Inventing a new technology is one thing, but figuring out where and how to properly use it is something completely different. For example, the Greek Hero of Alexandria, who lived from 10 to 70 AD, is credited with the invention of the first steam engine. Yet, Hero and his peers could find no practical application for it other than a toy for amusement sake… The “toy” did not rear its playful head again until the 1700s when as a steam engine it provided the propulsion for the freight train. The Nazis’ “Goliath” tank killer drone had a similar fate.
Here comes the mighty Goliath drone
This decade we are seeing a boon in drone technology. Drones are all the rage and, honestly, I am in utter awe at how fast and far drone technology has advanced. Sadly, this is also due to the demand for more and more deadly drone potential in the war in Ukraine. However, drones on the battlefield date all the way back to World War II.
The Germans, in all their engineering prowess, came up with a land drone in WWII. The ironically named Goliath drone was envisioned as primarily an anti-tank weapon.
It ran on tracks across the ground with a remote control cable that ran along behind it. It had a modest hardening built into it, traveled at about six miles per hour with a really nervous German running along behind it, and carried an explosive payload of about 130 pounds of mostly RX (high) explosive. A 2,130-foot control cable extended out the back of the drone that allowed it to be controlled by an operator using a remote control unit much like the modern game controllers we recognize today.
Related: Online gaming provides top-tier opportunities for veterans
The Goliath had two potential modes of propulsion: electricity and mogas (petrol). Electricity was a great option but not quite as reliable as mogas in that the batteries had to keep their charge maintained and poor battery life was often the cause of failed attack missions.
The electric model used a three-strand cable to supply electrical power to the Goliath. Two strands supplied power, and a third strand was used by the explosives expert to detonate it. The electric versions of the Goliath proved to be too difficult to maintain and repair in the field, and prohibitive due to their overall cost.
In addition, the Goliath drone could be easily destroyed by infantry-carried personnel rifles such as the M1 Garand U.S. and the .303 SME British.
Related: Letters to Loretta: An American B-17 bomber versus Nazi fighters
More Nazi drones
Nazi Germany had other weapons that can be classified as drones: in particular, the VI (pulse jet) and the VII (liquid rocket propellant) Vergeltungswaffe (revenge weapons). Those were two airborne drones designed to launch from Germany to England and plunge down into habitation below, thereby also being classified as weapons of terror. They weren’t the most effective airborne drones as they had only a modest effect on the tactical play of the war, and no effect to speak of on the strategic big picture.
(Coincidentally, I have suffered the pain of sitting through rooms full of hundred-pound heads as they fought tooth and toenail over who was the smartest guy in the room to get their acronym selected to name the new airborne push of technology. Here are two acronyms that came and went: Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
Both of the above represent weeks of quibbling between PhDs who would die if the presiding powers did not pick their acronym. I learned back then that it was not the swallowing of tacks that truly took the man down: it was the crapping of them out afterward that introduced him to his maker.)
By Almighty God and with Honor,
Feature image: British soldiers from General Montgomery’s army with captured Goliaths. (Wikimedia Commons)
Leave a Reply