The Netopyr

The Netopyr (Lebedenko or Tsar Tank)

This was a truly amazing machine, designed in the earlier years of the First World War (known as the Great European War in Red Wheels Turning). The inventor, N.N.Lebedenko, had originally worked in the field of designing artillery pieces, and the design of the Netopyr (bat, so called because apparently the model when held by the rear wheels reminded someone of a bat) was obviously based around the concept of an artillery gun carriage.

A drawing of the Netopyr as it might have appeared.

Powered by two Maybach engines, the enormous 9m wheels were designed to cross trenches (which they did, relatively efficiently). However, on trials, the (relatively) tiny rear wheels got stuck, and the monster was unable to pull itself out of the mud.

A drawing of the Netopyr (maybe from plans, rather than life)

Another problem, which admittedly was foreseen by Lebedenko, was that of transport. How would the machine make its way to the front? It was designed to be dismantled and re-assembled (including the wheels), but the sheer weight of the thing, not to mention the size, would have made this almost impossible to achieve in practice.

In any case, the more I read about this thing, the more I felt that it should make an appearance in a book, and Red Wheels Turning was the result.

There are some amazing computer renderings of this machine produced by “ЛМА” on the site. Link at left. I would have used these for the book cover, but this talented individual wanted more money that I had available for permission to reproduce them. It’s not that I didn’t think his hard work and talent was not worth it – I just didn’t have that sort of money around at the time. Mikhail, if you read this – I think your work is fantastic.