Karl Andreevich Shilder

Engineer-General Karl Andreevich Schilder is credited with having constructed the first submarine in Russia with an iron hull. Built at the Alexandrovsky Works plant in St. Petersburg and completed in May 1834. The boat had an egg-shaped form, two towers with access hatches and was equipped with an optical viewing tube, one of the first periscope devices for submersibles. An armament of mines and two triple-tube mountings for launching rocket projectiles was to be provided. To defeat an enemy vessel by using the mine it was necessary to stick a core of the mine in a hull, to move away to a safe distance and to blow up the mine by electric fuse.

Trails took place in September 1834 on the Neva River and the nearby island of Kronshtadt in the Gulf of Finland. The craft demonstrated an ability to submerge and was judged quite successful. An improvement version, equipped with diving plane to help control the craft underwater, was constructed in 1835, and with this second boat Schilder successfully destroyed a target ship with a mine in July 1838.

Trails with this boat were regularly conducted near Kronshtadt through 1841, but after some unexplained failure during trails in the fall of that year, Schilder was ordered to halt further experiments-as the boat was recognized unable for combat purposes. Lieutenants Zhmelev and Adamopulo were the first submarine commanders in Russia.

Specifications Schilder’s design (1834):

Displacement (srf/sub tons): un known

Dimensions (L*B*D feet): 19’8*4’11*6’6

Propulsion: man-powered “vanes”, akin to fish fins

Speed (srf/sub knots): un known /1.5

Range (srf/sub n/[email protected]): un known

Diving depth (feet): 40

Complement: 1 crew member

Torpedo: none

Mines: several

Armament: 2  triple-tube mountings for launching rocket projectiles

Karl Andreevich Schilder

Born Dec. 27, 1785 (Jan. 7, 1786), in the village of Simanovo, in what is now Nevel’ Raion, Pskov Oblast; died June 11 (23), 1854, in Călărasi, Rumania. Russian military engineer. General of the engineers (1852); adjutant general.

Shilder graduated from a school for column leaders in 1806 and served in the engineer troops as commander of a sapper company and a battalion and as chief of engineers of a corps and of an army. He fought in the battle of Austerlitz (1805), the defense of Bobruisk (1812), the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–29, and the Crimean War of 1853–56. He distinguished himself in action during the siege of Varna in 1828, the sieges of Silistra and Sumla in 1829, and the forcing of the Danube in 1854. Shilder died of wounds received at Silistra during the Crimean War of 1853–56.

Shilder developed a new and more effective system of countermining, using horizontal and inclined passages rather than vertical shafts. He also devised antipersonnel mines, stone fougas-ses, and canister mines. He produced an original design for a suspended rope bridge in 1828 and a “wineskin bridge” of quickly assembled, portable pontoons made of rubberized canvas in 1836. Between 1832 and 1836, Shilder and P. L. Shilling developed a method of setting off powder charges electrically. Between 1838 and 1848, Shilder and B. S. Iakobi built electrochemical and electrochemical-contact naval mines. Shilder provided the designs for the world’s first all-metal submarine, built in 1834, and the Otvazhnost’, built in 1846; the world’s first steamship armed with artillery and rockets, the Otvazhnost’ was a prototype of the destroyer. Among Shilder’s students were the talented engineers E. I. Totleben and M. M. Boreskov.


Maziukevich, M. N. Zhizn’ i sluzhba general-ad”iutanta K. A. Shildera. St. Petersburg, 1876.

Iakovlev, V. V. Kratkii ocherk istoriipodzemnoi minnoi voiny. Moscow, 1938.

Zubr-class LCAC

Mordovia and Yevgeniy Kocheshkov landing in Kaliningrad Oblast.

The Russian Navy will get an additional 16 warships, according to the country’s United Shipbuilding Corporation that has been contracted by the defence department to deliver the vessels – although they will not all be new.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the Navy was to get seven new combat ships, including four submarines and seven repaired ones. Among the repair projects, at the Yantar Shipyard on the Baltic coast, the world’s largest air-cushion amphibious assault ship Mordovia. The Project 12322 `Zubr’ air-cushion small amphibious assault ship Mordovia entered service with the Baltic Fleet in October 1991. The ship’s role is to provide heavy sealift support to amphibious operations.

The warship can also transport and deploy sea mines. The air-cushion design allows the ship to move over the ground. The warship can transport three tanks or ten armoured personnel carriers or eight infantry fighting vehicles.  But the huge radar signature of the Zubr makes them unsuitable for covert operations and they require significant logistical support in fuel and maintenance.

The Zubr class (Project 1232.2, NATO reporting name “Pomornik”) is a class of air-cushioned landing craft (LCAC). This class of military hovercraft is, as of 2012, the world’s largest, with a standard full load displacement of 555 tons. The hovercraft is designed to sealift amphibious assault units (such as marines and tanks) from equipped/non-equipped vessels to non-equipped shores, as well as transport and plant naval mines.

There are ten Zubr-class hovercraft in service. There are two vessels in the Russian Navy and four with the Hellenic Navy. In 2009, China placed an order for four vessels from Ukraine [order transferred to Russia now] as part of a deal worth 315 million USD. Two updated versions of the vessels were built by Crimea’s Feodosia Shipbuilding Company, followed by two advanced models of the surface warship.

The purchase of HS Cephalonia (L 180) for the Hellenic Navy marked the first time a Soviet-designed naval craft had been built for a NATO member.

In June 2017, Russia announced it was restarting production of the Zubr-class craft. Representatives from the Russian shipbuilding industry soon after responded by stating production could not possibly resume in 2018 and would only be possible by 2019–2021, refuting the government position. Representatives cited the lack of availability of and inability to mass-produce components, notably gas turbine engines and reduction gears as the main obstacles.

NPO Saturn (ODK GT) and Turboros developed marine gas turbine M70FRU (D090), FR RU, M70FRU2 (DP/DM71) along M90FR, M75RU, E70RD8 and Elektrosila, AO Zvezda, Metallist, Samara and others developed reductors and gears. Fan and Turboprop provided by NK Kuznetsov, Aerosila, among others (perhaps some like Aviadvigatel, Salut, AMNTK, UMPO, KMPO, having high and long experience and production).

The Zubr-class landing craft has a cargo area of 400 square metres (4,300 sq ft) and a fuel capacity of 56 tons. It can carry three main battle tanks (up to 150 tonnes), or ten armoured vehicles with 140 troops (up to 131 tonnes), or 8 armoured personnel carriers of total mass up to 115 tonnes, or 8 amphibious tanks or up to 500 troops (with 360 troops in the cargo compartment).

At full displacement the ship is capable of negotiating up to 5-degree gradients on non-equipped shores and 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in)-high vertical walls. The Zubr class remains seaworthy in conditions up to Sea State 4. The vessel has a cruising speed of 30–40 knots (56–74 km/h; 35–46 mph).

The French Navy After 1815 Part I

In the post-1815 era the French Navy was employed on numerous overseas operations, supporting French colonial expansion or in the service of foreign policy objectives. In 1837-38, for example, France demanded reparations from Mexico for the sufferings of its expatriate citizens caught up in Mexico’s political upheavals. Failing to obtain satisfaction, France sent a squadron of frigates and smaller vessels to bombard the fortress of San Juan de Ulua (Saint Jean d’Ulloa) at Veracruz on 27 November 1838, which surrendered. It was an early outing for Paixhans’ new shell guns, and combined with mortar fire from bomb vessels, their success against strong stone-built fortifications took naval observers by surprise. This print is after a painting by Théodore Gudin.

A eyewitness pencil drawing from the sketchbook of Captain George Pechell Mends, RN depicting the fifteen-strong French fleet rendezvousing with the British in Besika Bay on 14 June 1853, prior to the joint squadrons entering the Black Sea. As a naval officer Mends meticulously recorded the details of the French ships, which he listed (from the head of the line, right to left) as: Ville de Paris 130 Vice Flag, Sané [paddle frigate], Jupiter 90, Bayard 100, Caton, Henri IV 100, Magellan, Valmy 130 screw Rear Flag, Napoleon screw 90, Mogador, Montebello 120, Charlemagne screw 90.

1816 to 1830: Rebuilding a Fleet

The French navy emerged from the Napoleonic Wars in a gravely weakened condition. It had lost almost a third of its ships of the line in the fall of Napoleon’s empire. Its personnel were in disarray because of a shortage of seamen and the return from exile of many royalist officers. It had no money, because France was bankrupt from the war and had to pay an enormous indemnity to the victors before their troops would leave her soil. Most important, its naval policy had not worked: after 22 years of concerted French efforts to destroy the British navy and merchant marine, at 1 January 1815 Britain had 214 ships of the line built and building and a merchant marine that was larger and more prosperous than ever, while France was left with a navy and a merchant marine that had been all but driven from the seas.

The navy’s main remaining assets were its ships and its administrative structure, but the ships disappeared rapidly. In mid-April 1814 the navy still had a large force of 104 ships of the line and 54 frigates afloat or under construction. By August this had fallen to 73 of the line and 42 frigates, due primarily to the surrender of ships located in European ports and building in shipyards outside France’s new borders. By late 1819 the fleet had shrunk to 58 of the line and 34 frigates afloat or on the ways, most of the others having been found to be too rotten to be worth repairing. In 1817 the navy estimated that, at this rate of decay, the fleet would disappear completely in ten years.

In response Pierre Barthelémy, Baron Portal, Minister of Marine from 1818 to 1821, developed the Programme of 1820, the first of the comprehensive plans that shaped the evolution of the navy during the next forty years. This programme defined the composition of a realistically attainable fleet, set a target date for its completion, and determined the amount of money required per year to meet the target. In its final form, promulgated in 1824, the programme provided for a fleet of 40 ships of the line and 50 frigates afloat. Portal calculated that this force could be created in ten years with an annual budget of 65 million francs (of which 6 million were for the colonies). He secured a political consensus to work towards this fiscal goal, even though only 50 million francs could be provided in 1820.

Portal’s programme took advantage of the few weaknesses that could be seen in Britain’s naval position. It reversed the traditional relationship between battleships and cruising ships in the fleet – as recently as 1814, France had had twice as many ships of the line as frigates. The new programme emphasised frigates to exploit the enormous problems that Britain would face in trying to defend worldwide trade and colonies. It retained a battle fleet, not to stand up to Britain alone, but to serve as a nucleus for an anti-British coalition fleet. This battle fleet was also designed to ensure that France would face no other maritime challenges: if she could not be number one, she could at least be an undisputed number two.

Refinements were soon made to the programme. The navy realised that ships left on the building ways, if properly ventilated and covered by a protective shed, would last almost indefinitely without decaying and would also have a longer service life after launching because their timbers would be better seasoned. Equally important, maintaining ships in this way was highly economical. The navy eventually decided that a third of the planned 40 ships of the line and 50 frigates would not be launched but would be kept complete on the ways. An additional 13 battleships and 16 frigates would be on the ways at less advanced stages of construction. These decisions led to a large increase during the 1820s in the number of building ways in the dockyards and in the number of ships laid down on them. At the same time the navy’s ordinary budget slowly increased, finally reaching the 65 million franc goal in 1830.

One reason the French navy survived the lean years after the Napoleonic Wars was the constant demand for its services. Within a few years naval stations were established in the Antilles, the Levant, and off the east coast of South America, and others were later created in the Pacific and in the Far East. Reoccupation and development of the few colonies left to France was given high priority. One of the navy’s most famous shipwrecks occurred when the frigate Méduse was lost in 1816 while leading a force to reoccupy Senegal. A few small ships were assigned to each of the reoccupied colonies for local duties. Among these were the navy’s first two steamers, Voyageur and Africain, built for Senegal in 1819. Scientific activities were also prominent. In 1820 (a relatively typical year), one corvette was in the process of circumnavigating the globe, two ships were surveying the Brazilian coast, three were producing definitive charts of the French coast, and one was charting the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

A series of crises gave the navy some new operational experience. In 1823 French troops invaded Spain to put down a revolution which had begun in 1820. Over 90 ships including four ships of the line supported this operation. In 1827, during the Greek war for independence, a French squadron joined British and Russian forces in annihilating the Turco-Egyptian fleet in the Battle of Navarino. In 1830, following several years of diplomatic disputes, the navy landed an army and took the city of Algiers. The invasion force included 11 ships of the line and 25 frigates.

Less sensational activities, including support for French occupation troops in Spain, Greece, and Algeria, large diplomatic missions to Haiti in 1825 and Brazil in 1828, and an expedition to Madagascar in 1829, created constant demands for additional ships and men. The active fleet of 76 ships planned in the 1820 budget exceeded the number of ships in commission in 1789, and unanticipated requirements increased the number of ships actually used during all or part of 1820 to 103. By 1828 this figure had exactly doubled to 206 ships, and it remained at this high level during the extensive operations in 1829 and 1830.

1830 to 1840: Retrenchment and Experimentation

In 1830 a liberal revolution brought to power King Louis-Philippe. The new king’s backers believed that high government spending was one of the main causes of economic distress and political disorder, and they immediately imposed major budget cuts. The navy, which had just reached the expenditure level of 65 million francs per year called for by the Programme of 1820, was ordered to cut its budget request for 1831 to 60.5 million francs. The restrictions on spending continued in effect throughout the 1830s, and the ordinary navy budget did not again reach 65 million francs until 1838. Even more serious, extraordinary appropriations, which had funded the remarkable expansion of the navy’s operations in the 1820s, were even more severely limited and did not reach the level of 1828-30 again until the crisis of 1840.

The impact of these cuts was particularly evident in the shipbuilding programme because the navy’s other expenses, notably personnel and operations, were relatively inflexible. In late 1834 the navy increased the proportion of Portal’s fleet to be kept on the ways from one-third to one-half to allow the dockyards to begin a few new ships with funds that otherwise would have been used to maintain some older ships. This change, along with other changes made to Portal’s programme during the 1820s, was formalised in a new programme promulgated by royal ordinance on 1 February 1837. The programme also confirmed the navy’s need for two ship classes, the 74-gun ship of the line and the 3rd Class frigate, which some politicians wanted to abolish.

Despite the new programme, the strength of the fleet declined in the late 1830s. The programme called for 53 ships of the line and 66 frigates afloat and on the ways, but between December 1834 and December 1839 the total number of battleships fell from 51 to 46 while frigates fell from 60 to 56. The deficit was in the number of ships under construction, a situation which was aggravated by the fact that operational requirements kept the number of frigates afloat substantially higher than in the new plan.

The distribution of the fleet during the 1830s remained essentially as it had been at the end of the 1820s. The station cruisers remained busy, and were augmented by special forces sent in response to disputes with Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, and Argentina. An expeditionary force bombarded the fortifications of Veracruz in Mexico in 1838. The South Atlantic station began a blockade of Buenos Aires in the same year, and a special expedition finally secured a treaty from the Argentines in 1840. In Africa, the navy took possession of the mouth of the Gabon River in 1839 and subsequently established a few trading posts in the Gulf of Guinea. The navy was particularly active in scientific expeditions in the late 1830s, undertaking several circumnavigations of the globe.

The navy was also very active in Europe. In 1831 a squadron fought its way up the Tagus to Lisbon in a dispute with Portugal. Another squadron supported Belgian independence against the Dutch between 1831 and 1833, and another occupied Ancona following insurrections in Italy in 1832. Naval stations in Spain were re-established in 1834 in response to the Carlist revolution in Spain. In 1836 and 1837 a fleet was maintained off Tunis to prevent interference with the French occupation of the interior of Algeria. In 1838 this force was shifted to the Levant as relations between the Sultan of Turkey and his nominal vassal, Mohammed Ali of Egypt, approached breaking point.

1840 to 1852: Ferment

The Levant crisis gave the French navy its biggest test between 1815 and the Crimean War in 1854. War between Turkey and Egypt broke out in 1839, generating a crisis between France, which supported Mohammed Ali, and Britain, which supported Turkey. The French Levant squadron reached an average level of 16 ships, including 9 ships of the line, during the first half of 1840. It also reached a level of operational readiness that was admired even by British naval officers. In the meantime, the French decided to launch three ships of the line from its reserve of ships on the ways and take other measures to raise the number in commission to the twenty called for under the Programme of 1837.

Despite this demonstration of French naval strength, the British in July 1840 succeeded in forming a coalition with Austria, Prussia, and Russia to force Mohammed Ali to withdraw. An intense diplomatic crisis between Britain and France ensued, but France found it had no choice but to back down. The British squadron in the Levant was larger than the French (it contained about 14 ships of the line to the French 9) and it was backed by much greater resources at home in money and men. France tried to launch and commission 12 frigates then on the ways but suspended the effort when it realised it would not be able to find enough seamen to man them until the fishing fleet returned from the Grand Banks at the end of the year.

The crisis showed that the naval policy followed by France since 1815 had grave weaknesses that could no longer be ignored. It demonstrated that the fleet of the 1837 programme could not cope with the British battle fleet in cases such as 1840 in which France had no allies. It also showed that the policy of retaining ships on the ways for rapid launch during a crisis was an illusion. On the positive side, the crisis led to a relaxation of the fiscal constraints on the navy-it was clear that the navy’s requirements had outgrown Portal’s standard 65 million franc budget.

In the 1840s the navy focused its attention on steam as an alternative way to offset British sea power. The programme of 1837 had included 40 steamers of 150nhp and above, but since then much larger steamers had become practicable. In 1842 the French navy established a programme for a steam navy that would parallel the sail navy. It was to include 40 combat steamers: five `steam frigates’ of 540nhp, fifteen of 450nhp, and twenty `steam corvettes’ of 220nhp. The smaller ships already on hand (mostly the 160nhp Sphinx class) remained useful for messenger, transport, and colonial duties, and thirty were included in the programme.

At first, not much progress was made with the new programme because of lack of construction facilities and money, but studies of the role of steam in the fleet continued. The most famous was a pamphlet published in 1844 by François Ferdinand Philippe Louis Marie d’Orleans, Prince de Joinville, a son of the king who had chosen the navy as his career. Joinville claimed that steam would allow France to offset British supremacy in numbers by concentrating its forces at a point of its choosing, overwhelming local opposition, and either ravaging the coast or landing an army. His pamphlet triggered a major naval scare in Britain and the construction of many new fortifications along the British coast. Joinville went on to direct a commission whose work led to a new steamer programme at the end of 1845. This programme increased the size of the planned steam fleet to 100 ships, including 10 frigates and 20 corvettes.

Joinville wanted steam frigates to be true combatants, with an armament of 30 large guns and engines of 600nhp or more. His steam corvettes were also to be combatants, but were expected to serve primarily as avisos. They were to have around eight large guns and engines of 400nhp. The plans for the frigate Isly and the corvette Roland conformed to these guidelines. The remaining 70 ships were to carry out the now-traditional messenger and transport duties of steamers and were assigned two guns at most and engines ranging from 300 to 90nhp.

The main strength of the navy remained in the sailing fleet, however. In the mid-1840s Parliament became concerned about its deterioration. The Minister of Marine, Vice-Adm. Ange-René-Armand, Baron de Mackau, took advantage of the opportunity and presented a new naval programme in 1846. In essence, it combined Portal’s sail fleet and Joinville’s steam fleet in a single programme which was to be achieved in seven years with the navy’s regular budgets and special appropriations totalling 93 million francs.

The programme contained several innovative features, all involving steam. While drawing up the programme, the navy decided to reduce the number of ships of the line under construction over and above the programmemed 40 from 13 to 4, on the grounds that the progress of steam made it prudent not to build up too big a reserve of these expensive ships. (The corresponding reserve of 16 sail frigates was retained.) It also decided to adopt one of Joinville’s recommendations and give part of the sailing fleet auxiliary steam propulsion. Parliamentary pressure caused the navy to increase the horsepower of these ships, and the final plan (not incorporated in the royal ordinance) called for four ships of the line with 500nhp engines, four frigates with 250nhp machinery, and four corvettes with 120nhp auxiliary machinery. This decision led, through many permutations, to the conversion of the ships of the line Austerlitz and Jean Bart and the construction of the corvettes Biche and Sentinelle. Parliamentary pressure also caused the navy to add to the programme two floating batteries of around 450nhp in response to the British blockships of the Blenheim type. These, however, were soon cancelled.

The execution of the Programme of 1846 was interrupted by the revolution of 1848, in which Louis-Philippe was overthrown and replaced by a second republic. The revolution ushered in a new period of fiscal retrenchment, which severely slowed down naval shipbuilding. The budgets of 1847 and 1848 had each included the planned annual instalments of 13.3 million francs, but the 1849 budget included only 2.7 million for the programme and later budgets included nothing. By the time naval activity revived in the early 1850s, further advances in steam technology had rendered the Programme of 1846 obsolete.

The navy’s operations in the 1840s were concentrated first and foremost in the Mediterranean. The Levant crisis of 1840 was succeeded by a series of operations associated with the conquest of North Africa, including an expedition led by Joinville which bombarded the Moroccan port of Mogador in 1844. A new crisis in Portugal caused the French to send another expedition to the Tagus in 1847. Elsewhere, Joinville in the frigate Belle Poule brought the ashes of Napoleon back to Paris from St. Helena in 1840. Expeditions were dispatched in 1842 and 1843 to occupy the Marquesas Islands in the Pacific, and French control was extended to the Society Islands in 1844. In 1843 the French occupied the islands of Nossi Bé and Mayotte off Madagascar, and a joint Anglo- French force bombarded Tamatave in 1845. In 1845 the French signed a treaty with Britain which required them to retain a force of 26 ships on the West African coast to help suppress the slave trade. Between 1845 and 1852 the navy was also involved in operations in Argentina, the dispute with that country having flared up again.

The 1848 revolution in France triggered revolutions throughout Europe, which kept the navy busy in European waters, especially in Sicily, at Rome, and in the Adriatic. Fiscal retrenchment, however, soon led to a substantial reduction in the number of ships in commission. Among the casualties was the West African station, which declined from 26 ships at the end of 1847 to its pre-treaty strength of around 8 ships at the end of 1849 and then to 3 ships at the end of 1851.

The French Navy After 1815 Part II

An Anglo-French squadron of steamers bombards Odessa in the Black Sea, 22 April 1854. Left to right, the attacking ships are: Terrible (RN), Vauban, Mogador, Sampson (RN), Descartes, Retribution (RN), Tiger (RN) and Furious (RN).

Impératrice Éugenie with the Escadre de la Méditerranée between May and December 1859. When this fleet anchored off Venice on 9 July 1859, without Impératrice Éugenie but with her sister Impétueuse, included the fast three-decker Bretagne, the fast 90-gunners Algésiras, and Arcole, and the corvette Monge, all of which are probably visible here. Impératrice Éugenie sailed in May 1860 for the Far East where she remained until 1867

1852 to 1861: Towards a New Fleet

On 2 December 1851 Louis Napoleon carried out a coup d’état which gave him control of the government and made him, a year later, Emperor Napoleon III. The new regime quickly embarked on a revolutionary transformation of the battle fleet from sail to steam, which it finally codified in 1857 in a new naval programme just before another technological revolution took place.

In early 1852, the first French screw ship of the line to run trials, Charlemagne, demonstrated that the large screw-propelled warship was a practical reality. At this time, the navy estimated that Britain had afloat or under construction 10 such ships compared to 3 for France. Shortly thereafter, the new French government substantially increased the funds available to the navy for shipbuilding in 1852 and 1853, and in mid-1852 the navy decided to use the funds to convert seven more ships of the line along the lines of Charlemagne.

In justifying this programme, the Minister of Marine (then Théodore Ducos) told his senior advisory council in May 1852 that he felt France’s strategy in a war with Britain should be to strike hard at British commerce while threatening a rapid, unexpected landing on the coasts of the United Kingdom. The need for speed and carefully coordinated operations ruled out the construction of additional sailing ships. Converted ships like Charlemagne could make a substantial contribution with their dependable speed of around 8 knots. (They were also a practical necessity, as they made use of existing materiel and could be completed more quickly than new ships.) Fast ships of the line like Napoléon would be even more appropriate, but the navy avoided committing itself to this type before the trials of the prototype. The sensational success of Napoléon in August 1852 caused the navy to start additional ships of the type as quickly as possible. Five new ships and one conversion (Eylau) were begun in 1853 alone.

In Britain, the return of a Bonaparte to absolute power in France aroused old fears and triggered a full-blown naval scare in 1852 and 1853. Between August and November 1852 the Admiralty responded to developments in France by ordering the conversion to steam of eleven additional ships of the line, and more soon followed.

Ironically, this period of rivalry soon gave way to a period of close cooperation as the two nations combined their efforts in the Crimean War against Russia. In September 1853 the fleets of the two powers entered the Dardanelles together, and they continued to coordinate their operations in the Black Sea and the Baltic until the end of the war in 1856. They also shared some of their latest technological developments, the British receiving the plans of the French armoured floating batteries and the French receiving plans of British gunboats.

In October 1853 Napoléon gave dramatic proof of the importance of steam by towing the three-decker sailing French flagship Ville de Paris up the Turkish straits against both wind and current while the British fleet had to wait for more favourable conditions. Subsequent operations reinforced the lesson that only screw steamers could be considered combatant warships. In October 1854, while preparing the list of construction work to be undertaken in 1855, the ministry of marine proposed converting to steam all 33 of its remaining sailing ships of the line in the next several years. One-third of the resultant fleet was to be fast battleships like Napoléon (including a few conversions like Eylau), and the remainder were to be conversions like Charlemagne. Conversions of existing ships of the line were carried out as quickly as the ships could be spared from war operations.

The Crimean War placed heavy operational demands on the navy. Fleets were required in both the Black Sea and the Baltic. The French used 12 ships of the line in the Baltic during 1854 and 3 in 1855; they used 16 in the Black Sea in 1854 and 31 during 1855 (including about 19 as transports). The principal naval engagements involving the French were all against fortifications: the capture of Bomarsund in the Baltic in August 1854, the bombardment of Sevastopol in the Black Sea in October 1854, the capture of Kinburn in the Black Sea in October 1855, and the bombardment of Sveaborg in the Baltic in November 1855. The bombardment of Sevastopol was carried out by ships of the line and was a failure – Napoléon, one of many ships damaged, was forced to withdraw after a shell produced a large leak in her side. In contrast, the bombardment of Kinburn exactly a year later made extensive use of technology developed during the war and was a success. The French armoured floating batteries proved practically impervious to the Russian shells, while groups of gunboats, mortar vessels, and armed paddle steamers also inflicted heavy damage on the defenders.

In May 1855 the Minister, Admiral of France Ferdinand-Alphonse Hamelin, circulated to the ports a list of questions raised by the October 1854 memo regarding the composition of the battle fleet. In August 1855 a navy commission, formed at the Emperor’s direction to examine the responses, drafted a formal programme for the modernisation of the fleet. The key elements of its programme were a combat fleet of 40 fast battleships and 20 fast frigates and a fleet of transports large enough to transport an army of 40,000 men. While the combat fleet was being built, the navy was to rely on a transitional fleet of screw ships converted from sail, which was to be completed as quickly as possible. This plan called for the expenditure of 245 million francs in 13 years beginning in 1857. The commission was reconvened in December 1855 to consider the implications of the success of the armoured floating batteries at the bombardment of Kinburn in October. It completed the technical and fiscal details of the programme in November 1856, and the Emperor referred the plan to the Conseil d’Etat in January 1857 for study. Three changes were made during 1857. Two ship of the line conversions were deleted (Friedland and Jemmapes). The number of transports was reduced from 94 to 72, probably reflecting a decision to abandon all but five of the frigate conversions and instead convert some sailing frigates to steam frigates. The financial arrangements were also changed to provide for the expenditure of 235 million francs over 14 years beginning in 1858. The final programme was promulgated by imperial decree on 23 November 1857.

While refining the technical portion of the programme in late 1856, the navy’s engineers under Stanislas-Charles-Henri-Laur Dupuy de Lome, designer of Napoléon, had included a clause allowing the Minister of Marine to replace ship types in the programme with others equivalent in military strength and construction cost. Dupuy de Lome knew better than most how quickly the programme would become obsolete, because he was already working on the plans for the world’s first `armoured frigates’. In March 1858 the Minister (Hamelin) ordered the first three of these, including Gloire, and simultaneously cancelled construction of two fast 70-gun ships of the line, Desaix and Sébastopol, which had not yet been laid down and a proposed class of fast 40-gun steam frigates. By October 1858 the navy had decided that the new armoured frigates were not just equivalent but superior to line of battle ships. At the same time, it replaced the fast frigates in the programme with smaller `cruising frigates’. (Two similar `station frigates’, Vénus and Minerve, followed by a series of `armoured corvettes’, were eventually built in the 1860s.) The Programme of 1857 remained the legal basis for the modernisation of the French fleet to the end of the 1860s, but the ships built under it bore little resemblance to those in the initial 1855 proposal.

The navy saw considerable action in the 1850s besides the Crimean War. In 1851 a French force carried out a reprisal bombardment of the Moroccan port of Salé. In 1853 the navy occupied the Pacific island of New Caledonia. In 1855 the French in Senegal began to expand their control upriver into the interior of Africa. In 1856 Britain and France agreed upon joint operations for the revision of their treaties with China, and two joint naval and military campaigns were conducted before another treaty settlement was made in 1860. During this operation, the French occupied Saigon in 1859 and over the next few years took control of all of Cochinchina.

Elsewhere, the traditional Anglo-French rivalry was quick to revive. A French naval and military intervention in the Danube principalities after the Crimean War aroused British fears of a Franco-Russian alliance. The Franco-Austrian war of 1859, in which France helped Italy become independent, antagonised British conservatives as much as it delighted liberals. The French navy helped transport and supply the French armies in Italy and blockaded the northern Adriatic ports. Such activity focused British attention on the naval balance, and they found that France had reached near parity in fast steam ships of the line and had an advantage in the number of ironclad warships under construction. In February 1859 the Admiralty triggered the third major Anglo-French naval scare since 1844, which intensified in 1860-61 as France led the world into the ironclad era.


The prototype of this boat had been under construction since March 1944.

Seeteufel was an attempt to overcome the difficulties inherent in launching and recovering human torpedoes and small submarines. A submarine equipped with tracks, the arrangement provided for autonomous unloading and water entry and exit. It also expanded the number of possible launching and recovery areas and potentially allowed a shorter water transit time to the operational area.

Designed and built in four months, the prototype had a crew of two, displaced 35 tons and was 14.2m long. An 80hp gasoline engine could drive the tracks or propeller, giving the vessel a speed of 10km/h on land and 10kt on the surface. Submerged, it could cruise at 8kt using a 25hp electric motor.  

Unlike the manned torpedoes and other midget submarines, which were armed with a variant of the G7e torpedo with fewer batteries and a reduced range and speed, the Seeteufel possessed a flooding device that enabled it to employ the standard G7e. Alternatively, it could carry four mines. It was also equipped with either a machine-gun or flamethrower for use on land.  

While performance in the water was satisfactory, on land it was underpowered and had an excessive ground pressure due to the narrow tracks. Additional prototypes with a more powerful engine and wider tracks were planned as a prelude to series production. However, the Oberkommando der Marine (OKM) canceled the project in 1944 as part of a plan to rationalize midget submarine development.

Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral) Hellmuth Heye, commander of the German Naval Special Forces (German: Kleinkampverbände, lit. ‘Small Combat Units’), stated in 1944:

    “I consider the Sea Devil a promising weapon for use in commando raids. It is independent of mother craft and base personnel, can land on foreign shores, commit acts of sabotage, and evade pursuit ashore or afloat. It can be taken to site by a mother ship equipped with a large crane. With an engine of higher output than that of the experimental boat, a speed of 8 to 10 knots can be obtained. Speed and radius of action could be further increased by installation of a closed-cycle engine. Intended for use in coastal waters if weather is not too rough, and on rivers, lakes and artificial lakes…

Description:          Midget U-boat

First launched:    1944

Complement, Off / Men   2

Displacement surf:              circa 2,0 t

Displacement subm:          18,0 – 20,0 t

Length: 13,5 m

Beam, max:           circa 2,0 m

Depth:   2,9 m

5,5 m (with schnorkel mast)

Max speed surfaced:         ?

Max speed submerged:    10 kt (petrol/gas – with Schnorkel)

8 kt (Electric)

Radius surfaced:                  30 hours at top speed

80 hours at cruising speed

Radius submerged:             30 hours at top speed (petrol/gas)

10 hours at top speed (electric)

80 hours at cruising speed (petr/gas)

20 hours at cruising speed (electric)

Max diving depth:               50 m (prototype made 20 m)

Nr of torpedoes / mines: 2 or 4

Seeteufel (1944)

Post-Hyksos Egypt

With a military strategy that changed from defensive to offensive, increasingly ambitious pharaohs looked “to extend the frontiers of Egypt.” King Ahmose’s armies had chased the conquered Hyksos invaders into Palestine to quash any future threat. This campaign to liberate Egypt had strengthened and organized the pharaoh’s forces, and built up their arsenal. Chariots, horse-drawn and driven by an archer, led them into battle, volleying arrows into swarms of enemy combatants. With every victory, their capital of Thebes grew in power and wealth.

Pharaohs periodically engaged in battle with Libyans from the Western Desert, but most of their conflicts were with Nubians to the south and their Asiatic rivals northeast.

Conquering Nubia was no difficult feat for the Egyptians, who easily navigated the treacherous cataracts of the Nile, and seized crucial spoils of copper, gold, and semiprecious stones such as amethyst, as well as ivory and cattle. In defeat, the Nubians, more pliable than Egypt’s other neighbors, adopted Egyptian customs. A pharaoh-appointed regent – the King’s Son and Overseer of the Southern Countries – represented Egypt’s interests in Nubia during the eighteenth dynasty.

Egypt’s conquering armies faced stiffer challenges in Palestine and Syria, situated across hot desert sands and bodies of water in the western Asian territories, beyond which an even greater threat encroached. Assyrians, the Mitanni, and the Hittites pressed westward from Asia, challenging the Egyptians’ ambitious bid for world supremacy.

Borders were not clearly delineated. Loose groupings of city-states made up Palestine and Syria, inhabited by an assortment of Amorites, Canaanites, Phoenicians, and others who ceaselessly warred with one another. A climate of perpetual unrest was the result of contentious alliances, carelessly forged and easily broken.

Egypt’s conquests were not without great risk, although early on, many lesser monarchs submitted almost willingly, recognizing Egypt’s resurgence and new might, and heaping respect on the pharaoh. In the south, Amenhotep I, son and heir of Ahmose, looked to tighten Egypt’s grip on Nubia. The more ambitious Thutmose I next became pharaoh, by way of his marriage to a royal princess, Amenhotep I’s sister. His claim was tenuous, and he set out to bolster it with conquests.

A veteran admiral navigating the Nile with the king, described him as “raging like a panther,” recounting a tale in which Thutmose, armed with a bow and arrow, killed a Nubian chieftain, and displayed his corpse like a grisly trophy on his ship’s prow.

Such brutality was common. Stacks of dismembered hands frequent temple artwork, telling of the mutilations that often befell the Egyptians’ conquered foes. Just as common in wall carvings are portrayals of pharaohs, gripping enemies by the hair, the royal mace raised and ready to smash their skulls.

Thutmose followed up his brutal conquest in Nubia with an unprecedented 1,300-mile expedition to Syria, which crossed the Euphrates River – farther from Thebes than any other pharaoh had ever ventured. The king’s men took up arms against the Mitanni, invaders from the north. A stone marker planted on the field of battle claims a massive slaughter of Mitanni, and the taking of many more as prisoners.

The third generation of his family to claim the throne, Thutmose III was the only other pharaoh to go as far into hostile Asian territory, and finding his grandfather’s marker still in place, he put one of his own alongside it.

Treasure from conquered lands poured into the blossoming capital, funding new construction and more and elaborate temple art and adornments on the shores of the Nile.

A daughter, Hatshepsut was born to Thutmose I and great wife Ahmes; and a son, Thutmose, came from a secondary marriage. The half-siblings followed common royal practice and wed. When the old king died (he was the first pharaoh to be buried in the Valley of the Kings), they took the throne as King Thutmose II and great wife, though Hatshepsut – the daughter of a king who had taken his place in the afterlife alongside the gods, and now the new king’s wife and sister – quickly became a much more indomitable force than the pharaoh. Thutmose II’s early reign is mostly insignificant, the only record of which being a revolt in Nubia and skirmishes in Palestine. The pharaoh and his great wife did not produce a son, so at the time of his death, the son of a concubine named Iset was crowned Thutmose III. Rather than taking the throne outright, however, the young pharaoh faced a significant challenge from his stepmother-aunt, Hatshepsut.

Not satisfied for long serving as the new king’s regent, Hatshepsut believed her power and pure royal blood gave her the right to rule. Several years into Thutmose III’s reign, she wore the crowns of The Two Lands as co-ruler, while he faded into the background.

A female pharaoh presented unprecedented challenges, small and large. Depictions of Hatshepsut were clumsily adapted by inscribers and sculptors accustomed to the male form. In many, she appears without breasts, dressed in male garments and a false beard common among kings’ wardrobe, though the artists eventually got a better grasp for shapely figure and vestments. These small matters did nothing to tarnish a reign that was overall a prosperous success.

Hatshepsut surrounded herself with trusted and influential advisors. As her vizier, she chose Hapuseneb, a High Priest of Amon, who brought political prestige to her royal court. Closer to her was another remarkable man, an arrogant, industrious commoner named Senenmut.

Senenmut was arrogant and greedy – he amassed no fewer than eighty ranks in his royal capacity, including Steward of the God’s Wife and Steward of the King. He also presumed to be buried in a tomb alongside the queen, and in her temple, he had memorials to himself erected. Some Egyptologists have speculated that he was Hatshepsut’s lover.

Hatshepsut restored a number of temples that had fallen into disrepair while the invading Hyksos ruled Egypt, and made additions, including two obelisks, at Karnak. The most notable contribution to the landscape during her reign was the Senenmut-designed burial chamber at Deir el-Bahri, opposite Karnak. With considerable imagination, it sprang up on a cliff, in a natural amphitheater, only a small sliver of rock between it and the Valley of the Kings. Its steep walls were striped in soft pink and buff stone. King Mentuhotep was entombed on this site.

Higher and considerably grander in scale, Hatshepsut’s temple was three stories, framed with majestic columns. It is one of the most remarkable of Egypt’s structures, easily Thebes’ greatest marvel. Sphinxes once lined the ground leading up to its entrance, on two immense shallow terraces that ascend to the base of the cliff of al-Qurn. Vines and palm trees added a lush greenery to a courtyard beneath the foundation of the first terrace. Stunning buildings on the next level followed a long portico, where once twenty-six imposing statues of Hatshepsut once stood regally, depicting her as the god Osiris. Within the depths behind the portico, a great hall and sanctuaries surround the queen’s final resting place. The magnificent white limestone of the temple stands in stark contrast to the craggy cliffs into which it is hewn. The same material comprises the innermost sanctuary, the holy of holies.

Sanctuaries within paid tribute to the goddess Hathor (who took a cow’s form), the jackal Anubis, and sun god Ra. A number of reliefs amaze with scenes of enormous obelisks – nearly as long as the boats bearing them down the Nile from the island of Elephantine to Thebes. One of a quartet that once stood in the capital, reaching close to 100 feet into the sky – remains today in Amon’s temple at Karnak. A single huge slab of pink granite quarried at Aswan, was patiently and skillfully carved to form each obelisk.

The first terrace artwork features two distinctly different milestones for the queen. In one, she is molded on a potter’s wheel by the ram-headed god Khnum, as her mother, Ahmes, sits primly alongside the god Amon, who says: “Hatshepsut shall be the name of this my daughter whom I have placed in thy body. She shall exercise excellent kingship in this whole land.” This is meant to portray that Hatshepsut was of divine conception, a myth propagated by the queen.

Location of the Land of Punt for most scholars.

Another depicts the ambitious and lucrative expedition the queen dispatched to the trading center of Punt to enrich her treasury with African goods. About a half-dozen years into her reign, she ordered a Nubian named Nehery to lead the assembly from Qift, north of Thebes, across the desert to the Red Sea, where a pair of ships, laden with cheering sailors in the reliefs, would carry them down the coast to Punt. Here, people made their homes – round, high, domed huts with laddered entrances – among the palm groves. Nehery and his men were greeted by Punt’s queen, and “did not trouble to conceal their laughter,” the inscription reads, at her deformities, huge thighs and a harsh, strained face.

The people of Punt fell to the ground before an emblem of Hatshepsut: “They speak, praying for peace from Her Majesty: Hail to thee, king of Egypt, female sun who shines like the solar disk.” The pharaoh’s envoy Nehery set up camp, offering the natives a royal tribute of beer, fruit, meat, and wine.

A disproportionate bartering came after, in which the Egyptians got the better of the people of Punt, exchanging beads for baboons, ebony, gold, ivory, leopard skins, and myrrh trees (a prized commodity in Punt). Hatshepsut and Senenmut welcomed the company and its bounty back to the capital as the young Thutmose III burned incense at the foot of a massive statue of Amon.

Widely considered a military genius by historians, Thutmose III made 16 raids in 20 years. He was an active expansionist ruler, sometimes called Egypt’s greatest conqueror or “the Napoleon of Egypt.”

“The Napoleon of Egypt”

Until recently, conventional wisdom among Egyptologists held that Thutmose III resented Hatshepsut’s assumption to the throne, which postponed his reign for twenty-one years. After her death, there was a systematic effort to obliterate or deface her temples and monuments, along with those of Senenmut, which was taken as prima facie evidence of her nephew’s hostility. But the weight of the evidence has swung, and most scholars now agree that Hatshepsut and Thutmose III got along well.

One factor that points to a warm relationship: Hatshepsut never denied Thutmose III the title of pharaoh, even after she took the throne. What’s more, as he grew older, she gave him command of the Egyptian army – a sign of trust on her part. For his part, Thutmose made no effort to use the military to overthrow Hatshepsut, and he retained most of her officials after he succeeded her. He also married her daughter and placed his mortuary temple next to hers. Finally, the defacing of her monuments began twenty years after he was crowned – hardly a sign of hot-headed resentment.

The judgment now is that the vandalizing of Hatshepsut’s temples and statues was an effort by Thutmose III to erase doubts about his own claim to the throne as the son of a concubine, and thus reinforce the legitimacy of his son and heir, Amenhotep I. Thutmose also made Amenhotep his co-ruler in the last years of his reign, and it is possible that Amenhotep was behind the vandalism of Hatshepsut’s monuments.

Whatever the case, their co-reign came to an end with Hatshepsut’s death in 1482 B.C. Thutmose III ruled Egypt the next thirty years unassisted and unencumbered.

Five feet, four inches in height, the pharaoh and had a keen, alert face, dominated by his family’s protruding nose. Upon his coronation, he inherited prosperity and a full treasury, but Egypt’s empire in Asia was crumbling.

Egypt’s most formidable foes in Palestine and Syria had aligned behind the king of the city of Kadesh, where a mighty fortress stood on the Orontes River, in western Syria. The resurgent Mitanni added to this threat against the Egyptians.

In his second year as ruler, Thutmose III began his mission to “overthrow that vile enemy and to extend the borders of Egypt as commanded by his father, Amon,” according to a scribe accompanying the pharaoh on the campaign, who inscribed his reports in the temple of Amon.

Thutmose’s expedition traversed the modern-day Suez Canal, then a ten-day trek through the Sinai Peninsula, before finally capturing the Philistine city of Gaza. The pharaoh’s forces, acting on intelligence, moved quickly north to intercept the Kadesh coalition at Megiddo, where the plains stretched out beyond the hills of Mount Carmel. Three possible routes to Megiddo were debated by war strategists – dual options for low and open approaches were favored by generals, who argued against the tight, single-file passages that they would have to navigate on direct path over the hills. Thutmose, however, opted for the latter route, and his officers followed in step: “We are in the train of Your Majesty wherever Your Majesty will go. The servant will follow his master.”

A thin line of soldiers wound up through the desolate, scrub-filled valleys, the pharaoh atop his glimmering chariot, the bronze of his armored tunic shining like a fish’s scales. On his head sat the warrior’s crown, blue and etched with a golden cobra. Other chariots rattled and bumped in his wake, archers poised for battle. Some overturned. A sea of short, rounded shields – planks covered with cow or deer hides – represented thousands of foot soldiers, armed with bronze axes, daggers, and spears.

The feared ambush never happened. The Kadesh army had prepared an attack on the plain, expecting Thutmose’s forces to take the longer, flatter route to Megiddo. The pharaoh’s call proved to be the right one. Night was falling as the Egyptians descended the hills, so they set up camp. Thutmose told his soldiers to “prepare yourselves, make ready your weapons, for we will engage with that vile enemy in the morning.”

But the Egyptians delayed the attack, perhaps in anticipation of a new moon, considered good luck. The time finally right, Thutmose prayed to Amon, and unleashed his army. The soldiers set up north of Megiddo, and south of Kina brook, with the king in between. Thutmose and his men fought courageously, upending enemy chariots. The Kadesh allies fled on foot to Megiddo, where the gates were shuttered, forcing them to scale the walls.

The pharaoh’s greed led to a missed opportunity for a prompt end to the fight: “Would that the army of His Majesty had not set their hearts upon looting . . . for they would have captured Megiddo at that moment, while the vile enemy of Kadesh and the vile enemy of the town were being hoisted up.” Time and tactical advantage lost to plundering extended the battle many months, during which the Egyptians laid siege to Megiddo. The town’s defenses eventually succumbed, but by then the Kadesh king had escaped, living to bring the pharaoh more trouble in the future.

The Egyptians brought a tremendous load of plunder from Megiddo. According to the records, the spoils included: “. . . 340 living prisoners; 83 hands [cut off dead bodies]; 2,041 mares, 191 foals, 6 stallions; a chariot wrought with gold, as was its pole [property of the ruler of Kadesh]; a beautiful chariot wrought with gold [property of the ruler of Megiddo]; thirty chariots belonging to other chiefs plus 892 chariots belonging to his wretched army; a fine suit of bronze armor belonging to that enemy [the ruler of Kadesh] and 200 suits of armor belonging to his wretched army; 502 bows; seven poles wrought with silver to the tent of that foe; 1,929 large cattle, 2,000 small cattle, 20,500 white small cattle.”

The Megiddo campaign is the earliest full account of a decisive battle. In spite of later victories, Thutmose liked to celebrate this one, evidently feeling that the rest of his reign flowed from it. From then on, he consolidated his conquests as he pushed toward Mesopotamia. As he conquered each new city-state, he established a garrison and manned it with foreign mercenaries. To ensure future allegiance, he took the sons of conquered kings back to Egypt and trained them to be his lieutenants before he returned them to their homelands. Thutmose also took great pains to defend and provision ports on the Syrian coast in order to secure safe passage for his navy, which transported troops and supplies.

The pharaoh sculpted his army into a strong, efficient body – and among its vital components were chariot riders, infantry, naval operations, signals, accountancy, and supplies. Although he was formidable on the battlefield, Thutmose’s logistical and organizational skills most impressed later military historians.

The pharaoh’s fifth campaign crippled northern Syria’s wealthy seafaring cities. A year later, Kadesh’s imposing fortress at last fell to the Egyptian army. The year was 1471 B.C., and Thutmose was finally ready to confront the Mitanni, Egypt’s greatest hurdle to world domination. But to do that, his army would have to cross the Euphrates River. So, at Byblos, he ordered ships constructed of Lebanon’s famous cedar to be dragged along as the army marched.

The campaign was an unmitigated success. The Egyptians’ approach from the river was smooth, and caught the Mitanni off guard, with no defensive army in place to counter the attack. The pharaoh boasted he was out front for the victory, “the first of his army in seeking that vile enemy over the mountains of Mitanni, while [the enemy] fled before His Majesty to another far distant land.” To mark the conquering of his arch-enemies, Thutmose III erected his stela not far from his grandfather’s.

In another nod to Thutmose I, the pharaoh allowed himself an elephant-hunting diversion in the northern Syrian swamps of Niya. Although he had escaped the war without injury, he almost lost his life on the hunt. The quick reflexes of a general accompanying the pharaoh on the hunt put down a charging bull elephant before it could trample Thutmose. General Amenemhab leapt between the king and beast, severing the elephant’s “hand” – likely trunk – with his sword, saving both their lives.

While all pharaohs hunted, Thutmose’s genuine interest in wildlife extended beyond killing and mounting it. He often returned from conquests laden with species of plants and animals from distant lands in Asia – including, once, a rhinoceros from Nubia.

New buildings sprang up during Thutmose’s reign, including, in Karnak, a large pavilion, suitable for a Sed festival, and a monumental temple gate depicting him as a conqueror with mace raised over kneeling Asiatics. Similar to Hatshepsut, he had a fascination with obelisks – of the several he erected, two have withstood time; moved from their original home in Heliopolis to the Thames Embankment in London, and New York City’s Central Park.

Thutmose’s seventeen campaigns over a twenty-year period amassed enormous wealth for Egypt. His conquests expanded the country’s borders north of Syria to Niya, east beyond the Euphrates, and south to Nubia – earning his empire the distinction of being Egypt’s greatest, and him the nickname “the Napoleon of Egypt.” In tribute to the might of imperial Egypt, awed world leaders heaped gold and goods onto Thebes.

The age of conquest at its end, the capital basked in extravagance and luxury, which would peak during the long, peaceful reign of Thutmose’s great-grandson, Amenhotep III.

Russian/Soviet Wheeled APCs I

The Object 19 is a Russian prototype wheel-cum-track IFV. The Object 19, Object 764, Object 911, Object 914, and Object 1200, were all tested for the position for BMP-1. Object 19 did not surpass the competition, whereas the Object 764 was selected and improved upon, to become the Object 765 – the BMP-1.

Russian APC/IFV Design Overview

Armored Personnel Carriers became common during World War II, originally introduced by the German army to rapidly transport troops along the battlefield front. Capable of transport under conditions that regular trucks could not traverse, this provided tactical mobility to support the Blitzkrieg (lighting war) form of war. The Infantry Fighting Vehicle, essentially an APC styled vehicle with enhanced armor and armaments, was introduced during the 1960s by the Soviet Union. Its role was to provide fire support to dismounts and to engage lighted armored vehicles.

A weakness of APCs and IFVs is that they could not be armored sufficiently to protect against RPGs and ATGMs. Therefore modern warfare techniques rely heavily upon mobility, with tanks, IFVs and APCs advancing quickly upon enemy units. Supported by artillery and infantry to suppress the deployment of shaped-charged warhead equipped weapons, the armored vehicle are expected to overwhelm the enemy before they can effectively deploy their RPGs and ATGMs. This method of rapid mobile combat, known as maneuver warfare, was designed to engage in a successful full-scale conventional confrontation, as combat in Europe might unfold.

Modern warfare however has tended toward descending into asymmetric warfare and urban combat, with Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) often operating from isolated or stationary positions. This once again left them vulnerable to attack by infantry armed with RPGs and man-portable ATGMs. As Russians incurred heavy losses in the insurgent warfare experienced in their Afghanistan War and in Grozny during the 1st and 2nd Chechen Wars, they painfully came to recognize these vulnerabilities. Many Russian IFVs and APCs were destroyed by poorly trained but well-motivated infantry armed with relatively simple and inexpensive RPGs, ironically typically of Russian origin.

Multiple approaches were devised to overcome these vulnerabilities. These included having infantry outside the vehicle as it moved through cities to provide it protection, positioning troops at the vehicle front to operate defensive weapons, increasing the firepower available to the vehicle crew to destroy hostile enemy before they could deploy their weapons, installing lighter versions of ERA on these vehicles (the heavy tank versions of ERA damage the thin skinned IFVs and APCs) and to develop softkill and hardkill APS systems. The other approach is simply to provide APCs and IFVs with the same level of protection provided to MBTs (i.e., use tank chassis as APC/IFV chassis). Though the light-weight aspect of these vehicles is sacrificed by this approach, their survivability in insurgent and urban warfare is significantly improved. This has resulted for example in the development of the T-15 from the T-14. The Israelis are also taking this approach, developing the heavily armored Namer from the Merkava (discussed in detail later).

Soviet and Russian IFVs and APCs share regularities in their design approach, reflective of their military encounters, with designs evolving to meet the challenges presented by emerging technologies and tactics. Much like their Western counterparts, the Soviets field both wheeled and tracked APCs and IFVs that can be produced as a ‘Family of Vehicles’. Similar to the West, Soviet/Russian IFVs tend to be more heavily armored than their APCs. The IFVs ALSO tend to be tracked, permitting them the ability to maintain pace with MBTs, which their principal role is to support. For APCs however the Russians has long shown a preference for wheeled vehicles, with the West only absorbing the long established Russian approach in the 1990s. The Russians also have a strong preference for building APCs and IFVs that can ‘swim’, able to traverse rivers they encounter during an advance. While Western vehicles tend to stress higher armor levels, and therefore greater weight, the Russians keep their vehicle light enough to permit swim capabilities.

Until recently the Soviets in general have shown less interest in protecting their crews and providing for their comfort than their Western counterparts, focusing more on keeping their vehicles small, mobile and fast. Where Western vehicles tend to be taller and larger, providing more space for the occupants, Russian APCs and IFVs tend to be very low and flat by comparison, minimizing both the silhouette and vehicle weight. They also tend to be wider, and have wider tracks or wheels. Combining these features provides for optimized vehicle mobility, making them fast, able to traverse steep banks (low Center of Gravity) and able to navigate mud and snow.

The disadvantage of this approach is that the vehicle crew and dismounts (transported troops) have to operate is very cramped conditions. Therefore crews become exhausted more quickly, have more difficulty operating equipment and suffer higher casualties when the vehicle armor is breached due to slow and difficult vehicle egress. To counter these restrictions the Soviets have actually devised some rather novel innovations to improve the conditions for the crew and dismounts, and to improve overall vehicle performance.

Where older models of Russian APCs and IFVs have the transported troops enter and exit the vehicle from highly constrictive side doors, newer designs provide troops access through large doors and folding roofs at the vehicle rear. And where the loading rate of the main weapon was often only a quarter of that achievable on the more open spaced Western vehicles, integrated autoloaders has provided Soviets vehicles reload rates equal to or better than those achieved by their Western counterparts.

Another novel feature devised by the Soviets was to place the engine of their IFVs in the rear of the vehicle, providing it greater protection, similar to MBTs (IFVs and APCs more often place the engine at the vehicle front, to the right of the driver). By placing the engine low in the vehicle, troops are able to enter the vehicle over the rear mounted engine. This also permits the driver to be positioned in the center of the front of the vehicle, also similar to typical MBT design. The Soviets then place a soldier on either side of the driver, each operating as a machine gunner or grenade launcher operator. Similar to some WWII tanks, in which a weapons operator sat alongside the vehicle driver, this approach provides substantially greater firepower that can be directed at infantry to protect the vehicle from attack by RPGs and ATGMs.

Much like Western vehicles the Soviets fabricate their vehicle hulls from welded ballistic aluminum and/or ballistic steel, providing all around 360 degree protection to lower calibre threats. The vehicles possess highly sloped frontal glacis plates as well as sloped sidewalls, the oblique surfaces more effectively deflecting incoming rounds. While this reduces space availability for crew and troops, it does enhance vehicle overall survivability. With their low vehicle profile, Soviet APCs and IFVs are also more challenging to hit than their higher standing Western counterparts.

The Soviet approach to increasing the protection on their vehicles beyond the inherent capabilities of the hull have historically been more progressive than Western thinking. In many ways the Soviets have led the way in innovative armor developments, with the West later duplicating their advancements. Having led the way in developing ATGMs, the Soviets foresaw a need to counter such weapons, and so were first to develop ceramic armor solutions. As well the Soviets led the way in the development of ERA, electronic countermeasures (soft kill dazzlers and jammers) and hardkill Active Protection Systems. They also remain the only military to have integrated ERA directly into hull designs, and have APS as a standard system on their AFVs.

The Soviets also tend to more heavily arm their IFVs than equivalent Western vehicles. This includes deployment of multiple guns installed on a single turret, such as the dual 100 mm gun / 30 mm autocannon on the BMP-3 and BMD-4. Their main weapons also tend to be more multi-functional in terms of ammunition that can be fired than Western vehicles, often able to fire ATGMs as well as the standard KE and/or HE-I rounds. This provides them greater firepower and an extended maximum effective combat range. Additionally most modern Russian IFVs can be armed with various turret mounted ATGM systems. Vehicle protection is enhanced by offering firing ports to troops and positioning soldiers at the front of the vehicle to operate machine guns and grenade launchers. This set-up is particularly effective in suppressing infantry units trying to engage the vehicle.

Perhaps the most defining aspect of Soviet/Russian APC and IFV design, similar to their MBTs, is low cost and simple design. Soviet experiences in World War II convinced them that to defend their nation and to overwhelm and invader, they must be able to produce huge numbers of armored vehicles. This necessitates that the vehicles be inexpensive and fast to build. Where Western vehicles are built to a high quality standard and utilizes expensive components and advanced technologies, Soviet experience recognizes that armed forces are expended rapidly once conflicts erupt and must be able to be rapidly replaced. Therefore the fabrication quality of Soviet armored vehicles tends to be poor compared to Western vehicles and the use of sophisticated technologies is generally restricted.

A negative result of this approach has been that the Soviets fell behind significantly in the advancement of integrated computerised systems and sensor technologies. While this lack of sophistication was not disadvantageous is the early cold-war period, computerised capabilities and advanced sensors have become critical in modern AFVs, as they are essential for operating the Fire Control Systems that permit cannon to accurate fire on the move, for providing night fighting capabilities through use of thermal imaging, and for the guidance of advanced munitions.

Recognizing that in a modern ultra high-tech environment that an overly simplified AFV will not survive for long, and that replacing lost vehicle with more low quality units won’t suffice to win a battle anymore, the most recent generation of Russian designed vehicles, the T-14 and T-15, are making a clean break with traditional Soviet design. A new emphasis is being placed on crew and troop survivability, and inclusion of high tech equipment and capabilities. However, due to the relative distance that the Soviets have fallen behind in these aspects, they are actually reliant on Chinese and French computers and sensors to equip their latest generation of vehicles until they are able to catch up and develop these components within Russia.


The BTR-80 is a Russian 8×8 wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC) that is a continued development of the BTR legacy vehicles, the BTR-60 and the BTR-70. Introduced into Soviet inventories in 1986 and with over 5000 built the vehicle has become the backbone of Soviet rapid tactical mobility efforts and has been involved in extensive combat situations, with the Soviet war in Afghanistan being its initial baptism by fire. The vehicle is used by almost 40 countries including Afghanistan, Colombia, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Pakistan, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine.

The BTR-80 is a 30,000 pound (13.6 tonne) 8×8 wheeled APC which is approximately 25 feet (7.7 meters) long, 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) wide and 8 feet (2.4 meters) high. Operated by a crew of three with a driver, commander and gunner the vehicle also transport 7 infantry troops. The driver and commander are situated to the forward of the vehicle while the gunner is positioned in a roof mounted seat beneath the main weapon. Two of the troops are located forward of the driver and commander, while the other five sit on bench style seats in the back of the vehicle. The troops are provided with firing ports. The rear positioned troops enter and exit the vehicle through side doors that are split. The upper door swings to the side and the lower half descends downward, thereby acting as a stepping surface. This approach is supposed to let troops exit the vehicle while it is in motion, with the side of the vehicle having the doorway oriented away from enemy fire.

The BTR-80 is powered by a 260 hp V-8 turbocharged diesel engine which provides a power-to-weight ratio of 17 hp/ton. This is a significant improvement over the dual gasoline engines that powered the earlier BTR-60 and BTR-70. Able to attain road speeds of up to 55 mph (90 km/hr) and having an operational range of 370 miles (600 kms) with on-board fuel the vehicle is also fully amphibious with a water speed of 6.2 mph (10 km/hr). The vehicle is powered through the water through hydrojets. The vehicle is able to navigate a gradient of 60% and climb a vertical step of 1.6 feet (0.5 meters).

A large number of variants of the BTR-80 have been produced to meet various operational needs and customer requirements. The more common of these are noted below:

• BTR-80 – standard Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) produced in 1986.

• BTR-80M – enhanced version available in 1993 with improved engine and tires.

• BTR-82 – further enhanced version available in 2009 with increased armor, addition of spall liner, improved night vision equipment and a 300 hp engine.

• 2S23 – a fire support version of the vehicle, mounting a 120 mm mortar rifled gun.

• BTR-80A – An Infantry Fighting Vehicle version introduced in 1994 and equipped with the remotely operated 2A72 30 mm auto-cannon in the turret and provided with 300 rounds of ammunition.

• BTR-82AM – A Naval Infantry (Marines) version of the BTR-82A.

• BTR-82A – Further enhanced IFV introduced in 2009 that has been well received by Russian troops battling in Ukraine. Weapon system has a FCS and improved night vision optics. Includes increased armor, addition of spall liner to the vehicle interior, GLONASS navigation system and a 300 hp engine. The vehicle is also able to accommodate 8 dismounts.

The basic APC version of the BTR-80 is fitted with a turret that accommodates a 14.5 mm KPVT heavy machine gun and a 7.62 mm PKT co-axial machine gun. It is also equipped with a number of firing ports located along the front and sides of the vehicle that permit the dismounts to fire their personal weapons from inside the vehicle. The BTR-80 main weapon system is of a relatively simple design, in many ways antiquated for a current front-line vehicles. The main weapon is not stabilized and therefore can only be fired accurately while the vehicle is stationary. And the mechanism for rotating the turret is manually operated. The gunner sits under the turret in a roof mounted chair that provides reasonable space claim, which is not typical for Russian vehicles. The gunner is provided a daytime optical sight and an infrared night sight. The weapon can be elevated up to 60 degrees, providing the ability to engage low flying aircraft and targets situated on top of hills or located in high buildings (i.e., urban warfare).

The BTR-80 is of a welded ballistic steel construction which provides 14.5 mm ballistic protection along the front arc and small arms fire along the vehicle sides, rear and roofline. The dismounts sit in simple bench style seats which do not provide any Energy Attenuation in the event of a mine blast. The vehicle is equipped with six 81 mm smoke grenade launchers.

The BTR-80 has seen extensive combat in a number of theatres of war. These include the Soviet War in Afghanistan, the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the Georgian Civil War, the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, the Transnistria War, the Tajikistan Civil War, the First and Second Chechen Wars, the War of Dagestan, the 2008 South Ossetian War, the Iraqi insurgency and the War in Donbass.

During these conflicts the BTR-80 performed reasonably well considering its relatively light protection levels and lack of armor specific to protecting the vehicle from IEDs, RPGs, EFPs, heavy calibre ammunition, and underbelly blast events.

Russian/Soviet Wheeled APCs II


The BTR-90 is a Russian 8×8 wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC). Based on its predecessor, the BTR-80, the vehicle dimensions were enlarged, it was fitted with the turret from the BMP-2 to increase firepower and the vehicle was in general equipped with upgraded equipment as compared to the BTR-80. Likes it predecessor the BTR-90 is fully amphibious. The vehicle was unveiled in 1994 and saw limited production between 2004 and 2011.

The BTR-90 is an 8×8 wheeled APC that weighs 46,000 pounds (21 tonnes), is approximately 25 feet (7.6 meters) long, 10.5 feet (3.2 meters) wide and 10 feet (3 meters) in height. The vehicle is operated by a crew of 3 and can transport up to 7 troops. The crew consists of a driver who is located at the front of the vehicle and a gunner and commander who are located in the turret. The crew ingress and egress the vehicle through a side mounted door, typical of the Russian BTR series of APCs. The vehicle is powered by a turbocharged 510 hp diesel engine which is located at the rear of the vehicle. This provides a power to weight ratio of 22 hp per tonne. The 8×8 wheeled vehicle can attain 60 mph (100 km/h) on roads and has an operational range of 500 miles (800 kms) with internal fuel. The BTR-90 is also fully amphibious. Powered by water jets the vehicle can attain speeds up to 5 miles (9 km/hr) in water. The vehicle is able to cross 7.5 feet (2 meter) wide trenches, climb 3 foot (0.8 meter) high vertical steps and traverse 60% gradients and 30% side slopes.

While designed as a chassis that could be configured to fulfill a wide range of roles within the Russian Army and Russian Navy (Marines) by offering the superior tactical mobility implicit to wheeled vehicles, the BTR-90 has only seen low volume production runs, with Russian Ministry of Defense only incorporating limited numbers of the vehicles into its forces. This decision is in-line with current Russian procurement philosophy, which is to not incorporate any further vehicles into the Russian military forces which are based on older Soviet designs. New procurements are being based solely upon platforms based on new Russian vehicles designs such as the T-14 and T-15.

This procurement strategy has halted development and procurement of the BTR-90 as well as other Russian vehicle programs including the 2S25 Self-propelled Amphibious Tank Destroyer, the BMD-4 and the BMPT “Terminator”. The 2S25 and BMD-4 are reviewed in this volume as a number of these vehicle are in service with the Russian military, while the BMPT is not. Based on the T-72 platform and tailored specifically for asymmetric urban combat to meet needs identified during the Soviet/Russian experiences from the Soviet War in Afghanistan and the First Chechen War, the Terminator was never manufactured beyond the proto-type stage.

The BTR-90 is equipped with the BMP-2 turret which fits the 30 mm Shipunov 2A42 autocannon. 500 rounds of ammunition are carried on-board for the weapon. Secondary armaments consist of a 7.62 mm coaxial PKT machine gun with 2000 rounds of ammo and a 30 mm grenade launcher with 400 rounds of ammo. Firing ports are also provided for the crew. The vehicle can also be configured with an AT-5 Spandrel (Konkurs) ATGM launching system. The missiles appear to be able to be attached to the vehicle singularly, in dual pairs, or as a set of four. Supposedly the missiles can also be detached from the vehicle and launched by dismounts.

The turret comes equipped standard with a gunner’s day/night sight and a commander’s optical sight. A thermal imaging sight can also be installed as an option. A Fire Control System (FCS) is used to aim the main weapon and the ATGM unit when installed. The 30 mm autocannon is able to be elevated to 75 degrees, permitting it to be used against low flying aircraft. The autocannon can engage targets to a range of 2500 meters, while the ATGM can engage targets out to 4000 meters.

The BTR-90 is fabricated from welded ballistic plate. The baseline armor offers frontal arc protection against 14.5 mm rounds and all-around protection against small arms fire. The baseline vehicle armor can be upgraded with add-on armored plating and/or ERA, though this would adversely affect the swim capability of the vehicle. The vehicle has an automated fire suppression system (AFSS) and a smoke grenade system. The vehicle can be fit with a Nuclear-Biological-Chemical (NBC) detection and filter system.

BTR Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carriers


The BTR-152 6×6 was developed after the Second World War as the Soviet Union’s very first purpose-built APC. It was manufactured in large numbers from 1950 and saw service with African and Asian armies. The all-welded steel hull showed close similarities with American and German wartime designs. Notably, significant numbers of the M3A1 4×4 scout car and M2 and M5 series of American half-tracks were supplied to the Red Army under Lend-Lease arrangements. Likewise the Soviets captured large numbers of the Hanomag-built range of German half-tracks.

As with these earlier vehicles, the BTR had a front-mounted engine and an open top crew compartment for the driver and troop compartment for up to seventeen soldiers. The driver and commander had separate glass windscreens that could be protected by steel hatches with vision blocks. The infantry entered and exited the vehicle either via the open roof or through a single door in the rear plate of the hull. For defensive purposes the vehicle had six firing ports, three either side and two in the rear plate either side of the door.

Initially the ZIS-1512½-ton 6×6 chassis was used as the basis for the BTR-152, though later models utilised the ZIS-157. The six-cylinder, inline model ZIS-123 was a water-cooled petrol engine generating 110hp at 2,900rpm. The BTR-152’s transmission layout was that of a conventional 6×6 commercial truck with the drive shafts leading to differentials on ‘solid’ axles. The gearbox had five forward speeds and there was a two-speed transfer box. The tyres had a pressure system regulated by the driver to suit the ground conditions. Some BTR-152s also featured a front-mounted winch.

Some versions were fully enclosed, such as the BTR-152U command variant, which has much higher sides to allow staff officers to stand up inside. The normal armament comprised the standard 7.62mm machine gun or the heavier 12.7mm or 14.5mm mounted on the hull top. The BTR-152A-ZPU was an anti-aircraft variant armed with twin 14.5mm KPV machine guns in a rotating turret. Against aerial targets, these were only effective to 1,400m. They also carried AP rounds for use against light armoured vehicles, which could penetrate 32mm of armour at 500m, though the guns had a range of 2,000m against ground targets. Other anti-aircraft variants included the BTR-152D and the BTR-152E.

Some of those supplied to the Egyptian Army were armed with the Czech quad 12.7mm M53 anti-aircraft system. This comprised four Soviet 12.7mm DShKM machine guns on a Czech-designed two-wheel mount. A number of these ended up in service with the Afghan Army. Likewise, in 1982 the Israeli Army encountered BTR-152s being operated by the Syrian-backed Palestinian Liberation Army that were fitted with a twin 23mm automatic anti-aircraft gun in the rear of the troop compartment.


The BTR-152’s smaller cousin was the BTR-40, introduced in 1951. This was essentially a redesigned version of the American-supplied M3A scout car. It was based on the GAZ-63 truck chassis, but with a shorter wheelbase and was a conventional four-wheel drive armoured truck with a frontal engine layout. In the event of chemical warfare one variant of this vehicle was designed for a chemical decontamination role, which included placing flag markers to warn of contaminated areas. A more conventional version was the BTR-40A/ZPU; this had an anti-aircraft role mounting twin 14.5mm KPV heavy machine guns. These were mounted in a manually-operated open turret with a 360-degree traverse and an effective rate of fire of 150 rounds per minute.


The requirement to replace the non-amphibious BTR-152 was issued in the late 1950s, and the heavy eight-wheeled amphibious BTR-60P entered service with the Soviet Army in 1961. Since then it has been supplied to armies throughout the world and was built in Romania as the TAB-72. The BTR-60P was powered by two GAZ-49B six-cylinder, water-cooled, in-line petrol engines, developing a total of 180hp. These were mounted in the rear of the welded steel hull and drove all eight wheels, the front four of which were steerable. The BTR-60 series was fully amphibious, propelled through the water by a hydrojet system with a single controllable outlet at the rear. This gave a calm-water speed of 10km/h compared to 80km/h on land. During deployment in water a bilge pump was available, together with a trim vane that was normally carried flat on the nose plate.

The troop compartment (initially for fourteen men but reduced in later models) occupied the centre of the vehicle with the driver on the left and the commander on the right at the front. The troop compartment had no overhead protection but this was remedied with the BTR-60PA or BTR-60PK, which was fully-enclosed with roof hatches, installed to supplement access through two small hatches on each side.

The final model, the BTR-60PB, was fitted with a small turret on the hull roof near the front, mounting a 14.5mm machine gun and a 7.62mm machine gun. It is identical to that fitted to the Soviet BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicle and the Czech OT-64 APC. While the BTR-60PB was built under licence in Romania as the TAB-71, the lack of easy access resulted in the Czech and Polish governments developing the SKOT (OT-64) series for their armies. Production of the BTR-60 series ended in 1976, resulting in around 25,000 vehicles.


The follow-on BTR-70 first appeared during the November 1980 military parade in Moscow. The hull was of all-welded steel armour with improved protection over its front arc compared to the BTR-60. In addition the nose was wider and the front gave added protection to the front wheels. While the BTR-70 was fitted with the same turret as its predecessor, some were fitted with the BTR-80 turret. Initial models of the BTR-70 were fitted with the same wheels and tyres as the BTR-60.

The two GAZ-49B engines were replaced by two ZMZ-4905 petrol engines, which developed 120hp each compared to just 90hp each in the BTR-60. Both engines had their own transmission with the right engine supplying power to the first and third axles, while the left powered the second and fourth axles. This meant if one engine was out of action the vehicle could still move, albeit at a slower speed. The exhausts were less boxy than on the BTR-60. Whereas the BTR-60 could carry up to sixteen men, the BTR-70’s capacity was two crew and nine passengers. Again Romania produced its own version, dubbed the TAB-77.

Although the BTR-70 was an improvement over the earlier BTR-60, it still had its problems, not least the inadequate means of entry and exit for the troops and the two petrol engines which were inefficient and could catch fire. The Soviet Army first took delivery of the improved BTR-80 in 1984.