War & Conflicts Discussions => Experimental - Prototypes - Research => Topic started by: MontyB on 14 April 2010, 11:59:33

Title: Pigeon Bombers...
Post by: MontyB on 14 April 2010, 11:59:33
Pigeon Bombers
It Came From Above

Animals have often been used in battle throughout history, mostly as a means of transportation. But what happens when you use them as transportation for bombs? Though good for giving members of the SPCA apoplectic fits, the benefits of animals used in the military have an interesting history. What follows are two rather unique uses for animals during World War II.

Pigeon Bomber

Pigeons as Bomb Guidance Systems
During World War II, the U.S. air force developed a new type of bomb - a glide bomb. Instead of falling straight on a target, it would instead float at an angle towards its target, guided by a variety of tools (such as infrared, radar, or flare targets). Burrhus Frederic Skinner, a well-known behaviorist, thought of a brilliant new way to guide these missiles during World War II using pigeons. He'd already trained them to dance, do figure eights, or play tennis - why not guide bombs?

Starting in 1942, PROJECT PIGEON aimed to get specially trained birds to guide a bomb within six meters of its target. It worked thus: First, three pigeons would be informed of a glide bomb, each compartment containing a little lens to view its target. Via classical conditioning, the pigeons would peck the center of the screen if it saw the target - otherwise, it would peck towards the target. Successful pecking would be rewarded with grains of seed. (It turned out that if fed marijuana instead of normal grain, the pigeons would be less easily disturbed from their task). If two of the three pigeons "agreed" to re-aim the bomb, the bomb would change direction. Then, of course, the bomb would explode…

So, was Skinner able to train his pigeons to pull off one more feat?

Yes, but thankfully for the pigeons, it was never used in combat. He demonstrated the power of his system in New Jersey to the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development, only to find that no one took him seriously. Rather than realizing the awesome power of his guidance system, they simply thought it was amusing. Dubbed as ludicrous, the project was scrapped. The 24 pigeons that Skinner had trained went home with him to live in his garden.

Believe it or not, this was not to be the end of the idea of using pigeons as a targeting system. In 1948, the original PROJECT PIGEON files were declassified and unearthed by the U.S. Navy. Interested in the concept, they started Project Orcon, which ran for five years. Simulations showed that pigeons could be used to guide missiles, though they could become distracted by objects like clouds or waves. In 1953 the project was scrapped when electronic guidance systems were proved to be reliable. Since then, pigeons have not been used in any bombs or missiles.

http://www.historynet.com/top-secret-wwii-bat-and-bird-bomber-program.htm/4 (http://www.historynet.com/top-secret-wwii-bat-and-bird-bomber-program.htm/4)

Title: Re: Pigeon Bombers...
Post by: Rattler on 15 April 2010, 08:45:15
Thanks for finding and sharing that interesting article, never had heard of it.


Title: Re: Pigeon Bombers...
Post by: MontyB on 15 April 2010, 09:33:57
Hehe well I asked for the sub-forum so I figured I should add something to it.  :P

Title: Re: Pigeon Bombers...
Post by: stoffel on 25 May 2010, 09:31:53
Lol, fun and interesting story, now I know where Yankey Doodle Pigeon Muttley and Dastardley came from :)

Title: Re: Pigeon Bombers...
Post by: MontyB on 26 May 2010, 22:37:38
Here is a quick breakdown of the process I found on some website...


I am not sure the pigeons would have been enthusiastic about the job though.