Trees in the Way Are Not a Problem for the Russian Screw-Propelled ATV (Watch)


The ZIL-29061 Screw-Propelled Vehicle was an all-terrain machine designed to recover landed space capsules from remote and otherwise impassable locations. These capsules often fell in places that even tanks could not go and where hovercraft would be damaged.

A solution was provided by the Russian company Zovad Imeni Likhachova, manufacturers of heavy equipment vehicles. They designed a machine that would move forward on two cylinders based on ships propellers. Where the tracks of a tank would usually be located, the ZIL-29061 had two enormous corkscrews. These screws propelled it forward in the best conditions.  In the worst conditions, they destroyed everything in its path. It took down fully grown trees easily.

The 4400 lb mega-machine was hauled as close as possible to the site by the ZIL-4906, a large truck that reached speeds of up to 80 mph. The ZIL-4906, known as the Blue Bird, was equipped with a crane on the back and was also amphibious. When the going got rough, the ZIL-29061 was unloaded and sent to retrieve space capsules. It was used in the Soyuz mission on its own.

It could travel through water, snow, and swamp.  When in water, its top speed was 10 mph and in a swamp, it was a bit faster at 12 mph. It performed exceptionally well in snow with a top speed of 28 mph. The screws rotated in opposition to each other to create the force that drove it. To steer this beautiful beast, the corkscrews were turned individually. To crab, they were turned at the same time.

The ZIL-29061 was top secret and was unknown, for the most part, outside of the Soyuz mission. Most of the vehicles no longer exist.

The Russians may have stolen the idea from a 1920s design for traversing snow, the 1929 Fordson Snow Machine.


Jinny McCormick

Jinny McCormick is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE