This article will examine a few of the less-fanciful, but also unconventional, weapons from Command & Conquer, including the Gatling Gun, Flamethrower, and Ramjet Rifle.
Gatling guns have appeared in several variations and by different names throughout the series. The inconsistent terminology may be somewhat confusing, so it should be explored first. In real life, these types of weapons may be called Gatling-style guns or Gatlings to distinguish them from the original 19th century models, but are probably more likely to be called rotary machineguns or rotary cannons if they are large enough to be considered autocannons (typically 20mm or larger).
Fiction frequently uses the term “minigun,” which is not really correct as that term refers specifically to the M134 Minigun. This use was made popular by movies depicting the Minigun. Entering common use though, the term may be an example of a generic trademark.
Another term used in Renegade and Generals is “chain gun.” Real chain guns use an external power source to cycle the weapon as it fires instead of using the combusting gas or recoil as is typical in most automatic weapons. Most Gatling guns do use external power sources, but they are not considered chain guns because they are a distinct type of multi-barreled weapon and do not use chains to drive the cycling operation. The Renegade chain gun is depicted with a chain, but probably would still not be classified as a chain gun in the real world. Upgrading the Chinese Gatling Cannons with chain guns doesn’t really make sense, and would probably only make them worse.
A final note concerning terminology is that “Gatling” is misspelled in Yuri’s Revenge as “Gattling.” At least the misspelling is consistent, if that is any consolation.
A gimmick of the weapons in Yuri’s Revenge is that they increased in fire rate the longer they operated. This is not a feature of real Gatling guns. While they may not be able to reach their maximum fire rate instantaneously, a delay of several seconds between speed increases is completely unrealistic. Generals significantly decreased the time to reach maximum fire rate, but still has an unrealistic delay.
However, the whole point of the multiple rotating barrels system in Gatling guns is to attain a sustainable extremely high rate of fire. This makes the very low maximum rate of fire seen in the Generals Gatling weapons quite unusual. More conventional single-barreled autocannons would probably make more sense for the rates of fire observed.
Man-portable Gatling guns are another common sight in fiction, but are completely impractical in the real world. Because the weapons have multiple barrels, require an external power source to drive them, and need a large supply of ammunition to sustain fire for any reasonable length of time, they are far too heavy to be carried around by a single person.
Flamethrowers have featured in many of the Command & Conquer games, and are usually an excellent anti-infantry weapon. Flamethrowers are definitely real weapons, even having been mounted on tanks, and were indeed used as a terrifying anti-infantry weapon, but that does not necessarily mean the games portrayed them accurately.
Real military flamethrowers used a propellant gas held under pressure to spray a thickened flammable liquid fuel up to 80 m (260 ft), which, while shorter ranged than a rifle, is still a pretty decent distance. The thickened fuel would stick to targets in a way similar to napalm.
One of the largest disadvantages of real flamethrowers is how quickly they will use up their fuel. While weapons within Command & Conquer usually don’t have a limited ammunition supply unless they were aircraft, the small flamethrower in Renegade could maintain a continuous blast of flame far longer than even the much larger, back-mounted flamethrowers of the real world. However, that flamethrower also didn’t spray a stream of flammable liquid either, rather seemed to only vent a flammable gas of some sort, making it more of a powerful blowtorch than flamethrower.
While Renegade’s Flame Tanks also used blowtorch-style weapons, they were, like the rest of the Flame Tanks throughout the series, devastating anti-structure vehicles in addition to their anti-infantry capabilities. The Flame Tanks generally ranked among the most powerful vehicles of their faction. Flamethrowers were primarily used to flush infantry from bunkers or trenches and could ignite some lighter civilian or unfortified structures on fire, but burning down buildings was not their role.
Flamethrowers are no longer used in modern military operations as the bunkers and trench warfare of the two World Wars are no longer the typical areas of engagement they once were, making the flamethrower somewhat obsolete. Newer incendiary weapons, such as thermobaric devices, can fulfill the same role much more effectively if necessary.
The Ramjet is a unique improved sniper rifle exclusive to Renegade that is supposed to fire jet-propelled projectiles.
Jet-propelled bullets do not make any sense at all, but this weapon will be explored here because it is so close to being practical, if only it fired rocket-propelled bullets instead.
Jets are reaction engines that intake air and inject a fuel, then combust the mixture to generate thrust. Probably the jet engine that would work the best in a bullet would be a pulsejet, but even that would be a horrible idea, and a ramjet engine would be even worse. A ramjet engine works by compressing air inside an internal compressor by using its own speed to prevent the air from escaping. Once the fuel is injected, the combustion achieves higher efficiency because the air is already under compression. However, since speed is required to compress the air, this means that a ramjet produces zero thrust when not in motion and has to be accelerated by an external force first before it can function. A bullet needing a secondary source of propulsion, a compressor, a fuel tank, and a combustion chamber, as well as enough mass to deliver lethal kinetic energy into its target is utterly impractical.
Rocket-propelled bullets, on the other hand, were a real thing. The weapons, invented in the 1960s, were called Gyrojets and the rocket projectiles they launched were called Microjets. Microjets were able to maintain stable flight by exhausting their rocket charge out several angled ports that spun the projectile without the need for a rifled barrel. The rockets also increased in speed after exiting the weapon instead of decreasing in speed as conventional rounds do. There were many design flaws with the weapons that ultimately killed the concept, but it is not unreasonable to imagine that technological improvements could overcome the defective designs and produce a more functional weapon.