Tank Scratchbuild: The Schneider FA

With lessons learned from the Schneider CA and the Renault FT, the Schneider FA was developed in 1926 as a heavy breakthrough and infantry support tank. It was designed to counter FCM's formidable Char 2C, the heaviest tank deployed by the National Front and the Paris Guard, as well as any vehicle that might emerge from Italy or (in theory) the Free People's State of Württemberg.

The origin of the letters "FA" is uncertain, but they are probably a model code. Some sources suggest they stand for "Fourmi d'Assaut", after the tank's supposedly ant-like silhouette.

The Schneider FA's thick frontal armour, three-man turret, and high-velocity gun made it the terror of any battlefield it could reach.

The Schneider FA is shown here next to a Renault FT (also known as the FT-17).

Note that all models in this post are in subassemblies for painting, which is why they have armour gaps, wonky alignment, etc.

Mass: ?
Length (hull): 29'
Width: 16'
Height: 14.5'
Crew: 6 (Commander, gunner, two loaders, driver, backup driver/radio operator/machine gun operator).

Armour: 4" maximum on the front hull.
Main Armament: 1x 8.8cm high velocity gun (modified, under license from Krupp).
Secondary Armament: Two Reibel machine guns (one coaxial, one in a ball mount in the hull) and one pintle-mounted Hotchkiss machine gun.

Engine: 6 cylinder marine diesel.
Suspension: caterpillar sway bar.
Top Speed: 8 mph (allegedly).

The 8.8cm high-velocity gun mounted in the turret was originally believed to be a copy (possibly based on stolen plans) of a Krupp weapon. In 1928, National Front newspapers reported that the design had been licensed (and paid for), and that Schieder had purchased several guns outright, possibly through the intervention of Basil Zaharoff.

(It's definitely anachronistic to have a Pak 43/3) on a vehicle that's ostensibly from the 1920s, but I had the kit available.)

The turret basket allows the commander to stand at full height and see out the cupola prisms and rangefinder periscope.  The commander can also mount a folding step to stand or sit inside the cupola, or open the spring-assisted hatch. The cupola can be manually rotated.

The turret itself can be manually or electrically rotated, from both the gunner and the loader's position. The gunner has a seat with a top-mounted periscope and a mantlet-mounted sight. The loader does not have a seat.

The shelves at the rear of the fighting compartment contains batteries, Hotchkiss machine gun ammo, spare rounds for the 8.8cm main gun, the fire suppression system, and general stowage. The driver of this Schneider FA has stowed a typewriter and some canned goods next to their position (front left). The backup driver has the radio set (front right).

The tank has dual controls, with the radio operator's controls able to be locked out of the way when not in use.

There is plenty of space below the turret basket for the secondary loader, who scuttles around, passing shells into the turret when the tank is in action. The fighting compartment has an escape hatch in the floor.

Crew of 6. From left to right: commander (binoculars pending), loader, backup driver, backup loader, gunner, and driver.

Hats and overalls were sculpted (badly) to match interwar French designs.

The Schneider FA has front-facing hatch with a vision prism. The hatch is a single cast piece, as thick as the front armour, and has spring-assisted hinges and a geared jack to hold it open. It provides good forward visibility, but the tank relies on the commander for all-round awareness.

Schneider built custom sixteen-wheel tank overland transport wagons for the FA, but these could only be used on high-quality roads. For long-distance travel by road or rail, the drive wheel and suspension assemblies could be removed (without removing the track), enabling the 10' wide hull to be transported by rail. Reassembling the vehicle took several hours, but could (Schieder claimed) be accomplished without specialized equipment. The FA was usually supported by a pair of heavy trucks (usually American surplus Mack ACs).


  • The driver's visibility was very poor. The driver could not have a top hatch or even a periscope due to the turret mantlet design. The heavy armoured hatch had a nasty habit of slamming shut if the jack was not carefully locked, which could crush a wayward limb or stun the driver. The hatch was designed to remain in place even if the hinges are damaged, which was some comfort.
  • The top speed was, allegedly, 8mph with a following wind, but 5mph was far more likely.
  • The commander's cupola was designed to be large enough to contain two crew members (to facilitate the passing of ammo for the Hotchkiss gun). While this made the space very comfortable for the commander, it meant rotating the cupola took considerable effort. The hatch also had a geared jack and spring system.
  • The electric turret traverse system was reliable, but painfully slow.
  • The caterpillar suspension provided a very rough ride. The tank had to stop to fire its main gun with any accuracy.
  • The turret was not particularly well balanced, and only contained eight shells in a ready rack behind and below the loader. With a well-trained secondary loader, the tank could still achieve a reasonable fire rate.  
  • The length of the linkages between the transmission and the driver meant changing gear required a great deal of effort. Luckily, in most situations, rapid gear changes were not required.


  • The tank's height, though a liability in some respects, gave the commander an unparalleled view of the battlefield. The main gun's elevation and depression were also exceptional.
  • The radio, once insulated from the tank's rattling, was very reliable, if limited in range. The internal communication system allowed for excellent crew coordination.
  • The main gun was sensibly feared. Reports of an armour-piercing round passing straight through a Char 2C "from prow to stern" or reducing a Renault FT to "fragments and dust" were typical.
  • The design of the tank emphasized reliability and simplicity. The rear had large hatches for engine access, and the large turret doors meant the gun could be removed on rails and replaced with ease. A simple field workshop could complete all but the most intensive repairs.
  • The hull was waterproof and gasproof. With its high body, the tank could easily ford streams up to 6' deep. The vehicle had excellent, possibly excessive, ground clearance.
  • Excellent temperature control. Hot water from the main radiator could be diverted into a radiator pipe in the fighting compartment. Electric fans could pull cool air into the fighting compartment from the rear.
  • The large armoured fuel tanks (2x 550L, to the left and right of the radiator) could be supplemented by additional external fuel drums. The tank could even be refuelled on the move, provided the refuelling vehicle had a pump and a hose.

To Do

  • Reposition the current tools (as they'll be knocked off when the tank goes over bumps).
  • Add the rest of the radiator louvres.
  • Add stowage, lights, a horn, exhausts, air intakes, tow hooks, etc.
  • Add a side hatch to empty the dust collectors.
  • Add a springloaded trench rail under the engine compartment.
  • Add bolts, rivets, etc.
  • More stowage.

Kit List

  • Treads, chassis, engine: 1/25 Caterpillar DH8 kit from AMT.
  • Interior details and gun: 1/35 Jadgpanther Interior kit from RFM. Great for greebling and scratchbuilding, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • Turret, turret ring: 1/16 Renault FT kit from Takom.
  • Crew: Leftover figures from the bits box. I think they're from a 1/35 scale Karl-Gerät kit by Trumpeter.

I made the cast armour texture using Tamiya putty, thin modelling cement, and a paintbrush. Rolled armour texture used a similar method, but with a lighter coat, streaking, and some sanding.

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