retro-futurism: the tumbleweed tank

In the early 20th century, monowheels and spheres were all the rage. So, of course, someone tried to turn them into weapons of war...

When we look back at the first half of the 20th century, we seem to find a bizarre fascination with wheels and spherical shapes for transport, weaponry and even space stations. Take this flail-looking tank designed by a Texan inventor A.J. Richardson in his attempt to further mechanize the future of warfare after World War One.

tumbleweed tank

Richardson’s idea was essentially to create a mobile bunker able to roll over any terrain deep into the heart of enemy territory and lay down heavy suppressive fire. And there’s another reason why it was built as a sphere according to the original column in the July 1936 edition of Popular Mechanics.

The inventor states that the tank’s spherical shape presents the smallest possible target for any enemy bombs or shells, and all but direct hits would glance off its curved sides.

What seems to be most surprising about this design is the lack of windows and ports through which you can actually see where you’re firing. While the way its center of mass is positioned would prevent a rollover and its thick armor would make the tank a very difficult target, Richardson apparently forgot that without good visibility, the gunners can’t hit their targets or worse yet, they could easily kill or injure any friendly troops nearby and not know what was happening outside of their steel bubble.

# tech // futurism / military / tumbleweed tank / weapons


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