Bizarre armor projects of the ’40s. Ramming tanks

Thanks to Vlad for another historical article.

With the appearance and development of artillery and firearms, the fighting distance where enemies engaged increased constantly. In the 19th century, some distances spanned a few kilometers already. New kinds of explosives were able to crush stone walls, and shells even penetrated steel armor.

In such conditions, ramming became archaic – as a device as well as a tactic. Even if the attack of an enemy by ramming was used, it was only as a last resort. This is confirmed by the example of the Great Patriotic War, where pilots and tanksmen rammed the enemies just because there were no other means to destroy them. Meanwhile, some inventors seriously thought about tanks designed for ramming. Below, three such projects are presented.

Rhinoceros tank

The first project looks like the most logical one. Complaining that a tank which engages in ramming receives damage itself, auto mechanic A.I. Kudryavzev proposed in February 1942 to create a special ramming tank. “Novelties will be: 1) the hull; 2) blinds to protect the air intakes; 3) wheels to transport the tank on railways” – he wrote.

The hull should be equipped with a protruding frontal section suitable for ramming. Kudryavzev noted that it is required to be made from cast steel. The chassis of the tank was protected by armored screens. Additionally, along the hull, angled ribs made of steel should be placed to reinforce the hull.

The blinds proposed by the author were simple armor sheets, between which air would flow. The point about movement on railroads was not disclosed by Kudryavzev: “The drawings of the chassis are not made by me… thus, I will not describe them”. Kudryavzev also provided armament for his machine: along with a 155mm howitzer, he proposed a 76mm gun and three machineguns.

The technical data of the ramming tank was as follows: with a mass of 100 tons and 9 meters of length, it would have 1/3 of that in width and height. The armor was 50mm on all sides, except for the front with the ramming device. The engine with a power of 2000hp would accelerate the vehicle up to 35km/h. The crew consisted of 7 men.

This project was distinct from many others in that it was quite moderate. Not wanting to invent a wholly new machine, the author wrote: “Other parts of the tank: engines, transmission etc., could be used from vehicles already in production”.

Ram on spokes

But the Muscovite Rybnikov thought otherwise, proposing his project in March 1943 to the people’s commissariat of defense, of his “Fast ram”. The description of his project fitted on a page of a notepad, and the drawing was made on a part of notepad paper. But even these simple sources are enough to evaluate the inventor’s thought.

“The tank uses wheels of huge diameter (3-4 meters) instead of tracks with long spokes with spurs” – Rybnikov wrote. It should be noted that the wheels were not equipped with rims. Instead, the author proposed to equip each spoke with a spring for smooth movement. The author explained: “Thanks to the usage of spokes instead of tracks, the vulnerability of the tank is decreased, since a hit to a spoke is unlikely and the destruction of a few spokes does not prevent the tank from moving”.

The purpose of the vehicle was formulated by Rybnikov as follows: “The tank can be used to ram enemy machines and infantry, appearing unexpectedly behind enemy lines…”. However, the vehicle didn’t seem to be equipped with a ramming device, or any other armament. Aside from the chassis, the author only drew an open platform for infantry. Maybe Rybnikov wanted to explain in a letter later on, but no other notes were recieved.

Litovchenko’s “Ramming destroyer”

But these two projects at least reminded tanks. The “ramming destroyer” proposed by P.A. Litovchenko in December 1942 seems like one of the most bizarre military projects of the 20th century.

This is confirmed by some lines of the introduction: “The proposed combat vehicle has no clear frontal areas, and specific movement by jumping in polylines creates conditions which render conventional methods of enemy fire ineffective”. The inventor promised perfect terrain passability for his “ramming destroyer”, a huge impact force (up to 452 tons!), universal attacking and defending capabilities. What kind of astonishing mechanism did the author invent?

Litovchenko took a construction pile driver as his base which hammers piles into the ground. In his imagination, the peacetime apparatus would become a weapon of retaliation. The author wrote: “The metallic ball is able to lift up and fall down, creating an impact and able to move in horizontal directions. The crew is sitting atop of it, steering this impact and striking the enemy object, thus destroying it”.

The description amounted to a whole heap of documents and became quite inconsistent. The point of the device was following: the base was a ramming ball. In the upper hemisphere of it, a diesel engine would be placed. The axis was a steel tube. “The transformation of heat caused by the engine” would propel the cylinder inside the tube. Due to inertia, the whole device would lift up. The horizontal movement would be provided by propellers on cabins connected to the tube. Realizing the danger for the crew, Litovchenko proposed to equip the cabins with springs. Finally, gyroscopes would provide stability.

The text didn’t even contain any technical characteristics. However, the drawings allow to imagine the scope of the inventor’s thought. The expert’s verdict on the project was short: “To the archives” on one of the drawings.

Author – Yuri Bachurin

Source: Central archive of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation (ZAMO RF)