With the appearance of artillery and firearms, the distance at which enemies engaged in battle constantly grew. In the 19th century, this distance was already measured in kilometers. New types of explosives could tear apart stone walls, shells could penetrate thick steel.
In these conditions, the ram became archaic, both the device and the tactic. If the enemy was engaged at point blank range, it was usually as a last resort. This happened many times in WWII, when pilots and tankers would ram the enemy only when no other option remained. Nevertheless, some inventors thought about specialized tanks designed to ram the enemy. Here are there such examples, differing in levels of talent and creativity.
The first example is the most logical. Knowing that a ramming tank also sustains damage from the collision, auto mechanic A.I. Kudryavtsev proposed a special ramming tank in February of 1942. "The tank will have the following novel elements: 1) Hull 2) flaps for protecting the air intakes 3) road wheels for movement on rails", he wrote.
The hull was equipped with a front bulge, intended for ramming. Kudryavtsev insisted that it should be made from cast steel. The suspension was protected with armoured skirts. Additionally, the tank would have cast steel girders installed at an angle to increase robustness and act as additional protection.
The proposed flaps consisted of two simple armoured plates, between which air was taken in. The concept of moving on rail was not fully explored: "The blueprints for the suspension, (i.e. road wheels for transporting the tank on rail over large distances) were not completed... so I will not describe them." Kudryavtsev did describe the armament for his creation: a 155 mm howitzer, 76 mm gun, and three machineguns.
The 100 ton ram-tank would have been 9 meters in length, and three meters in height and width. The armour was 50 mm all around, with the exception of the ramming bulge. The 2000 hp engine would propel the tank at 35 kph. The crew consisted of 7 men.
The author's moderation separates this design from many other fantasies. Not willing to invent a whole new vehicle, he wrote: "The other components, engine, transmission, etc, can be taken from tanks that are already in production."
Ram on Spokes
This was not the case for Rybnikov (initials unknown), who in March of 1943 proposed a "speed ram" to the Commissariat of Defense. The description fit on a blotter sheet, and the sketch takes up only a scrap of paper, but even these modest sources reveal the author's imagination.
"The design of the tank is unique in its use of large diameter wheels (3-4 meters) instead of tracks with long spoke-spurs" The author did not have rims for these wheels, instead each spoke would end with a spring to dampen the impact of movement. The author's reasoning was that "Due to the spokes instead of tracks, it is harder to knock out the tank, as the odds of hitting one spoke are low, and even if several spokes are destroyed, the tank will keep moving." The spokes would also have paddles and buoys to help the "speed ram" cross water hazards.
The purpose of the design was described as follows: "The tank could be used to ram enemy vehicles, personnel, and headquarters, due to its sudden appearance in the enemy rear with tank riders." A battering ram was not included in the design, nor was any other armament. Aside from the suspension, the author only included an open platform for infantry. Perhaps he intended to describe them in a later letter, but the Department of Inventions received no further correspondence from Rybnikov.
Litovchenko's Tank Destroyer
The aforementioned vehicles at least resembled tanks. The "Ram-Destroyer" proposed by P.A. Litovchenko in December of 1942 was one of the most unusual military projects of the 20th century. This can be seen from the colourful description: "This combat vehicle lacks vulnerable areas, as the armour and irregular motion in a broken line create conditions that would make ordinary methods of fighting tanks ineffective." The inventor claimed that his "Ram-Destroyer" would have perfect off-road performance, deliver incredibly powerful blows (up to 452 tons!), and be universal in attack and defense. What wonderful mechanism did he invent?
Litovchenko was inspired by a construction pile driver. In his imagination, this peaceful device became a weapon. The author wrote: "The crew controls a massive metallic ball, which can be lifted up and fall from there, delivering a powerful strike and allowing the vehicle to move horizontally. The crew can direct this ram towards any objects, and destroy it."
The description took a handful of pages, and turned out very confusing. The gist of the device was this: the main element of the design was a ramming ball. The upper hemisphere held a diesel engine. The ball had a large cylindrical pipe through its axis. The heat generated by burning fuel would activate the piston inside the pipe. Inertia would tear the whole device away from the earth, and propel it upwards. Steering was done with propellers mounted on symmetrically placed cockpits connected to that same pipe. Realizing the danger to the crew's health, Litovchenko proposed that the cockpits be equipped with spring shock absorbers. Finally, gyroscopes would keep the vehicle stabilized.
The text did not contain even a hint of tactical-technical characteristics. However, the sketches allow an estimation of the author's wild fantasy. The specialists' verdict on the "Ram-Destroyer" was brief. One illustration carries a short note: "Send to the archive."
Original article available here.