Top 10 Failed Military Inventions

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Simply, a military invention is one that was invented by the military in order to improve and advance certain military tactics, missions, or overall existence. Today, many of the most common military inventions, such as the GPS or Internet, or used by civilians as well.

When thinking about military inventions, you probably think about things such as high-tech military airplanes like the Stealth bomber, nuclear bombs, ballistic missiles, night vision, the Humvee, and many others. All of those inventions have been pretty much successful in their use. However, there have been inventions that the military has come out with that just don’t work at all. Whether it’s the U.S. Military or Japan’s, some inventions just haven’t worked. Here is a list of ten failed military inventions.

10. Corkscrew Tank

Invented by the Russians, the corkscrew tank was created in order to make its way across rough, rocky, and harsh terrain. The vehicle was able to maneuver across terrain such as snow and ice, which is common in Russia and proved to be somewhat profitable. While it was able to do some of the things it was designed to do, it had many downsides. For one, because of the extremely large corkscrews used, the tank wasn’t able to move across decent terrain. Also, it was heavy, which made it very slow, and it lacked suspension and safe steering.

9. One-Wheel Tank/Ball Tank

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Another military invention on the list invented by the Germans, the one wheel tank was made in order for one man to be able to utilize two machine guns while being inside of a heavily armed sphere. However, this invention never made it out of prototype. In all reality, there is no way this invention would have proved helpful to any military member. Though it had a stabilizing wheel, it have great balance. Steering may have also been a problem, though there was a wheel that was shifted side to side by the man inside of the sphere. It is said that the ball tank was able to go fairly fast for an invention of its time.

8. Scooter-mounted Cannon

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Used by the French during Vietnam, this vehicle was put together when the French military was lacking the money to provide more sophisticated equipment. They used what they had and often had to improvise in order to try to keep the military equipped. The scooter-mounted cannon was a scooter like vehicle that held a 75mm cannon. The vehicle was mainly used by paratroopers during the 1950s. However, it’s safe to say that this didn’t last long, as it surely offered no type of protection or even stability during war.

7. Focke-Wulf Triebfluegel

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At the beginning of time, no one could ever imagine being able to fly through the air. However, with no less than genius inventors, it has become a thing of the past in our world. Backing up a little in time, during WWII the Germans were able to create a working helicopter. Though the aircraft was able to get off the ground, get to point B from point A, and land properly, the Nazis seemed to want more. To add more to their invention, they began to use ramjet engines. The Focke-Wulf Triebfluegel soon became useless as it was much too hard to land it with rockets strapped to the propeller blades.

6. Puckle Gun

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The Puckle Gun was created by James Puckle who was a writer and lawyer from London. He created what he called the “Defence Gun” while others deemed it the “Puckle Gun.” No matter what you want to call it, this gun didn’t go far. First made in order to fire against Christian enemies and later to fire upon Muslim Turks, the Puckle Gun was never able to do its task. Created with a tripod-mounted, single barreled flintlock with a multishot revolving cylinder, the gun was able to shoot 63 shots in 7 minutes, compared to the more common three shots per minute, which was standard on the soldier’s musket. The Puckle Gun drew few investors and never achieved mass production or sales to the British armed forces, mostly because British gunsmiths at the time couldn’t easily make the many complicated components.

5. Cybernetic Walking Machine

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The cybernetic walking machine seems like something you’d find out of a true sci-fi movie. It was an experimental quadruped robot that was tested in 1968. It was designed by a man named Ralph Mosher and the machine was supposed to allow the infantry to carry weapons over extremely tough terrain. The robot was controlled by a human through the use of foot and hand movements. There was use of hydraulics, but sadly the robot never went into production. However, the prototype can be found at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum in VA. This robot weighs about 3000lbs and is only able to go up to 5mph.

4. Russian Tsar Tank

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The Russian Tsar Tank literally resembles those bikes you’d see with one huge tire and one small one – a tricycle design. For some reason the Russians thought that this was somehow a safe and usable defense in war. There isn’t any proof that it was ever used during a battle however. In any case, the tsar tank seemed to have stayed in the testing stage. The huge wheels were intended to cross significant obstacles. However, due to miscalculations of the weight, the back wheel was prone to be stuck in soft ground and ditches, and the front wheels were sometimes insufficient to pull it out. This led to a fiasco of tests before the high commission in August 1915. The tank remained in the location where it was tested, some 60 kilometers from Moscow until 1923 when it was finally taken apart for scrap.

3. Charles de Gaulle

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The Charles de Gaulle is probably the most recent invention on this list. Though not a new invention, it was supposed to be an aircraft carrier that used new and improved technology; however, it has proven to be anything but. It was first made in 1986 and weighed about 40,000 tons. It cost over four billion dollars and the French truly believed it would be the next best thing. She is the tenth French aircraft carrier, the first French nuclear-powered surface vessel, and the first and only nuclear-powered carrier built outside of the United States Navy. However, this aircraft carrier was much slower than the one it was meant to replace, which ran on steam. The propellers didn’t work right and the company who produced them went out of business. The engine and nuclear reactor were poorly built and incorrectly installed causing exposure to radiation. The deck was also designed wrong and was not usable as a means to defend the ship.

2. Rocket Belt

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The rocket belt was made in order to allow a soldier to travel safely over a very small distance. It can be compared to a leap. The rocket belt was created in the 1960s and seemed to be promising. During October 1961, the pack was demonstrated personally to President John F. Kennedy in the course of exponential maneuvers on the military base Fort Bragg. However, come the mid -1960s, the military was no longer interested in the rocket belt. Because of its short range, the military didn’t see much use for it. The maximum duration of flight of the rocket pack was 21 seconds, with a range of only 120 m. The military also lost interest in this invention as jet and other aircraft technology was advancing rapidly during this time.

1. Flying Aircraft Carrier – USS Macon/USS Akron

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The flying aircraft carrier was first crafted by German engineers in the early 1930s. Prague-born engineer Dr. Karl Arnstein of Ohio was the one who built the aircraft which took its first flight in April 1933. The first was called the USS Macon and later, the USS Akron, a sister ship, was built. They were both blimp-like and not shaped like today’s aircraft carriers. The USS Macon was able to carry five F9C “Sparrowhawk” airplanes that could be launched as well as retrieved during flight. Following a highly damaging event during 1934 due to flying too high of an altitude over Arizona, the USS Macon crashed on February 12, 1935 due to a structural failure during a storm.


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42 Comments

  1. Actually the Scooter-mounted Cannon is in use. It is a motorbike with an Anti-tank guided missile on it but it is the same idea.

    • According to Wikipedia, you didn’t fire the gun from the scooter anyways. The Scooter was just a method for quickly moving it around. You’d remove it from the bike and mount it on a tripod.

    • yes i believe the vehicle you are on about is a crummy chinese moped with two taliban blokes on it one carrying a rocket propelled grenade

    • Focke-Wulf Triebfluegel or i would call it a space craft could u “imagine a internal engine for the blades aka the middle propeller and then would add 3 brace’s like this < and ad stage 4 or 3 space engines amount of engines total on craft (4) and or use different methods of propulsion …. ect…..

  2. On #3 the propulsion method used for a nuclear powered ship is STEAM, the only difference is how the steam is generated, a reactor powered steam generator VS a conventional fuel boiler. You should have said the Charles de Gaulle was slower than the earlier boiler powered Aircraft Carriers.

  3. I think that the British concept of a massive aircraft carrier made of ice would have to be on this list. It was tested in small scal during WWII but lost its funding. The walls of the ship would have been forty feet thick of Pikecrete, which is water frozen with sawdust in it. It would have been nearly torpedo and bomb proof. The Americans also invented a bat bomb to be used against Japan. Thousands of bats with tiny incendiary bombs would be released over the wooded cities. They fly into homes and boom the whol place is on fire. They tested it and it worked.

    • Actually I’ve heard of the Bat bomb idea. It used a very early version of Napalm. Like you said it did actually function, which was found out when some armed bats escaped and set one of our own bases on fire. It was meant to be the weapon that was to end the war. But the Nuclear bombs were ready and used just before preparation of the bat bomb idea could be finished. At which point further effort into operation bat bomb was kinda pointless. Yeah the Russians had a similar idea which unlike the American Version failed miserably. Google “Russian mine dogs” I’m surprised that didn’t make the list. Russia trained dogs to be armed with explosives to suicide bomb German tanks in WW2. However because of a the fact the Russians used “Russian” Tanks to train the dogs, the dogs often turned tail at the advancing Germans and instead blew up their own tanks.

  4. Hi Scott, that’s interesting!

    The bat bombs reminded me of the pigeon bombs they also used. And actually Japan used weather balloon with bombs attached that floated high enough to catch the Gulf Stream and travel to the US. I think a few exploded? But the gov. covered it up during the war so there won’t be mass panic. Another good thing about the cover up was that Japan thought it didn’t work so they stopped using it.

    • @Jon

      This is correct. One even made it as far east as the Oregon Coast. It exploded in an unpopulated area and created a small forest fire (which was what it was designed to do) which was quickly extinguished.

    • in world war one the aussies trained budgies to roll small grenades towards german infantry but they used to get pissed off (the bugies that is)and just fly off leaving these tiny bomblets about 4 yards away from hte allied trenches

  5. The one wheel tank looks like some thing you’d see in a science fiction movie, did you see men in black three?

  6. WTF are you talking about? The Charles de Gaulle is a GREAT warship and launched more air sorties in Bosnia than the Brits. Worse, your sentence “The deck was also designed wrong and was not usable as a means to defend the ship” makes no sense — decks don’t defend ships, and if you are talking about armor then you haven’t got a clue what you are talking about! The armoring scheme is classified, as with any navy. Remove the Charles de Gaulle from your “worst” list and put it on your “10 best list” immediatley.

    • what he meant with the deck is probably the fuss the media made when the deck was lengthened by a few meters so they can take radar planes (awacs-like) on the ship, because they had no idea they would be having those planes back when they made the ship 20 years before

      and yeah the charles de gaulle is slower than the previous one. of course. it’s a lot more heavy.

      some people need to get their facts straight before posting stuff.

    • Désolé mon vieux, mais le CDG n’est en aucun cas un “GREAT warship”

      The CGD was mis-designed in multiple way.
      I don’t have the time to write them all here.

      The most significant error of that ship is the very bad design of drive shaft and the propeller.
      It give tremendous vibrations at about 60% of the max power.
      They tried once to push over that limit and it highly damaged the rudder.
      The ship started to circle in the ocean near Toulon. It had to be towed into the port of Toulon.

      And the list is endless.
      Let’s be serious, the CDG is the most mocked carrier in the navy world.
      But I must admit, frenchies do very good nuclear submarines, they simply rushed the carrier, and failed.
      Now the CDG is “functional”.
      But as said down here “On peut planter un clou avec une pierre, mais ca n’en fait pas un bon marteau”

  7. Yo some of these contraptions are actually in effect today such as the 4 legged robot thing, and you never know where else this stuff is being used kind of.

  8. So it’s your contention that a big flat top doesn’t defend the ship? Were that true then why did they bother armoring the deck of aircraft carriers in WWII in order to try and keep bombs and strafing runs from irrepairably damaging them after every engagement? Also being used a lot (and of course it was given it’s cost….) doesn’t make it a great warship, I can use a rock to drive nails passably but that doesn’t make it a great hammer. All of this is still nitpicking up until you contend it should be considered one of the “10 best” military inventions, that’s a gripe too far.

  9. Just because a word passes spell-check doesn’t mean it’s the RIGHT word.. in the corkscrew tank entirely is used instead of extremely… TWICE.

    • Thanks, Alex. Both mistakes have been corrected. This list was written in 2009, before we could afford editors. 😉

      Oh, I also replaced the the Corkscrew Tank video on Youtube that had been removed. You can now see the Corkscrew Tank in action once again!

      • wow.. kind of forgot I’d made that comment.. certainly reads like I was violating Wheaton’s Law.. didn’t mean to come off like that, sorry!.. 😀

        • Louis Alexandre Simard on

          Wow you forgot you made that comment a big whole whooping 4 days ago. And you freely admit it. Life in your head must be though bro.

  10. The Charles de Gaulle is fully operational. The beginning of this ship was quiet difficult because the french government change the plane that was originaly designed for ths ship, but the deck has been rebuilt and evrything is working fine. During the last conflicts, this boat has been the most efficient of all Europe…

  11. One other major problem with the Puckle Gun was that it was designed to fire SQUARE bullets. Making barrels for the gun was a nightmare alone as was making the actual bullets.

  12. Oh, and the Corkscrew tank and the Tsar tank make appearances in Toy Soldiers: Cold War and Toy Soldiers respectively on the XBOX 360.

  13. Sharp eyed viewers will notice that the Red Skull’s getaway vehicle in “Captain America: The First Avenger” was a Triebfluegel.

  14. Brian S. Anderson on

    Re: Picture no. 1:

    The Akron and Macon are not “blimp-like”; they are dirigibles. Blimps are non-rigid airships, similar to large rubber balloons, but shaped similarly to the airships. Dirigibles have a rigid skeleton, usually made of aluminum. You can see the form of the skeleton in the phot as lines running from the bow to the stern just under the skin.

    Both dirigibles and blimps were used by the Navy at that airbase.

  15. Only the French would put a friggin a cannon on a scooter and wonder why Germany has kicked thier ass in every war LMAO
    All French rifles should come with a White flag that goes up when the selecter switch goes from Safe to Semi

  16. The “cannon” mounted on the scooter in number 8 is not really a cannon, after all. It’s a recoiless rifle (like a big bazooka, basically). They were commonly mounted on jeeps (even 105mm, instead of 75mm, per the pic’s info) in that era by the U.S. Army and, since they were recoiless, a scooter would seem to be a pretty good substitute, given the situation.

  17. Louis Alexandre Simard on

    Number 9 is stated as a German invention but the article pictured clearly states that it was invented by a man from New-York. I hate to point out details like this but each and every mistake like this makes it hard to believe whatever else is written here. This particular example shows a lack of research that is disturbing for a site such as yours. Is it just a slip or are all the articles this poorly researched.

  18. Louis Alexandre Simard on

    Number 8 states that the scooter mounted cannon was used by the french during Vietnam. First of all what dies Vietnam mean here? The Vietnam war? This is how it is understood anyways. Little history lesson. What the author is probably talking about although I can’t know for sure cuz this is the second mistake in the first 3 entries is the Indochinese independence war when Indochina (now called Vietnam) fought for its independence from France. To refer to this conflict as simply Vietnam is highly misleading and shows again a lack of thorough research or even basic historical knowledge and since this list has a rather important historical aspect it makes it even more disturbing. I won’t even read the rest of the list as it is now impossible for me to trust anything written by this author. All I can say is that it a list from 2009 and you guys have made a huge progress in quality and reliability.

  19. What qualifies the U.S.S. Macon as a failed military invention? It was piloted by an idiot and crashed. Based on the video, the design itself was an asteounding success. they should have mass produced these!

  20. Anne N Emous on

    Love the article, some great inspiration for me here. One thing I think you should have mentioned though was that the Puckle gun had two interchangeable rounds, one with ordinary round bullets, and one with square bullets. “Round bullets for Christians, square bullets for Turks”. The idea was that square bullets would do more damage, while round ones would allow you to kill the Christians more humanely.

    This was flawed though, as the square bullets were aerodynamically flawed, and moved slower, thus being in fact, less damaging.

  21. The Macon (Akron and Shenandoah) were successful as early aircraft carriers. Dirigibles as a whole, though, were too weather vulnerable.

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