10 April 2015

Unique weapon of the Ming Dynasty — Fei Kong Ji Zei Zhen Tian Lei Pao (飛空擊賊震天雷砲)

Chinese rocket-powered exploding wingball
Drawing of a Fei Kong Ji Zei Zhen Tian Lei Pao, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Fei Kong Ji Zei Zhen Tian Lei Pao (飛空擊賊震天雷砲, lit. 'Bandit-attacking flying skyshaker thunderbomb'), also known as Zhen Tian Fei Pao (震天飛砲, lit. 'Sky shaking flying bomb'), is a type of ball-shaped winged rocket named after the famous cast-iron bomb used by Jin Dynasty army during the Siege of Kaifeng. This weapon consists of three components: a globular warhead made of papered basketry, a black powder rocket motor inserted inside the warhead, as well as two wings. It is loaded with explosive, poisonous smoke gunpowder as well as poisoned fragmentation, and is suitable as both siege and field artillery.

Despite the menacing name, this weapon is actually not very reliable due to its aerodynamically unstable design.

Joseon Dynasty bigyeok jincheonroe, from 'Yungwon pilbi (《융원필비》 or 《戎垣必備》)'.
Koreans also developed their own version of Zhen Tian Lei called bijincheonloe (비진천뢰/飛震天雷, lit. 'Flying skyshaker thunderbomb') or bigyeok jincheonroe (비격진천뢰/飛擊震天雷, lit. 'Flying attack skyshaker thunderbomb'). It is a cast iron delay-action bomb that can be launched from a bombard or mortar, and can be considered an early forerunner of time bomb.

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