Military Review

The largest weapon in history that has never fought. Mortar Little David

22

The biggest guns in stories... The sonorous and ironic nickname "Little David" was given to the American 914-mm mortar, built during the Second World War. Despite its impressive caliber, this weapon is superior in this indicator to the huge German railway artillery installations "Dora" and "Gustav" was not intended for military operations.


Experimental 914-mm mortar was developed for testing aviation bombs. Not differing in gigantic dimensions against the background of the "Karl" mortar or the "Dora" installation, the American artillery system holds the record for the largest caliber among all models of modern artillery.

Making mortar Little David


American engineers and designers, unlike their counterparts from the Axis countries, have never suffered from gigantomania. In the USA during the Second World War were not created Tanks, similar to the "Mouse", artillery systems, commensurate with the "Dora", and on navy there were no battleships that could compete in caliber and size with the Japanese Yamato.

It is all the more surprising that it was in the United States in the second half of the 1940s that an artillery system was created, which still holds the record for caliber among modern artillery installations. The caliber of a giant experimental mortar in 914 mm inspires respect even today.

Before the Americans, only the British used this caliber. Mortar Malletdesigned in Great Britain in the 1850s also had a 914 mm caliber. The mortar, which was planned to be used during the Crimean War and the siege of Sevastopol, did not have time for the war and, like Little David, never fought, remaining only a curiosity in history and the British Tsar Cannon, with which tourists willingly take pictures.

The largest weapon in history that has never fought. Mortar Little David
Little David mortar at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds

The prerequisite for the creation of the Little David mortar was the American practice of testing air bombs. During the Second World War, the American army quite often used large-caliber artillery systems that were removed from service to test aircraft ammunition.

With the help of relatively small powder charges, it was possible to launch an aerial bomb at a distance of several hundred yards from the gun. This practice of testing was in demand, as it was much cheaper than bombing from aircraft. In addition, the tests did not depend in any way on weather conditions and flying weather.

Usually, old 234-mm and 305-mm guns were used for testing. However, the increase in the size of the bombs required an increase in the caliber of the guns. As a result, the United States decided to design a device that received the designation Bomb Testing Device T1. It was this setup that came to be known as Little David.

The unique artillery system was designed by engineers at Mesta Machinery, one of the leading industrial companies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The company went bankrupt in the early 1980s, but for a long time was the leading manufacturer of industrial equipment in the world.

The president of the company, Lorenz Iversen, supervised the creation of a unique artillery system. He personally supervised the entire course of development work until the creation of the mortar. Lorenz Iversen also prepared an instruction manual for the unique artillery gun and instructions for the artillery crew.


914-mm shell for the Little David mortar

Experimental ammunition for "Little David" was created as part of a government order by engineers at the Babcock & Wilcox military laboratory in Akron, Ohio. This company exists and successfully operates today, having gone from steam boilers to nuclear power and renewable energy sources.

Description 914-mm mortar Little David


Outwardly, the huge artillery mount was a muzzle-loading mortar with a rifled barrel. The barrel rested on a large steel box weighing 46,5 tons, which burst into a fairly deep hole. The barrel weight was approximately 40,64 tons. The weight is not small, but in comparison with the giant German artillery systems it is quite tolerable, and most importantly - transportable.

In a metal buried box there were mechanisms for vertical guidance of the mortar, as well as six hydraulic jacks, which were needed for mounting and removing the barrel. The barrel of a 914-mm mortar was raised and lowered thanks to a "quadrant" driven from the breech of the barrel. At the same time, the width of the steel box made it possible, if necessary, to carry out guidance and horizontally.

The installation was loaded using a special crane. The loading came from the muzzle of the gun at zero elevation. A curious feature of the mortar was the lack of a knurling plate. The barrel returned to its place after each manual shot. At the same time, the installation had a hydraulic rollback brake.

The dimensions of the steel box buried in the ground were as follows - 5500x3360x3000 mm. The vertical aiming angles of the 914-mm mortar on the target were +45 .. + 65 degrees, the horizontal aiming angles were 13 degrees in each direction.


The advantage of the whole design was relative mobility. For the transportation of mortars, it was planned to use modified wheeled heavy tank tractors M26. Each tractor received a two-axle trailer. On one of them the barrel of a mortar was transported, on the other - a steel box and mechanisms for installation. This transportation option made the American mortar much more mobile than most railway artillery systems of comparable calibers.

In addition to these tractors, the artillery crew should have included a crane, a bulldozer and a bucket excavator - all of them were used to place a mortar in a firing position. At the same time, this process took about 12 hours.

The experimental installation Bomb Testing Device T1 has proven itself quite successfully when testing aviation ammunition, so that the military has an idea to use the mortar as a full-fledged artillery weapon. Work in this direction began in March 1944. At the same time, test firing began at the Aberdeen Proving Ground using ammunition specially created for the mortar.

The fate of the project


The Americans quickly realized that their Tsar Cannon could also be used for military purposes. The relevance of such an application grew in the light of a possible invasion of the Japanese islands. The American military hoped that they would face serious resistance from the Japanese, as well as a developed system of fortifications. Fighting bunkers and bunkers with a 914mm mortar would definitely be easier.

Especially for these purposes, a powerful high-explosive projectile weighing 1678 kg was developed, in which 703 kg accounted for an explosive. Tests of mortars with this ammunition were carried out at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Moreover, they quickly revealed the same shortcomings that were inherent in all giant mortars of the past. "Little David" fired not far, but what is even more sad - inaccurate.


Test firing showed that the maximum range of the projectile was 9500 yards (8690 meters). The American military was not encouraged by the 12 hours that were needed to fully place the mortar in position. Although, compared to the time spent on deploying the German Dora, it was almost an instant, and the mortar itself was much more mobile. Two M26 wheeled artillery tractors could be used to transport it.

All plans for the combat use of mortars were finally buried by the end of the Second World War. Landing on the Japanese Islands was not needed, and the US military found a more terrible and destructive weaponthan 914 mm shells. The era of nuclear weapons was dawning, the power of which Japanese cities felt to the fullest.

After the end of the war, the unusual project was stopped, and in 1946 it was completely closed. The American wonder weapon never left the borders of the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Today the unusual mortar is one of the unique exhibits of the local open-air museum.
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  1. Undecim
    Undecim 24 May 2021 18: 10
    +6
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LittleDavid.ogv -документальній фильм об использовании.
    1. Undecim
      Undecim 24 May 2021 18: 59
      +11

      More convenient link.
      1. mmaxx
        mmaxx 25 May 2021 13: 26
        0
        Thanks to the Amaricans for this vidos.
  2. Alexey RA
    Alexey RA 24 May 2021 18: 45
    +10
    American engineers and designers, unlike their counterparts from the Axis countries, have never suffered from gigantomania. Tanks like the "Mouse" were not created in the USA during the Second World War., artillery systems commensurate with the "Dora", and the fleet did not have battleships that could compete in caliber and size with the Japanese "Yamato".

    Now the T28 / T95 self-propelled gun was offended. smile

    When Johnny comes marching home again
    Hurrah! Hurrah!
    ©

    And about the naval gigantomania - the Yankees simply did not have time to finish building the Montana with their 70 kt full displacement.
    1. Undecim
      Undecim 24 May 2021 19: 08
      +10
      And the T-30 tank too.
      1. Alexey RA
        Alexey RA 24 May 2021 19: 29
        +11
        Quote: Undecim
        And the T-30 tank too.

        Pfff ... a measly 70 tons versus a turtle 86. smile

        And the turtle also had 146% camouflage - the tank stood unnoticed for 27 years between three bushes in Fort Belvoir, at the training ground for NVG training.

        Its existence became known only in 1974, when Fort Belvoir responded to the "guess the photo" quiz in one of the army magazines. "this thing is on our landfill". Journalists, together with a specialist from the BTV Fort Knox Museum, arrived at the test site - and exactly, he ©. Moreover, whole and complete, only rusted.
        According to rumors, a representative of the museum performed an Indian victory dance around the turtle - because according to all the documents, all the built T28 / 95s went for butchering after tests in the late 40s.
        1. Undecim
          Undecim 24 May 2021 19: 48
          +6
          Pfff ... a measly 70 tons versus a turtle 86.
          "86 turtle" is the curb weight, with fuel and ammunition.
          And the "dry weight" without external tracks is 60 tons.
        2. Alf
          Alf 24 May 2021 20: 29
          -1
          The Russian-backed CAR authorities are fighting armed groups operating in rural areas that are not only against the authorities, but also against Russia.

          And they also say that the Russian races are ... slovens.
          1. Catfish
            Catfish 24 May 2021 22: 11
            +3
            What are you talking about? "Where is the river and where is the estate?", In the sense of an elderberry in the garden and an uncle in Kiev. laughing
            1. Alf
              Alf 25 May 2021 20: 48
              0
              Quote: Sea Cat
              What are you talking about? "Where is the river and where is the estate?", In the sense of an elderberry in the garden and an uncle in Kiev. laughing

              I answer. A technical error. Wrote
              the tank for 27 years stood unnoticed between three bushes in Fort Belvoir, at the training ground
              , and why my previous comment stuck is unclear.
              1. Catfish
                Catfish 25 May 2021 21: 14
                0
                Yes, obviously a glitch, it turned out very strange.
        3. spech
          spech 25 May 2021 13: 21
          0
          According to rumors, a representative of the museum performed an Indian victory dance around the turtle - because according to all the documents, all the built T28 / 95s went for butchering after tests in the late 40s.

          That is, the tank was simply "loved"?
          1. Alexey RA
            Alexey RA 25 May 2021 14: 07
            +5
            Quote: spech
            That is, the tank was simply "loved"?

            Yeah ... lost an 11-meter 86-ton car. smile
            Moreover, according to the documents, the product has been disposed of - but in fact it brazenly stands at the Fort Belvoir test site.
            The only thing that can be attributed to it is the post-war mess with reductions, reorganizations, etc. Then they were odd, notably - at the training ground near the Joliet Armory they forgot the company of "Shermans" for two decades (the old l / s left for Europe, and the one assigned for the distillation of tanks was suddenly transferred to another place), in one of the bays they forgot the TKA flotilla for ten years, at the operating airfield, the decommissioned torpedo bombers forgot at the edge of the airfield until the stage "trees sprouted through the wings", etc.
    2. BISMARCK94
      BISMARCK94 24 May 2021 19: 35
      -1
      yes, everyone was addicted to gigantomania) the main thing is to realize the dead end of development in time and stop)
  3. vladcub
    vladcub 24 May 2021 19: 31
    +4
    I was still a kid and heard somewhere that the Americans fired bombs from a cannon, but no details. Over time, I forgot, but Sergey reminded me. Thank you for that, it's always nice to remember childhood.
  4. bk0010
    bk0010 24 May 2021 20: 10
    +1
    Especially for these purposes, a powerful high-explosive projectile weighing 1678 kg was developed, in which 703 kg accounted for an explosive.
    700 kg of explosives, that's from the heart! And at the same time, not 5% of the mass of the projectile, like the sailors, but all 40!
    1. gsev
      gsev 25 May 2021 01: 45
      0
      Quote: bk0010
      700 kg of explosives, that's from the heart! And at the same time, not 5% of the mass of the projectile, like the sailors, but all 40!

      About 4 years ago, a Chinese machine-tool company specializing in the production of machine tools for guns came to Moscow for the exhibition. In the Chinese segment of the Internet, they claim to be capable of making barrels over 1 meter in diameter.
    2. Vladimir_2U
      Vladimir_2U 25 May 2021 04: 34
      +2
      Quote: bk0010
      700 kg of explosives, that's from the heart! And at the same time, not 5% of the mass of the projectile, like the sailors, but all 40!

      Yes, an excellent ratio of explosives to projectile mass, but a mortar is a mortar.
  5. Hog
    Hog 25 May 2021 13: 39
    0
    tanks like "Mouse" were not created

    There are no tanks, but there were SPGs, forgot the T95?
  6. vadim dok
    vadim dok 25 May 2021 15: 26
    0
    Really the largest (in caliber) gun - even the "Tsar Cannon was smaller / 890 mm / but never fired!"
    1. abrakadabre
      abrakadabre 15 July 2021 14: 02
      0
      even the Tsar Cannon was smaller / 890 mm / but never fired!
      According to the results of examining the barrel of the Tsar Cannon, this gun fired at least once. Traces of a burnt powder charge were found on the inner surface of the barrel. Just do not forget that the Tsar Cannon was a huge shotgun to defend the gate from the enemy's breakthrough.
  7. Understanding
    Understanding 18 July 2021 06: 37
    0
    The largest caliber - yes. But not the biggest one.