They say necessity is the mother of invention, but when said necessity involves winning an arms race and avoiding nuclear catastrophe, you can count on the birth of way too many inventions! This pressure to create is sure to generate some world-changing ideas, but it’s also highly likely you’ll wind up with a whole bunch of nonsense.
The Cold War brought the best out of some of the world’s greatest technical minds, but along the way, they proposed a number of bizarre, unrealistic, and downright absurd creations that left everyone dumbfounded. After seeing these 20 ridiculous Cold War inventions, you’ll thank your lucky stars that your smartphone is the most complicated device in your life.
1. VZ-9 Avrocar: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s… a flying saucer? That’s what many have compared this top-secret military craft to in the years since its declassification.
Designed to reach only the fastest speeds and the highest of altitudes, the VZ-9 was supposed to usher in a new age of military air travel. It seemed like the embodiment of the future… if it worked!
It didn’t, as pilots hated flying the craft, likening its handling ability to “balancing on a beach ball.” With a top speed of just 35 mph and a maximum altitude of 3 feet, the Avrocar project was deemed a failure.
2. “Blue Peacock”: During the Cold War, both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were hellbent on incorporating nuclear materials into as many weapons as they could. But there was another country getting in on the game…
The British! That’s right, despite the best efforts of competing nations, the British were the first to develop a revolutionary new wartime technology — nuclear chickens.
The Brits made nuclear chickens a reality. Sort of. You see, military scientists needed a way to keep landmines warm underground to prevent them from detonating prematurely.
And so they proposed placing live chickens inside the devices to provide a consistent source of body heat. This ridiculous proposal never came to be, however. Thank goodness somebody was looking out for the chickens!
3. HZ-1 Aerocycle: Who needs Jeeps when you can ride into battle on a flying metal death trap? That’s exactly what the U.S. military was thinking when they green-lighted the de Lackner Aerocycle.
This strange-looking device was a propeller-powered reconnaissance vehicle built to quickly and efficiently deliver troops to the battlefield… while making you look like the king of the sky!
Pitched as a “personal helicopter,” the HZ-1 was designed for operation by inexperienced pilots with a minimum of just 20 minutes worth of flight training. Well, those 20 minutes didn’t really do much, and after a number of crashes, the project was scrapped for good.
4. “Star Wars”: Introduced by the Reagan administration in 1983, the Strategic Defense Initiative – nicknamed “Star Wars” by its opponents – was a proposed anti-ballistic missile system that would employ space-age technologies to destroy incoming ICBMs.
But the scientists in charge admitted early on that the technology needed to complete the project was decades away, and even if such systems were developed it was highly unlikely that they’d work.
5. Progvev-T Gasdynamic Trawler: While this tank looks like something out of an H.G. Wells novel, it was an actual armored vehicle constructed by the U.S.S.R. Surprisingly, however, its purpose wasn’t to cause mass casualties: it was to prevent them.
Using the MiG-15 engine mounted on its roof, the Progvev-T fired kerosene jet blasts to destroy landmines. The vehicle could clear a four-mile area on a single tank of fuel, making it much more efficient than sweeping for mines by hand.
6. Corkscrew Tank: The Russians needed a vehicle that could fight in sub-arctic climates. In came the corkscrew tank, whose screw-propelled cylinders helped it to maneuver through even the toughest terrain.
But the corkscrew tank lacked in prowess on the battlefield, its small size and weak weapons unfit for combat. The vehicle was so undersized that enemy tanks could easily flip the corkscrew with just a light tap!
7. Lockheed XFV-1: The first of many proposed “tail-sitter” fighter planes, this craft was constructed to both launch and land vertically in the event that a landing strip or aircraft carrier was compromised.
Unfortunately, the XFV-1 was slow, difficult to maneuver, and barely held enough firepower to justify its use in combat. And so the Lockheed prototype was deemed unworthy of mass production.
8. Gloster Meteor F8 “Prone Pilot”: The British also tried their luck in the military flight game with the Meteor F8 “Prone Pilot,” a jet designed to hit unprecedented speeds by allowing pilots to withstand greater g-forces.
How was this possible, you ask? Simple: the pilots flew the planes while lying down. That’s right, highly trained soldiers were expected to fly into enemy territory…while assuming a nap-time position.
Considering the pilots were unable to look backward while in the cockpit, the F8 didn’t really seem like the best plane to take into a dogfight. How could they manage with such limited visibility?
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the jet’s design also made it difficult for pilots to eject — but, hey, at least they could pretend they were lying on a beach as they plummeted out of the sky.
9. Russia’s “Star Wars”: The United States’ Strategic Defense Initiative, despite its status as a defense system, was seen as a threat by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
He believed the proposed system of satellites was a ruse designed to give the U.S. a first-strike advantage. That’s why Russia began work on its own “Star Wars” initiative — to stop the U.S. from launching its satellites.
Using a similar theoretical system of lasers beams, the U.S.S.R. proposed the construction of ground-based energy weapons designed to blast U.S. satellites. When the satellites never launched, the project faded into obscurity.
10. Leduc 0.10: The U.S., the U.S.S.R., and the British weren’t the only countries determined to make the technological leap during the Cold War. In 1947, France ran its first flight test on one of the earliest ramjet-powered crafts.
When atmospheric air mixed with the fuel within the engine, the controlled explosion would then propel the jet – which was mounted atop a much larger craft – forward.
This concept made a lot of sense to engineers, but by the time the French military had mastered the technology, the world had already moved on to faster, more efficient types of aircraft. Sacré bleu!