The control system involved a lens, up to an array of three lenses at the front of the missile – using the same National Bureau of Standards-developed, unpowered airframe later used for the onboard radar-guided US Navy Bat glide missile – projecting an image of the target to a screen inside, while one to three pigeons trained (by operant conditioning) to recognize the target pecked at it. As long as the pecks remained in the center of the screen, the missile would fly straight, but pecks off-center would cause the screen to tilt, which would then, via a connection to the missile's flight controls, cause the missile to change course and slowly change the flight path towards its designated target.
Although skeptical of the idea, the National Defense Research Committee nevertheless contributed $25,000 to the research. However, Skinner's plans to use pigeons in glide bombs was considered too eccentric and impractical; although he had some success with the training, Skinner complained "our problem was no one would take us seriously." The point is perhaps best explained in terms of human psychology (i.e. few people would trust a pigeon to guide a missile no matter how reliable it proved). The program was canceled on October 8, 1944, because the military believed that "further prosecution of this project would seriously delay others which in the minds of the Division have more immediate promise of combat application."
Project Pigeon was revived by the Navy in 1948 as "Project Orcon"; it was canceled in 1953 when electronic guidance systems' reliability was proven.
- Animal-borne bomb attacks
- Anti-tank dog
- Bat bomb (incendiary ordnance)
- Military animals
- Pigeon intelligence
- Colton Coy Cardinal (2010). Cumulative Record. Peace River, Alberta: Appleton-Century-Crofts. ISBN 0-87411-969-3.
- C.V. Glines: Top Secret World War II Bat and Bird Bomber Program, Aviation History, May 2005, Vol. 15 Issue 5, p38-44
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