Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
h a l f b a k e r y
The word "How?" springs to mind at this point.

idea: add, search, annotate, link, view, overview, recent, by name, random

meta: news, help, about, links, report a problem

account: browse anonymously, or get an account and write.



Siegebreaker balloon

If you are in a besieged city circa 1550, this would be handy.
  [vote for,

I was reading Ambrose Pare on his experiences in cities under siege. It is good reading. But I was thinking about how to fight back if you are in the city. You can chuck stuff off of the walls onto people. You can shoot at them. But it sounds like most of the time the beseiging army is just camped, near the walls but not so close you can shoot at them.

I was thinking about the charcoal blower. Imagine a hot air balloon, tethered inside the city. One could power it with charcoal heated with a pedal powered fan. It would drift out of the city with the prevailing wind. On a still day you could steer the balloon laterally with the pedal powered fan. A clothesline system would allow folks in the city to resupply the ballooneer with charcoal. And also ammo.

I imagine the balloon floating out high above the army camp outside, late at night.

But how to inflict maximum damage? This is 1550, now. One could have a gun and plug away at them down there. One could shoot arrows. One could drop pieces of hot charcoal onto tents. One would, of course, poop and pee on them through a strategic opening in the balloon basket floor. But these seem puny and I could imagine the ballooneer being more or less ignored because at a safe height, bullets, arrows and even poop would be pretty inaccurate. Given a balloon and an unsuspecting army below, how to optimally chase them away?

bungston, Jul 29 2009

Forced air barbecue forced-air-barbecue
Inspiration! [bungston, Jul 29 2009]

Montgolfier http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgolfier
Untrustworthy frenchmen, again .... [8th of 7, Jul 29 2009]

Baron Munchausen http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096764/
In which our hero escapes a beseiged city by balloon. [DrBob, Jul 30 2009]

Military Ballooning http://en.wikipedia...military_ballooning
I draw your attention, in particular, to the section entitled "Another 30 years", para 1, last sentence. [DrBob, Jul 30 2009]

Throw these from your siege balloon Black_20Plague_20Water_20Balloons
[MikeD, Jul 31 2009]

Life and Times of Ambrose Pare http://www.archive....ambro00par_djvu.txt
[bungston, Aug 04 2009]

Japanese Balloon Warfare http://www.bookmice.../japan/balloon.html
[xenzag, Aug 10 2009]


       If they had never seen a balloon, psychological warefare. Gods, demons and wrath, that sort of thing. Might give a slight tactical advantage.
wjt, Jul 29 2009

       I think you were heading in the right direction with 'poop and pee' - chemical or biological warfare.
Be it stuff that smells bad, waste water carrying noxious diseases, dead animals, rotting plant matter (vegies, fruit, whatever); there are many ways to make the enemy chose to leave, rather than waste ammo killing them.
neutrinos_shadow, Jul 29 2009

       Burning oil ....   

       This should be just about possible. The original Montgolfier balloon was made of sackcloth lined with paper; rope and wicker baskets were known technology too - all were available in 1550.   

       Because of gravity, a weapon with an effective range of several hundred metres firing horizontally has a greatly reduced range when launched vertically - and a high-mass low-velocity projectile is more severely affected. This would mean that the besieging army, assailed from above from an altitude of, say, 100 metres above terrain would be very unlikely to have any effective means of reply.   

       Preheating the air in the balloon by use of a ducted furnace, then using the on-board furnace as a sustainer, would give extended endurance. The problem might be constructing a small, light hearth, although pottery and thin iron strips might do the job, since the idea is to get the heat up and away from the combustion source, rather than retain it (as in a forge with a horizontal draught pipe).   

       The fire would be small, and need to be frequently refueled. A metal gauze spark arrestor would be a sensible addition.   

       Assuming a balloon required to lift itself, one occupant, weaponry and a fuel supply, the dimensions of the envelope and the required heat output of the furnace to maintain temperature can be calculated.   

       Use of the balloon at night (despite the problem of targeting) would be advantageous as it would obtain better lift in cooler air. An effort should be made to as far as possible mitigate the sound output of the forced draught mechanism to provide a measure of "stealth", and the baloon could be usefully coated with lampblack, hiding it in poor light and achieving solar gain during daylight hours.   

       The range of deployment beyond the defended perimiter would be determined by the mass of the trailing cable, which will impinge on the disposable lift of the balloon as more and more is paid out.   

       Given that in 1550, medical technology is not particularly advanced, it is not necessary to employ a "one hit, one kill" weapon, i.e. large rocks - which are unlikely to strike a useful target as they are undirected. More effective would be a stitched animal skin filled with oil or other combustibles, and equipped with a wick, designed to burst on impact and disperse incendiary droplets over a wide area. Similarly, pottery- or iron-cased fragmentation grenades could be employed. The advantage of deploying incendiary weapons at night would be the provision of both primary and secondary target illumination.   

       Apart from grenades, large numbers of small, heavy, sharp darts could be dispersed over a wide area with a better chance of causing incapacitating injury, especially if the tips were contaminated.   

       Unfortunately for the besieged, this weapons system would work equally well for the attackers, no doubt leading to scenes reminiscent of the "Balloon Duel" scene from "Those magnificent men in their flying machines", but with a rather lower comedic content for the participants. Consideration of similar technological escalations, from the ironclad rams of the American Civil War, through the Tanks of WW1 to the present day indicates that as soon as one side deploys a weapons system, their opponents will follow suit, developing countermeasures at the same time. And so your species "progresses" (?)
8th of 7, Jul 29 2009

       Just tip a bucket of quicklime over the side. As you will be floating downwind anyway, there shouldn't be any chance of it blowing back into the town.
DrBob, Jul 30 2009

       Besiegers would bring along squadrons of trained falcons, with fighting cock-style talon extensions and spurs to attack the balloons.
coprocephalous, Jul 30 2009

       No "maybe" about it ......
8th of 7, Jul 31 2009

       That kamakaze scheme is converging on those bomb balloons the Japanese released during WWII to drift across the pacific and land in the US. Flame-bearing balloonlets to float over the wall and land among the enemy could be small and many, and need not be manned. Such a strategy would work much better against a city than against a beseiging army. That said, I have this idea that in general beseiging armies wanted to capture and loot the city, not burn it down. There is no point in taking Vienna if it is a smoldering pile of rubble.
bungston, Jul 31 2009

       It didn't bother the Red Army when they got to Berlin in 1945, though .....   

       Read Sun Tzu. The object of war is to impose one's will upon the enemy.
8th of 7, Jul 31 2009

       //The object of war is to impose one's will upon the enmy//   

       And here I thought it was to get medals, badges and "combat" pay.
MikeD, Jul 31 2009

       Yes, well, they don't put much philosophy on the recruiting posters.
8th of 7, Aug 01 2009

       //beseiging armies wanted to capture and loot the city, not burn it down//   

       The cost of having thousands of men loitering outside a city for months or years was pretty high, so I doubt they would be that concerned about a little collateral damage if they could shorten the siege.   

       And the besieging army often did want to burn the city down, but could not simply assault it because it was fortified. So they sat down and waited for them to starve. Plenty of besieging armies made trebuchets or things like that to destroy walls.
Bad Jim, Aug 02 2009

       // this weapons system would work equally well for the attackers //   

       Au contraire, [0.875]   

       Consider: the besieged are at the center, and the besieging are at the circumference of a(n idealised) circle. The balloon is anchored in the city, and the anchor point is surrounded by all the infrastructure to support it - furnaces with hot air/gas hoses, ammunition supplies, bucket brigades, pipework, extra fuel, spare parts, winches, windlasses, mules, encamped technicians, support staff for the support staff, ancilliary cooks, batmen and wenches, and so forth. Should the balloon need to replenish itself of any vital supplies, it can be winched back in to the center.   

       Now consider a change in the winds: the balloon changes tack, but is still (given a few moments of belaying or withdrawing the tether) hovered above the enemy.   

       In the inverse case, where the circumferential siege-layers are attacking the central hold-fasts, a change of wind immediately places the weapons platform off-target. In order to reaquire the target, the anchor point - and all the associated infrastructure - must be moved a great distance across the landscape around the circumference, or one must wait until the wind is once more in one's favour.   

       Insert a river, a forest or other obstacle anywhere about the city and the case for the attacking forces becomes particularly dire.   

       I hold, then, sir/madam or other, that this system is inherently defensive, rather than offensive, in the siege situation.
BunsenHoneydew, Aug 04 2009

       We beg to differ.   

       Small variations in wind direction will merely cause the balloon to track across the target, which is large compared to the radius of action of the balloon's weapons systems. Thus, wind variations may be positively desireable.   

       Not all the infrastructure needs to move - just the winch which recovers the balloon. This could be nothing more than a sustantial cart, pulled by oxen, and carrying the preheating furnace.   

       Multiple balloon-carts, positioned around the perimiter, would mean that - irrespective of wind direction - at least one unit could always be brought into action against the besieged.   

       // a river, a forest or other obstacle //   

       In which case, the balloon method has significant advantages, especially as a means of circumventing a river defence.   

       // sir/madam or other //   

       All of the above. The Borg are an equal-opportunity oppressor.
8th of 7, Aug 04 2009

       Re offense balloons - I was thinking of multiple small unmanned balloons released to float over the wall and into the city. If it is OK by the beseigers to burn the city, it would be hard to defend against these. If the combustion platform was wood, it would burn through at some time after release and dump the charcoal into the city, probably onto a roof. Shooting a balloon with a projectile will make it dump its charcoal. The risk would be that in high wind the balloon passes over the city entirely before dumping, which is not much of a risk.
bungston, Aug 04 2009

       The below is from Ambrose Pare, as linked - but the linked document is a lengthy text file. Below describes a strategy for breaking a siege.   

       /Moreover, they had all resolved that each would carry, his treasure, rings and jewels and his best, richest, and most beautiful fur- niture, and bum them in the great square, and put them in ashes for fear the enemy should prevail and make trophies of them. Likewise there were men who were charged to set fire to and burn all the munitions also to break in the vessels of wine in the cellars, others were to set fire to each house to burn our enemies and us together. The citizens had accorded all this, rather than see the bloody knife at their throats, and their wives and daughters ravished and taken by force by the cruel and inlmman Spaniards.   

       Now we had certain prisoners that Monsieur de Guise sent away on their parole, who, tacitly we had wished, would conceive our final resolution and despera- tion, who being arrived in their camp, lost no time in announcing it, which was the cause of restraining the great impetuosity and desire of the soldiers, so that they no more wished to enter into the town to cut our throats, and enrich themselves by our pillage. The Emperor, having heard the resolution of this great warrior Mon- sieur de Guise, put water in his wine, and restrained his great anger, saying that he could not enter the town without making a great butchery and carnage, and shedding much blood, both of the defendants and of their assailants, and they would be all dead together, and in the end he would not have got anything but ashes, and that afterwards men would say that this was a like destruction to that of the city of Jerusalem, made in former times by Titus and Vespasion.   

       The Emperor thus having heard our last resolve, and seeing how little he had advanced by his battery, saps and mines, and the great plague which was in all his camp, and the inclemency of the weather, and the lack of victuals and money, and how his soldiers were disbanding themselves and going away in great troops, decided at last to retire, accompanied by the cavalry of his advance guard, with the greater part of the artillery and the battalia (engines of war.) /
bungston, Aug 04 2009

       //Multiple balloon-carts//   

       Whereas the indwellers have need of but one, and that not even a cart. Advantage: city   

       I heartily endorse further efforts in the field of historical halfbaking.
BunsenHoneydew, Aug 10 2009

       During the second world war, the Japanese released thousands of balloons carrying explosive devices to be carried by the prevailing winds towards the West Cost of America... don't believe me? Check the details in the link I will put up tomorrow, or do a search. It's a very interesting story.
xenzag, Aug 10 2009


back: main index

business  computer  culture  fashion  food  halfbakery  home  other  product  public  science  sport  vehicle