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The Kugelpanzer (literally translates as "spherical tank") was a prototype reconnaissance tank built by Nazi Germany during World War II. It was one of the most unusual armoured fighting vehicles ever built.
The only example of this Rollzeug (rolling vehicle) is in Russia as part of the Kubinka Tank Museum's collection of German armored vehicles. The Kugelpanzer is simply listed as Item #37 and is painted gloss gray. From fragmentary information, the drive has been removed from the vehicle and no metal samples are allowed to be taken from it.
The history of the vehicle is literally unknown, as no documents were found with it and it had no clear markings. Only five facts about it have been confirmed:
- It was a German-made vehicle that was shipped to Japan
- It was a light reconnaissance vehicle
- It was captured in 1945 by the Soviets in Manchuria
- Its hull armor is only 5 mm thick
- It was powered by a single cylinder two-stroke engine
It is hard to speculate on how this machine functioned but from observations it appears to be a one man reconnaissance tank with an armored shell and viewport. Perhaps under or behind the operator an engine was mounted and for stability a small directional wheel was located at the rear to steer the two large circular tracks at the sides.
Due to its light armour and simple design, the vehicle was more than likely a reconnaissance or armoured cable laying vehicle and may not have been intended to be an offensive weapon or weapons platform.
Present at the rear of the vehicle is a small arm and trailing wheel. Some individuals have speculated that this is a possible form of steering mechanism. It is however more than likely just a weighted trailing arm to assist stability and limit the possibility of the central section of the vehicle from rotating independently to the two side wheels under braking or acceleration
- Robert Dale Arndt Jr. "Strange Vehicles of Pre-War Germany & the Third Reich (1928-1945)", 2006, IRP Publication