The Wind Cannon and Vortex Gun
The wind cannon, or WindKanone, and the vortex gun were German anti-aircraft projects, designed to use the power of wind to damage enemy aircraft in flight. The wind cannon was designed and built by a firm outside of Stuttgart, and the vortex gun was the work of researcher and scientist Mario Zippermayr. While the two both relied upon wind and turbulence to damage aircraft on bombing raids over German cities, they were quite different in both construction and operation.
The wind cannon consisted of a 3-foot in diameter cast iron tube, some 35-feet in length. This was loaded with a shell packed with hydrogen and ammonia to create a burst of compressed air. When shot at an aircraft, the intent was that the explosive burst of wind or air would damage the plane in flight. While the weapon did successfully shoot shells of compressed air, the planes, even when flying quite low, withstood it without difficulty. In fact, the wind cannon appeared to have no effect at all on planes. The wind cannon was later tested on enemy troops; however, this was also ineffective. The 35-foot metal structure was easy to spot, making the people manning it an easy target on the field.
The vortex gun was a large-bore mortar weapon buried into the ground. It was packed with a combination of coal dust and a slow-burning explosive. The intent was for the shell to explode, creating a wind vortex or fake tornado. In theory, this tornado would bring down any plane caught in it. In tests, the vortex gun performed well in perfect conditions, but war rarely provides perfect conditions.
Zippermayr worked on a number of other projects relying on coal dust, including the HexenKesser, or witch’s cauldron. This was an attempt to create a weapon of mass destruction by exploding coal dust over a target. After the war, Zippermayr became known for his treatments for respiratory illnesses, including pertussis.