Inventors of the previous century bravely moved the limits of what is possible. They did not mind that their projects remained only in sketches and blueprints. Since it was impossible to combine thick armour and high speed or plant many tiny turrets on your tank to get more guns, most of these projects were technological dead ends.
As a rule, the most fantastical designs were made by those who had no connection with fighting vehicles. As a rule, specialists did not share this hobby, but there were some exceptions.
Buchinskiy's limitless tank
Engineer S.E. Buchinskiy spent about 27 years working in the machinebuilding industry and earned a military rank of Captain. In September of 1939, he was appointed as the chief of the armoured forces of the Mogilev-Yampolsk fortified region. After 11 months of service, Buchinskiy was inspired to create a design of unparalleled ambition. In May of 1940, his proposal reached the People's Commissar of Defense, Marshal S.K. Timoshenko.
Without exaggeration, the inventor did the job of a whole project organization. He not only described, but drew blueprints of a dozen types of armament and vehicles, from an armoured Maxim gun to an armoured train. Among everything, Buchinskiy thought of a tank. He wrote: "I consider it necessary to create a heavy tank that carries several types of armament, thick armour, and large size, so that it can travel anywhere."
Buchinskiy spared no expense for his tank's firepower: seven 45 mm AT guns, an AA gun, 6 Maxim guns, four DT machineguns, and a flamethrower.
Such a menacing arsenal deserves an impressive chassis. The engineer thought of that too: "The hull is a rectangle with sides that overhang the tracks a little more than half of their width. This solution allows more space for crew positions, ammunition, and an electrical generator." One turret would be placed at the front of the hull, one on the back. One more turret would go in the center, with an AA cupola on top. The total length of the tank was 16 meters, 4.2 meters in width, and 5.7 meters in height, with an estimated weight of 110 tons.
Buchinskiy designed composite armour for his tank long before it was implemented in reality. "The tank's hull should be made of layered armour: main armour that is 20 mm thick, a layer of rubber and cork, then a layer of armour 10 mm thick. The front armour is 60 mm thick." The tank would be propelled by a diesel engine that powered a DC generator. The maximum speed would be 25 kph.
The tank's crew would be composed of 30 tankers. The driver was lucky, as the engineer gave him a separate compartment in the front of the tank. The other 29 crew members would have to fit in somewhere, specifically where, the engineer did not know.
Was I.M. Pletnev a specialist? Probably not, but his desire to help his motherland was sincere. He wrote: "The fascist beast has yet to choke on fire, I propose... turning a tank into an armoured death harbester."
Pletnev's design was reminiscent of a bridgelayer, except the top of the beam had tank turrets. The beams would freely rotate 360 degrees along the hull of the tank, like wings. On the sketches, these wings look like a butterfly knife.
During a match, these wings would be folded on the tank's rear deck. In battle, the tank would spread its deadly wings and sweep away the enemy with a storm of fire. The tank would still be able to fire in a 360 degree arc with folded wings due to a special arrangement of the turrets.
Several modifications of the "Death Harvester" were drawn by the designer. Perhaps, Pletnev thought about his design some more and decided to simplify it. The next design was called "tank with armoured shields". Now there were two vertical axles on the back of the tank, connected by cables to a third, behind the turret. Two giant armoured slabs hung off the cables, forming a V shape. The design looked like a snow plow. The armour had slits in it for tank riders to fire through.
Another modernization of the design by the author was the most exotic. Instead of putting gun platforms or infantry shields, Pletnec proposed two carriers similar to construction cranes that carried machineguns nests. "When tanks enter battle, two turrets will deploy on the side of the tank and will fire to the side and downwards at enemy tanks and trenches." The author also imagined that the machinegunners could throw grenades down at the enemy and insisted on connecting them to the tank commander via telephone.
The description of every "Death Harvester" was accompanied by coloured sketches. No technical data was given in the proposal. Perhaps the author did not understand them, or perhaps he was just thinking out loud. The reaction of GABTU specialists to this proposal is unknown, but easy to guess.
There are several ways to step over the borders of what is possible. They are not all realistic, but if there is no imagination, then there will be no true breakthroughs. That is all that can be said in defense of the above vehicles.
Many questions can be asked regarding a technical project. How to fit ammunition for all guns? How to deal with low maneuverability? Marshal Timoshenko did not ask these questions, but as a People's Commissar first scolded his department of inventions for unsatisfactory work.
Half a year before the end of the war, Buchinskiy wrote another letter, requesting an official response to his designs and asking to remain in the RKKA. What happened next is not known.
Original article available here.