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Light Tank, M2


The development of the Light Tank, M2 was a continuation of the development of the Light Tank, M1. The original prototype used the Vickers 6-ton suspension, also used on the Polish 7TP and the Soviet T-26. This was however changed, when trials proved the vertical volute suspension to be superior.

Being intended as an infantry support vehicle, the original armament (the M2A1) was limited to one heavy .50 cal machine gun and two .30 cal machine guns. Rather than a rotating turret, the .50 cal and one of the .30 cal machine guns were mounted in a fixed superstructure, with the second .30 cal machine gun being mounted in the hull.

This configuration was changed with the M2A2, which had two rotatable turrets, one for the .50 cal and one for the .30 cal. This was again similar to the Polish 7TP, and the design also had the same inherent problem: the turrets only had limited rotation (270°). The M2A3 was an up-armoured of the M2A2, and had better automotive capabilities.

As the disadvantages of the twin-turret layout and the need for a more powerful main armament became clear, the M2A4 was designed. The main armament was a 37 mm tank gun, and no less than five .30 cal machine guns (one co-axial, one in the hull, one on each side of the superstructure and one in an anti-aircraft mount in the commander's cupola).

Although 365 M2A4s were made, with production lasting until 1941-03, only a few saw action in the Pacific, the remainder being used for training purposes. While the Light Tank, M2 was not a significant contributor to the war by itself, it was important for the further development of the US tanks. The similarities between the M2A4 and the Light Tank, M3 are strong, and the Light Tank, M2 was further developed into the Medium Tank, M2, the predecessor of the Medium Tank, M3.

Technical Details

  M2A1 M2A2 M2A3 M2A4
  • Commander
  • Gunner
  • Driver
  • Co-driver
Physical Characteristics
Weight 8.52 t 8.66 t 9.07 t 10.43 t
Length 4.14 m 4.42 m
Width 2.48 m
Height 2.24 m 2.49 m
Armour (range) 6-16 mm 6-25 mm
Speed (max) 40 km/h 48 km/h
Primary weapon .50 cal. Browning Machine Gun (1) 37 mm tank gun (1)
Secondary weapon .30 cal. Browning Machine Gun (2) .30 cal. Browning Machine Gun (5)


Drawing of a Light Tank, M2A2 or M2A3
Light Tank, M2A4

Further Reading


  1. CHAMBERLAIN, Peter & ELLIS, Chris. British and American Tanks of World War II : The Complete Illustrated History of British, American and Commonwealth Tanks, 1939-45. Weidenfield : Cassell, 2000. 224p. ISBN: 03-0435-529-1.