"Deadlies" Nominee: Tanks with Wings


Nominated by Robot Economistantonovkt.jpegThere are some pairs that are positively made for each other, don't you think? The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Johnny Cash and June Carter. Pick ups and gun racks. Bongs and Playstations.To that noble list, let us add another predestined duo: tanks and glider wings, our newest nominee for the "Deadlies," Defense Tech's search for the most insanely hazardous gear, ever.In World War II, Soviet military engineers sure thought tanks and wings could work well together.Throughout the 30's, Stalin's forces were looking for ways to deliver their tanks from the sky. The problem is, air-dropping vehicles means "that their crews drop separately, and may be delayed or prevented from bringing them into action," Wikipedia notes. Gliders, on the other hand, "allow crews to arrive at the drop zone along with their vehicles. They also minimize exposure of the valuable towing aircraft, which needn't appear over the battlefield. So the Soviet Air Force ordered Oleg Antonov to design a glider for landing tanks."And thus was born the Antonov A-40 "Tank Wings" - a set of large wood and fabric biplane wings, fastened to a two-man, T-60 tank. The idea was tow the tank into the air with a heavy bomber or other large plane, and then release the thing on to the battlefield. A prototype was built and tested in 1942.Now some might argue that Antonov's Wings shouldn't be a "Deadlies" nominee. Robot Economist says that the "Ruskies weren't dumb enough to drop a manned tank." But this site seems to suggest otherwise:flying_tanks.jpg

In its only flight, the weight and drag of the tank caused its tow plane's engines to overheat very badly and the glider had to be released earlier than planned. Anokin flew the tank over a small, rough field and started the engine. He then engaged the drive mechanism and sped up the tracks before making a smooth landing. He detached the flying surfaces and drove back to base where he gave the KT-40 an enthusiastic review.But despite the technical success of the test, the flying tank was not to go into production. The Soviets lacked a plane up to the task of towing the heavy KT-40. Also the T-60 tank wasnt much of a tank. In order to lighten the tank sufficiently and get it off the ground, it was allowed very little armour, and had to be stripped of most of its armament and fuel. Such a poorly equipped tank wouldn't have survived long.
"It probably would have been smarter to drop the thing on Germans," Robot Economist quips. "It might do more damage that way."The Soviets weren't the only folks thinking about flying tanks, in the 30's and 40's. In 1943, the Brits built a wooden, V-shaped glider, the "Baynes Bat," meant to carry a tank into battle. Before that, American military engineer Walter Christie tried to design a similar system for the U.S. Army. As Modern Mechanix magazine exclaimed in 1932, "Imagine those two formidable weapons of modern warfare, the airplane and the armored tank, combined into one terrible machine of destruction!"Got an idea for the "Deadlies?" E-mail or post it here.
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