What's left to do when a war took everything from you, and there is no chance for revenge? One inventor channelled his grief and rage into a project of an incredible vengeance machine.
This inventor's name was Mikhail Vasilyevich Boyko, a repairman by trade. His parents, sisters, and children died in German occupied Kharkov. Boyko himself was in a hospital in Sochi at the time, undergoing treatment for a heart condition. Here is where he started his work. "I was inspired to create powerful armament for the Red Army, to destroy the fascist hordes with the most powerful of weapons", Boyko wrote to the People's Commissariat of Defense in 1944. His brainchild was the "Flaming Ironclad" with a mysterious index of "AN".
In Steel Scales
The brief project description read: "As a flaming tornado, the AN ironclad burns, torches, demolishes, and crushes, destroys, blows up, kills, as well as suppresses morally and acts on the enemy's psyche, demoralizing him, spreading demoralization deep into the enemy's deserves. The AN destroys everything, living or not, in its path." Boyko's letter kept up this tone from the first sentence to the last.
The author didn't just think of a flamethrower tank. Its chassis consisted of three tracks. This would allow the vehicle to move in any direction without turning. Boyko didn't specify how this would be achieved.
Boyko proposed to equip his ironclad with a "mine-catching pneumatic electronet". This was a precursor to explosive reactive armour. A minefield around the tank would neutralize hits without causing any damage to the tank.
Even if the "electronet" was disabled, the crew would have nothing to fear, as the shell would have to deal with the ironclad's armour. It would appear that Boyko envisioned a mythical dragon when he designed his tank, as it was protected by flexible scales instead of traditional armour. It was covered by a special fire-proof finish, the composition of which the author did not specify. He did specify its thickness: 490 mm. The author was very proud of his composite armour. If implemented, it would resist any cannon shell or bomb up to 860 kg, and be invincible even in a firestorm.
To continue the dragon analogy, the tank was not only covered in scales, but breathed fire.
The author wrote: "...armed with 22 barrels: hoses and sprinklers that can disperse up to 45,000 cubic decimeters of explosive gas per hour." This was not all. Boyko proposed the use of four 6-barreled rocket launchers and mortars, capable of firing 480 rockets or shells per hour. Compared to all this, the 14 machineguns weren't very impressive.
This tank would shock the enemy with its appearance alone: "The tank is equipped with four noise sirens and whistles. It's not only a flamethrower and explosive weapon, but its size and variety of armament is a psychological weapon that will demoralize the enemy."
The tank was manned by 40 men. According to Boyko, that was enough to control its vast arsenal and other equipment. Boyko wrote that his tank "...has a microphone communication system, a radio, 4 light indicators, and 4 signal flare launchers."
The author did not specify the size of a vehicle that could contain all that, but only the mass: 30,000 tons. Nevertheless, the tank would reach a speed of 120 kph thanks to a quartet of engines with the combined power of 6600 hp. Boyko did admit that his calculations were approximate and would need to be looked over.
Scorched Earth Machine
The use of this vehicle in combat had an epic scale: "The tank is invincible and knows no obstacles, not pits, nor minefields, nor bullets, nor shells, nor fire, nor water, nor pillboxes, nor moats, nor dugouts, nor trenches. The AN kills all, burns all, explodes, knocks over, demolishes, turns over, turns all in its way, living or dead, to coals, causing panic. The AN acts as an advance guard, moving ahead of the main forces with cover from the VVS in the sky. It moves as a firey tornado!"
Boyko's calculations showed that a single Flaming Ironclad could clear a front 0.5 km wide and 12 km deep. Ten such tanks acting in unison, even at low speeds, could burn out 30 square kilometers of enemy land. The author was sure that this would cause the enemy to not only withdraw from Soviet borders, but he would be unable to run fast enough to save himself. He compared the resulting victory to the success of Aleksandr Nevskiy in the Battle on the Ice.
Boyko, with all his enthusiasm, knew that his calculations and sketches were imperfect. He expected professionals to at least take the idea as worthwhile. "As a worker, I put in significant energy into creating this design, but I need help, help of great masters of science and engineering, to perfect my design. I accept that there will be changes and corrections thanks to you, scientific minds of the military sciences. Only with your involvement could I create this valuable armament to defeat the enemy."
Of course, this idea was more than a pipe dream. Its characteristics were impossible not only in 1944, but even today. First of all, a tank of such mass could not be transported to the battlefield. Second, its size would be enormous, making it an easy target for artillery and aircraft. It's doubtful that the "electronet" and scales could save it. Considering how much incendiary material was on board, the first penetration would disintegrate the colossus in an explosion of terrifying force.
The Flaming Ironclad remained in the archives for decades to appear in front of the reader as not only a fantasy born from pain and despair, but also a monument to the Great Patriotic War, will for victory and belief in it, despite loss and suffering.
Original article available here.