Debate:Military research projects, the good, the bad and the meh

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Coming on the heels of and inspired by LobPo's Debate:Will NATO survive a Russian/Chinese attack?, I began thinking about useful vs. wasteful military spending in terms of specific projects. I've put them in three main categories:

  • "The Good" (value for money, useful weapons and technology, longevity),
  • "The Bad" (hugely overpriced, useless or highly specialised weapons and technology with little prospect of usefulness given the tactical and strategic landscape envisioned at the time - i.e. no 20/20 hindsigt à la the Maginot Line or battleship naval race), and
  • "The Meh" (unexceptional, not particularly bad or good).

A special category, "The Weird" will include the really bizarre ideas, such as the bat bombWikipedia mostly for shits & giggles. I will mainly focus on the U.S. since about WWII, as the U.S. is by far the largest purveyor of military technologies, but a historical section covering a broader time frame, as well as a non-U.S. section is welcome. I've signed each of my own entries and encourage you to add your own. ScepticWombat (talk) 12:00, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

The Good[edit]

(Note: Please don't take this as an approval of the use of these weapons, as that is a separate ethical and moral issue)

The B-52 bomber[edit]

The workhorse of the USAF bomber force for longer than its pilots have lived, the B-52Wikipedia just keeps on flying. This means that development costs are effectively spread over decades of service making this a very sound investment. ScepticWombat (talk) 12:00, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

The A-10 Warthog[edit]

Developed as a bit of an afterthought, the A-10Wikipedia close support aircraft was relatively inexpensive and proved extremely useful due to its staying power (both in terms of survivability and its ability to hover over the battlefield, rather than the "quickly in & out" of other tactical bombers in the USAF arsenal). No surprise the USAF hated it and has tried to get rid of it practically since its inception. ScepticWombat (talk) 12:00, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

The M16 (and derivatives)[edit]

As Churchill (is claimed to have) said: "The Americans will always do the right thing - after they've tried everything else." The M16Wikipedia is arguably an example. After the Nazis and the Soviets had discovered that intermediate calibre cartridges and assault rifles were the thing for modern warfare and after having killed off the British attempt to do likewise,Wikipedia the U.S. finally woke up and smelled the cordite. Better late than never and all that. Anywho, it has been the mainstay of U.S. and various allies for decades with various minor updates. Lots of bang for the buck here. ScepticWombat (talk) 12:00, 23 March 2015 (UTC)


Relatively cheap and efficient, dronesWikipedia are one of the few recent developments which makes excellent sense both economically and tactically. The problem is how and when it's employed, rather than any inherent flaw in design or concept. Unsurprisingly, the USAF were not keen on drones either (imagine trying to make a drone version of Top GunWikipedia...), but seems to be resigned to the fact that they're here to stay (hey, better a joystick cowboy than unemployed, right?) and so muscled in to snatch drone operation from the CIA. ScepticWombat (talk) 12:00, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

The Chinook (CH-47 and variants)[edit]

I'm putting this here, because this design has been in use for decades and was quite effective for the time in its early years (and is, as modified, still workable enough). That said, it may be nearing its end these days, and it's always had its... quirks (i.e. you're in trouble when the hydraulic fluid isn't leaking).

The Bad[edit]

SD effin' I[edit]

SDI!!! was an insane waste of money and against the better judgement of practically every scientist not employed by its contractors who was not Edward Teller.Wikipedia This is deservedly the standard by which overblown and wasteful military spending is judged. Gee! Thanks, Ronnie!
The only thing arguably rivalling it in waste and stupidity has been Dubya's missile shield and that's only due to the "insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result"-factor. ScepticWombat (talk) 12:00, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

The Joint Strike Fighter/F-35 Lightning II[edit]

The F-35Wikipedia is a similar piece of idiocy as the one that insisted that a full-powered battle rifle (the M14Wikipedia) could serve as a "one size fits all" weapon for the grunts (replacing submachine guns, carbines, rifles, and light machine guns). What you get is a "one size fits none" compromise which is not very good at any role but at best equally badly mediocre at all of them. Overpriced, insanely behind schedule, and with a mile long sheet of problems, the name of this flying turkey serves as a warning: If faced with a terrible PR situation, call your useless toy something that evokes past martial glory - in this case the truly excellent P-38 LightningWikipedia of WWII. You'd do well to remember the Hollywood trend of making terrible sequels to good movies. ScepticWombat (talk) 12:00, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

The JSF project is also a poster child for the growing pains associated with increasingly complex electronics/software. In short, getting everyone's ish to work together is a righteous pain in the butt, and IP laws complicate this tremendously. Let it not be said that defense acquisitions means, procedures, negotiations, etc. are not adapting, but it is certainly a real problem at present. Also, the tremendously long development cycle posed problems with obsolescence of components (especially electronics) before the project was even done/"done". PacWalker (talk) 22:01, 24 March 2015 (UTC)

The Meh[edit]

The M14[edit]

The M14Wikipedia avoids the truly Bad category, because while it failed to do what it was envisioned to, it found a useful niche as a designated marksman rifle. Every cloud, and all that. ScepticWombat (talk) 12:00, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

The M1 Abrams[edit]

The U.S. main battle tank, the M1 Abrams,Wikipedia gets the job done, but it was neither a terribly big leap forward in tank technology compared to its contemporary competitors at the time of its development. If there has been any waste involved in the M1 it has been the tendency to keep producing more of them for pork barrel motives. ScepticWombat (talk) 12:00, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

The Weird[edit]

The bat bomb[edit]

Okay this is pretty strange and I wonder what kind of stuff they put in their pipes to come up with the bat bombWikipedia or perhaps it was one of the 03:00 AM after a 8 hours of heavy drinking brilliant ideas:
Bill: "Hey, Japanese houses are made of wood and paper, right?"
Bob: "Sure are Bill."
Bill: "And that stuff is, you know, pretty flamable, right?"
Bob: "Sure is Bill."
Bill: "And bats nest in roofs and eaves, don't they?"
Bob: "Sure do Bill."
Bill: "Then why don't we, you know, equip bats with some sort of incendiary bomb and loose them on the Japs, Bob?"
Bob: "Hey, great idea Bill! I think I remember my old study buddy from the History Department telling me a similar storyWikipedia."
(The experiment fails and decades later Bill & Bob are assassinated by a PETA hit squad) ScepticWombat (talk) 12:00, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

Project Pigeon[edit]

B.F. Skinner and pigeon-guided missilesWikipedia - need I say more? ScepticWombat (talk) 12:00, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

The Gay Bomb[edit]

SeriouslWikipedia Doxys Midnight Runner (talk) 12:06, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

Ah, yes. How could I have forgotten about that one. ScepticWombat (talk) 12:19, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
I bet, if you dig long enough on wingnut sites, you gonna find the claim, that this weapon was already used--Arisboch (talk) 21:49, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
Probably, but also a bit odd, considering the claim often peddled by this segment of society: that being gay is a "lifestyle choice"... ScepticWombat (talk) 19:58, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
You expect them to present internally consistent arguments? --Arisboch (talk)
Well, not living the hardcore anti-sexual devout-worshipper Christian life can be seen as a lifestyle choice. A choice the vast majority of people make without giving it much thought, but for some reason it's mostly gay people and sexual deviants that get flak for it. (talk) 20:08, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
I still love the fact that they think that "female pheremones" are all it would take to make straight guys gay. It represents such a shallow understanding of neuropsychology that the mind boggles at who could possibly propose it in the first place. ikanreed You probably didn't deserve that 20:17, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
...that the mind boggles at who could possibly propose it in the first place. The Pentagon of course. Duh. Alsto003 (talk) 15:57, 3 September 2015 (UTC) Alex

Catapulting monkeys strapped to fireworks onto British ships in 1842[edit]

Chinese General Yijing made a counter attack in 1842 that included a detailed plan to catapult flaming monkeys onto British ships. Stan, is that true? All right, apparently the plans actually involved strapping fireworks to monkeys' backs and were never carried out, but still!
—John Greene, Crash Course World History

See: and do some Googling. Pseudohistory? Funny, 'neways. Not even that stupid a plan, methinks. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 16:23, 3 September 2015 (UTC)