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M65 Atomic Cannon - Design

The weight of the Gun Carriage was approximately 36 tons and the payload of the transporter was also about 47 tons. The two Transporters (Haulers) were used to carry the Gun and Carriage as a single load with the Gun retracted. Mounted on a welded steel carriage - a complex assembly containing mechanisms for aiming the gun and cushioning its recoil - the gun is transported by 2 tractor-type units. One unit is attached to the front and one to the rear of the carriage. The Weapon could be set up and ready to fire within 8 minutes.

A significant advancement in Army Ordnance and land warfare, this weapon was a formible strategic piece of Military Equipment because of its ability to fire both Atomic and Conventional types of projectiles. Added to this feature is its accuracy at long range, its tactical mobility and the speed with which it can be readied for action.

Three different kiloton-range nuclear shells were available. In adition to firing and accurately delivering an Atomic Shell to the target this weapon could also fire a conventional high explosive shell to a target range of 18 miles. The M65 could fire a 600 lb. shell (nuclear or conventional) up to 18 miles. THe Gun could fire at least one type of conventional shell and two types of nuclear rounds. The weight of the M65 shell is variously estimated at between 500 lbs and 900 lbs, without specifying which round is references. The Atomic Cannon was claimed to be 4 times more accurate at long ranges than any mobile artillery piece developed prior to World War II.

Of an all mechanical & hydraulic design, with no electronics, the weapon had both power and manual elevating and ramming mechanisms. If the hydraulics failed, the gun could be aimed manually by turning geared wheels. The weapon was fired from an attached trailer/base that was transported by two tractor-trucks, one to pull and one to push. The barrel had a full length of 38.5 feet. One cannon, including transport vehicles and a separate armored ammunition carrier, required a total crew of 22.

Hydraulic power elevates and depresses the barrel, the mechanism being controlled by a single lever. If power is not available this can be done manually. A hydro-pneumatic equilibrator makes the action almost effortless. Horizontal traverse of the entire carriage, mounted on a turntable, is performed with a hand wheel and gear train. Shells and powder charges are loaded by a hydraulic power rammer.

Two Recoil motions absorb the terrific shock when the gun was fired. The Carriage was equipped with a double recoil arrangement consisting of 2 complete recoil systems. One was for the gun itself and one was for the carriage which operated independently from each other. The primary recoil takes care of the barrels "kick." The Secondary recoil - an innovation in artillery - absorbed the forces created by the primary recoil. Secondary recoil is accomlished by travel of the entire weapon on the turntable slides. 90% of the total emplaced weight actually recoiled.

The overall length of the Gun and Carriage including the 2 Transporters was 84 Feet. The overall length of the Gun and Carriage with 2 Transporters in traveling position was 24 Feet longer than any tractor trailer used on any highway at that time. The Atomic Canon could make right angle turns with with their loads on city street corners where the streets were only 28 feet wide. The 2 Transporters made it possible for Gun to be maneuvered Forward , Backward or even Sideways since either Transporter could pull while the other pushed. The other very important function of the Transporters was that they could turn at right angles to the center section (Gun Carriage) and move parallel to each other.

The T-131 cannon was mounted on a bridgework carried between two huge rubber-tired 6x6 truck tractors with load arms (the T-10 Heavy Artillery Transporter); the front truck has load arms pointed to the rear while the rear truck had the load arms pointed toward the front. When they were deployed in Germany after WWII, as the production M65, they tipped over with appalling regularity while traversing tight turns in tiny towns {a tongue-tripper}.

Weighing 83 tons, it required two tractors to move it and was so unwieldy that it could take an hour of careful maneuvering to get it under a bridge. Its instability and propensity to slide or tip when maneuvered on anything but firm and level ground earned it the nickname the “Widow Maker.” To complicate the Army’s problems further, the gun was very unpopular among Europeans. Within 2 years it had been surpassed by other weapons, and was taken out of service within a decade.

M65 280mm Atomic Cannon was a type of Schnabel wagon, a class of rail car are designed to carry very large loads. The German term “tragschnabelwagen” means "carrying beak wagon" because of the tapered shape of the lifting arms were thoguht to resemble a bird’s beak. The term "Schnabel wagon" derives from the design, not the designer or builder - there as no Schnäbchenwagenbaukonzern GmbH. Methods for transporting extremely heavy cargo have evolved over the years. With the development of railways, trains and locomotives were also used for transport of specialist material handling rail cars used for transporting molten metal.

The Schnabel rail car was equipped with a large container lined with refractory (special fire brick), so that the molten metal remained molten while in transit. These cars are now commonly known as Schnabelwagen or "Schnabel cars" by railroad buffs. Specifically with trains for extremely heavy loads, the Schnabel car system developed into a common practice in the railway transport industry.

These cars separate into three parts with the load becoming an integral part of the car, as it is attached together for shipment. Schnabel cars are wheeled load carrying vehicles which are made in two substantially similar parts that are separable for engaging and transporting a load between them and that may be connected together for joint transport without a load. Railroad cars having these features are used to transport large and heavy equipment such as power transformers and nuclear reactor vessels which cannot be accommodated on standard railroad cars. Schnabel cars are articulated in such fasion that despite their length when carrying a load they are able to negotiate relatively short radius vertical and horizontal curves. They are also equipped with means for elevating the load and with means for permitting the load to yaw with respect to the car as it negotiates horizontal curves, to permit rolling when passing over regions where one rail is higher than the other, to permit pitching the assembly progresses over upward or downward curves and to permit transverse and vertical shifting of the load for clearing side obstacles or for facilitating negotiating a short radius curve.

The 280 (11") was an odd caliber; the US Army had a standard series of gun carriages and gun motor carriages in which the long gun and corresponding short howitzer shared all components except barrel, ammo, recoil, and equilibration.

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Page last modified: 18-05-2019 18:51:36 ZULU