Looking at the history of weapon systems, it seems like there isn't much that is off limits. If you can conceive of something really dreadful –
something capable of inspiring intense fear – it is by definition a candidate for a weapon.
My vote for the most psychopathic weapon system ever designed would be the US Air Force Supersonic Low Altitude Missile (SLAM), a precursor to the
modern nuclear tipped cruise missile. The SLAM weapon system (also called "Project Pluto") was proposed in the 1950's, underwent a complete design
cycle, but was never built.
What made this weapon particularly innovative (and horrific) was that the missile itself was nuclear powered, and contained a large and unshielded
fission reactor. It could be launched via solid fuel boosters, and then just meander around the planet for days or weeks until it finally found its
The missile, which was about the size of a locomotive engine, included a 500 Megawatt nuclear reactor (about half the entire power output of Hoover
Dam). The reactor would superheat the air, and use the air expansion as propulsion, permitting the missile to achieve supersonic speeds. The range of
the missile was about 100,000 miles, or about four times the circumference of the earth.
In order to keep the weight down, the nuclear reactor was unshielded. This provided an alternative to just bombing your enemy – you could just fly
around a target area, at tree-top level, and irradiate the enemy into submission with lethal nuclear fallout. Also, you could crash the missile into a
target, which would contaminate and poison vast areas of enemy territory.
Some scientists speculated that just the shockwave and heat from the fission reactor alone (as the SLAM streaked through the skies at 300 feet above
ground, at four times the speed of sound) would be hugely lethal.
Coupled with its payload of sixteen 1 megaton hydrogen bombs, which could be lobbed off at various targets during its mission, SLAM was a very
You can read more about the SLAM project here.
The SLAM project was over by 1964. On reflection, it was a very weird and tense time in history. I think it is important to consider the general
mindspace of those that thought this up, and not judge them too harshly.
Any comments? In all of recorded history, what would top this?
(Edited to adjust down some statistics for conservative accuracy.)
[edit on 11-1-2008 by Buck Division]