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At the end of 1914, the First World War became trench warfare. This crazy Russian military idea was supposed to change that. It was clear to all parties involved if they wanted to end the war quickly, they would need a new kind of weapon. It was supposed to be a machine that can overcome all obstacles in no man’s land, but mainly the trenches of the enemy and thus force them to surrender.
In 1915, Russian military engineer Nikolay Lebedenko came up with the idea of creating a machine with large wheels to ensure travel over enemy trenches. He created a small model powered by a spring motor from a toy and he demonstrated it to Tsar Nicholas II. He was captivated by the model’s ability to overcome obstacles and immediately approved 250,000 rubles for its development. Today, it would be tens of millions of €.
Lebedenko asked for the help of Nikolai Zhukovsky, Boris Strekinkin and Alexander Mikulin and they started to work.
In 1915, they built the first … and also the last prototype.
Wheels with a diameter of 9 m were mounted on one shaft and brackets attached to the fuselage. Each one was powered by a 250 horsepower engine. Some sources state that they were German Maybach engines from the captured Zeppelin, others claim that they were British engines of the now-defunct Sunbeam brand. In my opinion, it is most likely a version of the Maybach MB IV engines, originally marked as Maybach HS.
I could not find any info about the transmission. No mechanism is visible in any of the photos, so I assume that the power was transmitted directly to the rim of the wheel.
The rear was supported by smaller wheels about 2 m high to ensure manoeuvrability.
The number and type of weapons are also not entirely clear. The tank was probably to be equipped with three cannons and several machine guns to protect against infantry.
This monster reached a speed of up to 17km / h, which was a very good performance for that time and a weight of almost 60 tons. However, the problem was in the weight distribution. Most of the weight was on the front wheels, which had no problem overcoming obstacles on hard ground, but in the mud, they immediately sank. The tank could no longer be pulled out and the project was finished. In 1923, due to the lack of iron, it was scrapped. Today, his replica is located in a tank museum near Moscow.