Military Review

Prerequisites for the appearance of tanks: between desires and opportunities


Model combat vehicle Leonardo da Vinci. For clarity, the roof is raised. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The prehistory of armored combat vehicles of the "tank" type is customary to start from the ancient eras, recalling various military means (up to fighting elephants). At different times, a variety of mobile, defensive and armed systems were used to strengthen the army, but the tank in its modern sense appeared only at the beginning of the XNUMXth century. This was made possible thanks to the emergence of a number of necessary technologies and the need for such a technique.

Theory and Technology

According to the dictionary definition, a tank is a combat vehicle with a highly mobile chassis with developed armor and cannon and / or machine gun weapons. The tank is designed to fire mainly direct fire and defeat manpower, equipment and fortifications of the enemy.

Thus, to create tank several key components are required. The absence of some of them also allows you to get a certain result, but it will not be a tank in the generally accepted sense. Similar project results can be repeatedly observed in stories military equipment.

Armored carriage of Schumann, 1886. Figure: Wikimedia Commons

To create a tank, already at the concept level, armor, weapons, an engine and a chassis that meet certain requirements are required. To increase combat and operational characteristics, it is possible to supplement these components with various units and systems, which has been observed in recent decades.

In the context of modern knowledge of key components, it is worth considering the background of armored vehicles, as well as early projects of combat vehicles, which contributed to the formation of the familiar appearance of the tank.

Historical issues

The history of tanks is often elevated to the fighting elephants of antiquity and medieval siege towers. Indeed, such samples could protect fighters and increase their mobility on the battlefield. However, according to the characteristics and capabilities, the composition of the key components and the tactical role, both elephants and towers were not very similar to our tanks.

In this context, the project of Leonardo da Vinci’s combat vehicle dating from 1487 is much more interesting. The great artist and inventor proposed the construction of a self-propelled vehicle with a muscular drive, protected by wooden “bulletproof” armor and armed with several light guns. By car, even the commander’s turret was provided. In fact, in the Leonardo project, all the main components of this tank were present, albeit adjusted for materials and technologies of the XNUMXth century.

Prerequisites for the appearance of tanks: between desires and opportunities
The proposed type of "tank" design of Levasser. Figure

However, the technological level of that time imposed serious restrictions. The combat vehicle could not count on getting its own engine and therefore relied only on the strength of the crew. In addition, the wheeled chassis, along with a small clearance, sharply limited the terrain. Correction of these shortcomings either required a radical revision of the project, or was impossible.

A few centuries later, in 1874, a French engineer Eduard Buyen proposed a curious version of a land combat vehicle. His project provided for the creation of a kind of armored train having “endless rails” for moving along arbitrary routes. The design of the machine was divided into eight sections according to the type of wagons. "Caterpillar armored train" was proposed to arm with guns and machine guns.

It is believed that it was E. Buyen who first brought armor in one project, weapon, engine and chassis of high cross. However, this project did not go further than a theoretical study due to a lack of interest from a potential customer. In addition, there were technical problems. The main thing is the insufficient design study, unable to provide high performance. So, the 120-ton machine was supposed to use a steam engine with a capacity of only 40 hp.

A full-size model of the Motorgeschütz machine designed by G. Burshtyn in the Austrian Heeresgeschichtlichen Museum. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In the context of the history of armored vehicles often recall the so-called Schumann armored carriage or 5,3 cm L / 24 Fahrpanzer Gruson arr. 1890. It was a lightly armored artillery tower with wheeled drive, suitable for movement with horse drawn traction. If necessary, the carriages were transported to positions and could fire, protecting the crew from bullets and fragments.

Thus, the "Schumann carriage" combined defense, weapons and mobility. However, she lacked the fourth component of the tank - the ability to move independently. However, in this type of armored carriage showed the general potential of mobile protected firearms.

XX century begins

At the beginning of the XX century. all the conditions for the emergence of new classes of military equipment, including tanks. Progress has led to the emergence of compact but powerful enough internal combustion engines, new types of chassis, durable armor and effective weapons. New projects and experiments began. For example, the idea of ​​installing weapons on a car with the goal of increasing mobility quickly came up. Then armor was added to it, and the armored car turned out to be a full-fledged fighting vehicle for the front edge.

Already in 1903, the French officer Levasser proposed constructing a combat vehicle with an armored hull and a 75 mm cannon on the basis of a caterpillar tractor. The project Projet de canon autopropulseur did not receive support, although it was simple and promised certain advantages.

Reconstruction of the appearance of the tank V.D. Mendeleev. Pattern: Wikimedia Commons

In 1911, the Austro-Hungarian officer Gunter Burshtyn developed the Motorgeschütz armored vehicle. She received a caterpillar undercarriage, supplemented by two pairs (front and rear) of skid levers with rollers. With their help, it was proposed to increase mobility in rough terrain. In the drawings for the patent application, G. Burshtyn also depicted a turret with weapons.

The inventor tried to advance his development, but Austria-Hungary and Germany showed no interest. The project was remembered only in the thirties. By that time, more advanced designs had been created, and the invention of G. Burshtyn was used for "advertising" purposes. It was declared the world's first tank of a modern appearance.

Before the start of the First World War, various designs from many countries, including and from Russia. The project of an "armored vehicle" designed by Vasily Dmitrievich Mendeleev is widely known. He offered a tracked vehicle with anti-shell armor (up to 150 mm) and a 120 mm naval cannon.

The first British Little Willie tank to be tested, 1915. Photo: Imperial War Museum

The development of the “armored vehicle” continued until 1916, after which the documents were sent to the military department. However, the command was not interested in this project. Soon, the UK used its first tanks at the front, but this did not affect the fate of the project of V. Mendeleev.

As you can see, at the beginning of the XX century. a curious situation developed that persisted even in the early period of the First World War. Achievements of progress have already made it possible to create a tank, even if primitive and with limited efficiency. However, at that time the army commanders did not see the point in such a technique, and the projects did not find support. Thus, for the appearance of the tank, not only certain technologies were required, but also the desire of its future operators.

War is an occasion

The beginning of World War I was an incentive for the emergence of new projects of military vehicles, etc. By the end of 1914, the war ceased to be maneuverable and moved into a positional stage. The warring parties prepared long and developed systems of trenches, before which they deployed a variety of engineering barriers, covered with machine guns and artillery. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the battlefield quickly turned into a “lunar landscape”.

Mark I tank at the front, September 1916. Photo: Imperial War Museum

Work in such a territory was particularly difficult; attempts to overcome obstacles during the offensive ended in excessive losses, regardless of tactical success. New models of technology were required that could operate in such conditions. At the same time, the armored cars did not justify themselves due to insufficient cross-country ability.

At the turn of 1914-1915. several enthusiastic engineers from the British army were able to convince their leadership of the need for research and design work. Already at the beginning of 1915, the first experiments started, in which both existing and newly developed samples of various kinds were studied. Finally, in September, experimental vehicles were launched for testing - the first tanks of Great Britain. Thus, the experienced Little Willie combined a gasoline engine, powerful for its time, a tracked undercarriage, bulletproof armor and (according to the project) cannon-machine gun weapons. In addition, the early British tanks were created by order of the army, which was almost a decisive factor.

A few months later an order appeared for serial production of new equipment, and in September 1916 Mark I armored vehicles went into battle for the first time. They differed significantly from the first experimental samples, but were based on the same ideas and technologies. The first production tanks coped with the tasks of breaking through barriers and supporting infantry. In addition, they laid the foundation for the further development of tank building and related areas.

Opportunities and desires

Thus, the appearance of tanks required the right combination of several factors, which was obtained only at the beginning of the last century. The leading issues were issues of a technical nature. Without the availability of the necessary materials and assemblies, all the desired results could not be obtained. After the appearance of the necessary technologies, the question of the expediency and wishes of the military arose. Far from immediately, the armies understood the full value of the new concept.

The T-14 Armata is currently the most advanced tank in the world. Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

All major factors converged only after the outbreak of World War I. And the result was the appearance of first experimental, and then serial tanks. In the shortest possible time, several countries immediately took up a promising direction, which had a positive effect on the capabilities of their armies. By this they set an example to other states that were also interested in the subject of armored combat vehicles.

The next few decades were marked by the rapid development of tank building, the massive construction of armored forces and the formation of fundamentally new tactics. In subsequent wars, tanks repeatedly showed and confirmed their high potential, thanks to which they still remain the basis of the striking power of any developed ground forces. All this became possible precisely thanks to the combination of technical capabilities and the wishes of the armies in the distant past.
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  1. Thrifty
    Thrifty 4 May 2020 05: 32 New
    Cyril, could write a review more complete than they wrote, because this is a topic that can be argued until the end of the universe lol hi
    1. Uncle lee
      Uncle lee 4 May 2020 05: 55 New

      Order in the tank troops!
  2. Free wind
    Free wind 4 May 2020 06: 12 New
    It seems that the Burshtyn tank could move along the rails, not only on the ground, of course not with these rollers, either on its own or with a trailer behind the train. Somewhere such article came across. In principle, this is quite doable. Mark-1 which, not without a certain charm, shot it in several films, of course replicas. Will the tanks have a future? Well, so far there is no alternative.
  3. Nehist
    Nehist 4 May 2020 06: 29 New
    At the turn of 1914-1915. several enthusiastic engineers from the British army were able to convince their leadership of the need for research and design work. (c) The author, well, why is this such nonsense to write? It was the British Admiralty that took up the tanks and not the army, and thanks to Churchill, who accidentally saw a report in Parliament, which, incidentally, said that these were unpromising developments.
    1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
      Kote Pan Kokhanka 4 May 2020 07: 22 New
      I will support Alexander!
      By the way, the first tanks of Britain were designed and built according to the residual principle! For example, they didn’t get 76mm howitzers, but armed themselves with 57mm cannons, which in His Majesty’s Navy were inundated!
  4. Amateur
    Amateur 4 May 2020 06: 42 New
    Leonardo came up with the concept of the tank. The British made the first "live" tank and tested it in battle. In Russia, they creatively rethought Leonardo's ideas and the practical experience of the British and released several pieces
    The T-14 "Armata" is currently the most advanced tank in the world.

    This is a brief retelling of the article under discussion. Carries the same amount of information about the tanks, their condition and prospects.
    1. tanki-tanki
      tanki-tanki 4 May 2020 10: 34 New
      New ones coming soon wassat yes laughing
  5. Undecim
    Undecim 4 May 2020 07: 15 New
    The title of the article: "Preconditions for the appearance of tanks: between desires and possibilities", but there is practically nothing about preconditions, desires, or possibilities.
    The topic is disclosed at the level, as they wrote earlier in books - for primary school age.
  6. Asad
    Asad 4 May 2020 08: 28 New
    Sorry for the naive question, but does a modern tank withstand the shot of a modern ATGM?
  7. demiurg
    demiurg 4 May 2020 08: 39 New
    The result was a vicious circle.
    The advancing infantry received a pillbox and artillery in the form of a tank during the offensive. By concentrating the tanks, it was possible to gain an advantage over the defenders in the number of barrels and bunkers (this is if you leave out howitzer / mortar artillery, and the quantity of infantry and other things). Long-term defensive fortifications lost their meaning, maximum trenches and dugouts.
    Means of anti-theft defense had to poke everything, starting from the department. Percentages of 20-25 modern infantrymen are designed to fight tanks (if this is counted as an RPG shooter in the unit, a tank regiment at the company and battalion level). There were thoughts that the tank is not needed. But if you remove tanks from the battlefield, what will be used for all anti-tank weapons? Against BMP enough 30-35mm guns.

    As soon as someone abandons the tanks, he immediately loses the possibility of breaking through the layered defense. And by the way, the ability to quickly restore a broken front is also losing. This is a war against an equal opponent. A tank is primarily a mobile bunker for infantry. Everything else is from the evil one. In local conflicts against a weak adversary, tanks are not needed.
  8. AllBiBek
    AllBiBek 4 May 2020 08: 55 New
    Over more than five hundred years before the project of Schumann’s armored carriage, the Chinese already had a similar episode in a small series, for example, in one such trophy one, in old age, the same Subudai preferred to travel.
  9. Doctor
    Doctor 4 May 2020 15: 47 New
    Prerequisites began in ancient Rome.

  10. Aviator_
    Aviator_ 4 May 2020 16: 22 New
    The topic is interesting. The presentation is slurred. The principle is mobile, protected weapons for escorting troops during an offensive. The exposition over the years has a large hole - from Leonardo with his drawing to the XIX century. By the way, I would not exaggerate the influence of the great artist of the Renaissance on the military thought of that time. There was no such influence whatsoever. The Taborite carts were at least 20 years earlier in the case before Leonardo made his drawing. (Perhaps he was trying to improve them somehow?) Weak article.
  11. Crimea26
    Crimea26 4 May 2020 17: 23 New
    Schumann's carriage did not move by any horse-drawn traction. Its transportation by means of a "cart" from a "warehouse" to a "position" has the same relation to its combat "mobility" as a trailer for the "mobility" of a modern tank. On its wheels, it moved by the effort of a couple of soldiers, its track was limited to a maximum of ten meters and all its dignity - there was no need to install guns on a permanent basis, but only cheap concrete "pockets". There is a need - the "cart" galloped up - the carriage was rolled along the rails into the "pocket" - the weapon is ready. There is no need - they rolled out onto the "cart" and took them to the "warehouse". Something like a modern "combat module".
  12. irontom
    irontom 4 May 2020 19: 16 New
    The article is illiterate - the author mentions Mendeleev's "tank", although the machine is not a tank at all, but a self-propelled coastal battery. The author apparently did not hear about the proposal of an armored vehicle on a caterpillar track of GAU from Colonel Gulkevich in May 15th, the author did not hear about its implementation on the "Akhtyrtsa", bought at his own expense by Gulkevich on the chassis of the Eli-Chalmes tractor in the 16th year.
  13. Sasha_rulevoy
    Sasha_rulevoy 6 May 2020 08: 41 New
    The wooden tank is described by Fazil Iskander in "Sandro from Chegem".

    He saw a wooden structure, a little taller than a man’s height, a giant box, slightly raised by wheels above the ground. The wheels were fixed inside and barely protruded from under the side wall of the structure.
    Uncle Sandro immediately realized that this was done in order to protect the wheels from enemy bullets, and was surprised at the military cunning of the Mensheviks.
    Continuing to watch, Uncle Sandro came to the conclusion that the side walls of the structure were doubled, because one of them was quite free standing soldier and completed something with a shovel. As soon as Uncle Sandro realized that the walls were double and that’s why the soldier was standing so free on the wall, he immediately realized that the soldier was leveling and tamping the sand poured between the walls.
    Then Uncle Sandro finally figured out the purpose of this fortress on wheels. He realized that the Mensheviks under her cover would try to cross the bridge.

    It's funny, but the wooden "tank" justified itself, the Mensheviks further on the plot of the story defeated the Reds.
  14. Knell wardenheart
    Knell wardenheart 21 June 2020 12: 50 New
    Conceptually, the principle of the tank was used by the Hussites with their armored vehicles, if I'm not mistaken. There they attached guns and armor, only the engine was not enough. The decisive factor for the birth of a tank and many breakthrough military equipment was the economic cost of the "classical" breakthrough of some abstract sector of the front. So far, N-shells and N-cannon fodder were enough for success - they would drive into the attack and drive, like centuries before. Above the N-value, the price was already prohibitive (relative to the tactical and other value of the captured) - and this is how the golden doors of innovation were opened. This is how they unfortunately open up to this day ..
  15. Viktor Sergeev
    Viktor Sergeev 26 June 2020 07: 38 New
    Walk the field is the first tank to have strategic importance and to save Russia in the 16th century.