The Soviet T-26 tank is the signature light tank of the interwar period. Originally a British design, the T-26 proved versatile, and in some countries, remained in service until 1961. The Red Army developed 53 variants, including flame-throwing tanks and self-propelled guns. From when it entered service in 1932 until when production ceased in 1941, around 11,000 T-26 tanks had been built.
The T-26 was exported to the Spanish Republican government, and saw extensive service during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). There, the T-26 proved superior to the German Panzer I and the Italian CV-33 tankette. Russia also exported T-26s to China and Turkey. Captured T-26s were repaired and used against the Russians. For example, Finland captured and re-purposed seventy T-26 tanks.
When Germany invaded the USSR in 1941, the T-26 made up 39 percent of the Soviet Union’s total tank strength. The T-26 was comparable to early German light tanks, such as the Panzer I and Panzer II, but was seriously outclassed by the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Despite disadvantages in armor, mobility, and gun caliber, T-26 units participated in nearly every major Soviet tank engagement throughout the war. The T-26 last saw action in Manchuria against Japanese forces in August 1945.