A17 Tetrarch airborne tank
The Tetrarch wat the United Kingdom's first and only airborne tank. Originally it was known as the Light Tank Mark VII and it was to have been a follow-on to the Mark VI. By the time the weaknesses of British Light Tanks had been exposed the Mark VII was already well advanced. Started as a private venture by Vickers in 1938, it was taken over by the War Office and limited producation began in July 1940. At first there seemed to be little prospect of a service career if it did have a better all-round layout then the earlier Light Tanks as well as a 2-pounder(40 mm)main gun. A few saw service during the take-over of Madagascar in May 1942 and during the same year a batch was sent to the Soviet Union. That would have been the end of the Mark VII, but then a new role was found. The British Army was forming airborne forces and a Light Tank able to support the paratroops and glider-borne soldiers seemed to be a good idea. Renamed Tetrarch the design needed just a few modifications, although on some vehicles the 2-pounder(40 mm) gun was replaced by a close support 3-inch (76.2 mm)howitzer. The Hamilcar glider, the intended airborne transporter, was virtually designed around the dimensions of the Tetrarch. The Tetrarch went for the first time into action on 6 June 1944 and again during the Rhine crossings in March 1945.