Is it physically possible to shoot from a bow or crossbow on a flying mount

Discussion in 'Research' started by Peregrine, Dec 14, 2017.

  1. Peregrine

    Peregrine Lore Master

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    If the flying mount is a giant eagle for example.

    Would the mount be too fast to shoot anything or not?
    Horses are fast too and horse archery requires quickness.
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Valar Lord

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    Yes... but....
    Shooting ahead of the direction of movement on something like an eagle could be tricky. An arrow moves fairly fast but not so very fast. The range may be limited and like a horse, the head would get in the way. Most of the time horse archer wheeled and strafed their opponents as they ride across or past them rather than riding straight at them.
    If the same manoeuvres were used with eagles, the eagle would have to banking as it turned or the wings would get in the way too. Luckily I think flight mechanics sort to means they have to bank...
    Actually thinking about how you would control/work with an eagle as a mount could be very interesting and the results could be spectacular... Lines of eagles wheeling over head as archers shoot down on their targets...
     
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Unfortunately, it is impossible to shoot one flying object from another flying object. Fighter jets can't even do it, except by firing off a huge number of shots and hitting by pure luck. Something like 99% of the shots will miss. There are just too many factors involved when you add your own movements and your target's for a normal projectile. (Unless you have something that redirects its aim mid-air, like a missile.)

    Firing a bow from the back of a bird should be possible for somebody who's trained for it. Hitting a mark that isn't moving should not be difficult. Hitting one that's moving in a straight line, equally doable. Hitting something that's moving in a zig-zag pattern, difficult for sure. But that's assuming that your mount is stable and can fly in a straight line at a consistent speed. Again, there's only so many factors you can manage, and your mount has to be able to reduce them as much as possible.
     
  4. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

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    I don't think it is quite impossible, it seemed to happen plenty in WW2 and WW1. Though, I could imagine jets are moving so fast, they may be even faster than the bullets they would fire. Fortunately, we have missiles, so the killing in the air may commence.

    I would think this would prove extremely difficult, especially with a bow shot. One with skill could likely accomplish it more often, but I suspect some of their shots would have to just be lucky as well. But that does not really make for cool fantasy... If you have an army of giant bird riders, it would be best if they could actually hit something.

    Truth is, I think most archery that appears in fantasy is comprised of near impossible feats, even Odysseus firing through the heads of twelve axes is an incredible feat. But, that's what makes him special, he can do the incredible.


    Edit: I missed a direct answer to the question, which is yes, it is possible to shoot these items from the back of a mount, the Mongols did it, hitting with precision is another issue though. If the creature has wings, they might impede a little how one must hold a bow, but not a crossbow. Though, if you don't have both hands on the wheel (so to speak), and are flying, I could imagine a lot of other factors that would increases the difficulty.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Fighter jet ammunition is loaded with tracers - explosives on the back to make them visible to the eye while in the air - so that a pilot could adjust the aim of the machine gun mid flight. They would fire shots rapidly and struggle to line up their plane in line with a moving target until the line of fire was a hit. Again, on average, something like 99% of shots fired in a dogfight were a miss. That's with a machine gun. With a bow and arrow, aiming through rapid-fire misses doesn't work, so hitting a flying target from a flying object is effectively impossible.
     
  6. Dark Squiggle

    Dark Squiggle Lore Master

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    Dive bombers hit their targets quite accurately, as did many aircraft equipped with non-guided rocket launchers (F4U Corsair, Fw 190, Me 109, DeHavilland Mosquito, Skyraider) Several early dogfights in WWI were decided by pistol or rifle shots, one model of the B-25 bomber during WWII was equipped with a 75mm cannon, (an enormous weapon) with the firing rate roughly equal to a longbow, 6-10 rounds per minute, (That's just a guess from a quick search about that cannon and longbows, the numbers may be bad) was quite effective, and early in WWII, many Soviet fighters were modified for "taran" attacks, which basically means ramming other aircraft. The current USAF AC-130 gunship, an airplane, not a helicopter, carries a M102 howitzer, with a rate of fire of 3-10 rounds per minute, comparable to a bow, but again a far more devastating weapon.
    In short, I think it would be an effective weapon, but mostly against ground positions, or enemies behind the eagle. It would require a carefully judged approach, and probably need to get pretty close to its target to make a hit, though. The eagle's claws, or heavy steel darts aka flechettes or Japanese medieval style grenades or rockets dropped from the eagle, or a fire lance (ancient Chinese weapon, and really cool, look it up - a pole that spits fire and bits of rock and metal out the end) would make much more effective weapons.
     
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  7. Russ

    Russ Istari

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    I think there is some oblique dialogue going on in the above posts. :sneaky:

    I think air to air would be almost impossible, although I guess a winged or magical creature might be able to travel slower than the stall speed of an aircraft thus making it a little easier.

    I think air to ground, or air to sea would have some potential, that that is an expensive and complicated platform to deliver something as mundane and harmless as an arrow or crossbow bolt. IT would be more logical to deliver more dangerous payloads from those types of platforms.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
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  8. Malik

    Malik Shadow Lord

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    Exactly this.
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Start with lasers, day one. :)
    Actually, putting wizards on flying mounts could yield some satisfying results.

    >The range may be limited and like a horse, the head would get in the way.
    WRT this, I witnessed a classic moment in Red Dead Redemption. My wife was playing, riding on horseback. She spots a rabbit. Gets out the rifle and carefully tracks the rabbit as it hops across the screen. Aims. Pulls the trigger, and shoots her horse in the head. Kills it dead.

    I eventually stopped laughing.
     
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  10. SeverinR

    SeverinR Valar Lord

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    replying to an old thread.
    The traditional "fireball" from AD&D,(ground to air) would be about the same as Flak in WWII. If it bursts and the being flies through it, it would do some damage, but if it missed it did little. Air to ground: the burst would burn what ever is in the area, but it would be hard to hit precise targets unless the fireball could be directed. (I believe delayed blast fireball could be directed)
     
  11. Malik

    Malik Shadow Lord

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    There's also the soccer-ball cannon episode of Mythbusters to consider. A flying horse moves a hell of a lot faster than a running one. Many birds fly at the same speed as an arrow from hunting-weight bow, and many dive much faster. Vector physics says that if you shoot an arrow off the back of a flying mount moving at speed, the arrow would just hang in the air. You'd have to hope that you target runs into it. Angled shots would be nearly impossible because the arrow would also be flying forward at whatever speed the mount is moving; you'd basically be shooting in a wind tunnel.

    The wind makes for a whole set of problems, too, not the least of which are keeping your eyes open, wind chill, and communication. Plus, a flying horse has many more moving parts than a normal one, and horses are a pain in the ass to begin with. The saddles and straps will rub far more, so you have to work around abcesses and girth sores.

    The New Magic has functional mounted air combat, with gryphons and pegasi as military assets. It was one of the hardest things to figure out. It literally took me years. There are some sketches on my IG, below.

    Joseph Malik on Instagram: “#Worldbuilding Challenge: The flying horses are magical. The riders aren't. Challenge 1: Building a functional pegasus saddle. What…”
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018
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  12. Dark Squiggle

    Dark Squiggle Lore Master

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    Such a small breast and narrow ribs on your flying horse? Many WWII aircraft used low velocity rockets, ( a good bit faster than a bow, but they and their targets would be moving at at least 300mph ) and they were fired forward. The Wefer-Granate anti bomber rocket fired forward and up to allow for clumsy barrage attacks on formations, while the Tiny Tim fired forward and down and was only effective against ground targets.
    The US, USSR and Germany all experimented with prone pilot positions from the '30's to the '60's. It is a good position for negative g flying. You could step your pillow down and save their knees.
     
  13. psychotick

    psychotick Dark Lord

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    Hi,

    If you fired forward from a bird traveling at speed the initial speed of the arrow would be the bird's speed plus the normal speed of the arrow as released. So if the bird flies at 200 mph and the arrow is released from the bow when standing still at 200 mph the arrow is initially loosed at 400 mph. What then happens is that air resistance slows it down - as it does any arrow. And resistance is proportional to the speed of the object traveling through it, which means it slows it down faster initially. Thus the velocity of the arrow decreases quickly at first but then not so quickly.

    If you fired backwards and the velocity of the arrow going backwards matches the velocity of the bird going forwards, the arrow will simply end up falling straight down.

    And at every angle of firing between forwards and backwards you have to calculate the net forward or backwards movement. The end result is that firing an arrow from the back of a bird is very tricky. More so than firing from a plane. Using a gun is better. With say a spitfire in WWII the plane might be traveling at 200 mph but the bullets are traveling at roughly 1000 mph which somewhat overcomes the problems. The bullet may be less effective if shot at only 800 mph compared to 1200 mph, but it's still fast enough to hurt.

    Another problem that stuffs things up is that arrows have a larger surface area from the side than bullets. So if you fire to your side while the bird flies forwards, the arrow is badly affected by the oncoming rush of air, more so than a bullet would be since the bullet is smaller and denser.

    The end result - firing an arrow from the back of a bird is extremely hard, though not completely impossible.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    So is the accuracy of horse archers--Mongols and so on--due to slower speeds overall? Purely physics? Or is there something to horsemanship and training? If the latter, one could argue a way into effective air-to-air or air-to-ground combat. It'd be better than handwavium.

    For that matter, I wonder to what extent all the good physics done here could be brought to bear on classic flame-spouting. I'm amused by the image of a dragon roaring out flame, but he's at full speed into gale-force winds and he just winds up cooking his rider. Or the dragon who just plain has a lousy sense of physics and can never for the life of him roast a sheep on the run.
     
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  15. psychotick

    psychotick Dark Lord

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    Hi,

    Not an expert on horse archery, but I would guess the slower speeds help a lot. A horse gallops at thirty mph? And an arrow travels at two hundred? Plus or minus thirty mph isn't that big of a deal to them, and the slower speeds means that the archer has longer to take aim at his enemy. On top of that, the horse can't dive below the ground or soar upwards, again making the aiming easier for the archer.

    I also remember reading somewhere - don't know how true it is, that horse archers most often aimed at targets either behind them or to the side, which again restricts the ability of the enemy to evade and gives them the longest time to aim.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  16. Malik

    Malik Shadow Lord

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    An arrow from a recurve bow travels at 150-200 fps, which is about 100-130 mph. Longbows are slower, and stickbows are slower, still. 200 fps--130 mph--is the "magic number" that bowyers try to hit even today with traditional tackle, using composites of carbon fiber and exotic hardwoods. I don't know of a traditional bow that has broken 200 fps with wooden arrows.

    An eagle in a dive can top 200 mph, which is close to 300 fps; peregrine falcons have been clocked at upwards of 240 mph. At even half the speed of a big bird of prey, you're going to have all kinds of issues with wind and vector physics shooting a bow off a flying mount unless it's moving at the speed of a horse, and then, what's the point of having a flying mount? My pegasi "trot" at the speed of a horse at a gallop--25-30 mph--and when they "gallop" at top speed, they're doubling a horse's speed and making 50-60 mph. They can dive and double that speed, again, putting them right about at the speed of an arrow in flight. YMMV, but this is how I broke the math down.
     
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  17. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Mystagogue

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    Let's look into self-powered flight mechanics of birds. Assuming a giant eagle could easily support an archers' weight ( which I could if it were a big enough bird, as they are designed to handle big prey in their talons and still fly ). Would the archer be on the back of the bird, or carried in some sort of suspended rig by the feet? (Think of hang gliders, only the sail is actually alive and thinking.)
    Could a big enough eagle carry TWO people? One to pilot from the back, one to act as a 'gunner' below? That would be a VERY big bird to carry two men, but the imagery is stellar. But, historically, the fossil record indicates that animals the size of GIRAFFES had self-sustained powered flight... so there's that. And the fossil record also had giant birds of prey that went extinct fairly recently ( toothed sea birds with a wingspan of 24 + feet ) and the largest eagle to date being the extinct Haast Eagle, which was alive at the time of modern humans (cro-mags) and believed driven to extinction by competition with humans.

    Yes, it would be tricky to take a shot without hitting the bird. But not impossible. Figuring trajectory would be quite difficult, and my vote goes to crossbows being the more effective weapon. Being able to drop payload weapons from overhead is also pretty darned useful. If that is all the eagles were used for that would still be a devestating weapon.

    However, most posters are forgetting the full flight strategies available to birds: riding thermals/convections, gliding, and hovering are viable options in addition to normal flight and speed diving. The bird could get up VERY high, high enough to be out of range to be effectively shot at . And a rider (or pair of riders) could basically be in a mostly stable platform (hovering/circular gliding) to take a shot or drop a payload. Now, it's a not-high-speed platform to calculate trajectory from, and gravity will be very beneficial to hitting a target or disrupting ground movement with payloads. There's a lot of factors to calculate, wind speed and all that jazz. But, pilots managed it in more primitive flight vehicles and without super-computers. And, these pilots were still effective enough to warrant an entire war industry of counter-defensive weaponry. Can you imagine if there were viable war helicopters during WWII? WWI? Hovering makes you momentarily easier to hit, but your accuracy rate increases significantly. An eagle might be able to manage that scenario.

    Steep banking, dives, and other high speed maneuvers become ACE pilot moves. Birds would have to be trained to accomplish such feats, and respond well to their riders. The bond would be amazing between a bird and its rider, and raptors are damn smart animals when it comes to air maneuvers. The bird is already the super-computer making the calculations based on inputs from the environment. Now, add the human pilot. Well, the bird IS the plane, the computer, AND honestly the 1st pilot. The rider can be the airman, and/or the gunner. A bird should be able to be trained and figure out what it is trying to accomplish for the rider with a sense of self preservation. All it would take is a simple command to tell the bird to "glide" (stop flapping) from the rider to attempt a shot, to minimize risk to the wings or head of the bird.

    So, if you can figure out how to get around the mechanics of just how big that bird needs to be to carry a 150 lbs man and some gear, I'll be willing to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy a piloted war bird. Probably more than I should...
     
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