Cold War Soviet Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

K-1 Krushchev (Fake Tank)

Soviet Union (1956)
Medium Tank – Fake

The K-1 Krushchev is a fake Soviet tank that was presented in an article titled “Russia’s Secret Weapons”, written by Donald Robinson and published in the June 1956 edition of the American magazine True, The Man’s Magazine. Only five pages long, the bulk of the article is dedicated to Cold War fear mongering, telling the American people of the enormous number of newly designed Soviet weapons which ostensibly vastly outclassed those used by the United States.

The image that led the article showed the then-newly revealed 180 mm S-23 cannon, which True presents as a 203 mm cannon expressly designed to fire nuclear shells. While the S-23 had a nuclear shell designed for it, its primary function was as conventional artillery. The assumption that the S-23 was 203 mm in caliber was not unique to True and was a mistake shared across all Western sources.

Other weapons briefly covered in the article, in mostly correct detail, include the AK-47 rifle, Yakovlev Yak-24 helicopter, 240 mm M240 mortar (which the article also presents as a pure-nuclear weapon, though in reality it was conventional with a nuclear option, as with the S-23), 130 mm KS-30 heavy anti-aircraft gun (which the article misidentifies as 122 mm), 57 mm S-60 medium anti-aircraft gun, and 14.5 mm ZPU-4 light anti-aircraft gun.

The third page of the article gives us a drawing and an illustration of what the magazine describes as a “Killer Tank”. A top-secret new medium tank that was being shown to the free world for the first time, thanks to many men risking their lives to smuggle the information out of the Soviet Union. The K-1 Krushchev [sic], named after First Secretary of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev, was said to outclass the American M48 Patton in every way. It had a more powerful engine and greater speed, wider tracks which gave it better flotation, twice the operational range of the M48, a shorter silhouette, at only 9 feet (2.7 m) tall, and it had a more powerful cannon — 100 mm, as opposed to the M48’s 90 mm. The only downside to the K-1 was that it did not exist.

“This tank is so hush-hush that not one photograph of it has ever appeared…” Source: True, The Man’s Magazine, June 1956 Issue

Buried Origin

Bad intelligence has produced a great number of fictional super-tanks, from the 100-ton Landships the Japanese believed the Germans and Soviets were using, to the British-imagined “Adolf Hitler Panzer”, with a casemate in the front and a turret in the back. Was the K-1 Krushchev just another case of hearsay and overactive imagination, or was it more deceitful? Based on the evidence available, or rather total lack thereof, and the fact that the K-1 only ever appeared in True and nowhere else, it is almost certain that it was fabricated for the magazine.

Most tank designs borne out of incorrect intelligence in the United States come from the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), not, as True claimed with the K-1, the Department of Defense (DoD). It is conceivable that intelligence information collected by the CIA could make its way through channels to end up at the relevant authority within the DoD (even though an official structure for this did not exist in 1956), but there is no record of this ever happening for the K-1. The CIA chose not to share with other branches, as far as we are aware, far more detailed intelligence items than a “super-tank” whose only specifications are “9 feet (2.74 m) tall, 100 mm cannon, operational range ~150 miles (~240 km)”.

We will likely never know the exact origin of the K-1 design. Based on the mostly factual information presented for the other weapons in the article, it does not seem likely that the K-1 was a deliberate fake meant to deceive. At worst, it was an earnest — yet incompetent — attempt to provide a glimpse behind the Iron Curtain. At best, it was a sensationalist rendition of a real design, most likely the Object 416, which was only known through rumor at the time. The artist of the drawing of the K-1 was Sam Bates, an employee of True. It is likely he who was responsible for the design, and did his best based on the information provided to him.

The Design

Source: True, The Man’s Magazine, June 1956 Issue

As practically no hard data was given for the K-1, not much can be said about the design other than from a visual perspective. It is a handsome design, with surprisingly few flaws as far as fake tanks go. It has the roadwheel spacing arrangement of the T-34, with a larger gap between the 1st and 2nd, and 2nd and 3rd roadwheels than between the rest, rather than the roadwheel spacing of the T-44 and T-54, which had a larger gap between only the 1st and 2nd roadwheels.

As it is a rear-turreted design, it would follow that the transmission is at the front, however, the sprockets at the front of the hull are mounted too far forward to be inline with the transmission, and could only be powered through unnecessarily spindly final drive units. The sprockets at the front of the tank are also smaller in diameter than the sprockets at the rear, which would indicate that they are idler wheels. The rear sprockets are better positioned to be the drive sprockets, but if this was the case, then the power from the engine would have to be transmitted to the rear-mounted transmission via a drive shaft running underneath the turret, which Soviet tank designers were averse to doing. Regardless of which was the drive sprocket, the drawing of the K-1 shows it to have a toothed idler wheel, a feature practically unheard of among Soviet tanks.

Visible at the rear of the tank is a set of exhaust pipes, the routing of which makes no sense for a front-mounted engine, which would exhaust over the side. The rear of the hull is unnecessarily flared, as it would be to provide ventilation for a rear-mounted engine. Finally, the location of the driver’s hatch places him right in the middle of the engine compartment, rather than behind or in front of it, as would be expected. We must be generous and assume the driver’s compartment is offset to the side, otherwise, there would be no space for the engine at all. With all of these peculiarities in mind, it is obvious that the person who designed the K-1 did not have an understanding of the automotive changes that must accompany a rear-turreted tank design. The K-1 seems to want to fit the engine and transmission in the impossibly small area rearward of the turret, and give the driver a bourgeois helping of legroom.

Atop of the fenders is the usual Soviet arrangement of stowage bins, and in the side-on illustration, a gun travel lock is shown mounted to the upper glacis. Uncharacteristic for a Soviet design, the front of the hull is rounded and apparently riveted. The presence of the line of rivets above the fender at the front of the hull serves no apparent purpose, other than possibly holding on a rounded sheet metal guard extension over the fender. The usefulness of such a feature would be negligible.

The turret of the K-1 resembles a combination of the turrets of the T-54 Model 1949 and M48 Patton. It is slightly taller than most Soviet turrets, which tend to be squat. It has at least one large coaxial machine gun. Literal interpretation of the images would indicate that it has two, one on either side of the cannon, as the drawing mirrors the illustration in almost all respects except for the antenna and smoke discharger. Having two machine guns would leave no space for the gunner’s optics, so we must assume there is only one. The machine gun would likely be on the right-hand (starboard) side, as Soviet tanks traditionally place the gunner on the left. This means that the drawn picture of the K-1 is the “correct” representation out of the two images.

Likewise, both images seem to place the commander’s cupola on the far side of the tank, and if taken in conjunction that places the cupola in the center, above the cannon breech. As Soviet tanks usually place the cupola on the left, the drawn picture is again a better representation. The cupola itself is a woefully outdated design with no vision blocks and a vertically-opening hatch that is sure to draw attention. On the left-hand (port) side of the turret is a 5-barrel smoke discharger in a “forward, backward, sideways” arrangement that would only deploy smoke to the direct left of the tank, not in front of the tank, as would be desirable. At the rear left of the turret is a radio antenna.

Based on the only measurement provided, namely the tank being 9 feet (2.74 m) tall, we can calculate rough measurements for the rest of the design. If from the bottom of the track to the top of the cupola is 9 feet, then the man shown in the illustration is 5 feet 11 inches (1.8 m) tall. The hull of the K-1 is 25 feet (7.63 m) long and 5 feet 7 inches (1.7 m) tall. The barrel of the cannon is 18 feet 10 inches (5.75 m) long, and the tank has an overall length of 34 feet 3 inches (10.44 m). The roadwheels are about 32.6 inches (830 mm) in diameter, the drive sprocket 29 inches (740 mm), and the idler wheel 23.6 inches (600 mm).

The K-1’s 100 mm cannon’s barrel is slightly longer than the standard D-10 family of Soviet tank guns, and with its pepperpot muzzle brake, more closely resembles the 100 mm T-12, however that gun only entered service in 1961 and was never mounted on a vehicle.

A political cartoon made by Victor Weisz for the 5 November 1956 edition of News Chronicle, a British newspaper. Nikita Khrushchev is depicted commanding a tank remarkably similar to the K-1. Is it possible that the artist of this cartoon was a reader of True and took inspiration from the next-generation Soviet super-tank.

Similar Real Designs

Although the K-1 was fake, there are a number of very similar real Soviet projects from the same era. In 1949, the OKB IC SV (Design Bureau of the Engineering Committee of the Armed Forces) produced several concepts for a heavy tank called the K-91, one version of which placed the turret in the rear. The K-91 shares almost no commonality with the K-1, and even the similarity in names is coincidental. The K-91 was a heavy tank with a very squat hull and numerous small roadwheels. It would have been armed with the 100 mm D-46T, a short-lived development of the D-10T (used on the T-54) that in turn gave rise to the D-56T (used on the T-62A).

K-91 rear-turreted version blueprint. Source: Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic Armored Vehicles of 1945-1965

Later in 1949, Factory No. 75 (Kharkov) began work on a light tank/self-propelled gun armed with a 100 mm M-63 cannon in a rear-mounted turret. The vehicle was designated Object 416, and a prototype was completed around the end of 1952. The Object 416 was too much of an oddball for the Red Army, and was passed over in favor of better designs for the role. If the K-1 Krushchev has any basis in reality, it was most likely inspired by the Object 416.

The Object 416 prototype, recently restored and on display at Patriot Park, near Moscow. Source

At the same time Factory No. 75 was wrapping up work on the Object 416 in 1953, another project was begun to design a replacement for the T-54. Kharkov’s offering for this project was the Object 430, during the early designing of which a rear-mounted turret was considered, but was not pursued.

Another submission for the program to replace the T-54 came from an engineer named Gremyakin. It is not currently known where Gremyakin was employed, though it is possible that he worked at Factory No. 75 and that his proposal and the rear-turreted Object 430 are one and the same. Gremyakin’s medium tank resembled the rear-turreted K-91, and was armed with a 122 mm D-25T.

The unifying feature across all of these projects was that they all placed the driver in the turret. Placing the driver within the turret ring has long been a dream of tank designers, as it saves a great deal of room in the hull and allows the entire tank to be made smaller. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the turret moves, a complex system is necessary to keep the driver’s seat facing forward, and even the most successful driver-in-turret designs do not prevent him from getting motion sickness. Were the K-1 a real Soviet design, the driver would likely be in the turret, as it was with all its rear-turreted brethren, and like them, the design would not have gone very far.

Illustrations of the K-1 Krushchev produced by Phantom_25_Sniper.


True, The Man’s Magazine, June 1956 Issue — Russia’s Secret Weapons by Donald Robinson

Cold War Soviet Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

K-91 World of Tanks Fake Version

Soviet Union (1949)
Heavy Tank – Fake

In the years that followed the end of the Second World War (Great Patriotic War), the Soviets designed a vast amount of armored vehicles. Some were mass produced in the tens of thousands, while some never left the drawing board and were buried in archives and drawers for decades. An example of the latter are the K-91 tanks designed by OKB IC SV (Design Bureau of the Engineering Committee of the Armed Forces) in 1949. These were only rediscovered in the late 2000s, and published in a magazine for the world to see in 2013.

When searching for vehicles to fill up a third line of medium tanks for their game World of Tanks (WoT), video game company Wargaming decided to take a controversial approach for their tier 10 vehicle, mashing up two different K-91 designs.


There were three proposals designed simultaneously by OKB IC SV. Development started after the Council of Ministers of the USSR released decree No.701-277§ on 18th February, 1949, which requested the termination of all development and production of heavy tanks weighing 50 tonnes and above. This allowed OKB IC SV, headed by Anatoly Fedorovich Kravtsev, to design a set of vehicles aiming to take advantage of this opportunity. They were supposed to be lighter than 50 tonnes and be able to replace both existing and future medium and heavy tanks. Lead engineer was I.T. Levinov and the designer was Matyukhin. They designed three vehicles: a classical heavy tank, with a front mounted turret; a rear mounted turret heavy tank featuring an autoloader; and a rear mounted casemate self-propelled gun.

The front-mounted turret K-91 heavy tank.
Source: Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic armored vehicles of 1945-1965, page 34
Rear-mounted turret K-91 heavy tank, which had an autoloader.
Source: Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic armored vehicles of 1945-1965, page 35
K-91 SPG, which had a rear-mounted casemate.
Source: Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic armored vehicles of 1945-1965, page 35

World of Tanks Hybrid

In the summer of 2018, the company Wargaming announced a new line of Soviet medium tanks for their game World of Tanks. It started with the A-43 at tier VI, and moved up to the A-44, Object 416, Object 430 II and finally, at tier X, the K-91. This line was set to have as the main feature rear-mounted turrets. The Object 416 was, in fact, a tank destroyer (also called the SU-100M).

One of the biggest offenses present in this new line is the mashup of the K-91 variants. The vehicle is identical to the first K-91 variant, but has the turret moved to the rear, just like the second K-91 variant. Why this was done is bizarre, as the second K-91 variant would have fit well as the tier X vehicle.

The U.S.S.R. tech tree in WoT, showing the medium tank lines. Note the bottom line that leads to the K-91.
Source: WoT

Video Game vs Reality

World of Tanks provides a short paragraph on the supposed history of their K-91:

“The vehicle was developed by the Design Bureau of the Army Engineering Committee under the supervision of A. F. Kravtsev from March through August 1949. The tank was supposed to position a driver in the fighting compartment, as well as feature a 100 mm gun with an automatic loading system, and coaxial large-caliber machine gun. The plan was to mount the 12-cylinder opposed-piston turbo-diesel engine. The mounting brackets with ski-shaped supports were used as support rollers. Development of the project was discontinued at the blueprints stage in December 1949.”

While the text does not have any particular inaccuracies, it clearly describes the rear-mounted turret K-91 and avoids the fact that the vehicle is a mashup. They do state that the engine was turbocharged, which cannot be verified.

Wargaming’s K-91 mashup.
Source: WoT EU

Wargaming got the details and statistics right for the most part. Since there are very few drawings of the K-91s, and they were never built, it is hard to prove when something is accurate or not.

In-game, the K-91 has a 100 mm D-46T. This is historically accurate. The gun was intended as a replacement for the wartime D-10T. Development of the gun began on 28th May 1948 and two prototypes were ready by 1949. However, the program was canceled that same year. Its ammunition weighed between 16 to 17 kg and had a muzzle velocity of 1,000 m/s. In-game, however, it has a muzzle velocity of 1,700 m/s, and the tank can carry 50 of them. In-game, it has +20° of elevation and -9° of depression. In contrast, the real drawings show that it had +20° of elevation and -3° of depression.

Most of the model is a historically accurate render of the rear turret-mounted K-91 heavy tank. The turret matches the original blueprints, as in it has a conical shape, with a bulge for the driver that sat in the turret, to the right of the gun. The driver had a pivoting driving station, so that he would always face the front of the tank, regardless of the position of the turret. This does pose some mechanical problems, so it is unclear if the turret could fully rotate. This has been replicated in WoT, as the turret can only turn 110° in each direction. The loader is placed right behind the driver. On the left side of the gun is the gunner and the commander. The commander has a small bulge in the turret roof for better vision across the turret. A DShK heavy machine gun is mounted to the right of the gun and on the roof, as per the blueprints of the original K-91 with a frontal mounted turret.

The hull also matches the blueprints of the real K-91, but that with a frontal turret and not the rear-turreted one. A large sprocket drives the tracks, which are guided by a set of skids under the hull. The suspension is unique compared to other Soviet medium and heavy tanks. It features small steel-rimmed wheels, individually sprung by torsion bars. Only the first and last torsion bars have two wheels, with dependent suspension, via a pivoting bogie.

To move the turret to the rear, the designers at Wargaming had to make some slight changes to the hull. Mainly, the entire engine compartment was moved to the front, with a direct connection to the final drive, essentially a swap between the engine and turret.

Rear view of Wargaming’s hybrid.
Source: WoT EU

In terms of propulsion, Wargaming states that it used a V-64 engine outputting 860 hp. While the specific power of the V-64 is unknown, Wargaming’s claim is in the upper limit of what the engine could have given. The V-64 was a 12-cylinder boxer diesel engine. The term boxer comes from the layout of the pistons, which are placed horizontally. This allows for a shorter engine and a lower hull, but the engine is also wider.

The armor was significantly lightened from the real blueprint. In-game, the upper frontal plate is 140 mm compared to 200 mm, while the lower plate is 120 mm in-game versus 150 mm on paper. The turret is 160 mm at the thickest and 40 mm at the thinnest, while on paper it was actually 200 mm all around. This was most likely done to fit the medium tank narrative in the game, but the weight remains at around 45 to 50 tonnes.

Wargaming could have easily added the real K-91 rear turreted heavy tank, instead of the current mashup. While it did have a different hull and turret shape, it was very similar. The main difference was the use of an autoloader for the 100 mm gun. Wargaming already exploits a variety of autoloading systems within their game, and since there is no information on the speed of the autoloader, they could have easily played around with the rate of fire data, for a balanced vehicle in-game. This variant does also have slightly thicker armor, but Wargaming has already taken the freedom to downgrade the armor of the in-game K-91 compared to the real thing.

The historical rear-turreted version of the K-91 had a very peculiar hull shape, with a bullet-like shape when seen from above and no vertical angling. Wargaming completely did away with that, preferring to keep the more conventional hull from the front turreted K-91 proposal.

The K-91 with a rear-mounted turret, cutout view.
Source: Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic armored vehicles of 1945-1965, page 35


Strangely, Wargaming decided to add the real K-91 frontal mounted turret as a Tier VIII premium medium tank (premium tanks are tanks that can be bought with real money or alternative currency within their game) with a fully rotating turret. Fortunately, it is accurate to the real original design, and it is a good representation of what the real project might have looked like.

One of the real K-91s made their way into the game.
Source: WoT EU

K-91 PT

In March of 2021, Wargaming announced the introduction of the K-91 PT, which is the K-91 SPG variant. The acronym ‘PT’ comes from the romanized version of the Russian word ‘protivotankoviy’, meaning anti-tank. This is not entirely historical, as such vehicles were mostly called SU or SAU, from Russian ‘Samokhodnaya Ustanovka’, essentially meaning self-propelled gun.

The K-91 PT, with some bizarre additions, such as a superstructure-mounted machine gun.
Source: The Daily Bounce


While it is amongst one of the least offensive fake tanks in World of Tanks, the version of the K-91 in-game is still a fake that could have been relatively easily avoided if they just used the second historical K-91 version. Other than that, Wargaming kept the vehicle fairly historically accurate, with the exception of removing large amounts of its armor to make it a medium tank.

Reproduction of the K-91 fake tank in WoT by Pavel Alexe.

K-91 Fake tank specifications

Total Weight, Battle Ready 45 to 50 tonnes
Crew 4 (Commander, Gunner, Driver, and Loader)
Propulsion V-64 engine, 860 hp
Speed ca 50 km/h
Armament 100 D-64T
Armor 200 mm frontal turret, 140 mm turret cheeks
140 mm UFP
60 mm hull sides


Technic and Weapons No. 9, 2013, M.V. Pavlov, I.V. Pavlov Domestic armored vehicles of 1945-1965
Yuri Pasholok on the Soviet STG – Status Report (
K-91 – World of Tanks –
K-91 – Global wiki.

Cold War Soviet Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Soviet “Turtle” Tank (Fake Tank)

Soviet Union (1951)
Self-Propelled Gun – Fake

There is no doubt that working in the field of espionage is a difficult occupation. Human intelligence sources are often unskilled or untrained and their information requires vetting and assessment. Even technical intelligence from eavesdropping or copying of documents is fraught with errors, counter-intelligence, mistakes, and, sometimes, complete fabrications. Experts in one field may not be experts in others and ‘fake’ information can be obtained even from an honest and reliable source who has been ‘fed’ fake information by the other side. This interplay of espionage and counter-espionage intelligence work can produce its fair share of false intelligence and the ‘Turtle’ tank of 1951 is certainly a contender in this category.

Side view of the Turtle tank. Source: Central Intelligence Agency


Before a substantive discussion on the technical elements of the Turtle tank, it is worth examining the one and only source for this information. It comes from the reading library of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and, whilst still heavily redacted to protect the identity of the source, it provides some data on which to vet the information.

The source of the data is a group of unnamed ‘German experts’ examining a report from an informant. The German experts are not identified and it is not known in which field they have expertise. It is a reasonable assumption, however, that their expertise is in the arms industry, as not only do they provide a technical evaluation of the ‘Turtle’ but also relate some information that this relates to improvements of a design first identified in 1943, during the war. Further, the CIA would have no reason to hand a report from an informant to some experts if they were not specialised in armored warfare in some capacity.

The expert analysis states categorically that the design shown is impractical and not in keeping with either modern armored warfare or Soviet doctrine describing the original informant as “a rank amateur on the question of armored vehicles”. With that said, it is worth noting the characteristics relayed to these German experts on this new and secret Soviet tank.

Plan view of the Turtle tank showing crew positions. Source: CIA


The first and most obvious sign that something appears to be wrong with the informant’s data on this Soviet tank is that the primary armament is given as being an ‘8.8 cm L/56 type gun’. This was a German gun, most famously in the form of the Kw.K. 36, as mounted on the German Tiger I. Although the experts stated that it was possible that the tank described could be improved with an L/70 version of that gun (as fitted to the Tiger II), this was still a German gun. In 1951, there is simply no reason to suppose that the Soviet army would need to use, reuse or produce their own clones of this WW2-era German gun for their own purposes.

The secondary armament is also unusual as it is described and shown as consisting of two machine guns; one firing forwards and another to the rear. Each is mounted in a ball-joint capable of 90 degrees of movement left and right.

Front view of the Turtle tank showing a somewhat non-tanklike, but very curvy-looking front profile. Source: CIA


The layout and shape of this tank are unusual and quite unlike any Soviet tank known to have existed at this time. The dimensions of the vehicle given by the informant are 7 m long, about 3 m wide and about 2 m high, with a weight of just 30-35 tonnes. The entire body is made from a giant curved structure with a single entrance hatch on top and with the gun in the front and center of the hull. There is no turret but, with the gun mounted towards the mid-point of the tank and with a machine gun at both ends, there is little room inside in which to squeeze the gun recoil, crew, and ammunition. At least five crew positions; commander (top left), front gunner (front left), driver (front right), loader (rear center), rear gunner (rear right) are provided for within the design, although there is no mention of a gunner for the primary weapon. An arrow on the sketch with the report indicating either the position of the engine or gunner is redacted. Unless the commander is also doubling-up as the gunner, a sixth crew member would be needed to operate the primary weapon. All of them, apart from the rear gunner, are provided with a forward facing vision slit for observations and the top positions for the commander and possible gunner have sideways facing observation slits. If indeed there were only five crew, as indicated by the informant, then there would be no crew member in the top right and there would be no need for a vision slit. The predominant feature of the design is the heavily curved body extending about half-way down the suspension of the vehicle. Where the body goes over the tracks this is described as an “armored” or “chain” apron (chain as in the tracks).


The engine is described as lying between the driver and rear gunner, which would place it approximately underneath the center of the vehicle with the commander, loader and gunner sat over it. The engine itself is rather implausibly listed as being a 600 hp petrol engine of US manufacture rather than of Soviet origin, although the make and type are not specified. The informant gave the top speed as 25 km/h, although the German experts reviewing the data from the informant suggested that an 800 hp engine could be substituted instead to provide up to 50 km/h for the tank.


Despite the shape of the Turtle tank indicating a cast body, the informant provided data that the body was of welded steel. The data provided for the armor gave a value of 80 mm for the front, 50 mm for the sides, 30 mm for the rear, and 20 mm for the floor. In light of that, the informant’s claim that even 105 mm and 180 mm shells had no effect on the armor was justifiably considered to be ‘nonsense’ by the German experts.

One further suggestion of note regarding the analysis of the armor was that the German experts considered it possible that the vehicle could use a protective coating 12.7 mm to 25 mm (½” to 1”) thick over the surface which would remove all the seams and make it invulnerable to limpet-type mines. This reference to limpet-type mines and protective coatings is an interesting reference to anti-magnetic coatings, the most famous of which is the German Zimmerit of WW2.

The informant seems to have suggested some new type of steel alloy was used for armor but this was discounted by the German experts on the basis that there were so many German scientists ‘honeycombed’ within Soviet industry post-war that such a development would have become known.

Nonetheless, the assessment was that the tank with this shape would benefit from being able to deflect armor-piercing and delayed-action high explosive shells fired at close range but parts would remain vulnerable to shells fired from an 8.8 cm L/56 or those with a shaped charge.


The Turtle Tank is not even a tank, it is instead clearly an assault gun with a fixed, forward-facing gun in a casemate. The Soviets made some very competent assault guns based upon the hulls of existing tanks like the T-34 or IS-series with a roughly similar arrangement, but nothing like this Turtle Tank. The date is 1951, so there are not a lot of possible candidates for what real vehicle the informant might have been referring to and this presupposes that the informant actually saw a real vehicle. If it is something genuine then perhaps the best candidate is something related to the ASU-85 assault gun which was in the early design phase at around this time but even so, the resemblance is terrible.

Perhaps it was/is some kind of top-secret Soviet assault gun which has been hitherto undiscovered by Soviet and Western tank historians, perhaps the informant was simply mistaken, or lying, or perhaps the experts were subject to a counter-intelligence ruse by the Soviets.

The German experts were unconvinced by this informant’s information. It was not that the vehicle was not possible, but that it was not plausible, with the experts stating that it would “constitute a complete departure from known Soviet policies”. The idea that this vehicle, so totally different from the Soviet assault guns of the day such as the SU-100 or ISU-152, has subsequently gone undiscovered is somehow unimaginable.

That said though, the German experts assessing the information from this informant seem to have agreed on the most likely outcome being the latter of the possible options, a counter-intelligence ruse. Namely, Soviet intelligence deliberately supplying false intelligence to a suspected informant or double agent, and, to back this up, they compared it to “similar methods used by the Nazi regime”, probably referring to the ‘Panzer X’.
Nevertheless, regardless of how or why this information got to the West, it was given a proper examination, by experts, and assessed to be implausible.

The informant’s claim that a pilot model of this vehicle was actually built, and demonstrated to the East German paramilitary police is also unlikely. Whilst a design which may never have left the scribblings of an engineer’s notebook might have gone unnoticed for nearly three-quarters of a century, the existence of such an unusual vehicle, with such unusual features, and departing as it does from Soviet experience, means that the Turtle tank can be fairly assessed to be a fake tank.

What it does do though is provide an excellent case in point as to the difficulties of gaining intelligence of the latest weapons from an adversary (in this case the US spying on the USSR) and the caution which should be exercised post-script in reviewing these historic documents.

turtle tank
Illustration of the ‘Turtle’ Tank produced by Jarosław Janas, funded by our Patreon campaign.


Dimensions (L-W-H) 7 x ~3 x ~2 meters
weight 30-35 tonnes
Crew 6 (Commander, Gunner, Loader, Driver, Front Hull Machine Gunner, Rear Hull Machine Gunner)
Propulsion 600 hp American petrol engine (possible to fit an engine up to 800 hp)
Suspension Independant torsion bar
Speed (road) 25 km/h (up to 50 km/h with 800 hp engine)
Armament .8cm L/56 gun (possible to substitute 8.8 cm L/70) and two machine guns (1 forwards facing and 1 rearwards facing)
Armor welded steel 80mm front, 50mm sides, 30mm rear, 20mm floor
Total production 7 prototypes


CIA Report ‘German Experts’ Analysis of the Alleged Soviet ‘Turtle Tank’ dated 4th April 1951.