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The wierd, wonderful and impractical
November 21, 2006 3:36 AM   Subscribe

Wierd tanks: Tank design has pretty much come to the point where all tanks are alike. They are mostly 60 ton machines with single turret with a 120-125 mm main gun. A number of different approaches has been tried through history, tough. One is the the heavy multiturreted Soviet T-35 from the 30s. Another take is the Swedish S-tank from the 60s, which did away with the turret altogether. A bit more conventional, but pretty much a one-nation tailor-made design is the Israeli Merkava, which is balanced heavily in favour of crew survivability with the engine in front and the ability to carry along a few infantrymen. The strangest of the bunch is the Russian WWI Czar tank, but just a tad impractical, standing 9 meters tall.
posted by Harald74 (39 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'll always be partial to Da Vinci's Classic design, myself.

But really, while the tank may not quite yet be obselete, isn't it pretty damn close?

Five million dollar tank, meet six hundred dollar anti-tank RPG.
posted by rokusan at 3:59 AM on November 21, 2006


Let's not forget the Maus.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:03 AM on November 21, 2006


Here are some other national eccentricities in this area. Warning: some may not be real.
posted by imperium at 4:04 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Love that Colon page. "Diego Loco" is now my new pet name for George Lucas.
posted by rokusan at 4:11 AM on November 21, 2006


You know, I'm something of a milporn fanboy, but I don't think I would ever refer to a tank as "wonderful."
posted by moonbiter at 4:22 AM on November 21, 2006


All I know is that Czar tank page taught me that things can be measured in "poods." The more you know!
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:25 AM on November 21, 2006


Let's not forget the Maus.

I quote: "The driver's and radio operator's seats (left) are flanked by the main fuel tanks."

Survivability!
posted by eriko at 5:17 AM on November 21, 2006


Yeah, the guys who designed that Maus tank were a few poods short of a load.

(Behold: Applied knowledge!)
posted by rokusan at 5:25 AM on November 21, 2006


Well it was pretty cold in Russia.
posted by uncle harold at 5:35 AM on November 21, 2006


I was expecting a link to My Tank Is Fight.
posted by ardgedee at 5:36 AM on November 21, 2006


moonbiter: If the Czar thank does not apply, then I'm afrain you've lost your sense of wonder! ;)
posted by Harald74 at 5:38 AM on November 21, 2006


Recalls to mind Bruce McCall (whose series of WWI pictures are well worth tracking down).
posted by IndigoJones at 5:39 AM on November 21, 2006


On first glance, did anyone else think this was about falling Wired magazine stock prices?
posted by heydanno at 5:42 AM on November 21, 2006


Wow. WeaponsFilter.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:02 AM on November 21, 2006


I'm partial to the English Churchill Crocodile.
posted by stbalbach at 6:18 AM on November 21, 2006


The strangest of the bunch is the Russian WWI Czar tank, but just a tad impractical, standing 9 meters tall.

A fitting companion to the Tsar Cannon ("It has never been used, however, and may in fact have been intended as a showpiece of military might and engineering from the beginning... The cannonballs on display by the Tsar Cannon were never intended for use, and are in fact of a larger diameter than the cannon will accept") and the Tsar Bell ("Unfortunately, the bell was never rung").
posted by languagehat at 6:47 AM on November 21, 2006


I was expecting a link to My Tank Is Fight

Most (all?) of the My Tank Is Fight stuff is available on the SomethingAwful site. I'd link to it but SA is blocked at work (surprise, surprise).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:05 AM on November 21, 2006


Good post. "Wierd" that it wasn't spellchecked.
posted by agregoli at 7:56 AM on November 21, 2006


Aren't both the S tank and the Czar both just very mission driven designs?

I mean sure, the Czar is pretty weird looking, but how well would most modern tanks deal with a heavily trenched battlefield?

Similarly, the theory behind the S tank, as I have heard it, is that they can pick you off as you crest the hill on the other side of the valley much faster than you can even spot them, and then, when you're finally bringing your guns to bear, they can fall back and do it to you again over the next valley. Not a strategy that would work in Kansas, but they aren't worried about defending Kansas.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:02 AM on November 21, 2006


But really, while the tank may not quite yet be obselete, isn't it pretty damn close?

Tanks have always been vulnerable to infantry. This is nothing new.

There are plenty of odd tanks here. My favorite is the MBT-70, which was a US-German joint design prototype.
posted by me & my monkey at 8:26 AM on November 21, 2006


That Colon piece is beautiful wonderful, mainly because he seems to know a bit about tanks to begin with. It's especially hilarious that the Diego Loco looks a whole lot like that Czar Tank ... and that the "Uberpanzerkampfwagen, was the largest, most heavily armored tank ever built" isn't that far off the mark having seen the Maus.
posted by dhartung at 8:34 AM on November 21, 2006


A7V
(Sturmpanzerwagen)
Weight : 32 ton
Dimensions : 7.35 x 3.06 x 3.30 mt
Armor (max) : 30 mm
Range : 30-35 km
Speed (max - route) : 9 km/hr
Weapons : n.1 gun 57 mm and n.6 7.92mm MG
Crew : 18


what, was the A7V pedal-powered?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:42 AM on November 21, 2006


No discussion of weird tanks is complete with some mention of the kettenkrad.
posted by adamrice at 8:47 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


was the A7V pedal-powered?

18 guys pedaling a 30 ton hunk of metal 9 kph? Those would be some burly Germans, wouldn't they?
posted by me & my monkey at 8:57 AM on November 21, 2006


Weird tanks weird tanks
Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do when they tank on you?
posted by Mister_A at 9:56 AM on November 21, 2006


For a minute I thought this said wired tanks and was expecting something rather more psychedelic.

The T-35 was inspired by the Vickers Independent, I seem to remember. And then there's the Praying Mantis - very odd.
posted by greycap at 10:33 AM on November 21, 2006


The Praying Mantis is neat, but poorly named. Mantis' are ultra fast ambush predators. It would be a better nomenclature for something like a fast attack helicopter

(I know that when it was made, there was no such thing as a fast attack helicopter, but damnit, I expect a level of prescience in my military naming.)
posted by quin at 10:53 AM on November 21, 2006


I prefer tanks to mines, and nothing to tanks.
posted by elpapacito at 11:21 AM on November 21, 2006


Wow, I’m surprised no–one has yet mentioned the Überschwerer Kampfschreitpanzer in the thread.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 12:01 PM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


While you're talking about Tsar-themed russian superweapons, don't forget the Tsar Bomba
posted by Happy Dave at 12:02 PM on November 21, 2006


They have an Independant at Bovington Tank Museum.It's a weird looking thing.
posted by Artw at 12:31 PM on November 21, 2006


What, no Bob Semple?
posted by Soulfather at 12:31 PM on November 21, 2006


It's a weird looking thing.

Indeed - it looks like it was congealed rather than constructed.
posted by greycap at 12:57 PM on November 21, 2006


My main thought upon seeingit was that it needed more skulls and maybe a Space AMrine hanging out the top hatch waving a power fist. It's totally WH40K.
posted by Artw at 1:06 PM on November 21, 2006


What about the Sherman swimming tank - a large canvas skirt round it allowed it to float... choppy seas pushing water over the skirt sank considerable numbers of them.

As Greycap says, the Praying Mantis is one odd tank - tiny, too - and never made it into general use.

The original British First World War Tanks were pretty lairy too. Inside, the engine sat in the middle of the tank and if you were unfortunate enough when loading a cannon to catch something hot or get caught in a moving part, then that was just bad luck.

Interestingly, berets first saw use in the British Army in the first world war because they protected soldiers' heads. Hence why the Royal Tank Regiment (the successor to the Tank Corps) wear black ones to this day - useful for hiding oil.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:45 AM on November 22, 2006


Hey, they've copied the Überschwerer Kampfschreitpanzer from Star Wars, the cads.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:50 AM on November 22, 2006


So I don't recall of the 'rules' for modern tank design but the fact is they are heavily constrained by physical factors and the decision of where to focus on the 'design triangle' of firepower vs maneuverability(speed) vs protection.

IIRC the first issue is the width: they have to be able to travel on train flatbeds so your first issue is that two trains have to be able to pass on another. What this means is a critical element in tank design in dictated by your railway gauge.

Height is tricky since the lower the better for two reasons, one, you are a smaller target from all angles and two, by reducing your height even slightly you gain a lot in frontal armour since the armour becomes more angled and, when attacked by a projectile, is in effect thicker.

What you lose by dropping height is the ability to depress your main gun. This reduces your ability to use the ground as armour by jockeying up behind a hill, poking your main over the top and attacking from a position of safety.

Finally the Merkava.... not sure that it is designed to carry 4 infantry in the back. I find it much more likely that the Israelis have realised that soldiers degrade very fast in the 24 hour battlefield and want a reserve crew. Even in Gulf War 1 there were stories of orders groups having to be repeated 3 times because the crews were so shattered.

IANAT! corrections appreciated.

Cheers
posted by fingerbang at 7:58 AM on November 22, 2006


IIRC the first issue is the width: they have to be able to travel on train flatbeds so your first issue is that two trains have to be able to pass on another. What this means is a critical element in tank design in dictated by your railway gauge.

While this is true, being able to drive through European towns and across narrow bridges are equally important design constraints for US and European MBTs, with regard to size and weight.

What you lose by dropping height is the ability to depress your main gun. This reduces your ability to use the ground as armour by jockeying up behind a hill, poking your main over the top and attacking from a position of safety.

This isn't really a big deal, since you can incline the chassis when in a hull-down position - the tank is parked at an upward angle. Practically speaking, you can get all the depression you need with a typical MBT.

Finally the Merkava.... not sure that it is designed to carry 4 infantry in the back.

No, the original design intent was to carry supporting infantry. Frankly, I don't know how useful a reserve crew would be, if that crew had to sit through an engagement between MBTs cooped up in the back of one of those things.

IWAT. (M60A3, M1A1, '84-'87)
posted by me & my monkey at 9:45 AM on November 22, 2006


Thanks for that me and my monkey :)
posted by fingerbang at 6:00 PM on November 22, 2006


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