An Illustrated Survey of Armored Fighting Vehicles Forgotten by History (and Rightly So)
The little known super tank developed by the Ottoman Empire, aptly named the Turkey Tank, bristled with guns in every conceivable location. While certainly not lacking in firepower, what it lacked by being so jam packed with weaponry and crew to fire them was space for an engine. As a tank it was a miserable failure, but it made a formidable pillbox.
The always unorthodox French Citroën company designed this unusual tank with the spirit of “liberty, fraternity, equality” by giving each crew member his own turret. This tank sported a series of armor encased wheels instead of tracks because, in the words of its designer Pierre Cardigan, “Zee important ting is zee armor and not zee track.” To his dismay tests proved a single soldier could disable one simply by throwing nails in its path deflating the tires thus immobilizing it.
Believing the hinged tracks of conventional tanks were overly prone to mechanical failure, Spanish engineer Diego Loco built his tank with solid circular tracks outfitted with large spikes for traction. The spikes proved a bit too effective, sticking in the ground and immobilizing the solid tread bands. The armored vehicle riding on these hoops would then circle around in loop de loops like a crazed carnival ride.
Buoyed by the success of the Norden bomb sight, and slightly mixed-up by the names, the British hired the Norton Motorcycle Company, Ltd. to build a scout tank. Unfortunately, Norton only built motorcycles and their offering was a total flop. Not only was if woefully under gunned and under armored, it had a tendency to tip over at low speed and, having a single track, was impossible to steer.
Besides the rightly famed T-34 there was this JS-34 alternative designed under the guidance of Joseph Stalin himself. The second turret in the rear contained a special “morale officer” of the NKVD whose job was to ensure the crew displayed the proper socialist spirit of bravery. Any deficiencies in this area were summarily rectified with a 70mm cannon.
The Finns built several dozen ski tanks, dubbed the Soumi Shuuster Taankennen, to fight in the testing climes of Scandinavia. Unfortunately for them, the Soviets attacked in the summer and the tanks all were captured or destroyed. A number of these peculiar vehicles are still in use today transporting salt from Siberian mines.
Convertible tanks were developed for the Italian army by Alpha Romeo for the comfort of the crews in the hot dessert conditions of north Africa. This not quite so brilliant offering proved admittedly vulnerable even though stylish.
Its war effort crippled by a severe oil shortages, the ingenious Japanese devised this engineless alterative tank. Attached to its frontal armor were several large powerful magnets intended to zero in on enemy vehicles thus propelling these contraptions forward into the battle. Unforeseen was the magnets propensity to attract incoming artillery shells. The magnet idea and the tanks themselves were soon scrapped.
This eleventh hour entry of the Nazi Wehrmacht, the humongous Uberpanzerkampfwagen, was the largest, most heavily armored tank ever built. Because the construction facility’s doors were too small the monster tank had to shoot its way out of the factory, disabling future production. Which was just as well because the tank was so heavy that upon leaving the pavement to deploy for combat it sank in a muddy field somewhere in the Polish countryside never to be seen or heard from again.
Inspired by their air force comrades the Japanese Imperial Army built a number of Kamikaze Tanks, the Boom Baka-baka. To prevent it exploding prematurely from enemy fire they made the armor extra strong. A little too strong because the explosives inside were unable to breech the hull and when detonated only succeeded in blowing the driver inside out the hatch in a thousand little bits.
Yugoslavia’s Josip Tito had plans during the Cold War to enter the international arms trade and hopefully boost his country’s sagging economy. His offering was to be the low-priced YugoAFV, a “starter tank” targeted for sale to emerging powers. Developments proceeded smoothly until one day during testing the prototype collided with a stray cow and was totalled.
Attempting to create the ultimate fighting vehicle, The U.S. Defense Department specified its main battle tank should have weapons systems, communications, fly by wire steering and directional finders all controlled by an integrated set of triple redundant super computers. The result was the M1Ax210. Only problem was they could never find a soldier who could figure out how to operate the thing.