Steel Hunter is back this week, and features some very interesting fictional tank designs. Fortunately for us, history and the tank-designers of old have been kind enough to produce some concepts that could be considered fiction if not documented tank designs. In this article we will be listing eight such vehicles that actually existed in real life brought to you by our Community Contributor Stewy.
Country of Origin: USSR
Number Built: 1
The Russian sized Hair Dryer, “simply” made by attaching a MiG-15 jet engine to the top of a T-54 chassis. I couldn’t for the life of me find the year it was created, but it’s safe to assume it was somewhere around the 1950s/60s. And no, before anyone has the same thoughts as I originally had, this isn’t a result of someone’s skillful photoshop skills, as much as it seems like it. It was used for mine-sweeping... it’s Russian afterall.
The concept was that the MiG-15 jet engine would blast away at mines from a safe distance, with the heat of the engine + force of the engine detonating them. Although genius in concept, being a jet engine, it wasn’t exactly stealthy. And the sheer size and weight of the vehicle would have made it incredibly difficult to maneuver through unforgiving terrain. Essentially, it was an easy target and wasn’t guaranteed to clear every mine in it’s path. The Hungarians built something similar in 1991. “Big Wind” was a T34 tank, with two MiG-21 jet engines strapped to the roof. A very similar concept to the Progvev, “Big Wind” was used for firefighting, and saw service during the Kuwaiti Oil fires.
Country of Origin: Venezuela
Number Built: ~7
The “Tortuga”, as it’s called, takes the cake as Venezuela's first locally designed and built tank. This tank, if you’re brave enough to call it that, was designed by Venezuela as a means to intimidate their neighbours after regional tensions peaked when Colombia and Peru fought in a brief conflict over territory in the Amazon. The idea was to dissuade Colombia from engaging in a conflict with Venezuela.
The Vehicle made its debut at a military parade at the Maracay Airbase. Tortuga in English translates to Tortoise. It was based off of the chassis of a 6 x 4 Ford Model BB truck, reinforced with a frame to take the added weight of the armour plates, armament and crew. The vehicle was armed with a Mark 4B 7mm Machine gun, housed in a dome-shaped turret at the top of the armoured shell, operated from a standing position. Despite all this, the vehicle is mostly known for it’s incredibly bizarre armour layout.
Twin 25 Pounder AC3 Thunderbolt
Country of Origin: Australia
Number Built: 1
As an Australian, I thought it would bring great shame to my integrity if I didn't find something Aussie to put on this list. Thankfully, our 1940s tank designers provided us with this outstanding piece of Australian engineering. The image shown is a close up of an AC3 Thunderbolt, with twin 25 pounder cannons mounted in the turret. Why would you put twin 25 pounder’s into a turret that was already good enough with a single 25 pounder?
The answer is actually quite ingenious. Essentially, it was used to test the equivalent recoil of a 17 pounder, and to examine if the AC3 turret could withstand such a force. A pair of 25-pounder’s generate more force than a single 17 pounder, but at the time, Australia didn’t possess many 17 pounders, so improvisation was needed. The test was successful, and the AC4 (which we see in World of Tanks) is an in-direct result of this test. The project was cancelled however, due to a range of factors, including the fact that the Firefly logistically was a superior way to fit a 17 Pounder into a tank, and also that Australia’s main threat, Japan, didn’t have any tanks that a 17 pounder would be required to penetrate.
120mm Long Barreled Chi Ha
Country of Origin: Japan
Number Built: 1 (known)
Japan seemed to have a soft spot for mounting ridiculously large guns onto their Chi-Ha’s. This, of all of them, is one of the least known, and most mysterious. There is only one known piece of footage of this vehicle, and it is only a small clip. The video is of a Japanese Officer showing off an array of weapons located at a garrison. Any other information, including a name, are completely unknown.
The tank was a Chi-Ha chassis, with what appears to be a Type 10 120mm AA gun mounted where the turret is usually located. The reason this vehicle is listed, is just the whole concept of a project like this. Imagine essentially replacing the turret of a Chi-Ha with a gun that was used on Japanese aircraft carriers and cruisers. When fired, the recoil of the gun would probably generate enough kick to flip the tank over. It would be fascinating to learn what the Japanese officers who commissioned this project were thinking when coming up with this design.
Country of Origin: USSR
Number Built: 2
No, that isn’t an O-I Experimental. That is a T-34 with sheets of concrete being used as armour plating. I think it’s apparent when looking at this as to how desperate the Red Army were getting at this stage of the war. The concrete was around 150mm thick, but I’d imagine this varied in certain spots where it was placed.
Surprisingly, this only added around an extra 2.5 Tonnes to the vehicle's weight. The tank behind the concrete is exactly the same as a T-34 from 1941 with no differences. Two prototypes were built. The second prototype is slightly more sophisticated with some form of angling on the sides, extra armour in certain places and what appears to be a slight decrease in the size of the gaps.
Country of Origin: USSR
Number Built: 4
This is the 2B1 Oka, possibly a World of Tanks players' worst nightmare. The vehicle was designed and built at the Kirov Plant, where an experimental model was first produced in 1957. Let's discuss the most obvious part of the vehicle, the Death Star sized cannon that looks like it should tip the whole vehicle forward.
The barrel length is 20 metres long, roughly twice the length of a traditional school bus. The gun itself is 420 millimetres in diameter, and could fire 750 kilogram shells up to 45 kilometres. The development was stopped after the decision to pursue Tactical Ballistic Missiles in favour of older, traditional weapons such as the 2B1 Oka
Country of Origin: The United States
Number Built: 1
This is the T10 Sherman, perhaps inspired by the Tsar Tank. Interestingly enough, this vehicle was remote controlled, which was probably due to the fact that it’s purpose was exploding mines. Prior to D-Day, the idea of mine clearing was considered vital to the success of the campaign. The process of clearing mines, through combat engineers, is quite a quick process. However, in order to clear mines, a combat engineer would obviously have to expose themselves to wherever the mine was placed.
Many different designers and companies got to work figuring out a solution to the risky process of clearing mines through ways that protected the people clearing them. Enter the T10 Sherman. The idea was that any mines caught under the pressure of the 2 large front wheels would detonate as the vehicle drove over them at the lightning speed of 3.2 kph. The vehicle was also controlled remotely, so no crew would be inside the vehicle when the mines detonated.
The Trials at Aberdeen Proving Ground proved the vehicle to be unsatisfactory, with Captain D Elliot stating “the vehicle, to date, has not been too successful due to the fact that only the front two rollers are powered, and the rolling resistance of the rear roller, which is unpowered, tends to cause the vehicle to get stuck.”
And last but not least...
Country of Origin: New Zealand
Number Built: 3
We had to leave the best for last. I think it’s a given to say, this tank embodies A for effort. New Zealand in the early 1940s were staring down the barrel of the Japanese empire, now controlling most of the Pacific. Seeing the lack of a New Zealand armoured force, Bob Semple got to work designing a locally produced tank for the New Zealand army.
The tank had 6 Bren .303 calibre machine guns facing in every direction, with one in the turret and five in the hull. A 37mm gun was proposed, but was never fitted. The hull was based on the chassis of a PWD caterpillar tractor, which New Zealand had an abundance of. Keeping in mind a key reason was for the tank to boost New Zealand’s morale against the concern of a Japanese invasion, the vehicle had many problems in its performance. It can be summed up by the fact that it couldn’t even change gears on the move, having to come to a complete stop, or by going down a hill to keep momentum in order to switch gear.
Three of these tanks were built, and two of the vehicles were shown off to the public at a parade in Christchurch on the 26th of April 1941. The tanks were not exactly well received by the public, with the media and general population mocking Bob Semple and the tank he had created. Nonetheless, Semple responded to the mockery by saying:
“That tank was an honest-to-God effort to do something with the material at our disposal when raiders were at our back door. Instead of sitting down and moaning we felt we ought to do something to manufacture weapons that would help to defend our country and our people.”