5 Unintentionally Hilarious Soviet Versions of Good Ideas
We admit it: We are pretty hard on the Soviet Union, partly because a lot of us grew up doing nuclear war drills in preparation for a Soviet first strike, and partly because almost everything they did was hilarious.
For instance, because the Russians were always running behind the West in technology, their entire technological development process involved waiting for their enemies to invent something, at which point they would grab a photo of it and demand their engineers make an exact copy using less money and time and lower quality materials.
The results were often ridiculous. Like ...
The Armored Troop Transport That Didn't Have a Roof
The obtusely named Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) was America's way of making a grand entrance in the Pacific during World War II. Introduced in the early 1940s, the LVT troop transports were the first things to hit the sand when we invaded the islands. They were heavily armored and could travel through water, and the Japanese really hated them because they were so damn effective.
Otherwise known as a "Charlton Heston fishing boat."
There were a number of versions, some outfitted with heavy artillery and cool things like flame throwers. We'll repeat that: There were amphibious tanks that could pop out of the water and shoot fire at you. Of course every kid on the block wanted one, including the Russians.
The Sad Soviet Copy:
The Russians thus built the BTR-60. It looks like the same thing. It's armored and it carries troops. The armor on it could withstand any small arms and shrapnel fire and could stop a bullet as large as 7.62 mm from any range.
Plus, all those wheels meant it could do a wicked donut in the neighbor's lawn.
The vehicle quickly moved into mass production. There was just one problem: the BTR-60 had no roof. It was basically the sporty convertible of all armored vehicles.
Note to military vehicle designers: "Sunroof" equals "grenade magnet."
Due to the lack of a roof, the BTR-60 could be taken out by even the simplest of explosives. Take a grenade and throw it at any other armored vehicle -- it just bounces off the side and explodes as the armor protects the crew. Now throw one at the BTR-60 -- it goes in the giant gaping hole at the top and explodes directly in the troop compartment, killing absolutely everyone. All that armor does little good when the explosion is happening on the inside, and in fact just helps keep all of that killing energy trapped inside where the people are.
It's not like they couldn't put a top on it; the Red Army even requested one. But the designers basically said, "Screw you guys," or, to be more precise, they argued, "The limitation of losses wasn't the emphasis." Oh, well good. Glad we got that settled.
"Your lives are less valuable than stirring propaganda photos."
Their solution? Cover it with a tarp. Explosions and bullets rip right through it, but at least it kept the soldiers out of the rain.
The Extremely Combustible Nuclear Submarine
The Nautilus, now currently known as a manufacturer of exercise equipment, was in 1955 the world's first fully operational nuclear-powered submarine.
In its first trip, it lost over 2,500 pounds.
In its first year of service, it broke several world records, including two on its first test drive alone. It could stay underwater for up to four months at a time. It could also go underneath the North Pole. Oh, and guess who lived on the other side of the North Pole, envious of their rival's new toy ...
The Sad Soviet Copy:
November Class Submarine
The Soviet's first nuclear-powered submarine was ironically not named the Red October but the November Class. Apart from sounding like something Realtors have to attend when their licenses are about to expire, they did have some cool features. Like the Nautilus, they could stay under water for months at a time. At least until they decided to spontaneously combust, that is.
But at least it had a roof.
But if you can believe it, that wasn't the real problem. The Soviets, knowing that fires kill people, installed a nice fire suppression system for the crew. The fire suppression system on the November-class submarine was largely carbon dioxide, or CO2. Since fires, like people, have to breathe oxygen, CO2 kills fires very effectively. Now guess what it does to the people.
On September 8, 1967, submarine K-3 caught fire. Swinging into action, the fire suppression system promptly activated and proceeded to kill everyone in the first two compartments, no matter how close the crew was to the actual fire. Later when the remaining crew opened up the hatch to the first two compartments, the CO2 gas spread even more, creating more problems.
"No problems here, guys -- looks all clear in h--" *thud*
Naturally the Soviets realized that a fire-safety system that killed people wasn't very effective. So they did the sensible thing: They covered it all up and pretended nothing ever happened. Then on April 8, 1970, the K-8 caught fire and sank entirely. The entire crew was lost. And the vast majority of deaths were not due to the fire or the flooding of the submarine. It was -- you guessed it -- CO2 poisoning.
Yet despite this huge problem, they built 14 of these underwater coffins anyway.
It's exactly as safe now as it was back then.
The Biggest and Most Impractical Gun Ever
M65 Atomic Cannon
Nothing spurs an arms race like a big, giant, phallic gun. From the very first moment the cannon was invented, something electric came alive inside the male mind, and from that point on no man could bear to be on the side that didn't have the biggest. This is why, in 1953, the U.S. developed the M65 Atomic Cannon, and nine months later every artilleryman's wife gave birth.
Somehow, it just feels better to spend money on this than health care or education.
Look at that shit. It's more than 80 feet long. The shells are 11 inches wide. If we ever get around to building our giant robot, we know exactly where we're mounting that baby.
We can't imagine how fast the Soviets worked to build their own, seeing their own testosterone levels dropping at an alarming rate every minute it remained unfinished.
The Sad Soviet Copy:
2B1 Oka Nuclear Cannon
It only took them until 1957, when they banged out this:
"Project Rasputin was a complete success, comrades."
BOOM! That barrel is more than 65 feet long. The shells were 16.5 inches across. And with the ability to lob a nuclear warhead 28 miles, you'd think the Soviets might actually have the U.S. beat in this competition.
The only issue here, really, is that in the course of making a gun that would restore their manhood, the Russians also made one that would destroy itself after every single shot. The recoil was so massive it tore out the transmission, damaged the drive sprockets (the treads), smashed the gun mounts and basically twisted most of its other parts into an unrecognizable shape.
When the gun was first unveiled to the public, Western observers thought it was fake because it was just too cartoonishly big.
Christ, you could use other tanks as ammunition for that thing.
Then there was the whole issue of how they were untransportable because the guns were too damned big. And we're betting that if you brought up any of those issues with the gun's designers, they would answer, "Sir, you are missing the point."
The Self-Destructing Battleship
Italian Cruiser Raimondo Montecuccoli
It's not just American and British technology that made the Soviets jealous. The cruiser Raimondo was built in 1931 and, unlike every other thing Italy had in World War II, was actually useful and did something in the war.
It was like The Love Boat, except with explosions instead of romance.
It actually was used in battle and disabled some British and American ships. It even survived the war and lived a long and healthy retirement as a training cruiser until it was decommissioned at the ripe age of 29 years old, in 1964. Not too shabby for a bunch of fascists, eh?
The Sad Soviet Copy:
Soviet Cruiser Kirov
The Soviets saw the Raimondo and thought, "Hey, let's come up with our own original cruiser that's cool, too."
"The Italians seem to be doing really well in this whole Second World War thing."
By this point, you already know this ended in disaster. You're probably thinking, "So it sank, right? The Russians sailed it away from the docks and it probably sank right to the ocean floor." But it's actually stupider than that.
During one of the ship's test trials, the ship shot itself with a torpedo.
That's right. One of the test torpedoes they fired actually came back around and hit the ship's own propeller.
"It's fine -- our bad. Just need to throw on a quick patch."
Rather than spin this into some kind of spooky kamikaze angle, they decided to press forward. If its tendency to commit unintentional suicide wasn't a deal breaker, it should be noted that the rest of the ship was a disaster as well (among a host of problems was the fact that recoil from the guns would actually warp the ship's hull). None of this stopped the Soviets from building five more of these ships.
Incredibly, none of the ships were destroyed during World War II, presumably because the Allies decided they should just leave them alone and they would eventually do more damage to themselves.
"I'm sorry, Jim, but I ... I just don't have the heart to fire on it."
Though that means its service record was far better than the Yak-38 ...
The Fighter That Tended to Fall Out of the Sky
Hawker Siddeley Harrier
Even if you know absolutely nothing about jet fighters, you can immediately see why the Harrier was a major development in aircraft design: The thing could take off and land straight up and down. That obviously saves you a shitload on runways.
Introduced in Great Britain in 1969, the jets proved to be so successful that even the United States wanted some after seeing what they could do. And it's not like the vertical takeoff thing was its only trick -- it was pretty damned good once it was in the sky, too. In the Falklands War, the Harrier had a record of 22-0 against the Argentine Air Force, which, by the way, substantially outnumbered them.
To be fair, all of their pilots were loose cannons who played by their own rules.
Even today, the Harrier is still in service with air forces worldwide. Of course, Britain wouldn't sell them to the Soviets, so ...
The Sad Soviet Copy:
Where do we start with this one? We'll start by saying it was the frontline fighter for the Soviet Navy from the 1970s until the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s. Oh, and every single Soviet sailor hated it. Soviet equipment tended to fall into one of two categories: it barely worked, or it was total shit. The Yak-38 fell into the latter category.
They just threw this one into the air so it would appear to be flying in the picture.
The main problem was that the aircraft really couldn't do anything useful. Sure, it could hover, and do the vertical takeoff/landing thing like the Harrier. But it also had almost no capability to carry weapons, and statistics show that 100 percent of the time, the side with weapons will win the battle. This is like designing a rifle that has a sight, a trigger and a magazine, but can only fire sound effects.
The stubby wings and weak engine allowed only four weapons pylons for about 2,200 pounds of weapons. If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that an F-15 fighter can carry 10 times that weight.
But Soviet pilots were allowed unlimited imaginary weapons.
Also it liked to suck in its own exhaust, which killed its own engine, causing the aircraft to veer violently out of control, plunging itself into its own doom . And, of course, the engine couldn't start if it was a hot and humid day. Good thing these weren't designed to be stationed on aircraft carriers in the ocean off the coast of Africa, eh comrades?
Also, you had to replace the engine once every 22 hours of flight time. For perspective, the NATO requirement for pilots is 180 flight hours a year, so you're chewing up about eight engines a year at that rate. Oh, and it would be far outclassed in any dogfight, since it lacked any kind of a radar at all. Not that it would make it to a dogfight in the first place -- in all, a third of all Yak-38s were destroyed ... in accidents.
For more craziness from overseas, check out The 7 Most Mind-Blowing Foreign TV Moments and The 10 Coolest Foreign Words The English Language Needs.