ALKETT VSKFZ 617 MINENRAUMER - the Minesweeping Giant Armored Tractor



By Rob Arndt


Early manufacture of the Alkett VsKfz 617 hull

The completed Minesweeper, painted and mounting the
Pzkpfw I Ausf B turret

Color photo from the
Russian Kubinka Museum revealing the size of the beast and twin MG armament courtesy of A. Beck DR

 Details of the rear rolling armored wheel courtesy of A. Beck DR

This bizarre armored tractor was jointly designed by Alkett, Krupp and Mercedes-Benz with a silhouette truly worthy of a machine of science fiction.

The hull of the vehicle was covered in variable shielding between 10-40 mm, with a floor shielding of 40 mm designed to resist the explosion of multiple mines. The floor itself was reinforced by an additional shielding of 20 mm inside the machine for added protection.

The first prototype VsKfz was completed in 1942. The presence of manufacturing plates in the vehicle makes it possible to establish the following conclusions: The manufacturer was Alkett of Berlin and on a plate Nmr VsKfz 617 and Nmr 9537 is engraved. VsKfz 617 refers to a Pzkfw 1 tank and 9537 is the chassis number. That would imply that the turret is of an Ausf. A type but this one has the specific characteristics of an Ausf. B; in particular, the hooks of turret (Traghaken) are located on the top and not the side walls of an Ausf. A. The superstructure possesses a turret of the Pz.Kpfw I tank which is equipped with two 7.92mm MG-34 machine guns ensuring the close defense of the machine. 

During these ground displacements, the changes of direction were accomplished by orientation of an aft wheel controlled by a system of chains actuated by a wheel. The mobility of the machine was ensured by two enormous discs on which heavy mobile shoes were fixed which were theoretically resistant to the explosions of all mines. These shoes have a form resembling those which equipped the wheels of heavy pieces of German PAK artillery. The principal role of the vehicle was the detonation of mines to obtain a cleared access path for German infantry and AFVs. This was to be achieved by the exercise of a very strong ground pressure using the nine shoes with permanent ground contact.
During the trial tests, it proved that this vehicle was unsuited to the operations of modern mechanized warfare. Its ponderous weight, slow speed, and its awkward size made the Minenräumer (minesweeper) a large target for opposing artillery and the project was thus abandoned.

In April 1945, during their advance, Soviet troops captured this vehicle in the center of the testing grounds of Kummersdorf. Stored a few times in Dresden, it was then dispatched to the USSR. In 1947, it underwent several evaluation tests. Unfortunately, the bad conditions of storage and the carriage had caused irrevocable damage with the mine clearance system so the tests were limited to a short evaluation of movements instead. 

The Alkett VsKfz now resides in the Kubinka Museum outside Moscow.

Technical Data:
Length 6.28 meters (20.724 ft)

Width 3.22 meters (10.626 ft)

Height 2.90 meters (9.57 ft)

Weight 50 tons (100,000 lbs)

Shielding between 10-40 mm (up to 1.6 in)

Armament 2x 7.92mm MG34




Model VsKfz Minenräumer courtesy of A. Beck DR



Minenräumpanzer III / Minenräumgerät mit PzKpfw Antrieb

One of the most interesting prototypes based Panzer III's chassis was Minenräumpanzer III - mine clearing/mine destroyer tank. This was another extremely weird vehicle developed by Krupp. The idea was simply to run all over the mines with a reinforced kit of tracks, the high clearance of the hull minimizing the blast to the crew compartment.

It proved to be unsuccessful and never entered production.

äumer III
Model by Valentin Bueno

One of the strangest German vehicles discovered after the war was a huge four wheeled device built by Krupp. This vehicle was the Krupp Räumer S.

This vehicle was built in 1944. It weighed in at 130 tons and was support by 2.7 meter diameter steel wheels. The huge vehicle pivoted in the middle to keep the vehicles turning circle a reasonable distance. Each half of the Räumer S was powered by a 12-cylinder Maybach HL90 engine.

There is still discussion about this vehicles purpose, but it is widely believed that due to the vehicle’s high ground clearance and well protected cabin it was used to clear mine fields. The front and rear wheels were at different spacing in order to create a bigger sweep area. It had a cab at either end which allowed it to reverse back through mine fields (assuming that was its purpose) without having to turn around. There seems to be a flaw with the mine sweeping role, that is the connection in the middle seems quite exposed and would seemingly be prone to damage from exploding mines.

The only finished Krupp Räumer-S minesweeper was captured in Hillersleben in 1945 by the Americans


Cut-away of Krupp Räumer-S design

Leichter Ladungsträger Goliath Sd.Kfz.302

Specific Features: Measuring about five feet in length, the Goliath was a tracked demolition vehicle powered by two electric motors. With a screaming top-speed of six miles per hour the Goliath wasn't going to be winning many races against tanks, but it wasn't intended to. The purpose of the Goliath was to carry a 60kg demolition charge into place and detonate it immediately. Unlike the Japanese the Germans had almost no vehicles that actively encouraged the pilot to commit suicide. Even their plane designed to ram into bombers featured the slim safety measure of a detachable cockpit. To this end the Goliath was essentially a remote controlled bomb on treads

As the Goliath advanced it would spool out a control wire onto the ground, allowing an operator to guide the vehicle from the safety of a trench or bunker. Later versions of the Goliath utilized a motorcycle engine in place of the electric motors, could carry a heavier demolition charge, and were slightly faster. The early 1942 versions of the Goliath were prone to small-arms fire, so in the 1943 version the armor was upgraded along with the engine. While anything bigger than a rifle would make short work of the Goliath it was never intended for use in a running battle. It was designed with one purpose: to explode!

History: Development of the Goliath began in 1940 after the Germans utilized the much larger, slower, and more cumbersome "Borgward" for minefield clearance. By reducing the size of the vehicle from 1.5 tons to a little over 700lbs the Germans created a remote-controlled demolition vehicle that could be towed into position and then manhandled without much difficulty by a crew of four or five men. The unit had a range of only 650 meters and was used almost exclusively for blowing holes in minefields. By the end of the war over 7,000 Goliaths had been produced and certainly a number of them were used offensively, but this was not their intended purpose. The Goliaths served most notably in the Kursk Bulge to clear a way for advancing German armor through the deadly minefields.

Some attempts were made at using a TV camera mounted on the Goliath but these proved largely ineffective and the concept was abandoned.



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