The T-50 was a light infantry tank built by the Soviet Union at the beginning of World War II. The design for this vehicle had some advanced features, but was complicated and expensive, and only a short production run of 69 tanks was completed. Even before it was ready for mass-production wartime experience invalidated the underlying concept of light tanks.
The T-50 was a light tank developed on the eve of World War II for the Red Army
. The experience of the Spanish Civil War
led to an effort to upgrade or replace the large Soviet tank fleet. Prior to 1939, most tanks in Red Army service were improved versions of foreign designs. For example, the most numerous tank, the T-26 light infantry tank
, was a copy of the British Vickers 6-Ton
tank with a Soviet-designed turret and 45 mm gun. However, just prior to and during the war, the USSR developed new light, medium and heavy tanks of wholly indigenous design. The T-50 light tank was intended to replace the T-26 infantry tank; in prewar planning, the T-50 was intended to become the most numerous Soviet tank, operating alongside the BT fast tank
Development of the T-50 started as the SP project (Soprovzhdeniya Pekhoty
, 'Infantry Support') in 1939 at the OKMO
design bureau in the S.M. Kirov Factory Number 185 in Leningrad, under the direction of, and headed by, L. Troyanov and I. Bushnevov, to create a light tank replacement for the T-26 and BT tanks. Initial prototypes, called T-126 and T-127, were not much improved over the T-46-5 project which had been abandoned earlier that year, but the heavier T-126 was selected for further development. The design bureau was gutted during the Great Purge
, and was unable to continue the project, so it was transferred to the K.E. Voroshilov Factory Number 174 in Leningrad, May 1940, where two prototypes from the Voroshilovsky and Kirovsky factories were tested. The first 2 vehicles were finished at Factory No. 174 in Leningrad in late 1940. Troyanov completed the T-50 design in January 1941. After a few modifications it was ready for delivery in April 1941. Production was then authorized, but due to technical problems, it was unable to proceed.
In the meantime, a replacement for the BT fast tanks was developed and built at the Malyshev Factory
(KhPZ) in Ukraine, which exceeded its original programme. The result was the very capable and economical T-34