Since the mid-fifties, Soviet designers have offered various options for dealing with modern ammunition, including guided munitions. In 1959, the list of proposals was supplemented with a new idea. Specialists SRI-61 (now the Central Research Institute of Precision Engineering, Klimovsk) proposed to use anti-aircraft artillery techniques to protect tanks. In other words, the new proposal implied the use of machine gun and cannon armament for the destruction of incoming missiles. Already in the spring of 59, the staff of SRI-61 conducted some theoretical studies that confirmed the fundamental possibility of implementing their proposal.
Calculations showed that the proposal, in general, is of interest and can be used in practice. However, some difficulties arose. It has been found that active anti-missile defense requires the use of rapid-fire weaponand also to allocate large volumes inside the tank for its ammunition. A large-caliber (12,7 mm) machine gun with a rate of fire at the level of 10 thousand shots per minute was considered as a means of active protection. To protect against attacks using four French-made SS-10 missiles with a probability of at least 0,7 in this case, it was necessary to spend 1100 cartridges.
Machine gun installation complex "Oplot-MO", side view. The dotted line shows the cartridge box.
Also, studies have shown that the placement of the necessary ammunition for the "anti-missile" machine gun will require to reduce the ammunition of the main gun by about a quarter. In addition, it required a place to place equipment to search for incoming missiles and control the entire defense system. Naturally, with such parameters, the proposed active missile defense complex could not interest the military.
Nevertheless, it was decided to continue work in a promising direction. February 18, 1960 issued a decree of the Council of Ministers, in accordance with which NII-61, VNII-100, Kazan aviation the Institute and the Military Academy of Armored Forces were to continue the development of initial ideas and create a workable version of an active missile defense complex. The research work was called "Oplot-MO". The project’s lead organization was the Military Academy of Armored Forces.
The joint work of several organizations has led to the formation of a full-fledged appearance of a promising anti-missile system. In accordance with the final version of the project "Oplot-MO", the tanks were to be equipped with a special automated machine gun turret mounted on the commander's hatch, as well as a set of electronics inside the fighting compartment. Thus, a machine gun, its ready-to-use ammunition, guidance systems, and target detection tools should be located outside the base tank. An automated fire control system was to be mounted inside the tank.
The algorithm of the perspective complex was determined as follows. The compact radar station located outside the tank was supposed to monitor the environment and detect objects moving toward the tank at a speed of about 600-800 m / s. Such restrictions on the speed of the target made it possible to identify a rocket or an anti-tank grenade and distinguish it from other objects. When the target approached a distance of the order of 200, the machine gun was aimed and the fire opened.
Machine gun installation, top view. Well visible overall layout
Calculations showed that a machine gun with a rate of fire at the level of 0,8-9000 shots per minute was required to hit a flying rocket with a probability of 11000. With 9 thousand shots per minute, it was possible to destroy missiles flying at a speed of 600 m / s. At a target speed of 800 m / s, a corresponding increase in the rate of fire was required.
As follows from the preserved materials, the main part of the units of the complex "Oplot-MO" was to be located outside the combat compartment of the base tank. At the commander's tower, it was proposed to mount a turntable with automatic guidance mechanisms in two planes. It was necessary to install a large-caliber machine gun with the required rate of fire and accuracy of fire. To the left of the machine gun provided for mounting box with ammunition. To reduce the dimensions of the machine-gun installation, the box was proposed to be placed parallel to the machine gun and equipped with a curved tray for feeding cartridges.
Calculations showed that for effective destruction of flying up anti-tank missiles, a large-caliber machine gun with a rate of at least 9 thousand shots per minute is required. Serial samples with the required characteristics at that time were absent. For this reason, in the draft "Oplot-MO", as far as is known, no ready-made machine gun was considered. On the contrary, it included in the complex a hypothetical sample for a large caliber cartridge. In order to increase the rate of firing, it was proposed to equip it with a rotating block with six trunks.
One of the main tasks in the framework of the project "Oplot-MO" was the creation of electronic components of the complex. In the course of the work, a variant of the radar station and some other elements of the system was proposed. So, for the detection of incoming missiles it was proposed to use an automatic small-sized radar, the antenna of which was to be located on the roof of the tower or on the fastenings of a machine-gun installation. The total height of the antenna unit was 40 cm, the device area in the plan is 0,15 sq. M. The developed radar could operate in two modes. In the search mode, a circular review in azimuth and sector tracking from -5 ° to + 15 ° in elevation was provided. When switching to tracking mode, the radar “inspected” an 90 ° sector in azimuth. The parameters of the elevation remained the same.
Inside the fighting compartment, according to the project, it was necessary to mount the power supply unit, the converter and the calculating device. Due to the high speeds of the incoming missiles and the need to ensure a minimum response time, the Oplot-MO complex was supposed to operate in automatic mode during the battle. In this case, the electronics had to independently monitor the surrounding space and make a decision about the attack of the detected rocket. However, the manual control mode was also provided, which allowed the use of a machine gun installation as an anti-aircraft weapon or for firing at enemy manpower.
The complex of active antimissile defense "Oplot-MO" was made in the form of several blocks installed inside and outside the tank. Due to this, in particular, no serious restrictions were imposed on the base machine. As a result, it became possible to install complexes on armored vehicles of various types. The preserved drawings depict the medium tank T-55 and the heavy T-10M, equipped with the Oplot-MO. Perhaps in the future, this complex could be installed on other domestic tanks.
The Oplot-MO complex was of great interest, since it made it possible to significantly increase the level of protection of existing tanks without the need for serious reworking of their design. At the same time, however, he had several significant drawbacks. The main thing is the lack of a suitable machine gun. In the Soviet Union there were simply no multi-barreled large-caliber machine guns with the required rate of fire. Probably, the development of the necessary machine gun could have begun when a decision was made on the further development of the anti-missile system, but such work, as far as is known, did not begin. In addition, there could be complaints about antenna survivability and other features of the complex.
Medium tank T-55 with active missile defense complex
According to reports, the project "Oplot-MO" was stopped shortly after the completion of the design. In the future, the developments on this project were used in the research work "Protection". Work on the new project was carried out from 1961 to 1965 years. Within the framework of the new project, certain components of the complex were improved, which led to a slight increase in its design characteristics.
However, in 1965, all work on active anti-ballistic missile defense systems was stopped. Despite the progress made, such weapons had several problems, some of which could not be solved in principle. In addition to the lack of the necessary machine gun, it was possible to note the large size and overall cumbersomeness of the proposed equipment, as well as the difficulty with locating the required ammunition. In addition, the effectiveness of the systems left much to be desired.
Complexes "Oplot-MO" and "Protection" existed only in the form of design documentation. In the course of these two projects, Soviet designers created and studied an interesting and, as it seemed, a promising option for additional protection for armored vehicles. Further work led to the identification of a number of serious flaws that led to the closure of projects. In the future, attempts to create active missile defense systems based on machine-gun armament were not undertaken. The main means of increasing the survivability of tanks for many years have become a dynamic protection system.
Pavlov M. Pavlov I. Domestic Armored Vehicles 1945-1965 // Technique and weapons, 2009. No.4