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600-millimeter Mortar Thor

By Sakhal

In 1935, the Wehrmacht, in the rush for rearmament, solicited from the German heavy industry weapons of uncommon characteristics; the cannons "Gustav" and "Dora" can be considered a perfect example of this. In that same year a huge siege artillery piece was ordered: a self-propelled mortar of caliber 600 millimeters, able to change positions by itself without being dependant of a railway. This was required since in the Eastern Front the railway was sparse, inadequate and most of the times with a different width in respect to the European railway. Russia possessed a considerable line of fortifications and many strogholds were far away from the railway routes. In 1939 the Rheinmetall-Borsig was able to present the prototype of a steel behemoth that weighed 123 tonnes, denominated "Karl", for which immediately were carried ballistic tests. In 1941 were already finished the two first units, named "Thor" and "Eva". These gigantic mortars were able of firing both piercing and high-explosive shells, of truly devastating effects, because of their weight and the pronounced angle of fall, characteristic of mortar fire. However it was considered that the firing range was not satisfactory and hence it was studied the installation of a lesser caliber barrel, whose external dimensions would be similar to the ones of the 600 millimeters barrel, allowing the installation on its place. The lesser caliber and the length of the barrel allowed to considerably increase the firing range.

600 mm Mortar Thor

Besides several of these cannons, four caterpillar tractors were built. The engine, a Mercedes-Benz, could be installed either in Diesel or gasoline version, but generally the first type was preferred. Before opening fire, a system of gears allowed to block the suspension and descend the hull, leaving it resting on the ground; this prevented damage to the transmission mechanism caused by the recoil. For short ways the mortar used its own engine, while for longer trips the tractor and the mortar were loaded separately in special trailers; both were then towed by artillery tractors. In very long travels it was used transportation by railway; the huge mortar could be loaded, by means of a special gear, in two platform wagons. These mortars were in fact the largest self-propelled artillery pieces ever deployed in a battlefield. Despite these mortars were very effective, they were bulky and costly, required a notable manpower and could be used only in particular terrain conditions. They were used in the German invansion of Russia in 1941, during the siege of Sevastopol in 1942 along with the massive cannon "Gustav", in the siege of Leningrad in 1943 and in the uprising at Warsaw in 1944. One of the mortars captured by the Soviet Army survived the war and was exposed on the Kubinka Tank Museum, west of Moscow.

600 mm Mortar Thor

Caliber: 540/600 mm

Weight: 123 tonnes (600 mm), 115 tonnes (540 mm)

Length: 11.15 meters

Width: 3.16 meters

Height: 4.78 meters

Armor: 12 mm

Engine: Mercedes-Benz Diesel V-12 (12 cylinders in V-line) 580 HP

Maximum speed: 10 km/h

Weight of piercing projectile: 2.16 tonnes (600 mm), 1.5 tonnes (540 mm)

Weight of high-explosive projectile: 1.6 tonnes (600 mm), 1.3 tonnes (540 mm)

Weight of propellant charge: 240 kilograms (600 mm), 180 kilograms (540 mm)

Maximum range (piercing projectile): 4.5 kilometers (600 mm), 10 kilometers (540 mm)

Maximum range (high-explosive projectile): 6.7 kilometers (600 mm), 10.5 kilometers (540 mm)

Categories: Artillery - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-10-09

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