Not all war-fighting equipment and vehicles are well-thought-out or properly designed. These are 10 ten of the most beautiful, bizarre, and bold prototypes that never quite made it to combat.
10.) Antonov A-40
The Antonov A-40 was a Russian tank with wings attached, designed in the hopes of finding a safer way to get tanks directly onto hot battlefields. The A-40 was to be towed into the air by a TB-3 bomber aircraft, then released and directed to the battle site by the team inside. It worked. Well, kinda.
When testing and engineering this flying tank, the engineers faced issues mostly involving the tank’s weight and the immense amount of skill it took to stick a controlled landing.
In the “successful” test flight, much of the tank’s armor was removed, and it still almost too heavy to be towed by the TB-3. While aloft, the pilot had to control the plane by pivoting the tank’s turret to which the wings were attached. When the tank came to land, the pilot had to get the tracks moving before hitting the ground.
Sounds like a lot to handle. No wonder why it didn’t survive much further past the first test flight.
9.) Hiller VZ-1 Pawnee
Designed to propel a soldier toward the sky in combat situations. The Hiller VZ-1 made use of two 44 horsepower engines and a modified helicopter transmission. Unfortunately, because it was only capable of climbing about 33 feet in the air and traveling at a max of 16 mph, it never caught on as a preferred piece of military equipment.
8.) CF-105 Arrow
Ah, the CF-105. The amazing aircraft Canada had created to counter possible airborne bombing threats delivered by the Soviet Union back in the 1950s. Capable of reaching near Mach 2 speeds at around 50,000 feet in the sky, this thing was a total monster. But it didn’t last long.
With concerns of a ballistic missile crisis growing throughout North America and because of a general lack of funds, George Pearkes, Canada’s then-Minister of National Defense, fought for the Canadian Defense Committee to cancel the Arrow program so that funds could be used toward the Bomarc missile defense system. He won the fight. After only five CF-105s were produced, the program came to an abrupt end.
7.) Tsar Tank
This WWI-era Russian tank used a tricycle design instead of a standard dual-track setup like as more commonly used now. The front wheels were 27 feet in height and each wheel received 250 horsepower. The idea was to drive right over trenches. Sadly, the Tsar Tank just wasn’t very good at it.
Its smaller rear wheel would often cause the whole tank to become stuck and its massive front wheels and lack of sufficient armor caused this machine to just be one huge target. It didn’t make it much past initial testing.
6.) Panzer VIII MAUS
Though only two hulls were pumped out before Allied forces captured them, these tanks were to be equipped with artillery that could take out almost anything the Allies could throw at it. To put this machine’s absolutely massive size in perspective, it had an 128 mm gun. Not something you would want to be on the other end of.
5.) XB70 Valkyrie
The XB70 was originally planned through the 1950s and ‘60s as a strategic-bomber aircraft, a replacement for the famed B-52. Much as with the Canadian Arrow, the military’s needs changed before their eyes. The XB70 project was sacked so that further investments could be made toward ICBMs.
Any aircraft (fighting for my side) that can reach speeds of Mach 3+ and heights of 70,000 feet is pretty okay in my book. Apparently the U.S. Government didn’t feel the same way.
4.) Martin P6M SeaMaster
The Martin P6M SeaMaster was another amazing aircraft designed and crafted in the 1950s that barely made it into production. The U.S. Navy wanted a strategic nuclear force of their own, so they designed this four-jet seaplane bomber to do the job. Because of the increased use and production of intercontinental ballistic missiles and other weapons of those sorts, the U.S. Navy decided that there was no place for the SeaMaster in their fleet as a nuke carrier. All 12 of the SeaMasters used for testing were scrapped.
3.) RAH-66 Comanche
Seven billion. The U.S. Government dropped $7 billion dollars on their attempt to perfect this attack helicopter that never saw production. It was designed as a replacement to the Bell OH-58 armed recon helicopter. For that job, the RAH-66 would’ve been a great fit. It just might not have been a completely affordable fit. It took a while for the U.S. government to figure that out, though, which ended in a lot of money going down the tubes over the 20 or so years of development.
2.) Vought F6U Pirate
The Vought F6U Pirate was the U.S. Navy’s first successful stab at a completely jet-propelled fighter plane. Because it was unable to perform as hoped and as required, the project was scrapped after just 30 prototypes were built, as ttyymmnn explains.
Constructed of thin aluminum sheets over balsa wood, the Pirate was woefully underpowered, with its orginal engine producing thrust equal to only 1/3 of the aircraft’s weight. Even after the addition of an afterburner, another first for the Navy, the F6U-1’s power-to-weight ratio remained wholly inadequate. After evaluating the new fighter, the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics pulled no punches, saying, “The F6U-1 had proven so sub-marginal in performance that combat utilization is not feasible.” The Pirate ended its four-year career by helping to develop carrier arresting gear and crash barriers, and a more ignominious fate as a test bed for munitions and target practice. The 30 production jets racked up only 945 hours of total flight time, and some had a mere six hours on the airframe, just long enough to certify the aircraft for acceptance and ferry it to its final resting place.
1.) Republic XF-84H Thunderscreech
Capable of speeds of at least Mach .7, this propeller aircraft was some truly batshit piece of engineering. I’ll let reader SalsaShark explain:
Like the world’s worst-conceived mashup of AC/DC and “Saved By The Bell,” I give you Thunderscreech.
This flying brown-note mated a first-generation F-84F airframe to a 5,800-hp Allison turboprop, which spun the fan so quickly that the propellor blade tips broke Mach 1 (as well as the eardrums of everybody within a half-mile). What’s that? Not enough rocket sauce for ya? Well strap in buddy, because that turboprop’s got an exhaust, and that means REHEAT! Yes, a turboprop, Mach-rocking fighter with an afterburner! ‘MURICA!
Although on paper there was nothing to not love about this mutant beast, the reality was a far different, sadder story. Problems included vibration, a 30-minute warmup time on the engine, massive vibration issues, aerodynamic instability caused by the p-factor from swinging that big prop around, unfathomable noise levels that actually interfered with tower ops at Edwards AFB and which caused nearby support personnel to suffer headaches, vomiting and honest-to-God seizures, and Jesus GOD the vibration. One Republic test pilot is said to have told the engineer/evil-sorcerers who designed this abomination, “You aren’t big enough and there aren’t enough of you to get me in that thing again.”
Perhaps needless to say, the F-84H never made it out of initial builder’s trials, so maybe it doesn’t belong on this list. Maybe it doesn’t belong anywhere. Either that, or we’ve just been going about this whole “powered flight” thing all wrong this whole time.
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Top Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis via Wikipedia