LANDKREUZER P1000 RATTE & P1500 MONSTER
The Germans had been studying enemy armor since the start of the World War Two and they were always collating new ideas and designs and more often than not, incorporating them into their own tank designs. For example, the Panther tank was a derivative of the Russian T-34. However, the Landkreuzer P1000 and P1500 was different, it was not based on anything previously built.
Seen in the image below, this rendition of the P1000 Ratte shows the scale of the proposed tank alongside an American Sherman tank. This is not a joke, this was a real conception that the Germans actually considered building.
On the June 32rd, 1942, Albert Speer, the German ministry for armaments, who was at that time involved in the development of U-Boats, suggested to Adolf Hitler that it could be feasible to construct a super tank.
The proposal was for a tank with a weight of 1,000 tons or even 1,500 tons. When compared to a normal sized tank, this vehicle was going to be absolutely colossal. Again, this is not a joke, but was a real conception.
Hitler who was always encouraging his developers to come up with new designs and varieties of new weaponry, liked the idea and ordered super tank to be built. The giant steel company of Krupp was tasked with the project and they started their concepts on the drawing board. The first tank was to be called the P1000 Ratte Landkreuzer (Rat Land cruiser)
The P1000 was to be 115 feet long, 46 feet wide and 36 feet high, the size of a decent sized office block! The tracks that the tank would ride on were to be 12 feet wide each side and each plate would be assembled from three 4 foot wide segments. The tracks would need to be this wide so that the P1000 would not just sink into the ground under its own weight. Having a tank that weighs a 1,000 tons means that its weight dispersal is a top priority.
The P1000 was due to be manned by a crew of 20 men and powered with two 24 cylinder MAN V12Z32/44, 8500 horse power U-Boat engines. These engines would deliver a combined power output of 17,000 horse power. Another consideration was the idea of eight 20 cylinder Daimler-Benz MB501, 2000 horse power Motor Torpedo Boat (E-boat) engines, delivering a combined power output of 16,000 horse power.
Below is a computer generated image of what the P1000 Ratte Panzer would have looked like parked next to a normal sized Ferdinand Porsche tank. Indeed the P1000 Ratte's tracks could literally drive over a normal tank, crushing it into the mud!
The applied mathematical calculations showed that with around 17,000 horse power at its disposal, the P1000 would be able to travel at 40 to 45 kph which would be more than adequate for such a enormous tank.
Below is shown a diagram that depicts a big single gunned design to scale with other normal sized vehicles. This tank would have almost been the equivalent of having a battleship on dry land.
As the Daimler-Benz MB501 was a more reliable and cost effective engine, it would probably have been the engine of choice to be installed in the tank. Four engines would have run the left-hand side tracks whilst the other four would have run the right-hand side.
The P1000 was destined to be armed with all manner of guns including two huge 280mm SK-C/34 naval guns modified off a heavy cruiser ship, and a single 128mm gun along with 100 rounds carried for each gun. Eight 20 mm Flak38 anti-aircraft guns and two heavy caliber 15mm Mauser 151/15 cannon. The idea was that the P1000 was to be a mobile gun battery, a fortress on tracks!
Support legs might have been considered to stabilize the tank, as when the huge gun fired the recoil would have been tremendous. It would have been on par with a railway gun except of course it would have had better mobility.
Whilst the P1000 was being worked out on the drawing board, the Krupp factory came up with an even bigger idea, and that was to develop a 1,500 ton monster tank...the P1500. It would have an armor mantle of at least 250mm thick going up to 360mm with 220mm side armor and 150mm top armor plating.
It was designed to be armed with a super heavy duty 800mm mortar gun similar to that used on the massive railway gun Dora. Also two 150mm artillery cannon and an array of machine guns and anti-aircraft guns would be included into it.
The P1500 was destined to be powered by four U-Boat engines, possibly the 24 cylinder MAN V12Z32/44, 8500 horse power engines that would render a power output of 34,000 horse power.
The concept of the P1000 or indeed even the P1500 was so large that the Germans didn't call it a tank, instead they called it a Land Cruiser. At over 1,000 tons, the tank would not have been able to cross any bridges and would have ploughed up the streets as it trundled by.
It would have had to go through buildings rather than traverse around them, as the majority of streets would have been too narrow, it would have been more like trying to drive a battleship down the street.
Below is an artists impression of what the P1000 could have looked like, driving up a main road in war torn Europe. It looks like science fiction but it was going to be science fact. Only direct hits from 500 lb bombs and bigger would have had any effect on this tank, as the steel was as thick as a fallout shelter.
The construction of a tank of such colossal proportions would have ruined the already strained German industry, strained it more than the allied bombs were doing. The P1000 would have required manufacturing equivalents of a naval shipyard with thousands upon thousands of skilled laborer's, technicians, mechanics and engineers, all drafted in to construct it.
The maintenance crew, needed to keep the Land Cruiser running after completion would have been the size of a small army too.
The transportation of all the materials needed to construct it would have hampered the German war effort by many factors and could even have brought their industry to a standstill. We must remember that during the war, Germany was constructing other new tanks along with, planes, U-boats, ships, cannons, small arms etc all the time.
Scale model by Agis Neugebauer of adpublishing.de
The Germans were constantly developing new weaponry instead of using what they had already got. This was in many ways one of the main reasons for their final downfall.
After much deliberation and consideration the Germans finally realized that the Land Cruiser would have been a tank too far and quite suddenly they dropped the whole proposition. It would have put too much pressure on their already strained resources and stressed industry.
ULTRA SUMMARY FOR THE ULTRA TANK
In early 1943, Hitler's chief armaments minister, Albert Speer cancelled all the projects surrounding these super ultra monster tanks, as it would cost way too much in time, resources, money and manpower. Instead, Speer insisted that resources be applied to the already tried and tested conventional tanks currently in production.
A turret for the P1000 had already been made by this time, but ended up as a coastal defence battery near Trondheim in Norway instead. Speer envisaged that an ultra big super tank would just propose a priority target for enemy bombers and fighters and would end up being a very vulnerable object.
It was thought that the allies would treat the ultra tank like a battleship and bomb the hell out of it...and they probably would have done too.
Scale model by Agis Neugebauer of adpublishing.de
The British Typhoon and the American P51 Mustang fighter aircraft were already quite adept at blowing up tanks on the ground with rockets. Regardless of how thick you can make the steel that protects a large tank, there can always be enough explosives to destroy it.
Special purpose Landkreuzer bombs would almost certainly have been developed by the Allies to tackle something like this, especially as knowledge on shaped charges was already being understood.
The British Tall Boy and Grand Slam ten tons bombs for example, as dropped by Avro Lancaster's, would have easily destroyed a Landkreuzer. They would not necessarily have needed to be direct hits either, as the blast radius was a few hundred yards. Pictured below is an image of the humungous 10 ton Grand Slam bomb!
Adhering to convention then, the German MKII Tiger tank, as seen below, was arguably the best tank that the Germans had in Word War Two...
...it was a fantastic tank, basically impervious to all allied tank shells. The most awesome feature of the Tiger tank was its powerful, high velocity 88mm main gun. It could destroy an enemy tank at over a mile away and with its thick armor, the Tiger could not be easily destroyed in return.
American Sherman tanks could only destroy a Tiger tank by getting behind it and firing a shell at under four hundred meters into its backside! Tigers were incredibly tough and very hard to kill, it was simply best to run and hide from them. Sherman tank crews quickly learned that it was certain death to come up against one.
Tiger tanks literally destroyed hundreds of U.S Army Sherman tanks with little or no losses to themselves, so as the adage goes if it works why fix it ? and luckily for the allies, Hitler had obviously never heard it!
Another possible war winning tank for the Germans was the Koenigs Tiger or King Tiger, as seen below. This was a colossal 68 ton tank, a tank that was very heavily armored with almost 6 inches of frontal armor plate and also used the exceedingly powerful and fearful high velocity 88mm main gun.
No Allied armor could stand up to the King Tiger, it was just too powerful. The King Tiger utilized all three virtues of a tank which are Firepower, Protection and Mobility.
When the Allies first encountered the King Tiger in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium, during The Battle of the Bulge, in 1944, the King Tiger decimated the American Sherman tanks. So the Shermans had to run and hide, using strategy and tactics in attempt to defeat them instead.
If Hitler had just concentrated on manufacturing thousands of these Tigers, instead of all the other vain projects, then the course of the war may have altered. As it was though, only 492 of these King Tigers were ever built. All wars are wars of attrition and 500 tanks was simply not enough, especially when the Russians was churning out tanks by the thousand on a weekly basis.
The Tiger MkIII, also known as the Maus tank, as seen below, was a 188 ton tank that did actually get past the drawing board and made it to field trials.
However, the development of this tank took up valuable time and resources, so much so that it was never even completed in time, the war came to an end whilst it was still being finalized for production.
Many Maus tanks under early construction were found by the allies in various stages of completion, as shown in the photo below..
In many ways it was all too costly and totally crazy to try to develop an ultra tank, by late 1943, Hitler was losing the war on all fronts, he had sacrificed an entire army of 250,000 men at Stalingrad and defeat after defeat besotted him.
Ariel bombardment of German factories, establishments and city's had been stepped up by the Allies but new prototype tanks were still being built with Germanys stretched and limited battle damaged resources. This was total madness, when Hitler should just have concentrated on the manufacture of existing tanks.
The best road to success for Hitler, would just to have concentrated on building the Tiger MkII and roll them out by the thousand instead of all the weird and wonderful time and resource consuming inventions and innovations.
RUSSIAN ARMOR AND RUSSIAN INNOVATION
The Russians for example, only basically made three main different types of tank, the T-34, the KV-1 and KV-2, there were one or two variations and one or two other different types of tank made like the JS-1, but basically the Russians just churned out tens of thousands of T-34's and KV-1's.
Below is the mass produced and highly successful Russian T-34-85 with its revolutionary sloped armor.
The sloped armor was very efficient and German shells literally bounced off. Sloping armor also increases the thickness of the steel due to its oblique angles, without adding extra weight.
The T34-85 was the same tank as the stock T-34 but was mounted with a more powerful 85mm caliber main gun instead of the usual 76mm. Indeed the caliber of the gun was increased to 85mm to help combat the thicker armor that was appearing on German tanks.
Over 55,000 standard T-34s alone were produced in Russia and it was this mass quantity that beat quality in the end. As previously stated...all wars are wars of attrition at the end of the day. Stalin was even quoted as saying "Quantity has a quality all of its own" and who could disagree?
Below the Russian mass produced Klementi Voroshilov KV-1, these relatively cheap but extremely tough tanks were produced by the thousand, whereas Hitler's higher quality tanks were only produced by the hundred.
The KV-1 weighed 45 tons and was armed with a 76mm main gun and two 7.62mm machine guns. The Russians stated "If you want war, then we'll give you war..." and indeed proceeded to churn out thousands of these incredibly capable tanks.
All wars are wars of attrition and it stands to reason that if you have many thousands of tanks in reserve then you stand a good chance of winning, which of course the Russians did. They threw in a constant supply of tanks, hundreds upon hundreds at a time with thousands more waiting in reserve.
Below the Russian mass produced Klementi Voroshilov KV-2. The Russians cleverly used the same mass produced KV-1 chassis but mounted a larger turret and larger main gun on the top of it.
Using the same chassis as the KV-1, the manufacture of the KV-2 saved an abundance of money, time and resources that would otherwise have been wasted on new developments, designs and tests that it would have needed to go through.
The KV-2 weighed just over 53 tons and was armed with a massive 152mm Howitzer main gun and had three 7.62mm machine guns.
As stated earlier, the Russians churned out thousands of these monsters and threw them into battle against the Germans. As fast as the Germans blew them up, more and more just kept rolling off the production lines in Russia, the Germans just couldn't keep up.
REAL IMAGES OF THE REAL P1000
Of course, there are no real photographs of the P1000 as it was just a pre-stage prototype that didn't even leave the drawing board. This has not stopped the model making community from knocking up scale models of the tank though.
The image below shows a scale model P1000 under construction. The figures placed on the deck of the model are also to scale to represent the size of the tank. It has to be said that if the P1000 had been built, it would have been the most fantastically awesome tank of all time.
With other vehicles at the same scale placed next to the P1000, we can envisage how big this thing was really going to be. I can easily envisage the P1000 accidentally driving over a jeep or truck and not even noticing.
Whether or not the type of camouflage pattern as seen in the image below would have been utilised on the P1000 will never be known.
If the person who made this model contacts me then all due credits will be given. Currently understood to be Andreas Richter, c/o United-Fun, Hameln, Deutschland. Read more about the German Maus tank by clicking the image below:
Page created July 26th 2007. Updated December 3rd 2012