Friday, 11 April 2014

Bringing a 188-ton mouse back to life

Not a monster prehistoric rodent, but a monster World War Two tank - the 188-ton Maus, the heaviest tank ever built in history. And it's not Girls und Panzer, but it's the Belorussian studio Wargaming that's trying to resurrect this behemoth. The part of Kubinka Tank Museum surrounding the Maus was actually built around the thing, and the Maus isn't actually one tank - it's the hull of the turretless Maus prototype with the turret of the turreted Maus prototype attached to it (the hull of the turreted prototype was damaged beyond repair in a fire and scrapped).

Although this sounds like one of those crazy projects, how possible is it that it might work?

The Russians do have appropriate engines from tanks, locomotives and other vehicles. As one commentator looks at the situation -

I tiink the restoration could skip the rebuilding the engine from scratch. Kubinka can just ask either MTU , Wartsilla or any diesel engine/engine-generator from them. The engine bay in the Maus is meant to swallow a 44 litre V12 diesel engine from a marine origin and MTU’s engine of that size(the 396 series engine) can produce up to 2200 hp, that 400 hp more than the Maus’s original engine. Couple to the fact it can be had with a generator. So the issue now is to find a Electric mortor to move the 180 tonne beast (I know of Siemens locomotive motors moving thousands of tonnes in group of 4 but will one fit in the Maus is a different thing).

He's right, of course. A Wartsila engine at 2200 hp would be far more powerful than the puny 1200 hp engine that they put inside to move this thing's 188-ton mass, although the Maus would still be a very slow tank if it got moving. The ground pressure and condition of the suspension would determine the mobility of the thing. How many generators? That's a good question, but far from unsolveable - there are plenty of usable examples, and modern technology means that they're going to be a whole lot smaller and lighter than those available in the 1940s.

And as to carrying the thing -

I want to see Wargaming use the Antonov An-225 (the thing can carry up to 250 tons of cargo, so it’s the only plane in the world that could haul this thing through the air) to bring this thing to E3 or something once it’s operable. Could you imagine? Or, more fitting, the plane could bring it to a German video game trade show, and have the thing tread on some domestic soil!

Heck, if you really want to dream big (given that we’re talking about an actual restoration of the Maus, we may already be there), given that the An-225 is the only plane in the world capable of airlifting it, maybe Wargaming can also fund the completion of that second An-225 hull and then buy the thing from Antonov to put it to work as a dedicated Maus mover?
Wouldn't that part be a dream come true? Resurrecting the second An-225 to carry the Maus around?

That aside, the Maus weighs 188 tons and the An-225's  weight record is 189 tons. Assuming that the rig to carry the Maus weighs about 20-25 tons, the total weight of the cargo would be in excess of 200 tons, and lifting this Maus would be a record if they actually got around to doing it. And the Maus is pretty small compared to the colossal An-225 - a mere 10.2 meters long, 3.71 meters wide and 3.63 meters high compared to the 43.55 meter long, 6.4 meter wide and 4.4 meter high cargo bay of the An-225. That would be an enormous amount of weight concentrated in a very small area, and even the Antonov may not be able to take the strain of carrying it.

However, they might remove the 57 ton turret (as heavy as a whole goddamn Tiger I) from the hull and carry the hull and turret in two separate aircraft, before finally reuniting them on-site again to produce the complete Maus. However, this is going to be one hell of a terrible procedure and it makes it doubtful about whether it's worth shipping the Maus by air, as tantalizing as the possibility may be. The Maus might find its way on some kind of extremely heavy-duty rail car, but I suppose that'd be it - most stations wouldn't be able to handle a 188 ton metal monstrosity.

Either which way, seeing how this thing is restored should be very, very interesting indeed.

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