People have invented some crazy weapons over the years. Since nuclear weapons will be bad enough when WWIII happens someday, I hope we don’t have to worry about crazy, mad-scientist superweapons like this too. From Jalopnik.com
“You know the scene at the end of The Incredibles—and the start of The Incredibles 2 — that has the troglodyte supervillian the Underminer bursting out from underground
in a colossal drilling machine? Well, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union was actually developing just such a digging machine, a brutal, nuclear-powered beast called the Battle Mole.”
The Battle Mole was a type of vehicle known as a subterrene—essentially, the land version of a submarine. If you’ve ever tried to dive into your backyard the same way you’d dive into a pool, you know empirically that the process of traveling through the Earth’s crust is far more difficult than traveling through water, which is largely why subterrenes aren’t very common….
These sorts of machines had been imagined in science fiction literature for years, notably in Russian author Grigory Adamov’s book Conquerers of the Underground, which was hilariously machine translated in this article as “Winners of the Bowels.”
In the 1930s, Soviet inventor A. Trebelev developed a subterrene that was, at least in part, developed by studying X-rays of a mole. I’m having trouble determining the actual size of this machine, and if it was remotely controlled or piloted.
Some sources suggest it was crewed, but the one picture I found of it lacks a good reference for scale; is it a small device, a few feet long, as it could appear to be, or is this image of a much larger machine, an actual vehicle? A cutaway drawing in an image I found of a contemporary magazine spread clearly shows a pilot’s position, and another guy just standing around inside! Perhaps this was an actual, crewed vehicle.
While Trebelev’s machine was capable of traveling through solid ground and making tunnels, it was realized that the best way to accomplish this task was with the use of extreme heat on the digging end of the subterrene. Generating enough energy capable of producing such heat was highly difficult until the advent of nuclear power.
By 1964, using a nuclear reactor similar to the type used for nuclear submarines, the Soviet Union allegedly built their Battle Mole, likely the first fully-realized solid-Earth boring military vehicle.
The goals of the Battle Mole were secret, but some sources suggest that Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev wanted the Battle Mole built as a way to attack and destroy American underground military facilities, communications infrastructure, and installations like underground missile silos.
I do love some of the machine-translated descriptions of the weapon and its goals, which can be pretty dramatic:
“Maybe the extravagant Khrushchev dreamed that the time would come and the steel Soviet fist would crawl out of the ground right on the lawn at the White House in Washington? That will be a mother’s mother!”
Yeah, that would be a mother’s mother.
Allegedly, the Battle Mole was about 12 feet in diameter, and about 75 feet long. It held a crew of five and around one ton of cargo, which would likely be explosives and/or other weapons. Using its reactor to melt material in front of it as it drilled and flow that material behind it, the Battle Mole could dig through solid rock at speeds between about 4 to 8 MPH. That’s pretty damn fast for going through solid rock.
One of the most alarming missions planned for the Battle Mole was to send it off the California coast, where it would burrow into geologically unstable areas to plant nuclear charges that could be detonated to cause earthquakes, tsunamis, and other wildly destructive events.
Tests of the Battle Mole in the Ural mountains seem to have been successful, with the Mole said to have gone through rock like “a knife through butter,” and it was able to destroy a test underground bunker successfully.
Things eventually went quite badly for the Battle Mole, with reports of the machine exploding while underneath the Ural mountains, killing everyone on board and bringing the project to a halt. As the Russian news site RG.ru reports,
“However, during the next tests in 1964, a car that penetrated the Ural Mountains near Nizhny Tagil for a distance of 10 km, for unknown reasons, exploded. Since the explosion was nuclear, the apparatus with the people in it simply evaporated, and the broken tunnel collapsed. In the press was the name of the deceased commander of the “Battle Mole” – Colonel Semyon Budnikov. But official confirmation of this never sounded. The project was closed, all documentary evidence of it was liquidated, as if nothing had happened.”
Now, I’ll be honest with you here—I’m not sure how much I trust a lot of these sources. I do think there were certainly experiments conducted, and I think Trebelev’s machine existed, but I’m not entirely convinced about the conveniently destroyed Battle Mole….”
“…Was Russian military expert Viktor Baranetz serious when he talked about nuclear “mole” missiles on the U.S. shoreline?”
In March of 2017, Baranetz told the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda this:
“And we are quietly ‘seeding’ the U.S. shoreline with nuclear ‘mole’ missiles (they dig themselves in and ‘sleep’ until they are given the command)[…]”
There was even more at the lengthy article by Jalopnik’s Senior Editor, Jason Torchinsky, cited again here: https://jalopnik.com/the-soviets-may-have-once-built-a-secret-nuclear-powere-1828395776
If the Soviets did have such Battle Moles, then Russia still has them today – and probably so does China, and the United States – maybe even Israel and some other less obvious nations. Just one more thing to worry about when thinking of how WWIII could start…
All of this reminds me of another related topic: Nuclear Tunneling Machines on the Moon…. But this post is already long, and the idea of secret lunar tunnels being dug by nuclear mole machines below the surface of the moon will have to be addressed in another article…
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