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Mexican Armor

TNCA Salinas

United States of Mexico (1917)
Heavy Tank Prototype – At least 1 Built

Mexico is not a country which is often associated with tank production of any kind. What is more, as of 2018, Mexico does not have any tanks at all in their army – their armored forces consist of armored cars, most numerously the Panhard ERC, which is nearing 35 years of service. As such, it may come to a surprise that in 1917, Mexico joined a very select group of tank producing nations, and by doing so, beating their bitter rivals north of the border.

Context – The Mexican Revolution

The Mexican Revolution is one of, if not the most important events in Twentieth-Century Mexican history, completely changing the sociopolitical fabric of society. For over three decades, Mexico had been ruled by what is known as el Porfiriato, in other words, the presidency of General Porfirio Díaz, until he was forced to resign in 1911. Shortly before that, after fixing an election result in 1910, the people were mobilized against Díaz.
During his presidency, Díaz had made many enemies, and his successor was one of them, the liberal Francisco I. Madero who tried to introduce democracy and freedom of press and association. Following such a long lasting period of rule by one person, a political vacuum was created in which different political elites and social groups fought to take power. Madero had enemies on all sides of the political spectrum – some viewed him has too reactionary, and others as too liberal revolutionary – so he was forced to resign alongside his vice president in a coup in February 1913, with both being assassinated soon after. The counter-revolutionary General Victoriano Huerta took over after the coup and ruled in a dictatorial manner until July 1914, when he resigned and went into exile after a series of defeats of his Federal Army.
By this point, Mexico was submerged in a full-scale civil war. A coalition of revolutionary forces would take over the capital and therefore seized power, but not for long as they failed to land an agreement to form a government. The conservative Venustiano Carranza, who had been instrumental in the coup against Huerta in 1913 and had support from the USA, emerged triumphant from the chaos of the civil war, defeating the famous revolutionaries Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata along the way. With the signing of the Constitution of 1917, the situation would stabilize for some time. Following the signing of the Constitution and up to 1920, clean-up operations were carried out and agrarian revolutionary leaders were assassinated or imprisoned. The general atmosphere of turmoil and uncertainty benefited radical ideas and banditry alike. The ten years of continuous warfare would leave between 1 and 2 million dead Mexicans, including military and civilian deaths.

The Steps Towards Tank Production

Mexico had never been a major arms producer and had always had to depend on foreign imports for any major military operation. The constant situation of warfare during the Revolutionary period exacerbated the need for armament. With this in mind, a pro-government group (Constitutionalists), under the orders of General Venustiano Carranza, led a project to build armament factories for home production in 1915. By 1917, the Escuela Militar de Aviación [Military Aviation School] and Talleres Nacionales de Construcción Aeronáutica (TNCA) [National Aircraft Construction Factories] were inaugurated in Mexico City.
TNCA had originated as a small repair workshop and spare part supplier for the equally small Mexican air-force but slowly increased in size with the introduction of heavy machinery imported from Europe. Eventually, it would even produce its own aircraft, including the TNCA A to H Series and a few licensed British and American aircraft.
At some point in between 1916 and 1917, Carranza’s nephew, the aviator Major Alberto Salinas Carranza, is attributed to having designed a tank which would receive the name ‘TNCA Salinas’ – TNCA after the factory where it was built and Salinas in honor of its designer – although the tank is more commonly known as ‘Tanque Salinas’ (Salinas’ tank).
What ideas were behind the need for this tank are unknown. By 1917, the civil war and consolidation of power by Carranza were all but complete. One must also consider that unlike the Great War in (mostly Western) Europe, warfare in Mexico had not been limited to trenches. In the vast plains and deserts in the center and north, horses and mounted mobile warfare was still important, whilst in the jungles of the south, guerrilla warfare was favored. Tank technology at the time was not advanced enough for tanks to cover these large distances and to fight in this typically mobile warfare. The tank would have been more suited to the multiple urban combats that occurred during the Revolution and to put down uprisings within cities or towns.
Tanks were a new phenomenon and states around the world did not want to be left lagging behind in adopting this technology. Mexico would not be left either, and within an atmosphere of war favoring technological innovations, eager and adept engineers like Salinas could have been free to develop their ideas.

The TNCA Salinas next to its presumed designer, Major Alberto Salinas Carranza. The five-barrel revolving cannon can be appreciated in this photo. The vehicle is probably perched on some sort of stand. The rollers for the track are visible as are the spaces for the track tensioners although no track is fitted. Photo: SOURCE

Design

Externally, the tank resembles the early British rhomboid tanks (such as the Mk. I) which had tracks on each side surrounding the hull and covered the entire length of the machine. Its main gun position, however, owes more to the contemporary French design of the St. Chamond.
On each side, there were sponsons to carry the secondary armament consisting of a machine-gun on each side (unlike the British tanks where the main armament would be on the sponsons). The sponsons, unlike the large square British ones, were curved and shaped like a British pillar-box. Also, unlike the British detachable sponsons, these seem fixed to the side. Atop the tank, there was a large box-like cabin – similar to those on the Mk.V (and other later rhomboid tanks) – for the driver and commander.
It seems from photographic evidence that in front of the sponsons there were doors for crew access on each side, which, in combat, would have been quite a design flaw as: a) the machine-guns would not be able to fire forward if the door was in use; and b) crewmen would be vulnerable when exiting the tank in middle of combat if the door was facing forward.
Armor details are not described, but given that the vehicle is estimated to be around 7 meters in length and 20 tons in weight and a similar vehicle, the Mk.I’s 7.9 meters and 27-29 tons with 6-15mm in armor, the armor of the TNCA Salinas can be approximated to 6-12mm. This armor was riveted, and from the photos, it seems it was constructed onto an internal frame.

Armament

The front upper hull had a large square through which the gun was fired. It seems the gun was not fitted into the hull but rather mounted internally and the gun’s original gun shield was used for interior protection. Some sources state a 47mm Hotchkiss revolver cannon consisting of five barrels as the main armament, but this may well be a typo. It is documented that at the time of the Mexican Revolution there were Hotchkiss 37mm Revolving Cannons, also with 5 barrels, but there is not mention of a 47mm variant, and the description provided matches that of the 37mm. A typo between a 3 and a 4 is easy to make and with time, this typo has come to be accepted as a fact.
Martínez Hernández et al., probably the most reputable source on the tank, state that it was, in fact, the 37mm version, which could have been found on board the battleship Ignacio Zaragoza. This gun was accurate and had a quick reload time, but had its drawbacks, including the fact that it did not have a long range and that it was quite heavy as it was mainly intended to be used on ships or coastal defense (though it was used as field artillery during the war), not early tanks. Each round weighed around 1.1kg and that the gun with a muzzle velocity of 455 m/s. Firing a solid AP shot this gun could perforate 45mm of steel at close ranges.
Some sources mention that an unspecified 75mm gun, though it could be the Mexican variant of the 75mm St. Chamond field gun known as the Mondragón-St. Chamond, was also tested, but there is no conclusive evidence of this. The caliber or make of the side machine-guns is not known.

A Hotchkiss 37mm Revolving Cannon at Fort Copacabana, Brazil. Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Illustration of the Salinas Tank modeled by Mr. C. Ryan, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Inside the Tank

Inside there would be a crew of between 6 and 8. A commander, a driver, two to three crew members to operate the main gun in the front and two machine-gunners (one on each side). The potential eighth crew member is unspecified but could have been an engineer.
Details concerning the engine differ, but what is assumed is that it would have been a diesel engine of around 90-100hp. The 6 cylinder Aztatl 80 hp – the first Mexican indigenous airplane engine – could have, according to all available sources consulted, been used, as it was first produced in 1917. Alternatively, at this time in Mexico, there were Hispano-Suiza 150hp, Wright 60hp, and Renault ~60hp engines for aircraft which could also have been used. However, it could make more sense to think that the tank would have used some sort of truck engine, which would have been much more readily available and in less demand than the latest type of aircraft engine. It is worth mentioning though that TNCA was a company involved in aircraft parts production and as such, could have used an aircraft engine which would have been available at the time.
On the other hand, Martínez Hernández et al. doubt that the tank had an engine at all. In the few available images of the vehicle, there are no obvious signs that it ever moved under its own power, so it could well be that whatever engine was desired was never actually fitted.

Side-view of the TNCA Salinas in which its postbox-like sponsons can be appreciated. The identity of the man posing with the tank is unknown. Photo: SOURCE

Short Operational History and Demise

It is unknown if any additional vehicles to the prototype were produced in series, but it is highly unlikely. There is also very little information regarding what happened to the tank.
Speculation exists within the sources that the tank could have been deployed in combat twice, though this is highly unlikely. The first supposed use would be in some period between 1919 and 1921, during the last stages of the Mexican Revolution, and the second in 1926 in putting down the Catholic clerical rebels during the Cristero War (1926-29). As previously stated, there is no supporting evidence of this, so, for now, these will be left as conjecture.
The company TNCA was eventually bought by Canadian Car and Foundry, but before then the company was on a spiral decline due to lack of government investment and a preference for foreign aircraft. The ‘Tanque Salinas’ would end its operational life sometime during the 1930’s when it was converted into a guardhouse or checkpoint outside the air base at Balbuena, near Mexico City, not too far from where the tank was originally built. The main gun was removed and from photographic evidence.
It is unknown what happened to the tank after this, but it was most likely scrapped at some point. Mexico would not have any other tanks until the nine Marmon-Herrington CTVL tanks acquired from the USA in 1938.

The Tanque Salinas presumably at the Balbuena air base lacking its main armament. In this picture, it can be perfectly appreciated that the gun was not affixed to the frontal plate but rather mounted internally and protected on the inside only with its gun shield. The open space seen through the gun opening would have been the open right-hand-side door. Photo: SOURCE

Conclusion

Although the TNCA Salinas was never going to blaze the trail for a new tank concept, but it was an important milestone in the history of tank design by being the first tank designed and built outside Europe. Unfortunately, not much is known about the tank and there is very little scholarly work on the history or development of the vehicle, which is unfair given its importance, meaning that it deserves a better legacy.
Its design proved that the Mexican engineers and elites were not only aware of events happening in Europe but were able to adopt various different ideas (a rhomboid design and forward facing main gun not mounted on sponsons) into one suited to their own purposes. That said, it is unknown how well, if at all, Tanque Salinas worked, and it was most likely never used in combat or even in training operations.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) Est. 7 x 3 x 2 m (22.96 x 9.84 x 6.56 ft)
Total weight Est. Around 20 tons
Crew 6-8 (Commander, Driver, 2-3 Gunners, Two Machine-Gunners, possibly 1 Engineer)
Propulsion 6-Cylinder Aztatl 80 hp
Armament Naval 37mm Hotchkiss revolver cannon
2 x machine-guns
Armament Female Tank 4x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Vickers water-cooled machine guns
1x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine gun
Armor 6-12mm (0.24 – 0.47 in)
Total Production 1

Links & Resources

Anon., Gral. Div. P.A. Alberto Leopoldo Salinas Carranza (2011). (LINK) [accessed on 30/08/18] Anon., The Hotchkiss 37mm Revolving Cannon (2010). (LINK)
‘Coldown’, El primer tanque de Latinoamérica (2016). (LINK) [accessed on 29/08/18] David Cummings, TNCA Salinas (Tanque Salinas), Mexico’s First Indigenous Tank (2013). (LINK) [accessed on 29/08/18] Samuel Banda, TNCA Salinas: El primer tanque mexicano (2012). (LINK) [accessed on 29/08/18] ‘Tlileztly’, TNCA Salinas “Tanque Mexicano inicios del siglo XX (2017). (LINK) [accessed on 29/08/18] Mario Alejandro Martínez Hernández (ed), Sentinel Dossier 1 El mundo de las fuerzas armadas mexicanas (Marzo 2016)
Philip Jowett and Alejandro de Quesada, Osprey Elite #137 The Mexican Revolution 1910-20 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2008)

9 replies on “TNCA Salinas”

The side machine guns on the Mexican TNCA Salinas would probably have been 7mm Hotchkiss guns, as these were common in Mexico at the time.

This article has been wrongly captioned “United Kingdom”. Is it meant to be “United Mexican States”, Mexico’s official name? Apart from that, a splendid account.

the photo in the balbuena camp its a second tank not the same size guns and diferent sides check the photo

EL TANQUE TNCA SALINAS
Por: Marco A. Gonzalez Galindo. Colegio de Investigaciones Históricas del Sureste de Coahuila
Alberto Salinas Carranza, en ese entonces Coronel Piloto Aviador, del Arma Aérea del Ejército Constitucionalista, creada el 5 de febrero de 1915, con la ayuda de los ingenieros Juan Guillermo Villasana y Francisco Santarini , que de hecho eran los diseñadores de motores y aviones, así como con el equipo que se desempeñaba en esa labor como dibujantes , proyectistas, modelistas, torneros , forjadores, lograron en muy poco tiempo el diseño y el prototipo de un tanque de guerra de tipo pesado, en 1917, el cual fue construido en los Talleres Nacionales de Construcciones Aeronáuticas (TNCA), en Balbuena, Ciudad , estos talleres estaban bien equipados con modernas máquinas y herramientas, talleres de foja y de fundición, porque allí se producían aviones y motores para los mismos a pequeña escala por lo cual se le denomino TNCA Salinas o Tanque Salinas.
La construcción de este prototipo fue sin duda una proeza, por el tiempo de desarrollo y la innovación que este aparato representaba, ya que no se contaba con la experiencia en la construcción de este tipo de armas inclusive a nivel mundial, apenas hacían su aparición los primeros ejemplares de esta arma
Fue tomando como referencia el tanque británico del tipo romboidal, la verdad es que no había más referencia hasta los posteriores tanques franceses como el FT 17 , el carro de asalto Saint Chamond y el Schneider CA-1, entró apenas en servicio en agosto de 1916 tenía un bajo centro de gravedad y largas orugas, denominado Mark I, toda una novedad en el campo de batalla, creado para el combate en el frente occidental, durante la Primera Guerra Mundial, pero las batallas que se libraban en Europa tenían otra concepción táctica ,eran para lucha en frentes relativamente cercanos de así que los tanques eran usados para ruptura y cobertura de la infantería , rodaban en terrenos muy erosionados por los cráteres producidos por las explosiones de artillería y de minas, además por un sofisticado sistema de trincheras y alambras, la lucha en México, era muy distinta ocupaba grandes espacios y dejaba por lo mismo grandes vacíos, como no había una doctrina táctica, se combatía con los criterios de los diferentes mandos que no eran heterogéneos, por lo que era difícil predecir el donde y cuando se presentaba el combate, eran comúnmente golpes de mano, además se luchaba con el arma principal , la caballería y la infantería trasportada en ferrocarril , lo que la hacía una guerra de movimientos y que no presentaban muchos puntos fortificados estables, de haber entrado en combate se hubiera enfrentado al formidable cañón Mondragón Saint Chamond QF (Quick Fire o de Tiro Rápido), de 75 milímetros con una respetable velocidad de salida del proyectil de 570 metros por segundo, que en teoría hubiese dado cuenta de este tanque, este cañón lo poseían las diversas facciones en lucha.
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Dibujo: Marco A. Gonzalez Galindo
Tanque TNCA Salinas
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Las descripciones detalladas y dibujos del diseño y la construcción de esta máquina nunca fueron publicadas, pero lo más probable es que hayan sido destruidas, solo sobreviven tres fotos que dan una idea del tanque
El diseño era diferente al Mark I sin embargo, la estructura del tanque era compuesto de placas de acero utilizando remache caliente, bajo el proceso de ribeteado que se adosaban a una estructura o bastidor, semejante al Mark I, la característica principal fue la instalación de un cañón marino Hotchkiss de tubos múltiples de 47 mm se instalado en una placa sobre el blindaje frontal, con el fin de cubrir al cañón y a sus sirvientes, este cañón era muy preciso a cortas distancias , sin embargo esa ventaja no se aprovecha por la posición del cañón, que no podía deprimirse y apuntar a blancos más cercanos, él volumen de fuego era muy elevado, característico del sistema Galting, la desventaja del arma era su peso, ya que el cañón se instaló con el pesado pedestal directamente al piso del vehículo, llegando a los 580 kg. , pero el cañón basculaba en su pedestal y no en un mantelete frontal que hubiese tenido más complicaciones de montaje, una idea genial y rápida para la instalación del cañón.
Se usó un chasis con su tren de rodamiento basada en rodillos, con las cuatro ruedas exteriores con tensores de cadena, era de tracción trasera, por lo que el motor iba en la parte trasera así como su trasmisión. La cadena u oruga de la pista, tenía zapatas de acero, del tipo del posterior carro de combate francés Char Bis Renault, al parecer se apoyaba en los carriles guía metálicos laterales, los rodillos no tenían ranura que permitiera usar una oruga dentada al centro que le sirviera de guía, lo que significaba que solo podía desplazarse a muy baja velocidad, y sería el eterno problema de que se zafaran las orugas a los pocos kilómetros de marcha.
Cañón Hotchkiss de 47 mm, de tubos múltiples ( 5 tubos), montado en un pedestal de combate
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Carro Mark IV Tipo romboidal del Ejercito Británico
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Carro británico Mark VI
Vista del Tanque
El Cap. Alberto Leopoldo Salinas Carranza, posa orgulloso junto al tanque TNCA Salinas ya completo a excepción de las orugas le dan una semejanza con el Mark IV Británico
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Tenía dos semi torretas o barbetes que sobresalían en los flancos, tales como en los tanques británicos llamados femeninos Mark, pero en este caso estaban armados con ametralladoras Hotchkiss de 7 mm., a diferencia del británico de giro limitado, podían cubrir 180 grados de visual horizontal.
DIBUJO: Marco A. Gonzalez Galindo
Ametralladora Hotchkiss de 7 milímetros
En el techo del chasis se colocó una cabina masiva en forma de caja, con techo a dos aguas donde había espacio para el conductor y el comandante del vehículo, la tripulación del vehículo eran entre 6 y 7 combatientes.
La única manera de explicar la rápida puesta en punto de este tanque , es que se echaron mano de elementos ya fabricados, y los adaptaron rápidamente, como el caso del cañón, no siendo raro que el tanque pudiera estar equipado con un motor de gasolina de capacidad de 90 a 100 hp que bien pudo haber sido el motor de avión de seis cilindros Azatatl de los primeros motores fabricados en TNCA , este era de tipo radial ,enfriado por aire, adaptado para tal fin y la transmisión manual, que tampoco hay ninguna especificación de la misma pero tendría que ser de embragues múltiples y conectarse a diferenciales especiales para poder realizar lo giros del carro, o probablemente se usaran aros dentados y cadenas, para hacer los cambios de velocidad que serían de dos a tres básicas de marcha adelante y al menos uno de reversa que la daría una velocidad aproximada al andar rápido de una persona, entre 8 o 10 kilómetros por hora, lo cual era lo típico de estos primeros vehículos que eran utilizados principalmente para el acompañamiento de la infantería.
Curiosamente se utilizo supuestamente un motor de avión para el tanque Salinas , en tanto que el motor Ricardo del tanque Mark se utilizó modificado por supuesto como motor de avión el celebre Liberty.
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Motor de avión Azatatl de 6 cilindros, probablemente usado en el tanque Salinas
No hay datos técnicos al respecto, como el grosor del blindaje, aunque si se hace una similitud en peso y tamaño con el Mark IV cuyo blindaje era de 6 a 12 milímetros se puede deducir que al menos su blindaje era de unos 6 milímetros, se desconoce su capacidad para vadeo y cruce de obstáculos, sus dimensiones eran: longitud 7 m. ancho 2 m, altura 3 m.
El tanque entraba en la categoría de tanque pesado, ya que llegaba a las 20 toneladas, más ligero que sus contemporáneos Mark británicos, el llamado Macho (Male) pesaba 28.4 ton., y la Hembra (Femalela) 27.4 ton., la diferencia de peso, estribaba en el armamento. La clasificación se empieza a dar por la aparición de los tanques francesa FT 17 que eran muy modernos ya que su torreta giraba a 360° pero eran del orden de unas 6.5 ton., catalogándose como ligeros.
Se desconoce cuántos ejemplares se fabricaron, y si alguna vez entro en servicio aunque algunas fuentes sugieren que el número de “Tanque Salinas” podría ser más de uno, sin embargo, teniendo en cuenta la difícil situación económica del país es difícil de creerlo.
También se dice que tomó parte en batallas con los rebeldes en la etapa final de la revolución en 1921-1922. Pero a la caída del Presidente Carranza, todo lo que oliera a él era destruido
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En esta foto se distingue una de las dos semi torretas laterales o barbetes, armadas con una ametralladora Hotchkiss , de 7 milímetros , el cañón revolver de cinco tubos de 47 mm , sus orugas y los tensores de las orugas
En sus últimos años sirvió como caseta de vigilancia a la entrada de la base aérea de Balbuena
entre los años 20’s y 30’s, ya totalmente desarmado
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El “Tanque Salinas” fue puesto fuera de servicio y se envió a la base de la Fuerza Aérea en Balbuena (es posible que el tanque nunca haya salido de su territorio), donde se quedó estacionado sirviendo como caseta de vigilancia hasta su destrucción, después de la compra en 1930, de una partida de tanquetas Marmon-Herrington, lamentablemente este único ejemplar termino en la chatarra.
FOTO: Jedsite
Tanqueta Marmon-Herrington CTVL modelo comprado por México, en sustitución
del TCNA Salinas México
La configuración romboidal, fue utilizada por el Car B francés, y en la segunda Guerra mundial por el tanque Churchill, las principales desventajas de esa configuración, era su gran perfil expuesto a la artillería enemiga, su baja velocidad , el acelerado desgaste de su tren de rodamiento, aunque ofrecía por el contrario una plataforma estable para el cañón y una excepcional capacidad de trepada, aun así estas ventajas no favorecían al diseño por lo que para ese tiempo ya estaba superada por configuraciones más modernas y prácticas.
Aunque se intentó compara tanques a Gran Bretaña, esta no estaba en posibilidades de vender armamento por estar bastante comprometida en la Gran Guerra, por lo que México se vio en la necesidad de crear las propias, el diseño y la construcción del Tanque Salinas significo un alarde de ingeniería y diseño, demostrando capacidad e inventiva, que en aquel tiempo no había muchos referentes, y muchas cosas se hacían a prueba y error, quedando entre los primeros países que construían tanques de guerra, así como motores y aviones de combate.
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Alberto Leopoldo Salinas Carranza
Referencias
AVIAMOR http://www.aviarmor.net/tww2/tanks/mexico/salinas.htm
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanque_Salinas
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotchkiss_gun
“TNCA Salinas: El primer tanque mexicano.” Dr Samuel Banda ¿cómo sería el mundo si no hubiera preguntas hipotéticas?. N.p., 26 Jan 2012. Web. 13 Oct 2013. . “Talleres Nacionales de Construcciones Aeronáuticas.”Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 3 Oct 2013. Web. 13 Oct 2013. .
Faltan los dibujos sobre el tanque Salinas que realice

They should do more articles about Mexican armor. The Mexican Army does actually have quite a history with producing tanks and APCs. For example, it would be really cool if they did an article on the Sedena-Henschel HWK 11, Which was a joint West German-Mexican project in the 1960s to build a armored fighting vehicle platform for the Mexican Army. There where numerous variations drawn up including the HWK 12, a light tank/tank destroyer variant similar to the Sp Pz 1C. However, the only vehicle actually was produced and pressed into service was the HWK 11 basic apc configuration. They overwent numerous upgrades into the 1980s with the last variant being a semi IFV with a turret. There was also a prototype fitted with a Hispano Suzia F1 turret. Unfortunately, The Mexican government abandoned the project after ~50 units where put into service. They apparently remain operational today and are supposedly being used against drug cartels. There was supposedly also the HWK 30 which was a proposed light tank made by Germany as a development of the Ru 251 to be exported to Mexico. There where also some other vehicle prototypes I’ve heard about that where tested in the 80s but never got past evaluation. Mexican armor history is small but is something that is very ignored and It would definitely be an interesting topic to discuss.

Hi Otto,

Yes, in the future there will be more articles on Mexican armour, though fopr now that may be a while away.

Thanks
Gareth (author)

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