This is a ludicrous question and isn't meant to be serious. I had an idea of catapulting people with parachutes and thought it would be funny. This was inspired by Elemtilas answering a previous question I had.

Could a trebuchet deliver a person with a parachute past a 20-30 foot high wall (alive and mostly uninjured)? The person just needs to clear the wall by any distance, although closer would be better.

If there are catapult designs that act better than a trebuchet, feel free to use that instead.

Note: the previous version of the question was something dumb(er) about parachutes.

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    $\begingroup$ I personally doubt that a medieval parachute would be able to properly deploy within 10 meters of the ground. You might as well parachute the soldiers into a pit of spikes and see what happens. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Mar 19 '19 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ Trebuchets were used to send corpse during siege, so weapon choice is good $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Mar 19 '19 at 1:30
  • $\begingroup$ The exact definition of parachute may be a bit maleable @Shadowzee, plus, who said there weren't either spies (who make maps of what's over the wall) or Tokubetsu Kōgekitai - equivalent soldiers. $\endgroup$ – Tantalus' touch. Mar 19 '19 at 1:48
  • $\begingroup$ God help the poor "volunteer" who has to undergo those g-forces. Don't think you'd be remembering to deploy a parachute, and those forces might even kill you. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Mar 19 '19 at 1:49
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    $\begingroup$ @GiuPiete, Rather than post lengthy comments, you should answer the question.... $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 19 '19 at 3:22

Can you launch a nuclear weapon horizontally? Sure! Why would you want to?

  • A counterweight trebuchet can easily clear a 10m wall.

  • Silk existed during medieval times, so a parachute could be made.

  • Altimeters did not exist during medieval times and could not, so your victim volunteer conscript needs another solution to tell him when to pull the string.

What solutions exist?

  1. He could pull the release just as he crests the wall. As @StephenG points out, there's a lot of forces at play (g-forces, tumbling through the air, wetting your pants...). But, someone with unusual fortitude and presence of mind could, conceivably, do it.

  2. The release could be tied off to the trebuchet or any nearby tree such that it would (a) yank the conscript intrepid hero around and then pull the release. Assuming neither whiplash nor a broken neck occurs, it's likely more predictable and the urine Jarate becomes an added benefit to the attack.

  3. If you really want points for style, though, drag a grappling hook tied in the middle of a length of rope that lets it grab onto the wall as our intrepid hero passes over, thereby releasing the parachute and leaving the embedded hook with rope dangling outside the wall for the rest of the canon fodder infantry.

  4. And if you really want points for style, tie the warlord's flag to our intrepid hero's ankles. It would not only clearly announce the castle/town's imminent change in loyalty, but would act in a loose way like rocket fins, straightening our hero's flight out at the expense of height and distance. Yes, it would also make him a blooming target, but we're looking for style, right?

And there are thousands of ways to solve the problem of infiltration that are better than this. But they definitely lack style.

P.S. Had Terry Pratchett (Discworld) lived long enough, I firmly believe he would have used this idea to get dwarves into troll fortifications. It's definitely his style of solution. The 202nd airlifted division, the "Screaming Beetles" having the motto, "Rendezvous with Gold!"

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    $\begingroup$ May I ask where the nuclear weapon is comming from? $\endgroup$ – DarthDonut Mar 19 '19 at 7:37
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    $\begingroup$ @DarthDonut, the reference is a quote from the movie, The Hunt for Red October. It's being used as a metaphor for futility. $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 19 '19 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for enlightening me! I have seen that amazing movie only in German, and I fear they either did not translate it accordingly, or I just can't remember. $\endgroup$ – DarthDonut Mar 19 '19 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ I'd upvote for the Terry Pratchett idea, but the rest is good too. :-) $\endgroup$ – StephenG Mar 19 '19 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ @DarthDonut, the scene is when Ryan and Skip are researching what the doors on the front of Red October could be. After the question about ICBMs, Skip realizes they could be a "caterpillar drive." $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 19 '19 at 16:38

Amazingly, the answer is almost a yes. The world record for the lowest parachute jump is only 29 meters, although this obviously involved an already deployed parachute in some fashion (I only found the record, not how it was performed.) This would be problematic but not utterly impossible for your trebuchet jumper. Since your jumper would have a horizontal velocity he's going to need a bit more distance but I don't know how much more.

There was another answer who thinks he won't survive the launch but I disagree--since a trebuchet works by a counterweight rather than a spring there's simply a high acceleration, not a huge spike as the spring releases. You can lower the force by increasing the size, if it's big enough the jumper survives.

However, I don't think medieval technology could build a parachute anything like as good as a modern one. How much worse I don't know.

Now, if you want to make it even lower I could imagine a cold-gas rocket assisted deployment. I have a hard time picturing that being even remotely reliable with medieval tech, though.

Note, also, that it's going to be a very dangerous jump no matter what. The jumper will not have any control over their landing spot or time to prepare for a less than ideal landing and most things they might be landing on will be pretty hard.

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