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The Kugelpanzer literally translates as "Ball Tank", and is perhaps one of the rarest and strangest armored fighting vehicles ever built. Only one lone example of this Reconnaissance Rollzeug (Rolling Vehicle) was captured by the Russians and it survives today as part of the Kubinka Museum's collection of German armored vehicles. The Kugelpanzer is simply listed as Item #37 and has been painted over gloss white. From fragmentary information sources, it is believed that the drive has been removed from the vehicle and no metal samples have been allowed to be taken from it. The history of the vehicle is unknown, as no documents were found with it and the vehicle had no clear markings.
Only six firm facts are available:
- The Kugelpanzer was a German-made vehicle shipped to Japan via technology transfer
- The Kugelpanzer was a light Reconnaissance AFV
- The Kugelpanzer was captured by the Russian Army in 1945 in Manchuria
- The Kugelpanzer was plated with only 5mm of armor on its hull
- The Kugelpanzer was powered by a single cylinder two-stroke engine
- The Kugelpanzer was operated by one person
It is hard to speculate on how this machine functioned, but from observation it appears to be a one man reconnaissance tank with an armored shell and view port. 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 hemispherical disc tracks at the sides. When not on the move, the Kugelpanzer would become an armored shelter or perhaps a pillbox "if" any weapon could be fired from it. It is not clear from photographic evidence if a firing port was located under the view port. Since this vehicle had come from Germany, then the primary armament of this vehicle would have probably been a German 7.92mm MG-34 or MG-42 machine gun. Japanese machine guns were poorly manufactured and functioned badly in the field along with their single type of submachine gun in production. From photographic evidence it appears that this single machine was captured fully intact.
It is also widely speculated that only Krupp could have built this machine.
Media related to Kugelpanzer at Wikimedia Commons