Renault FT-17


May 29, 2022

The Renault FT-17 was developed in France during World War I and was a landmark light tank for its time. For the first time in history, the FT was equipped with a rotating turret. The British Little Willie also had a rotating turret, but it was not adopted in the British production model. The basic structure of Renault FT: the turret at the front, the engine at the rear, and the protruding caterpillar left a legacy to the tank of the 21st century, and historians call it "the first modern tank".

Development History

In May 1916, Renault, the French manufacturer of world-famous automobiles and trucks, began development of the light tank. Louis Renault himself started the development, but he believed that it did not produce enough power to support the weight of the tank, so he entrusted the development to an engineer named Rodolphe Ernst-Metzmaier in the middle. Although Renault's design was superior to the two tanks of the time, Schneider CA1 (1916) and Saint-Chamond (1917), Jean-Baptiste Eugene Estienne of the French Tank Department (Colonel Jean Baptiste Eugène Estienne) failed to convince the British army to use heavy tanks for the first time in the world at the Battle of Somme (15 September 1916), so did the French choose a large number of small tanks? , or whether to adopt a small number of large tanks (later Char 2C) like the British Army, Renault's small design was adopted with the persuasion of Colonel Estien of the tank department, but competition with the large tank Char 2C continued until the end of the war. The starter proved to be a stable body in the early 1917s, but the radiator fan belt was often problematic until the end of the war. In 1917, 84 were completed, but by the end of the war in 1918, 2697 more were completed. A total of 3177 units were produced, but some records say that more than 4000 units were produced. According to military material records, it is estimated that 3,177 units were procured to the French army, 514 units were procured directly from the US, and 24 units were estimated to have been delivered to the British and Italian forces, so the exact total production is estimated to be 3,694 units.


The first 150 had a round cast turret and were used only for training. It is currently housed in the Han Bovington Museum. The second cast turret was also not adopted in the production model because it was too small. The employed Berliet polygonal turret was assembled with rivets and had room for a Hotchkiss M1914, 8mm machine gun or Puteaux SA 37mm cannon. In later versions, it was changed to a round cast and welded fusion turret. The turret was able to rotate freely on ball bearings and could be fixed at any angle. The turret was manufactured by the Girod of Ugine and procured to each production plant.


About half of the production took place at Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, where Renault's factory is located, but the demand was so high that other companies were also hired. Of the 3,530 units of the initial order, Renault produced 1820 units, procuring 52%, Berliet procured 23% with 800 units, SOMUA (a subsidiary of Schneider & Cie) with 600 units, 17%; And Delaunay-Belleville secured 8% of the 280 cars. For manufacturing and production by other companies, Louis Renault was not charged a license fee. Production was planned at the same rate in 1918, when orders increased to 7820 units, and the turret was provided by Varier to another company.

Practical history

The Renault FT was widely used by the French Army in 1918, and the US Expeditionary Forces