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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Oversized: Russia's Obsession with Massive Military Equipment

The following is a non serious article. Normal blog articles will resume after the publishing of this article. 

Throughout the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed in public displays of national strength. Without a doubt, the Soviet Union consistently built bigger planes, guns, submarines, and missiles than the Americans. This image gallery will go through decades of Russian engineering madness. 

1957: 2B1 Oka Nuclear Cannon

In 1953 the United States deployed its 280 mm M65 Atomic Cannon. The logical well thought out response from the Soviet Union was to build a cannon nearly twice the size of the M65. In 1957, the 55.3 ton 420 mm Oka underwent testing. Ultimately, it was not deployed as missile technology had advanced enough to render nuclear artillery systems "impracticable". There was also a minor problem with the concept of nuclear artillery. Given the extraordinary power of even small atomic devices utilized in nuclear artillery shells, nuclear fallout could reach the crew operating the cannons as they were not capable of lobbing nuclear shells far enough away to be unaffected. 

1961: Tsar Bomba: World Largest H-Bomb

The Tsar was a 26 foot long 60,000 lb bomb that detonated with a force of 50 megatons. The resulting mushroom cloud was seven times taller than Mount Everest. Unsurprisingly, the Tsar Bomba was so large that it had to be mounted to a parachute to give the bomber time to clear the blast radius. Originally, the Tsar was proposed to be a 100 megaton nuclear device. It was eventually determined that such a device could not be safely detonated anywhere within the Soviet Union. Thus it reduced to the 50 megaton size. Comparatively, the largest yield from a U.S nuclear bomb was 15 megatons. Image below shows blast radius of Tsar laid over the Paris region.

1962: Huge Anti-Ship Missiles 

The Kh-22 was the Soveit Union's answer to America's growing carrier battle groups. At 38 feet long and 12,800 pounds, the Kh-22 was only carried by large Tu-22M bombers. The Kh-22 featured a 1,984 pound (900 kg) HE warhead or a 300-1000 kt nuclear warhead. The conventional HE warhead created a 5 meter wide 12 meter deep hole upon impacting warships (APA, 2007)

(Image Credit: Department of Defense)

(For the point of size comparison, a KSR-5 is shown mounted on a Tu-16. The KSR-5 shown in the image above is slightly smaller than the Kh-22.) 

1967: SS-18 "Satan" ICBM (R-36M) 

The SS-18 is a 106 foot tall 462,000 lb (209,600 kg) ICBM. The SS-18 can carry a single 20 megaton nuclear warhead (latter versions can be equipped with10 MIRV's with 550kt + warheads). NATO designated the new missile as the SS-18 "Satan" (Russian designation R-36). The mass deployment of the SS-18 eventually prompted the development of the LGM-188A Peacekeeper. Decades latter, the SS-18 is still one of the most powerful weapon systems on the planet. Upgraded versions of the SS-18 will be in service until 2020.

(Image credit: BBC) 

1968: World's Largest rotary wing aircraft, Mil V-12

"The V-12 remains the largest rotary wing aircraft ever built. It was developed to meet a unique Soviet requirement for transporting RVSN ballistic missiles from hardened storage bunkers to missile silos, to effect rapid reloads during full scale nuclear combat. The program was cancelled in 1974, as its primary purpose of moving ICBMs collapsed with the UR-500 program, components of which later evolved into the Proton booster." - Air Power Australia, 2010

Notes: At over 120 feet long and  41 feet tall, the V-12 is the largest helicopter ever built. It has a larger payload capacity than the Lockheed C-130 cargo plane. (up to 66,000 lbs in STOL) 

(Image Credit: APA, 2010)

(Image Credit: APA, 2010) 

1981: World's Largest Submarine 

(German U-boat 220ft vs Typhoon class 574 ft)

At 574 feet long and over 33,000 tons fully submerged, the 941 Akula is the largest submarine ever built. (some figures at 48,000 tons) Better known by its American designation, the Typhoon, this submarine carries an awesome payload of 20 DR-19 ICBMs. Comparatively, the rough American equivalent to the Typhoon (Ohio Class Submarine) is only 18,750 tons when fully submerged.

1982: An 124 World's Largest Cargo Plane (At the time)  

In 1970 the United States deployed the C-5 Galaxy. For years Russia underwent national embarrassment as it had no cargo aircraft of comparable capabilities. The An 124 was the culmination of that national frustration. Even NATO begrudgingly respected the huge aircraft by making the official NATO designation for the aircraft the An 124 Condor (NATO nicknames are rarely respectful to Russian Aircraft e.g. Su-25 Frogfoot). Although the Cold War is over, the An 124 retains a busy schedule. Its used to carry anything and everything. The image above shows the Condor carrying an American deep sea rescue submarine. The image below shows the An 124 carrying components of the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger plane.

The fact that the Soviet Union was experiencing major economic upheavals during the late 1980s did not deter Russian engineers from designing even more insane and incredibly practical equipment. If anything, such developments accelerated the madness. With the last dying breath of the Soviet Union came the following:

1998: Largest Hovercraft in service

At over 500 tons fully loaded, the Zubr class hovercraft is easily the largest amphibious landing craft in service today. It can carry either three tanks (150 tons) or 500 troops for 300 miles. As expected, the Zubr is three times as large as its American counter part, the Landing Craft Air Cusion (LCAC), when both are fully loaded. Unfortunately, only a handful of Zubr class hovercraft where ever built.

1988: An 225 World's Largest Cargo Plane (Again) 

As the An 124 was only slightly ridiculous, Russian engineers determined it to be inadequate for their needs. Thus, the An 225 was built. The picture above shows the An 225 carrying a Russian copy of the American Space Shuttle, the Buran, which weighed over 80 tons. In every aspect of its design, the An 225 exceeded its predecessor. In fact, the An 225 was so big that it could hypothetically carry a payload as large as the empty configuration of its American "equivalent", the C-5 Galaxy cargo plane. (Can carry as much as 550,000 lb or 250,00 kg)

1988: The Lun class Ekranoplan 

The Ekranoplan defies all rational attempts at understanding its true purpose. The Ekranoplan was simply dubbed "The Casbian Sea Monster" by U.S intelligence agencies. It had a take off weight of 400 tons.

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