Monday, July 18, 2011

Antonov KT-40 Flying Tank

 The adage “It’s a bird, it’s a plane” is certainly appropriate for the Antonov gliding tank. The laughably improbable notion of a flying tank typically brings images of A-10s and Il-2s to mind, but the name of the Antonov ‘Krylya Tanka’( in Russian, “Tank’s Wings”) KT-40 is no metaphor for resilience: it was literally a flying tank. While other nations showed interest in the notion of flying tanks, only the Soviet Union took the idea to the prototype stage, a testament to the wildly ambitious nature of Soviet military experiments.

Developed and tested in 1942, Antonov’s flying tank was intended for use with airborne troops or as an aid to partisans. The durability of tanks (and their crew) was tested by fitting a vehicle underneath a bomber and dropping the tank from various heights, allegedly using POWs as crash test dummies. The only prototype was tested on September 2nd, 1942 by Sergei Anokhin, who described the flight as “surprisingly smooth.” Made cheaply of wood, fabric, and aluminum, the prototype glider was fitted to a T60 light tank, which had its fenders, headlights, ammunition, tools, and excess tracks removed. The glider was pulled aloft by four 4-engine bombers. Two of the bombers were forced to ditch after their engines burned out from the strain of the glider’s weight. The KT-40 was able to glide to a field and land without incident. The pilot then removed the glider from the tank and drove it back to base. Unsurprisingly, the project was cancelled because of the sheer impracticality of the vehicle. However, the idea of an airborne land vehicle would live on in future ventures, such as the Taylor Aerocar, the M551 Sheridan, and the Hamilcar.

 The T-60 is the RPM kit, built with a photoetch set from an unknown manufacturer, with the Miniart T70 tracks used. Minor details on the tank were changed to reflect the stripped-down glider variant. The fenders, headlights, tools, and storage boxes were left off the real vehicle to reduce weight. The unlucky pilot is a leftover Verlinden item with a Hornet head and Masterbox helmet.

 The glider assembly was completely scratchbuilt. The dimensions were calculated by using the known dimensions of the T60 and expanding them to the glider on a scale drawing. The frame was made from sheets of plastic card, which were covered with several dozen layers of tissue paper soaked in watered-down white glue. String was pulled through pre-drilled holes in the wings and glued securely to represent rigging.

 The entire contraption was painted using Tamiya paints. I used a lighter mixture of green on the glider than I did on the tank, to represent the different materials and ages of each component. I used oil paints and pigments to break up the monochromatic color scheme.

Just for kicks, I entered the 'flying tank' into the Aircraft category at the '09 IPMS Nationals, and was awarded a gold medal.
A HUGE thank-you to all the members of Track-Link who helped in my research, as well as to Merrill Anderson for the advice and Don Burgoyne for the photoetch.


[insert fiery hate rhetoric here]