Accessibility links

The Arms Race Gets Dirty: Russian Scientist Files Patent For New Biological Weapon

A Russian patent-application diagram for a weapons system that was sent to "The Guardian" by its inventor.

A Russian patent-application diagram for a weapons system that was sent to "The Guardian" by its inventor.

Just a few short months after U.S. President Barack Obama indicated a willingness to negotiate with Russia on making further cuts to the two countries' respective nuclear arsenals, it now seems that Moscow could be well placed to open up a new front in the arms race.

That's because St. Petersburg scientist Aleksandr Semenov has reportedly filed a patent for a terrifying new "biological" weapon that could strike fear into the heart of any enemy.

According to the plans he submitted for review in Russia, Semenov wants to design a tank shell whose explosive payload would also include the solid waste produced by the armored vehicle's crew. (As the above diagram clearly illustrates, crew members would simply deposit the waste into a shell compartment directly, before sealing it and firing it at the enemy.)

Semenov appears convinced that the weapon could signify a major advance in the history of conventional warfare (see a video interview of Semenov in Russian here).

"Nuclear weapons are history," the Czech news website quotes him as saying. "They are absolute and destroy everything around them. The same applies to bacteriological and chemical weapons. We are proposing alternative armaments, which are not lethal. They are humane and they do not breach any UN conventions."

According to Marc Abrahams, who received an English translation of the patent documentation and wrote about it in "The Guardian," this innovative new weapons system would be ideal for use under battle conditions, where tank crews often spend long periods trapped in the confined space of their armored vehicles.

Not only would it have a "psychological positive effect" on the tank crew by sparing them from having to endure the stench of their own feces, it would undoubtedly have "additional military-psychological and military-political effects" on any combatant who was unfortunate enough to be in the line of fire.

The use of such missiles may also conceivably put a damper on the much-vaunted use of "shock-and-awe" tactics in modern warfare, as any combatant who tried to use them to scare the s**t out of their enemy could find such an approach counterproductive.

-- Coilin O'Connor

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

Show comments