The 1,000-Ton Nazi Tank That Was Never Built

Aug 11, 2023 1 comments

In the midst of the Second World War, the Nazis unveiled prototypes for an array of extraordinary weaponry, spanning colossal aircraft, advanced ships, rockets, railway and notably, tanks. Adolf Hitler championed the development of these so-called "war-winning" armaments and lent his backing to numerous initiatives that led to the creation of remarkable achievements, including the world's most massive railway gun and the formidable 188-ton Maus tank, among various others. However, Hitler remained unsatisfied, yearning for even greater innovations.

The Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte—a proposed 1,000 ton tank. For comparison, the heaviest tank ever manufactured weighs 188 tons.

In 1942, Edward Grote, an engineer working for the Ministry of Armament and Ammunition in the Third Reich, stepped up to the task and proposed to Hitler a 1,000-ton tank which he named “Landkreuzer” (or Land Cruiser). The vehicle was to be 35 meters long and 11 meters tall, running on no less than 6 sets of tracks, each more than one meter wide. The gun itself would have weighted 100 tons and the turret an additional 200 tons. He determined that the tank would need 16,000 hp to move provided by eight Daimler-Benz 20-cylinder marine diesel engines, or two MAN 24-cylinder marine diesel engines used in U-boats. To protect this immense economic investment, the hull of the vehicle was to carry armor up to 30 centimeters thick, and several anti-aircraft guns were to be installed on the vehicle's engine deck to fend off Allied ground-attack aircraft.

Grote had previously worked for the Soviet Union in the 1930s, where he had proposed various designs for tanks for use by the Red Army. The design of his TG-1 (the first of his ‘Tank Grote’ series) was innovative but its weight, complexity, and costs ultimately led to the project's termination. Instead, the more budget-friendly and uncomplicated T-35A was favored.

Tank designers and engineers working for the Soviet Union. Edward Grote sits in the center on the front row.

Regardless, Grote persisted in pursuing the concept of a progressively larger tank, showing scant regard for the limitations imposed by road and rail weight and gauge restrictions. In 1933, he proposed his first 1,000-ton tank to the Soviet military. This tank, spanning more than 30 meters in length, necessitated twelve 16-cylinder diesel engines, each with 2,000 horsepower, resulting in a cumulative power of 24,000 hp, along with a unique hydraulic transmission system. The Soviet authorities understandably declined the proposal, prompting Grote's return to Germany.

Back in Germany, Grote found work with Krupp, a weapons manufacturer. But once war broke out, Grote managed to land a position with the Ministry of Armament and Ammunition in the Third Reich as a Special Representative for U-Boat construction. It was in this capacity that Grote got the chance to promote his Fortress tank idea to Adolf Hitler in person in June 1942. Hitler, who loved big projects became enamored with Grote's concept and ordered Krupp to begin development of it.

The proposed “Festungs Panzer” by Grote to the Soviet Union weighed 1,000 ton. It was never built.

As per the original design of the Landkreuzer, which had been nicknamed "Ratte" by then, the tank was to weight 800 tons, but as Grote began to add armaments —28 cm guns for the main turret, along with two secondary turrets, each with a pair of 12.8 cm guns, and a pair of turrets with two 10.5 cm guns, along with numerous machine guns—the weight of the tank had increased substantially from 800 tons to in excess of 900 tons.

Writing about the impracticality of the arrangement of the various cannons, Andrew Hills writes on Tanks Encyclopedia:

The arrangement really looked almost childlike in the idea of cramming as many guns or turrets onto a hull as possible, seemingly with little thought as to how these might actually be used. The MG-151 turrets, 3 per side, one more on the roof of the front of the hull and another on the back of the roof of the primary turret, were small and inconsequential in the design, but the large naval-style corner turrets were not. Each turret mounted a pair of naval guns and they stuck up so far from the roof of the hull that they seriously interfered with the laying of the primary guns in the main turret. This main turret would therefore be limited to firing to the front, sides or rear, as any attempt to fire at 45 degrees would be prevented by the turrets unless the main guns were elevated over the top at the time.

Aside from the obvious production and utility problems of such a huge vehicle, the design had serious flaws. The tank's huge size and weight would have made it too heavy to safely go over bridges, and using it on roads would have quickly damaged the roads. Even though it was supposed to go as fast as 40 kilometers per hour, its large size and being easy to see would have made it an easy target for attacks from the air and from artillery. Also, because it was so big, it could only move around using its own engines, as there were no other ways to move it from one place to another. Trains and train tracks that existed couldn't hold its weight, and it was too wide for tunnels that were already built.

Eventually, the project was cancelled for being too impractical before any prototype could be manufactured.

Grote continued to work on the design even though he was aware that it would never come to fruition. He made the design simpler and more practical. However, many of the original design issues still persisted, especially the logistics of storing magazines and shell as well as handling machinery for the ammunition.


  1. A little titbit: I first learned about this tank from anime, as they built it in Strike Witches: Road to Berlin (episode 11)


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