The Top 8 Unintentionally Hilarious Vehicles Ridden Into War
As we've discussed before, military weapons seem to be the product of designers who are equal parts brilliant and insane. When their brilliance shines through, entire wars can be swung in one nation's favor. When the insanity wins, their designs wind up in a Cracked article.
The Neger, aka The Human Torpedo
If that picture looks like a torpedo glued to another torpedo, with a human riding in one of them, then you are actually giving too much credit to the Nazi-designed Neger. It would be one thing if it were just a tiny one-man submarine meant to stealthily deliver a torpedo -- that seems like it could almost work. But the Neger couldn't submerge, so the little thing was forced to float along like a dead manatee while the pilot stuck inside struggled to breathe.
"I've seen some drowned Germans in my time, but this is the drownedest German I've ever seen."
Lacking any form of navigational equipment whatsoever, the Neger's pilots were instructed to wear watches with compasses in them and peer through the vehicle's bubble dome to gradually steer toward enemy ships. Because of the Neger's unfortunate position slightly below the surface of the water, waves constantly washed over the dome, making it basically impossible to see through.
"You mean they have to be able to see, too? Fritz, you impossible bastard, I'm only one man!"
Upon reaching a target, the pilots had to pull a lever to launch the Neger's lone torpedo, except the release mechanism had a habit of jamming pretty much all the time, thus dragging its surprised pilot into the inevitable explosion with it. Over the course of its short career, the Neger sunk a total of four ships but killed an estimated 80 percent of its pilots.
Though that was still less suicidal than ...
The Japanese Yokosuka MXY7 Okha Was a Suicide Bomber
The Ohka was the kind of plane a teenage boy would design if he wanted to make the most badass plane imaginable, but also didn't know anything about planes. And had no regard for human life.
"If we cut out the seat belts we can fit in another 2 lbs. of explosives."
It was powered entirely by not one, not two, but three rockets, and was capable of diving at speeds of over 650 mph, all while equipped with a 2,646-lb. explosive warhead. So it was a huge, piloted cruise missile, in other words. Which sounds awesome, unless you're the guy flying it.
Its wings were made of plywood covered with fabric, it had no ejector seat or landing gear and there was no way to fire the aforementioned giant warhead. The plane's entire method of attack was to dive toward enemies and blow itself to pieces, hopefully destroying its target in the process.
"Wait, what? Where's the landing gear again?"
After having its pilot literally welded inside its cockpit, the Ohka would be carried into battle by another plane and then released in its triple-rocket-powered insanity to rain down guesstimative destruction. It was estimated that the total 852 Ohkas that were built caused serious damage to only three enemy ships, which surely had a chilling effect on pilot recruitment for the program.
"They're bound to run out of boats before we run out of people."
The XP-79B Flying Ram Did in Fact Ram Into Things
The XP-79B was an (almost) revolutionary American aircraft built at the end of World War II. It was the first American rocket-powered aircraft to ever achieve flight and was capable of climbing over 4,000 feet per minute. American engineers saw the potential in this aerial marvel and decided to reinforce it with magnesium plates ...
... in order to intentionally collide it in mid-air with other planes.
Yes, somebody decided that the only thing cooler than planes shooting is planes wrestling.
"Jets could do this!"
Since making a 9,000-lb. jet specifically designed to ram the shit out of other planes didn't quite reach the level of jackshit insane America was looking for, they chose to power the XP-79B with rockets containing nitric acid, which, in case you skipped that day in chemistry class, is ludicrously toxic and corrosive. Plans were even put in motion to outfit the XP-79B with actual guns before the project was scrapped entirely.
Apparently a poisonous, armed berserker plane was just too crazy to greenlight.
The Blackburn TB Threw Darts
The Blackburn TB was designed as an anti-zeppelin fighter and touted as "one of the most specialized aircraft ever built," presumably because it was the first one developed to combat a vehicle that would totally explode on its own if you just sat around and waited.
The Blackburn TB was considered a fighter in the same way that Taco Bell can be considered Mexican food -- it only looked like it from a distance. Then you realize it had huge, fuel-filled pontoons on it for no apparent reason, which by the way had a habit of leaking fuel and liked to catch on fire during startup. Then, if the overweight, gasoline-dripping Blackburn TB actually managed to make it into the sky, it would rain terror on its unsuspecting targets with ... a basket of darts.
Two cockpits mean twice as many lives at risk.
See, the plan was to fly above enemy zeppelins and drop the darts on them, thereby puncturing the zeppelin's gas envelopes and causing a fatal explosion, which as we pointed out above could be accomplished with nothing more than patience. But the Blackburn TB's tiny engines meant its maximum altitude was 8,000 feet, whereas zeppelins at the time could go as high as 21,000 feet. So we're picturing sad pilots buzzing around 10,000 feet below the target, ineffectually flipping darts up at it until it was time to go home.
In other words, the Blackburn TB is the Charlie Brown of aircraft.
The Japanese I-400 Submarine Was Designed by Wile E. Coyote
As World War II was drawing to a close, Imperial Japan unveiled the Death Star of the sea: the I-400 submarine. Over 40 feet tall and longer than a football field, it housed a 144-person crew and more guns than the state of Texas. It stored enough fuel to circle the entire globe one and a half times and totaled over 13,000 horsepower of propulsion. That all sounds pretty badass, right?
Oh, it was also intended to be an aircraft carrier. One that went underwater. And that the planes wouldn't actually be able to land on.
"We have no idea what we're doing here."
It didn't even have a runway. The hull of the I-400 was expanded to fit three entire aircraft. Because the designers, excited for the opportunity to finally put all their crazy eggs in one basket, decided to house strictly kamikaze planes.
Micro Machines learned so much from Imperial Japan.
Yes, kamikaze. In what was probably the biggest dickhead management decision in history, the Japanese realized they could cut costs on runway space if their pilots exploded instead of landing back on the submarine. Assuming they survived takeoff, which consisted of launching the whole plane from ... wait for it ... an 85-foot catapult that flung them toward the enemy like a giant slingshot.
"This makes way more sense than just shooting torpedoes at them, right guys?"
The Morane-Saulnier L Was the Master of the Ricochet
The French Morane-Saulnier L was one of the first successful fighter planes made during World War I and was fitted with a forward-facing machine gun -- state-of-the-art tech at the time.
But let us ask you something. You know how on old Red Baron-type fighter planes, the pilot had machine guns right in front of him, and that they seemed to shoot right through the propeller?
Have you ever wondered why the guns didn't just immediately blow the blades off, sending the plane plummeting to the ground? The answer is that they used an interrupter gear, which would precisely time the bullets to pass in between the blades as they spun around. It was kind of ingenious. OK, well, the the Morane-Saulnier L didn't have that.
It opted for a slightly more cartoonish solution -- slap on a piece of metal to deflect bullets safely away from the propeller and definitely not straight into the face of the pilot.
"Just make sure he wears goggles. And a helmet."
To the surprise of everyone everywhere, it almost worked. The plane somehow managed to shoot down a few German planes while keeping the pilot's skull from getting perforated. Finally, the massive drag from the metal deflectors caused the first Morane-Saulnier L's engine to fail, leading to an emergency landing in German territory. It was probably the best possible outcome.
The Antonov A-40 Tank Plane Was ... Ah, Just Look At It
See? You can condense crazy.
During World War II, the Soviet military was in need of armor to accompany their paratroopers. Seeing as how other nations had managed to put light tanks in proper gliders without a hitch, the Soviet high command decided this would be no problem for their brilliant inventors and gave the project to Oleg Antonov. Antonov saw his orders and promptly ignored both them and common sense and set upon making a flying tank.
And admittedly, this looks simple enough.
The problem is that tanks are heavy. That's one reason you don't see them flying very often. In order to get the tank light enough that the wings could keep it aloft long enough to make it to the battlefield, they had to completely strip it down. It had no armaments or ammunition, it didn't have any headlights (because those are supposedly quite heavy) and it carried a minimal amount of fuel. Basically, it couldn't function as a tank by any definition of the word.
But as far as being a tank-shaped vehicle that could fly, it actually kind of worked. For a test flight, they had another plane tow it into the air, at which point the A-40 glided down to earth and was driven back to base by its test pilot/driver. At which point he apparently said, "OK, let's never fucking do that again," and the program was scrapped.
"Oh God, how much did we drink last night? What did we build?"
The ME 163 Komet Was Perfect for Making Pilots Shit Their Pants
The Nazi-engineered Komet was the first rocket-powered aircraft to ever see use, the first swept-wing fighter plane ever made and the fastest aircraft the world would see for years. Those are the only positive things that can be said about it.
So much of its design time went into attaching needlessly big rockets that the Komet design team forgot literally everything else about flying. For starters, it had no landing gear. Instead, the Komet was shoved on top of a disposable set of wheels during takeoff, which usually ended with the wheels flying up and damaging the aircraft. To land, it used a single spring-loaded skid that would hopefully deploy in time, because rocket-powered planes need the exact same stability as a one-legged skier to land without catastrophe.
The results would have been tragic, had the pilots not been Nazis.
Also, they neglected to equip cockpit pressurization, forcing pilots to constantly fight for consciousness as they screamed through aerial battles at irresponsible speeds. But that wasn't even the Komet's biggest problem. Nor was it the fact that the insane, barely tested rocket fuel mixture used was completely unstable and prone to exploding at any time like Timothy Dalton at the end of The Rocketeer.
"No pressure, Franz, but I've got 50 marks on you dying in fire today."
No, its biggest problem was that, even if the stars aligned and the Komet didn't immediately wreck itself on takeoff or spontaneously combust seconds after, it was too insanely overpowered to attack any enemies. Its ludicrous rockets made it fly so fast that it had only seconds to aim before blasting miles past enemy fighters.
And the designers filled the Komet with only seven and a half minutes of that crazy unstable rocket fuel, so pilots were expected to take off, find the enemy, stage their attack, get back to base and land safely in under seven and a half minutes (although that last part may have been optional).
The Germans recruited heavily from suicide hotlines.
When not writing, Patrick can be found fawning over the greatest recording company of all time, Ill Music Records.
For more concepts that didn't quite work, check out The 5 Most Ineffective Anti-Drug PSAs of All Time and 7 Hilariously Failed Attempts at Politically Correct Toys.