Ball Tanks and Fighting Vehicles – Over 100 years of History

September 22, 2018 0 By Jagerhobby
Ball Tanks and  Fighting Vehicles – Over 100 years of History

In the 2012 Movie Battleship

I was watching this a few weeks ago and for some reason it promoted me to remember an article I read in an old copy of the 1936 July Issue of Popular Science.

The article discussed the invention of the TUMBLEWEED tank with the Texan inventor A J Richardson. His  goal was to further mechanize the future of warfare after the bloody stalemate of the First World War’s ‘war of attrition’.

The Shredders from Battleship are described as being razor sharp multi directional chainsaws wrapped around a truck sized sphere. They are launched from the alien flagship and can be programed to attack specific targets. As well as being used to destroy enemy shipping, the Regents commonly use them to attack targets on land to cause chaos, disruption and cut off means of reinforcements. Shredders can glide through the air and hurtle on land at very high speeds smashing anything in their path. Shredders can even unreel some of their razor sharp chainsaw blades to slice apart objects. One Shredder used this ability to slice the tail off an ascending helicopter when the Shredder fails to crash through it. When all of their objectives are complete the shredders self destrucion


 In July 1936, Popular Science

published a short article heralding your invention of a spherical tank it called “a new addition to modern war machines.” The tank, compared to both a rolling ball and a giant ball as well as a piece of tumbleweed, features a hollow inner sphere that remains stationary. The soldiers—as many as three according to an artist’s rendering accompanying the article—the steering controls, the guns, which point out in every direction, and the engine all are housed inside that hollow, if cramped, inner sphere. An outer shell surrounds the inner sphere. Split into two halves or hemispheres and bristling with metal cleats for traction, the parts of that outer shell turn independently to make the tank move.

The diagram clearly indicates how this deadly rolling tank would work: a hollow, spherical, steel driving-cab is enclosed within two rotating outer shells in the form of cup-shaped halves. Motordriven gears rotate the two outer shells, which roll the tank along the ground. The speed of each shell affects the steering of the vehicle, while the heavy driving motor on the cab floor provides stability and prevents the tank from rolling sideways.

The cab could be sealed against poison-gas attacks

and the tank’s spherical shape (so Richardson claimed) would present the smallest possible target for enemy shells; all but direct hits would glance harmlessly off its curved sides.

But there was a problem: the men sealed inside this steel bubble, frenziedly machine gunning everything in all directions, had no idea what was going on outside. Richardson, it seemed, while painstakingly working out the optimum way for his tank to move effectively across the battlefield, had forgotten the men’s need to see where they were going and who they were shooting.

Canned Nazis, bouncing over the hills Kugelpanzer

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.


What is known is that it was made in Germany and shipped to Japan, and then later captured by the Soviets in 1945, probably in Manchuria. Today, the only one known to exist can be found in the Kubinka Tank Museum in the Odintsovsky District, Moscow Oblast, Russia.

Powered by a single cylinder, two-stroke engine, Kugelpanzer has a slit in the front (presumably a driver’s view port), and a small arm and wheel in the rear (perhaps for stability and/or maneuvering). Its hull is only 5 mm (.2 in.) thick, and it isn’t fully clear what type of metal comprises its armor (no metal samples are currently allowed to be taken from it).

Popular theories of its purpose include reconnaissance, as a mobile observation post for managing artillery fire, and as a cable-laying vehicle; however, there is little evidence to support any of these hypotheses, since there has never been any documentation found that explains the vehicle or its design.

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…

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.”

(image credit: modernmechanix)

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

The Treffas Wagen

Treffaswagen 1

A project put forward in 1916-1917, by the request of the German War Ministry. It was placed upon the commercial firm of Hansa-Lloyd works of Bremen. They were to design a battlewagon, Germany’s one and only “big wheel” design, which progressed further than its British counterpart.

The Treffas-Wagen was finished on February 1, 1917.It had two large steel wheels, about 11ft in diameter, on each side of a rectangular armoured body. At the rear was a large castor like roller for steering. In front of the body was a 2cm TUF gun, with machine guns on either side for firing into trenches. The crew consisted of four men. It weighed 18tons. One prototype was built, and thoroughly tested during February and March of 1917.

Meanwhile the decision was made in favor of the A7V. The Treffas-Wagen was not developed any further, and was dismantled in October of 1917.

Treffaswagen 2 Treffaswagen 3 Treffaswagen 4