Military Review

Rocket by pigeon mail. Dove Project

Rocket by pigeon mail. Dove Project

Model of the nose cone, created as part of the "Dove" project

Carrier pigeons were actively used during the First and Second World War. The use of pigeons as winged messengers has a millennium history, this use of birds was known even in the army of Alexander the Great. However, during the Second World War, the United States decided to go much further. The behavioral psychologist Burres Frederick Skinner has proposed a completely new way of using pigeons. The research project developed with his participation turned out to be so unusual that it is still included in various ratings of the strangest military inventions in human history.

The emergence of the project "Dove"

It is not known whether American engineers and scientists studied Slavic legends and traditions, but the first description of the military use of pigeons can be found in our history. According to Slavic legend, Princess Olga's revenge against the Drevlyans consisted of four events. During the latter, the Kiev army under the leadership of Princess Olga besieged Iskorosten for more than a year, but was never able to take the city, whose defenders believed that they would not be spared. Realizing that the city could not be taken, the princess sent her ambassadors with an offer to pay tribute, which consisted in the issuance of three pigeons and three sparrows from each court. She substantiated such an unusual request by the fact that she had previously fully avenged the death of her husband Prince Igor and would like to establish a smaller tribute in order to improve relations with the Drevlyans.

The tribute was collected and paid, after which at night the warriors of Princess Olga tied a tinder to each bird and set it on fire, setting the birds free. The pigeons and sparrows returned back to the city, where numerous fires began, after which the defenders were forced to surrender. Domestic historians are still arguing among themselves about whether this story had at least some basis. One thing is certain: even if the plot of the story was completely fictional and later included in the annals, its creators knew enough about pigeons. The pigeon is rightly considered one of the most intelligent birds with a good memory and developed natural navigation. Pigeons remember the area well and always return home. All this in due time led to the widespread distribution of carrier pigeons.

Giving an account of the pigeon's abilities, during the war years in the United States, they thought about using a bird with excellent navigation abilities as a living homing head for guided munitions. In those years, even a country as well developed as the United States could not afford to solve this problem at an affordable technical level. Before creating a high-precision weapons and homing shells, missiles and bombs were still far away. But there was plenty of biological material at hand. It was in such an environment in the early 1940s that the project was born to create guided weapons equipped with biological targeting systems.

An unusual research project was carried out in the United States under two programs. The first, which existed from 1940 to 1944, was called "Dove". The second, developed from 1948 to 1953, was called "Orcon". "Orcon" - short for Organic Withtrol (organic control). The well-known behavioral psychologist Frederic Skinner, Berres, who is considered one of the most influential psychologists of the XNUMXth century, has a hand in these projects. In addition to psychology, Skinner became famous as an inventor and writer.

The projects developed with his direct participation were aimed at creating guided weapons with a biological targeting system. The carrier pigeon became the basis of this biological guidance system. The projects have received government funding from the United States Office for Scientific Research. The general private contractor for the work was General Mills. At the same time, the "Dove" project itself was originally part of a more extensive federal research program for the creation of various guided weapons systems and the combat use of various warm-blooded animals and birds (rocket, aviation, torpedo and other weapons).

Behavioral Psychologist Burres Frederick Skinner

Implementation of the "Dove" project

It was no coincidence that Skinner came up with the idea of ​​using pigeons as living homing heads. No matter how strange his idea may look, one must understand that in those years there was simply no talk of any computer systems, advanced electronics and GPS. It is also important that this work of the psychologist has become a logical continuation of his earlier research. Berres Frederick Skinner has worked with a variety of animals since the 1930s. Despite the skepticism of many military personnel, Skinner received $ 25 from the state for his research.

In a way, it was the American academician Pavlov. Only instead of dogs he worked with pigeons and rats. In the laboratory of a psychologist and physiologist, it was always possible to find a large number of different devices, for example, boxes with contacts, bulbs and feeders, which worked in an automatic mode and were intended for experiments and the study of animal reflexes. During the Second World War, Skinner was simply struck by the idea of ​​using the minimal intelligence of pigeons, or rather, reflexes developed in birds, in control systems for precision weapons. The scientist really believed in the possibility that carrier pigeons could take a guided munition, for example, a gliding bomb, to a target with a deviation of within six meters. Actually, all the tests he conducted only emphasized the possibility of such an approach.

Homing pigeons were chosen for the experiment for several reasons. Firstly, it was a light bird, secondly, the pigeons easily adapted and trained, and thirdly, carrier pigeons were well distributed and readily available. The pigeons themselves were placed in the bow of the ammunition. For aiming at the target, one or three pigeons could be used, which were placed in special "jackets", or holders that securely fixed the birds, leaving only the head free for movement.

The process of training a live homing head

A matte screen was placed in front of each pigeon, onto which an image of the terrain, broadcast from the nose of the bomb, was projected using a complex lens system. As the developers of the project believed, each pigeon will peck at the screen, equipped with special electrical contacts, keeping the "sight" on the target. The pigeons learned this behavior during training. The birds simply developed a reflex, using real aerial photographs of the terrain or silhouettes of the necessary objects or warships for their training. The birds developed a reflex to peck at a screen installed in front of them, on which they saw the desired object. Each such peck sent signals to the servos of the gliding bomb or missile controls, adjusting the trajectory of the ammunition. The training of birds itself was based on a simple reward for the actions the trainer needed. Various seeds or grains of corn were used as top dressing.

One or three pigeons could be used in the ammunition control system. Three pigeons improved targeting accuracy. Here, in practice, the democratic principle was implemented, when a decision was made by a majority vote. The steering wheels of a gliding bomb or missile were deflected only if at least two out of three pigeons made a close decision with a peck on the target on the progenitor of the modern touchscreen.

Experiments have shown that carrier pigeons can track a target for at least 80 seconds, while making up to four pecks per second at a target visible on the screen. Research already carried out in the early 1950s as part of the Orcon project showed that pigeons were able to correct the flight of an anti-ship missile flying at a speed of about 400 miles per hour. According to some reports, pigeons were able to hold the target image in front of them in at least 55,3% of launches. At the same time, such a guidance system had a clear and obvious disadvantage: it could only be used in the daytime with good visibility.

The fate of the projects "Dove" and "Orcon"

Despite the positive results of training pigeons and the creation of samples of the guidance system and mock-ups, the "Dove" project was never brought to fruition. Many rightly considered the idea impractical, and some were frankly insane. As the researcher himself later said: "Our problem was that we were not taken seriously." The program was completely curtailed on October 8, 1944. The military decided to end the program and its funding, redirecting forces to other "promising" projects.

Model of the nose cone created by Project Dove at the National Museum of American History

Most of all in this story, carrier pigeons were lucky, from which real kamikaze were prepared. All birds were lucky enough to survive. Skinner took 24 trained and trained birds to his home.

For the second time, the United States returned to the project to create a biological guidance system after the end of World War II. The project called "Orcon" was worked out from 1948 to 1953. This time it was initiated by the US Navy. The program was finally curtailed in 1953: by that time, the first electronic and electromechanical ammunition control systems had reached the required level of perfection and proved their effectiveness.
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  1. Mouse
    Mouse 27 September 2020 05: 55
    A man is such an infection ... that even from a symbol of peace, purity, love, serenity and hope he will make a weapon ...
    1. Russ
      Russ 27 September 2020 06: 21
      Will vulgarize everything ....
    2. Ross xnumx
      Ross xnumx 27 September 2020 06: 22
      Quote: Mouse
      Man is such an infection ...

      Believe it or not, the first thought was exactly the same. It's a pity that this has a very realistic resemblance:
      1. Snail N9
        Snail N9 27 September 2020 07: 57
        In the comedy film "about spies" - "Be the first, Freddie" just, and the guidance of missiles with pigeons is shown .... An old movie, but funny ....
        1. Aviator_
          Aviator_ 27 September 2020 08: 50
          I immediately remembered this movie, a parody of a spy thriller. It turns out that the pigeon ideas were really seriously developed.
        2. sabakina
          sabakina 27 September 2020 09: 48
          Quote: Snail N9
          In the comedy film "about spies" - "Be the first, Freddie" just, and the guidance of missiles with pigeons is shown .... An old movie, but funny ....

          The snitch, to be honest, did not look. But I like it better ...
        3. The comment was deleted.
        4. UVB
          UVB 27 September 2020 12: 19
          An episode about the preparation of pigeons. In general, a cool film, I recommend watching who has not seen it. [media = https: //]
    3. dauria
      dauria 27 September 2020 10: 49
      that even a symbol of peace, purity, love, serenity and hope will make a weapon ...

      Since ancient times, horses, elephants, dogs. Not to mention viruses, bacteria. And infected animals released into enemy territory. . Even "geese saved Rome".
      Another thing is interesting - even in the 80s, the television GOS needed precise target designation - to record part of the picture from the rocket camera into its
      memory as a target. Track turns and deviations and update the "reference" as you approach the target.
      At what point were you going to "include" the pigeon in the control loop? When is the target already visible to the pilot? What did you do with the growing size of the picture?
      1. Simple
        Simple 28 September 2020 09: 43
        Quote: dauria
        At what point were you going to "include" the pigeon in the control loop?

        After turning on the cruise motors.

        Quote: dauria
        What did you do with the growing size of the picture?

        I will assume that the target display was replaced with a picture of a dovecote.
        The proportions of the sizes of the dovecote in terms of range were preserved.
        The pigeon was very stressed and flew home instinctively.
        1. dauria
          dauria 28 September 2020 13: 04
          I will assume that the target display was replaced with a picture of a dovecote.
          The proportions of the sizes of the dovecote in terms of range were preserved.

          Does not work. Replacing the pictures means already knowing the angular coordinates and the distance to the target. Why the hell, then, dove? They already knew how to do autopilots and steering cars. But the coordinators (the basis of the GOS) are not yet.
    4. AllBiBek
      AllBiBek 27 September 2020 17: 32
      I will tell you more, this symbol of peace, purity, love, and serenity has taken millions and tens of millions of human lives.
      For almost the entire era of black powder is on pigeon shit as the main component for it.
      And why do you think the townspeople everywhere and how the possessed kept the dovecote? Pigeon droppings cost money, and in some places the townspeople were even obliged to maintain dovecotes, and all the droppings belonged to the king, duke, doge, or someone else from the mighty of this world.
  2. tlauicol
    tlauicol 27 September 2020 06: 27
    Interesting idea. But the shelf life of such a Gsn is very limited, and the speed is also
  3. parusnik
    parusnik 27 September 2020 07: 48
    What only mankind does not come up with, for its own destruction .. And by the way, a lot has already been invented.
  4. tlauicol
    tlauicol 27 September 2020 08: 18
    But in this way it was possible to use both large day and night birds as loitering ammunition. 200-400g warheads could well carry. And without a load, any flock of ducks, crows, seagulls can block the airfield, for example
    1. ares1988
      ares1988 27 September 2020 09: 05
      Bats with small fire bombs were planned to be used.
    2. Simple
      Simple 28 September 2020 09: 46
      Quote: Tlauicol
      And without a load, any flock of ducks, crows, gulls can block the airfield

      I suppose not any. Why do they need this noisy place?
      The game loves silence.
  5. igordok
    igordok 27 September 2020 09: 11
    In the Danish comedy film 1965. "Hit first, Freddie", the situation with aiming with a pigeon is played up.
  6. Narak-zempo
    Narak-zempo 27 September 2020 10: 35
    I prefer the variant with the anti-tank dog.
    There is such a Bobik or a bug (after all, the mongrels were taken as the most smart ones) in combat readiness (that is, hungry). Everything rumbles around, explodes. And suddenly joyful (for the dog, not for the owners laughing) the sound of tank engines. And his parting words "Come on, Sharik, come on!" unleashed. And Sharik runs, not noticing the shooting, because under the tank they will definitely give him a tasty bone, as has already happened many times in training. Even the wounded man continues to run. And he will never know (unless, of course, the mine on his back works normally) that there are no bones under the tank, but it doesn't matter, because all dogs go to heaven laughing
  7. Brylevsky
    Brylevsky 27 September 2020 10: 49
    To one degree or another, all birds (except for chicken and kiwi), not only pigeons, but also fish (the record holder is an eel) have the ability to navigate. Moreover, some migratory birds do not even need "visual contact with the target", because they can fly above the clouds, as well as at night - accordingly, the target will not be visible. In the absence of visual cues for their orientation in space, they use: during the day - the sun; at night - the stars. There is a wonderful children's book on this topic:
    1. Simple
      Simple 28 September 2020 09: 51
      If you put a bird in a rocket fairing, then with each change in the position of the head, not ordinary g-forces act on you. this can discourage the bird from its inherent navigation.
      1. Brylevsky
        Brylevsky 28 September 2020 13: 04
        The article is not talking about a rocket, but about a "gliding bomb." That is, free falling. This means that the acceleration on its "board" will be equal to the acceleration of free falling, which is quite feasible for the bird. If there is no speed change in flight, where does the overload come from?
  8. Nikolaevich I
    Nikolaevich I 27 September 2020 12: 54
    You are looking! We remembered the pigeon "GOS"! Well, well ... "fish without fish and cancer" ...! But the birds, perhaps, should not be hastily blamed for arson! There are serious historians, researchers who give reasoned arguments that the story with the birds, the arsonists, is a lie! If memory serves, then even, somewhere, the experiment was carried out with birds and "matches"! Birds darted in the sky, but did not fly into their nests! And chago got to the bottom of the sisars? Is there no other living creature? Again, if my memory does not fail, I recall once read that they tried to use cats as well, as "seeker" in air-to-air missiles! And in the Pentagon, wabche, entomologists rule the show! They are going to create cyborg cockroaches that "deliberately and purposefully" close contacts in military electronics, spoil the insulation of wires, record and transmit the necessary information signals! True, they are competing with rodentologists with their "cyber-mice" (!), Well ... let's see "xy from xy"! But all this is garbage compared to a certain project where they are going to use a multicellular, but simple "animal" ...! I don't remember at the moment what kind of living creature it is ... let it be ... like an earthworm! The essence of the project is to study the telepathic connection between the separated "segments" of the same individual! In general, the worm was divided in half ... one half remained at the "command center"; and the second - on a strategic submarine ... It was argued that when the "command" half was "shaken" by an electric impulse, the half on the submarine also twitched! Hence, the military scientists "flayers" had a maniacal desire to use such an effect to create long-distance communication systems and weapon guidance systems! I don’t know if scientists will be able to grab this worm-telepathic effect by the “gills,” but a similar effect was found in the “world of the inanimate” ... the “quantum world” ...!
    1. vVvAD
      vVvAD 27 September 2020 17: 14
      Uh-huh, quantum teleportation yes
      So hands off the worms, flayers! laughing
  9. Destroyermen
    Destroyermen 27 September 2020 15: 16
    If anyone is interested in a detailed description of how it worked and how pigeons were trained, then it is in my article:
  10. Kushka
    Kushka 28 September 2020 14: 13
    Quote: Brylevsky
    To one degree or another, all birds have the ability to navigate (except for chicken:

    And also men, they are also like chickens - 10 m from the house and already no one