The coolest gadget in the new 'Metal Gear' game may look absurd, but it's something the CIA used in real life

“Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” is a fantastic opus from one of the video game world’s most revered creators. It’s also an incredibly silly romp featuring a chicken hat, a cardboard box, and a puppy. 

Look no further than the game’s “Fulton Recovery System” for a perfect example of said silliness:

You see that bear getting a balloon attached to it and being whisked away into the sky? It was incredible, wasn’t it? That’s something that happens in real life. Seriously! Though, you know, probably not with bears. Usually with soldiers.

The Fulton Recovery System (as it’s formally known) is actually an evolution of technology pioneered during World War II. This “Universal Newsreel” clip from December 1944 demonstrates the previous system, where a volunteer paratrooper acts as a test dummy:

Rather than using a high-powered balloon like the Fulton system, the original design used two tall skinny poles lodged in the ground. A line was run from one pole to the other, and the line was attached to the solider that needed to be picked up. An aircraft flying overhead would trail a line from the air to the ground with a grappling hook, thus enabling it to catch the line and pull up the soldier to the air.

Sounds dangerous, right? It looks dangerous, too!

The system was designed for picking up soldiers in remote regions without having to risk landing in dangerous territory. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sought to evolve the system after World War II, and employed Robert Edison Fulton, Jr. to do so. 

The solution that Fulton devised became known as the “Fulton Recovery System,” and it’s shockingly similar to the very silly-looking system of the same name in “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” — a game about sneaking around in a cardboard box and infiltrating world governments.

Here’s a form of his system being used to pick up supplies by a plane in flight:

And here’s a look at the system being used in “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”:

According to Wikipedia, the United States government used the Fulton Recovery System in various forms until as recently as 1996, when it stopped maintaining the services required to power the recovery system. That actually makes “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” more accurate, given that it takes place during the mid-1980s when the Fulton Recovery System was still a totally normal thing to use. 

We’re going to take a wild guess and say the system wasn’t ever used quite as ridiculously as it is in “Metal Gear Solid V.”

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