Modern warfare, with all its high-tech gadgetry, would have seemed like black magic to the technologically inferior warmongers of only a century ago ... or at least that's what we assume. But it turns out that a lot of the stuff that defines the modern battlefield has been around in some form for a lot longer than we think, thanks to murderous geniuses who were decades or centuries ahead of their time.
6"Drones" Have Been Around Since the 1940s
In the last two decades, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) went from "those flying killbots in the Terminator movies" to "the USA's go-to solution for every international problem." These drones are literally the most futuristic thing in our arsenal, and if you saw some World War II movie that featured them, you'd think you were seeing the work of the laziest screenwriter in history.
But if so, you'd owe them an apology. This is the TDR-1, the Predator drone's badass grandpa:
"You kids today with your guided missiles and your geolocation ... in my day, blowing shit up was a craft."
Developed in the 1940s during a period when the entire world was seeing how much metal they could fling at high velocity toward one another, the TDR-1 was the world's first production UAV that was put into combat. Of course, rather than being flown by some guy on the other side of the world, the TDR-1 was flown by another pilot in a nearby bomber, due to the fact that satellites didn't exist yet. Still, the Navy was so impressed by the idea of a magical pilotless aircraft that they commissioned 5,000 of the things. However, delays led to only 195 being built and shipped off to the Pacific to fight the Japanese.
A typical mission for the TDR-1 consisted of takeoff, a flight to a target, and dropping a few bombs or a torpedo. Then the operator would take the aircraft and give it an ending the Japanese would be proud of: He'd steer it right into the target it was just bombing, because who wants to go through the trouble of landing that shit?
Greg Goebel, via Wikipedia
Besides, it's never too early to start teaching robots who's really in charge.
For several months, the U.S. Navy used these drones to attack various Japanese targets around the Pacific with a success rate of 21 targets destroyed in 37 missions. Although that 57 percent success rate sounds meager, that's a far cry from today's whopping 2 percent success rate. The TDR-1 was cancelled in October 1944 when the Navy decided that it preferred human pilots, or at least that they wanted expensive war machines that didn't get slammed into the side of a building after one use.