Stalin’s Balls of Steel

Source: Yuri Pasholok’s blog
Original author: Yuri Pasholok

Hello everyone,

today, we’re going to have a look at one of the craziest Soviet Union ideas of WW2: the ball tanks. I sort of “borrowed” the name of this article from Yuri Pasholok, who writes a book of the same name on these strange vehicles. Some of you might remember the 1st of April, when a “ball tank” branch appeared as a part of the Soviet tree – well, the branch was a joke, but the projects were actually seriously made. This is one of the biggest of them all, the “Protivotank” (“Counter-Tank”).


This vehicle was really proposed in March 1942 by L.P.Mokrousov. Mokrousov worked as a chief engineer in the “Red Star” factory in Kharkov, before moving to another plant in the same city. Before the war, he studied the cold metalwork faculty of “Kharkov Mashinostroitelnij Institut” (Kharkov Institute of Machine Construction), he finished successfully his studies in 1934 and recieved his engineering diploma. By the time he proposed the “Protivotank”, he was imprisoned in a Gulag near Molotovo (Perm) for embezzlement.

This vehicle was designed to be a heavy assault craft, specifically intended to attack and destroy enemy heavy tanks, strongpoints and fortifications and – along with regular tanks – to break thru the fortified defense lines to attack various sensitive targets behind the enemy front. The ball tank construction was made so that the tank is nearly impervious to enemy fire, while destroying the German tanks at leisure.

The basic form of the vehicle is a rolling ball (or specigically, a moving one). The tank was split into three segments. First, there was the armored moving surface of the ball (equipped with “teeth”, or rather, scales, to gain traction). In the middle, there was a cylinder with the engine And then there were the side parts, carrying the massive armament.

The armament carried was massive – four guns, two of which are bigger than 155mm, eight twin-linked machineguns and two AA machineguns. The vehicle’s main advantage was to be good maneuverability (for its massive weight), giving it a significant advantage, when fighting other tanks, combined with practical invulnerability, provided by its massive armor. The vehicle was to have following characteristics:

Diameter – 10 meters
Maximum speeed – 90 km/h
Engine power – 2000hp
Combat weight – 500 tons
Armor – 200-250mm at the ball surface, consisting of three parts, each separate one consisting of armored plates.

Here, a Protivotank vs Maus comparison:


In order to propel the vehicle, two 1000hp water-cooled gasoline engines were to be installed in the middle, along with a smaller gasoline engine, powering the electricity generator. If I understand correctly, each of the engines was to power an electric generator, which in turn powered the drive wheel electric engines. Both gasoline engines were to by synchronized.

The crew was to consist of 8 people: the driver, the mechanic, four machinegunners and two main gun gunners. The main guns were located on the sides of the vehicle and the biggest firepower the vehicle could bring to bear on one target was two main guns and four machineguns.


Needless to say, this project was never built, but it’s interesting nevertheless. I am not sure if Yuri Pasholok’s ball tank book is already released or not, but I do hope it does come out in English one day.

104 thoughts on “Stalin’s Balls of Steel

          • Most likely because George Lucas made many of the Star Wars weapons using an existing weapon as a model. Take one look at Han Solo’s blaster and then compare it to a C96 Mauser.

            • Hollywood propmakers were pretty creative recyclers those days – the Stormtroopers’ blasters are pretty much straight Sterling SMGs, you may have noticed. And Aliens and Robocop were positively brilliant in that regard.

              That aside, these strike me as a bit too obscure to have been much of an inspiration for nigh anyone. And it’s not like “wheelform” vehicles haven’t been popping up every now and then in both sci-fi and probably also some more avant-garde semi-theoretical IRL vehicle concepts inbetween.

  1. Damn.. things like that make you almost wish the war would´ve lasted a couple of years longer.

    “The vehicle’s main advantage was to be good maneuverability”
    I wonder how as it would be unable to turn on the spot and can only turn while moving forward.
    The turn cycle would have been huge I guess?

  2. How would this thing remain “on track”? How would it take a corner? How would it break when rolling downhill? This is way too “Star Wars” even now.

    • How would this thing remain “on track”?

      How would it take a corner?
      tilt it the direction you want to turn

      How would it break when rolling downhill?
      slowing down the middle part? engine breake

        • That’s what I thought too. I don’t doubt some very clever engineering can make a single-track “wheelform” quite maneuverable, but already given the dual petrol-electric transmission you’d think dual tracks with ability to neutral steer would simply be an easier solution…
          Plus, if you space them out a bit, you oughta be able to put the driver’s station between them which oughta solve some obvious visibility issues and maybe even a weapons station or two to be able to fire straight forwards and backwards…

        • I’d be very interested to see a mechanism that could tilt something this big, especially as you need to tilt pretty far to do a decent turn. Also not sure about that gyroscope point. I don’t have my formulae with me, but you’d need pretty massive gyroscopes to generate a sufficient turning moment.

          • If a gyro so massive and fast failed, it would pretty much blend the insides of the tank into a pulp.

            • Also, unless you make the center really heavy, then that will just spin round instead of the tracks. Braking is impossible, as that will just make the interior spin with the tracks

              Wow, this would be crap

            • Not to mention the recoil from firing the off centre guns

              Did the guy who designed this ever look at physics.

              It would never even drive.

        • Another module to shoot, inmagine u would knock out the gyro and related to that ALL the crewmembers. They would tumble inside the ball like a brick in a wasshing machine. XD

  3. I wouldn’t trust these docs. Really looks like it’s a badly made photomontage. Look at the torn folds, the ink isn’t even scratched here. The drawing isn’t even deformed by the paper’s waves.

  4. Suspension? Seasick much?
    Stabilized elevation during acceleration and deceleration?
    Turn radious and balance to prevent rolling sideways?
    Weight distribution to prevent sinking down?

    No wonder why people did not want to test out the project full scale – But omg I’d like to see if things could be worked out to be fully functional even in hard battle conditions… And honestly with that size forget about guns – it’s a bowling ball!!

    • It’s actually a very good design and would be effective in the war. Unlike the stupid Ratte which is just a moving landship with naval artillery this ball tank would be able to achieve high speeds and ram things, it would be effective in most areas

      • Oh look, it’s fucktard John….well known soviet fanboi and according to him everything that has hammer and sickle on is superior compared to anything. Yea giant ball of steel that only retarded russian could imagine is really effective.

      • Yeah how about no, John? The Ratte at least had the excuse of proposing to do something vaguely useful with the surplus pocket-battleship turret and (even more importantly) guns the Germans had lying around – such represented enough of an investement that the Brits for example built a whole battleship just to keep a leftover set (from a cancelled export order) from going to waste.

        • Kellomies, how much german cock do you think you want to suck in your entire life? You know, we’re getting bored of your shit. You think rattle had a porpuse? really? Like the 200tons of failure the maus was?

          • :O
            First time someone accuses me of being a *German* fanboy! I must be doing something right to piss off people on both sides of the fence. :D

            That aside, I bring your attention to the caveat “something vaguely” – and if you actually knew shit about the economics of fabricating capital-ship main guns (by what I’ve read they usually took longer to finish than the entire rest of the ship) you’d realise the concept had at least a vague degree of merit.
            Technical feasibility and military viablity are whole different topics, ofc. AFAIK most people recycled surplus naval armements into coastal batteries or the like instead – the Swedes apparently used the turrets of their last “coastal battleship” in the triple-layered “Maginot Line” they built in the north of the country during the early Cold War (for the event of a Soviet attack through Finnish Lappland), for example.

      • Tesla wanted to build a LOT of things. Some worked brilliantly, despite the minor detail his ideas of how electricity actually *works* were pretty… idiosyncratic; others (were in principle possible but in practice unfeasible (broadcast power, notably); and many, especially in his later years, were simply batshit crazy mad-scientist nonsense.

        Colourful fellow.

        • The broadcasting of power worked but it was highly inefficient because with range it got less and less effective and by range we are talking about a mile or so at best. It was a really workable idea but not a very practicable idea for even a city as it was just too dammed inefficient AC and wires worked a lot better and was a lot cheaper.

          • There’s also the little problem there’s no way to keep the ‘leccy from grounding through the first conductor it encounters (one of Tesla’s more grandiose experiments apparently severely jolted a relatively nearby horse throught its shoes), and from what I’ve read the receiver antennas in particular tended to melt.

            Kind of a stupid idea to begin with given that for most practical intents and purposes air is an insulator.

    • Imagine an AMX 1390 fleeing down the that hill with such steel ball rolling behind him while the title music of indiana jones is played….hilarious!

        • Only the Hellcat would stand a chance.

          Also, now all we need to do is to prove that the T92 could fire nuclear warheads…

          • No need, IIRC tacnukes were eventually miniaturised small enough to fit into 155mm shells. Yeah, that means some of the TDs could in principle fire them too though whether that’d be a good idea is debatable…

  5. And all theese engineers didn”t think of the possibility of that tank rolling on its side and remaining there forever?

  6. With this speed and weight it would be very unlikely for the tank to roll on its side. Still it is more likely do dig itsself in than to move forward. The “track” reminds me of the shovel of one of those huge brown coal catterpillars.

  7. It has a big disadvantage: no side stabilization – its a totally ball shaped structure, so if it flips to one of its side: GAME OVER

    • IIRC the rather smaller “spheroids” someone fair bit saner drew up (and even tested a motorcycle-scale proto) had a rather heavy ballast unit at the bottom for the express purpose of preventing that sort of thing…

  8. I imagine the face of the first german Soldat to see this….thing….

    Absolutely priceless!

    • Imagine the face of the designer when the engineer who looked at the design and said “please shoot this guy”, pointing at the designer.

  9. Star Wars had the same idea. But they realized it much more than the russian! :D

    You can see it at the Star Wars Revenge of Sith Utapau:

  10. Actually the proper translation of the book’s title is “Stalin’s steel spheres”, not balls of steel.

    Besides of that, the mentioned Kugelpanzer was most likely also a Soviet project, that was somehow mixed up in the documentary since Germany never worked on any sphere tank projects, much unlike the USSR obviously.

  11. The crew did not seem to mention a commander. Also the word ‘gerbilling’ comes to mind. The verb which describes powered monowheels having a spinning centre piece, with a stationary rim…. not the ‘other’ gerbilling…..

  12. The tank in the picture:
    HP: 8e^99
    Penetration: 10000mm
    Damage: OneKills
    Rate Of Fire: 6000 rounds per minute
    Armor: 10/5/1 (every shot still bounces off for it is stalin tank)
    Max speed: 100kmh or 200kmh with afterburner
    HP/t: 500
    Specialitys: Doesn’t get detracked, has no ammorack or crew members

  13. i like the way it has camo…cause ofc you’re totally not gonna see that if there’s a few trees in front of it…

  14. Those watermarks are epic…just another fail.
    Google Translate… Ctrl+C… Ctrl+V… can I have your money please?
    Well done SS, well done..