45 Years Ago the USSR designed Bipedal Combat Walkers.
Translated by MicroBalrog from Mordovia News
Dense fog surrounded the positions of insurgents dug in in a small village. It was wet and cold. Most of the gang kept warm in the homes abandoned by civilians. Only the guards shuddered in the cold trenches. Every half-hour they reported in on radio. The milky-dense fog cut visibility so much some even dared to smoke – but cigarettes won’t save you from the cold.
Each man thought – if only they could get sooner into a house, near a crackling stove. The Russian forces surrounding the village from every direction turned on the engines of their vehicles every so often to heat them, the engine noises soon became a regular sound for the insurgents. Even now, somewhere deep in the Russian positions the engines of several BTRs roared. The guards tensed for several seconds, but the sounds did not draw closer, and they relaxed again.
And then, literally a few meters away from the trenches a strange sound sounded – like the buzzing of an electric razor, and then some strange clanking. The insurgent who poked his head out of the trenche froze, the cigarette falling out of his wide-open mouth. A strange bipedal monster approached, painted in tricolor camouflage and richly coated in dirt. For a brief second, a red laser targeting dot shone on the terrorist’s forehead, and he fell to the trench floor.
From every direction, about one hundred fifty combat walkers assaulted the village. The strange vehicles drove the insurgents to panic – and within an hour, those who had not been machinegunned by the battlemechs surrendered to Federal forces.
This is approximately how it might have turned out if Soviet engineers’ work were to be implemented.
Now from sci-fiction to science fact. In the first half of the 1960′s Soviet designers proposed placing our infantry in one-man, bipedal, combat vehicles.
The suggestion was made by the researchers of the well-known NII-100 (later, in 1966, renamed into “Transmash”.
As Grigory Pasternak, head of department at UNTK-GBTU (1966-1986) it is difficult today to say what advances were made by the designers – he himself saw only written documentation and blueprints of the vehicle.
It comprised a suit weighing approximately 500 kilograms, something between a medieval knightly armor and a Soviet cosmonaut suit. The “arms” were replaced with a machinegun and AT gun with relevant ammunition. The weapons could move freely in the front demisphere.
All would be well, but there were drawbacks. The project lacked vertical stabilization. Were the vehicle to fall over, God forbid, it would never get up. It had no means for righting itself in an emergency. There also was no communications gear.
Thus, says Grigory Borisovich Pasternak, the walker was unfit for the ground forces of the 1960′s. At this time forces expected to fight large-scale combat involving the use of meaningful quantities of nuclear weapons. In such warfare such a mech would not survive – it would be inferior in survivability not only to heavy and medium tanks, but even to IFVs and APCs.
On the other hand, law enforcement could do well with such a complex, for example to fight armed terrorists – but at that time there was not such a thing, and nobody could predict the emergence of numerous bands armed to the last word in military technology in our country.
Be it as it may, despite the imperfection of the design (after all, if the task were given, the designers would put together a stabilizer and install a radio), Soviet engineers have been decades ahead of their time. Today, as we know, combat walkers interest not only sci-fi writers and game developers, but real military engineers as well – and in this case, the USSR was ahead of the whole world.