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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 unknown, as no documents were found with it and it had no clear markings. Only the following 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 during the Soviet-Japanese War
- Its hull armor is only 5 mm thick
- It was powered by a single cylinder two-stroke engine
- It has a small viewport at the front.
- It has a small directional wheel located at the rear to steer the two large circular tracks at the sides.
Otherwise, it is unknown where its engine is located, such as whether it is under or behind the operator, and what kind of armor it sported.
Due to a lack of documentations, its purpose is all speculations, derived only from observations of its light armor, simple design, and discovery in Japan. As of now, these are the common speculations as to its function:
- A one man reconnaissance tank with an armored shell and viewport.
- A mobile observation post for managing artillery fire
- Armoured cable laying vehicle and may not have been intended to be an offensive weapon or weapons platform.
- A dedicated kamikaze-use tank commissioned by Japan, as it shared characteristics of other dedicated suicidal machines such as Ohka and Kaiten: small size and limited crew; wasn't equipped with any apparent offensive weaponry; and thin armor that is too thin compared to other armored vehicles but on par with Ohka and Kaiten.
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
Media related to Kugelpanzer at Wikimedia Commons
- "KRUPP KUGELPANZER - Mysterious German Ball Tank". Strangevehicles.greyfalcon.us. 1917-02-01. Retrieved 2014-01-18.