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The Atomic Hovercraft Tank

The Atomic Hovercraft Tank

The BIG gun and a heavy hitter too!

This one is a scratch build.  In fact, it might very well be my very first completely scratch built model.

I did have some help with this one.  From my dad.  I got the idea for making this after reading one of David Darke's novels; Hammer's Slammers.  Pure military science fiction tales.  They revolve around the actions of an armored mercenary company, Hammer's Slammers, in the far future.  The armor in this case are all hovercraft tanks.  They run on fusion powerplants and had advanced energy beam weaponry and super sophisticated missiles.  This was pretty heady stuff for a kid back in the late 70's and it got my imagination running.  

So I started sketching what I thought a atomic powered hovercraft tank would look like.  I used as a guide some of the other tank model kits I'd built.  Notably, the M-103 Heavy Tank. This was just one of the many Roco 1/87th Minitanks that I had built over the years.  Here's a version of it that tank someone built in 1/35th scale.

I figured that a nuclear powered tank would be big so I designed it to be big.  I have the original sketches I drew up of it around somewhere and when I find them I'll put them in here.  Suffice to say that I fully sketched this thing out and then drew up plans for it which listed its exact dimensions in scale.  That's where my dad came in.  My dad had a UNIMAT.

UNIMAT's are table top sized precision milling stations.  The home hobbyist's wet dream machine.  With such a precision tool you can mill objects with precision measured in thousandth's of an inch.  This was a pretty nifty tool to have back in the 70's and I'd love to have one today.  My dad used it extensively to make small parts for his R/C aircraft (Radio Controlled) and other things.  Things like models for his son.

I presented him with my ideas and worked up the plans.  My dad took some strips of Plexiglas, measured them out, and then cut them down to size.  He then clamped them into the milling stand of the UNIMAT and had at it.  The upper hull has a depression ground into it for the turret spindle to fit in.  The spindle itself was turned on the UNIMAT's lathe.  My dad also machined the turret itself and the slight grooves this process left actually make it look more realistic as many tanks have a slightly rough texture to their armor.  Next came the commander's cupola and its gun.  He then cut some pieces of brass tube for the gun barrel and presented it all to me.

I then sanded down what portions needed it.  Came up with my own hatches, used two engine cowling air scoops from a 1/72nd scale B-26 Marauder bomber for the hovercraft air inlets, painted it all up to current US Army standards (circa 1978), slapped some decals on it, and called it done.

I was rather proud of all this.  Aside from those two little air scoops everything else on this thing was scratchbuilt.  I also did all of the finishing and the entire thing was my original design.  That plus the tank looked pretty damn boss!

Modern High-Tech Firepower! Modern High-Tech Firepower!

This was a very high tech thing when I came up with it back in the late 70's.  It was supposed to be equipped with a high velocity 120mm main cannon and a rapid fire 20mm secondary gun in the commander's cupola on top of the turret.

Lean and Mean!

Those faint little blue dots on the turret's face and positioned around the hatches are supposed to represent the highly sophisticated vision system of this design.  No paltry periscopes for the Atomic Hover Tank!

I also figured that the thing would use an auto-loader to reduce the crew requirements to just three men.

Lean and Mean!
The Boys Are Ready To Play! The Boys Are Ready to Play!

This shot should give some perspective as to the size of my design compared to what would have been its stable mates.

That big one immediately behind the Atomic Tank is the M-103 which inspired me.  The tank behind and to the left is the M-60.

Out For a Stroll

Here's another scale establishing shot.  These little 1/87th scale soldier figures really show the relative sizes of the tanks involved here.  At the time the M-60 was the biggest tank then in US service.  It has now been replaced by the M-1.

My Atomic Hovercraft Tank would still beat that, hands down!

Out for a Stroll with the Boys!

In hindsight, a hovercraft tank - even an Atomic Hovercraft Tank - would most likely not be a good idea.  Back when Mr. Drake first wrote his stories using them, hovercraft were a new and underdeveloped technology.  There had been some successful uses of them in combat in Vietnam but that was pretty limited.  Drake simply extrapolated using something which was new at the time and therefore "cool."  History has not proven him right.

These days hovercraft occupy a rather small niche in military and civilian operations.  The US Navy currently uses them for some of the landing craft.  They are well suited to this role as their unique capabilities are a good match for getting troops ashore.  Using hovercraft as main battle tanks would be problematic however.  One problem that all hovercraft face is maneuverability.  Not the lack of it, but the control of it.  Their very operation eliminates the surface friction other vehicles encounter because the other vehicles touch the surface while a hovercraft hovers above it.  While this allows hovercraft to "fly" over water, mud, ice, snow, or rocks with relative ease, it also means that it has no traction on the surface in order to stop or change direction.  To do all that it depends on blowing jets of air around off to the sides of the vehicle.  Lots of air.  Very quickly.  

For the LCAC's (Landing Craft, Air Cushioned) of the Navy this is not too big a problem for them to deal with.  They operate out on the water and only come on land at the beaches to deliver their troops.  Using hovercraft in place of conventional tanks would mean that those tanks would be moving tremendous amounts of air around just to move around in a controlled fashion.  On anything but paved ground or clean rock, that would soon kick up clouds of debris.  That, in turn would both obscure what the tankers could see and be a dead giveaway of their position in combat.  Not a good combination.  There would also be the recoil of the gun to deal with.  As the hovercraft would be sitting atop its bubble of air, thus giving it an essentially friction less surface, firing that main gun would kick the tank back in the other direction.  Unless it also simultaneously fired a huge blast of air in the opposite direction.  Thus kicking up more debris and making life difficult for anyone in the general area.  That and the noise.  The rushing of all that air through those fan blades would make quite the racket.  All in all a hovercraft tank is not a good idea.

However, an Atomic Tank using Repulsor Field Technology (RFT) would do just fine!  So, when I remake this little model, that is exactly what it is going to change in to!  So, stay tuned!

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In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed your "stay" at this site.  Check back again to see what new images I have added.  Until then, stay well, play hard, play safe, and have fun!


This page was last updated on: 14 January 2005  

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs and images on this page are copyright protected property of Madoc Pope.  If you would like to use any of my images you must contact me first before you do so.



In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed your "stay" at this site.  Check back again to see what new images I have added.  Until then, stay well, play hard, play safe, and have fun!