In 1942 Soviet Russia attempted to create a flying tank to aid efforts during WWII. The crazy thing is, it kind of worked. The Antonov A-40 Krylya Tanka was designed to glide to the ground after being towed into the air by a bomber.

Early efforts to transport tanks by air

Delivering tanks by air was no new concept. Other nations had already successfully loaded tanks on gliders. In the 1930s, nations toyed around with dropping tanks by parachute. Some even tried dumping them into shallow water from low altitudes and fishing them out.

The Soviet airborne forces had already strapped small T-27 tanks to bombers and dropped them into the water. In the 1940 Occupation of Bessarabia, tanks were dropped by bombers from a few feet in the air.

Dropping the tank with the crew

The main problem with all these methods is that the tank couldn’t be dropped without the crew. It had to sit there for who knows how long before the crew arrived. Tanks were expensive, and Soviet leadership didn’t like them to be vulnerable.

The A-40 Krylya Tanka potentially solved this issue. They needed a glider that could accommodate the crew and the essential operational components of the tank.

Oleg to the rescue

The Soviet Air Force had engineer Oleg Antonov bust out the drawing board and got to sketching. He said to heck with the glider and built a biplane with a detachable cradle to hold the tank. The tank could fly onto the battlefield and detach the wings in minutes.

They only tested the design once. Despite the tank being stripped of its ammunition, fuel, armaments, and headlights, it was still too heavy for the bomber to drag high enough into the air. The pilot had to detach early, landed safely, and vow never to do that again.