The French H39 Light Tank

The French H39 Light Tank

The French H39 Light Tank was developed as an improved version of the H35. Development started in 1937 in an effort to provide a greater speed. As such a new 120hp would be installed, which required an enlargement to the hull, new tracks and suspension to accommodate the extra weight and stress from the new top speed.

The improved version was accepted in to service as the Char léger modèle 1935 H modifié 39 in 1939 and production was swapped to cover the order for 1200 vehicles, though only 890 were built when the German invaded France during World War 2.

Early 1940 a modernisation programme was initiated. This included besides the fitting of episcopes, tails and some radio sets, the gradual introduction of a longer L/35 37 mm SA38 gun with a much improved anti-tank capacity (30 mm penetration at 1000 m); about 350 vehicles were upgraded with the better gun, among them about fifty H 35’s.

H39’s not only served in the defence of France, but also with the Polish forces in their defence and Norway when it too was invaded by the Germans.


Crew: 2
Armament: 37mm Main Gun / 1x 7.5mm MG
Armour: 40mm (max)
Weight: 12.1 tonne
Top Road Speed: 36.5km/h
Operational Range: 150km
Dimensions: Length 4.22m / Width 1.95m / Height 2.15m
Engine: Hotchkiss 1938, 6cylinder 120hp petrol