Note: Many thanks to Wargaming's Cannoneer. Whom found several Russian sources on this subject, when English language sources failed me. Consequently I've had to translate the sources, and any errors are down to Google translate playing word soup with the source material.
In 1920, the Czech writer, Karel Čapek published a play that mentioned a new concept, that of the "Robot". Little did he know less than a decade later one of the worlds armies would be developing a robot tank. These robots actually saw combat in the opening days of the Second World War. Today we shall look at their brief combat history.
The boxes would send a radio signal to the TT-26 each time the button was pressed, each button corresponded to a set command. When the radio antenna, located behind bullet proof glass, on the TT-26 received a command it would cause a compressor to fill a balloon with air. Which in turn would move a lever, and so a series of simple pistons would carry out the command.
The TU-26 command tank was a normal T-26 tank, only with the additional control equipment fitted. So as well as controlling the Robot, the command tank could cover it with its 45mm gun. To protect the secret nature of the tank the command tank could destroy the TT-26 should it become damaged or be in danger of getting captured.
Teletanks were produced for three years from 1935 at factory 174 based in Leningrad. During that time only 33 sets (one TT-26 and one TU-26) were completed. Those tanks were formed into two battalions and an independent company. These were the 152nd and 217th Separate Chemical Tank Battalions. The 152nd took part in the Western Ukrainian campaign of September 1939, but was never used. Later it was stationed near Rovno, where it was bombed by the Germans during Operation Barbarossa.
During December 1939 the Soviets launched an attack on Finland. At Hill 65.5 the Russians ran into Bunker SJ-4, also known as Fort Poppiusa. Part of the Mannerheim line the fort was a complex of bunkers overlooking a valley, at one end of the valley the ground became very boggy, at the other was a lake. In this valley in a five day assault over 1800 Soviet soldiers were killed, and the Red Army soldiers began to call it the Valley of Death.
On December 17th the Teletanks were to be used as designed for the first time. The 1st company with three TT-26's was to scout the Finnish position. Hoping to draw enemy fire and give away the Finnish positions so they could be targeted. The tanks crunched across the thick snow towards the enemy hill. However that snow also camouflaged and covered a line of dragons teeth. All three TT-26's became beached upon the obstacles. Unable to move the Tanks opened fire with both flame-throwers and machine guns, hoping to goad the defenders into giving their locations away. The Finns failed to take the bait. That evening two of the TT-26's were recovered, the other one was stuck fast and couldn't be recovered.
Earlier in February the OKMO plant in Leningrad, had unveiled the next generation of Teletanks. It was an officially produced "bomb". The armour had been reinforced with an additional 50mm, and it had a detachable container with a 700Kg explosive charge. The first of these arrived in Finland on the 28th of February, even so it didn't see service. It was tested against Finnish bunkers after the Soviet breakthrough. In one test the charge blasted apart five of the sturdy dragons teeth. In the next test against Fort Poppiusa, the charge destroyed the bunker.
The story of the 217th Battalion isn't quite over yet. As the Germans approached Moscow in late 1941, the battalion had been brought back up to full strength. There was no need for remote controlled tanks for attacking heavily defended lines in the new Blitzkrieg war. So the special equipment was replaced by 45mm guns, and the tanks manned with crews. The TT-26's fought their last battle as normal T-26 tanks defending the Russian capital.