Economic History Case Studies: The MAFV (Pt. I of II)

In both Editions of The Work-Standard, I discussed about the possibility for the Socialist Nation to be employing MATVs (Miniature Automated Tractor Vehicles) and MARVs (Miniature Automated Repair Vehicles) as sources of Digital Arbeit. Digital Arbeit, for those who do not know, is the product of a subset within the Work-Standard’s LER (Life-Energization Reciprocity) Process called the LERE (Life-Energization Reciprocal Electrification) Process. It can be created from automated machines programmed to carry out repetitive tasks or else remotely operated by someone. Another source of Digital Arbeit for the LERE Process is the Socialist Nation’s National Intranet and its connection to the International Internet. Entire website domains and digital applications can be repurposed, allowing them to create Digital Arbeit.

The MATV and the MARV are not the only ones discussed in The Work-Standard. Another addition to the LERE Process is the MAFV (Miniaturized Armored Fighting Vehicle), an unmanned, remotely controlled tank designed to fulfill the same combat roles as an actual Armored Fighting Vehicle. The technology behind the MAFV has yet to be developed by anyone, let alone become capable enough of challenging the conventional MBT (Main Battle Tank). But there are promising advantages to be had in trying to realize the MAFV.   

For the Work-Standard, unlike the MATV and MARV, the MAFV is designed to serve as another source of Military Arbeit, which is to be converted into Military Geld and later into Actual Geld in a militarized version of the LER Process. That would be the most obvious advantage as far as economics and finance are both concerned. The other advantages concern the ability to field a massive army of armored vehicles without the specialized manufacturing capabilities required for MBTs. It can be a cheaper, less maintenance-intensive alternative to MBTs and lead to the development of an entirely new-old form of warfare whose origins are in the early 20th century.

The 20th century saw a number of technological innovations that began as military applications before eventually receiving civilian ones. In the former East Germany, a popular children’s toy known as the “Kinderpanzer” (Children’s Tank) can trace its origins from the German Panzerkampfwagen (Armored Fighting Vehicle).  Finding suitable documentation on the toy itself is scarce on the Internet, so I had to do a bit of searching in order to eventually introduce it along with what the Soviets called the “Teletank.”

The Kinderpanzer was small enough to fit a crew of two and designed to function similarly to a real Panzer. From what I was able to gather, the chassis included a hatch that one needed to open. The hatch opened the roof of the chassis, revealing two seats for a driver and a commander/gunner. The driver steered the Kinderpanzer, the commander/gunner controlled the turret. It is an intriguing setup because of how the coaxial turret was designed in comparison to the casemate turret design, which was built into the superstructure of the chassis. The designs that the East Germans chose were Soviet tanks like the T-34 or the SU-85, the latter having employed a casemate turret.       

While the Kinderpanzer was a neat toy, it pales in comparison to the more innovative Teletank from the Second World War. The Soviet Union tried to develop an unmanned vehicle that could be remotely piloted and its weapons operated from a distance. I found a relevant website article about the Teletank which I found to be comprehensive to warrant this Blog post:

“Seventy-four years ago, Russia accomplished what no country had before, or has since—it sent armed ground robots into battle. These remote-controlled Teletanks took the field during one of WWII’s earliest and most obscure clashes, as Soviet forces pushed into Eastern Finland for roughly three and a half months, from 1939 to 1940. The Finns, by all accounts, were vastly outnumbered and outgunned, with exponentially fewer aircraft and tanks. But the Winter War, as it was later called (it began in late November, and ended in mid-March), wasn’t a swift, one-sided victory. As the more experienced Finnish troops dug in their heels, Russian advancement was proving slow and costly. So the Red Army sent in the robots.

Specifically, the Soviets deployed two battalions of Teletanks, most of them existing T-26 light tanks stuffed with hydraulics and wired for radio control. Operators could pilot the unmanned vehicle from more than a kilometer away, punching at rows of dedicated buttons (no thumbsticks or D-pads to be found) to steer the tank or fire on targets with a machine gun or flame thrower. And the Teletank had the barest minimum of autonomous functionality: if it wandered out of radio range, the tank would come to a stop after a half-minute, and sit, engine idling, until contact was reestablished.”

As the article would later point out, the Teletank was not a successful design due to the limitations of the technology in the 1940s:

“Notably missing, though, was any sort of remote sensing capability—the Teletank couldn’t relay sound or audio back to its human driver, most often located in a fully-crewed T-26 trailing behind the mechanized one. This was robotic teleoperation at its most crude, and made for halting, imprecise maneuvering across uneven terrain.

What good was the Teletank, then? Though records are sparse, the unmanned tanks appear to have been used in combat, including during the Battle of Summa, an extended, two-part engagement that eventually forced a Finnish retreat. The Teletank’s primary role was to throw fire without fear, offsetting its lack of accuracy with gouts of flame.”

It may seem petty by today’s technological standards, but it was nevertheless an innovative achievement for that period. In just a few short months, the Soviet Union was briefly at cutting edge of military robotics. Decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, Post-Russia is currently interested in regaining that title through its ongoing attempts to develop what I think will be an antecedent to the MAFV called the UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle). Unlike an MAFV, the UGV is designed to be function something akin to a land-based equivalent to the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). A UGV in its current form is supposed to be operated by the infantry, rather than being separate from infantry as its own military formation. The vast majority of UGVs are intended to be operated in situations that would otherwise be fatally dangerous for humans like bomb disposal and reconnaissance. The proposed Russian ones back in 2014 were designed to bolster the security measures at sensitive missile sites. More recently, the Russians are interested in developing UGVs that feature anti-infantry and antitank weapons:

“Russian defense manufacturer Uralvagonzavod is developing a range of unmanned urban combat vehicles, RIA Novosti reported.

All the Shturm series vehicles are being built on the chassis of the T-72B3 tank and will be mobile controlled, the state-owned Russian news agency added, citing two sources.

One type will be equipped with a 125-mm smooth-bore short-barreled gun as its primary weapon, while the second will feature weapons including ‘a unit of Shmel rocket launchers, paired 30-mm automatic cannons, and a unit of 220-mm thermobaric unguided rockets.’

All vehicles will feature a high level of protection against anti-tank weapons, the outlet revealed.”

 I felt that it was time that I begin sharing details about the MAFV concept from The Work-Standard on The Fourth Estate. It is an idea whose time has come, especially in a world where there is a growing interest to ditch the MBT concept. The MBT is a product of the Cold War, its limitations made apparent after 1945. The details are significant enough to warrant another addition to this new addition to the Economic History Case Studies entries.   

Categories: Economic History

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