BT Fast Tank Book Review
|Date of Review
|BT Fast Tank
|Steven J. Zaloga
|48 pages, softbound
The vehicles proved "a curious amalgam of American and Soviet technology".
That's how armor historian Steven J. Zaloga starts his superb BT Fast Tank – number 237 in Osprey's perennially popular "New Vanguard" range.
Subtitled "The Red Army's Calvary Tank 1931–45", Zaloga's slim little study summarizes the whole, terrific tale in just 48 pithy pages.
In the 1930s, the Soviets Union sought a high-speed tank to mechanize cavalry forces. American J. Walter Christie offered an innovative option. And BTs entered production – eventually forging fame as progenitors of WWII's legendary T-34 medium tank.
For optimal off- and on-road performance, vehicles with Christie-type convertible suspensions could operate in both continuous-track and wheeled modes. But while BT tanks shared the same general layout as Christie's original design, Soviet iterations proved "substantially different in most details".
Zaloga deftly distills those differences – and expertly charts BT evolution. He skillfully surveys stillborn studies, too. How about that BT-SV-2 with sloped armor? And those amphibious variants? Or that quixotic "flying tank"?
Zaloga competently chronicles BT combat use, too. Spain. Khalkin Gol. Poland. Finland. And early Operation Barbarossa. Even Iran.
The 1941 Nazi invasion débâcle decimated BT ranks. Survivors trickled into second-line service with rear-echelon and training units. By war's end, the Soviet Far East held the "largest reservoir" of remaining BTs. And a last feeble rill from the great flood of "Fast Tanks" actually fought Japan in August 1945. Soviet forces finally retired them in 1946.
Extended captions and informative tables augment the account. Three dozen B&W photos, a couple current color shots, archival drawings, and action paintings support the study. A helpful cut-away aptly illumines Zaloga's technical descriptions. And eight profiles – with authoritative camouflage comments – sample the swath of BT schemes for modelers.
An index and selected bibliography also conclude contents. Other than an ancient Armour In Profile pamphlet, this Osprey "New Vanguard" entry remains the only English-language BT history. That alone makes it a "must have" for English-language Soviet armor enthusiasts.
BT Fast Tank also perfectly complements Zaloga's recent T-26 Light Tank: Backbone of the Red Army (New Vanguard 218). Get them both.
My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!