We suspect that every military has a secret room full of stoned dudes who stare at the ceiling and just dream up shit to build. The difference is they have billions of dollars to make their dreams reality.
In support of our "secret room full of stoned dudes" theory, we offer the following actual military projects that stretch the limits of the non-stoned imagination:
#10. The Bat Bomb
Working on the premise any weapon is cooler if it flies in the night on leathery wings, Bat Bombs were proposed by a dental surgeon in the '40s. Naturally the President thought it was awesome so a plan was rolled out to make the night unsafe for anyone that didn't want to have small explosives get stuck in their hair.
Because bats can carry a good amount of weight and tend to sneak into buildings and such, the plan was to make an army of flying rodent suicide bombers and release them over Japan. The little fellas had small napalm explosive kits made for them, which were probably the cutest incendiary devices ever, and then cases were constructed that would be dropped from B-29s, releasing the bats.
At dawn, they'd flee to buildings until the timers on their little bombs went off. So far, so fucking crazy.
What went wrong:
Things got sketchy when some armed bats were accidentally released and set up shop under a fuel tank on an Air Force base. So, yeah, that burnt to the ground. But, hey, it proved the damn things worked, so the people involved looked at that as a silver lining.
Given that the bomb casings they'd made for the bats could hold over 1,000 bats, they assumed just one bomber could hold up to 200,000 little flaming night terrors and some initial test data concluded these bat bombs were actually superior to regular fire bombs.
But after a couple million bucks in funding, the plan was scrapped. The plan was moving forward too slowly, the bats were unpredictable and the guys at the Manhattan Project were talking about having some kind of miracle bomb that could do the work of like, a million bats.
#9. The Great Panjandrum
Getting through enemy fortifications is always tough, what with their insistence on constructing defenses out of stone and other non-meringue based substances. Sometimes conventional weapons just can't break through, and such was the case with the concrete defenses that were part of the Third Reich's Atlantic Wall that ran up and down the west coast of the European continent. So the Brits came up with the Panjandrum, insanity's answer to "what could we do to make explosives more dangerous?"
So how do you get a tank-sized hole in a concrete wall? Well, they created two giant, wooden wheels joined by a central drum stuffed with explosives. On each wheel they strapped rockets as a means to propel it forward at speeds of about 60 miles an hour. Life imitates art, and sometimes military life imitates Wile E. Coyote cartoons.
What went wrong:
You can probably guess. The rockets that moved the thing had a habit of flying off during tests, sending the entire structure off course, which we're thinking created a number of safety issues. After adding more rockets and another wheel, it was tested again and this time it turned right back to sea.
Finally, after many tweaks, it was ready to be tested in front of Navy officials, scientists and journalists. How could this go wrong?
The ridiculous thing started rolling off as planned, but then like a drunken hussy with vertigo on a dance floor, it started careening all over the place before making a beeline for the assembled Navy brass, discarding rockets and wobbling around before thankfully collapsing and exploding. Moments later, the Roadrunner went zipping by.
#8. Project Orcon
A real pain in the ass during WWII was the enemy constantly trying to not get bombed. Ways of jamming guidance systems for homing missiles meant a lot of targets went unblown up, so effort was put into finding a way to guide a missile that couldn't be jammed.
Every psych 101 students' favorite sleep aid, BF Skinner, proposed the idea of using pigeons. Put a pigeon in a bomb and have the target displayed on screen for it. The pigeon would constantly correct the course by pecking on the image of the target in the center of the screen. Jam that, Nazi assholes.
What went wrong:
Even though a chunk of change had been dropped on the project, the military abandoned it. Some say it was just too weird for them, while the time involved in training the pigeons had also been cited. One of the problems was the range of the weapons, as they relied on an optical system, since the pigeons had to see what they were pecking at. If the bomb went too far off course, the pigeons would have to correct for themselves and the bomb. Another problem was that it was a bomb guided by a fucking bird.
#7. The Sun Gun
Destroying your enemies from space is the goal of every angry 4th grader and Scientologist. Unbeknownst to many, it was also the goal of the Nazis, who figured a space station/death ray combo would have been gangbusters.
Appropriating the work of less genocidal minds, Nazi physicists began work on an idea that would put a giant mirror in orbit. The mirror, which they planned to design from about one million tons of metallic sodium, would burn cities to the ground, boil reservoirs, crisp people like bacon and probably make all kinds of kids with magnifying glasses huddled over ant hills feel grossly inadequate.
The mirror would be on a space station manned by Nazi spacemen with magnetic boots to help overcome weightlessness, with oxygen provided by on-board pumpkin patches and electricity provided by solar powered steam dynamos. The cafeteria would presumably have food deep fried in love and the rec room would be structured out of the dreams of children and unicorn gonads.
What went wrong:
We did. "We" being all the non-Nazi assholes, the more colloquial name for the Allied forces. When it became clear that we were going to win the war, the US began taking German scientists out of the country and this plan, along with many others, was abandoned. Also, the epic, grand scale, and mind-bogglingly retarded nature of the entire idea was apparently a roadblock that needed to be overcome too, since we couldn't even build the damned thing now, in 2008, if we wanted to.
And trust us, we want to.
#6. Project Habbakuk
When Winston Churchill got a hankering to smite his enemies, he aimed for the sky. Actually, he aimed for the ocean, where he wanted to build Holy Fuck That's Insane island. That was renamed Project Habbakuk. It was an aircraft carrier. It was an iceberg.
Wanting to make an unsinkable aircraft carrier that would be so intense as to make enemies shit themselves uncontrollably, and with good reason, the Brits came up with the Habbakuk. Constructed from ice (ever try to sink an ice cube?) the plan was to make it 2,000 feet long with a deck to keel depth of 200 feet and walls 40 feet thick. It would displace 2,000,000 tons (compared to the Navy's current Nimitz class carriers that displace 100,000 tons). So, it was like, really big.
When ice proved to be not entirely feasible a material to build an aircraft carrier out of, they switched to something called Pykrete, which was just ice and wood pulp. It was intense stuff that deflected bullets and since this idea was already probably the craziest thing anyone had ever heard of, why the fuck not?
What went wrong:
Practicality. A small version had been constructed in Canada that weighed 1,000 tons and was only 60 feet long to show that the idea could work. It took three summers to melt the damn thing. The full-scale model would take $70 million, 8,000 people and eight months to finish, the finished product could only travel at six knots and once it arrived where it was going, it would still be made of fucking ice.