Sunday 10 January 2016

World of Tanks Armoured Fantasy: Walkers and Jumpers

A pillbox can cover a certain sector of terrain with its fire. If the enemy attacks in a different place, there is no way to move it over. Or is there? The issue of moving pillboxes around has been tackled by many inventors. The simplest solution was to put them on wheels. German inventor Maximilian Schumann was the first to propose this solution towards the end of the 19th century. His armoured pillboxes were widely used by the Germans in early WWI. A drawback of his design was that they were impossible to move in combat and that an external power sources was needed.

The optimal solution would be a self-propelled pillbox. During the Great Patriotic War, many inventions of this type were designed. Many of them look exotic and strange, but they were very seriously reviewed at the highest levels.

Alekseenko's Walking Pillbox

In late June of 1942, one such invention came from the city of Magnitogorsk. The people who were involved in the discussion signify how seriously this invention was considered. The first person to familiarize himself with the project was the chief of the Leningrad armour commanders' continuing education academy, Major-General A.V. Borzikov. He passed this project on to the chief of GABTU, Lieutenant-General Ya.N. Fedorenko. In the accompanying letter, he wrote that he spoke with the People's Commissar of Black Metallurgy I.F. Tevosyan and that the production of a prototype was approved if Fedorenko agreed. What was this wonder-weapon that was noticed by such senior commanders?

The author of the walking pillbox was engineer Alekseenko, who worked at the Magnitogorsk metallurgy plant. The vehicle, designed in part by members of the armament section of the plant, was an aerodynamic design, a little less than 5 meters long, 3.8 meters wide, and 1.7 meters tall. Its mass was 45 tons. This mass can be explained by the fact that the pillbox's armour reached 200 mm, impenetrable to any existing field artillery. The vehicle was armed with a 76 mm gun with 100 shells, as well as three DT machineguns.

The vehicle was powered by a GAZ M-11 76 hp engine. It might seem that the authors made a mistake in proposing such a humble power plant, but remember that this is a pillbox and not a tank, and it wasn't in any hurry. Its maximum speed was 2 kph. As the title of the project suggests, the pillbox would walk on two "legs", similar to a walking excavator.

One step would move the vehicle 1.3 meters. In combat, the "legs" would be raised and the bottom of the hull would be placed on a flat surface. The top of the pillbox could spin, giving it 360 degrees of range.

The "walking pillbox" project was done at a very high technical level and used components from existing vehicles, which simplified production. This is why such senior staff took an interest.

However, Fedorenko rejected the design, and it remained in archives.

Viert's Crawling Vibrating Monster

An even more original proposition was sent personally to Stalin in August of 1943. The author, engineer-designer from aircraft factory #89 V.I. Viert, proposed a vehicle that he called "crawling vibrating pillbox". The name is strange and intriguing, but the concept is far from insanity. Like Alekseenko's walking pillbox, Viert's design was based on existing solutions. However, unlike walking excavators, vibration drives did not ever progress past functional models.

Viert's invention resembled a puck with a curved top. The design was relatively simple. Special flywheels were placed inside the hull, the rotation of which would cause vibrations in one direction or other. In other words, the vehicle would start hopping. To compensate for the impacts, the author added a sprung suspension to the foundation of the pillbox. According to Viert, his vehicle would be able to entrench itself, all it would have to do is jump in place.

As this was only a conceptual design, the author did not pay much attention to armour or armament. However, it is known that the author expected his creations to fight the heaviest of enemy tanks.

Unlike the walking pillbox, which was declined and forgotten, Viert's story is more dramatic. The first draft of the design was proposed back in September of 1941. The design was declined several times, but Viert's persistence persevered. Aside from diagrams, the inventor also built working models of his vehicle that proved it could be possible to built such a device.

Viert showed his invention to professors Christie and Gruzdev at the Military Academy of Mechanization and Motorization. Viert's last attempt was a letter directly to Stalin, which brought no results, as it was forwarded to the same people who already rejected the inventor's proposal. The project was left in the archives.

Original article available here.

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