Business, Economics and Jobs

Wacky, weird, and repurposed weapons: a sampling of skewed military technology (VIDEO)


Two dolphins swim in their pool at the zoo of Nuremberg, southern Germany, on November 26, 2008.


Timm Schamberger

Deadly weapons may be terrifying — but sometimes, they're downright weird. From bat bombs to military dolphins to Mexican-food delivery drones, here are some examples of decidedly unusual uses of military technology, both on and off the field of battle.

1. The World's First Airborne Mexican Food Delivery System (no, really)

Drones are used in modern warfare to conduct war from a distance, a controversial new technique that has provoked fiery debate in recent years. But as it turns out, drones happen to be suitable for a rather more mundane task: burrito delivery. 

Darwin Aerospace, the minds behind the Burrito Bomber innovation, says that their drone consists of a SkyWalker X8 Flying Wing fitted with a munitions-grade Burrito Tube, used for delivering a delicious handmade burrito to a suitable recipient — indeed, it's "The World's First Airborne Mexican Food Delivery System." Intense.

The FAA doesn't yet allow commercial drones in US airspace, but that day is coming soon. The Los Angeles Times reports that by September 2015, regulations for the technology will come into play, permitting the entry of thousands of unmanned aircraft into US skies.

Want to build your own Burrito Bomber? No worries: The 3D models the team used are available for free online. Like you had anything better to do this weekend.

Presumably, the drone could also be used to attack someone with burritos, although with only a single payload, it'd have to be an awfully large carne-asada-combo to actually inflict any real damage. Human endeavor is truly a beautiful thing.

2. Painfully Real: the Syrian Playstation Tank

Syria's grim civil war continues to grind on, and rebel forces are continually forced to come up with new technology to counter the Assad regime.

One such innovation? An armored tank whose weapons are controlled by a Playstation game console, constructed largely from the chassis of a car and whatever else rebels could scare up at the time.

The er, rather rusty-looking tank is "100 percent made in Syria," according to the New York Daily News, and has been dubbed the Sham II, a name that refers to ancient Syria. Controlling from within, operators have access to five cameras, which communicate with five television screens inside the fortified vehicle.

It's most unique feature? A 7.62-mm machine gun that's aimed and fired using the Playstation controller, lending a rather serious real-world use to gaming technology.

AFP says the whole shebang cost a mere $10,000 — a pittance, considering the astronomical cost of much modern weapons technology. The rebels hope to use the tank in Aleppo in the near future, where their forces are ratcheting up the offensive against Assad's pro-government troops.

Russia Today has video of this most unique weapon of war:

3. The Bat Bombs of World War II

World War II was a time full of desperate military innovations — some considerably more successful than others. One of the less-than-useful innovations was the Bat Bomb concept, wherein incendiary bombs would be strapped to small bats, and unleashed on Japan.

The bat bombs were the brainchild of Lytle S. Adams, a dentist who was inspired to draw up the plans after witnessing the flight of millions of bats at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Horrified by Pearl Harbor, Adams — a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt — sent the White House his idea, says the Atlantic.

How would it work? Millions of tiny bats would be fitted with incendiary bombs, placed into a canister dropped from an airplane with a parachute, than time-released to fly over Japan's largely wooden structures, according to records from the US National Library of Medicine. Adams suspected that the horrifying fires, and corresponding loss of life the bat-attack would cause, might result in the speedy surrender of Japanese forces. Obviously.

Somewhat surprisingly, the concept was actually taken up by the National Research Defense Committee, according to the Journal of the Air Force Association, which selected the free-tailed bat as its most likely (and common) recruit.

Research continued apace, but a major setback occurred when the Carlsbad Army Airfield Auxiliary Air Base in New Mexico was set aflame when some of the fiery bats were accidentally released. Whoops.

The project was passed off to the Navy. But after it was determined the bats wouldn't be battle-ready until 1945, Project X-Ray — as it was dubbed — came to an end, says the Air Force Association. And it only cost tax-payers a mere $2 million.

Here's video:


4. Don't Mess With Flipper: Military Dolphins

This photo is awesome.

Dolphins: smiling, super-intelligent clowns of the sea. And also hardened warriors in the right setting, apparently.

The US Navy has been using dolphins and sea lions for a surprisingly long time in military applications: since 1960, although the program was only declassified in the 1990's, says PBS. (Presumably, the United States stopped worrying if the Soviets would swipe the concept — although the "Reds" did in fact train dolphins for their own military applications, then sold them to Iran in 2000.)

The Navy currently has a total of 80 trained dolphins and 40 sea lions, says UT San Diego. The $28-million program trains the marine mammals to patrol for enemy divers, pick up objects off the ocean floor, and sweep for mines — and that's just the stuff we know about.

Mine-sweeping dolphins, however, are swiftly being replaced by robots, which can perform mine-clearance tasks without running into sticky animal-rights concerns, says the Associated Press. They won't be released, however: The dolphins will be pressed into service working in port security (and they're also quite handy for picking objects up off the ocean floor).

Of course, armed dolphins can be dangerous if released without supervision. A rumor flew around around Hurricane Katrina that armed-and-dangerous dolphins had been released in the deluge — although feels that the urban legend is "probably not" true. (But what if it were?)

Here's CNN on the wonders of US Navy sea mammals:


5. Hand-Held Puke Ray: Surprise Your Friends!

Battling it out in close quarters? Need to neutralize the enemy? Well, you could just make them barf.

Wired says the LED Incapacitator uses a laser to measure the distance to a person's eyes, then uses a special combination of colors and lights to make them vomit on command (or at least shock them into submission).

Technology Review says the device could be used by police, soldiers, and even civilians as a non-violent way to neutralize dangerous people. How does it work? The effects, variable form person to person, "range from disorientation to vertigo to nausea, and they wear off in a few minutes," according to Technology Review.

Yes, the US Military has spent copious amounts of money on a hand-held device that makes people puke. I'm proud, too.

To add insult to injury, a couple of self-proclaimed hardware hackers built a device that does the exact same thing for approximately $250. Here's video below.  One can only imagine the horror that will be unleashed at college parties if these things become more popular. (And here, have some instructions: terrorize your fraternity brothers tomorrow!)