Strafing Eagles

If you thought the strafing hawks in Leviathan seemed unbelievable, behold the 1912 French air force experiments with eagles:


Note that these weren’t engineered creatures like in my books, nor were they equipped with special razor talons. They were just regular eagles using their own claws.

Of course, in 1912 airplanes were barely reaching tops speeds of 160KPH (100MPH), and the world altitude record was about 4000 meters (13,000 ft) for heavier-than-air craft. Depending on the species, eagles can get close to that speed while diving, and have been spotted at higher altitudes.

I’m not sure what top airship altitude is in 1912, but it was probably higher than 4000 meters. But there’s no way an airship could go faster than an eagle back then. So the whole thing probably seemed feasible, except for the tricking business of training eagles to attack something much bigger, and to tell friend from foe.

I have no idea how long this program lasted, but it probably didn’t bear much fruit. (Lucky for the eagles, who got to stay out of the Great War. Though the pigeons wound up fighting.) By 1914, planes were flying at up to 200KPH and at altitudes of 6000 meters, beyond the capacity of any bird to hunt.

But as I often say, you can’t always tell what technologies are feasible before they’re invented. From way back then, walking machines and fighting eagles looked like a real possibility.

This attack eagles story was a hit all over the world, by the way. Here’s another version ganked from the Freeman’s Journal in Sydney, Australia, 4 July 1912.


A pretty weird moment in military history.

Okay, I’m still matching any contributions you guys make to the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program, the wing of Nano that assists teen novelists. The YWP is revamping their website, refreshing their already excellent (and free!) curriculum guides for schools who participate in Nano, and expanding their outreach to correctional facilities, halfway houses, and juvenile detention facilities.


Donate in the next month through this website, Justine and I will match the first ten grand of your donations.

Tell your friends!

5 thoughts on “Strafing Eagles

  1. That is beyond weird. Did you already know this when creating the strafing hawks or is it a weird coincidence like the Perils of Pauline?

  2. It is so amazing that someone actually did this, it’s really cool!
    I wonder how they would have trained the strafing hawks on the Leviathan…

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