Military Review

Ships of Antarctica: "God is with us, party organizer and" Kharkovchanka "


"Kharkovchanka". Source:

Caterpillars of the country of the Soviets

The first portion stories it was about the first attempts to storm Antarctica with self-propelled vehicles. The American attempt with the wheeled "Snow Cruiser" failed, but the Soviet post-war experience was quite successful. This is not surprising - by that time a whole engineering school for the creation of all-round equipment had developed in the country. Dense snow cover and muddy roads - it was with such difficult problems that domestic automotive designers had to fight.

However, initially this question was acutely faced by the Frenchman Adolphe Kegresse. The personal chauffeur of Nicholas II and the technical director of the Tsarskoye Selo Imperial Garage was the first in the country to attempt a radical solution to the off-road problem. In 1910, the Frenchman began to create a half-track propulsion device, which made it possible to move on a fairly thick layer of snow. The off-road capabilities of the Russo-Balts, Delaunay, Benzov and other imperial vehicles were vanishingly small.

Kegress made a radical decision, multiplying the contact area with the surface due to the tracks at the rear and skis on the front axle. The first car with a Kegress propeller was the French FL 18/24 CV, later in the imperial workshops up to nine cars were altered. Under Soviet rule, the ideas of the Frenchman lived for quite a long time - until the mid-30s, and the leader of the revolution, Lenin, enjoyed using the completely bourgeois Rolls-Rolls Silver Ghost with caterpillars with pleasure. Until now, a pair of "skis in front - behind the caterpillar" works well as a temporary measure to overcome the snow cover. Baumanians and Russian Mechanics presented the Arctic ATV RM-2021 with similar equipment at Army 500.

A way to overcome snowy deserts along Kegresse. Source:

The priority in civilian tracked vehicles, fixed back in tsarist Russia, was not fully implemented later - the country had completely different concerns and problems. When it came time to conquer snowy deserts in the extreme conditions of the Arctic and Antarctic, there was not much to choose from. Almost the only option was the AT-T heavy artillery tractor.

The prototype of the machine under the name AT-45 was developed back in 1943 based on the transmission and chassis. tank T-34. The V-2 diesel engine in a derated version of 350 hp was chosen as the power plant. with. Reducing power has become a necessary measure in the struggle for a longer engine resource. In those days, tank engines worked no more than 500-600 hours. The main task of the tractor was considered to be the transportation of howitzers of the Reserve of the Supreme Command, and, of course, a slightly larger resource was required. The pull on the hook of the AT-45 tractor was 15 tf, and the platform's carrying capacity reached 6 tons. Nothing sensible came out of this prototype - even by the end of the war, the T-34 "bogie" was outdated, the gearbox was not suitable for the needs of the tractor (low power range), and the tracks did not create the required "hook". The first batch of seven cars produced in Kharkov in 1944 was never expanded to a full series.

AT-T. Source:

Ships of Antarctica: "God is with us, party organizer and" Kharkovchanka "

"Kharkovchanka". Source:

In the post-war period, it was decided to develop a heavy tractor on the basis of the T-54 under the name "Product 401". It must be said that the car was developed in a very short time for the Soviet industry - in 1947, the first run of an experienced tractor from Kharkov to Moscow, and two years later, serial production. The manufacturer, as in the case of the predecessor of the AT-45, was the Kharkov transport engineering plant. The tractor received the name AT-T, a characteristic recognizable appearance with a cab from the ZiS-150 and turned out to be the only vehicle in its class. Therefore, the tracked vehicle was used not only for its intended purpose as an artillery tractor, but also as a missile carrier, an engineering vehicle, a base for a radar station and much more. The story about this legendary car, which has been in production for 30 years, requires a separate material, but for now let's move on to the Antarctic tractors based on it.

"Kharkovchanka" goes to the blizzard

Nobody really knew how to actually master the poles of the Earth - everything came with experience. Americans in 1935 tried to use wheeled vehicles on the principle of "I carry everything with me." But even the giant wheels of the Snow Cruiser did not allow the polar explorers to succeed. Soviet engineers decided to apply the classic scheme with a tractor, dragging sleds or tracked trailers along the snow. AT-T seemed to be suitable for this very well - the mass of the towed trailer reached 25 tons, the platform was loaded up to 5 tons, and the average specific pressure on the surface did not exceed 0,65 kg / cm2... By 1957, the Kharkovites prepared a version of the tractor, specially modernized for the conditions of Antarctica - AT-TA. The equipment passed through the intrafactory papers under three codes "Product 401A", "403A" and "403B".

AT-TA in Antarctica. Source:

In addition to insulating the cab, the tractor tracks were expanded to 750 mm (the pressure on the snow immediately dropped to 0,417 kg / cm2), repainted orange and put the diesel engine at 550 hp. On traditional AT-T, a derated for 415 hp was mounted. tank motor. Of course, in all cases variants of the 12-cylinder B-2 were used. The very first expeditions showed the inadequacy of the modernization carried out - the harsh conditions required even more specific equipment. The first deeply redesigned tracked vehicle for Antarctica was the "Penguin" based on the BTR-50P. The technique turned out to be much more successful than the AT-TA, but it was too cramped inside.


The development of "Product-404", which will later become "Kharkovchanka", was carried out by the design group of the Kharkov plant under the leadership of engineers I. A. Borshchevsky and A. I. Minkov. The first copy of the Antarctic tractor appeared in 1957 and was a seriously revised AT-T design. The 35-ton car was placed on a seven-wheel chassis instead of five, and the layout itself was made wagon. Not the most optimal solution, given the tank V-2, which can smoke through all the joints - until the end of the production of the first series of "Kharkovchanka", the problem of gas pollution in the habitable space was not solved.

The Antarctic all-terrain vehicle could more accurately be called a house on caterpillars - in the 8,5-meter cabin there was a bedroom for six polar explorers, a kitchen, a vestibule, a drying and control room, a radio room, a navigator's office and a driver's workplace. With a ceiling height of 2,1 m, the total cabin area reached 28 sq. meters. The walls are duralumin with eight layers of nylon wool, each of which is covered with an airtight fabric. To protect against polar hurricanes at a speed of 50 m / s, all external and internal seams are sealed with putty and sealing tape. The inhabitants of the "Kharkovchanka" surveyed the monotonous landscape of Antarctica through nine portholes made of double organic glass. Pre-dried hot air was pumped between the glasses - this did not allow the windows to fog up even at minus 70. For the first time in domestic practice, the windows of the control compartment were equipped with electric heating - the elements were pressed directly into the glass. They worked especially hard on heating the compartments. The living volume of the cabin was 50 cubic meters. meters, and two air heaters drove all the internal air through the heaters four times per hour. Moreover, hot air was blown out even under the toilet bowl and drain holes.

"God is with us, party organizer and" Kharkovchanka ":

Cramolnoe for the USSR: “God is with us, party organizer and“ Kharkovchanka ”. Source:



A number of non-trivial solutions were also used in the engine compartment and the chassis. First, the track links were expanded to one meter, reducing the specific pressure to 0,306 kgf / cm2... Snow chains were a metal plate with a vertical transverse rib. However, all the tricks were imperfect - the expanders were simply cut off by autogenous parts of the cars. On the snow hummocks, they bent and impeded movement. Secondly, the diesel V-2 was pretty much modified and equipped with a turbocharger. In normal mode and in the parking lot, it turned off and the engine produced 520 hp, and in difficult conditions and with a lack of oxygen at high altitudes, the boost raised the power to almost 1000 hp. Eight tanks stored 2,5 thousand liters of fuel - this ensured the mileage of the all-terrain vehicle up to 1,5 thousand kilometers. At the same time, "Kharkovchanka" was dragging a 70-ton trailer on skis or tracks. The consumption of Arctic diesel fuel reached 12 liters per kilometer. An important feature of the tractor was the hull-boat, but it was not used for sailing under normal conditions. The task of the sealed hull was to rescue a tractor that had fallen through the ice. The 35-ton car went into the water along the waterline at the level of the cabin floor, could swim tolerably, and got out on land with a winch.

"Kharkovchanka-2". Source:




"Kharkovchanka" in 1975 turned into "Product - 404C", or more traditional "Kharkovchanka-2". An inexperienced eye can confuse this tractor with the army progenitor AT-T - they took the cabin from the progenitor. Engineers abandoned the cabover layout and permanently solved the problem with exhaust gases bursting into residential compartments. We also improved the thermal insulation of the car, adding several layers of insulation.

The Antarctic "Kharkovchanka" has very well established itself in Antarctica, visited the South Geographic Pole, the Geomagnetic Pole and the Pole of Inaccessibility. The last cars were seen in working order in 2008.

To be continued ...
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  1. rocket757
    rocket757 14 September 2021 18: 06
    We did what was necessary and how it was necessary!
    North / far south, did not forgive mistakes! Everyone understood this.
    1. Intruder
      Intruder 20 September 2021 09: 09
      it is necessary and the way it should be!
      For centuries!!!
      Thanks to the author for the memory of this beautiful product in the article!
  2. polpot
    polpot 14 September 2021 18: 23
    Thank you, wonderful cars, we are waiting
  3. Blacksmith 55
    Blacksmith 55 14 September 2021 18: 25
    Thank you for an excellent overview of arctic technology.
    The only question is, how did the steel endure such frosts?
    After all, already at - 50, it happened on impact, the parts broke.
    Probably need special steel, for the tracks, for example.
    I look forward to continuing.
    1. The comment was deleted.
    2. Undecim
      Undecim 14 September 2021 18: 59
      Probably need special steels

      Of course you do. Such steels are called cold-resistant. If we take steel with the cold resistance of climatic cold, then, for example, 09G2, 09G2S, 09G2SD, 16G2AF, 14G2AF, 14G2SAF.
      1. Sergey Averchenkov
        Sergey Averchenkov 14 September 2021 20: 30
        Excuse me, but this is the time of the USSR? It's just that when the 50th's frame bursts in minus 66 ... It causes ... joy - you can sit and drink, and not work. :))) And no, no, I do not mind, I even - FOR. :)))
        1. Undecim
          Undecim 14 September 2021 20: 55
          Steel from the times of the USSR, but the GAZ-66 frames were not made of them.
          1. Sergey Averchenkov
            Sergey Averchenkov 14 September 2021 20: 56
            Thanks. Now I know.
    3. KCA
      KCA 14 September 2021 19: 49
      In fact, for a long time, we have a requirement for equipment and weapons to work at +/- 50, not all, probably, but the AK will shoot, the T-80 will be, the shell on the two-link all-terrain vehicle will be, and a lot of things, helicopters and airplanes will fly
      1. Kot_Kuzya
        Kot_Kuzya 15 September 2021 01: 50
        Last winter in Yakutia, which was abnormally cold over the past 100 years, there were cases of a broken frame at a KAMAZ and a bucket boom at an excavator at -55. KamAZ flew out of the track into a ditch, and the frame just cracked in the middle, although it should have sprung and remained intact. And the boom of the excavator burst while digging a ditch loosened by a bumper.
      2. Intruder
        Intruder 20 September 2021 09: 12
        helicopters and airplanes will fly
        An-2 and the 24th, perfectly smoke the heavens in Yakutia, and there sometimes - 60 there is air, but it's good that not everywhere and not at any height!
        Oymyakon is the pole of cold, one of the harshest places on earth, where people constantly live and work. Children go to school at -50C.
    4. Dmitry V.
      Dmitry V. 15 September 2021 13: 56
      Quote: Blacksmith 55
      Thank you for an excellent overview of arctic technology.
      The only question is, how did the steel endure such frosts?

      There is not a question of how many steel, how much the car was made by people in greenhouse conditions in terms of temperatures, and operated at -50 -55 in summer and up to -72 in winter.
      The tractor itself is a low-resource and unreliable, capricious engine. Non-cold-resistant materials - there was something to break and break often.
      Therefore, the transitions were for several months.
      There were many abandoned tractors.
      Such trips are a real punishment for mechanics, because with all due respect to the designers, in the icy conditions of Antarctica, cars often fail. In frost and scorching winds, they are forced to spend hours replacing units, and some operations have to be performed with bare hands. In addition, at high altitudes (about 3000 m - for the central part of the continent, this is a typical altitude) there is a lack of oxygen, which is why physical work quickly causes fatigue and dizziness. In addition, overcoming stone sastrugs, tractors and sledges either lean forward sharply, then acquire a large roll to the right or left, in other words, they experience a slow roll, so everything must be fixed inside the cabins, as in a ship's cabin.

      In the laden version, tractors usually move in first gear at a speed of 5 km / h. On the most difficult sections of the route, the sled sometimes has to be pulled by two tractors. Under these conditions, cars consume a lot of fuel. In any Antarctic caravan, fuel makes up almost 75% of the cargo.

      Of course, not everything went smoothly. As soon as we moved 8 km away from the East, the first transmission on my Kharkovchanka "flew". It is clear why: after all, only in this gear we drove all the way - a maximum of 5,5 km / h. And so hundreds of kilometers! So she could not stand it, darling ...
    5. max702
      max702 16 September 2021 10: 15
      There is a big problem with freezing of lubricants and liquids .. Yes, and now it is the main problem on the servers, -50 and everything gets up cranes, excavators, bulldozers, pipe layers and so on .. People endure it, but the equipment does not ..
  4. Kote Pan Kokhanka
    Kote Pan Kokhanka 14 September 2021 18: 34
    Many thanks to Evgeny, we are looking forward to the continuation of the Arctic series !!!
  5. Aviator_
    Aviator_ 14 September 2021 18: 46
    Good article, respect to the author.
  6. Van 16
    Van 16 14 September 2021 18: 55
    Very interesting article.
    At one time I was reading books by Vladimir Sanin, "72 degrees below zero" - just about a trip to such a "Kharkovchanka" in Antarctica.
    1. not main
      not main 15 September 2021 00: 21
      Quote: Van 16
      At one time I was reading books by Vladimir Sanin, "72 degrees below zero"

      It was even creepy! How can you survive?
      1. svp67
        svp67 15 September 2021 00: 56
        Quote: non-primary
        It was even creepy! How can you survive?

        There is a great movie on this book, look ...
  7. Saxahorse
    Saxahorse 14 September 2021 19: 05
    Good article, thanks to the author! From these machines, the romance of the pioneers is puffed up!

    However, you can see that the pioneers themselves did not like the car very much. The main idea with the engine in the cockpit failed. But they hoped that it would be easier to service it in the Antarctic frosts. However, they did not take into account that the engines were capricious in those days and smoked in all the cracks. In general, the smell of diesel fuel and exhaust gases in the living quarters clearly seemed superfluous to the polar explorers. The elongated AT-T was considered an acceptable compromise (under the name of Kharkovchanka-2).

    In general, the AT-T is an impressive machine when I had to climb. A harsh tractor! I am pleased to read an article about him.
  8. VicktorVR
    VicktorVR 14 September 2021 19: 15
    But on the first ICE was inside, it is more pleasant to repair in the warmth ...

    And where did you get the electricity from? Was there a separate generator (probably) from the main one?
  9. andrewkor
    andrewkor 14 September 2021 19: 26
    "72 degrees below zero" - a book and a movie, I highly recommend!
  10. Undecim
    Undecim 14 September 2021 19: 30
    The first part of the story dealt with the first attempts to storm Antarctica with self-propelled vehicles.

    Alas, the author did not tell about the first attempts to storm Antarctica with self-propelled vehicles.

    Shackleton's first expedition aboard the Nimrod. 1907-1909
    Arrol-Johnson car. The experience turned out to be extremely unsuccessful.
    1. Undecim
      Undecim 14 September 2021 19: 34

      British Terra Nova Expedition (1910-1913). Skelton's tracked snowmobiles with Erebus in the background.
      1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
        Kote Pan Kokhanka 14 September 2021 20: 20
        Quote: Undecim

        British Terra Nova Expedition (1910-1913). Skelton's tracked snowmobiles with Erebus in the background.

        Objectively, the first dogs on both poles were with people!

        Although Amundsen had his own sad dog story.
        1. Undecim
          Undecim 14 September 2021 20: 57
          We're discussing technique. Dogs and ponies do not seem to belong to technology.
          1. Alf
            Alf 14 September 2021 21: 39
            Quote: Undecim
            Dogs and ponies do not seem to belong to technology.

            Once used as an engine, it means they belong. laughing
    2. Intruder
      Intruder 20 September 2021 09: 17
      but about the first attempts to storm Antarctica with self-propelled vehicles
      Well, then remember about dog sleds, they are also self-propelled carriages and the first were before mechanical carts, in those parts, by the way !? Poor dogs are true friends of man .. and how many have they pulled out of the icy deserts !?
      Taro and Jiro, three-year-old brothers, are the youngest of 15 sled dogs on the first Japanese expedition to Antarctica, which began in January 1957. The Sakhalin Husky, known in Japan as the Karafuto-ken, is well-suited to colder climates.
      On January 14, 1959, the expedition returned to base in Antarctica. Polar explorers expected to find 15 corpses of dogs, but only seven (Aka, Goro, Poti, Moku, Kuro, Pesu and Kuma with Mombetsu) died, unable to free themselves from the leash. The other eight dogs were able to escape. Two of them, Taro and Jiro, were found alive near the base. The other six (Riki, Anko, Dari, Zakku, Shiro, and Kuma - who was Taro and Jiro's father) have never been found. Taro and Jiro were able to survive 11 months in extreme conditions without human support.
  11. tralflot1832
    tralflot1832 14 September 2021 19: 57
    And you know that a new modular Vostok station is being transported to Antarctica, the price of the issue is 4 billion rubles from comrade Mikhelson and 3,5 billion rubles from the budget .. So our Vityaei are still running around Antarctica. drinks
  12. Ryaruav
    Ryaruav 14 September 2021 20: 10
    thanks to all this, we have a wealth of experience and developments, the main thing is not to pump as at least 50% of cases
    1. Sergey Averchenkov
      Sergey Averchenkov 14 September 2021 20: 50
      Rich experience and best practices ... We are going to the race (81-year-old, there was still a kid), muddy roads, pulls help into a ditch (got stuck) on the radio - a resident of Kirov, sits down next to him, a DT-75 comes - everyone goes. And so several times. God, how long has it been ...
  13. Alien From
    Alien From 14 September 2021 20: 53
    Romance and great work! Now, few people are interested.
  14. 75 Sergey
    75 Sergey 14 September 2021 22: 46
    They have a heavy walker, they would have rubber-metal tracks on pneumatics, like now.
    And then it was a meat grinder for grinding snow.
    What to do - gaining experience
    1. Intruder
      Intruder 20 September 2021 09: 20
      rubber-metal tracks on pneumatics
      Rezino-material, on ice and crust ??? At minus 70 ... hmm., I wonder - what happens? belay
      1. 75 Sergey
        75 Sergey 20 September 2021 11: 03
        There are all sorts of things, but there is no place for tanks.

        1. Intruder
          Intruder 20 September 2021 16: 27
          There are all sorts of
          It happens that such - we are aware of, especially where I rest on the snow, there are only such and roll off the snow track, as in the pictures above! But how do they work with such gusli, exactly at -70, or only up to -50, they are used in Antarctica, when, so to speak, it is warm and "the wind is not blowing" !?
          1. 75 Sergey
            75 Sergey 20 September 2021 21: 21
            It is from there that it blows
  15. Borisych
    Borisych 15 September 2021 00: 40
    Great cars, great people made them. They understood the full responsibility of their work, and, most importantly, took the burden of this responsibility upon themselves. Thanks to the author for the topic.
  16. businessv
    businessv 15 September 2021 08: 51
    Eugene, thanks for the article, very interesting, we look forward to continuing! good
  17. Vikxnumx
    Vikxnumx 15 September 2021 10: 38
    Eight tanks stored 2,5 thousand liters of fuel - this ensured the mileage of the all-terrain vehicle up to 1,5 thousand kilometers. At the same time, "Kharkovchanka" was dragging a 70-ton trailer on skis or tracks. The consumption of Arctic diesel fuel reached 12 liters per kilometer.

    Something with the Author's arithmetic is not very ...
    1. Evgeny Fedorov
      15 September 2021 10: 55
      Good day! A little more. 12 liters per kilometer is the maximum recorded consumption of "Kharkovchanka" in difficult conditions. A mileage of 1,5 thousand kilometers is a purely calculated value. It had little to do with reality. It was necessary to indicate this in the article, of course.
  18. Dmitry V.
    Dmitry V. 15 September 2021 13: 23
    Since then, a lot has changed.
    Caravans go to "Vostok" on Ratraki

    And the Americans approached safety radically, built an ice "McMurdo-South Pole highway" - filling cracks with snow - 1632 km.
    The most time consuming process is laying through the cracks where the glacier connects to the shelf.
    Here is how the process of laying through this laborious section is described:
    This section was completed in the summer, at the first stage of the project. It turned out to be a laborious process. The snowblower walked ahead, examining the cracks with a radar mounted on the boom. When he found a crack, the climber climbed into it to see how deep it went. The snow bridge covering the crack was blown up with dynamite, after which bulldozers covered the hole with snow. According to McMurdo's newspaper, The Antarctic Sun, 32 cracks were filled - the largest of which absorbed 9000 cubic meters of snow. The result is a 3-meter-wide trail of solid ice through this deadly terrain. It is not recommended to drive off the track.

    This area is renewed annually as fracturing is a constant process.

    Now on the McMurdo-South Pole highway, there are so many multi-part sled trains: the travel time one way is 10 days.

    The number of Antarctic stations - permanent and seasonal, suggests that no one wants to miss their piece when dividing a no-man's continent :)
  19. ja-ja-vw
    ja-ja-vw 15 September 2021 18: 37
    VW Beetle "Antarctica 1" (1963).

    In the early 60s, the Australians decided to retrofit several Volkswagens-Beetles and use them as an auxiliary transport at the Antarctic Mawson station. The first "beetle", named Antarctica 1, became not just a legend, but generally the first serial, non-custom-made passenger car in Antarctica. The last of the "beetles" worked at the station until 2001.
    and so I, of course, like "Emelya"

    and Canadian "Ivan"
    1. Dmitry V.
      Dmitry V. 16 September 2021 10: 33
      Now bus tours for tourists in Antarctica are already an established entertainment. Moreover, the Americans are purposefully developing the direction to the South Pole as a massive tourist destination.
      Now they receive up to 10000 tourists a year.
  20. Eug
    Eug 16 September 2021 08: 01
    The transport engineering plant is a well-known Malyshev plant. And another plant, often discussed at VO - Kharkov Aviation, took part in the creation of the residential module most directly.
  21. avia12005
    avia12005 18 September 2021 07: 23
    In the late 60s I was on an excursion with a class at the production of "Kharkovchanki". It was so cozy inside that I wanted to live there)) One classmate, by the way, became a polar explorer and worked for many years in Antarctica.
  22. ramzay21
    ramzay21 18 September 2021 12: 02
    The article is interesting, but why was Nicholas dragged here? Where is he with palaces and trinkets and where is the development of Antarctica?
  23. toha124
    toha124 23 September 2021 13: 12
    By the way, vehicles based on AT-T are still massively operated in the engineering troops. Two types. Trench and excavation machines.