During the First World War and the Civil War, an armored train proved to be a reliable vehicle with high combat potential. Despite the possibility of moving only on existing railways, such equipment could timely appear in an important area, lead the offensive and support the troops. The only serious threat to armored trains for a long time was the field artillery, the possibilities of which made it possible to hit protected wagons and platforms. However, armored trains retained an advantage in the form of mobility.
In the mid-thirties of the last century, the Red Army command continued to see in the armored trains a serious force that could fully participate in the coming war from both sides of the front. As a result, the army needed some kind of mobile means of defeating such equipment, which had sufficient power. The result of theoretical research was the proposal to create a so-called. railway torpedoes. It was proposed to develop a special railway platform with its own power plant and explosive charge. Like weapon had to move along the tracks and undermine the opposing armored trains or enemy transport trains.
In 1935, the Red Army's Armored Directorate Directorate formed requirements for advanced railway weapons and transferred them to the design bureau of the KES plant (Cracking Electric Locomotive Building) in Podolsk. This company had a fairly extensive experience in the development and construction of railway equipment. For this reason, the customer, represented by the ABTU, expected to complete all the necessary work soon.
Engineers of the KES plant conducted a study of possible options for constructing a railway torpedo, which resulted in the commencement of work on the Railway Railway Project 3. The figure in the designation of the project may indicate the existence of several developments in this direction, however, no mention of the development of other similar rail torpedoes could be found. Perhaps the unit and the two were left for the preliminary projects, but we can not exclude that the new project immediately received the number "3", without reference to other developments.
The only surviving photograph of the railway torpedoes ZHTT-3
In addition to the Podolsk design bureau, several other enterprises were involved in the project. Thus, Plant No. XXUMX of the People’s Commissariat of Ammunition (Dzerzhinsk, Gorky Region) was instructed to create remote and contact fuses for torpedoes, and from 80 onwards, the Krasny Profintern factory worked on a starting device for this weapon.
By the end of 1935, the specialists of the KES plant completed all design work and submitted a ready version of the ZHDT-3 project. At the beginning of the next 1936, the plant was ready to test several experienced torpedoes of the new model. At the same time, however, it was planned to use the products of the CFM-3 without special starting devices. Nevertheless, the project of the rail torpedo itself was already ready and later did without major changes.
The railway torpedo developed by the ZhDT-3 had a fairly simple design, which made it possible to organize the mass production of such products at a variety of engineering enterprises. There could be problems with the delivery of individual components, but in general the assembly of such torpedoes was simple.
The main unit of torpedoes of the ZhDT-3 was a frame assembled from several metal rods of different lengths, sections and shapes. The main frame elements were the front and rear axles. The axis consisted of two semi-axes welded to the central ring. Half shafts were additionally connected to the ring with the help of two pairs of struts. At the ends of the axles provided for mounting wheels with flange. Between themselves, the two axes of complex construction were connected with the help of several rods. A set of such parts was welded to the central rings, two more relatively long rods formed a concave downward X-shaped structure at the bottom of the torpedo. Finally, on the X-shaped rods and the longitudinal "spars" were fixed two trays of L-shaped sheet metal.
Chassis torpedoes ZHDT-3 consisted of four wheels mounted on the axles. Leading was the front axle: its wheels were equipped with a system of interaction with electric motors (apparently, a gear). As the power plant used two car starter. Such engines were installed on the front axles and rotate the drive wheels. The use of starters made it possible to provide the required driving performance at the lowest cost. The engines were connected to two car batteries. The latter were fixed on the frame trays and allowed the torpedo to pass the required range.
The central rings of the axes and the longitudinal "spars" formed a round tray in which the charge was placed. As a warhead, the ZhDT-3 railway torpedo was supposed to use a special product in a streamlined metal body with an explosive charge of 100 kg. A small triangular design with fuse contacts was attached to the front axle ring. Also present was a remote fuse that undermined the warhead at a given distance from the launch site.
According to some information, the warhead of the torpedo consisted of two artillery shells of caliber 152 mm, laid with the ends of each other and connected with a special clamp. If this version is true, then the above 100 kg may not reflect the weight of TNT, but indicate the total weight of the two projectiles. In this case, the mass of explosive could not exceed 10-12 kg.
The product VDT-3 turned out quite large and heavy. However, the dimensions and weight of the structure were primarily related to the limitations imposed by the railway track and the requirements for the power of the warhead. The torpedo cart measured dimensions around 1,7x1,7 m and height 456 mm. According to the project, the weight of the combat-ready weapons was to reach 225 kg.
The power of two car starters was enough to accelerate the torpedo to a speed of about 60 km / h. The battery capacity was enough to move for about 10 minutes, so the range reached 10 km.
The first QDT-3 products were manufactured in the last weeks of 1935. Soon, the military conducted tests of new weapons and decided to adopt them. By the end of the first half of 36, the first 20 serial torpedoes of the new model were handed over to the troops. By this time, the plant IES received a new name: Podolsk machine-building plant them. Ordzhonikidze.
In the middle of the 1936 of the year, simultaneously with the adoption of rail torpedoes into service, the basic guidelines for their use were developed. Thus, each armored train of the Red Army was supposed to carry five units of such weapons. It was assumed that such a number of torpedoes will allow the most effective way to supplement the artillery available on the train, increasing its combat capabilities.
In 36, the Red Profintern plant was involved in a new project. He was instructed to create a set of tools for installation on existing armored trains. Elements of this complex were supposed to ensure the launch of railway torpedoes on enemy trains, as well as to protect their armored train from similar enemy weapons. In 1936, several units of such equipment were built. They were mounted on control platforms and transferred to tests in one of the regiments that operated armored trains. The following year it was planned to launch a full-fledged mass production of starting devices and protection systems.
Judging from the creation of means of protection against railway torpedoes, the Red Army command not only hoped to master this weapon, but also expected the appearance of similar systems in a potential enemy. This means that the greatest hopes were pinned on the MFD-3. Indeed, of all the means of destruction of the armored train, the torpedo was the most powerful. Despite the short range of the course and insufficient protection from countermeasures, such weapons could cause serious damage to both the combat armored train and the usual composition with cargo.
For a number of reasons, the production of rail torpedoes of the HFT-3 went at an inadequate pace. In accordance with the plans for the 1936 year, the troops were to receive several dozen such items. In 37, it was planned to build another 74 torpedoes. However, as far as is known, in 1937, the production of these weapons was not conducted. Only in 38-m Podolsky plant them. Ordzhonikidze fired three dozen torpedoes. In 1939, the release year was 36 units.
Troops regularly launched the ZHTT-3 torpedoes for training purposes and trained to use such weapons correctly. However, with each training launch, soldiers and officers became increasingly disillusioned with the new weapons. It was too difficult to operate, and also had insufficient efficiency. In practice, it turned out that the torpedo has a very vulnerable design, because of which the enemy can destroy it on the way to his armored train. In addition, the inclusion of several control sites in the train, which was practiced in order to avoid the detonation of mines, sharply reduced the effectiveness of the torpedo or even made it useless.
At the beginning of 1940, the military again conducted tests of railway torpedoes with VHT-3 torpedoes in conditions close to real ones. These tests fully confirmed all the fears: if the enemy used the simplest means of defense, the torpedoes would be useless. The result of the operation and testing was a letter from the head of the ABTU D. Pavlov from 16 May 1940. In this document, the head of the Armored Directorate offered to the People's Commissariat of Defense to abandon torpedoes due to their extremely low characteristics.
Apparently, the military department had more important matters than determining the future fate of the torpedoes. For more than a year, the question of continuing or discontinuing the use of ZHDT-3 products was never resolved. From 86 built torpedoes to the beginning of the war in the army remained 26. 10 remained in the warehouses of the Kiev Special Military District, 4 - in the North Caucasus Military District, and 12 - in the Far East. Due to its low characteristics, this weapon was not used in a combat situation. Any information about the successful destruction of targets with the help of ZDT-3 is missing. The exact fate of the latest torpedoes is unknown.
It should be noted, the idea of a railway torpedo had the right to life. In the book of I.G. Starinov's "Notes of the Saboteur" mentions the case of the actual combat use of similar weapons of artisanal production. At the end of October 1943, the partisan detachment under the command of A.M. Grabchak with the help of a self-propelled torpedo railway destroyed the bridge over the River Ubort in the Zhytomyr region of the Ukrainian SSR without loss.
The bridge was an extremely difficult goal, as it was guarded by a fairly large garrison, and all approaches were mined. In addition, the German troops were assisted by a high embankment, from which all the surrounding space was shot. Thus, an attempt to break through to the bridge with a battle or secretly mine it was doomed to failure.
The partisans managed to find out that the German commandant comes to the bridge twice a week. For such trips, in order to check personnel, he uses a railcar. This prompted the partisans to come up with an interesting and bold idea. In two weeks they made their own railcar out of available materials. On her platform, five unexploded aviation bombs, in one of which a fuse was placed. A long stick was placed between the bombs - an oblique target sensor. When deviating from the vertical position, she had to pull out the pin and detonate the bombs. For camouflage on the bombs, they put two "Germans": a pair of captured uniforms stuffed with grass and other materials at hand.
On October 31, a trolley with bomb cargo and “officers” was installed on tracks a kilometer from the bridge. The partisans started the engine and sent their train torpedo to the target. Seeing the familiar silhouette of the train with people, the guard of the bridge made no attempt to stop it. As a result, the torpedo quietly drove onto the bridge, caught the target sensor on one of the beams and exploded. Crossing the river for a long time out of order. As recalled I.G. Starinov, security opened fire only a few minutes after the explosion, when it was too late to protect the object.
The book "Notes saboteur" also mentioned that after the destruction of the bridge over the river. A new railway torpedo, which was produced at Kharkov enterprises, was designed for cleaning. More information on this is missing.
As we see, in spite of a number of interesting and original ideas, the railway torpedoes and the ZhDT-3 in particular turned out to be a very specific weapon. The ability to independently reach the target and deliver the warhead to it could not be fully realized due to the simplicity of countering such weapons. As a result, one of the most unusual projects of the mid-thirties did not lead to real results. Crews of armored trains still had to fight targets with artillery, and the train torpedoes remained in stories as a technical curiosity.
Starinov I.G. Notes saboteur. - M .: Almanac "Vympel", 1997: 3