PT-76 ‘Tesla’ Tank
Country: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Other User: Ukraine
Builder: Mytishchi Engineering Works/OBK 417 Design Bureau
Armament: 2x TE-45 Electrolaser Emitters
Wartime Addition: 1x MG (7.62mm or 12.7mm)
Part of Soviet rearmament efforts during the 1960s included the look into new technologies. With many restrictions placed upon the Red Army following World War II much of this work was carried out in secret at first. General Secretary Romanov hoped that by deploying new battlefield weapons and technology that the USSR could match or even exceed the advantages possessed by the European and American militaries. As a result new research and development cities were founded in the vast empty spaces of Siberia. One of the first areas researched by the scientists at these sites was Tesla technology.
In the last year of the Second World War, the USSR deployed powerful defensive weapons created using research of Nickola Tesla. Using modified Van de Graaff generators, the Soviets were able to create bolts of artificial lighting. These shots however were very unpredictable. If they did hit a target, it inflicted massive damage. However these first generation Tesla Coils required massive amounts of power. As a result they were only deployed near major Soviet bases and cities. Often they were rendered useless as soon as the power was cut. Romanov however was fascinated by the weapons, he wanted them recreated and improved.
The scientists working at OBK 417 were able to follow through with the General Secretary’s orders. Soviet bases had new and improved Tesla weapons. Improving on Tesla’s first design, the scientists created an electrolaser. The emitter for this weapon was similar to a Tesla Coil but combined with a low power laser. A Laser-Induced Plasma Channel is created. This LIPC acts the same way as a natural plasma channel does for a lighting bolt. The electric charge is then sent down the LIPC, creating a devastating weapon.
Using the laser in the first part of the process allowed the Soviets to finally control and targets their Tesla weapon (which was the preferred name over electrolaser). While the new Tesla Coils were produced, a few OBK 417 scientists wondered about making a mobile version. Using an experimental light tank chassis, they mounted their Tesla Coil onto it. Test after test followed, in which it was learned a ‘Tesla Tank’ could be created. However smaller and more powerful electrical generating systems were needed.
A new trade and technology agreement with the Empire of Japan in 1968 gave the Soviets the final part needed. New efficient Japanese batteries and power systems would allow the Soviet designers to build the Tesla Tank. The first production models enter service in 1972. Unlike other Soviet weapons, the PT-76 was complex to produce. Even after being militarized, the electrolasers were still delicate weapons and the new tank carried two of them. Numerous problems were found during the first three years of deployment. These were worked out but did not slow construction time.
With the teething errors corrected the PT-76 Tesla Tank was a deadly vehicle. Combat tests in Mexico and USSR showed that the electrolasers could inflict horrible burns and fatal injuries against infantry. Not even the heaviest body armor could shield people from the artificial lighting. The affects against vehicles depended on the target’s range, armor strength, and electrical system. At close range the Tesla Tank could punch holes in even heavy armor of Grizzly tanks. Many times at longer distances the PT-76s disrupted or even destroyed the target’s electrical systems. U.S. GIs were particularly afraid of the PT-76s calling it the Zat Track.
While the Tesla Tank was an interesting Soviet weapon it was in service inside the Group of Soviet Forces America in limited numbers. The long time it took to produce the PT-76 combined with its delicate nature compared to other Red Army AFVs kept its numbers low. Many were lost through poor use by Soviet commanders in the invasion of the United States. Unlike the Rhino Tank, the PT-76 lacked the heavy armor of the T-64. Nor could it be protected with ERA, the explosives would damage the TE-45 emitters and their electronics. With only 9mm of armor on the turret the Tesla Tank could be damaged by 12.7mm heavy machinegun rounds, let alone ATGMs and cannon shells. In addition to its armor weakness, the PT-76 could not target aircraft. The tracking systems and LIPC could not engage fast moving fighters or fighter bombers with any accuracy. Without the support of mobile SAMs or AA guns, the PT-76 was very vulnerable to attack helicopters and aircraft.
Most of the PT-76s were used in a backup or rear echelon role. KGB Security units took in many Tesla Tanks for use in subjecting the Americans behind Soviet lines. The Tesla Tanks became a symbol of Soviet oppression, as the KGB used them to kill American insurgents or collaborators. In the most famous incident, a company of PT-76 tanks were used to burn the small town of Calumet in Colorado to the ground, in February of 1976. Nearly all of the town’s residents were killed by the Tesla Tanks.
As World War III turned against the Soviets, the Tesla Tanks found themselves used in a defensive role. Like their adversaries before them, the PT-76s often were used in ambushes. Groups of Allied infantry or armor were hit by Tesla Tanks hidden with other Red Army forces. The light armor on the PT-76s again proved to be a weakness as they were often destroyed by the return fire of Allied units. By time of the European invasion of the Soviet Union the majority of all PT-76s had been destroyed or captured in the American theater. European Alliance troops encounter the majority of the Tesla tanks deployed with the Red Army, many of which were lost.
With the destruction of the Mytishchi Engineering Works factories by Americana and European airstrikes, the PT-76 could no longer be produced. All remaining models are in service with the Russian Republic’s army and the armed forces of the Ukraine. Reports indicate that Iraq and several other nations have expressed an interest in acquiring the Ukraine PT-76s which have been kept mostly in storage. It is unknown whether the PT-76 will every enter service in large numbers ever again; however its place is secure in the history of unique military weapons.
Alright the Tesla Tank is done! I am real happy with this one. The core of the tank is the chassis of the ZSU-23-4 Shilka a famous Russian mobile air defense gun. I also used the Shilka’s turret for the Tesla Tank. The actual Tesla Coils are for the most part the ones from concept art of the tank for Red Alert 2. I added some cosmetic changes. I also liked the idea of an electrolaser being the explanation for Soviet Tesla technology. It was suggested by Angry Scottsman1989 at the alternate history site I post on, so a thank you to him.
PT-76 is actually the designation for a Soviet light amphinious tank. This tank later served as the chassis base for a number of Russian AFVs including the Shilka. So I thought the title could apply to the Tesla Tank. The camo was done to avoid another Soviet pea-soup vehicle. It is based on actual Russian camo from the Cold War (a uniform so I don’t know if it would have been used on their AFVs). So I hope you like this latest Red Alert vehicle, please comment.