orld War 2 has certainly brought a very innovative perspective to military engineering and in both cases of the Allies as well as the Axis, the ideas were getting crazier as the war progressed. This particular idea came from Oleg Antonov, the founder of the aviation industry within the Soviet Union at the time. Each side of the war was looking to gain a competitive advantage through improved military technology.
The idea of the aircraft/armored vehicle was to fly to the battlefield as quickly as possible where needed and, after the landing, to detach its wings. The prototype was also planned to be used to take out low-altitude bombers as well as fly over enemy lines to flank from the back. The first and only prototype was built in 1942 by taking one of the lightest Russian tanks, the T-60, and combining it with some fabricated biplane wings as well as a twin tail.
What many people are confused about is that they do not see an engine and that is because this aircraft was never meant to have an engine. This aircraft was meant to be used as a glider and fly at low altitudes to the battlefield. It is imperative to understand that the planned use for this aircraft was not to be used in air combat but as a quick way to deploy armored vehicles onto the battlefield. The main idea was to tow the aircraft until it would glide down to the battlefield, in theory, this sounds great, however, Antonov did not take into consideration the 5.8 tonnes weight of the tank.
In theory with enough pulling power and sturdy wings, the aircraft should have at least taken off. According to some old World War 2 archives found after the breakup of the Soviet Union, on the 2nd of September 1942, the Antonov A-40 prototype had its first flight. The pilot chose to try out the A-40 was Sergei Anokhin, a famous Soviet experimental pilot.
It was towed by a TB-3 bomber, and once it reached around 160 kilometers per hour by halfway of the runway, the drag was too much for the wooden biplane wings. Sergei was losing control, and the only way to stop the experiment was to ditch the wings and go for a “soft” landing in a 6-ton tank. Sergei only suffered a few light wounds.
After some analyses had been done there were 3 major problems. The first one was that the wings were too big and not so sturdy overall as they were made out of wood. The second was that in order to make the armored vehicle/aircraft lighter by removing some of the ammunition and fuel of the tank, then on the battlefield, it would present as very inefficient. Last but not least, for 1942 standarts the tank was too weak.
The T-60 was armed with a 20mm cannon and 10–25mm armor, by 1942 the Germans were already deploying panzer F4’s which came with a 75mm gun and 40–65mm armor. Upon these analyses, Oleg Antonov abandoned this project so he could focus on more realistic aircraft that could actually help win the war.
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