Bizarre armor projects of the '40s. Tanks from Atlantis
Ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote about a grand and powerful kingdom whose inhabitans were descendants of the God of the sea, Poseidon. This kingdom was located to the west of the Pillars of Hercules’ strait (TN: Gibraltar), on the big island of Atlantis. The Atlantians tried to conquer Greece, but Athens’ warriors crushed them, and after that, a huge earthquake followed by a flood happened which sunk Atlantis. The fantasy writers of the 19th-20th centuries developed the thought that not only the Atlantians survived, but also built an advanced civilization underwater.
If this would be true and in the middle of the last century, an army of Atlantians ascended from the ocean ashore, what would their technology look like? This opens a vast scope for fantasy. But if you take some projects by Soviet wartime inventors and study them, it could appear that they were drawn in Atlantis itself.
Botvinko’s “Flittering amphibian”
In February 1943 a project arrived at the State Defense Commitee of the USSR by engineer Botvinko. He proposed to create a “Amphibious destroyer tank”. His idea was unlike anything seen before, judging by the author’s descriptions: “Speed – in a wide range of up to 500-600 km/h. Movement method – flittering and detachment from the ground. Terrain passability – through deep snow, swamp, water…”
Although Botvinko admittedly did not know well enough about jet propulsion, he proposed an outstanding idea by equipping a tank with jet nozzles with electrical ignition. They should be attached to a streamlined body of light metal (the author probably meant aluminium). The armor was placed on all of the tank except the front, where Botvinko installed a windshield with reinforced bars. Additional protection was provided by a shield which was to be lowered during battle. The inventor also provided a periscope.
“At the front and rear of the body, spherical wheels are to be placed which support the apparatus in every position” – Botvinko wrote, continuing his description of his invention’s movement. The body was encircled by nozzles whose jets should lift it from the ground. “The change of direction is provided by slight rotation of the nozzles” – the engineer informed. Braking was also to be handled by jets.
The driver had to turn single nozzles on and off to ensure controllability of the vehicle. Speed was regulated by disabling fuel flow to the engines. Among other devices in the design of the “Amphibious destroyer tank” were also an altimeter and compass, which made the task of steering the vehicle quite difficult.

The crew consisted of two people: besides the driver, a gunner was needed. Provided to them was a cabin of an egg-shaped cross-section rotating along the longtitudinal axis of the apparatus. Taking the proposed armament into account, the gunners’ task was also far from easy: a tank gun and a machinegun, and also torpedo launchers. The projected length was 8m and the diamater – 2.5m.
Botvinko’s project resembled less of a tank and more of a submarine or spaceship. “If there are no fitting constructions for such a proposal, I am able to develop new ones suitable for this goal” – the inventor assured.
The text was given for reception to engineer-major Sorkin, who answered that the vehicle was not thought through and not even elementary calculations are provided. The author did not specify the purpose and tactical usage of his “Amphibious destroyer tank”. Similarly, the purpose of such high velocities was unclear. The specialist even adressed a small jest to the inventor: “For what purpose would such a tank be flittering, weighing about 5-10 tonnes, and even at speeds of 500-600 km/h?…” All in all, the specialists decided that the project is not worth the attention.
Kirillov’s “Amphibious fast tank”
In April 1943 the “Amphibious fast tank” by engineer S.M. Kirillov from Kazan accompanied Botvinko’s invention. The address was supplemented by a stamp: “My gift to the heroic Red Army”. It provoked the interest of some specialists from the invention department.
“Burning with the desire to help our glorious Red Army in cleansing the great Soviet lands of fascist scum, I bring to your attention a new type of “Amphibious fast tank” of the construction K1 and K2, in short AFT-K1 and AFT-K2″ – the author wrote. He asked for help of the people’s commisariat of defense in creating drawings and a prototype of this new vehicle. He practically begged to adopt it into the Soviet navy.
The author’s persistence is explained by the unique features embedded into the AFT-K1: “The proposed tank is, in contrast to his existing counterparts, able to strike the enemy on land and water and has no weakpoints such as the tracks, which are replaced by armored screws”.
Kirillov designed a cigar-shaped body equipped on both sides with rotating screws. This made it similar to the concept of screw-propelled vehicles (TN: see also “Bizarre armor projects of the ’40s. Worm tanks”). Rotating in different directions, the screws should provide a stable position during movement. The middle part remained immobile and contained habitable room isolated from outside water. Inside, the equipment and crew were placed. The construction was crowned by a turret equipped with a high-calibre machinegun.
The other armament of the “Amphibious fast tank” reminds of Botvinko’s vehicle: tank gun and torpedoes. Their placement however was slightly more difficult: to house the gun, the inventor proposed to install it into the nose of the screws. Kirillov seems to have decided for them to be hollow.
The steering was provided by a rudder at the bottom of the body. Dimensions and technical charateristics of the AFT-K1 were ignored by the author. He only described the difference between the K1 and K2 models at the end of his letter: the blades of the K2’s screws were to be triangular to provide better rigidity. Kirillov very much hoped on an answer by the military on his idea. But the answer was either not provided or, which is more plausible, got lost.
Surprisingly, the authors of both projects were no amateurs, but engineers. But both their projects remained in the fantasy realm, as does Atlantis. The development of Soviet and foreign amphibious tanks took a different, more rational, direction.
Author – Yuri Bachurin
Source: ZAMO RF