17 Insane Russian Military Inventions  

Mike Rothschild
404.8k views 17 items

Russian military inventions tend toward the brutally practical: tanks, planes, and guns that are cheap, and easy to produce. Indeed, in the Second World War, the Soviet Union simply overwhelmed Germany with endless waves of T-34 tanks, fighter planes, and infantry armed with cheap sub-machine guns. When it comes to Russian military vehicles and other wartime inventions, there's some pretty crazy stuff.

Getting to a tank or plane that can be built in the tens of thousands takes experimentation and a willingness to embrace unorthodox concepts. Combine this with the traditional tendency of Russian engineers to come up with insane ideas and worry about how to mass produce them later, and you have a climate ripe for truly bizarre weapons. So in the 20th century, Russia led the way in designing weird, unwieldy, and truly outside-the-box tanks, planes, weapons, and ships. Their designers really loved putting wings on things, so you got flying tanks, flying subs, flying aircraft carriers, and even ships with wings.

Many of these ideas never got past the blueprint stage, though a few saw action in World War II. The Russians were desperate, and no matter how crazy something is, if it works, it works. Yet most of these didn't - and were forgotten about by almost everyone.
Tsar Bomba
Tsar Bomba is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 17 Insane Russian Military Inventions
Photo: Croquant/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
On October 30, 1961, the Soviet Union detonated the most powerful and destructive weapon ever created - the AN602 hydrogen bomb, nicknamed "Tsar Bomba," in keeping with a variety of other large and unwieldy Russian weapons. Tsar Bomba exploded with a yield of between 50 to 60 megatons. This was equivalent to over 1,500 times the combined power of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and 10 times the combined power of the explosives used in World War II. It completely destroyed villages close to the explosion, caused burns 60 miles away, and broke windows 700 miles away. It was only tested once.
Object 279
Object 279 is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 17 Insane Russian Military Inventions
Photo: Alf van Beem/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Soviet engineers were often forced to develop vehicles that weren't especially survivable by their crews. The pinnacle of this was Object 279, an experimental heavy tank designed to withstand the shockwave of a nuclear blast - then fight in the fallout-drenched aftermath. It weighed 60 tons, carried a crew of four, could traverse just about any ground, and had protection for chemical and biological attacks.

Two prototypes were built in 1959, and went through trials that proved the tank was too big and cumbersome for the modern battlefield. It was too heavy for Soviet roads, hugely expensive, hard to maintain, and could easily be picked off from the air. Nikita Khrushchev soon declared that the Soviet Union would produce tanks no heavier than 37 tons, and Object 279 headed to a museum.
T-42 Superheavy Tank
The interwar period saw a frantic race to build bigger and more powerful supertanks. The Soviet entry into this madness was the T-42. Designed in 1930 by German engineer Edward Grotte, this beast would have weighed 100 tons, carried a crew of 14, and had three turrets carrying a variety of heavy and light guns. The Soviet brass weren't impressed with the tank, which needed an engine so powerful it hadn't been invented, and would have been too slow and vulnerable to actually use. The design never got past a blueprint. Grotte went on to design the 1,000 ton behemoth Ratte tank for Germany - which also got canceled in the blueprint stage.
Anti-Tank Dogs
Anti-Tank Dogs is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 17 Insane Russian Military Inventions
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Numerous countries have turned to the animal kingdom to help find an edge in warfare - and the results were usually pretty subpar.  Even going back to the late 1300s, Mongolian chieftains used flaming camels to disperse their enemies. World War II was the height of attempting to weaponize animals, highlighted by the Soviet use of mined dogs - literally trained dogs with mines strapped to their backs, that would run under German tanks and explode.

Reportedly, these poor creatures destroyed over 300 German vehicles, though the program was stopped when it proved difficult to ensure the dogs would run in the right direction, as opposed to simply destroying the first tank they saw.