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Is it possible to parachute tanks?

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1939 - 1942' started by HellWarrior, Apr 9, 2013.

  1. HellWarrior

    HellWarrior Member

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    Hi everybody, you will maybe find my question stupid but on TV I saw a few times that they can parachute cars and other vehicules.

    I was thinking of the Normandy battle and Operation Market Garden and I was asking myself why they didn't parachute tanks or halftracks on those occasions? Is it a question of weight? Is it possible to do it?

    I would like to have your opinion on this.

    Thanks in advance!

    Sorry but I'm not sure if my question has been posted in the good forum.
     
  2. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    hmm...The factors would be: Weight - Size - Shape.
    Obviously the lighter and smaller the vehicle the easier it is...Also, aircraft such as the Hercules for example have a back ramp that can disgorge almost anything due to its gaping size. For a MBT in WW2 i would have said no.
     
  3. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large Patron  

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    CAC's correct size and weight are the factors. A C47 had a payload of 6,000lbs, an M4A3 Sherman weighed 66,700 lbs. Door size and location would preclude dropping it,even if it could be done weight wise. That's also the reason most heavy/bulky equipment was gliderborne. I've actually seen an M-551 airdropped, it's a matter of having it secured to a pallet/platform, having a cargo bay and door that can handle the size and several cargo chutes properly rigged.
     
  4. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Brits had a glider borne tank...I'm sure the tank experts will be along shortly to tell you about it. But I suppose the mission on first few days for Airborne, was specific and manpower was the priority for their landing armour was PLANNED to come up pretty sharpish...from the beacheads.
     
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Two 'airborne' tanks of the period.
    A17 MkVII Tetrarch, & M22 Locust.
    Both Glider-borne by Hamilcar, neither exactly war-winners.

    Edit - Just remembered The Harry Hopkins & Alecto projects too - some very odd ideas to add wings to the former & tow it if I recall...
    (And then there's that Russki winged-tank picture, but...)
     
  6. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    As CAC notes, both payload capacity and the rear-ramp configuration were necessary. The latter originated with the German Me-323 which also had the high wing and landing gear sponsons to maximize the clear space inside the cargo bay found on most subsequent military transports. The Gigant could carry light armored vehicles and presumably could have dropped them if the Germans had still been able to conduct airborne operations.

    Postwar the Soviets developed a number of airborne armored vehicles like the ASU-85 tank destroyer and the BMD series infantry fighting vehicles. These can be parachuted with crew inside; the landing is aided by retro-rockets firing (hopefully) just before impact, similar to the concept used by NASA for the latest Mars rover - wonder if they had help from the Russians?
     
  7. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    The Soviets seemed to put more effort in legitimate 'air dropped' tanks (as opposed to 'glider-borne' tanks such as the Tetrarch). There's the famous A-40, one of which was actually built and tested. None-the-less, it was a design failure and the project was cancelled.

    [​IMG]

    The Soviets also extensively tested more pratical means -- dropping tanks from low altitude. The idea was that these would be dropped from a few meters above the ground with their gearboxes in neutral (and crews presumably bracing themselves for a very bumpy landing, or parachuting seperately -- I don't know), and the tanks would simply roll to a stop. This idea actually worked, and it was done during the 1940 annexation of the Bessarabia area of Romania.

    They also tried to same technique with amphibious tanks (perhaps assuming that the water would provide a softer landing medium). I have no idea how these tests turned out, but this photo set documents one.

    [​IMG]

    Some Brits were also intriqued by the idea of a 'glider tank', and spent some effort developing one. The so-called Baynes Bat consisted of large wings and a rudimentary fusalage that would be attached to a tank, which would ditch them after landing. A scale prototype was tested around 1942-1943, but it was scrapped soon after.

    As others have said, with the exception of some 'very light' tanks and experimental ventures like these, the idea of air dropping large vehicles was simply not possible given the technology of the time.
     
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  8. 36thID

    36thID Member

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  9. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large Patron  

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    A lot of those are not actually airborne drops. The ones where the aircraft flies low and the cargo is snatched out by parachute are called LAPES (Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System). I've seen tons of equipment delivered by that system. Most often successfully. The video where the cargo chute doesn't open, around the 1:41 mark, I've seen a time or two, one of which was when they were dropping an M551 Sheridan. It's really dangerous if you're already on the ground, big, heavy parts thrown great distances. Every thing on a tank is usually massive and even something as simple as a bolt can kill a person.
     
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  10. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I would think it would be highly impractical. Building and flying an aircraft large enough to transport a usable tank in sufficent numbers would consume airframes and sorties that could better be used for other pursuits.

    Lifting a 30 or 40+ ton payload was above the practical capabilities of the engines of the day.

    Then, there was the small matter of fuel supply...
     
  11. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I think getting back to OP...one would have to ask...what the need would be in planning for the landings, both airborne and seaborne..for the use of tanks in airborne areas...when the plan was to link up asap and seaborne landing of armour would have, should have been available within the original plans confines.
     
  12. HellWarrior

    HellWarrior Member

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    Thanks everybody for your answers. It gives me a good perspective on what was possible and what was not during world war 2.

    Thanks again!
     
  13. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    What's the actual advantage of "period" air-delivered tanks? Airborne forces were really either special ops...or blocking forces ;) Supposed to sit on a particular location and withstand what's thrown at them as long as they can until relieved.

    If anything - they need to be anti-tank weapon heavy...be it spigot-powered, rocket-powered, or artillery piece. Surely if you make a tank air-mobile, you're obligating any forces deployed WITH it to be similarly mobile I.E. air-dropped transport?

    And it's not just fuel that's an issue, but also ordnance...and crew! What's the point of, say, a tank arriving by one means...and its crew failing to arrive due to flak or accident etc.?
     
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  14. André7

    André7 Active Member

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  15. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Of course the US, UK and Aussie have the C-17...that baby can carry an Abrahms tank! Thats an MBT plus...God bless the Yanks.
     
  16. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Carry and parachuting are different.
    There is a utube video about a C5 dropping 4 Sheridan light tanks!, just google ("Sheridan tank parachute" cannot paste links with my browser) dropping something as massive as an M1 would be harder as the ratio between mass of the cargo and mass of the plane would be a lot worse, the problem I think is keeping the plane steady while some 60+ tons move around inside it dramatically shifting the center of balance, Such a massive load dropping together with parachuters would also be an issue as it would force the men to divert a lot of attention looking up rather to avoid the thing dropping on them!.

    IMO a handful of tanks that can quickly reinforce a hot spot would be a very useful thing to have, they may also dramatically reduce losses against the initial opposition that is likely to be rear area troops without much AT capability.
     
  17. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    I always think of Dien Bien Phu being about the first truly effective air delivery of tanks, though in pieces, and not dropped.
    They at least hit the battlefield the right way up...
     
  18. Dave55

    Dave55 Member Patron  

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    Wow, you're right. I thought only a C-5 could lift one of those. Pretty impressive. And even those planes can only do one at a time. That would take a mighty big parachute
     
  19. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Soviet/Russian BMD series light armor pieces are capable of parachute operations using deceleration rockets. They are not proper tanks but can support paratroopers.
     
  20. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Another question is the classic one, even if you have the capacity to land tanks, is that a better investment than the equivalent weight of something else like anti-tank weapons? In WWII a Hamilcar could carry a Tetrarch or Locust light tank or a 17pdr and tow vehicle - which would be more useful to say 1 Airbourne at Arnhem?

    Side note - I wonder if one of the light tanks could have been adapted as an SP 17pdr? It would be almost unarmored, similar to the German Marder, but it would be a way to provide antitank capability in situations like Arnhem.
     

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