1000-ton Panzer 


By Gary Zimmer


In June 1942 Hitler and Krupp discussed the feasibility of a one thousand ton super heavy tank. Unusually, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche does not seem to be involved, although this project would be right up his alley. As of December 29, 1942 some preliminary drawings at least had been done. By then the machine had been named 'Ratte' (Rat).


If built, P.1000 would have dwarfed its little cousin, Maus. Intended to be 35m long, 14m wide and 11m high, and armed with an ex-Kriegsmarine turret with two 28cm SchiffsKanone C/28. In other words a triple turret similar to those used on the Graf Spee class, but without the centre gun. Each gun weighed 48.2 tons and had a barrel length of nearly 15m. Projectiles were 1.2m long, Panzersprenggranate (armour piercing) rounds weighing 330 kg each and containing 8.1kg of explosive, or 315kg Sprenggranate (high explosive) rounds containing 17.1kg of explosive. The maximum range of these guns was 42.5km (26 miles). Some sort of secondary anti-aircraft armament in the form of 2cm Flak guns was planned.


One feature of the design, as indicated on the drawing, was the use of triple tracks, each individual track being 1.2m wide. Power was to have been eight Daimler marine engines (presumably E-boat), developed to produce a total 16,000 hp.


There are some anomalies in the design of Ratte, as depicted. The amount of track in contact with the ground is inconsistent with the weight of 1000 tons, either it will have a ridiculously low ground pressure, meaning that all that track is not necessary; or it will be heavier than 1000 tons. If we imagine the centre hull between the tracks to be an armoured box, without worrying yet about the belly or roof, and 200mm thick (and that is a bit light on by battleship standards), it works out to be about 730 tons on its own. That doesn't leave a whole lot for suspension, tracks, engines, belly and deck armour. The pair of guns on their own would be another 100 tons, and we can assume that the turret would have to be armoured to at least 250mm. If we include the barbette, the turret should account for at least 380 tons, not counting guns, gun mounts and shell hoists. The ammunition stowage is anybody's guess, but bear in mind every three rounds adds another ton to the total weight. If Ratte was built, it would probably end up closer to 2000 tons.

Landkreuzer P1000 'Ratte'

On June 23, 1942, Dir. Dip. Ing. Grote (along with Dr.Hacker) from the Ministry of Armament, who was responsible for the production of U-Boote suggested the development of a tank with a weight of 1,000 tons. Hitler himself expressed interest in this project and allowed Krupp to go ahead with it. The project was designated as the Krupp P.1000 (Ratte - Rat). This behemoth "land cruiser" would be 35 meters long, 14 meters wide and 11 meters high. P.1000 would be equipped with 3.6 meters wide tracks per side made of three 1.2 meters tracks, similar to those used in excavators working in coalmines. It was planned to power P.1000 with two MAN V12Z32/44 24 cylinder Diesel marine engines with total power of 17,000hp (2 x 8,500hp) or with eight Daimler-Benz MB501 20 cylinder Diesel marine engines with total power of 16,000hp (8 x 2,000hp). According to the calculations, this would allow the P.1000 to travel at maximum speed of 40 km/h. P.1000 would be armed with a variety of weapons such as: two 280mm gun (naval gun used on 'Scharnhorst' and 'Gneisenau' warships), single 128mm gun, eight 20mm Flak 38 anti-aircraft guns and two 15mm Mauser MG 151/15 guns.












The world will probably never see an armored land vehicle on the scale of the Ratte. Tellingly, Germans didn’t even refer to it as a tank: they called it a “land cruiser.” The Ratte was so large its dimensions had more in common with a naval vessel than a tank. It had the crew compliment of at least four heavy tanks, armament usually seen mounted on heavy cruisers like the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and enough anti-aircraft weaponry to ward off waves of attacking fighter-bomber. It was 35 meters long, as tall as some church steeples, and so wide that maneuvering in an urban area would have been either impossible or apocalyptic. The Ratte was so heavy it would have shattered and churned pavement like a plow through sod and collapsed all but a handful of bridges in Germany. The Ratte’s much smaller cousin, the Maus, turned out to be a ruinous waste of resources for very limited applications in combat. Had the Ratte’s development progressed even a fraction as far as the Maus it would have devastated Germany. The Ratte was so large that it would have required naval-scale manufacturing with months of skilled laborers’ time involved in the construction of each individual tank. Just building and assembling its components would have required transportation and handling equipment usually relegated to a shipyard.

It is probably to the detriment of the world that the Ratte project was cancelled. It would have been cool just to see one of these hideous machines built and, more importantly, it would have taken the place of perhaps fifty or a hundred more useful tanks like the Panther or Panzer IV. The Ratte would have meant an earlier end to hostilities in Europe and it would have provided a damn hot ticket at a museum in the United States or the Soviet Union.


The development history of the Ratte originates with a 1941 strategic study of Soviet heavy tanks conducted by Krupp. This study also gave birth to the Ratte’s smaller and more practical relative: the Maus. From the start the Maus was envisioned as an even larger and more formidable version of a heavy tank, while the Ratte was to be a class of vehicle unto itself.

This 1941 study produced a suggestion from director of engineering Grote who worked for the U-boat arm of the Ministry of Armaments. In June of 1942, Grote proposed a 1000-ton tank that he termed a “Landkreuzer” equipped with naval armament and armored so heavily that only similar naval armaments could hope to touch it. To compensate for the immense weight of the vehicle the Ratte would have sported three 1.2 meter wide tread-assemblies on each side totaling a tread width of 7.2 meters. This helped with the stability and weight distribution of the Ratte but its sheer mass would have destroyed pavement and prevented bridge travel. Fortunately, the height of the Ratte and its nearly 2 meters of ground clearance would have allowed it to ford many rivers with ease.

Hitler became enamored with the idea of a truly super tank and ordered Krupp to set to work developing the Ratte. While development of the Ratte does not seem to have progressed very far some sources believe that a turret was completed for the Ratte and then used as a fixed gun emplacement in Norway. Several such emplacements survived the war, many mounting turrets from broken-up vessels very similar to the turret intended for the Ratte. However, despite references to a Ratte turret being used as a fixed emplacement there is no evidence that it ever existed. The Gneisenau was broken up in 1944 and its turrets were used as emplacements near Rotterdam in Holland. Similar turrets were used near Trondheim in Norway which was the supposed location of the Ratte turret.

Battery Ørland - Norway
[Originally the C turret on the Gneisenau]

Development of the Ratte was completely cancelled in 1943 by the dangerously wise German Minister of Armaments, Albert Speer. Speer exhibited an uncanny ability to cancel the more moronic and wasteful of Hitler’s pet projects and focus German resources on proven weapon systems.

Technical Mumbo Jumbo

There were two proposed power plants for the P. 1000 Ratte. One concept was powered by two MAN V12Z32/44 24-cylinder diesel engines similar to those used on German submarines. This double engine design produced a Herculean 17,000 horsepower. These were the engines used to derive the 44kp/h maximum speed of the Ratte by the Germans. The more likely engine was the Daimler-Benz MB501. This 20-cylinder marine diesel engine was identical to that used on the German fast torpedo boats or S-boots. Linking eight of these engines would have theoretically produced 16,000 horsepower. Given that the MB501 was a more proven, inexpensive, and easier to manage engine it seems likely this eight-engine design would have appeared in the Ratte prototype.

The primary armament of the Ratte was two 280mm SK C/34 naval guns mounted in a modified naval heavy cruiser turret fitting two guns instead of three. The SK C/34 was a devastating piece of artillery capable of penetrating more than 450mm of armor at its maximum effective direct-fire range of roughly five kilometers. The guns could also be elevated up to 40 degrees to achieve a range of 40 kilometers. Armor-piercing shells and two types of high explosive shells were available for these naval guns. One difficulty facing the 280mm dual battery would have been the Ratte’s inability to sufficiently depress its weapons to fire at nearby targets. Accompanying vehicles would have likely accomplished this task.


Additional armament was a 128mm anti-tank gun like that mounted on the Jagdtiger or Maus, two 15mm heavy machineguns and eight 20mm anti-aircraft guns, probably with at least four of them as a quad mount. The 128mm anti-tank gun’s location on the Ratte is a point of contention among historians. Most believe it would have been mounted within the primary turret, though some think a smaller secondary turret would have been mounted at the rear of the Ratte near the engine decking. The rear turret makes more sense logistically, but the surface area of engine decking at the rear of the Ratte might have made this unrealistic. A third option would have been a hull-mounted version of the 128mm gun similar to that seen on the Jagdtiger. This would have at least been able to engage nearer targets than either of the other options.


Additional armament would have been spread on and throughout the Ratte. The heavy-machineguns and some of the 20mm guns would have probably been mounted inside ball mounts in the hull of the Ratte. A quad 20mm flak gun could have been mounted on the extremely large top surface of the turret and additional 20mm guns mounted on the top hull at the rear of the Ratte. If they were willing to put up with the exhaust fumes, an entire platoon of Panzergrenadiers could have sat atop the rear hull of the Maus.

While the Ratte was supposedly a 1000-ton vehicle this number was an almost mystically optimistic figure, much like the 100-ton weight intended for the Maus. The turret alone for the Ratte would have weighed more than 600 metric tons. The actual combat-loaded weight of the Ratte would have been closer to 1,800 tons. The speed, range, and longevity of the engines and transmission would have suffered accordingly.


The Ratte was a paper Panzer and as such the only real variants were the two choices of engines.


The Ratte was a very problematic vehicle and the size of the Ratte was responsible for most of the issues it would have encountered on a hypothetical battlefield. A Ratte on the move would have been relegated to fields and countryside because of its road-destroying weight. Without bridges as a river-crossing option, the Ratte would have been unable to cross flooded or deep rivers and scouting parties might have wasted lengthy periods and squandered lives finding a crossing point.

Gunners on a Ratte would have found it awkward to engage targets from close or medium range with even a hull-mounted 128mm gun. Concealing the Ratte from aircraft would have required a blimp hangar or some sort of bizarre camouflage that would make it resemble a building. Such camouflage is feasible, if comical, but would have been useless the first time ground units spotted the Ratte. From that point on the Ratte would have been constantly harassed by fighter-bomber. Even if the Ratte’s 20mm AA guns had managed to drive these off, the Ratte was such an enormous target that high-altitude bombers could have been employed to attack it.

Not everything was bad about the Ratte. Infantry would have been less of a risk than with the Maus because of the number of point defense weapons and the space for infantry to ride on the vehicle’s hull. The Ratte would have likely served as the cornerstone of a unit of traditional military vehicles and these would have assisted in defending it from enemy tanks and aircraft. Enemy armor posed almost no conceivable threat to the Ratte. They might have destroyed things like the AA guns on the turret or damaged radio antennae or weapon optics, but beyond minor damage enemy tanks were toys next to this mammoth vehicle. Enemy artillery was slightly more threatening and became downright dangerous if the Ratte made the mistake of straying within range of naval bombardment.

The greatest strength of the Ratte would have been its ability to single-handedly halt a major enemy offensive. It would have been slow and poor on the attack but the sight of a Ratte looming out of fog on a battlefield would have almost immediately scattered enemy ground forces. If they didn’t flee right away they would have once they realized their weapons were nearly useless against it.

Make no mistake, the astronomical cost of building a Ratte would not have been offset by its strengths. Once deployed and used in combat, it was just a matter of time before enemy aircraft destroyed it. With such poor speed and the limitations of the terrain the Ratte would not have enjoyed the same advantages of a wide open sea as its naval counterparts. The Ratte could have turned the tide of a single battle at the cost of a campaign.

World War I – the Großkampfwagen or "K-Wagen" 

In June 1917, before the first A7V:s were even completed, the German War Ministry ordered the construction of a new colossal super-tank, the biggest tank ever designed: the K-Wagen. (K standing for Kolossal, meaning colossal.) The K-Wagen was thought as a enormous moving fortress bristling with guns and MGs, to be used in break-through situations. The weight was some 150 tons, and it would be powered only by two small 200 HP motors. (Later on these two tiny motors were switched for two 650 HP motors.) The enormous weight of the vehicle of course made it impossible to move any longer distances, so it was to be transported by rail in four parts of some 30 tons each, only to be put together behind the front line, at the point were it was to be employed. The K-Wagen was also supposed to have a trench crossing capacity of some 4 meters, and no less than four 77mm cannons. The design was done by Vollmer.

It had a crew of 27: a commander, two drivers, a signaler, an artillery officer, 12 cannoneers, eight machine gunners and two mechanics. In the beginning of the project it was proposed to incorporate a flamethrower but this was later rejected. The commander could give orders to the crew by means of electric lights: fire control was comparable to that of a destroyer, so the Germans saw the vehicle as a veritable "landship". The drivers would have had to steer the vehicle blindly, directed by the commander.

Almost from the very beginning of the project sceptical voices was heard. The sheer size of the vehicle made it difficult to produce, as no standard components or techniques could be employed. So it was decided that the tank was to be built by companies with experience from building bridges and the tracks came from power shovel construction. Soon it was also discovered that the tank was too heavy, so the length was reduced to 13 meters, which at least cut the weight with some 30 tons. The original order was for ten vehicles. The weight was some 120 tons! It has been called "completely nonsensical" and  the Army actively sought to prevent the order as the type was seen by the military as hugely impractical and a complete waste of scarce resources, but two prototypes were actually under construction when the war ended - one was nearly finished. People doubting the whole idea were silenced by being told that von Hindenburg himself wished it to be built

The type was even bulkier than the Ferdinand Porsche-designed World War II era Maus and therefore the largest tank ever built. It would never become operational however as under the armistice conditions Germany was forbidden to possess tanks and all hulks were scrapped. In 1942 Hitler had a full scale wooden mock-up built for comparison with his own examples of tank gigantomania. 



“Kolossal Wagen”?

It’s the one shown on the bottom left for size comparison in this picture. By the way, on the bottom right is one of the Hitler’s macho dreams - the Maus.




This would give you some idea what unspeakable scale was projected for theIt stayed only on paper, but these Russians had another shot at similar stupendous engineering:

I bet Hitler did not expect this:

How would this thing ever turn? What about the turning radius.

"It doesn’t need to turn, it will drive straight to Berlin" - said Stalin when approving this project. (probably the most interesting thing he ever said).

KV-VI Behemoth was more than a landship, it was a Communist wet dream. It had some hilarious history, too:

The first prototype was completed in December 1941 and was rushed into the defense of Moscow. In its first action during a dense winter fog, the rear turret accidentally fired into the center turret. The resulting explosion completely destroyed the vehicle. The second prototype was completed in January 1942, and was sent to the Leningrad front. This one had indicators installed to show when another turret was in the line of fire. In its initial attack on the Germans, the tank broke in half when crossing a ravine.