The CIA planned to turn lightning into a weapon

lightning as a weapon

In 1967, the CIA explored the possibility of manipulating lightning as a weapon, a bold idea with far-reaching implications.

In the annals of clandestine projects, the CIA’s idea to turn lightning into an offensive weapon in 1967 stands out for its audacity and ingenuity. Inspired by ancient myths, the concept drew on scientific advances to manipulate one of nature’s most powerful phenomena. The project envisaged the use of conducting wires to guide lightning towards specific targets, promising a discreet and powerful means of striking. This article delves into the technical details of this proposal, its historical context and the potential implications of such a technology.

Lightning as a weapon

The CIA’s proposal was to use tiny conductive wires, a few thousandths of an inch thick and several kilometers long, to create artificial leaders that would guide lightning. These wires would be deployed in thunderstorms by aircraft or rockets, and unrolled by brake parachutes. The lightning, following these ionized paths, would be directed at targets on the ground. Advantages included relatively low cost and no direct evidence of human intervention. This would have allowed the CIA to simulate divine acts without revealing their involvement.

Secret experiments during the Cold War

In the context of the Cold War, the United States, notably through Operation Popeye, was actively exploring meteorological modification as a tool of war. This period of intense research into the control of natural phenomena for military purposes provided fertile ground for the guided lightning project. The proposal was part of a series of initiatives aimed at developing unconventional and psychological weapons, exploiting the supernatural or natural phenomena.

lightning as a weapon

Turning the sky into a battlefield

The military exploitation of lightning would have had far-reaching implications. In theory, it offered a means of striking the enemy unpredictably and with devastating force. However, despite the scientific validity of the idea, the practical implementation and reliability of such a weapon posed considerable challenges. No demonstration of a lightning “barrage”, as suggested in the CIA proposal, was reported. Nevertheless, the concept has opened up prospects for research, as DARPA’s work with Project Nimbus shows.

Project transformation

Although the concept was scientifically valid, the complexity and practical challenges of harnessing lightning seem to have limited its development as a weapon. Instead, the focus shifted to fundamental research and lightning impact prevention, as evidenced by DARPA’s subsequent work. The apparent lack of interest in the military use of lightning could be explained by its dubious feasibility, or by the emergence of more effective modern air weapons.

The CIA’s project to turn lightning into a weapon, while innovative, raises questions about the ethical and practical limits of using natural phenomena in a military context. Although the practical realization of this idea remains obscure, it testifies to the relentless quest for technological advances in the field of defense, sometimes at the frontiers of the imaginable. Guided lightning remains a fascinating and controversial chapter in the history of secret military research.

War Wings Daily is an independant magazine.