| Hotchkiss Mk 39|
Char léger modèle 1939 H
The Hotchkiss H39 (Char léger modèle 1939 H) is France's only light tank. It was supposed to be used as a recon unit, but also fares well with F.F.L. or Legionnaires or in mass numbers. Cheap, fast and quick to recruit, the H39 is good for adding much needed firepower early on in the game.
The H39 is the strongest light tank. However it really shouldn't be considered a light tank because it is the second slowest tank in the game (right above the Maus). It has a speed of 22km/h which makes it a horrible attacker in large maps.
As the Cavalry wanted the H35 to have an even better top speed, it was decided to bring to fruition experiments already conducted from October 1936 to install a stronger engine. A new prototype was made in 1937, with a 120 hp instead of a 78 hp engine. The hull was enlarged to accommodate it and the track and the suspension elements were improved, raising the weight to 12.1 tons. This improved type was faster, with a top speed of 36.5 km/h, but also was much easier to drive. Therefore it was first presented to the Commission d'Expérimentations de l'Infanterie on 31 January 1939 to see whether the original negative decision could be changed. The commission indeed accepted the type, the Char léger modèle 1935 H modifié 39; and it was decided on 18 February to let it succeed the original version from the 401st vehicle onwards, which was just as well as both in 1937 and 1938 an order had been made of 200 vehicles and production had already started, the total orders of the improved type thereafter being expanded to 900. The factory identifier however was Char léger Hotchkiss modèle 38 série D, its predecessor having been the série B. The designation has caused much confusion; this was still officially the same tank as the "H 35", only in a later variant. However even at the time, many began to refer to it as the 38 H or the 39 H.
The new subtype differed from the original one in having a raised and more angular engine deck; a range decreased to 120 km; closed idler wheels; tracks two centimetres wider at 27 cm; metal instead of rubber wheel treads; a silencer directed to the back and larger, more reliable and effective, ventilators.
Early 1940 a modernization 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 (re)built with the better gun, among them about fifty "H 35"s. The new gun became standard in the production lines in April. Before that change the available new guns had from January 1940 gradually been fitted to the tanks of platoon, company and battalion commanders; about half of the commander vehicles in Hotchkiss units were so modified. It had been intended to fit the longer gun to all vehicles during the second half of 1940. After the war it was for a time erroneously assumed that "H 38" was the official name of the tank with the new engine, but without the new gun and "H 39" the name of the type that had both major improvements. These mistakes are still common in much secondary literature. The "H 38" was in fact identical to the "H 39" and it is only correct to refer to the latter in an informal sense.