During the Cold War, the army imagined these weapons to fight on the Moon


The US military likes to be ready for any situation or scenario. This is why the military has been working on developing secret space weapons for potential battles on the surface of the Moon. It wasn’t just a one-off idea either, the military commissioned a comprehensive study looking at several space-ready weaponry options for use at a proposed lunar military base.

Step back in time to the 1960s. The Soviet Union’s successful launch of Sputnik kicked off the space race, President John F. Kennedy promised to put a human on the Moon and the imagination of the jet age and the atomic age was in full effect. Technology had evolved so rapidly in recent years that anything seemed possible. And with that power, the mindset of the future is now, the US military had an idea for space.

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The 1965 study, since declassified, “The twists and turns of a weapon-oriented mind when applied in a vacuum such as the moon” – a title that sounds much more like an early science fiction short story. 20th century than a military article – exposes the two ambitious ways for the military to deploy a combat force on the lunar surface, with revolutionary weapons. The document is from the US Army Weapons Command, Directorate of R&D, Office of Future Weapons.

As the preface states:

The purpose of this brochure is to stimulate the thinking of people-at-arms, from those responsible for establishing requirements, through those responsible for funding, to the weapons designer himself.

(C) Although man’s primary purpose in space (on the moon or other planets) is not to fight, he does need the ability to defend himself if necessary. There may be other countries willing to prevent US access to the moon and other planets. If space is really for peace, we must be strong there as we are on earth.

There is some context to this weapon proposal. Since the 1950s, the Department of Defense had explored space as a possible front for both national security and the Cold War. A 1959 report outlined ideas for a moon base and a way to move troops from land sites to the outpost – keep in mind this was all before Yuri Gagarin became the first person to be in space, it was still unclear how all of this would impact humans in reality.

The study describes some of the problems associated with sending a military force into space. Although not as bad as initially feared, there are extreme temperatures on the lunar surface and the vacuum of space presents problems with the use of weapons.

(US Army Weapons Command/Screenshot via Document Cloud)

In addition to bases, this army rapid reaction force would need weapons, and that had its own challenges. As the document points out, space could create a “second evolution” of weaponry. It was after all the days of fantastic sci-fi B movies and pulp adventure, so the military considered laser guns. But the military decided that these futuristic weapons were at least two decades away, at least – an optimistic assessment in hindsight – so it came up with several ways to make kinetic weapons effective in space.

This Was The Army's Cold War Plan For A War On The Moon, And The Weapons It Would Use To Win It
(US Army Weapons Command/Screenshot via Document Cloud)

The ideas, under the section titled “Possible weapon concepts whose feasibility has not yet been determined but are presented as ideas to stimulate thinking,” attempt to address these various concerns. These included the fear that recoil from a conventional rifle would set a soldier back. Weapon concepts therefore try to solve this problem, with preloaded dart tubes or other new ammunition. These include two types of ‘sausage guns’, a ‘micro-pistol’ and a short-range weapon that would fire gas from a high-explosive blast. They even looked at a spring-loaded gun that would fire a spherical projectile, which, despite being intended for space, looks much more retro in its ammo type. In addition to the proposed schematics, the military even had illustrations drawn to show what they might look like in action.

This Was The Army's Cold War Plan For A War On The Moon, And The Weapons It Would Use To Win It
(US Army Weapons Command/Screenshot via Document Cloud)

Yes, it’s a drawing of an army soldier armed with two space weapons. Yes, it was a real proposal from the US Army Weapons Command.

Although the pop culture image of space warfare usually involves Space Marines – thanks Starship Troopers and the James Bond movie moonraker – in 1965, the army was convinced that it would be the fighting force on the Moon. Granted, this is an Army study, and at the time the US military had yet to coordinate its various space programs into a unified US Space Command.

Although the study was intended to stimulate ideas, it appears to have been abandoned. The United States sent military pilots to the Moon in 1969, but as far as all historical records show, without the proposed space guns or moon bases, the document describes. In the more than five decades since its publication, the ideas of “The twists and turns of a weapon-oriented mind when applied in a vacuum such as the Moon” have never quite been true. made, but they offer a unique perspective on how the military thought about future wars. could play out in the final frontier.

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