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Solar superweapons of the Third Reich


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We could have used one of those to deal with the snow today.....


The Third Reich's Diabolical Orbiting Superweapon
Written by Alan Bellows on February 9th, 2008 at 4:19 am
From DamnInteresting.com

Nazi "Sun Gun"Throughout the Second World War, the town of Hillersleben, Germany was home to one of the Third Reich's most crucial weapons research centers. At a sprawling facility nestled in the forested hills, a contingent of 150 engineers and physicists developed and evaluated all manner of experimental weapons, a substantial number of which were ultimately adopted by the Nazi war machine.

When Germany surrendered in May 1945, the scientists at Hillersleben were forced to abandon an assortment of death-bringing innovations at various stages of completion. Among these were a rocket-assisted artillery shell which had 50% more range than standard artillery, a 600mm mortar which fired one-ton self-propelled projectiles for up to three and a half miles, a modified Tiger tank which could fire 760-pound rockets up to six miles, and a chain-like projectile made up of small, linked rockets with a range of 100 miles. But the military masterminds' most sinister ambitions were embodied in their behemoth Sonnengewehr, or "Sun Gun" project– an orbital weapon intended to exact fiery punishment upon the enemies of the Third Reich, forever establishing their dominance over the genetically inferior Untermenschen of the Earth.

The Sun Gun was based on a design originally conceived by Hermann Oberth, a physicist who is widely credited as one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics. In his 1929 book Wege zur Raumschiffahrt, or "Ways to Spaceflight," Oberth presented a scientific description of a hypothetical manned space station orbiting at an altitude of one thousand kilometers. He detailed potential construction methods using prefabricated sections, described a rotational cycle to produce centrifugal gravity within the station, and outlined a system for periodic resupply missions. Oberth advocated the development of these Raumstations to serve as astronomical observatories and telegraph relays, in addition to Earth-observing activities such as meteorology, search-and-rescue, and military intelligence. What interested the Nazi scientists, however, was his suggestion that a specially engineered 100-meter-wide concave mirror could be used to reflect sunlight into a concentrated point on the Earth. But whereas Oberth's design had peaceful intentions– to use the intense heat to produce electricity with steam turbines– the nefarious Nazis envisioned a colossal heat ray which could vanquish humanity.

Archimedes and one of his death ray mirrorsArchimedes and one of his death ray mirrorsThe Sun Gun concept was essentially a scaled-up version of Archimedes' ancient and oft-debated "Death Ray." In 212 BCE, the Roman Republic sought to seize the city of Syracuse from its Greek inhabitants. Some accounts claim that the initial attack was repelled by Archimedes– the astonishingly talented Greek mathematician, physicist, inventor, and astronomer– who is said to have used an array of sunlight-concentrating copper mirrors to set the advancing ships aflame. Many scientific attempts have been made to confirm or deny the feasibility of such a weapon, with varying outcomes. Most prominently, the myth was "busted" on the television program MythBusters in 2006. The 'Busters found that an array of metal mirrors could indeed ignite a wooden ship, but only after a tactically-tricky exposure of several minutes. Although the authenticity of the ancient legend is questionable, however, the principle behind it is fundamentally sound.

Using Hermann Oberth's 1929 design as a starting point, the optimistic physicists of Hillersleben expanded upon the space-mirror concept considerably. Their calculations indicated a parabolic mirror of at least three square kilometers to achieve the desired destructive power– about 100,000 times larger than Archimedes' mythical death ray– and an ideal orbit of 8,200 kilometers. After considering a number of shiny materials, the scientists settled upon metallic sodium, an element which is relatively abundant among natural compounds. Under ordinary conditions, pure sodium tarnishes quickly and reacts violently to moisture, however the researchers reasoned that these shortcomings would not pose any problem in the virtually vacuous exosphere. To heft the pre-built pieces into orbit, engineers planned to employ a beefed-up version of trailblazing-but-treacherous V-2 rocket which Germany had been using to terrorize London. This "A11" multi-stage variant– which was undergoing development at the V-2 facility in Peenemünde– was designed by Wernher von Braun to deliver people into space, and to export white-hot Nazi shrapnel to the US.

Inside the living area of the station, electricity would be provided by special steam-driven dynamos which would utilize the heat of raw solar radiation. The station's complement of Nazi astronauts would wear magnetic shoes to accommodate working in weightlessness, and their oxygen would be constantly replenished by vast onboard greenhouses filled with CO2-thirsty pumpkin plants. Artist's impression of the assembly process (Life magazine, 1945)Artist's impression of the assembly process (Life magazine, 1945)The crew of a fully-assembled Sun Gun station would receive encoded orders via radio or wireless telegraph, while keeping a sharp eye on enemies of the Reich. When commanded to attack a terrestrial target, the crew would engage a network of rocket thrusters to rotate the massive reflector into a carefully calculated orientation. Once in position, the mirror's curvature would converge the sun's mighty rays into a focal point on the Earth's surface, pouring a column of raw, super-concentrated solar radiation upon the target site. Hypothetically this beam would have sufficient heat to scorch away fields, incinerate cities, vaporize reservoirs, and melt screaming onlookers like wax dummies. Any nation lacking space-capable rockets would be utterly defenseless against the onslaught. Once the desired destruction threshold was reached, the mirror would be tilted back into a safe orientation, facing away from the Earth.

The project was stalled in the summer spring of '45, however, as the impending Allied victory became increasingly evident. American intelligence agencies immediately invoked Operations Overcast and Paperclip to extricate German scientists and equipment ahead of the Soviets. Lieut. Col. John A. Keck, chief of the Ordinance Service's enemy technical intelligence branch in European theater, led the interrogation of a number of Nazi researchers. The German engineers described their participation in the development of the V-2, and disclosed details regarding several other nearly-perfected technologies: a submarine-based V-2 launch system, an infrared sniper scope, and an anti-aircraft rocket capable of auto-detonating within ten yards of a target. In addition, they handed over the schematics and calculations for their formidable Sun Gun concept. Considering the Nazi scientists' other impressive achievements, Lieut. Col. Keck and his team of hard-headed engineers took the death star concept seriously. "We were impressed with their practical engineering minds," Keck said of the Hillersleben researchers, "and their distaste for the fantastic."

Many American scientists, however, were more skeptical Sun Gun's feasibility. Astronomical amounts of time, money, and resources would be required to hoist the hundreds of tons of equipment into orbit, not to mention the million or so tons of metallic sodium. Furthermore, there were doubts regarding whether a single parabolic mirror could concentrate destructive levels of energy upon such a distant focal point; though this problem could be overcome by building multiple Sun Guns to operate as an orchestrated orgy of annihilation. In spite of the monumental scale of the concept, the physicists from Hillersleben were confident that their Sonnengewehr Raumstation was feasible, and that its uninterrupted development could have furnished the Fatherland with global conquest in as little as fifty years.

Solar furnace in Odeillo, FranceSolar furnace in Odeillo, FranceThe weaponization of the sun has still yet to be realized, though similar concepts are used today to collect heat on smaller scales. Solar furnaces use parabolic mirrors provide heat for cooking, electricity, metal-working, and hydrogen production. The largest solar furnace in the world is currently located in the commune of Odeillo in the French Pyrenees mountains, where its eight-story-tall array of 10,000 small mirrors concentrates sunlight to produce temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Celsius. A similar concept is used in solar power towers, where a brigade of mirrors reflect the sun's heat onto a central receiver to produce steam for electricity.

Despite appearances, the Hillersleben researchers were not exclusively sinister. Nestled amongst the heat-ray-of-doom diagrams, scientists included notes describing the space station's potential as a radio-relay satellite, a weather observation post, a launch pad for the interstellar rocket expeditions, and of course, Hermann Oberth's original vision to use the giant mirror to generate electricity on Earth.

Many German rocket scientists– including Oberth and Wernher von Braun– ultimately opted to put science ahead of patriotism, and moved to the US to continue their rocketry research. In addition to their work with US missile defense systems, many of the men went to work for the fledgling space program in the 1950s. The rocket originally slated to carry the Sun Gun segments into space– Von Braun's A11– eventually became the foundation for the Saturn V, the engine which carried the Apollo astronauts into orbit for the moon missions of 1969-1972. It seems that through hard work and perseverance, these pioneers of rocketry finally managed to hit their ultimate goal: The stars. And occasionally, London.

Topic suggested by David.

Further reading:
1945 Time magazine article about space mirror
1945 New York Times article discussing the Sun Gun
Testing Archimedes' Death Ray
Projects Overcast and Paperclip
Homepage for the solar furnace in Odeillo, France
BBC article on solar power tower
Newsreel footage of pure metallic sodium reacting with water
Alan Bellows is the founder, designer, and managing editor of DamnInteresting.com.
Just think if the Nazi's had won the war the first flag and men on the moon would have been a swastika and astronauts in black SS space suits.

Very interesting reading, thanks.
retiredgrunt45 said:
Just think if the Nazi's had won the war the first flag and men on the moon would have been a swastika and astronauts in black SS space suits.

Very interesting reading, thanks.


Well there already is an "alternate history thread" for people like you below: ;D


And if the Axis had won World War II, there would have possibly been a space race or a Cold War type scenario with the Third Reich, Mussolini's Italy and the Japanese Empire living in uneasy peace with each other in a world they carved up together.  ::)
retiredgrunt45 said:
Just think if the Nazi's had won the war the first flag and men on the moon would have been a swastika and astronauts in black SS space suits.

Very interesting reading, thanks.

Like this? ;D

Oooo... a field grey lunar lander.... neat
Astronaut with Knights's cross is a nice touch Ironduke.
geo said:
Oooo... a field grey lunar lander.... neat
Astronaut with Knights's cross is a nice touch Ironduke.
Here is the homepage of the artist:
- http://godwin.ralert.net/

He made this one and some others for an game Mod ("Dawn of Victory" for "Sins of a Solar Empire") which is loosely based on the Turtledove Worldwar series.

I had the last and this one for sometime as wallpapers:
- http://dov.slipstreamproductions.net/Art/dovharbor.png (1600x1702, 2.3MB)

Things happen in three's.

I came across the pic below, then this thread, I wonder what the third strange thing about Nazi's will be?  :-\


I think I like this baby better.
Fortunately the Scottish Resistance was able to destroy one of the key factories.
By plying the Security Force with beer; and then, fueled by Irn Brew, launching devastating foreheid strikes at close range.
The Germans never let a little reality stand in the way of a cool project that’s for sure. They were dreaming of this stuff, while most of their infantry divisions were still using horses, their Panzer division were chronically short of tanks and fuel. Metallurgy they were suffering badly, a fact borne out by the short cuts used in their designs to reduce the number of processes and need for precision gearing and ball bearings (Final drive design on the Panther is a perfect example)
The Germans never let a little reality stand in the way of a cool project that’s for sure. They were dreaming of this stuff, while most of their infantry divisions were still using horses, their Panzer division were chronically short of tanks and fuel. Metallurgy they were suffering badly, a fact borne out by the short cuts used in their designs to reduce the number of processes and need for precision gearing and ball bearings (Final drive design on the Panther is a perfect example)

Quite right Collin, I watched "Tank overhaul" on the history channel a few months back and they had said just that, they had removed a bearing from and old tiger engine and commented on how well engineered it was, compared to the what the Americans were manufacturing, this is how they got themselves into trouble, to much time wasted and material used on the making of over engineered vehicles, when they should of focused their efforts on manufacturing quantity.
The Horten Ho 229 (often erroneously called Gotha Go 229 due to the identity of the chosen manufacturer of the aircraft) was a late-World War II flying wing fighter aircraft, designed by the Horten brothers and built by the Gothaer Waggonfabrik. It was a personal favourite of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, and was the only plane to be able to meet his performance requirements
Maybe not a German idea (although you never know.....) Follow the link for some pretty great pictures of these ideas


Sky Captain's dream come true

Remember Franky's (Angelina Jolie) amphibious attack squadron from "Sky Captain: World of Tomorrow"? The idea of "fighter plane/submersible" combination has a long history in inventor's patents and the actual military research. It's not just "pulp fiction", but rather a fascinating account of the concept that US Navy is now getting ready to turn into reality.

Wild Soviet project, developed before World War II

It all started with a ground-breaking research by B. P. Ushakov, conducted by the Russian military in utter secrecy, between 1934 and 1938. The design never achieved a prototype stage, but was seriously considered for military application: the plane could fly 800 km at the speed of 200 km/h and could dive to 50 meters, having underwater speed of 3 knots.

There's been some inventor activity across the ocean, as well. In 1945, the American inventor Houston Harrington filed a patent for "combination of airplane and submarine":

The "submersible /airship" combination was an attractive idea for the military during World War II. The Japanese used small ("midget") submarines in combination with their air attack on Pearl Harbor. The Italians attacked British battleships in the Mediterranean harbor of Alexandria from the air and their "midget" submarines shortly thereafter. Even if relatively successful, these were suicide missions - but a compact flying sub could fulfill the task and bring their crew back home.

"It could fly from a favorable location to its destination at minimum altitude to avoid detection by radar. At the completion of its underwater mission it could travel as a submersible to a location best suited for takeoff, become airborne and return to base" (The Wilmington Morning News, 1964)

US Navy was playing with the idea in the 50s and 60s, coming quite close to actually making a prototype:

US Patent 2720367 from 1956 was even equipped with torpedoes:

Convair Division of General Dynamics Corp. received a Navy contract to test the feasibility of such a craft. The plane would be submerged by flooding of the wing, tail and hull compartments. It would travel 5 miles an hour under water, powered by batteries.

Don Reid's "Commander-1" actually was submerging and flying, in 1964

Don Reid, an electronics engineer, and independent defense contractor built "Commander-1" prototype, and then "Commander-2" which actually flew and was fully operational. First tests happened in 1964, with the speed of 4 knots while 2 meters underwater. Here is a technical split view, printed in the "Popular Mechanics"-like Russian magazine in 1965: (click to enlarge)

The story of this plane is told in "The Flying Submarine: The Story of the Invention of the Reid Flying Submarine, RFS-1," published in 2004 by Heritage Books Inc.

"The Cormorant" - modern take on the same idea

Today, the "flying sub" concept is very much alive, and even being considered by such heavy-weights as Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works (developers of the U-2 and Blackbird spy planes). This article details plans for an airplane that "starts and ends its mission 150 feet underwater"

This gull-wing spy plane will operate in a fully stealth mode and will be launched from the Trident missile tubes of some huge nuclear sub. The logistics of launch and retrieval provide for the sub's secretive maneuvers, so that her location will not be given away. Once out of the water, the plane's rocket boosters fire and the Cormorant takes off. At the end of the mission, it's fetched by the robotic unit back into the submarine, deep underwater.

The dream of flying under the water and in the clouds is a noble one, and we'd like to see it fulfilled, not only for the military, but as a new and exciting future means of transportation. Just like the old military ekranoplans can one day serve as a step toward the beautiful "ground-effect" ocean liners.
haha Thucydides, we're unified now, so we might as well just have one vehicle for the Air Force AND Navy.
Wow, even Canada was in on the act. A.V. Roe, purveyors of fine aircraft like the Arrow and "Jetliner" also branched out into experimental VTOL craft. The saucer is fairly well known; although it worked as a hovercraft of sorts, it was supposed to fly like a helicopter. This led to even stranger ideas like the "Project Y", which made a nice wooden mock-up. Very little real information is available........


One of the AVRO "flying saucers" was in the US Army Transportation Museum in Fort Eustis, VA (near Williamsburg) when I was the CFLO TRADOC in 1980-1984. It was indeed an early air cushion vehicle.
one of the most interesting thread I've seen reminds me of Fall of Liberty, the game on Xbox if anyone's seen it, it's a game based on the Germans invading America