Key Point: It didn't make it to the battlefield.
Enter the Object 279 tank, a curious oddity from the late 1950s which was obsolete — despite its design principles deliberately reflecting the fear of a nuclear battlefield — by the time it was produced.
It was certainly not a success, as the Soviet Union only manufactured a handful of prototypes.
But the fact that it appeared at all is indicative of an obsession among a small number of Red Army military planners dating back to World War II. As the Nazis and Soviets battled for hegemony, both sides fielded increasingly heavier tanks — with bigger guns — which could absorb fire while destroying their heavily-armored enemies at long range.
Medium tanks, such as the legendary T-34, would ultimately pioneer the main battle tanks which armies deploy today. However, the Kremlin continued building thousands of heavy tanks into the 1960s until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev effectively put a stop to it.
The Object 279 was part of this tradition.
The Object 279’s most visible features include the sharp, saucer-shaped chassis and four distinct, enormous tracks. The latter was to give the 60-ton tank more traction in difficult or soft terrain, always a problem for heavier tanks prone to bogging down. A 1,000-horsepower engine powered the beast.
The design’s obvious downside? One could only imagine the difficulty repairing the two inner tracks running underneath the chassis’ belly, let alone the complex transmission. Equally bizarre is the shape of the chassis to protect the vehicle and its four crew members from shock waves generated by an exploding nuclear bomb.
The Object 279 came with serious armor — 319 millimeters thick in the turret and 269 millimeters at the thickest point in the hull, significantly greater than the far more widespread T-72 which entered service in the 1970s.
An impressive, stabilized 130-millimeter rifled cannon and 14.5 millimeter machine gun rounded out the turret.
But the quad-tracked juggernaut’s technical specifications are somewhat moot, as the prototypes came at the worst possible time.
Back up. During World War II, the Soviets refined their heavy tank designs, culminating in the IS-2 — an intimidating and impressive vehicle which entered service in 1944. IS-2s most notably spearheaded the Red Army assault into Berlin, blasting German Tiger tanks and reducing fortified positions into rubble.