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The Revolutionary American Weapons of War That Never Happened 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the pipe-dreams dept.
An anonymous reader writes There have been many US military machines of war that seemed to be revolutionary, but never make it out of the prototype stage. As Robert Farley explains: "Sometimes they die because they were a bad idea in the first place. For the same reasons, bad defense systems can often survive the most inept management if they fill a particular niche well enough." A weapon can seem like an amazing invention, but it still has to adapt to all sorts of conditions--budgetary, politics, and people's plain bias. Here's a look at a few of the best weapons of war that couldn't win under these "battlefield" conditions.
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The Revolutionary American Weapons of War That Never Happened

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  • by CurryCamel (2265886) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @03:06PM (#47294141) Journal

    You mean the rifled musket?

    • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @03:18PM (#47294189)

      Yeah I was hoping for some steampunk goodness as well, a la Brisco County Jr.

      In other news you cannot, cannot have an article about wacky war machines without prolific pictures, it contravenes no less than six seperate articles of the Internet Convention on Clickbait Guidelines.

      • by Virtucon (127420)

        I was thinking Wild Wild West sorta contraptions. Brisco County Jr. is too newfangled.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          I was thinking Wild Wild West sorta contraptions

          Wouldn't the Wild Wild West stuff actually be steampunk?

          I seem to remember all sorts of steam and brass and the like.

          • by Virtucon (127420)

            No, how can something be steampunk before steampunk? Maybe the Wild Wild West started the trend that became steampunk?

            Yup, lots of brass but unusual contraptions to say the least.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)
        Not quite steampunk but I'm shocked they didn't have the "flying pancake" of WWII as that was impressive, a plane that could lift off almost straight up with just a gentle breeze yet could flip and turn like a dogfighter and was predicted to go crazy fast for a prop fighter. What killed it was the fact that it was designed at a time when the US thought it wouldn't have much in the way of carriers and by the time it was ready we had a ton of carriers and jets were on the way so nobody saw a use in a plane t
        • That sounds remarkably like the Avrocar, which was a stupendous failure because it was impossible to control - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]

          • Or was he talking about the Vought V-173 [wikipedia.org]? The Wikipedia article is somewhat lacking though...e.g. any reason why they decided not to manufacture it.

            Near the end:

            In 131.8 hours of flying over 190 flights, Zimmerman's theory of a near-vertical takeoff- and landing-capable fighter had been proven.

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              That's the one and considering it was doing 138 mph on the engines that were basicaly throw aways? it was a pretty awesome design. I would have loved to have seen what it would do with a couple of merlins but it was designed at a time when it looked like the closest the Navy would get to a carrier was slapping some planks on a merchantman and by the time it was done they were ass deep in carriers.

              There is a series on YouTube, "Strange Weapons of WWII" that has one for the Allies, one for Japan, one for t

              • I would have loved to have seen what it would do with a couple of merlins but it was designed at a time when it looked like the closest the Navy would get to a carrier was slapping some planks on a merchantman and by the time it was done they were ass deep in carriers.

                Umm...according to the wiki page [wikipedia.org], the U.S. had at least one operational carrier since 1922. I'm not sure if you mean it was assigned to the Air Force or Marines or something so it wasn't a "Navy carrier?" By the time the war broke out in Europe, the U.S. had six...and the V-173 proposal looks like it was given to the Navy in 1939.

                If you're referring to the BI-1 [wikipedia.org] as the "Russian rocket fighter," A) it doesn't sound like they got it to fly as well as they liked, B) there is no mention on the Wikipedia article

                • by hairyfeet (841228)

                  Noo no and nope. After Coral Sea there was a serious chance that we would have no carriers (in 1941 a study was done that predicted no new full carriers before 1946) so that is why they went for the Flapjack. it turned out that Cruiser conversions worked a LOT better than expected and that combined with the faster production of the Essex made the flapjack no longer needed.

                  Again go look at the video, strange weapons or weird weapons of WWII is what its called, the have video and pics of all the planes. As fa

                  • The J8M, Su-5, and I-250/MiG-13 never flew in combat.

                    In contract, the Me-163, Me-262, Ar-234, and He-162 all did, and in fact all got at least one kill (although the Ar-234s were bombers, I'm sure they hit something successfully).

                    • by hairyfeet (841228)

                      Neither did the Flapjack, which is what we were talking about, nor did the ice carrier, the bat bomb (although it did burn down a test facility) and many of the other batshit crazy every side was working on back then, don't mean they aren't cool to check out. Also check out Blacktail's Disasters! series (he has tank and warplane) to see some designs that were stupid, badly thought out, or just plain batshit.

                      But just because it saw combat (and I don't think the AR-234 ever had a confirmed kill) doesn't mak

    • Parent is modded +5 insightful ??
      I was thinking +5 funny, or even a -1 off topic. Insightful is just wrong

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I heard that the army uses helicopters not because they want to but because they have to (Air Force having jurisdiction over planes existing since late 40s as a seperate branch) and that in many missions they use helicopters planes would actually be superior.

    Is this true?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by aix tom (902140)

      Well, having been in an (German) Army Helicopter unit the "tight interaction" between ground troops and flying units requires stuff that fixed-wing aircrafts are not really good at. They can't stand still in the air, the cant land vertically in tight spaces (without burning people with jet exhaust like a VTOL jet would) , etc...

      Basically anything fast/long-range/big is usually handled by the air force planes (or helicopters), while slow/agile/close coordination with ground troops is handled by the army air

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        USAF here ... yes, this. Class III UAV's are a bit of an anomoly, as they're fixed wing, but so slow that they kind of just work. However, still, the Air Force has the armed UAVs and the army has unarmed ones.

        • But when it comes to flying armed drones in missions where missiles are fired at targets, it's the CIA doing it !?!?

      • Well, having been in an (German) Army Helicopter unit the "tight interaction" between ground troops and flying units requires stuff that fixed-wing aircrafts are not really good at. They can't stand still in the air, the cant land vertically in tight spaces (without burning people with jet exhaust like a VTOL jet would) , etc...

        Basically anything fast/long-range/big is usually handled by the air force planes (or helicopters), while slow/agile/close coordination with ground troops is handled by the army air corps. Usually with helicopters, although some planes are used by armies, like the Britten-Norman Defender by the British army.

        Very true, and try getting the Air Force to support a JAAT (speaking late coldwar here) without 30 days notice or some BS. If you needed close air support, the Navy and the Marines needed to be nearby.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Kinda, the devil in the details.

      Until the 1980s with the formation of JSOC, the Army and Navy (and later the Air Force and to a lesser extent, the National Guard) were intentionally divided by federal government. Cue political infighting over who gets what, fast forward to the 20th century; and you have the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard, etc all arguing over who gets what kind of 'aircraft', where, when and how.

      As for missions where the Army would use helicopters when planes would have been

    • Re:Helicopters (Score:5, Informative)

      by Austrian Anarchy (3010653) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @04:15PM (#47294389) Homepage Journal

      I heard that the army uses helicopters not because they want to but because they have to (Air Force having jurisdiction over planes existing since late 40s as a seperate branch) and that in many missions they use helicopters planes would actually be superior.

      Is this true?

      The Key West Agreement that formed the Air Force had a stipulation that the Army would not have any armed aircraft. Lather that was re-interpreted as no armed FIXED-WING aircraft.

      Side note on the Cheyenne, the helicopter that was to be the scout helicopter for the Cheyenne attack aircraft evolved into the AH-1 Cobra. IIRC, the original scout helicopter for the Cobra was the OH-6, later replaced by the OH-58.

    • by Nutria (679911)

      I heard that the army uses helicopters not because they want to but because they have to

      No... they actually want to use helicopters, because they fill important niches that fixed wing craft suck at.

      (The purpose of the 1948 Key West Agreement was preventing the Army from re-forming their own air wings, under their own control.)

    • Helicopters operate from the treetops down. Fixed wing operates from the treetops up.
    • by jittles (1613415)

      I heard that the army uses helicopters not because they want to but because they have to (Air Force having jurisdiction over planes existing since late 40s as a seperate branch) and that in many missions they use helicopters planes would actually be superior.

      Is this true?

      The biggest case where this is an issue for the US Army is actually with drones. They can't operate the larger, more capable drones that they would like because they fall under the purview of the US Air Force. If its fixed wing and flies over a certain altitude, the army cannot operate it.

    • Re:Helicopters (Score:4, Informative)

      by morethanapapercert (749527) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @09:52PM (#47295559)
      uhm,....sort of

      What you're thinking of is the result of the Key West Agreement [wikipedia.org] which basically says the Army can have air assets with a reconnaissance or medical evacuation role. If they have a need for a fixed wing aircraft, blimp, helicopter or whatever within those roles, they can have them. Combat aviation machines remain the purview of the Air Force, so the A-10 tank buster and the AC-130 gunship whose primary mission is a ground support role are NOT Army assets, but Air Force. In practical terms, this has limited the Army to "low and slow" unarmed fixed wing recon platforms and helos for medivac duties. However, after the Viet Nam War, the Army was able to expand on those roles and start using smaller turboprop and light jet fixed wing craft for cargo transport and armed helicopters such as the Apache.

      The Navy (and Marines) was able to keep its own combat aircraft for several reasons. My own summary of those reasons are a) Navy often operates too far away from Airforce bases for the usual type of cross-service support and b) The navy had done an excellent job of proving in the recently ended WWII of how effective carrier based aircraft are. A capability the Navy was not going to give up without a serious fight...

      *It is generally accepted in military circles that special/covert operations units are exempt from the agreement, but because of the nature and scope of their missions, they are usually limited to choppers and transport craft anyway.

  • You can develop the most awesome weapon ever invented, but if you didn't do it in an influential Congressman's district, you can forget about the military buying it.

    • by plover (150551)

      Some really clever weapons systems, like the Crusader with the Multiple Rounds Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) system that delivers an array of shells to one area simultaneously, seem to have everything going for them: congressional backing, tech, whatever. Turns out that a weapon designed for WW2 land wars isn't so useful in fighting religious nuts in the deserts. Some simply get canceled because there isn't a need for them any more.

  • infamous Gay Bomb [wikipedia.org]!
    • by Trepidity (597)

      Huh, 1994? This is one of those old cancelled military experiments you expect to see with a date more like 1954.

    • infamous Gay Bomb [wikipedia.org]!

      Well, they haven't discovered what human Pheromones are yet. But they suspect they are secreted from the areola around the nipple. I have a feeling they'll find out our feet do it to.

      In any event, if they do find human pheromones, I think this is a fantastic idea if it would work. Nothing better than turning a war into a gay orgy. War would immediately regarded as "Gay" and unmanly. That would do us all some good.

      • by osu-neko (2604)
        They've found a number of human pheromones. However, the effects are not dramatic.
      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Unfortunately, it wouldn't be regarded as unmanly, just a reason to why the enemy wasn't worth much and needed to be killed- so carpet bombing and a lot of other things normally considered a war crime now would be in use.

        You see, it often isn't the people fighting the wars who are all gun ho for war. Often it is people sitting safely behind desks pushing pencils and risking a paper cut of an assassination attempt from a disgruntled constituent that they haven't bothered to listen to for several years.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      LOL ... it probably failed because it didn't have enough glitter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @03:37PM (#47294251)

    Jeez...

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      This x1000. The modern internet is littered with worthless articles without any text, full of useless pictures and videos out of context with some lame headline like "She was attacked by a puppy, you won't believe what she did next." We see thousands of click through articles which feature a full page picture and nothing else forcing you to reload the page over and over again, or better still pages where the text isn't actually text but pictures in the clickbaitiest way possible making me wish for text.

      Now

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @03:43PM (#47294271) Homepage

    It's a good thing that some of those weapons were brought to the prototype stage, but not to production. Today, there's a strong tendency to have only one program underway for major aircraft, leading to production of marginal aircraft like the F-35.

    There are many smaller weapons, such as the XM8 assault rifle, which made it to prototype but were then cancelled. Guided ammo for small arms has been demonstrated, but it's still some ways from being miitarily useful.

    Laser weapons are in the same state - there are working demos, but they're not worth the trouble yet. Diode laser powered weapons are now up to 10KW (big array of 10W or so diodes), and can shoot down small rockets and artillery shells in demos. Current thinking is that, at 50KW-100KW, they'll be militarily useful.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      It's a good thing that some of those weapons were brought to the prototype stage, but not to production. Today, there's a strong tendency to have only one program underway for major aircraft, leading to production of marginal aircraft like the F-35.

      I have no clue what you're talking about. The F-35 program started with a competition between Lockheed and Boeing. Obviously, the Boeing X-32 craft was only brought to the prototype stage.

    • by Sir Holo (531007)

      Animats: Laser weapons are in the same state - there are working demos, but they're not worth the trouble yet. Diode laser powered weapons are now up to 10KW (big array of 10W or so diodes), and can shoot down small rockets and artillery shells in demos. Current thinking is that, at 50KW-100KW, they'll be militarily useful.

      Navy has (or is testing) some higher-powered ones, basically five or ten welding lasers strapped together, but the power and cooling requirements are huge.

  • by gentryx (759438) * on Sunday June 22, 2014 @04:09PM (#47294363) Homepage Journal
    Granted, it sounds a tad like an episode from Thunderbirds [wikipedia.org], but it's real: Project Pluto [wikipedia.org] was a nuclear powered Supersonic Low Altitude Missile (SLAM). The idea was to drive the reactor into critical state and superheat the inflowing air, efficiently creating a nuclear powered scamjet [wikipedia.org]. Downside: because the reactor was almost unshielded, all controls had to be designed to withstand extreme radiation and heat (they had to work in white heat conditions). The project was canceled in the 60s, but they actually built and powered up the engines.
  • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @04:41PM (#47294479) Homepage

    From the Stranger-than Strangelove dept:

    http://jalopnik.com/the-flying-crowbar-the-insane-doomsday-weapon-america-1435286216/ [jalopnik.com]

    Essentially a flying, unshielded nuclear reactor that flies around pissing out fission products, and crapping hydrogen warheads.

    All to defend freedom and democracy,. of course...

    • by Nutria (679911)

      All to defend freedom and democracy,. of course...

      Remember, this was the 1950s and 60s: as long as it pissed over the ragheads & Russkies, no one really cared.

  • by Hamsterdan (815291) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @05:07PM (#47294577)

    AVRO CF-105 Arrow, killed by the Diefenbaker government, all blueprints and airframes destroyed... (rumors say one might have survived)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]

    Brings a new meaning to Black Friday :(

    MACH 1.98 *official* speed, that's for the Mark1 with Pratt & Whitney J75 Turbojets, could have been even faster with Iroquois engines (that was in 1959), it tested faster than that on its first flight even with the J75s, but was lowered down to 1.98 because they wanted to sell the Iroquois engines.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O... [wikipedia.org]

    Could even replace the F-35 with lower costs

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]

    A really nice documentary was made in 1996 starring Dan Aykroyd

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

    Build it at a smaller size, with modern weaponry and avionics, kinda like the Dassault Mirage...

    • by jd (1658)

      If you look at the fate of HOTOL, which bears a striking resemblance of the fate of the Avro Arrow, and the total lack of recent development on the Australian hypersonic engine, you get the definite impression that someone isn't keen on competition in the supersonic/hypersonic military arena.

      (Yeah, I know HOTOL wasn't designed to be military, but if the engine design had been finished then those engines would have been used in military aircraft, and HOTOL would certainly have been used to put up spy satelli

      • by dbIII (701233)

        and the total lack of recent development on the Australian hypersonic engine

        There is still stuff going on - slowly - due to the same low levels of funding that meant that the scramjet model I saw in 1986 that went in a shock tunnel is not very different from the one that got some time on a rocket a couple of years back.
        NASA funded some of it back in the 1980s but I'm not sure where the money came from since. I could be wrong but the US military only seems to have been running their experiments in the last

      • by twosat (1414337)

        HOTOL technology has not been abandoned, it is now being actively developed for the Skylon unmanned space-plane by Reaction Engines Ltd.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

        http://www.reactionengines.co.... [reactionengines.co.uk]

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmai l . c om> on Monday June 23, 2014 @12:27AM (#47296031) Homepage

      AVRO CF-105 Arrow, killed by the Diefenbaker government, and the subject of fevered fantasies amongst the generations of aviation fanboys ever since

      Seriously, if you believe everything ever written about the Arrow, it's the escort vehicle for the second coming of $DIETY. Reality however insists (as it usually does) in being somewhat messier.
       
      From a more balanced view, Diefenbaker probably did the Canadian military a huge favor... Arrow's fire control system was a real mess and probably years from being combat ready. Also, the day of the big heavy high speed interceptor was already starting to draw to close, being replaced by lighter and smaller air superiority fighters. Though overseas sales were often discussed, similar aircraft of the era had a dismal sales record because they were very expensive niche aircraft - and the niche was rapidly vanishing. Odds are (assuming the Arrow ever reached full combat capability) that by 1970 Canada would have been stuck with an obsolescent and aging Arrow contingent sucking up vast amounts of the slender Canadian defense budget.

    • by smithmc (451373) *
      I've never really understood why people continue to get so excited about what basically would have been the Canadian version of the MiG-25, only slower. An F-15 or Su-27 could wax this thing's ass any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
  • Crappy websites (Score:5, Informative)

    by excelsior_gr (969383) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @05:11PM (#47294597)

    Here's the list using the Wikipedia pages, so that you don't have to click through the tedious article and follow the links to various crappy websites that don't even have pictures:
      AH-56 Cheyenne [wikipedia.org]
      B-70 Valkyrie [wikipedia.org]
      A-12 Avenger [wikipedia.org]
      Future Combat Systems [wikipedia.org]
      Sea Control Ship [wikipedia.org]

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @06:02PM (#47294769)

    I saw one an M65 [wikipedia.org] up close at the Army Artillery Museum in Oklahoma. Let's see fire a nuke out of a cannon. It was tested but no fucking way would I be the guy on the firing line with one of those things.

    • by PPH (736903)

      no fucking way would I be the guy on the firing line with one of those things.

      That's OK. You'll be taking point with the M28 [wikipedia.org] recoilless rifle.

      • by Virtucon (127420)

        You know with the thought of nuclear proliferation I still wonder to this day WTF they were thinking with that thing? That M388 round packed a lot of punch and was small, so it could disappear quickly into any third world country.

        • by rahvin112 (446269)

          There was a MASSIVE soviet tank army standing by in Eastern Europe after the end of the war. The Soviets never stopped building armor after the end of the war and kept piling tanks in the East. The official NATO defense strategy was to drop nukes on the line of that army as soon as it crossed the border. This required quick deploy nukes. The M388 was actually one of the larger rounds, there was a very tiny jeep launched one as well that would only go about 5 miles (think about that job for a minute).

          The po

          • by Virtucon (127420)

            I think MAD had more to do with keeping the Soviets on their side of the Iron Curtain more than anything else. Sure, some of these were interesting like that Jeep Nuke but yeah, crazy job and pity the poor soldier who had to fire one because NFW could you get out of the way fast enough. Also when these were developed our missile technology wasn't all that great, think Jupiter class missiles, so from a tactical sense I can't see how a strategic weapon makes much sense unless it's a last
            ditch hail-mary phil

            • by rahvin112 (446269)

              At the time these were developed NATO did not believe they could beat the Soviet forces without them. The soviets had something like a 3:1 armor advantage to the NATO forces and when combined with Warsaw pact forces they outnumbered NATO forces as well. The late 40's and 50's were pretty scary in this regard because western Europe was devastated and trying not to starve to death and the US had mostly demobilized while the Soviets still had their entire army and had increased heavy weaponry in the interim. I

              • by Virtucon (127420)

                I understand that but we had the B52s, the B47s and in 1960 the B58s and true, long range ICBMs (Minuteman in this case) didn't come online until the early 60s but that doesn't mean a few B52s of which quite a few were based in England couldn't have dropped a few H-Bombs on Eastern Europe if they ever needed to. That's why they were there to begin with. To my recollection I don't think the Soviets had a nuke proof tank or at least one that could hold up to a few million degrees of heat. It's the tho

          • by PPH (736903)

            there was a very tiny jeep launched one as well that would only go about 5 miles (think about that job for a minute).

            I have a friend who was qualified to carry one of these [wikipedia.org]. And he wasn't stationed anywhere near Europe. I'm not saying where, but think about setting the timer on one of these and then running through a jungle.

  • If you're going to write an article about weapons that never made it into production, you really should mention the XF-85 Goblin, [wikipedia.org] a parasite fighter intended to be carried by the B-36 bomber. The Goblin had a combat endurance of only 30 minutes and no landing gear; it was carried in the bomb bay of a specially converted bomber and "landed" by hooking up to a trapeze.
  • by jd (1658) <imipak@noSPam.yahoo.com> on Sunday June 22, 2014 @06:57PM (#47294967) Homepage Journal

    The US attempted to build a version of the British "Grand Slam" bomb. Fixing some of the aerodynamic issues and making assorted other "improvements", they ended up with a 44,000 lb. conventional unguided bomb. The Tallboy/Grand Slam series of bombs worked on a very simple principle - you send a gigantic shockwave through the ground as a result of an impact very close to mach 1, and a second shockwave through the ground as a result of a shaped charge.

    This type of bomb destroys pretty much anything at the boundary between two different materials. So if you dropped one of these bombs on a reinforced concrete bunker, you'd pulverize the inside of the bunker without having to actually punch a hole right the way through. They were superb at taking out dams, far better than the bouncing bomb (Barnes Wallis designed both), because you didn't have to hit the dam at all. The interface between dam and valley was a weakpoint that, if shredded, would achieve exactly the same effect the bouncing bomb did - far more reliably and without the vulnerability.

    The British version worked brilliantly. If, by "brilliantly", you mean removing all the armour, defences and bomb bay doors from a Lancaster bomber. Ok, to be fair, it did exactly what was intended. It destroyed ships, dams and factories in a way that no bomb before could.

    So, what did the US version do?

    What it should have done is make a mess of bunkers with 22' of reinforced concrete or less, and severely disrupt heavier bunkers than that.

    What it actually did was nothing. The B-52 carrying the prototype managed to get to the end of the runway before running out of fuel.

    What it did next was also nothing. The US abandoned all further work on it, as tactical nuclear weapons would have had more punch at a lighter weight.

    Would it have changed warfare? It might have reduced the number of survivors from Tora Bora by a small amount, but the US had gas/incindiary bombs and air pressure bombs that could reach into the deepest caves there. An earthquake bomb might have reduced the time needed, but that's it. It might also have changed the Iraq invasion. A bomb that could pulverize deep bunkers would have made it much harder for neocons to claim WMDs were being stored in such bunkers. If you can target them directly, conventionally and reliably, your obvious next question is to ask where these bunkers are. Since US intelligence knew of no such bunkers, it would have had no positions to give.

    Would it change the dynamics with Iran? The Iranians have placed their nuclear technology in bunkers with walls too thick for most conventional bombs and smaller tactical nukes. The concrete also uses a recipe that was, when last demonstrated in a technology exhibition in the US, around a hundred times stronger than the reinforced concrete used by the US military. However, strength doesn't matter here. The whole idea of sending a shockwave is that a hard, consistent medium delivers the shockwave that much better to the other side. And modern explosives are rather better than torpex. Having said that, there is still no US bomber capable of carrying such a weapon and there's no guarantee such a bomb would do anything worthwhile.

    The next US project was also a variant of a Barnes Wallis design. They built a variant of the bouncing bomb. Originally, the bomb was never intended to attack things like dams, it was intended to lift ships out of the water. Military ships, especially, are not self-supporting structures. Lifted, even briefly and by a small amount, would be sufficient to break the back of a ship. Even if that didn't work, placing a bomb directly under a ship would likely crack the hull anyway. It would then sink almost immediately. Sinking at that speed would also pretty much guarantee no survivors. Barnes Wallis was incredibly sensitive to human cost, but his military inventions (only a small fraction of all the work he actually did) were designed to perform a specific task extremely well.

    In this case, he was off by a bit. The bouncin

    • by Nimey (114278)

      I'm not convinced that a bouncing bomb would have been all that effective against ships. The delivering aircraft still has to be close to the target, flying straight, low, and at a certain airspeed, and it's an unguided bomb so there's still a decent chance of a miss (several bombs missed the German dams, for instance). We had other planes that attacked low-and-slow; they were torpedo bombers and fell out of use after 1945 due to being excessively vulnerable to flak during their low, slow and straight att

    • The Tallboy/Grand Slam series of bombs worked on a very simple principle - you send a gigantic shockwave through the ground as a result of an impact very close to mach 1, and a second shockwave through the ground as a result of a shaped charge.

      Neither Tallboy nor Grand Slam had a shaped charge.

      What it should have done is make a mess of bunkers with 22' of reinforced concrete or less, and severely disrupt heavier bunkers than that.

      What it actually did was nothing. The B-52 carrying the prototype man

    • a big reason why Argentinian noise right now, when Britain has no carriers at all, is troubling

      Not really. Thatcher's massive cuts and a rapid transition from a manufacturing economy to a financial services one was a change that gave the Argentinians that the UK was militarily finished and without the manufacturing base to sustain a prolonged war, so they thought the UK would just roll over without a fight over the islands. Argentina also had leading figures in the US government on their side so thought t

    • a big reason why Argentinian noise right now, when Britain has no carriers at all, is troubling

      Indeed the lack of carriers is troubling, but not in this instance. There's now an RAF airbase armed with Eurofighters, plus an antiaircraft missile destroper permanently on station. So, while one needs an aircraft carrier to project power to remote locations, in this case, they already have it there.

    • What it actually did was nothing. The B-52 carrying the prototype managed to get to the end of the runway before running out of fuel.

      Either it took them a really long time to adapt that bomb, or you probably meant the B-29.

    • by Carnildo (712617)

      Would it have changed the course of warfare? A bouncing bomb that worked at sea would have rendered virtually all navies obsolete.

      You know what else can lift a ship and break its back? A torpedo with a magnetic fuse. Oddly enough, torpedo bombers don't appear to have rendered the world's navies obsolete.

      • Also, note that the Germans developed a great ship-killing weapon in the form of a remotely guided airplane packed with explosives. On its first use in 1943, during the Italian change in sides, it sank the latest Italian battleship with one hit, and crippled HMS Warspite, another battleship, with another single hit. That didn't render navies obsolete in European waters; the Allies just made darn sure they had air supremacy before sending in large ships.

        Improved weaponry affects tactics, but it has less

  • Worthless article without images.

    Even some of the web-linked articles don't have images.

    Bad click-bait article aside, it is typical that the USA (and other nations) develop weapons systems that they never end up "needing to use." Weapons systems can be seen as a kind of insurance policy, but it can be damned hard from keeping the hawks from wanting to go play with their toys (kill people) all the time.
  • XB-70 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by p51d007 (656414) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:54PM (#47295383)
    It's amazing, how the weapons of war, develop out of the fear from the idea, that one side has something the other does not. Take the XB-70. It wasn't a "black" project, and even if it was, soviet spies were in the USA watching as much as they could. Once Moscow got wind of the XB-70, they started on a project of their own. They needed something fast, that could intercept the XB-70. They came up with the Mig-25 Foxbat. A VERY fast plane. After the XB-70 was canceled, they kept on with the design, since it could out run, out climb anything in the west. I believe it was a Foxbat that pretty much walked away from a F-4 phantom sometime in the late 60's that spooked the USAF and they got McDonnell Douglas working on an interceptor that could match/beat the Foxbat. They came up with the F-15 Eagle (I still think it could be modded to outdo most anything today). The F-15 is a beast, beat the time to climb record too. In the mid 70's? someone defected in Japan with a Mig-25, almost crashing into a commercial jet at the Tokyo airport. Well of course the USAF pretty much went over it with a fine tooth comb before returning it. They found out the environmental system sucked, the build quality suffered greatly, and the engines were prone to needing replacement after a few missions. In other words, other than speed, it kind of sucked. But if you look back at history, the Mig-15 made the USAF develop the F-86, The Mig-21 was followed up by the F-4 phantom, the Mig-25 got the F-15 going, the F-16 got the Su-27, and on and on and on, just to one up the other guy. Lots of money, wasted, to some extent, if you look at all the rusted out hulks in the former soviet union, and the mothballed ones sitting in the dessert just outside Phoenix, AZ.
    • by careysub (976506)

      ...In the mid 70's? someone defected in Japan with a Mig-25, almost crashing into a commercial jet at the Tokyo airport.

      Viktor Belenko and it was Hakodate Airport in northern Japan. He overshot the runway, damaging the landng gear, but he was almost out of fuerl and couldn't go around (plus, he didn't want to get shot at).

      Well of course the USAF pretty much went over it with a fine tooth comb before returning it. They found out the environmental system sucked,

      The pressurized flight suit worked fine, I've never read that it didn't (athough the current F-35 program seems to be having problems). Possibly you are referring to the sophisticated environmental system for electronics that the Mig-25 did not have because its vacuum tube electronics did not need them? Th

    • by Nimey (114278)

      The F-86 was developed before the MiG-15 entered combat service. The only thing the MiG did to the Sabre was make the Air Force deploy it quicker because the MiG spanked everything else the Air Force had.

      Likewise the MiG-21 and F-4; the F-4 was developed not specifically because of the Fishbed, but because the Navy (and later the Air Force) wanted a modern fighter and it happened that the Fishbed and Phantom were the most modern fighters each side had in Vietnam; they weren't even the same class of airplan

  • >> A weapon can seem like an amazing invention, but it still has to adapt to all sorts of conditions--budgetary, politics, and people's plain bias

    I actually read TFA, and it seems like each one of these "amazing inventions" would have let someone fight the last war...a little bit better...with an incremental weapons system that would have taken a lot of resources to develop. In retrospect, it seems the right call was made to kill ALL of these systems. In fact, if there's a lesson to be learned here, its that American superiority since WWII has depended on us jumping on the right trend at the right time (e.g., carriers instead of battleships, ICBM's instead of fast bombers, missle delivery aircraft instead of dogfighters, etc.). It will be interesting to see if we moved into robotics at the right time (or if large stealth was ever worth it) when we look back in thirty years...

    • Going to missile delivery aircraft before the Vietnam war was a problem: we really did need dogfighters for that war, and the F-105 and F-4, although very capable aircraft in some roles, sucked in a dogfight.

No amount of careful planning will ever replace dumb luck.

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