Sunday, 22 November 2015

World of Tanks Armoured Fantasy: Tank on a Wire

"Electricity will bloody up the armoured snout of fascism. Electrotanks will be the first do do this." Electrical engineer A.I. Bogun-Dobrovolskiy was not shy in his choice of words when he wrote an accompanying letter to his invention in July of 1941.

Fuel is as important to a tank as armour or armament. If fuel runs out or freezes, the tank becomes a bunker. A fuel explosion almost always spells the death of the tank and crew. Many inventors asked themselves, why not build an electric tank?

Bogun-Dobrovolskiy's Electric Tank

"Electrotank: a mobile remotely controlled combat vehicle. The electrotank (ET) can be armed with a torpedo, a mine, or an HE charge up to 200 kg. The ET can deliver an explosive in any direction and detonate it."

According to the author's description, the vehicle consisted of three parts. The first was the power converter, a light mobile system that could attach to any three-phase power source. The inventor assumed that one will be easy to find on any battlefield. "Suburbs, industrial regions, power plants, an electrified village, a farm, etc." The power converted had a rotating drum split into three parts. Each sector had a separate cable for powering the tank's engine and its armament.

The inventor proposed two engines, one per track. Their simultaneous work could propel the tank forward, or, by using only one, spin the tank in place. According to Bogun-Dobrovolskiy, this solution "removes the need for a gearbox, simplifies the complex kinematics of clutches and controls in an ordinary tank."

The ET's hull was a light welded design, protected by light armour. The author stresses that the tank's suspension should be robust and its hull should be low. The payload was placed in a special contained in the hull. The operator could detonate it remotely from a command post, which could be any tank or armoured car. There was also an option to detonate the payload on impact.

Unlike many other inventors, Bogun-Dobrovolskiy mentioned the drawbacks of his design along with the advantages. The drawbacks included a short range, limited by the 300 meter cable, the disposable nature of the tank, and problems with a power source. On the other hand, the engineer highlighted that the tank would be very cheap, only 6000 rubles without a payload.

Electric tank on skis

Soon after Bogun-Dobrovolskiy, I.M. Emchenko sent a proposal for an electric tank to the Commissariat of Defense. His first letter, sent in September of 1941, was not answered. After a year and a bit, he sent another.

The very first lines of his letter praised his invention: an aerodynamic hull, thick armour, fire safety. This was not especially unusual compared to other inventions, but the project was rather unusual.

Like the ET, Emchenko's tank was powered by a cable, propelled by two motors that were connected to a portable generator. The cable would be buried 100 mm into the ground as the tank  moved using some device. The inventor also discarded the idea of tracks, instead preferring "six skis for the tank to move on." The spiked strips would move one by one, imitating tracks. Emchenko insisted that his tank could climb a slope of 60-70 degrees and have a range of 2 km. "In case of emergency, the skis could be retracted and the tank lowers itself to the ground.", becoming an immobile bunker.

The tank would be small (3.2 meters long, 1.8 meters wide, 1.1 meters tall) and have thick 98 mm armour on all surfaces. Emchenko planned his tank's speed at 30 kph. The armament (a machinegun and a flamethrower) was fitted in a spherical turret, opposite of one another. "The machinegun can destroy targets up to 3 m away in a 360 degree arc." The author did not explain why the machinegun's range was so low. The turret could be fitted with another machinegun, to protect the cables. Finally, Emchenko proposed that spiked drums could be fitted on the front of the tank to help it cross over obstructions up to 1 meter tall and clear minefields. The tank would be controlled by a crew of two, who would have to lie down inside it.

The commissariat did not react to the project once again. Emchenko did not rest, and proposed a third variant of his tank in 1943. The spiked skis were replaced with "turtle feet", the armament gained an AT rifle. The armour thickness increased to 120 mm. The speed doubled, but the tank became a single-seater. A sketch was attached to the description. There is a marking on the margins of the letter: "Archive and add to previously sent materials, reply to the author." It seems that he finally received an answer, but it was definitely not positive.

Bruskin's Electric Armour

If either of those tanks saw the light of day, they could be equipped with special electric armour, the patent for which was filed by Astrakhan citizen D.A. Bruskin. The idea consisted of two or more armoured plates with a difference in electrical potential. Bruskin wrote: "The potential created by a generator can, for a short amount of time, achieve sufficient power to weld." The inter-armour space was very small, and the external armour was thin, but the author expected it to be penetrated.

"A bullet that penetrates the outer armour and hits the inner armour will close the circuit. The tip of the bullet will heat up and flatten, making its subsequent path difficult." This is how the author expected his electric defenses to work.

Bruskin's idea was unusual, but not novel. In 1940, an engineer named Nikolayev reported to Stalin himself about his two-layered armour. The outer layer was very hard, and the inner layer was made from boilerplate. It could, according to the author, resist a weakened bullet with a changed trajectory. "In being destroyed, it protects!" exclaimed Nikolayev. His excitement was cooled by poor performance in trials. As for Bruskin's electric armour, it remained on paper.

Original article available here.

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