Like many people, I am fascinated by the human capacity for violence and destruction. Now, the stuff you see on the news, fires, shootings etc. is all pretty morbid but it is nothing compared to what humans are really capable of if we put our minds to it.
You see, when I am surfing the web, it is inevitable that my ADD will kick in, and I will mindlessly click through Wikipedia for hours. The information I found regarding some of mankind’s most awesome and destructive weapons was truly terrifying. It is in our best interest as a species that most of these weapons are never used.
Yet while using them may be a terrible idea, sharing their destructive capabilities with the world isn’t. The more you know about how terrible modern warfare is, the better.
5. Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier
I begin with a weapon that has already seen active duty for over 30 years. The backbone of the US Navy, the Nimitz class is both massive in size and destructive power. At over 1100 feet long and 100,000 tons fully loaded, the Nimitz class is capable of carrying 85 aircraft. The ships feature twin nuclear reactors which don’t need to be refueled for 23 years, meaning that the Nimitz class ships feature a virtually unlimited range. The massive destructive power of 85 jet fighter aircraft means that a single Nimitz class carrier is able to wage a war against a whole country and win. A lone Nimitz class just showing up in a region is often enough to deter aggressors and influence global politics. It’s that scary.
4. The Predator and Predator B (aka The Reaper)
Our next terrifying weapon isn’t terrifying because of its destructive power, size, or speed. It is terrifying because of what it means for the future of mankind. The Predator B or Reaper (pictured above) is the successor to the MQ-1 Predator, which has seen action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bonsia, Serbia, Pakistan and Yemen. The Predator is so significant and terrifying because it is the first unmanned aircraft ever to engage in armed combat (a Predator was shot down by an Iraqi Mig-25 after firing a missile at it in 2002). If you don’t get how significant that is, think about this.
Even though the Predator is remote controlled, it is the first step that I believe will eventually lead to robot warfare.
3. The Airborne Laser
Star Wars fans might like this one. You see, The Galactic Empire had the Death Star, and now the American Empire has the YAL-1A Airborne Laser.
Where the Death Star was a moon sized space station with a planet destroying super laser, the YAL-1A is just a 747 with a really big laser mounted on the front. Designed to shoot down enemy ICBMs from hundreds of miles away, the YAL-1A is revolutionary in its ability to destroy a high speed moving target at a massive distance instantly.
Picture this scenario. The YAL-1A is flying hundreds of miles away from the battlefield over friendly airspace. Troops on the ground call in an airstrike and radio GPS coordinates to the YAL-1A, which then immediately fires its laser delivering extremely precise killing power on target at the speed of light. No waiting, no warning.
2. The Trident SLBM
So what could possibly be more terrifying than an unstoppable swarm of fighter jets, a killer robot plane, or a giant laser? If your guess was “nuclear weapons” you would be correct. The thing is though, nuclear weapons have come a long way since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. This little thing called the Cold War meant the United States and Russia spent unfathomable ammounts of money to develop nuclear delivery systems and increase weapon yield.
The result of all of this research leaves us with the Trident II D5, which is a submarine launched ballistic missile. Deployed by both the United States and United Kingdom, the Trident II is one of the most powerful weapons system in use today. (America’s most powerful land based missile, the Peacekeeper was taken offline in 2005.)
The nuclear powered subs that carry the Trident are pretty terrifying as well. Like the Nimitz class carrier, the American Ohio class and British Vanguard class subs have an unlimited range. They can stay submerged and loiter next to a target almost indefinitely for they are limited only by food supplies.
When the sneaky subs actually fire a Trident II, things start to get really scary. Propelled out of the submerged submarine and into the air by pressurized gasses, the Trident ignites only after it leaves the water. The Trident II can then target anything within its 9000 mile range.
Each Trident II has eight independantly targeted reentry vehicles (called MIRVS). Each RV contains a 475 kiloton thermonuclear warhead (the weapons detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 15 and 21 kilotons respectively). This means that a single Trident is capable of destroying eight targets or completely incinerating one. As the eight reentry vehicles streak back through the atmosphere towards their targets at hypersonic speeds, they create streaks of fire through the sky called the “Fingers of God.” Each Trident II is capable of delivering a total of 3.8 Megatons of explosives. Although the image below was taken during a test of the Peacekeeper missile, the effect is the same. At the bottom each each “Finger of God,” try to imagine a thermonuclear explosion.
1. R-36 ICBM
Topping off my list is the Russian R-36, which like the Trident is a nuclear armed ballistic missile with intercontinental range. Unlike the Trident, the R-36 is a landbased missile, which takes away some of the terrifying factor. You ask then, what makes this the most terrifying weapon ever created?
It’s not very accurate.
Now I know you are thinking, “Why is a weapon that misses its target scary?”
During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union were designing these things for the sole purpose of knocking out the enemies missiles so they couldn’t retaliate. The US had the whole accuracy thing down so we didn’t have to worry about missing the Russian Silos. The Russians on the other hand were having a problem hitting their targets, so their solution was to increase the ammount of nuclear ordinance on each missile. Even if the missile was off by a few miles, the explosion would still be big enough to destroy the American silos.
Now, to create a bigger nuclear explosion, you need a bigger and heavier nuclear bomb. To transport a bigger bomb, you need a bigger missile, and the R-36 is gigantic even when compared to America’s largest missile, the Peacekeeper. Here you can see one sitting on a mobile launcher.
The missile was equipt with a few different warheads. When it was originally deployed it came with a single 18 megaton (mk1) or 25 megaton warhead (mk2). Click here to see what a 25 megaton blast radius would looks like over NYC. This is just the blast radius too. Death and destruction due to radioactive fallout would be spread over an even larger area. To put that in perspective, the largest nuclear device ever detonated by the United States was 15 megatons, and the largest missile we ever deployed was armed with a nine megaton warhead.
Later mirved versions of the R-36 that were never deployed could feature up to 38 warheads (250 kilotons each) or 17 warheads (one megaton each).
The most terrifying part? Lets say the Russians are aiming at a silo somewhere in the midwest and they hit Chicago. Woops.