Bizarre armor projects of the '40s. Harvesters of death

Time for a new historical article translated by Vlad.
The inventors of the last century boldly pushed the borders of possibilities farther and farther. They were not frightened by the fact that their projects probably would remain in history as sketches and drawings. You just can’t combine thick armor with high speed or – to add more guns – place more turrets of laughable size on the tank. Many projects landed in a technological deadlock because of this.
Buchinskij’s tank “beyond borders”
S.E. Buchinskij, an engineer of around 27 years, was working in the machine-building industry and obtained the rank of captain. In September 1939 he was placed into the task of chief of automotive-tank services in the Mogilev-Yampolsky fortified area. After servicing for 11 months, Buchinskij got inspired to a technical creation of unseen dimensions. In May 1940, a package with the results of his work arrived on the table of the people’s commisariat of Defense chief S.K. Timoshenko.
The inventor completed the work of a whole project organization alone. He didn’t just describe but also drew a whole bunch of armament and vehicles: from an armored Maxim machinegun to an armored train, and also a tank. He wrote: “…I find the creation of such type of heavy tank necessary, which has a multitude of weapons, a strong invulnerable armor and whose big dimensions would not prevent it from crossing difficult terrain”.
Buchinskij didn’t withhold on firepower – it consisted of seven 45mm anti-tank guns mod. 1937, an anti-aircraft gun, six Maxim machineguns, 4 Degtyarev machineguns and even a flamethrower!
A solid base for the impressive arsenal! The engineer also took care of that. “The body represents a rectangle with missing parts on the sides, a bit wider that the width of the tracks. Such form of the body allows a favorable placement of combat compartments, ammunition, and the emplacement of an electric device”. One turret should be at the front and rear, a third in the middle, on top of which a anti-air turret was placed. The whole length of the tank was to be about 16m, width – 4.2m, height – 5.7m with an overall mass of 110 tonnes.
Buchinskij invented a composite turret for his tank long before it was implemented in reality. “The body it thought to be built of layered armor / main armor thickness of 20mm on all sides / layer of rubber and cork and then layer of armor with 10mm thickness. Frontal armor has a thickness of 60mm” – he wrote. The machine would be moved by a diesel engine paired with a DC generator. Maximum speed was assumed to be 25km/h.
The crew had to consist of 30 people. The driver was lucky because he had a separate compartment in the front part of the tank, the rest had to crowd themselves somewhere in the tank, which the engineer did not specify.
Combine of death
Was the “armor visionary” I.M. Pletnyov a technical specialist? Probably not. But the desire to help the home country was honest and burning hot. He wrote: “The fascist scum hadn’t had nuff’ fire, it seems… I propose to turn a tank into a armored death combine!” (sic).
The concept reminded of a bridge-laying tank; however, the beams should hold turrets with guns. The beams (called “platforms”) should be able to rotate by 360° horizontally along the body. It is not accidental that one of the drawings shows them in a position similar to a butterfly knife.
During marches these platforms were to be folded on the back of the tank. In combat, the tank would instantly unfold its deadly wings and rain fire on the enemy. But even with folded beams, the tank could provide fire in a circular arc due to the placement of the turrets: “Considering the position of the turrets, they are made to be in order of a chess board” – Pletnyov wrote. (TN: alternating diagonally, like chess board squares).
The inventor also provided some modifications of the “armored death combine”. Maybe Pletnyov considered the realization of his idea and decided to ease it. The next drawing was titled “tank with armored shields”. This time, on the back of the tank two axes connected with ropes to a third one residing at the back of the tank. Attached to them were gigantic armor sheets with turning angles of 90°. All in all the construction resembled a kind of snowplow. Pletnyov provided embrasures, again in chess board order. Their designation was as follows: “During attacks the soldiers will provide fire from behind the armor screens”.
Finally, another modification variant was, again, very exotic. Instead of the armor sheets, Pletnyov proposed to install two brackets on the beams resembling crane beams, on which machine gun emplacements were located: “Entering battle, the emplacements will begin fire to the sides and down, shooting at tanks and trenches of the enemy”. The author even thought that the machine gunners could throw grenades and insisted on a telephone communication with the commander.
The descriptions of every variant were accompanied by colored drawings made by the inventor. However any technical details are missing – he did not delve into and probably didn’t even understand them. The reaction of the GABTU is unknown, but not hard to imagine.
There are many ways to bestride the borders of the imagination. Many of them are not implementable, but when there are no fantasies, there are no real technological breakthroughs. That’s all you can say about the vehicles presented above.
Author – Yuri Bachurin
Sources: ZAMO RF