another article about (weird) early Russian armor development appeared on the Russian server. It’s called Land Ironclad (as in, land battleship) and yes, it’s just as stupid a project as it looks.
In a way, this project came to be the same way as the first British tanks, that were considered to be land ships (and were developed by a group called Landships Committee). Meanwhile, thousands of kilometers away, Karl Ivanovich Pakkul from Riga had basically the same idea, calling his project “land ironclad” (or “land battleship”). His project was to have many, many wheels and was to carry a sloped (streamlined) very thick armor. So, how did he imagine it would work?
The letter with the project arrived at the army technical committee (GVTU) in August 1915 and caused a confusion amongst the officers there. The letter was originally sent directly to the uncle of tsar Nikolai II, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, but called this uncle “his imperial majesty”, confusing him with the tsar apparently. This caused suspicion regarding the sender, as the Grand Duke was rumored to covet the throne, but cooler heads prevailed and in the end, the military engineers had a look at the contents of the letter.
In it, the inventor described the peculiar vehicle as “land ironclad … capable of moving over any surface … with 10-12 machineguns.”
The hull resembled an inverted ship body with gun ports for shooting. The front of the vehicle had a “cowcatcher” style dozer blade to deal with objects in front of it. This blade was supposed to be retractable – when the vehicle was to get over a terrain irregularity or an obstacle, it would be retracted for easier access and deployed once the obstacle was behind the “ironclad”. Another idea of the inventor was to equip the front of the vehicle with “scissors” to cut barbed wire.
The suspension consisted of 5 pairs of roadwheels and frontal single roadhweel, linked with the first pair. The engine was to be in the back. Each roadwheel was apparently capable of being steered independently.
The vehicle was analyzed by the army engineers and found wanting. The most notable flaw was the steering, which was considered practically impossible by the experts. Additionally, there was a danger of breaking the suspension down when attempting the steering or even moving the vehicle. Furthermore, the inventor proposed this vehicle to be used as something like an APC as well (for carrying troops), but the engineers noted that the men inside would have very hard time, considering there’s no shock absorbtion system whatsoever (just like it was with the first British tanks).
The vehicle was also considered too large – according to the GVTU calculations, it would be 15 meters long. While the size was considered to be an advantage by the inventor, the actual soldiers simply stated that this would make the vehicle a nice fat target of every artillery piece on the battlefield.
The inventor also did not bother with any cooling system for the engine or ventilation, so the GVTU engineers stated that it was not clear what would happen first – engine overheating and breaking down, or the exhaust fumes suffocating the crew and soldiers inside (this was an actual issue on ships, this happened and not only once).
It’s thus no wonder that the project was scrapped. Whether Mr. Pakkul recieved the letter with the decision is not clear – in the summer of 1915, the front reached Riga and with the chaos of evacuation, the post service was no longer working, so it’s unlikely. In either case, no other letters from him survived to this day. As an epilogue, in Autumn 1915, another such project (practically similiar in concept and flaws), called “Armored car-wagon of mechanical engineer Konov” arrived at GVTU. It was quietly scrapped.
Yuri Bakhurin – Istoki Tankostroyeniya. Sukhoputnyj bronenosec (http://worldoftanks.ru/ru/news/pc-browser/12/land_ironclad/)