7 WTF Military Weapons You Won't Believe They Actually Built
The military industrial complex has pumped out some pretty useful stuff, thanks to the several trillion dollars we've given them over the years. But military vehicle designers get bored like everybody else, and sometimes it seems like they'll make something purely because it looks awesome.
So here are the vehicles that appear to have been based purely off of the kick-ass drawings a third grade GI Joe fan made on his Trapper Keeper.
Sometimes wheels just aren't cool enough for a military vehicle. Tanks have treads, hovercraft have... hoverers and the corkscrew tank screwed. The tank basically made like James Bond and just screwed its way around Cold War-era Europe.
This fella didn't get bogged down in snow quite as easily as vehicles with tracks or tires or other non cartoon-based methods. In fact, it traveled sideways, surged over snow, ice and water, and did whatever else was necessary to please its Soviet overlords.
A vehicle ideal for getting across bad terrain had the strange weakness of not being able to get across good terrain. The vehicle was effective at getting through snow, but if you picture it on the highway, you see the problem. So, good for navigating the frozen tundra, pretty much useless if the army goes and stands in the middle of a parking lot.
"Damnit, they found our one weakness: Anything that isn't snow."
Even in optimal conditions, the screw drive was slow as hell. And steering wasn't exactly easy since the screws couldn't be aimed from side to side, or have any suspension whatsoever. If you've ever tried to drive a really long screw perfectly straight into a hard surface, you can probably sympathize with the hopeless bastard charged with trying to screw a tank straight through miles of wilderness.
But as the following video demonstrates, none of that mattered because the tank accomplished what was apparently the primary goal of Russian tank design: knock over some fucking trees.
Stupid, lazy trees.
Russian Tsar Tank
Another in the long line of Russia's "God help the poor bastard that gets caught directly underneath this" transport vehicles, this tough customer sadly did not operate by mowing down row after row of enemy infantry like a giant push-mower. The Russian Tsar tank was exactly what it looks like, a giant version of those silly 1890s bicycles with the oversized front tires, only with guns and armor.
And why not? Push-mower blades or not, enemy soldiers will shit at the sight of this crazy bastard coming towards them. And then, you know, step out of the way.
The hypothetical problem with the Tsar tanks is exactly what made it awesome looking. If it had ever made it to battle, the two Ferris wheel-sized bike tires it relied on would have probably made easy targets. Russian military strategists worried about long range mortars, but it seems like a length of lead pipe in the spokes probably would have been just as fatal.
But unbelievably, there was an even more fundamental design flaw that ensured the tank literally never made it out of the testing stage. The designers were so focused on the big wheels up front that they failed to take care of business in the back. The 40-ton tank's entire back half was supported by what looked like a single stroller wheel. Basically, they had created a reverse Big Wheel.
The tank's first and only test-run started out well enough. It moved over some firm ground and, yes, splintered a tree that got in its way. But when it rolled over a patch of mud, the back wheel sunk so fast and deep that the enormous front wheels couldn't pull it out. In fact, nothing could, and it remained there in that field for the entirety of WWI. In 1923, the prototype was disassembled for scrap metal, presumably so Russian tank designers could get to work on a weaponized Hot Wheels track.
Standard helicopters are that rare Trapper Keeper doodle that actually worked. As early as ancient China, and up through Leonardo Da Vinci, history seemed to agree: Flying through the air like a giant insect with spinning-blade wings would be fucking sweet. The main hurdle was controlling the damn thing: Every time they tried to build one, the body of the air craft would spin right along with the blades.
But by WWII, the Germans had finally done it, using a second propeller to create helicopters that could safely fly from point A to point B. Hitler looked at the package of bad assery, and decided that the whole thing just wasn't quite crazy enough. And so the Nazis decided to spice things up with a bunch of ramjet engines.
Not to address the helicopter's inherent problems with steering and torque, mind you, but rather to address the problem that helicopters would look far awesomer if they had fire breathing engines strapped to the tips of their whirring sword-wings.
Uniformed men have masturbated to this picture
The Focke-Wulf Triebfluegel, or "powered wings interceptor," used a simple two-step process to get off the ground. The pilot would pray to whichever particular deity he held dear and then fire off the ramjet engines at the end of the rotor blades. What happened next can best be demonstrated with one of those Mexican spinning fireworks. Ole!
Now imagine a version scaled up one hundred times and attached securely to the aircraft you are flying. Seems reasonable, right?
Of course strapping rockets to the blades didn't make the helicopter any easier to control. The project was scrapped when they realized that the jetcopter's design required the pilot to land it while facing the sky with the ground behind him obscured by a whirling blur of flaming metal. That's right, the idea of rocket tipped blades was so awesome that they put the jetcopter into development without ever considering how to land the damn thing.
Flying Aircraft Carrier
Experiments with aircraft that carry other aircrafts have been going on ever since someone realized that a big blimp could carry a small plane, and that this was awesome. While the whole blimp craze didn't really catch on for some reason...
...experiments continued with more conventional aircraft. The Russians started things off with that doomed looking contraption up there in the header image, which had smaller planes hanging off of it like Christmas tree ornaments. Uncle Sam tried to get in on the action with the airship USS Akron. When that failed, the U.S. assessed the situation and decided that the name and the aircraft were not badass and ridiculous enough respectively, and launched The XF-85 Goblin.
The "XF" stands for "This plane looks like a turd."
This oddly shaped plane was dropped out of a B-36's bomb bay, presumably hoping to confuse enemy ground control when pilots reported back that "The big plane is shitting little planes."
Proving that humans and B-36 bombers aren't that different after all, it was much more difficult for the aircraft to un-shit the Goblin. The first time test pilot Ed Schoch attempted to get the plane back into the belly, the trapeze hook they were trying to snag him with smashed through his canopy, knocking him unconscious and tearing away his flight helmet. Luckily Ed woke up before an unscheduled air/ground interface, at which point he managed to land the crippled aircraft on skids, a dangerous maneuver made necessary by the fact that the Goblin was designed without landing gear. Way to think ahead guys!
Four out of the six test flights ended up with similar white-knuckled crash landings in the desert, which wasn't exactly great for attracting pilots to the program, which left Ed Schoch to fly all six missions, meaning he either had a death wish or he fucked the wrong guy's wife. Either way, we're surprised he managed to fit his balls in such a tiny aircraft.
America scrapped the idea, concluding that planes simply weren't big enough to land another plane on. Russia, being Russia, arrived at a different conclusion...
The Kalinin K-7 parked on what used to be a forest.
Most of you will remember the AT-AT walkers from The Empire Strikes Back as both pretty fucking rad, and among the most impractical vehicles in sci-fi movie history.
But before the rebel alliance could show the world how easy it is to trip a giant robot with legs, General Electric was developing their own AT-ATs. The result was the Quadruped, a four-legged "walking truck" that was driven using the operator's own arms and legs.
It never went into production. The military was too busy building invisible planes and missiles that can follow you down a flight of stairs to give much of a shit about robots that can step over a pile of logs. Or so we thought.
Enter Big Dog, the U.S. Army's modern prototype robot-mule, currently being tested in Afghanistan.
If you stuck with that clip to the end, you saw Big Dog stay on its feet when a grown man kicks it as hard as he can, and jumping like a robotic water spider. Don't seem to remember the AT-ATs pulling off that maneuver.The Problem
The whine of its robot motor sounds like a banshee that's swallowed a margarita mixer, and it takes tiny baby steps that suggest Arthritic Dog would have been a more accurate name. So there's nothing overtly wrong with the Big Dog, as long as you don't mind your equipment being carried through enemy territory by a crippled looking robot that can be heard by every one of your enemies in a three mile radius.
Of course, as technology advances, the Big Dog will only get faster and quieter. But even then, what do these things have on a vehicle that does the same thing and has four wheels? We mean besides a few million dollars in development costs, and the guarantee that someone's going to try to ride it like a horse within its first 10 minutes on the ground.
One-Wheel Tank/Ball Tank
In 1936, memories of the blood-soaked trenches were still fresh in the minds of a generation. With clouds gathering on the horizon in Europe, Texan inventor A.J. Richardson knew what would win the next world war. It was gonna take balls. Big balls to be precise. The logic is flawless: If it can keep a hamster safe from a house cat, surely it was qualified to roll out into No Man's Land during the most destructive and sophisticated war of its time.
Based on the above diagram, everything seems to be above board. Obviously there wouldn't be a giant hole in the side, so they seem to have the three guys inside the hamster ball covered pretty well. But take a gander at the ball in action, and you begin to see the problem.
The look and aiming ability of a testicle.
Without the helpful window diagram, you'll notice that the guys inside have no way of seeing what the hell's going on outside. And while that may be just aces for them, what about the poor bastard with the smoking gun directly over his left ear. Or any other friendly troop that happened to be in a mile radius of the guys blindly machine gunning everything in all directions from inside a giant marble. And even if he could see, we'd be highly suspicious of the precision of the two machine guns poking out of the center of the ball, one firing haphazardly into the sky and the other into the ground.
When the Germans finally got around to building a prototype, all we ever got was a sorry stripped down version that doesn't seem to be good for much beyond motion sickness.
Ever feel the need to combine the intimidation of a big-ass cannon with the utter laughability of a scooter? Well you're not alone. It was this need, along with the shadowy influence of the Vespa-military-industrial complex, that drove the French to design the ACMA Troupes Aerol Portees Mle. 56.
The "big gun, little scooter" concept was intended to give paratroopers light artillery support, and hundreds of these things actually saw duty in Algeria and Indochina. And if you're thinking that firing this thing while driving would be suicidal, take heart: well-trained gun crews could apparently pull it off, officially performing the most badass feat to involve a scooter since you last nose-stalled on a dead hooker in GTA: Vice City.
Hello, Europeans (Our spyware tells us you're out there)! You know when you're tearing around Rome or Paris on your Vespa and you've got your bald friend who dresses like he's from the future riding on the back? You dip to turn left and he sits upright. He dips right while you're banking left. It's a pain in the ass to try to steer that thing with him back there, right? Now imagine if instead of listening to trance music on his iPod, he was firing a heavy artillery canon that your balls were resting directly on top of.
For our American audience, you know how your heavy artillery cannon is much tougher to aim when it's embedded up to its balls in a parked scooter?
But hey, if French gun crews could pull it off, it's apparently possible. So fear not, with enough practice, you too could be speeding directly forward into whatever you just turned into a ball of flaming rubble in no time.
For military insanity, check out 6 "Non-Lethal" Weapons That'll Make You Wish You Were Dead and 7 Insane Military Attempts To Weaponize Animals.
And visit Cracked.com's Top Picks to see the crazy boob-inspired weapon we're working on.