Object 279 (Obyekt 279) Super Heavy Tank
The Obyekt 279 was an interesting foray into developing a heavy-class tank system utilizing multiple tracks.
Authored By JR Potts, AUS 173d AB; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Russian Obyekt (translating to "Object") 279 Soviet heavy tank was developed in 1957 at the Kirov Plant in Leningrad by L. Troyanov, an engineer in charge of prototype tank design. The heavy tank's design purpose was to wage war on the European countryside battlefield in the impending World War 3 scenario. The new tank design needed to maneuver over rough open ground that was inaccessible to conventional light or medium tanks currently in the Soviet inventory. This was accomplished by a "track chain" that ran along both sides of her entire track area. Most tanks used two tracks - set one on each hull side - while the 279 tank was equipped with a 4-track running gear mounted on two rectangular hollow beams that also were used as fuel tanks. The track adjuster itself was a worm-type.
The 279 model was noted for its highly unusual yet functional second pair of T95 caterpillars (or tracks). The weight per-square-foot of this heavy vehicle was equally spread out across the 4 track systems. In this arrangement, the 279's operating weight did not exceed the maximum pounds-per-square-foot that would have reduced her ability to carry out her given mission on any type of ground. The new design approach increased cross country performance while also allowing her to traverse natural obstructions such as soft ground, swampy topography, fields with cut trees and even snow. The 279 could also cut across Czech-style hedgehogs, 3-foot high man-made tank obstacles in an "L" or "H" shape, that were also popularized as beach obstacles by many nations of the time.
The thickness of the glacis plate armor (the sloped front-most section of the hull) of the 279 was 269mm (10.591 in) and the thickest spot on the turret measured in at 305mm (12.008 in). The tank was covered by a thin, elliptical shield giving it an appearance more akin to a submarine than any previous tank design. The excessively shaped hull gave the 279 an inherent protection against HEAT (High-Explosive, Anti-Tank) shaped charge projectiles from enemy tanks. The shape was also designed to prevent the tank system from flipping over in the event of a shock wave from a nuclear explosion. To help deflect the wave, the tank was built using uneven shapes of variable thickness and slope. The all-cast front portion of the hull was rounded in shape with thin armor panels for effective use against HEAT projectiles, which sharply ran around the edges of the front and sides of the hull. The sides of the hull were cast with like-armor panels. The cast turret had a front armor consisting of round protective panels mounted at a seventy-degree angles with a protected turret ring.
The crew consisted of a conventional arrangement of four men - the tank commander, gunner, loader and driver. The tank's main gun was a 130mm M-65 gun firing APDS (Armor-Piercing, Discarding Sabot) rounds with a muzzle velocity of 1,000 meters per second. The gun was provided with a semi-automatic reloading system and a Fire Control System (FCS) that used an optical and radar rangefinder with an auto guidance unit. For night or low-light-level actions, an L2 night sight with an Infrared searchlight was provided. For anti-infantry protection, a co-axial 14.5mm KPVT Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) was mounted in the turret facing front.
Power was supplied from a 16-cylinder diesel DG-1000 (950 horsepower) or a 2DG-8M (1,000 horsepower) engine. The tank suspension was hydro-pneumatic with a three-speed planetary gearbox. The tank provided the crew with NBC protection and a auto fire-fighting system. For additional protection, smoke laying equipment was stowed onboard and the combat compartment came complete with a heating and cooling system - the latter being standard in today's tanks but quite unique to tank crews in 1957.
The tank passed all her trials when traversing wet and soft terrain. In 1959, Nikita Khrushchev decided that a class of "heavy tanks" - tanks whose origins lay in the war years of World War 2 - were all but obsolete. As with most military planners of the world's nations (America and Britain included), he felt guided-missile technology and tanks to fire them (such as the IT-1) was the way of the future. As such the 279 program was halted in 1959.
The prototype of this single vehicle was saved and later exhibited at the Kubinka Armour Museum just outside of Moscow.