History of weapon design is full of examples of human ingenuity run amok. “What are some historical weapons that most people have never heard of,” a group of Quora users asked. The answers provide an amazing insight into the history of war, and offer examples of some of the most ingenious — yet impractical — weaponry ever created.
We’ve highlighted some of the most interesting below.
1. The Bat Bomb
Developed by the U.S. for use against Japan during World War II, the bat bomb was literally that. Each bomb would contain 40 hibernating bats, each of which would be strapped with a small napalm bomb and a timer.
The bombs could deploy their own parachutes, giving the bats time to fly out and look for places to roost. They would then explode, potentially burning down whatever structure they had chosen as their new home.
2. Anti-Tank Dogs
The Nazi betrayal of the Soviets during World War II caught the Russians completely off guard. In a desperate attempt at staving off the Nazi advance into their territory, the Soviets strapped dogs with explosives and trained them to run under German tanks.
Soviet propoganda claims that around 300 German tanks were destroyed in this manner. The anti-tank dog program continued until 1996.
3. Submarine Aircraft Carriers
At the height of World War II, the Imperial Japanese Navy commissioned a series of Sen Toku I-400 class submarines. These subs were large enough to carry three Aichi M6A Seiran aircraft underwater, surface, launch the planes, and then dive again. The submarines were also equipped with torpedoes.
A total of three of them were completed.
4. Nuclear Artillery
Conventional nuclear weapons are capable of destroying entire cities, but during the Cold War, the idea of ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons emerged. These smaller nukes were limited-yield weapons that would be launched from the ground at targets on the battlefield. Nuclear artillery was delivered with shells and short-range rockets.
5. The Soviet Ekranoplane
The 300-foot-long Lun-class Ekranoplane flew a mere four meters above the ground or water through an effect generated by its wings. It was intended to be a revolutionary transport vessel, bigger than any plane and faster than any ship. It was also capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
But it never entered into wide production and was never used in action.
6. Kaiten Torpedoes
Kaiten torpedoes were built by the Imperial Japanese Navy and were in service between 1944 and 1945. These torpedoes were manned and were a variant of the suicide weapons that Japan resorted to towards the end of the war. The torpedoes were launched from submarines and the pilots of the torpedoes could steer the weapons as necessary to inflict maximum damage against an enemy.
7. Pigeon-Guided Missiles
Pigeon-guided missiles were developed by noted behaviorist B.F. Skinner during Project Pigeon. Although the project was ultimately cancelled because of the impracticality of the weapons, the idea of pigeon-guided missiles showed promise.
The missile had an array of lenses at the front that projected an image of the target to an interior screen. The pigeons were conditioned to peck at the target on the screen. The pigeon’s pecks corrected the missile’s flight-path.
Via Business Insider