In the last installment of this series, I presented the nuclear-powered tanks of the QuestionMark III conference. Well, since then I've managed to get hold of partial scans of the QuestionMark IV conference, which also featured some innovative uses of atomic energy, though, unfortunately, fewer pictures. Let's get right to it: the R32.
QuestionMark IV used a different nomenclature system than its predecessor. R32 just means "Tracked Vehicle, Design Number 32". Once again, there's actually very little detail; this time there isn't even a picture of a mockup.
The R32 is proposed as a replacement for the M48 Patton, introduced in 1953. It would carry a T208 90mm gun, modified to use a combustible cartridge case, with a round 30 inches long. The tank would be 18' 3" long, 11' wide, and 10' 1" tall, and would weigh in at 50 tons. It would feature 4.8" armor at the front, which would be able to defeat a 100mm round at a distance of 1,000 yards. [QM4]
Figure 1: R32 Side Cutaway [QM4]
Like the TV-1, it looks like they envisioned it using a direct-cycle air-cooled nuclear turbine. They claim an operational range without refueling of "4000 miles plus". Evidently something they had learned since the previous year had given them greater confidence in their ability to make miniaturized reactors, since the R32 weighs in at twenty tons lighter than the previous year's TV-1, and they mention in the introductory note that "it now appears feasible to build an atomic powered vehicle for approximately the same weight as present medium tanks". They are at least giving the reactor more space in their cutaway - I think it's supposed to be that big circular thing in the nose of the tank.
The list of advantages is mostly the same as the previous year, with a few changes. To quote:
- Extremely long range without refueling.
- Increased ammunition stowage.
- Increased armor protection.
- Decreased power package maintenance.
- Crew training required.
- Crew may have to be replaced periodically to avoid excessive radiation dosage.
- Presents valuable target to enemy.
Besides the R32, the conference also featured the C6, an update on the atomic road train idea. The C6 was apparently based on a conventional vehicle under development by the Army Transport Corps, though they don't say which one. It would be used to haul cargo across open country - I would guess they're thinking of supplying DEW RADARs and other arctic bases. [QM4]
Figure 2: C6 Diagram [QM4]
The C6 would consist of a 25 ton locomotive unit and up to four 10 ton trailers. The locomotive would be 17' tall, 16' 5" wide, and 35' long, and would use a 1500 horsepower atomic engine driving a pair of generators. It would be armed with a quad .50-caliber machine gun. Listed advantages are "superior cross-country mobility", "very great ton/mile/man ratio for cargo hauling", and "essentially unlimited cruising range". The sole disadvantage listed is "not amphibious." [QM4]
That's it from QuestionMark IV. I still haven't been able to track down the original source material on the Chrysler TV-8, which is the most famous of the napkinware atomic tanks of the '50s - it's the one with the enormous turret - but I'm working on it!
[QM4]: QuestionMark IV. Ordnance Tank Automotive Command, Detroit Arsenal, 1955.