Project Pigeon

Project Pigeon

American behaviorist B. F. Skinner's attempt to develop a pigeon-controlled guided bomb.

- Project Pigeon
Project Pigeon

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Chart of NBS activities, 1915

National Institute of Standards and Technology

Physical sciences laboratory and non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce.

Physical sciences laboratory and non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce.

Chart of NBS activities, 1915
A mass spectrometer in use at the NBS in 1948.
Advanced Measurement Laboratory Complex in Gaithersburg
Aerial view of the Gaithersburg campus in 2019
Boulder Laboratories
A 40 nm wide NIST logo made with cobalt atoms

During World War II, military research and development was carried out, including development of radio propagation forecast methods, the proximity fuze and the standardized airframe used originally for Project Pigeon, and shortly afterwards the autonomously radar-guided Bat anti-ship guided bomb and the Kingfisher family of torpedo-carrying missiles.

National Defense Research Committee

Organization created "to coordinate, supervise, and conduct scientific research on the problems underlying the development, production, and use of mechanisms and devices of warfare" in the United States from June 27, 1940, until June 28, 1941.

Organization created "to coordinate, supervise, and conduct scientific research on the problems underlying the development, production, and use of mechanisms and devices of warfare" in the United States from June 27, 1940, until June 28, 1941.

Project Pigeon

Skinner at the Harvard Psychology Department, c. 1950

B. F. Skinner

American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher.

American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher.

Skinner at the Harvard Psychology Department, c. 1950
The gravestone of B. F. Skinner and his wife Eve at Mount Auburn Cemetery
The teaching machine, a mechanical invention to automate the task of programmed learning

To solve this problem, Skinner initiated Project Pigeon, which was intended to provide a simple and effective guidance system.

A guided bomb strikes a practice target

Missile guidance

Missile guidance refers to a variety of methods of guiding a missile or a guided bomb to its intended target.

Missile guidance refers to a variety of methods of guiding a missile or a guided bomb to its intended target.

A guided bomb strikes a practice target
Israel's Arrow 3 missiles use a gimbaled seeker for hemispheric coverage. By measuring the seeker's line-of-sight propagation relative to the vehicle's motion, they use proportional navigation to divert their course and line up exactly with the target's flight path.
Inspection of MM III missile guidance system

Project Pigeon was American behaviorist B.F. Skinner's attempt to develop a pigeon-guided bomb.

Bat guided bomb mated to PB4Y Privateer

ASM-N-2 Bat

United States Navy World War II radar-guided glide bomb which was used in combat beginning in April 1944.

United States Navy World War II radar-guided glide bomb which was used in combat beginning in April 1944.

Bat guided bomb mated to PB4Y Privateer
A Bat on its hoist
A Bat weapon on a bomb cart, with its nose radome removed

The National Bureau of Standards (NBS) would provide the airframe for use with a standard bomb, and was the same guidable ordnance airframe design used for the earlier, abortive Project Pigeon weapons program.

A V2 launched from Test Stand VII in the summer of 1943

Missile

Guided airborne ranged weapon capable of self-propelled flight usually by a jet engine or rocket motor.

Guided airborne ranged weapon capable of self-propelled flight usually by a jet engine or rocket motor.

A V2 launched from Test Stand VII in the summer of 1943
HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën (F802) firing a Harpoon
V-1 missile
Missile Maintainer inspects missile guidance system of the LGM-30G Minuteman ICBM
A simplified diagram of a solid-fuel rocket.
An R-36 ballistic missile launch at a Soviet silo
American Tomahawk cruise missile
Russian-Indian Supersonic cruise missile BrahMos
The French Exocet missile in flight
U.S. Army soldiers firing an FGM-148 Javelin
MIM-104 Patriot missile being launched
Arrow missile
A F-22 Raptor fires an AIM-120 AMRAAM
ASM-135 ASAT missile launch in 1985

One of the more bizarre guidance methods instead used a pigeon to steer a missile to its target.

Monuments for military animals in Ottawa, Ontario.

Military animal

Military animals are trained animals that are used in warfare and other combat related activities.

Military animals are trained animals that are used in warfare and other combat related activities.

Monuments for military animals in Ottawa, Ontario.
A U.S. Navy dog handler at the War Dog Memorial in the National War Dog Cemetery at Naval Base Guam. The cemetery honors the dogs—mostly Doberman Pinschers—that were killed in service with the United States Marine Corps during the Second Battle of Guam in 1944.
Circus elephants clear bomb damage, Hamburg, Germany, November 1945.
Photo released on November 12, 2001 claiming to show "the first American cavalry charge of the 21st century" in league with Northern Alliance forces in the Battle of Mazar-i-Sharif.
A dog employed by the Sanitary Corps during World War I to locate wounded soldiers. It is fitted with a gas mask.
Dürer's Rhinoceros, a fanciful 'armoured' depiction.
Charlie, the horse who carried the dispatch from General Slocum to General Sherman announcing the surrender of Atlanta, Georgia in the American Civil War
Pictured with a reel of communication wire, Sergeant Reckless was a highly decorated US Marine Corps artillery horse in the Korean War.

Project Pigeon – a proposed U.S. World War II weapon that used pigeons to guide bombs.

Pioneer in humane animal training

Marian Breland Bailey

American psychologist, an applied behavior analyst who played a major role in developing empirically validated and humane animal training methods and in promoting their widespread implementation.

American psychologist, an applied behavior analyst who played a major role in developing empirically validated and humane animal training methods and in promoting their widespread implementation.

Pioneer in humane animal training
Postcard from I.Q. Zoo

Although many sources incorrectly refer to the work as Project Pigeon or the Pigeon Project, Bailey assured colleagues that its name had actually been "Pigeon in a Pelican", with pelican referring to the missile each pigeon was to guide.

Bell P-59B Airacomet at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio

Index of World War II articles (P)

1) P-59 Airacomet

1) P-59 Airacomet

Bell P-59B Airacomet at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio

1226) Project Pigeon

Horse packing with traditional Australian pack saddle

Animal-borne bomb attacks

Animal-borne bomb attacks are the use of animals as delivery systems for explosives.

Animal-borne bomb attacks are the use of animals as delivery systems for explosives.

Horse packing with traditional Australian pack saddle

Projects of bat bombs, dog bombs, and pigeon bombs, have also been studied.