Sunday 6 December 2015

World of Tanks Armoured Fantasy: The Universal Fighting Machine

Military Engineer A.I. Pavlov never considered himself a cocky man. In his letter submitted along with his project in 1943, he wrote "Perfection of form, quality, and technical capability was never achieved by the first designer." His invention had a grandiose purpose: a vehicle that could perform a wide variety of tasks and, in his opinion, replace a large amount of land vehicles.

Compartment by compartment

"The UVM-1 is shaped like a train, which allows it to cross wide trenches, up to 9 meters", Pavlov wrote. The hull of the vehicle consisted of seven cars, connected by hollow armoured segments. There were hatches inside the segments that allowed crewmen to walk between them. The joints were flexible enough to allow the UVM-1 to traverse very bumpy terrain. In order to save on the vehicle's resources, it could be disassembled and transported by rail in pieces.

Each car had a separate role. The front one contained the driver and commander, and it controlled the UVM-1 during marches. "The front and top of the cabin is armoured, the other faces are watertight, and can submerge into water up to the wheel axles", Pavlov explained.

Cars 2 and 6 had cylindrical turrets. Their roofs consisted of two semi-disks, which could slide to the side. These cars would contain high caliber machineguns. Additionally, each one would contain 500 kg of explosives, which could be thrown out of a separate hatch. Both cars were staffed by two crewmen. Cars 3 and 5 had artillery turrets. These cars also contained 2.5 tons of oil and fuel.

Car 4 of the "Universal Fighting Machine" would be the largest. Here is where Pavlov proposed putting two diesel engines with an electric generator and 11 tons of fuel. This car would be armed with two flamethrowers and 7.62 mm machineguns with a large range. Four crewmen would man this car. "The ceiling contains a cooling system and air circulation system", Pavlov added.

Finally, car 7 was similar to the first, but was equipped with additional armour and a minesweeper. On a march, the UVM-1 would drive with the first car forward. In battle, it would turn around and face the enemy with car 7.

Buoyant Wheels

The creator came up with a special suspension for his design. "The project has a brand new innovation in the field of movement... a buoyant wheel system." Each car was equipped with a pair of large diameter wheels, car 4 had four of them.

The wheels were essentially hollow metallic drums. They had external rubber tires, and the covers resembled cones pointing outside. The inner disk was made from a 5 mm steel sheet and had a brake pad. Two rows of spokes covered the inside of the wheels. Pavlov relied on these spokes to propel the tank in water, envisioning his UVM to be a paddleboat.

Each wheel was supposed to be waterproof on the inside, and for a good reason, as it contained an electric motor. The axles would be made of hollow tubes that would carry electricity to them.

Aside from the design of the UVM-1, Pavlov wrote in detail about its tactical characteristics. While being 25 meters long, it would only be 3 meters wide and tall. The inventor estimated the mass of his vehicle to be 100 tons, half of which would be used by armour. The crew, in total, would weigh 1.5 tons. There would be enough fuel on board for 4000 km of driving, or three days. The estimated speed of his tank was 100 kph on a highway, 20 kph on water.

"Over hunchbacked mounds and river crossings..."

Unlike other projects, Pavlov also included a combat plan for his UVM-1. Pavlov didn't sweat the small stuff and envisioned a grandiose plan of crushing the defenses of eastern German regions and Berlin with a corps of his vehicles. The offensive would start near Vyazma, in the swamps, where the enemy would not expect an attack.

Towards the end of the day, the attack would begin. "Splitting into 3 columns of 33 vehicles, the tanks would drive westward, and each column separate into 11 groups of 3 vehicles each at dawn," the author planned. The main objective was speed, and the tanks would engage the enemy only when necessary. The inventor encouraged stealth and "disguise as the German", although it was unclear which German vehicle the tanks could be mistaken for. The march would continue until the vehicles reached their initial positions at the city of Poznan. They were expected to cover 1000 km within one day, prepare overnight, and attack right before dawn.

From Poznan to Berlin, the universal fighting vehicles would destroy enemy infrastructure, airports, and power lines. "Going around Berlin, thoroughly destroy its surroundings. After that, head for the center, crush, shoot, explode, and most importantly burn, not allowing to put out the fire, destroy everything." Having finished off the capital of the Reich, the vehicles would head to other German cities. This operation would be supported by aircraft, which would deliver fuel and evacuate the wounded.

Before daydreaming about crushing the invaders, the vehicle had to be put into production. The inventor understood this and listed a series of undertakings that would achieve the fastest possible production of 100 vehicles. One month would be enough to compose working blueprints and assemble a prototype. The cars would be produced at three factories and sent to Moscow, as well as the wheels, armament, electrical equipment, etc. Two factories in Moscow would assemble the vehicles, and in another month, the People's Commissariat of Defense would have 100 powerful tanks.

Pavlov promised his creation a bright future and many modifications. He considered that the UVM-1 would lead to victory for Communism on the whole planet. "These vehicles could reach La Manche and cross it, no matter the resistance. With sufficiently daring application of these tanks, we could turn the history of the world around incredibly quickly." When the last war would come to an end, the UVMs could ferry cargo to the Arctic or to starving African countries, through the ice and empty desert.

Sadly, no response to Pavlov's proposal was retained in the archives, but it's not too hard to imagine what it would be. This project combined many proposals that have been made since the first World War, with the same drawbacks. The "Universal Fighting Machine" remained on paper. One must respect the imagination of the author, if he did not surpass the realm of science fiction for his time (and even ours!) then he surely reached it.

Original article available here.


  1. Sounds like the bastard chils of H. G. Wells's "The Land Ironclads" and the "overland trains" the US military looked into in the Fifties, to supply the isolated Arctic bases of the DEW Line early-warning network. (Then heavy-lift helicopters became a thing and the prototype now sits in a Yukon museum.)

    Unlike most examples in this series of articles this one might actually have been technically feasible, if not exactly a practical weapon system.

    1. Well, that and the actual armoured trains that were still legitimately useful at the time.