Was This Convair’s Cold War Version of Nick Cook’s Nazi Foo Fighter?



The exploitation of Nazi Germany’s aeronautical technology was a staple of the Cold War: “Our Germans are better than their Germans,” the catch-phrase went. The combination of Nazi exoticism and Cold War-era secrecy has led, over time, to the creation of substantial and detailed mythologies that permeate society. Aerospace commentator Nick Cook probed this sensitive area in his 2003 book, “The Hunt For Zero Point” and conducted a non-judgmental reconnaissance into extremely esoteric terrain. During the course of that journey, Cook examined the “Foo Fighter” phenomenon from the Second World War. These were a series of sightings of what appeared to be some form of exotic Nazi air vehicle by American and British aircrew over Nazi Germany during the course of the war. Cook’s attempt to track down what this vehicle was and what its properties were forms a key part of “The Hunt For Zero Point” narrative but Cook is never able to reach a conclusion because the trail goes cold, as it were, during the Cold War.

Other authors have looked at the ‘Foo Fighter’ phenomenon, according to Wikipedia:

“Author Renato Vesco revived the wartime theory that the foo fighters were a new Nazi secret weapon in his work ‘Intercept UFO’, reprinted in a revised English edition as ‘Man-Made UFOs: 50 Years Of Suppression’ in 1994. Vesco alleges that the foo fighters were in fact a form of ground-launched automatically guided jet-propelled flak mine called the Feuerball (Fireball). The device, operated by special SS units, apparently resembled a tortoise shell in shape, and flew by means of gas jets that spun like a Catherine wheel around the fuselage. Miniature klystron tubes inside the device, in combination with the gas jets, created the foo fighters’ characteristic glowing spheroid appearance. A crude form of collision avoidance radar ensured the craft would not crash into another airborne object, and an onboard sensor mechanism would even instruct the machine to depart swiftly if it was fired upon. The purpose of the Feuerball, according to Vesco, was two-fold. The appearance of this weird device inside a bomber stream would (and indeed did) have a distracting and disruptive effect on the bomber pilots; and Vesco alleges that the devices were also intended to have an offensive capability. Electrostatic discharges from the klystron tubes would, he states, interfere with the ignition systems of the bombers’ engines, causing the planes to crash. Although there is no hard evidence to support the reality of the Feuerball drone, this theory has been taken up by other aviation/ufology authors, and has even been cited as the most likely explanation for the phenomena in at least one recent television documentary on Nazi secret weapons.”

By complete accident, I stumbled across a declassified Convair aircraft corporation missile identification manual from the 1950s over on the rather excellent Secret Projects website.


“Characteristics of Tactical, Strategic and Research Missiles” essentially depicts what Convair knew or thought it knew about its own and competitor missile programmes. Of note, Convair was probably the most radically-thinking American aircraft corporation from that period: while Boeing was focused on evolving the B-47 into the B-52 Stratofortress in 1952, Convair’s bomber concept from the same year was the futuristic multi-Mach B-58 Hustler. It should come as no surprise that Convair would be a prime exploiter of Nazi tech data and concepts, especially at this point in the Cold War.

The important comparison here is that the D-40 “Cannon Ball” is ”guided visually by two operators, one controls the pitch, and the other yaw. Joysticks are used to give missile commands…..by short-wave radio link or by a direct wire link.” Now, this sounds to me more like a TOW or SAGGER antitank missile but with a range of nearly 3 km, something like this could have caused some consternation with P-61 night fighter crews in 1944….especially if the device had a flare mounted on it like TOW does so the controller can see where the missile is going.

I would surmise that the advent of missiles like Nike and Talos, operating at supersonic speeds, made something like Cannon Ball obsolete for air defence but the concept still had application in other areas: the Convair document clearly sees Cannon Ball as an anti-tank weapon, with a version that could be submarine-launched.

So is this the Cold War evolution of the Foo Fighter?  The search continues.