Read Part 1 here.

Canned Nazis, bouncing over the hills

Not much is known about this WWII "spherical droid" - captured on the Eastern Front (in Manchuria) in 1945 and currently on display in Military Museum in Kubinka, Russia. This "brainchild" of German military thought had 5mm armor, driver's cab inside and two-stroke one-cylinder engine. By all appearances this machine was used as a reconnaissance vehicle.

Multiple inquiries about the origins of this machine, made to German historians and tank specialists, so far draw a blank. It is speculated that Krupp could have built this as Reconnaissance Rollzeug (Rolling Vehicle). Thus it's often referred to as "Krupp Kugelpanzer", or "Ball Tank". Note the narrow-slitted visor at the front, and imagine a poor soul canned in such a fashion and sent bouncing down the hill...

(image credit: chamtec.com)

(images credit: jagdtiger.de)

Similar "Ball Tank" concept from an engineer in Texas:

Popular Science, July 1936 described it as "a giant ball, a high-speed "tumbleweed tank" with a spherical hollow steel driving cab, enclosed by a rotating outer shell... The inventor states that the tank’s spherical shape presents the smallest possible target for enemy bombs or shells, and all but direct hits would glance off its curved sides." Not so impractical, after all, regardless of how crazy it looks.

Click to enlarge the image:

(image credit: modernmechanix)

Even earlier, there was a wilder concept:

War Tank on One Wheel

Popular Science, November 1933 - "Housed inside the armored body, the operator will steer the single main wheel by means of two small auxiliary wheels at the rear... by attaching propelling fins to the main wheel, the tank can be turned into an amphibian capable of plunging into a stream... As the tank rushes upon a trench or obstruction, the operator will drop the tubes so they dig into the earth and the whole machine will vault through the air to the other side! Without the armored body or the crutches, it is designed for highway use." Click to enlarge:

(image credit: modernmechanix)

One-wheeled tanks were imagined before first World War in a quite spectacular way - the ultimate rolling destruction machine:

Mobile Fortification Unit

An interesting "canned-operator" concept was also created in Germany in the beginning of the century, called The Fahrpanzer (mobile shielding). Rotating turret and 50mm gun made it a formidable little enclave. It was not motorized, however, and had very limited mobility. The only surviving specimen is on display at Royal Army Museum of Brussels:

(images credit: JC Carbonel/Model Stories)

Big-Wheel Battlewagon Design

German commercial firm of the Bremen Hansa-Lloyd Works created the The Treffas-Wagen in 1917, which had huge wheels, heavy guns, weighed 18 tons, and needed a crew of four to operate. This unique monstrosity was not developed any further, to be replaced by even more interesting A7V model:

(images credit: greyfalcon.us)

The First German Battletank from 1917 still looks the best

A7V had the appearance of something from the Stormtrooper's arsenal, and perhaps influenced some concept designs for George Lucas' "Star Wars". This block of iron was over seven metres long and three metres in width and height. There were only 20 made at the end of World War I.
Oleg Pomoshnikov at Gunpoint 3D has some 3D models created for this machine:

(images credit: Oleg Pomoshnikov)

(images credit: armor.kiev.ua)

Another armored monster vehicle for all fantasy fans out there: MarienWagen Gepanzert was ordered by frantic Germans (who just saw first British tanks used at Somme) in 1916, designed by Hugo G. Bremer and built by Daimler. In all, 10 such "tanks" were made, equipped with two machine-guns and two 20mm cannons Bekker AA:

(images credit: wwi.hut2.ru)

but the ultimate in brute "kollosal" force was reached with:

K-Wagen "Kolossal-Wagen" Super Heavy Breakthrough Tank:

(image credit: achtungpanzer)

Designed for planned service in 1919, it could be broken into four parts for rail transport and was to be operated by the crew of 22 men. Only two were built, but whoever built it were probably having nightmares for the rest of their lives.

Russian Armored oddities:

We'll start small. Here is MC-1 from 1929:

(art credit "Teknika Molodezhi")

The 1931 tank sporting wheels as well as tracks:

(image credit: englishrussia)

T-27 Armored Tankette developed by Soviets in the 1930s:

(art credit "Teknika Molodezhi")

T-28 was much heavier, and presented the utmost in Soviet terror machine arsenal just before World War II. It was equipped with respectable 76.2mm cannon and was considered the most advanced medium tank in the world:

(images credit: ochevidec)

But this was nothing compared with the biggest and baddest: - T-35.
Note the Nazi Germany soldier sharing his experiences with Stalinist Army, widely practiced cooperation just before the onset of World War II.

or consider this KV-2 from 1940:

or T-100 heavy tank, one of those called "Dreadnoughts" by their crews...

Want even bigger? How about this:

Words fail me when I try to describe its intimidating might... Remember "Kolossal Wagen"? It's the one shown on the bottom left for size comparison in this picture.

By the way, on the bottom right is one of the Hitler's macho dreams - the Maus. This would give you some idea what unspeakable scale was projected for the Soviet "Bolshevik" tank from 1932. Designed by German engineer E. Grotte, under contract with power-hungry Communists, this beauty had 24,000 horse-powers multiple engines, weighed 1000 tons, had 6 turrets and crew of sixty people. O... my.... God....
It stayed only on paper, but these Russians had another shot at similar stupendous engineering:

I bet Hitler did not expect this:

How this thing would ever turn? What about the turning radius?

"It doesn't need to turn, it will drive straight to Berlin" - said Stalin when approving this project. (probably the most interesting thing he ever said)

(model by: Brian Fowler)

KV-VI Behemoth was more than a landship, it was a Communist wet dream. It had some hilarious history, too: "The first prototype was completed in December 1941 and was rushed into the defense of Moscow. In its first action during a dense winter fog, the rear turret accidentally fired into the center turret. The resulting explosion completely destroyed the vehicle. The second prototype was completed in January 1942, and was sent to the Leningrad front. This one had indicators installed to show whe another turret was in the line of fire. In its initial attack on the Germans, the tank broke in half when crossing a ravine."

Crew: 15 men and one Commissar. The KV-VI was nicknamed "Stalin's Orchestra" by the few Germans that encountered it because of the variety of weapons it deployed.

UPDATE: The last crazy machine should perhaps be served with the "prank alert" warning. Regardless of how we want it to be true, and elaborate history behind it, there is suspiciously little information about it on the web. So, I'd take it with a grain of salt.

Cold War Terror Machines

At the height of Cold War in 1962 Soviet Army produced some interesting tank monsters, for example, rarely seen experimental Rocket Tanks. Code-named "Object 775" and "Object 780" they were heavily modified T-64 tanks sporting 125mm cannon capable to shoot guided rocket "Rubin" missiles...

(images credit: arhiv-diletanta.nnm.ru)

Now upgrade this to nuclear!

Soviets decided to go all the way in 1954 and develop SAU "Kondensator" armored vehicles with ability to shoot nuclear missiles...

"OKA" was introduced in 1957 to show the world who's the "biggest of them all" and had 420mm cannon, such tremendous caliber deemed necessary because of inability of Russian engineers to make more compact nuclear payloads.

(images credit: shushpanzer)

To better illustrate the "terror tank" madness, here is how Boris Artzybasheff (talented illustrator from the 40s) envisioned tank battlefield in his "Diablerie":

(image credit: AnimationArchive)

Could this be the most awesome tank picture? A fan art imagined for "Terminator 3", but unfortunately never used there:

(image credit: Kiel Bryant)

Now that you are all enthusiastic about cool tanks, why don't make your own? And perhaps put it up for sale... for 5 bucks?

Let us know about other impressive and weird tanks to feature in the next part of this series.



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Category: Military,Vintage
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Note the Nazi Germany soldier sharing his experiences with Stalinist Army, widely practiced cooperation just before the onset of World War II."
Actually - Russians and Nazis together started WWII by attacking Poland.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

exactly, they even signed a pact who will take which part of this country

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Yes, what's more, there is even a school of thought that maintains that Hitler attacked Russian in a preemptive effort not to be attacked himself by "world revolution"-crazed Stalin. See here

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The KV-VI Behemoth is a hoax. But the story is great entertainment though.

Blogger Unknown said...

,,By the way, on the bottom left is one of the Hitler's macho dreams - the Maus. This would give you some idea what unspeakable scale was projected for the Soviet "Bolshevik" tank from 1932.''

Actually, it's the other way round: left-bottom corner silhouette depicts the Kollosalwagen, whereas the Maus can be seen on the right.

Blogger Unknown said...

feature this next!


^its called the M-50 Ontos

and i may be in love with it

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have seen film of Fiat tanks that look like a bathtub with two guys and a machine gun, 22 hp topolino motor and no suspension.

They were shown going down hill, only!

Blogger Unknown said...

see the genetic tank dreamed up in the days of prog rock
ELP's Tarkus

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you guys, great info!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rocket firing Sovjet tanks are not very special. After the experimental types ALL russian tanks sported 125 mm, or bigger, SMOOTH bore cannons that fired either fin stabilized grenades or sabots or guided rockets.
The Germans had a siege tank, the Sturmtiger, that was armored with halve a foot of steel on the front, that drove up to a bunker and fired a 38 cm rocket, at point blank range in the bunker, penetrating 2.5 meters of reinforced concrete, destroying it.
As for the Russian and German soldier shown together: the first pacts between Stalin and Hitler entailed a joined development of tanks and tank warfare strategies during which training bouts the germans actually kept up with the pace of the Allied tank armies, which had been forbidden by the treaty of Versailles.
www.achtungpantzer.com for all details on all german tanks (although it doesn't have the ball tank on it)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

With respect to the A7V, your joke about stormtroopers is unfortunate. It took me a while to figure out you meant the Star Wars Stormtroopers and not the WW1 Stosstruppen or the Nazi Sturmabteilung. You have to allow that some of your readers' references go back a little farther than the last 15 hours!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uhm... avi abrams...
And the Japanese attacked PH in order to anticipate the bloody expansion of the paranoid US. The history showed they're write. to bad for them.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Fahrpanzer or a close derivative appears on a book in my collection. "Permanent Fortification" by Lt Col G J Feibeger of West Point (1900),it appears to be a manual for West Point Cadets. Thank you for publishing the photos, it has assisted my efforts immesurably.

M J Ney

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The oversize multi-turreted tanks are explicable; when the internal combustion engine was new, people envisaged "land ships"; terrestrial versions of Naval battleships. That there would be an upper practical weight of about 50 tonnes for tanks, was not obvious.

See this prediction from 1900:
"Huge forts on wheels will dash across open spaces at the speed of express trains of to-day. They will make what are now known as cavalry charges."


Anonymous Shaun said...

That tank with all those legs really is the most awesome tank I've ever seen! Now we just need to get someone to make it into reality...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not a MC-1, it's a MS-1. You can find the tank in the game "World of Tanks".

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the KV-VI was a fake...made by some random moddeler guy, silly if you think it was real.


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