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There are flying warriors wear wing suits.

Kind of like this but with wings extending past the arms that they control with their hands

enter image description here

These warriors do not have the technology to make guns but they do have bows and cross bows.

How could they combine bows or cross bows with their wing suits?

I am talking about a hands-free way of firing and reloading arrows while flying (darts will also work).

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    $\begingroup$ Have a prehensile...tail. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Feb 16 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ Please, provide source for images you use, and make sure their license is compatible with this site. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Feb 16 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ You don't fire arrows - you shoot arrows. You fire things that use "fire" for propulsion; bullets, shells, rockets. Everything else, you shoot or launch. $\endgroup$ – Oscar Bravo Feb 18 at 7:26
  • $\begingroup$ Are you up for a frame challenge? $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Feb 18 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ And on that note: may I suggest that you actually embrace the idea that they can't fire hands-free, and instead must actually have the sheer skill and physical prowess to quickly switch from wings to bow, let loose an arrow, and switch back to operating the wings? I realize that might not be the kind of story you want to write, but it might be worth thinking about. I think you could do some really interesting and particularly exceptionally exciting and intense scenes, with that kind of premise. $\endgroup$ – mtraceur Feb 18 at 22:11

12 Answers 12

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Copilot

Your warriors are going to need a co-pilot/gunnery officer.

(Note: Despite appearances, this answer does not advocate the weaponization of babies!)

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    $\begingroup$ LMAO! And funny as your picture is, having a second (small light) person with you is the way to go. Just one that is a bit older and more capable. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Feb 16 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ Beware: BOW BABY $\endgroup$ – Thesaurus Rex Feb 17 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ So that's how Cupid gets around! $\endgroup$ – ClimbsRocks Feb 18 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ I didn’t realize “baby on board” was a threat! $\endgroup$ – Doug T. Feb 18 at 3:11
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    $\begingroup$ @DougT. "Baby on board..... so watch out tailgaters" $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Feb 18 at 8:41
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Just go for darts. Already done, and it work.

War darts were used duringg WW1. While not dropped by hand, they were still droped without any complex mecanism. Given enough altitude, kinetic energy was enough to be lethal.

WW1Dart

While you can't take as much darts as an aircraft can lift, it can still be enough to harass ennemy, and would be much easyer to use than bow/crossbow

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  • $\begingroup$ This was even done in the Viet Nam war, with the darts having additional energy due to the much higher altitude and airspeed they were being dropped from. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Feb 18 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ Or alternatively drop oil then have a ground-based archer fire a flaming arrow. Weight would be an issue so you need many gliders but for area of denial it should be very effective $\endgroup$ – Lord Jebus VII Feb 18 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ @LordJebusVII I'm not sure individual flyers would be able to carry enough oil to be able to coat any significant area, and certainly not with enough continuity (even with a small fleet of flyers) that a couple of flaming arrows would actually ignite it all. $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Feb 19 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @DoktorJ Even flaming arrow concept is odd. When you loose an arrow, it get massive acceleration,and achieve non negligeable speed, so the fire in the arrowhead should be massive in order to not vanish $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Feb 19 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ Nah, not with the proper fuel (pitch works great and is easy to source even in medieval scenarios) and, at the expense of accuracy, a custom arrowhead could be made such that at least some part of the flame is maintained in the arrow's "slipstream" and thus not easily blown out -- as soon as the arrow hits its mark, any burning areas that may have been suppressed by airflow will happily re-ignite. $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Feb 19 at 15:00
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If your world has clockwork, you could (in theory) have a clockwork mechanism that reloads and cocks a spring-fed repeating crossbow, and be activated with a. This probably wouldn't be very powerful, so (as per the original) poison tips could be used to increase the effect. It would also be rather heavy.

You mentioned that the flying warriors control their flight with their hands, thus another possibility would be to have a fixed tail, allowing for a bow to be cocked using the legs. I imagine some sort of stirrup that one pushes back to cock.

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    $\begingroup$ Please do not ask questions in answers. This post would be better phrased as a clarifying comment. "Does your world have clockwork?" means that the validity of this answer (and whether or not it should be deleted) depends on user feedback. -1. Reporting to moderation. Will check back later. $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Feb 16 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ I have zero problem with using a question rhetorically and do it myself. I do not feel it violates the "no questions in answers" rule if it's easily reworded. So I reworded it for the poster. I can't do anything about the error though (activated with a...what!?) and hopefully the poster will fix that. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Feb 16 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyn fair enough $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Feb 18 at 0:31
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck keep in mind the code of conduct. This is a new user, and things like "-1, reporting to moderation" are not necessary, and might drive then away from the site. Better would be to teach then about the help center section and encourage then to take the tour (which I see they haven't done yet). $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Feb 18 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! In my other comment I mention some resources you may want to check out to learn about this community. Questions in answers against policy, so Cyn slightly reworded your answer with the same meaning. As it is, it looks like a great answer to me, I hope you continue participating! $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Feb 18 at 8:48
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FIRE!!!

Yes, having crossbows as weapons would work*. Four across the back, firing forward, as air to air missiles. Four across the chest, firing down, as air to surface missiles. Each one is connected by a wire to one of the pilot's fingers. While that digit is curled, the wire is loose. Straighten the finger, the wire is pulled taut and the connected crossbow fires.

RELOAD!!!

Low tech automatic crossbows exist. The Mythbusters built one (though at ballista size). They have a gravity loading magazine, and a crank to pull the string back between shots. You could have the crank mechanism be tied to the pilot rolling or waving their wrist.

An alternative (or maybe an addition) would be to have a sail connected to the bowstring. After the crossbow is fired, the sail is pulled taut, and the force of the wind on the sail pulls (or at least helps to pull) the bowstring back.

What a drag*

Here's the thing. The crossbows you could sell. There are some fairly light but powerful crossbows out there. Crossbows fired by tripwires and pressure plates are moderately well known (you could use the tripwire example as a lampshade).

The reloading? Not so much. Gravity fed magazines stick up and out by design. They add a lot of drag and more weight, neither of which is good for a wingsuit. Plus if the pilot needs to dive or roll, the gravity feeder won't work, or since they are touchy as is, might get out of alignment.

On top of that, neither of the reloading methods are especially believable for a wingsuit. Neither one is going to provide the force to cock a reasonably deadly crossbow, at least without adding a lot of weight or drag. Which, as mentioned before, is bad.

TL;DR

Crossbows as weapons without needing hands, yes. Reloading, not so much.

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    $\begingroup$ "FIRE!!!" if you told a medieval archer or crossbowman to fire, they'd be really confused what you mean. For bows, the command is "Shoot!" or "Release!" since, you are letting go of the bow string. Crossbows similarly shoot. You fire a gun. Well, anything with gunpowder, since you are literally creating a fire to get the projectile to move. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Feb 18 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ The sail idea seems strange - won't the sail interfere with the string during release ("shooting"?), significantly reducing the power transferred to the corssbow's bolt? $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Feb 18 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe an alternative to a sail tied to the string (lot of drag, plus possible interference with shooting), consider a wind powered crank - maybe something like a cup anemometer (a "cup weather vane")? It'll take longer to pull the string, but it shouldn't interfere with firing, and likely to present significantly less drag... $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Feb 18 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ Try "loosing" or "Loose!" for arrows and other non-fired projectiles. $\endgroup$ – Orgmo Feb 19 at 15:49
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Bowden cable (like bicycle brakes)

A 1918 Lewis gun on a Foster mounting fitted to an Avro 504K Night Fighter. The gun trigger is operated by a Bowden cable

https://new.minimania.com/images_temp/800600001g2nmb2211.jpghttps://new.minimania.com/images_temp/350260001g2nmb2211.jpg

A Bowden cable (/ˈboʊdən/ BOH-dən) is a type of flexible cable used to transmit mechanical force or energy by the movement of an inner cable relative to a hollow outer cable housing. The housing is generally of composite construction, consisting of an inner lining, a longitudinally incompressible layer such as a helical winding or a sheaf of steel wire, and a protective outer covering.

enter image description herehttps://fankhauserblog.files.wordpress.com/2001/07/undepressed_p8031350.jpg?w=273&h=228

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    $\begingroup$ You get one shot. But you were only going to get one anyway, traveling at 200mph... $\endgroup$ – Mazura Feb 16 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ Ballista Bombardiers Brigade - You could have 20 color coded plungers dangling off your wrists that do different things. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Feb 16 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ And then you are too busy finding the right color to notice the incoming tree... $\endgroup$ – arc_lupus Feb 17 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ You could have a guy who just signals when to release, then the brigand behind all press theirs based on the signal. Would reduce the fumbling and possibly increase accuracy (or just means everyone for sure misses haha) $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Feb 18 at 8:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Aethenosity - Negating air resistance, the projectile will travel with the extra speed already imparted from you own momentum; you will not "keep pace". We're not talking about light speed here ;) but yes, I imagine dropping things like flaming-oils. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Feb 19 at 18:54
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In compound archery, shooting a bow without moving arms us already possible using a back tension release aid. Reloading on the other hand...

By the way, one doesn't fire arrows. Fire as a term relates to firearms. The correct terms are shoot or loose.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, David Klemis please take the tour and read up in our help centre about how we work: How to Answer I like your answer but it's a little brief. Could you perhaps flesh it out by explaining what a "Back tension release aid" is. YOu might link to a picture of the mechanism to make it clear to our readers. :) $\endgroup$ – Measure of despare. Feb 17 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ With this mechanism, are you still holding the bow at full draw ? This require quite a lot of power $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Feb 17 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ Finally! someone else who gets irked when people talk about "firing" arrows... $\endgroup$ – Oscar Bravo Feb 18 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ @OscarBravo: Especially with the obvious pun about losing your arrows when you loose them. I mean, what kind of archer could ever resist that? :-D $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Feb 18 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ @DevSolar a looser, that's who. :P $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Feb 19 at 5:50
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While using a wing suit the arms and legs have to maintain a given position to provide lift. Thus cannot be moved to do anything else.

Not being able to use their hands means they cannot reload the weapon.

This immediately rules out the bow, and leaves on the stage only the cross bow.

They might wear a couple of them, one on the back and one on the chest, and have them loaded before they take off.

Once in flight they can fire the weapon by pulling a string with their mouth, once they are aligned with their target.

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Your question reminded me very much of the Siyee from Priestess of the White by Trudi Canavan. They are winged people with bat-like wings.

https://canavansbooks.fandom.com/wiki/Siyee

The Siyee are a small race (about the size of a human child) who are light, fragile and have few magical Gifts. They have delicate bones which are easily broken. The thumb and forefinger are the only parts not in the structure of their wings, and their hands are useless for tasks that require strength.

One of the Siyee, Tryss, was an inventor and created a harness that allowed him to fire arrows like an archer while flying.

https://canavansbooks.fandom.com/wiki/Tryss

In his spare time, Tryss made a harness which helps to injure animals, and be used for attack and defense. He tested it out to show others, and ended up gaining the help of Drilli who added a blowpipe to the contraption. He then showed the harness out to the entire group of Siyee, who realised the potential in the device.

You can read more about the harness in the actual book.

Hmm... on second thoughts I think it was a harness that held a blow dart pipe and allowed him to fire darts from it.

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    $\begingroup$ Would you mind copying the pertinant information to the answer? Links alone are generally discouraged. Good answer though $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Feb 18 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Aethenosity done. Thanks :-) $\endgroup$ – Fogmeister Feb 18 at 18:15
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Here is a youtube video of a automatic cross-bow. The main problems would be

1) Weight - every extra pound lowers both range and top speed.

2) Aim - Because hands and feet have to stay in the "Flying Squirrel" formation, you'll have to attach it to the warrior's chest and have them point in the general direction.

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Depending on the level of technology you're looking for:

  1. Blow darts, with a feeding mechanism that allows the user to suck in to feed the next dart into the barrel after one is shot. Swarms of these flying blow-dart soldiers would be mentally terrifying as well, hearing a thousand "Thoot, huff, thoot, huff, thoot, huffs" as they fly overhead.
  2. Crossbows attached to the lower legs that could be fired by flicking your feet forward. Reloading could be accomplished by pulling the foot back which triggers a mechanism to feed a new arrow in.
  3. Chest/back mounted bolt gun attached to a computer riddled suit. AR visor helmet with iris tracking features allows the 'pilot' to seek out a target, and blink twice to fire, or simply say "FIRE!"
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They would use a horse bow (also known as a mongolian recurve bow) for the small size and lightness. They would have a mechanism to allow them to briefly lock the wings in extended positions and then retract their hands from the suit in order to fire. They would not be able to maneuver except for minor corrections through their legs while firing but that would be fine to allow strafing runs.

With training they would be able to lock the wings, fire off a few shots, then grab the wings again and continue flying.

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Unfortunately, I can't think of an ideal way of doing this. Best I could come up with is some sort of spear system where the pilot releases them with a button or such. But it wouldn't be effective nor would you have enough ammo. If you had people in wing suits, your best bet would just to be to use them as artillery, as aiming is tough and they can't fly indefinitely, so dropping things would be more effective than shooting. Hence heavier objects would be more useful, but then they can't fly...

But I was thinking about your question, and I'm not sure but you say they're flying warriors. If they are in fact flying and can go up and not just glide, (unlike the wingsuit you referenced), then they'd probably have a completely different device. You say the wings expand past the arms. I assume they flap their arms in a similar manner to birds to fly?

Perhaps your warriors would be using something similar to the flying machine in assasins creed? enter image description here Maybe it would bend along the center to allow the warriors to move the wings.

If so then you could have a rope over the top that holds the wings in place without the user having their hands in place, so perhaps they can push the wings out with their hands so the rope becomes taut and then equip a bow and arrow, the rope holding the wings at the current extention so they're gliding across the battlefield raining death from above.

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