When you think military vehicles, you probably picture tanks, jeeps, and maybe a fighter jet or two. But history and modern tech have given us some rides that are way outside the box. From robots that look like dogs, to tanks that prefer flying, the world’s armed forces have tried it all. Strap in and check out 15 of the most mind-blowing military vehicles that you’ve probably never heard of

The NSU Kettenkrad HK101

Image credit: Alf van Beem, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The NSU Kettenkrad HK101 was a mix between a motorcycle and a tank, used by the Nazis in World War II. It was designed to handle tough terrain easily. Steering was done with handlebars, making it light and agile, perfect for getting through tight spots. Over 8,000 of these were made because they worked so well. Despite weighing quite a bit and having just 36 bhp, it could go as fast as 50 mph. But, soldiers were told to keep it under 44 mph. After the war, people used it for farming until the late 1940s.

BV XCH-62

Image Credit: Alan Wilson CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The BV XCH-62 was Boeing’s big swing at making a helicopter that could lift more than ever before. It started with the CH-47 Chinook, which could already lift 28,800 lbs. But compared to the Soviet giants, the Mi-26 and Mi-12, which could lift 44,000 lbs and 88,000 lbs, the Chinook needed a boost.

Boeing’s solution? Add a third engine, bigger rotors, and turn it into a flying crane. They built one in 1974, but getting those three engines to work together was tougher than expected. Funding got slashed in 1975, and that was that.

Simms Motor War Car

Image Credit: AnonymousUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Back in 1899, the British Army was on the hunt for an armored ride they could bring into battle. They ended up with this massive, 28-foot-long beast, armored up with 6mm-thick plates and powered by a four-cylinder engine. This thing was decked out with two guns and needed four guys to run it, cruising at a top speed of 9 mph.

Vespa 150 TAP

Picture a regular Vespa scooter, then slap a huge 75mm rifle on it. That’s the Vespa 150 TAP for you, powered by a 150cc engine. This wasn’t just any rifle; it was a Mk 20 recoilless gun, poking right through the front.

Built for the 1950s Algerian War, these scooters had a specific target: guerillas popping up out of nowhere. The kicker? This rifle could launch rounds almost four miles away and punch through armor up to 100mm thick.

Bartini Beriev VVA-14

Image Credit: User:Jno, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Bartini Beriev VVA-14 was the Soviet Union’s attempt at mastering the skies and seas all at once in the early 1970s. This aircraft was no ordinary flyer; it was built to glide just above the water’s surface, taking off from the sea and zooming across it to hunt down U.S. submarines.

Picture this: a plane that could skirt over the ocean, ready to take out threats below. They managed to build two prototypes, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. They hit snags with keeping it afloat, engine troubles, and then lost the brain behind it all. After 107 flights and 103 hours in the air, they called it quits. There’s still one of these giants left, though, parked at the Soviet Central Air Force Museum in Moscow, a relic of what could have been.

The Krupp Kugelpanzer

Image Credit: Alf van Beem, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Krupp Kugelpanzer, or “The Rolling Tank,” is a bit of a military mystery. This one-man tank, used by the Nazis and later by Japan, was designed for scouting missions. With its 5mm armor and a modest two-cylinder engine, it wasn’t built for speed.

There’s a lot of speculation about its use, especially in no-man’s-land. After the war, most records of it vanished, leaving us guessing. Today, this unique piece of history is on display in Russia, a silent witness to the past.

The ZIL-2906

Image Credit: Mil.ru, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The ZIL-2906 is Russia’s answer to the “go-anywhere” dilemma, but it’s not without its quirks. Imagine a vehicle that ditches wheels for giant rotating screws, capable of tackling land, ice, and water. Sounds cool, right? But there’s a catch.

On solid ground, it’s a road’s worst nightmare, chugging along at a snail’s pace of 3 mph. Water speeds it up to 9 mph, and on snow, it’s a relative speed demon at 30 mph. Designed in the 1970s, this oddball was more about conquering inaccessible terrains than breaking speed records. They’d haul it to the edge of passable roads, then let it loose to do its thing, proving sometimes the journey really is about how you get there.

Motor Scout “Armored Quadricycle”

Image Credit: Iliffe Press, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Back in 1898, a guy named F.R. Simms takes a basic quadricycle, then goes full mad scientist by attaching armor and a big ol’ Maxim machine gun right over the front wheels. This beast was powered by a tiny engine, just one and a half horsepower, but it was enough to roll around while making a serious statement.

The Motor Scout wasn’t just about moving; it was about moving with purpose and power. Imagine buzzing through town with that setup—definitely not your everyday ride. Simms showed everyone that even in the early days, you could mix speed with some serious firepower.

Antonov A-40 “Flying Tank”

Image Credit: The original uploader was Tempshill at English Wikipedia., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Soviets really went for it when they dreamed up the Antonov A-40, a tank with wings, aiming to drop it straight into battle from the sky. Picture a regular tank, now add glider wings to it—that was the A-40. Only one was ever made, because, well, the idea was as wild as it sounds.

Launched in 1942, this hefty beast weighed 4,418 lbs and stretched 40 feet long. The plan was to tow it behind an aircraft and then glide it into the warzone. But it turned out to be a bit too ambitious and got shelved as impractical. The concept of a flying tank hitting the battlefield from above might have been groundbreaking, but the A-40 never got off the ground—literally.

Schofield Tank

Image Credit: New Zealand Military Forces, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Back in the thick of World War II, New Zealand was getting antsy about being left high and dry if Japan decided to come knocking. Enter the Schofield tank, a kiwi invention that could switch between tracks for rough terrain and wheels for speed.

Named after its brainchild designer, the Schofield was New Zealand’s attempt at a “just in case” war machine during 1940—a time when the thought of the Pacific War reaching their shores was a real worry, and help from Britain was a long shot at best. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the Schofield never saw action, but it stood as a symbol of Kiwi ingenuity and willingness to stand their ground, no matter the odds.

Welbike

Image Credit: Spender (Lt), War Office official photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Welbike was a game-changer for WWII British paratroopers: a compact, foldable motorcycle that offered quick mobility behind enemy lines. Capable of 30 mph and with a 90-mile range, it provided an instant edge in speed and surprise. Designed for rapid deployment, it could be unpacked and ready to ride in seconds, embodying wartime innovation for on-the-go reconnaissance and communication.

Alkett VsKfz 617 / NK-101 Minenräumer

Image Credit: Alf van Beem, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Alkett VsKfz 617, or NK-101 Minenräumer, was Germany’s heavy-duty answer to the minefields of WWII. Operated by a duo—a driver and a gunner—it sported a Panzer I turret for defense and had armor up to 40mm thick to shrug off attacks.

With its giant front wheels and a Maybach V12 engine, this 50-ton giant was supposed to lead the charge, clearing paths for troops and vehicles. Its trick? Rolling over mines to safely detonate them. Despite its potential, only a prototype was made, mainly because artillery could take it down too easily.

VZ-9 Avrocar

Image Credit: USAF., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The VZ-9 Avrocar, a product of Cold War secrecy, was the U.S.’s attempt at creating a game-changing VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft. Designed by Avro Canada, it looked more like a UFO than a traditional fighter jet, aiming to zip across battlefields and skies at high speeds.

However, dreams didn’t match reality. Plagued by thrust and stability problems, it never hit the high speeds envisioned, topping out at a modest 35 mph. After its first flight in 1959, the project was eventually shelved.

BigDog

Image Credit: DARPA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine a robot dog designed to follow soldiers around, carrying their heavy gear over rough terrain where wheels just won’t cut it. That’s BigDog for you, a brainchild of Boston Dynamics and a few other tech wizards from 2005.

Standing 2.5 feet tall and weighing in at 240 pounds, this quadruped robot was all about muscle and mobility. But, there was a catch – it sounded like a dozen lawnmowers at a rock concert. By 2015, the military decided BigDog’s bark (or rather, its roar) was too loud for stealthy operations, and the project was shelved.

Ehrhardt E-V/4

Image Credit: Лапоть, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Back in the day, when Germany was shopping for an armored car that could double as a police vehicle, they turned to Ehrhardt, a name already big in weapons.

The E-V/4 Panzerkraftwagen Ehrhardt was what they got – a bulky, flat-sided beast that wasn’t exactly nimble off-road but could zip along at 38 mph on solid ground. With 80 horsepower under the hood, it was a force to be reckoned with, at least on pavement.

Author: Abbie Clark

Title: Co-Founder

Expertise: Automotive Industry, Electric Vehicles, DIY Car Repairs

Bio:

Abbie Clark is a writer, blog, and founder of RideRambler, Hey She Thrives, and The Bearded Bunch.

From clever car cleaning tricks to the freshest car features and reviews, Abbie loves sharing her knowledge on everything automotive. Outside of her time writing for her websites, you’ll find her fishing with her husband, deciphering her toddler’s babbling, or baking up something sweet.

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