Thursday, June 21, 2018

Armoured Trains




At the outbreak of WWI, only one of the combatants had any appreciable investment in the concept of at the outbreak, and that was Russia. Its immense size and lack of quality roads made it even more dependent on rail-lines than any other belligerent power, and as such had constructed four examples (Or two. Or ten. Sources disagree). In the west, there was no pre-existing stock, but a few examples were hastily constructed by adding armor and weaponry to existing boxcars and locomotives. The Belgians had two examples in action, and the British Naval Division (an infantry unit of Royal Navy reservists and Marines unneeded for service at sea) created two as well which saw action outside Antwerp. The Germans followed suit on the Western Front with a few examples they used to protect against possible partisan attacks in Belgium, and a light armored train that ‘invaded’ Luxembourg in 1914, but the quick stagnation of the fighting saw no further advancement of the concept in the west.

The Eastern Front was a different matter though. As they already had some number of trains, composed of armored locomotive and a couple of armored cars carrying machine-guns or light artillery, and already having trains ready to go at the very start gave Russia a leg up. They almost immediately saw use both offensively and defensively. The Russians already had experience with armored trains, having deployed improvised examples against Japan in 1904 and during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. In one of the earliest actions of the war, an armored train was used to capture a bridge at Stanislav. In offensive roles, infantry cars would be stocked with troops to quickly dismount before the shock of the train’s sudden arrival wore off, but the war quickly ruined any track that crossed between the lines. There remained the occasional case where the changing movement of the fronts left intact rail line allowing for an attacking role, but more generally they were restricted to more defensive roles through 1915 and 1916.

The use of a train would be to have it stay behind the front, and if there was a report of an enemy attack, it would be switched to the appropriate track and choo-choo off there to provide firepower - usually two 76mm guns and numerous machine guns. They proved to be very effective in this role of mobile defensive platforms, and the Russian Army had built nearly a dozen more by the end of 1915, with at least 15 in service at that time, spread out between various fronts. Inspired by the success of the Russian’s trains, the Germans and the Austrians copied them, with the first Austro-Hungarian example, the Pz.Zug I, entering service in early 1915, and a German train close on its heel’s that fall.

The evolution of the trains between 1914 and 1917 was quite incredible. The Russian trains at the beginning of the war were comparatively crude affairs, essentially an armored locomotive with armored boxcars attached to protect the crew for the guns and machine guns, but within a few years sleek designs that evoked the image of a battleship on land, with turreted guns and absolutely bristling with machine guns. The Austrians followed in the footsteps of the Russians, imitating their opponent in design, and putting them into action against both the Russians and the Italians. The German High Command never put as much stock into the concept, so while a number were operating by the end of the conflict, they were mostly assembled on the local level, with a wide variation in workmanship, and never taking on the finished appearance of the Russian examples.

Up to this point, armored trains had been been built in the image of any other train. The locomotive was attached to some number of cars which served various functions - infantry cars, artillery cars, command cars, AA cars etc. During World War I though was developed the rail-cruiser. Cruisers were single cars and capable of supplying their own power, giving them much greater speed and flexibility than a regular armored train. Both Russia and Austro-Hungary developed examples, ranging from the small trollies like the Motorkanonwagen to the impressive Russian railcruiser [Zaamurets] (later to become better known for serving with the armored train Orlik with the Czech Legion). Rail-cruisers could be attached to a larger train, but if needed, unhitched and sent off on their own. While incredibly useful in the defensive roles that they filled, even on the Eastern Front the relatively conventional fighting meant that armored trains weren’t used quite to their full potential. It would take the next big conflict to see them at their height of power.

The Russian Civil War

With the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917 and ensuing withdrawal from the war, the Russian Civil War gave the fleet of armored trains a new purpose. The vast expanses of the country made control of the rail lines absolutely vital, and both sides made use of armed and armored trains extensively. At the beginning of the war, most of the Imperial Army’s fleet had either been requisitioned by the Germans or else fallen into White Russian hands. The Red forces quickly put into action a building program, churning out not only the well developed and battle tested designs of the Tsarist regimes from the factories they controlled, but improvising a wide array of ingenious designs, perhaps the most interesting being to build an interior wall in a boxcar and fill the gap with concrete to create a protected infantry car (these semi-armored trains were known as blindirov). In all, well over 200 armored and blindirov trains of varying quality operated with the Reds during the Civil War, and another 80 or so with the Whites. While the Reds were able to build quality trains using Czarist designs, the Whites generally lacked access to the factories and their quality rarely equalled that of their opponents’.

With the front lines much more amorphous, a general lack of air support, and neither side willing to uproot miles of vital track that would prefer to fight for control over, the train could truly perform as an offensive weapon, serving as a spearhead of the attack, instead of the savior in the defense. Trains would travel with raiding teams “desantniy otryad” of infantry and cavalry. The infantry would ride in armored box-cars providing protection on the move, deploy out when stopped and vulnerable, and also allow the train to strike away from the tracks, with the infantry operating under protection of its artillery. The cavalry would travel as a screening force to protect the train from ambush - although in numerous engagements the trains proved they could hold their own against enemy cavalry formations, such as a veritable slaughter outside Tsaritsyn in 1918. Many trains would carry an observation balloon, primarily for artillery spotting but also to allow for more effective reconnaissance outside of the narrow corridor of rail track.

With 37,000 miles of rail, and generally poor quality roads, the importance of the armored train during the war can’t be understated, and personnel were almost exclusively to be drawn from party members and the most literate at that. Although how much this was done in practice is up in the air. Railroad men were impressed into the service due to their existing expertise, and at least one foreign observer described the crew of a train he traveled on as “a choice selection of human scum”. Whether they were the cream of the communist party or the scum of the earth, the crews were certainly capable of great deeds, and when used at their best, could take on all comers, perhaps best exemplified during the Civil War by Train No. 1 Rifle Regiment in Honor of Karl Marx, which sped into the town of Liski, catching the garrison by surprise and capturing the town and two idling White trains to boot! Describing the Soviet use of trains in 1920, a Polish officer noted that, “Armored trains are the most serious and terrible opponent. [...] Our infantry are powerless against them.” It isn’t much of an exaggeration to say they they were simply the best weapon of the war.

The Whites lacked the organization with their trains displayed by the Reds, and not just because they had few facilities for manufacturing. While this certainly meant that there was a lot of diversity in their fleet, the much more fractured force simply couldn’t develop a unified doctrine, although they certainly emulated the successes of the Reds when possible. In addition to the anti-Bolshevik Russian groups, both the British, French, and Americans operated lightly armored trains during their fruitless intervention of 1918-1920. And while the Whites generally were playing second fiddle to the Red in terms of effective train deployment, no one used them better than the Czech Legion as they fought their way east.

Perhaps the most famed armored train of the war - if not period - was Orlik. Originally a Russian rail-cruiser named Zaamurets that was captured from the Bolshevik’s by the Czech Legion as they trekked east in their effort to leave Russia and join the fighting on the Western Front, Orlik Vuz cis. 1 (Vehicle One) became part of their armored train Orlik. The train helped the Czechoslovakians control a vast swathe of the Trans-Siberian Railroad from late 1918 through early 1920, until they finally were able to evacuate Russia via Vladivostok. Orlik ended up in White hands before finding its way into the hands of Chinese Warlords, and eventually the Kwantung Army, a puppet force of Japan, some time around 1931.

By the end of the Russian Civil War, the Soviets had a well established armored train doctrine, originally with light trains revolving around the raiding parties on the one hand (bronyepoyezd), and heavy trains more centered on providing heavier fire support (bronyobatoreyo). In both cases, they generally consisted of a armored locomotive in the center flanked by two gun cars, and control cars on each end. The variation was in the armament, the light train carrying 76.2mm pieces, and the heavy trains armed with between 100mm and 150mm (the heavy trains would be the least armored though, as it referred simply to the armament. A Heavy train was not meant to get close to the fighting, so was lightly armored compared to the light trains, which needed the protection. Confusing, I know!). Infantry cars could be added if needed, as well as a rail-cruiser. This was changed to three classes, of ‘A’ - the heaviest armored train, with 4x76.2mm guns; ‘V’ (or ‘C’) - 4x152mm or 203mm guns; and ‘B’ - 4x107mm or 4x122mm guns, in 1920. Type ‘M’ trains also existed, but more akin to railroad guns, mounting heavy naval artillery for coastal defense.

The Interwar Years
The years between the wars saw considerable use of armored trains, aside from the Russian Civil War that is, and few more so than the Poles, who fully embraced the concept and were running about 70 of them in the early 1920s. Their initial fleet was made up of examples captured either from the Austro-Hungarians and Germans at the end of World War I, or else from the Soviets during the Polish-Soviet War in 1919-1921, a conflict that saw numerous use of trains as raiding weapons, and even duels between Soviet and Polish trains! One of the greatest innovations of the Poles during the war was the use of flatbeds with Renault FTs placed on them, allowing the tank to fight from the train if needed, but able to dismount and range outside of the corridor of track if needed. Given the limitation on tank designs at the time, the speed and firepower offered by a train was simply unsurpassed at the time, and in regions where rail-lines went, there was no weapon a Polish or Soviet commander was happier to have at his disposal.

The other major utilization of armored trains in the period occurred in China. Plagued by warlords in the 1920s and the Japanese in the 1930s, and lacking major roads, the rail-lines were just as vital in the as in Russia, and consequently much of the fighting happened within a stone’s throw of them. The long travels of the Orlik, but it was hardly alone in traveling the rails of warlord-torn China in the 1920s. The defeat of the Whites saw many of them flee from Vladivostok into northern China, where they offered their equipment and services to Chinese warlords as mercenaries. In his efforts to bring down the warlords, Chiang Kai-Shek followed suit by paying the Soviet’s for their expertise in constructing armored trains for him and training men in their use. By the time the Warlords had been mostly suppressed in the late 1920s, the National Revolutionary Army was fielding 20 trains, and the Manchurian Army under Zhang Xueliang had another dozen to support them with. The Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 would turn most of the latter over to the invader’s Kwantung Army.

The Japanese would add a few new construction to their force, but their favored vehicle for patrolling the rail lines were armored trolleys, similar in function to the rail-cruiser, but essentially an armored car fitted with rail wheels. The Type 91 could have road and rail wheels switched, allowing it to function in either capacity and the Type 95 was a tracked vehicle with rail wheels that could be lowered from the hull onto the tracks.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Subterrene


Trebelev subterrene (Soviet Union)



A Subterrene is a vehicle that travels underground (through solid rock/soil) much as a submarine travels underwater, either by mechanical drilling, or by melting its way forward. Subterrenes existed first in fiction as mechanical drillers, with real-world thermal designs and examples following in the second half of the 20th century.

Fictional subterrenes are often depicted as cylindrical in shape with conical drill heads at one or both ends, sometimes with some kind of tank-tread for propulsion, and described either as leaving an empty tunnel behind it, or as filling the space behind it with mining debris, the plausibility of such machines has declined with the advent of the real-world tunnel boring machines, which demonstrate the reality of the boring task. Tunnel boring machine themselves are not usually considered to be subterrenes, possibly because they lack the secondary attributes - mobility and independence - that are normally applied to vehicles.

A real-world, mobile subterrene must work thermally, using very high temperature and immense pressure to melt and push through rock, the front of the machine is equipped with a stationary drill tip which is kept at 1,300–1,700 °F (700–930 °C). The molten rock is pushed around the edges as the vehicle is forced forward, and cools to a glass-like lining of the tunnel. Massive amounts of energy are required to heat the drill head, supplied via nuclear power or electricity. Patents issued in the 1970s indicate that U.S. scientists had planned to use nuclear power to liquefy lithium metal and circulate it to the front of the machine (drill). An onboard nuclear reactor can permit a truly independent subterrene, but cooling the reactor is a difficult problem, the Soviet Union is purported to have built such a "battle mole", which operated until its onboard reactor failed.[citation needed]
On line information presents research was funded by the United States Government for the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories University of California, Los Alamos, New Mexico for a project Camelot under the heading Systems and Cost Analysis for a Nuclear Subterrene Tunneling Machine. 

The design concepts fall into similar designs of current technology of our nuclear submarine fleet and existing tunnel boring technology as used in the Chunnel between England and France, but with the added feature of melting rock for the tunnel wall lining.


LINK
 


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Wickersham Land Torpedo (USA 1918)

The foundations then were laid for remote-controlled vehicles and weapons just as the First World War began. World War I proved to be an odd, tragic mix of outmoded generalship combined with deadly new technologies. From the machine gun and radio to the airplane and tank, transformational weapons were introduced in the war, but the generals could not figure out just how to use them. Instead, they clung to nineteenth-century strategies and tactics and the conflict was characterized by brave but senseless charges back and forth across a no-man’s-land of machine guns and trenches.
With war becoming less heroic and more deadly, unmanned weapons began to gain some appeal. On land, there was the “electric dog,” a three-wheeled cart (really just a converted tricycle) designed to carry supplies up to the trenches. A precursor to laser control, it followed the lights of a lantern. More deadly was the “land torpedo,” a remotely controlled armored tractor, loaded up with one thousand pounds of explosives, designed to drive up to enemy trenches and explode. It was patented in 1917 (appearing in Popular Science magazine) and a prototype was built by Caterpillar Tractors just before the war ended.

Suicide bombing, supply carrier
Operated by wire
Developer - Elmer E. Wickersham
Manufacturer - C. L. Best Tractor Company
Loading capacity - 50kg

Article translated from Russian [topwar.ru]

Friday, May 18, 2018

Leviathan (Scott Westerfeld novel)

Clanker

Leviathan


Leviathan is a 2009 dystopian novel written by Scott Westerfeld and illustrated by Keith Thompson. First of a trilogy set in alternative version of World War I, it has Central Powers (known in-universe as "Clankers") using mechanized war machines opposed by Entente Powers (as "Darwinists") who fabricate living creatures genetically. The central protagonists are Aleksander, son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand; and Deryn, a Scottish girl with dreams of joining the British Air Service with her brother. The sequels are Behemoth and Goliath.

Warfare technology used

Clanker machines

Clankers made machines mostly large in order to have great effect
  • Cyklops Storm-walker: a two-legged machine designed for combat. Alek and his men use one to escape to Switzerland.
  • Zeppelin: a dirigible designed for air travel, transport and combat. The Germans use several to try and destroy the Leviathan.
  • Dreadnought: an enormous land ship with side-mounted cannons. Essentially designed for combat, with a lower deck for its scouts, it can be used for travel thanks to its six legs.
  • Aeroplane: a plane designed for air combat, used to attempt to take down the Leviathan.

Darwinist creations

Dawrwinists created animal-weapons in order to do greater damage, have better agility.
  • Leviathan: the name of a large, fabricated airwhale that Deryn and Alek travel on. It is a living ecosystem, using the whale cilia for flight, bacteria to make hydrogen, bees to make honey, and strafing hawks and fl├ęchette bats for battle (see below).
  • Minotaur: the name of an airship similar to the Leviathan where Deryn's brother Jaspert serves.
  • "Huxleys": giant jellyfish-like creatures fabricated from the life threads of the medusa jellyfish. These creatures breathe hydrogen and are similar in function to hot-air balloons. Usually these are used to scout overhead. They are named after Thomas Henry Huxley, a renowned biologist known as Darwin's Bulldog for his advocacy of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
  • Message lizards: fabricated lizards used aboard the Leviathan and other Darwinist creations and buildings. They only repeat what they hear.
  • Strafing hawks: the Leviathan's main defence. When armed with acidic spider webs on their wings, they are capable of slicing through metal.
  • Fl├ęchette bats: bats fabricated with moth and mosquito threads. These bats are able to ingest and release metal spikes in "the usual manner".
  • Hydrogen sniffers: dog-like creatures bred to sniff for hydrogen leaks on an airship.
  • Kraken: a sea creature designed for ocean battles.
  • Behemoth: a sea creature like a Kraken that is bigger and stronger.
  • Elephantine: a large elephant like creature.

The Iron Grip Universe


Official Name: Ironclad Tank Hunter
Commonly Called: Ironclad Tank Hunter

Description: A modification of the regular Ironclad Walker, the Ironclad Tank Hunter has a single longer barrel fitted, which fires heavy AP rounds to destroy enemy vehicles.

Iron Grip: Marauders Wiki


ISOTX is the video game developer behind the award-winning Iron Grip Series. The Iron Grip Universe provides the setting for our commercial war games:

Iron Grip: Marauders, Iron Grip: Lords of War, Iron Grip: Warlord and Iron Grip; The Oppression

The Iron Grip Universe offers players an alternative world, reminiscent of pre-war Europe, inhabited by an exuberant mix of characters armed to the teeth, with a formidable arsenal. Weaponry such as the ‘dreadnaught airship’ and the daunting Battle Mechs swarm the battlefields of the Iron grip universe, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.  

At ISOTX, we strive to deliver strategy games that we ourselves love to play.


Please Note they are no longer in business.


Therefore, it comes as no surprise, that the company was founded by a small group of devotee gamers that wanted to add new units and gameplay to C&C Generals. The resulting total conversion mod became known as Mid East Crisis 1.0. Despite the initial lack of funding, the collaboration continued, leading to the founding of a commercial studio and the development of a number of strategy war game titles.

Iron Grip: Marauders is the latest addition to the Iron Grip series. The game takes place several years after Iron Grip: Lords of War. In the land of Kathos, an aristocratic country caught up in internal conflict, the strain and turmoil has finally reached a boiling point. The troops of the Rahmos Protectorate States have moved to the southern border in expectation of a pending war with the neighboring Confederation of Nallum; leaving entire regions unprotected.

This situation has attracted the attention of marauders: mercenary pirates whose ranks range from highly trained ex-military men to common thieves. Many of these marauders came from Atelia, where they used to work as soldiers of fortune for the Atelian tribal leaders. As captain of a horde of air pirates, players roam the vast regions of Kathos in search of settlements to loot. Captured settlements are easily turned into pirate strongholds which provide additional building and advancement options in the game. From their headquarters, gamers can strategically plan their army’s size and composition. By researching new technologies, stronger units can be trained and new structures created.

Keith Thompson Artwork for Iron Grip