10 Top Secret Weapons You've Never Heard Of

1. Project Habakkuk

Project Habakkuk
Wikimedia Commons

In the early 1940s, with World War II in full swing, inventor and innovator Geoffrey Pyke was considering how to solve the very topical problem of providing cover and protection from German U-boats to troop ships and convoys in the mid-Atlantic, out of range of any land-based aircraft squadron. It being halfway through the biggest and most expensive war in history, proper building materials were in short supply, and correspondingly expensive to procure.

Suddenly, Pyke hit upon the solution, an idea both revolutionary and practical. He would build the biggest aircraft carrier the world had ever seen, cheaper and more efficiently than any before it: an unsinkable floating island made entirely of ice. This wasn€™'t a new idea, astonishingly. A German initiative had attempted something on a smaller scale a dozen years earlier, and the idea had already circulated the Admiralty prior to that, to almost total ridicule.

Pyke was the first to consider crafting the huge carrier from pykrete, though. Ice, you see, isn€™'t actually that strong, and melts arbitrarily and at the wrong moments. Meanwhile, icebergs are mostly underwater and prone to tipping and rolling, thereby making lousy landing strips for aircraft. Pykrete, on the other hand, named for Pyke himself, was frozen water and wood pulp: its low thermal conductivity made melting far less of a consideration, and it had more in common with concrete in terms of its bulletproof consistency and durability. It could also be easily shaped for construction.

Project Habakkuk (named for the book of the Bible that referenced a magnificent work of the Lord: €œ"Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you."€) was, as should be obvious to anyone, a non-starter. The project required a giant refrigeration plant and insulation to keep the pykrete the correct temperature and prevent plastic flow from causing the shape of the giant ship to sag: such a plant would be too expensive and take too long to build. Costs had ballooned to £2.5 million by the time the idea was scrapped, with every arm of the British military chipping in to add their own outlandish requirements to the increasingly ludicrous proposal. Pyke himself had been removed from the project long before.

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Do you have a favourite €˜top secret€™ weapon or military project you€™d like to tell the world about, whether upcoming or past, roaring success or utter fiasco? That€™s what the comments are for€

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