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While the weapon too secret to use sounds very Dr Strangelove, there have been slightly similar things with real weapons. The one I remember is when radar-triggered proximity shells were invented at the end of WW2 they were only issued for use on ships, so that undetonated shells would fall into the sea, so couldn't be recovered and investigated by the enemy.

Another case, also WWII:

"[U]naware of the opposing air force's knowledge of the chaff concept, planners felt that using it was even more dangerous than not, since, as soon as it was used, the enemy could easily duplicate it and use it against them... for over a year the curious situation arose where both sides of the conflict knew how to use chaff to jam the other side's radar, but refrained from doing so fearing that if they did so the other side would 'learn the trick' and use it against themselves."


Which makes perfect sense. Any weapon leaves some trace (even if only new theory as to what is possible), so its use against a party that does not have that technology but is capable of understanding the technology at some level will always give information to the enemy.

Using a modern missile against an indigenous people will only impart that you are capable of that type of attach.

Using a modern missile against WWII Germany would likely quickly result in refinements to their V2 Rocket program, given enough remains to study.

Using a modern missile against Vietnam era USA would likely result in advancements in miniaturization and computation, given enough remains (even if they did not have the resources/facilities to capitalize on some aspects of those for years, I think it's likely it would advance the fields by a least a few years).

One of the biggest advantages the Allies had in WWII was that they had cracked the "uncrackable" Axis encryption. Even though they were able to decipher enemy messages, they often didn't act on that information because that would tip their hand. The strategic value of reading the enemies messages is enormous when the enemy doesn't know you can do it, and much less so, and possibly even negative when they do know.

this is like the second law of thermodynamics as applied to warfare...

It's also along the lines of Sun Tzu-esque deception.

I suppose the modern example are the constant probing of air defenses by the attacker (i.e. the US and its array of electronic warfare suites), and the game theoretic calculation by the defender on whether to turn on their radars or not...

You don't just have to worry about the people you are attacking. Their allies can also reverse-engineer the tech. Pakistan and China come to mind. Pakistan has given China a lot of tech that it's recovered.

True, but this is somewhat covered by considering everyone not us an enemy of some degree or another, which is natural in game theory.

Well you mentioned the Native Americans, they had allies here too. Each major tribe was allied with a major power. So if you used it against them, even in that case someone could get a hold of that tech and it could come to bite you in the ass later. Interesting example is the fact that Native Americans in the US were very soon all very well armed by their allies in terms of guns and ammo, and they used the armaments given to them by their allies to attack each other. Life in general is more than capable of cooperating when it is not competing even with beings that have little to do with each other. This in the end is called the Red Queen's race https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Queen's_race https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Queen_hypothesis.

Wow! I heard that when the UK began using radar to down enemy planes at night during WWII, the gov't claimed the pilots had been "eating a lot of carrots."

Yep, there's still a common belief in the UK that eating carrots gives you good night-vision, entirely because of that cover story.

On that note here's an image of a badge from Detachment 4 of the 18th Intelligence squadron based out of Feltwell Norfolk. Note the Carrot: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/18th_Intelligence_Squadron#/me...

And elsewhere in the world

IIRC there was a claim that the shells with the proximity fuses were also used, likely by Patton's forces, in the Battle of the Bulge. Supposedly having the shells explode at a carefully determined distance above the ground made the shells especially effective against German ground troops.

IIRC the proximity fuses were developed at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL); that is the story I got when I worked there.

IIRC, the shells were also especially effective as anti-aircraft artillery.

> having the shells explode at a carefully determined distance above the ground made the shells especially effective against German ground troops

It does. WWII tanks' armor is mostly concentrated to the front and sides, because those tanks are designed to force enemy lines against ground-bursting shells, field pieces, and other tanks, all of which fire mostly on low trajectories; what's on top is much thinner, because no one expects to need to withstand a lot of damage there. Bursting a shell above ground level throws a lot of fragments at that weak armor, where a ground burst mostly wastes them against armor designed to withstand direct hits from much more powerful weapons. For infantry, it's even worse; the whole point of a trench or a foxhole is to put a thick layer of earth between you and all the metal that's flying around at ground level. When an airburst can send fragments right down into the hole with you, that earth doesn't help one bit.

Fun fact: "daisy cutter" bombs work the same way. Up until Vietnam at least, their proximity fuse was on the end of a rod protruding a few feet from the nose of the bomb. Low-tech compared to a radar proximity fuse, but fearsomely effective; probably the only reason you wouldn't find it on a shell is that, unlike an air-dropped bomb, a shell has to withstand the force of being fired from a gun, and I doubt any such expedient could. (That's also why bombs tend to be so much more effective than shells, even when no more accurate. When the strongest force involved is 1g, you can spend a lot less mass on structure, and a lot more on explosive.)

The Swedish military has a lovely man portable anti-tank weapon built on this principle.

The sight is arranged so that if you aim at the tank, the weapon is actually aiming above it. Then the round will detonate as it pass over the target, sending a molten metal shaped charge right down.

The Germans in WWII could have brought the British to their knees with magnetic mines alone, but one German aircrew dropped their mine intact on mud flats instead of into the water, allowing the British to recover the mine intact and develop countermeasures.

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