The Jesus Nut and Other Military Tech Wonders

Hardware is magic in this tour of weird war engineering

The Jesus Nut and Other Military Tech Wonders The Jesus Nut and Other Military Tech Wonders

Uncategorized November 21, 2013 0

the Jesus nut. Via wikipedia The Jesus Nut and Other Military Tech Wonders Hardware is magic in this tour of weird war engineering  In... The Jesus Nut and Other Military Tech Wonders
the Jesus nut. Via wikipedia

The Jesus Nut and Other Military Tech Wonders

Hardware is magic in this tour of weird war engineering 

In all my research for War is Boring, I’ve come across countless little gold nuggets of information too small to merit a full article but too shiny not to write about somewhere. Here are four of the best.

The Jesus nut

A helicopter's main rotor hub must sometimes be removed for maintenance and repair. This hub is held to the rotor shaft—and thus the rest of the aircraft—by a large, threaded, retained fastener. A nut, in other words.

This fastener must be securely locked down or else the vibrations from the helicopter's rotor blades can loosen its hold and potentially allow the fastener to work off. This would allow the main rotor to come free of the aircraft. If this were to happen in flight there would be, um, dramatic consequences.

American helicopter pilots and mechanics very early on dubbed this fastener the “Jesus nut" because He was likely to be make an appearance in the aftermath of the nut coming off.

Grumman F9F-3 Panther with Emerson Aero X-17A roll traverse turret. Navy photo

Blow your nose

In 1950 the U.S. Navy tried mounting a nose turret on a jet fighter. The Emerson Company's engineers managed to fit four 50-caliber machine guns, a fire-control radar and the turret mechanisms into a slim housing that nearly perfectly replaced a Grumman F9F-3 Panther's original nose. Additional support gear for the turret consumed almost all the plane's remaining free space.

As the Panther pilot closed in to attack an enemy bomber, the entire nose of his fighter would rotate and the four machine guns traverse, or rotate, out of their slots. Using a large, somewhat complicated gunsight, the pilot would lock the turret guns onto the bomber above or below him and pour on the lead, the Panther's fire-control radar aiming the weapons.

The jet nose turret actually performed satisfactorily, but the size and weight of all the stuff needed to make it work, plus the usual avionics development balkiness, killed off the idea before it could really be explored. Curiously, though the turret might have proven useful in the sort of close air support widely employed during the Korean War, there is no evidence the concept was ever pursued further.

The City Beneath The Sea, menaced and saved. 20th Century Fox captures

City beneath the asteroid

In 1967, at the peak of the space program, an advanced seminar in astronautical engineering at MIT was presented with the challenge of defending against the asteroid Icarus, predicted to fly past Earth without incident in 1970. If Icarus were on a collision course, what could the U.S. do to defend Earth with the tools at its disposal?

The resulting study produced the design for the largest, longest-range nuclear missile ever: a Saturn V moon rocket loaded with a 100-megaton hydrogen bomb in place of the Apollo spacecraft. Six of these monsters would be launched from Cape Canaveral in rapid succession towards an eventual detonation near the oncoming space mountain.

If this plot sounds familiar, it's because Hollywood couldn't resist such a concept. It's widely believed that the first pop culture adoption of asteroid-blasting was the 1979 film Meteor! But Irwin Allen, the prolific creator of zany 1960's sci-fi TV, threw everything into his last ‘60s series concept—including Project Icarus. It's likely that his extraordinary research assistant, Elizabeth Emanuel, came across the MIT study and brought it to his attention.

Allen’s City Beneath the Sea was to be a new Star Trek-like TV show set within a giant underwater city of the future. Only the 1970 pilot was made, which itself was Allen's second try at the concept. Its pedestrian performances and wooden dialogue didn't warrant a pick-up by NBC, but its cool special effects and glamorous vision of undersea life delighted the younger crowd. Including me.

The doom Allen held over his city beneath the sea seemed over-the-top even for the Master of Disaster. The president's science adviser informs the hero admiral that an asteroid will slam into the Pacific in a few hours, right on top of the undersea town, dubbed, what else, “Pacifica.”

The undersea city guards the gold of Fort Knox (?) and presumably also the whole nation with its submerged nuclear missiles, which the daring hero successfully launches against the meteor. Boom! Pacifica is saved until next week. Alas, the show was not to be.

The “Hot Rod” High Speed Technology Demonstrator. Photos via

The Dukes of Knox

“Corporal? I am addressing a corporal, am I not?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you realize I clocked you and your tank here at a full 75.76 miles per hour?”

“Really? That’s great! Uh, sir.”

Because the “Hot Dog’s” speed run took place in 1979, it’s tempting to imagine such a conversation, but since the test took place on a gravel test track at Fort Knox, Kentucky, it’s unlikely that Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane’s real-life counterpart had this exchange with an Army corporal.

The highly-modified M-113 armored personnel carrier did share a key factor with The Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee. Both vehicles were powered by the same engine, Chrysler’s legendary 440-cubic-inch carbureted V-8.

The High Speed Technology Demonstrator, a.k.a. “Hot Rod,” doubled down on the Dukes with twin 440s. Even now in its dotage, on display at Fort Knox, the sheer stoneball zaniness of the vehicle tastes like moonshine.

75 miles an hour. In a tank.

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