When you think of the best German-made tanks, you think of the Panzerkampfwagen V, the Tiger or Panther tanks. These tanks were among the feared armored vehicles ever to take to the battlefield. These tanks were generally superior to anything made by any of the allied countries during WWII. But the Germans also designed and employed a tiny tank that functioned as a tracked anti-tank weapon operated by remote control with a name that contradicted its small size, the Goliath Tracked Mine., also known as the Leichter Ladungsträger Goliath, or the “beetle tank”!

The Precursor of the RC cars

Remote-controlled cars being used as toys by children across the world today owe something to the Goliath tracked mine vehicle used by the Germans in WWII. In fact, many would argue that these vehicles are responsible for the modern-day RC cars, only without explosives and Soviet tanks to drive it under.

Goliath tracked mine displayed at the Bovington Tank Museum. SkudsCC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you ever had an RC car before, then think of the same principle – only this time the RC car can blow a thirty-ton tank into the air. These Goliaths were made to be a scout of some sort, advancing ahead of the troops to look for mines and destroying highly fortified positions and vehicles so that their troops wouldn’t have to risk their life trying to do so. They evolved into anti-tank weapons to give infantry an effective weapon against Soviet tanks on the Eastern Front.

How Was It Made?

The Goliath isn’t actually the first remote-controlled demolition vehicle used in the war. In World War I, the French actually designed vehicles known as the Crocodile Schneider Torpille Terrestre (or the Torpedo Crocodile Schneider) and the Aubriot-Gabet Torpille Électrique (or the Aubriot-Gabet Electric Torpedo) in 1916.

You haven’t heard of these because they were rarely used and were generally ineffective against destroying tanks. These were intended to be used for trench warfare, where the French forces would drive the torpedoes into enemy trenches and set them off.

When the French surrendered, the Germans found prototype models, and they thought, why not reverse engineer it and make it better? So the German army had the automotive company, Borgward develop the weapon from the French design with more armor and equipped with 60kg of explosives to make it much more powerful.

Voila! The end result was a mean, remote-controlled Sonderkraftfahrzeug Leichter Ladungsträger (SdKfz. 302). Yup, we couldn’t pronounce that either, so let’s just call it the Goliath!

How Did The Nazis Use It?

The Goliath was an innovative vehicle during those times as it was controlled remotely using a joystick control box. They are quite similar to the controllers we now use today in function, only bulkier. These vehicles were either battery-operated or gas-operated, but of course, the gas versions were the ones that were more reliable simply because troops did not have to recharge them. Goliaths were also made for single-use as they were demolition vehicles, so it made no sense why you’d have to charge them again anyway.