The magic of movies is that it can make the impossible seem very real. This is especially true in the era of CGI and green screens, and why after every new “Avengers” movie there are discussions about why the military has never built a flying aircraft carrier like the Shield Helicarrier, while “Star Wars” fans may ponder whether we’ll ever see walking tanks like the AT-ATs in “The Empire Strikes Back.”
The answer on both counts is that such weapon platforms are impractical and don’t improve upon what already exists. The same holds true for power armor and jet packs. These might be great in a comic book but are less practical in real life.
Walk This Way
The sight of massive “walkers” crossing a battlefield would likely send a cold chill down the spines of the most battle-hardened defenders. That is until they realize that even Teddy Bear warriors with some ropes could probably tangle up the legs and send the behemoths crashing to the ground.
Commonly known as “Mechs” in the world of science-fiction, these are another fan favorite and might be good for tabletop gaming or anime, but they are utterly impractical for a plethora of reasons. They’re a giant target, a slowly moving giant target at that. They’re overly complicated to build and control. Mud, obstacles like downed trees, and even natural terrain like loose sand would also present significant challenges for operators.
Even if a walker/Mech were fitted with cameras and sensors around the hull, it is likely there would be countless blind spots, while even monitoring all the screens from the incoming data would be a nightmare for any operator. And walkers, no matter how large, would likely move slower than any tracked vehicle.
As a result, the same small loitering munitions – kamikaze drones – that have been successfully used to target tanks and other vehicles in Ukraine could all too easily slam into a leg joint on a walker like a metal pipe on a figure skater’s knee and send it toppling to the ground.
“Intricate leg mechanisms would make them highly susceptible to damage from enemy fire. Furthermore, any hits to a leg would leave the machine potentially unbalanced, or cause it to tip over. It happened in ‘MechWarrior,’ and it would happen in real life, too. Blow a leg off, and you’ve got an easy mission kill. In comparison, blow off a tank track, and the vehicle remains upright and generally relatively repairable,” Hackaday recently noted in an article that further explains “Why Walking Tanks Never Became a Thing.”
Rocketmen Would Crash to Earth
Though the U.S. military has actually been experimenting with exoskeleton suits – as has China and Russia – the goal isn’t to create a Starship Trooper with power armor.
Thus the real-world applications for a power suit aren’t about throwing enemy tanks or being able to punch through walls. Rather the efforts to build such a wearable exoskeleton are a bit more mundane, yet far more practical. It could allow the wearer to more readily move ordnance and other equipment, essentially aiding in what is typically tiring, back-breaking work. These early efforts also highlight the major shortcomings.
Current prototypes are tethered to a power supply – something that would limit the practicality of its use as personal battle armor.
The same issue of power is why jet packs never became a thing and likely won’t. While there have been plenty of attempts to develop a jet pack, the range and duration have been a serious issue. Given that drones can stay airborne for hours and be safely operated remotely, it pretty much grounds the idea of soldiers ever flying into battle.
A Real World Helicarrier?
Beyond that it would be nearly impossible to build or power a flying helicarrier, there remains the fact that a flying aircraft carrier offers almost no advantages. It would have a massive radar signature and would thus be far easier for an enemy to detect than a surface vessel.
The ocean is a big place and a carrier can be hard to find and target. Though the skies are as vast, it would be impossible to hide the radar signature of a helicarrier. And if the enemy can see it, they can hit it more easily.
That’s when the real problems would begin.
A floating aircraft carrier is actually designed so that it can take a massive amount of damage and not sink. Even minor damage could be catastrophic for any flying carrier.
Such a craft would literally need a team of superheroes to defend it – not to mention a loan from a tech billionaire to pay for its manufacture. Few of those with such deep pockets are likely to sign up.
Our closet real-world counterpart may be morphing into a James Bond supervillain in real-time but he’s looking to control the world by making people stupider via his social media platform rather than wasting money on a flying aircraft carrier.
Yet, of course, if anyone were to actually build anything so stupid as a Helicarrier it would be him!
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.