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The concept of halftrack is originally a French invention. The first ones were developed by Adolph Kégresse (1879-1943), who was also a pioneer for the motorcycles.
In 1903 he went to Saint-Petersbourg (Russia) as mechanic/engineer for the Lesslen firm.
He organized the first motor postal service in Russia and became the chief of the imperial garages of Tsar Nicolas II.
From 1909 to 1917 he developed the first halftracks and in 1914 the Russian army was the first one having halftracks.
He went back in France in 1919 and worked with André Citroën to build the Citroen-Kégresse halftracks series. They enabled vehicles with a rather conventional design to have a very good mobility off-road, in rough and intricate terrain, with snow or with sand etc. At that time the fully-tracked vehicles lacked mobility and the conventional trucks were easily immobilized or slowed down in the sand or in the snow.
The Citroen-Kégresse halftracks became famous during several raids in remote areas :
- The first crossing in the Sahara (from Touggourt in Algeria to Timbuktu in Mali) in 1922-1923
http://www.citroen.com/CWW/fr-FR/HISTOR ... TheSahara/
- The Black Cruise : crossing of Africa from north to south and then to the east coast and around the island of Madagascar in 1924-1925
http://www.citroen.com/CWW/fr-FR/HISTOR ... ackCruise/
- The Yellow Cruise from Beirut (Lebanon) to Beijing (Pekin - China) in 1931-1932 (following partly Marco Polo's Silk Road)
http://www.citroen.com/CWW/fr-FR/HISTOR ... lowCruise/
In 1935, Adolphe Kégresse developed an automatic gearbox.
In 1939, he developed a remote-controlled breaching vehicle, which was tested by the French Army. The "engin K" (K for Alphonse Kégresse) was ordered by the French army (6000 in April 1940 and 6000 in May 1940). It was the precursor of the German Goliath which was later built based on this vehicle.
In all he had about 200 patents about various car parts, that are still used today.
French Renault FT17 tank and a halftrack in the army in 1923 :
Peugeot armored halftrack (with Kégresse tracks), tested by the French army in 1923 (from http://www.chars-francais.net/)
Here are some nice webpages (but in German only) :
Citroen-Kégresse halftracks were used by the French army in the 20's and 30's as well as other kind of halftracks. These halftracks were also used by various foreign armies (Poland, Danemark, Estonia etc.) Here are the main ones that were used in 1939-1940 :
1) HALF-TRACKED ARMORED CARS
AMC P16 Mle1929 (AMC = Auto-Mitrailleuse de combat)
The AMC P16 (also called Citroen-Kégresse or Panhard-Schneider P16) is ordered in 1929. 96 vehicles were delivered and still used in 1940 in various reconnaissance battalions or GRDI (Groupe de Reconnaissance de Division d'Infanterie).
Weight : 6.8t
Length : 4.83m
Width : 1.75m
Height : 2.60m
Crew : 3 men
Maximum armor : 12mm
Maximum speed : 50 km/h (Panhard engine, 4 cylinders, 60 hp)
Autonomy : 250 km
Armament : a 37mm SA18 L/21 gun and a coaxial 7.5mm turret MAC1931. Ammunitions : 60 HE and 40 AP shells, 1950 standard cartridges (13 magazines) and 1050 armor piercing cartridges (7 magazines).
2) TROOP CARRIERS
VLTT : "voiture de liaison tout terrain" = cross country liaison vehicle
VDP : "voiture de Dragons Portés" = "Dragons Portés's car" (vehicle used to carry Dragons and/or Chasseurs motorized infantry)
CITROEN-KEGRESSE P19B (CK P19B) (VLTT)
The French army used about 600 of these liaison halftracks in 1939.
Weight : 2.23t (live load 0.65t)
Length : 4.70m
Width : 1.70m
Crew : 6 passengers
Maximum speed : 52 km/h (6 cylinders, 2442 cm3, 42 hp at 2800 rpm)
CITROEN-KEGRESSE P19 (CK P19) (VDP)
Used by the French army since 1932 and still 547 halftracks in service in 1940. Sometimes also used as a tank destroyer version carrying a 25mm L/72 AT gun. These halftracks were usually issued to the Dragons (motorized infantry) regiments (RDP = Régiment de Dragons Portés) of the DLCs (Division Légère de Cavalerie).
At the mobilization in 1939, there were 547 CK P19. The 1e and 4e RDP had been completely equipped with 6-wheels vehicles (Laffly S20TL for the 1e RDP and Lorraine 28 for the 4e RDP). The former CK P19s of these units were then issued to other units during the winter 1939-1940. Most of the CK P19 took part in the May/June 1940 campaign, being issued to the RDP of the various DLC : 2e, 3e, 5e, 14e and 15e RDP (depending from the 3e, 2e, 1e, 4e and 5e DLC). These RDP had 2 battalions, one equipped with the CK P19 halfracks and one equipped with light trucks (Peugeot DK 5 J, Citroën 23 or Renault ADK probably).
Weight : 2.23t (live load 0.7t)
Length : 4.70m
Width : 1.70m
Crew : 7 men
Maximum speed : 46 km/h (6 cylinders, 2442 cm3, 42 hp at 2800 rpm)
Autonomy : 350 km
Armament : none except AAMG mounts for protection during travel
3) ARTILLERY TRACTORS
About 236 infantry tractors were in service in 1940. Used to tow the 25mm AT guns and Mle1937 infantry trailer for supply task.
Weight : 2.165t (live load 0.50t + 0.66t in trailer = 1.16t)
Length : 4.20m
Width : 1.60m
Height : 1.31m
Maximum speed : 46 km/h (4 cylinders, 2151 cm3, 49 hp at 2650 rpm)
CITROEN-KEGRESSE P17 (CK P17)
The French army used 1442 pieces of this halftracked artillery tractor in September 1939. Generally towing 25mm AA guns, 47mm AT guns and 75mm AT and field guns.
Weight : 1.85t (live load 0.7t + towed load 1.3t)
Length : 4.38m
Width : 1.69m
Height : 2.09m
Maximum speed : 32 km/h (4 cylinders, 1770 cm3, 31.5 hp at 2800 rpm)
3932 pieces of this halftracked artillery tractor were in service in 1940. Used to tow the 75mm and 105mm C field guns. One such tractor carried 72 shells (75mm) and 6-8 men (including 1 driver and the crew of the towed gun). In the 75mm Mle1897 batteries towed by Unic P107s, each gun had immediately 72 shells available plus those in the ammunition trucks. There were also an engineer version of the P107, an air force tractor version as well as 2 vehicles converted to radio trucks (ER30 / R30 radio sets) and used by the 1e DCR.
Weight : 3.55t (live load 1.5t + towed load 1.5t in offroad, on a road it can tow 10.0t)
Length : 4.85m
Width : 1.80m
Height : 2.30m
Maximum speed : 45 km/h (4 cylinders, 3460 cm3, 62 hp at 3200 rpm)
SOMUA MCG4, MCG5 and MCG11
The French army used 345 Somua MCG5 to tow the 105mm L Mle1936 Schneider guns and caissons, 315 Somua MCG4 and MCG11 to to tow the 155mm C Mle1917 Schneider guns and 312 Somua MCG5 to tow the caissons of the 155mm C Mle1917 Schneider guns.There are also about 440 Somua MCG4 and MCG5 recovery tractors (theoretically 1 for each 47mm AT gun, 75mm Mle1897 field gun, 105mm L Mle1936 and 155mm C Mle1917 battery as well as 3 for each light tank battalion). There are aslo 24 Somua MCG 4 halftracks in the French navy to tow 8 155mm L Mle1932 Schneider guns (3 per gun). There is therefore a total of about 1436 Somua MCG tractors used by the French troops in 1940.
Concerning the 105mm L Mle1936 gun : a first Somua MCG towed the gun and carried 28 shells. A second Somua MCG carried the crew of the gun (8 men), various equipments and towed a Mle1939 Somua trailer with 64 shells. The second Somua MCG instead of the crew could carry 28 additional shells (if the crew was transported in other vehicles). Each 105mm L Mle1936 had therefore 92-105 shells immediately available.
Concerning the 155mm C Mle1917 gun : a first Somua MCG and towed the gun and carried 12 shells. A second Somua MCG carried the crew of the gun (8 men), various equipments towed a Mle1935 Somua trailer with 34 shells. The second Somua MCG instead of the crew could carry 20 additional shells (if the crew was transported in other vehicles). Each 155mm C Mle1917 had therefore 46-66 shells immediately available.
Weight : 4.92t for the tractor and 6.8t for the standard halftrack (live load 1.5t + towed load 3.5t)
Length : 5.20m for the tractor and 5.30m for the standard halftrack
Width : 2.17m
Height : 2.60m for the tractor and 2.85m for the standard halftrack
Maximum speed : 31 km/h (4 cylinders, 4712 cm3, 55 hp for MCG4 and 60 hp for MCG5 and MCG11)
SOMUA MCL5 and MCL11
About 15 pieces Somua MCL5 (including 1 MCL11 ?) are used by the French army in 1939 to tow 155mm GPF field guns. The French army used also 148 Somua MCL5 tractors in tank repair/recovery units.
Weight : 8.50t for the MCL5 and 9.96t for the MCL11
Length : 5.62m for the MCL5 and 5.40m for the MCL11
Width : 2.08m for the MCL5 and 1.95m for the MCL11
Height : 2.33m
Maximum speed : 31 km/h (4 cylinders, 4712 cm3, 60 hp)
CITROEN-KEGRESSE P14 (CK P14)
The French army used 52 pieces of this halftracked artillery tractor in September 1939. Generally towing the 155mm C Schneider field gun.
Weight : 3.6t (live/towed load 1.7t)
Length : 4.87m
Width : 1.75m
Maximum speed : 25 km/h (6 cylinders, 2655 cm3, 48 hp at 2800 rpm)
4) TANK TOWING / RECOVERY TRACTORS
The French army used also 148 Somua MCL5 tractors in tank repair/recovery units.
Weight : 10.9t (live load 2.5t)
Length : 5.48m
Width : 2.10m
Height : 3.00m with crane
Maximum speed : 31 km/h (4 cylinders, 6558 cm3, 90 hp at 2000 rpm)
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