Revealed: The nuclear-powered ‘mole’ the Soviets built to burrow beneath America and deliver atomic bombs UNDERGROUND
- Subterranean machine had a titanium body with a pointed nose and stern
- It used a drill heated to extreme temperatures to power through solid ground
- Russian forces hoped to use it to attack and destroy key US military facilities
- The project was abandoned in 1964 after a test failure saw a vehicle explode
The Soviets once built a nuclear-powered land submarine to attack the United States during the Cold War, a new report has revealed.
Code-named the Battle Mole, the subterranean machine had a titanium body with a pointed nose and stern, and used a drill heated to extreme temperatures to power through solid ground by melting the material in front of it.
A new investigation into the vehicle reports Russian forces hoped to use it to attack and destroy key US military facilities, including underground missile silos, and may have allowed for the subsurface delivery of nuclear bombs.
But while a prototype showed promise, a catastrophic nuclear reactor failure caused it to explode during a test dig, forcing officials to abandon the project in the 1960s.
Details on the Battle Mole are scarce, and Russian officials have never discussed the rumours surrounding its development.
Soviet inventor Alexander Trebelev developed a subterrene prototype (pictured) in the 1930s based off of X-ray images taken of a mole’s skeleton. It is not clear how large the machine was or whether it was crewed or controlled remotely
A new report from Jalopnik suggests Soviet designs for a land submarine, also known as a subterrene, first surfaced prior to the Second World War.
Subterrenes, largely confined to the realm of science fiction, are similar to modern tunnel-boring machines, but also carry passengers and cargo underground.
According to the report, Soviet inventor Alexander Trebelev developed a prototype vehicle in the 1930s based off of X-ray images taken of a mole’s skeleton.
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The vehicle used a drill-bit to move through the Earth and was designed to navigate beneath the planet’s crust like a submarine cuts through water.
It is not clear how large the machine was or whether it was crewed or controlled remotely – an artist impression of the craft published in a 1956 edition of New Scientist suggests the full-sized version would have housed a crew of two.
According to the article, four propellers at the back of the vehicle performed the same function as a mole’s hind legs, pushing dirt away from the machine.
Code-named the Battle Mole, the subterranean machine had a titanium body with a pointed nose and stern, and used a drill heated to extreme temperatures to power through solid ground by melting the material in front of it. Pictured is an artist’s impression
WHAT IS A SUBTERRENE?
A subterrene is a vehicle that travels underground like a submarine cuts through water.
Largely confined to the realm of the science fiction, the vehicles move through rock and soil using a drill or by melting material in front of them.
The United States, Germany and the Soviet Union all began designing subterrenes in the 1920s and ’30s, but many abandoned the projects after the machines were deemed impractical.
Today’s tunnel-boring machines, used to dig shafts for metro tunnels or electrical cabling, are not considered subterrenes.
This is because they are only designed to dig tunnels and not carry passengers or cargo.
The digging was carried out by a rotating boring head edged with hard alloy cutters, and according to New Scientist, small and large versions were produced.
Soviet engineers quickly realised extreme heat was needed to efficiently push through rock and other solid materials.
These temperatures could not be reached using technology of the time, forcing officials to shelve the project until the rise of nuclear power in the 1950s.
By 1964, the Soviets had built their ‘Battle Mole’ – powered by a small reactor similar to those found in nuclear submarines, Jalopnik reports.
A new investigation into the vehicle reports Russian forces hoped to use it to attack and destroy key US military facilities, including underground missile silos, and may have allowed for the subsurface delivery of nuclear bombs (artist’s impression)
If true, this would make it the solid-Earth boring military vehicle ever created.
THE BATTLE MOLE’S SPECS
Powered by: Nuclear reactor
Length: 75 feet (23 metres)
Diameter: 12 feet (3.6 metres)
Speed: 4-8 mph (6.5-13 kph)
It remains unclear what purpose the vehicles were designed for, but State-owned website Russia Beyond claims then-President Nikita Khruschev wanted the Battle Mole built as a way to attack and destroy American underground military facilities.
These included missile silos and key communications infrastructure.
Allegedly, the machine was 75 feet (23 metres) long and boasted a diameter of 12 feet (3.6 metres), with the capacity to hold a crew of five.
It used its reactor to melt material in front of it and could travel through solid rock at speeds of around four to eight miles per hour (6.5-13 kph).
Subterrenes, largely confined to the realm of science fiction, are similar to modern tunnel-boring machines, but also carry passengers and cargo underground. Pictured is a tunnel-boring machine used by SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s Boring Company
According reports, test runs of the Battle Mole were carried out in different conditions, from suburban Moscow soil to rock in the Ural Mountains.
The project was cancelled in 1964 when one of the machines exploded during a test run through the Urals, killing all five on board, according to Russian news site RG.ru.
While evidence exists of plans for a Soviet subterrene project, experts have repeatedly challenged the notion that a ‘Battle Mole’ was ever built.
There is no record of the machine in Russian government files, and no pictures that show a full-scale machine are known of.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SOVIET UNION
The Soviet Union was founded in 1922 with Vladimir Lenin as its head of state and was a key power throughout the 20th Century.
During World War II, it was an Allied Power and helped defeat Nazi Germany.
Immediately after the war, Soviet forces captured much of Eastern Europe, including east Germany – territory it would hold for many decades.
The Soviet Union and the United States entered a period of prolonged tension called the Cold War.
During this period, the two superpowers entered several technological races, including the nuclear arms race and space race.
In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
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