Land torpedo Aubriot-Gabet Torpille Electrique (France)
As far as we know, the idea of building a compact self-propelled machine capable of bringing explosive charge to a target appeared almost simultaneously in several countries, but only French designers began to develop it and, as a result, were the first to embody it in metal. In July, 1915, Schneider delivered its version of this to the landfill. weapons under the name Crocodile. The land torpedo Crocodile Type B in just one day passed the necessary tests, the results of which were recommended for mass production and use in the troops. Soon a prototype of another model was built.
The second French project of the Torpille Terrestre class was proposed by engineers Paul Aubrio and Gustave Gabe. Soon after the outbreak of the First World War, they began to create new types of military equipment, and soon gained certain fame through the projects of radio-controlled torpedoes and improvised armored cars based on the tractor. A characteristic feature of the latter was the use of an electric power plant that needed an external power source and a coil with a cable of sufficient length. Despite the obvious problems, such an armored car was brought to field testing and demonstration by the military.
For obvious reasons, the electric armored car did not interest the potential customer. However, the designers duet did not abandon the use of electric motors in their new projects. Not later than the middle of 1915, P. Aubrio and G. Gabe proposed a new project of special military equipment, which also provided for the use of electrical systems with power supply from a remote source. It should be noted that this time the use of such a power plant was fully justified, since it made it possible to significantly reduce the size and weight of the machine.
The new project involved the creation of a relatively light and compact platform with an electric motor and tracked propulsion. It was considered, first of all, as a carrier of engineering explosive charges and could be used to combat enemy installations or barriers. By the names of their developers, taking into account the class of the machine and the type of power plant, the project was named Aubriot-Gabet Torpille Electrique (“Aubrio-Gabe Electric Torpedo”). There is reason to believe that, if adopted, the product could have received some other name corresponding to the army nomenclature.
Approximately in the middle of 1915, the authors of the original engineering technology presented a prototype for testing. Looking ahead, it should be noted that he remained in the singular. In addition, you need to consider that this product was not assembled in full combat configuration. As a result, the available information does not allow to fully restore the appearance of a land torpedo in combat readiness. However, certain well-known features of its design make it possible to make some assumptions or conclusions.
Apparently, P. Aubrio and G. Gabe created their new project, taking into account the maximum simplification and cheapening of the production of finished equipment. A self-propelled engineering charge of a new type should have been distinguished by a simple design, and in addition, it did not require a large number of complex and expensive components. It can be assumed that the simplified design was to be used only in the case of the prototype, whereas with subsequent development new tools could be introduced into the project. However, the tests were submitted not too complex self-propelled machine.
The main element of the experimental torpedo Aubriot-Gabet Torpille Electrique was a platform with mounts for other units. It was a metal rectangular horizontal part of large elongation. Below to this platform was attached a pair of longitudinal elements of a vertical arrangement. The front part of them in a noticeable way protruded beyond the platform, forming a support for the installation of some elements of the chassis. On top of the platform did not plan to install any covers, not to mention a full body. Later, however, the design of the main elements of the torpedo could be reworked.
The rear half of the platform was designed for mounting the power plant and transmission. Closer to the center should be placed an electric motor of the required power. Immediately behind him was a simple transmission. The motor shaft was directed towards the stern. The main element of the transmission was a worm gear reducer design. With it, the torque was transmitted from the motor shaft to the transverse axis, which was installed just above the platform. It had gears that interacted with the chains. The latter passed through holes in the platform and skirted the stars connected to the axis of the driving wheels.
Chassis torpedo Aubrio-Gabe also did not differ in the complexity of the design. On the lower vertical elements of the platform were placed two pairs of wheels of medium diameter. The front wheel, which was moved beyond the limits of the projection of the platform, served as a guide. Aft was the leading and secured to the transmission shaft. The driving and steering wheels were at ground level and actually took over the functions of road wheels. Moreover, it was not planned to install additional rollers between them. Suspension suspension is also not used. A caterpillar was proposed based on a narrow metal chain. The required tape width was achieved by large shoes attached to the chain.
The protruding front platform assembly served to install an additional track. On it, at a certain angle to the horizontal, were placed small longitudinal beams with mounting for a pair of wheels. According to its design, the front tracked drive belt was similar to the other two, but it differed in other sizes. It was assumed that a raised front caterpillar will facilitate climbing obstacles and moving over rough terrain as a whole.
The development of P. Aubrio and G. Gabe was positioned as a land torpedo, but the prototype built had no warhead and was not even equipped with the means to install it. Probably, in the course of further development, similar elements could be introduced into the design of the machine. The most likely and convenient option for installing a warhead in this case is the front of the platform. It was of sufficient size, and in addition, a warhead of sufficient power could compensate for the considerable weight of the electric motor and thus ensure acceptable balancing. Probably, to explode the warhead, it was necessary to use an electric fuse controlled by its own cable.
It is known that the prototype Aubriot-Gabet Torpille Electrique was not equipped with its own power source. The supply of electricity was to be carried out by wires from a third-party source located in a shelter. The connection of the energy source and the machine was provided with only two cables of sufficient length. This feature of the constructed prototype raises questions that remain without a clear and precise answer.
Obviously, the management of the self-propelled engineering charge had to be carried out using the operator’s console, which controls the supply of current to the engine. At the same time, it is easy to notice that the presence of only two wires severely limited the capabilities of the control system. In fact, the operator could give commands only about moving forward or backward. Any maneuvering was excluded. Famous features of the transmission design also speak of the inability of the prototype to maneuver.
Dimensions of the experimental torpedo Aubriot-Gabet Torpille Electrique are unknown. It can be assumed that the length of this product did not exceed 1,5-1,7 m, while other measurements would hardly have crossed the 0,5-0,7 m. There is information about the estimated combat weight - 200 kg. The weight parameters of the warhead are unknown. Moreover, there is reason to believe that such aspects of the project have not been worked out.
On the basis of the available data, it is possible to conclude about the proposed methods of combat use of the new land torpedo. With the help of any transport with suitable characteristics, the torpedo itself, the control panel, the reel of cables and the source of energy should be delivered to the place of combat work. After connecting all the connectors, the self-propelled machine could be put on the starting position and give the command to move forward.
In the proposed form, the self-propelled engineering ammunition did not have control systems for the course, which is why it could only go forward or backward. In this regard, the "targeting" on the target could be carried out only before the start of the movement, setting the machine on the desired course. Bringing a self-propelled charge to the intended goal, the operator had to give a command to undermine the warhead.
With a total mass of about 200 kg, the land torpedo Aubriot-Gabet Torpille Electrique could carry an explosive charge weighing up to several tens of kilograms. The explosion of such a charge could destroy wire barriers or, at a minimum, cause serious damage to fortifications or other structures.
According to some information, in the future the existing land torpedo project could be improved, as a result of which the self-propelled machine would receive new possibilities. In the first place, refinement should be subjected to the power plant and transmission. The composition of the latter was necessary to introduce controls the speed of the tracks. In addition, for a full-fledged combat use of the machine needed in the warhead and undermining controls. Also, would not have become redundant means of protection of the main units.
However, the further development of the project was postponed for the near future. Not later than July, 1915 tested a simplified version of the Aubriot-Gabet Torpille Electrique, which can only demonstrate the main ideas and solutions. Checks continued for some time, and led to the emergence of a unique solution. From the original project refused. Who exactly was disappointed in the land torpedo - the developers or the potential customer - is unknown. However, regardless of who exactly made the final decision, the work was stopped.
In its current form, the prototype could show certain advantages of unusual military equipment, but its further development hardly made sense. The land torpedo project had certain flaws, the correction of which took time. In addition, a number of problems were fundamentally unavoidable with the technologies of the time. As a result, the Aubriot-Gabet Torpille Electrique project was not developed and was not even brought to the testing stage of a full-fledged engineering ammunition.
The ground torpedo P. Aubrio and G. Gabe, at least in theory, could solve the tasks and help advance the troops along the battlefield, destroying various obstacles or fortifications. However, the performance of such functions was associated with certain difficulties and problems. Characteristic design flaws could interfere with combat use and significantly reduce its effectiveness. In addition, the survivability of the system left much to be desired.
As in the case of the land torpedo from the firm Schneider, the product Aubriot-Gabet Torpille Electrique should have been small in size, allowing to reduce the likelihood of detection by the enemy. At the same time, the dimensions made it difficult to observe the moving machine, and the operator could not easily control it. The lack of serious protection led to the risk of destroying a torpedo even by occasional bullets or shrapnel. Damage to the control cables could de-energize the machine and make it useless.
According to reports, the original project by P. Aubrio and G. Gabe was closed by the end of 1915, due to the lack of real prospects. Tests of the first prototype demonstrator of technology were not crowned with success, and new prototypes were no longer built. The only existing machine, apparently, was dismantled as useless. Now it can be seen only in the only preserved photograph.
The ground torpedo Aubriot-Gabet Torpille Electrique was not too successful, and therefore could not even reach the tests in a full military configuration. However, it should be noted that the Crocodile developed in the same year proved to be more successful. Schneider was able to solve the main tasks and create a full-fledged self-propelled engineering ammunition. This product coped with the tests and was put into service. However, mass production lasted only a few months, and such weapons did not become widespread.
Subsequently, the French army began to develop other means of breaking through the enemy’s defense in the form of full-fledged armored fighting vehicles. Soon the first to enter the battlefield Tanks, and land torpedoes, as the remaining stocks were spent, gradually went out of service. As a result, no later than the end of 1916, France completely stopped using such weapons. The development of French torpedoes continued only after two dozen years.
Everett HR Toscano M. Unmanned Systems of World Wars I and II. MIT Press. 2015.
- Ryabov Kirill
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