J. Walter Christie’s Flying Tank

 

Walter Christie was one of the greatest tank designers of all time. His designs were adopted by the Japanese, Russian, and British armies and were the foundation of several famous tanks. The T34 has been called “the epitome of creative design”. Christie’s tanks were not revered the same way at home in America. Largely because Christie’s hostile, grating personality made cooperation impossible by all except those who had at least an ocean to separate them from the man and his troublemaking. 


Christie’s flying tank came to fruition in Russia and Japan. This Antonov A40 was flown in a test flight; the pilot considered it a great success, but the program was cancelled in favour of other “flying tank” designs.

 

 We’re not sure if it was blind zeal or the drink that led Christie to solve the problem of how to get a tank to the field by supplying it with wings. Just imagine the enemy’s shock when they looked into the sky. Christie envisioned a mechanized flying monster: a griffin -- with the body of a tank below, and the wings of an airplane above. His tracked machine was outfitted with detachable wings and tail and accelerated up to flying speed, at which point the propeller was turned on and the additional thrust got it airborne. When it landed, the wings and tail were released “in a jiffy” by pulling a lever, and discarded. The monster then zipped off with its “guns blazing” in ground assault. 

 

 

The Russians were particularly interested in the idea. They fitted biplane wings and a twin tail to a light tank, and flew it in a test flight. Called the Antonov A40, this tank was lifted into the air by a tow plane, released midair, and then glided into position, landing on its tracks. After at least one successful flight, the experiment was discontinued. The Japanese also had an experimental flying tank, called kuro (meaning ‘black’) or sora (meaning ‘sky’).  And the British experimented with a glider that carried a detachable light tank, called Baynes’ Bat, which was tested as a ½ scaled model, but that is all. Generally speaking, a flying tank is difficult to accomplish because it is attempting to do two things at once. Tanks are ground vehicles, and are designed as such. Aircraft, on the other hand, are designed to fly. We’ll explain why this causes such problems.


Walter Christie shows a visiting reporter plans for the body of his flying tank, while engaged in the construction of its prototype.  
 
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