The days of military secret weapon boondoggles are coming to an end… so enjoy them while you can. The heyday of the big budget military boondoggles took place mostly during the 1950-1980’s. This was due to the cheap and high EROI – Energy Returned On Investment of oil during that time period.
The two main superpowers during that time were the United States and Russia (former Soviet Union). The amount of oil consumed by the U.S. and Russian Military over that 40 year period was staggering to say the least.
I remember the U.S. sent B-52 bombers with nuclear weapons every day toward Russia from the late 1950’s to 1960’s. This top-secret military exercise was called Operation Chrome Dome. These B-52’s flew these round trip missions daily toward Russia just in case they were needed to release their nuclear weapons in an event of a nuclear war.
Neither the U.S or Russian Military were concerned about energy during the Cold War period. There was so much of it to go around. This cheap and abundant energy allowed these countries to produce some of the strangest secret military weapon boondoggles ever. While there is a long list of these wasteful military extravagances, here are two that I found quite interesting.
The Russian Lun Ekranoplan
(photo courtesy of Darkroastedblend.com)
This Russian Lun Ekranoplan was a cross between a hover craft and an airplane that flew right above the ocean surface. This model was based on an older version called Caspian Sea Monster pictured below:
(photos courtesy of Darkroastedblend.com)
The reason the Ekranoplan flew right above the ocean surface was to avoid radar detection. The Ekranoplan took off and landed on the ocean surface. It could also land on a beach and offload military equipment.
However, the Lun Ekranoplan was designed to hold six cruise missiles that could be fitted with nuclear warheads. The Lun Ekranoplan was built during 1987-1989:
(photos courtesy of Darkroastedblend.com)
According to an interesting article about the Ekranoplan by Darkroastedblend.com:
What’s more, it was equipped with unparalleled to this day ZM-80 “Moskit” (SS-N-22 Sunburn) supersonic rockets, capable of sinking any enemy ship at a ridiculous distance. This machine would’ve ended up to be a formidable threat to NATO, if not for the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union. Insufficient funds prevented further research, and the overall decline of the Soviet Union had sunk this project altogether – although some efforts have been made to convert the “Lun / Spasatel” into a sea rescue vessel.
Due to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, development of the Lun Ekranoplan was halted and the plane mothballed. However, here is a very interesting video showing the different Ekranoplan models in action. It also includes the firing of a missile from the Lun Ekranoplan:
While there are many Russian-Soviet Era military boondoggles, I thought the Lun Ekranoplan was one of the largest and most strange secret weapons developed. The United States has had its share of odd and weird military weapon disasters, but the one that caught my eye the most was the U.S.S. Zumwalt.
The United States U.S.S. Zumwalt Destroyer
(photo courtesy of Fred Field, Boston Globe)
The U.S.S Zumwalt is the most expensive destroyer ever built by the Navy. It is a guided missile destroyer built to include Stealth capabilities. The construction of the ship started in 2008 and was commissioned into service on Dec 15, 2015. According to the article, Is This Maine-Built Destroyer A Marvel, Or A Floating Boondoggle:
WASHINGTON — With sharp angles and sleek surfaces that evoke Hollywood science fiction, the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer is the weirdest-looking warship produced in Maine since the Navy launched a low-slung oddity called the USS Katahdin 125 years ago. Widely mocked, the Katahdin ended up being used for target practice.
The 600-foot Zumwalt — picture an Aztec pyramid welded atop a machete blade — is an infinitely more elaborate and costly ship, a futuristic showcase crammed with electronic innovations. But it, too, appears destined to fall well short of its promise.
After two decades on the drawing board and a tortured recent history, the $22 billion Zumwalt program is seen by numerous critics as a prime example of Pentagon budget bloat, delays, and misplaced priorities.
The Navy doomed the ship to sideline status when it slashed its order to just three of the vessels, from an original plan for 32. It disclosed in 2008 that the warship would be vulnerable to enemy missiles and submarines. And it has publicly questioned the destroyer’s mission and usefulness.
Taking control of the new high-tech U.S.S. Zumwalt is none other than Capt. James Kirk. Yes, it’s true, the captain of the advanced U.S. destroyer has the same name as the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise space ship on the TV series, Star Trek…. how fitting.
(photo courtesy of FreeRepublic.com)
As the article stated above, the U.S. Navy slashed its original order from 32 down to only three. The cost of each of the Zumwalt Destroyer is $4 billion, but including all the research and development, the total sum for three of the proposed ships will be $22 billion.
(photo courtesy of Notey.com)
In the race to keep up with the military weaponry advancements in Russia and China, the U.S. will find it increasingly difficult to fund these sort of wasteful experimental military projects in the future. This will also be true for Russia and China. They are not immune to negative impacts of the falling EROI – Energy Returned On Investment of oil.
In 10-20 years when global oil production is a fraction of it is today, we will look back at the time period when the superpowers wasted vast amounts of energy to produce some of the most expensive military weapon boondoggles in history.
This reminds me of the collapse of the great ancient Roman Empire. Even though the Roman Empire had the most advanced military power in the world at the time, it still collapsed regardless. The collapse of the Roman Empire occurred due to its falling EROI. The same will be true for the United States, Russia and China.
The largest superpowers, corporations and entities will suffer the most when the final collapse of the EROI takes place.
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