As the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war exposes the vulnerability of modern armored vehicles to anti-tank munitions and drone strikes, a video has emerged of what seems to be an extensive restoration effort on a Soviet-era heavy tank, the Object 279.
It was seen at the Kubinka Tank Museum in the Moscow region, which houses an unrivaled collection of armored vehicles from 1917 to the present day.
The mighty tank can be seen moving forward very slowly before a brief but noisy test run on the museum grounds.
While the details of the restoration work and the time it has taken remain unknown for now, reports suggest that efforts have been made to address the engine and gear issues, as well as those related to the hull and turret, which can be seen as partly painted in red primer ahead of a likely complete respray.
This could be the only surviving Object 279 tank anywhere in the world.
Back in the 1950s after the end of World War II, the Soviet Union had produced some of the most impressive tank designs including the Object 279 – considered the only armored vehicle of its time that could withstand the shock waves generated by an atomic bomb.
By the mid-1950s, the Soviet Union already had four types of heavy tanks, but all of them had certain disadvantages, such as the IS-2 which was outdated; the IS-4 was too expensive to manufacture; the IS-3 which exhibited poor performance; and the T-10 which is not well protected against modern anti-tank weapons.
So, the Main Armored Directorate of the Soviet Ministry of Defense needed an ‘ideal heavy tank’ with a mass of no more than 60 tons and a 130-mm cannon as its main armament that would combine the best features of previous models.
The development work began in 1957 in the office of the Leningrad Kirov and Chelyabinsk Tractor Plants, and three heavy tank prototypes were developed until 1959 which included, “Object 770” from Chelyabinsk, “Object 277” and “Object 279” from Leningrad.
The Object-279 produced by a team headed by an engineer, L. S. Troyanov, was absolutely a new and most unusual development in the history of tank designs.
It featured an unusual undercarriage of four sets of tracks divided into two pairs with each pair mounted on a longitudinal hollow beam on either side that also acted as a fuel tank.
These tracks were more or less equally spaced under the hull to spread the weight of this heavy tank equally over a large surface area and this allowed for a really low ground pressure of around 8.5 pounds per square inch (PSI) as compared to the American M48 Patton, for instance, that had a ground pressure of around 12 PSI.
This enabled Object 279 to move without difficulty over swampy, soft ground, and even across tree stumps, unlike other heavy tanks which were traditionally cumbersome vehicles, best suited for flat terrain.
The new tank was supposed to have armor thickness of 10.6 inches to the front and 12.6 inches to the side but there was also the weight constraint of 60 tons which led to a very unique and impressive armor design that consisted of a cast structure of four massive parts of varying slope and thickness – ranging from 1.6 to 11.8 inches – connected by welding.
This arrangement helps deflect armor-piercing and shaped-charge ammunition, and it was also expected to make the tank much less likely to flip over in a nuclear blast.
The hull was surrounded by an additional elliptical shield intended to trigger high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) projectiles, which do not rely primarily on the kinetic force for penetration.
Powered by a 16-cylinder, 1,000-horsepower diesel engine, the Object 279 is able to make a top speed of 34 mph and its range, with a single refueling, is 186 miles.
The armament of the tank consists of a 130mm M-65 rifled gun with 24 rounds of ammunition and a coaxial 14.5mm heavy machine gun. The loading of the gun is semi-automatic, providing a rate of fire of up to 7 rounds per minute.
The gun also has a stabilization system for accurate firing on the move, allied with an optical rangefinder, automatic guidance system, and a night-sight incorporating an infrared searchlight, some of the state-of-the-art features for its period.
However, the design was too unusual and therefore too “raw” having numerous deficiencies such as worse than expected agility, issues with its running gear, the complexity of repair and maintenance, and the complexity of manufacturing plus the impossibility of reducing the overall height of the tank.
Also, after 1960, heavy tanks began to look like relics of a previous age of armored warfare and the medium tanks which were more agile and faster became increasingly were relied upon on the battlefield
The work on Object 279 was halted after Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev categorically banned the adoption of any tanks weighing more than 37 tons in July 1960.