43)
Hull Length: 14ft 0.9in
Hull Width: 7ft 7.3in
Height: 6ft 8.3in
Crew: 2
Weight: 9.2 tonnes
Engine: Two 70hp GAZ-202 petrol engines for total of 140hp
Max Speed: 28mph
Max Range: 223.7 miles
Armament: 45mm/1.77in gun and 7.62mm/ 0.3in machine gun
Armour: 10-60mm






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Russian Weapons of World War II, David Porter. A good overview of the weapons used by the Soviet Union during the Second World War, ranging from individual infantry weapons up to the battleships of the Soviet fleet, as well as the various lend lease items that supported the Soviet war effort. Well illustrated, acknowledges the problems dealing with Soviet sources, and accurate in areas of some confusion (such as the various types of artillery pieces in service) (Read Full Review)
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (5 September 2022), T-70 Light Tank , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_T70_light_tank.html

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