Poland (1934)
Tankette – about 290 built

Origins

The TKS formed, together with the TK3, the most numerically important armoured vehicle in service in the Polish Army in September 1939. Like all ’30s generation tankettes, they were a good alternative to traditional tanks, being cheaper and a good proposition for light mechanized battalions. The TKS (1934) was developed from the TK3, itself derived from a licence-built Vickers-Armstrong Carden-Loyd Mk.VI. The TK3 was first trialed in 1929 near Warsaw. Domestic modifications included a more flexible suspension, and production took place after the TK1 and TK2 prototypes in 1930. But even while the production of the TK3 took place, attempts were made to increase the armor and armament as well. The French Hotchkiss 13.2 mm (0.52 in) and 20 mm (0.79 in) long-barrel antitank guns were tested. The final TKS prototype was ready by June 1933, and production took place from March 1934 until 1938, with upgraded armor and Polish engine.

TKS on parade
TSK tankettes

Design of the TKS

Like the TK3, the TKS had a single 7.92 mm (0.3 in) Hotchkiss wz.25 or wz.30 machine gun. However, the superstructure was completely modified. A prominent tumblehome with sloped armor allowed the machine-gun to be mounted further forward. The side armored shutters and vision slits were also modified. The exhaust was modified and a commander/gunner periscope was added.

Armor made of hardened steel was bolted to a central frame and slightly sloped, ranging from 6 to 8 mm (0.23-0.31 in). The June 1933 prototype had thicker, cast steel armor. The TKS had the same dimensions as the TK3, but was significantly heavier and slower than the TK3 and than the original Carden-Loyd tankette. It incorporated many minor improvements dictated by field experience. Production started in March 1934. In all, 290 of these improved tankettes were built until September 1939. Based on registration plates, the first ten pre-production prototypes had iron hulls, for training.

The antitank derivative TKS-NKM

In 1938, a single TK3 prototype was equipped with Polish wz. 38 20 mm FK model A (0.79 in) high velocity antitank gun.Only 20 to 25 units were converted as anti-tank units in time, out of an order for 80 TKS and 70 TK being converted in total.

The final prototype was ready in January 1939, and conversions started by batches in May and July 1939. The gun was capable of penetrating 40 mm (1.57 in) at 200 meters (660 ft). Produced in Poland, it was derived from the Swiss Solothurn S18-100 (4 were acquired in 1935). Other armament was evaluated, like Oerlikon and Madsen gun. The FK-A was manufactured by Fabryka Karabinów but in short supply, having to also fulfill the needs of the Air Force and AA units. Perhaps 18 TK were in the process of being converted before September 1939, but their fate is unknown.

TKS side view

The TKS in action

Although better armored and just as numerous as the TK3, the TKS was no match for their German counterparts, save for the machine-gun armed Panzer Is. At that time, even some reconnaissance armored cars were armed with a 20 mm (0.79 in) autocannon. When opposing the Soviet Forces it did not fare any better, being pitted against such vehicles as the T-26, T-28 and BTs. TKS were attached to infantry units, but also to cavalry brigades and independent companies of 13 vehicles each.

The only kills registered came from ambushes led by the 20 mm armed TKS antitank brigade, in particular those attributed single-handily to Edmund Roman Orlik. He claimed 13 tank kills in 3 direct-actions against German forces. One such action resulted in the death of lieutenant Victor IV, Duke of Ratibor.

Tankettes of all types were captured by the Germans and used for training purposes, supply and to counter insurgents.

TKS specifications

Dimensions 2.58 x 1.78 x 1.32 m (8.46×5.84×4.33 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 2.57 to 2.65 tons
Crew 2
Propulsion Polksi Fiat 122AC/B 6 cyl, 42/46 hp
Speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Range (road/off road)/consumption 60-190 km (37-118 mi) -70 l/100 km
Armament Hotchkiss wz. 30 7.92 mm (0.3 in) machine-gun
Armor From 3 to 10 mm (0.12-0.39 in)
Ammunition 2400 rounds
Total production 290

Links

TK tankette development on Derela Republika
A project of reconstructing Polish TK3-TKS tankettes

TKS tankette
A TKS tankette with 1934 “Japanese style” camouflage.
TKS during the German invasion
A TKS tankette with the typical “checkerboard” camouflage, mainstream in September 1939.
20 mm TKS version
TKS-NKM/20 mm Solothurn or NKM antitank version converted in 1938. Only 20 to 25 were in active service in September 1939.
Surviving TKS
TKS tankettes and wz.34 armored cars

Video

Ford FT-B
wz.34
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8 Responses to TKS

  1. Mark Nash says:

    The heroism of Edmund Roman Orlik should be mention here. he held off an entire panzer regiment with is 20mm TKS at the skirmish of Pociecha and the battle of Sieraków. He took out a number, of PZ Is, IIs and 38s, as a result a German platoon commander, lieutenant Victor IV, Duke of Ratibor, was killed. He was eventually taken prisoner. (Osprey Publishings info)

    His Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Roman_Orlik

  2. Hi Mark, thanks for this info, it has been added and you comment will stay as a backup.
    By the way we just started a new section dedicated to mini-biographics, if you are sufficiently interested in Edmund Roman Orlik to bring more meat on the table, be our guest !
    All the best,

  3. Tydeus says:

    I want to write an article about TKS-B, improved version of TKS… I will write “prototype” of this text on some abandoned website and give a link here to rewrite.
    This article is little meager. Here is nothing about TKS with 37 mm Puteaux cannon or about TKS conversions like TKS-D (tank destroyer). It should to be developed.

  4. Hugo says:

    Does TKS (and TK, etc.) stand for anything? I’ve searched so hard and come up with nothing. I know that in 7TP, the letters have meaning, but is that true for the TKS as well?

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