#2. The Self-Destructing Battleship
Italian Cruiser Raimondo Montecuccoli
It's not just American and British technology that made the Soviets jealous. The cruiser Raimondo was built in 1931 and, unlike every other thing Italy had in World War II, was actually useful and did something in the war.
It was like The Love Boat, except with explosions instead of romance.
It actually was used in battle and disabled some British and American ships. It even survived the war and lived a long and healthy retirement as a training cruiser until it was decommissioned at the ripe age of 29 years old, in 1964. Not too shabby for a bunch of fascists, eh?
The Sad Soviet Copy:
Soviet Cruiser Kirov
The Soviets saw the Raimondo and thought, "Hey, let's come up with our own original cruiser that's cool, too."
"The Italians seem to be doing really well in this whole Second World War thing."
By this point, you already know this ended in disaster. You're probably thinking, "So it sank, right? The Russians sailed it away from the docks and it probably sank right to the ocean floor." But it's actually stupider than that.
During one of the ship's test trials, the ship shot itself with a torpedo.
That's right. One of the test torpedoes they fired actually came back around and hit the ship's own propeller.
"It's fine -- our bad. Just need to throw on a quick patch."
Rather than spin this into some kind of spooky kamikaze angle, they decided to press forward. If its tendency to commit unintentional suicide wasn't a deal breaker, it should be noted that the rest of the ship was a disaster as well (among a host of problems was the fact that recoil from the guns would actually warp the ship's hull). None of this stopped the Soviets from building five more of these ships.
Incredibly, none of the ships were destroyed during World War II, presumably because the Allies decided they should just leave them alone and they would eventually do more damage to themselves.
"I'm sorry, Jim, but I ... I just don't have the heart to fire on it."
Though that means its service record was far better than the Yak-38 ...
#1. The Fighter That Tended to Fall Out of the Sky
Hawker Siddeley Harrier
Even if you know absolutely nothing about jet fighters, you can immediately see why the Harrier was a major development in aircraft design: The thing could take off and land straight up and down. That obviously saves you a shitload on runways.
Introduced in Great Britain in 1969, the jets proved to be so successful that even the United States wanted some after seeing what they could do. And it's not like the vertical takeoff thing was its only trick -- it was pretty damned good once it was in the sky, too. In the Falklands War, the Harrier had a record of 22-0 against the Argentine Air Force, which, by the way, substantially outnumbered them.
To be fair, all of their pilots were loose cannons who played by their own rules.
Even today, the Harrier is still in service with air forces worldwide. Of course, Britain wouldn't sell them to the Soviets, so ...
The Sad Soviet Copy:
Where do we start with this one? We'll start by saying it was the frontline fighter for the Soviet Navy from the 1970s until the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s. Oh, and every single Soviet sailor hated it. Soviet equipment tended to fall into one of two categories: it barely worked, or it was total shit. The Yak-38 fell into the latter category.
They just threw this one into the air so it would appear to be flying in the picture.
The main problem was that the aircraft really couldn't do anything useful. Sure, it could hover, and do the vertical takeoff/landing thing like the Harrier. But it also had almost no capability to carry weapons, and statistics show that 100 percent of the time, the side with weapons will win the battle. This is like designing a rifle that has a sight, a trigger and a magazine, but can only fire sound effects.
The stubby wings and weak engine allowed only four weapons pylons for about 2,200 pounds of weapons. If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that an F-15 fighter can carry 10 times that weight.
But Soviet pilots were allowed unlimited imaginary weapons.
Also it liked to suck in its own exhaust, which killed its own engine, causing the aircraft to veer violently out of control, plunging itself into its own doom . And, of course, the engine couldn't start if it was a hot and humid day. Good thing these weren't designed to be stationed on aircraft carriers in the ocean off the coast of Africa, eh comrades?
Also, you had to replace the engine once every 22 hours of flight time. For perspective, the NATO requirement for pilots is 180 flight hours a year, so you're chewing up about eight engines a year at that rate. Oh, and it would be far outclassed in any dogfight, since it lacked any kind of a radar at all. Not that it would make it to a dogfight in the first place -- in all, a third of all Yak-38s were destroyed ... in accidents.
For more craziness from overseas, check out The 7 Most Mind-Blowing Foreign TV Moments and The 10 Coolest Foreign Words The English Language Needs.