Insanely Futuristic Military Weapons And Tech
Here are the most unbelievable missile and artillery systems used by the most powerful militaries in the world!Technology
For as long as we’ve existed, humans have been hellbent on destroying one another with weapons ranging from clubs to cannons. In more recent times, however, militaries across the globe have developed much more destructive firearms to trump their foes.
From tank-toppling terrors to 20,000-mile-an-hour projectiles, let's explore the most unbelievable missiles and artillery systems deployed by the most powerful militaries in the world.
At almost 4 feet long, and weighing a hefty 49 pounds, the FGM 148 Javelin is certainly one hefty firearm. The Javelin isn’t any old head-held weapon; it’s a portable anti-tank missile! Designed for the U.S. Army by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, it first came into service in 1996.
The Javelin uses infrared guidance to follow targets by tracking their heat signatures. As a result, it’s known as a "fire and forget" missile system, meaning that operators can shoot their shot and then move for cover, all while the missile is fixed onto the target. Being an anti-tank projectile, the Javelin needs to work fast when it’s in the field.
Considering the launcher can fire a Javelin missile over 1.5 miles at speeds over 300 mph, it certainly does that! If that wasn’t enough, the Javelin can use a top attack flight profile when attempting to take down tanks. This sends the missile up to heights of 490 feet, before crashing down on the tank from above, where its armor is weakest.
Tank armor at its thickest can exceed 13 inches, but while its blast yield is considered classified information, it’s estimated the Javelin’s 19lb warhead has a blast yield penetration of 30 inches on rolled homogeneous armor. Unsurprisingly, this wicked weapon doesn’t come cheap. In all, the Javelin is said to cost around $178,000 per unit.
The Dongfeng 41, otherwise known as DF 41 is an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, developed in China, weighs a whopping 88 tons, and is 72 feet long, making it a similar size to an adult sperm whale.
In case you were wondering, an ICBM is a missile that can be launched across the world, with a minimum range of 3,400 miles! In all, the DF 41 has a range of some 8,100 miles, making it one of the world’s longest-ranged weapons. For some context, that’s further than the distance between Shanghai and New York!
So, the DF 41’s huge and it can whizz around the world, but what exactly is this thing packing? While the specifics are classified, it’s believed to contain 10 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles or MIRVs. A MIRV is a type of ballistic missile that contains several nuclear warheads, each of which is independently targeted to different locations.
So, in regards to the DF 41, this missile has the capability to drop 10 independently targeted nuclear warheads all around the world! And considering the potential power of this weapon, you don’t want one dropping near you. Chinese military analyst, Xi Yazhou claimed that one DF 41 could hit and destroy mega cities such as New York without a problem.
Across the border, China’s infamous neighbor North Korea is best known for the dynastic dictatorship of its supreme leader, Kim Jong Un. But aside from that, this country has also become notorious for its military obsession. In 2022 alone, North Korea launched at least 95 missiles, which averages out at one missile launch every 4 days!
And, according to the U.S. State Department’s ‘World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers’ report, North Korea spent around $4 billion on defense in 2019; a staggering 26% of its GDP. Yet, there’s one particular armament that’s adored even more than the rest: The Hwasong 17. This missile takes the title of North Korea’s most powerful weapon.
It’s an ICBM, first unveiled in October 2020, that’s 85 feet long and is believed to weigh up to 165 tons, making it twice as heavy as the imperious DF 41! The exact capabilities of the missile aren’t yet confirmed.
However, the Japanese Ministry of Defense estimated that the range of this weapon could be even greater than the DF 41, reaching a mind-blowing 9,300 miles! If that wasn’t terrifying enough, the missile is also believed to have the capacity to carry between 3 to 4 MIRVs, allowing this ICBM to attack several locations simultaneously.
Much is still unknown about the capabilities of North Korea’s Hwasong 17, being developed by a country that is shrouded in secrecy. But any projectile that weighs 165 tons and can travel close to 10,000 miles, can easily be called the world’s most unbelievable missiles!
As we’ve seen with the DF 41 and the Hwasong17, modern missile technology is pretty mind-blowing. But what’s one way to make it even more insane? Well, to have it launched from a plane, of course. Turns out that’s exactly what happens with the Astra Mk1, an air-to-air missile, launched from aircraft, with the goal of taking out enemy planes.
India’s Defense Research and Development Organization unveiled the Astra Mk1 in 2017. In all, their incredible creation, costing over $900,000 per unit, is 12 feet long, and weighs 340 pounds, making it light enough to be carried on an aircraft without hindering its maneuverability. But despite its small size, you shouldn’t take this missile lightly.
With a firing range of up to 68 miles, the Astra Mk1 is capable of taking out aerial targets far and wide. This missile also uses active radar homing; a guidance system that relies on a radar transmitter in the missile that emits a signal towards the target. The signal bounces off the target before being detected by a receiver on the missile, allowing it to track enemy aircraft!
And if being tracked by one of these while flying through the air wasn’t enough, the Astra Mk1 is also capable of traveling at speeds of Mach 4.5, which is close to 3,500 mph! And the final piece de resistance is that this missile carries a 33lb high explosive warhead! So, anything this fearsome flyer crashes into can expect to be obliterated!
Wicked weapons aren’t something the world’s most powerful militaries have just recently discovered. In fact, to find the heaviest mobile artillery piece ever built, you’ve got to go all the way back to 1937, nearly 100 years ago!
It was at this time that German manufacturer Krupp, devised the Schwerer Gustav, a 155-foot-long killing machine that weighed an unreal 1,490 tons! For perspective, that’s more than 6 times the weight of the Statue of Liberty!
In total, this machine set Germany back 7 million Reichsmark, equivalent to about $30 million today, but it's not hard to see why. The Schwerer Gustav was so large that, aside from occasionally being mistaken for a mountain to reach the battlefield, it had to be broken down and transported on 25 railway wagons.
The question is, who needs such a whopping weapon? As World War Two drew closer, Germany was determined to invade France by destroying the French Maginot Line; the strongest fortification that had ever existed. The Schwerer Gustav seemed the perfect candidate for the job.
As it happened, this wasn’t completed until 1942, at which point Germany had already invaded France. So, the gigantic Gustav was wheeled to Crimea on the eastern front instead. It was here, at the siege of Sevastopol the awesome artillery would finally be tested. In all, it took 4,000 men some five weeks to get the gun ready. But eventually, by June 1942, the Schwerer Gustav was good to go, which was bad news for the city of Sevastopol.
This metal monster had two sinister shell types that it peppered the city with. Firstly, 7-ton concrete piercing shells that could fly 24 miles through the air! One such projectile was reported to have penetrated 100 feet into the ground, destroying a Russian underground ammunition store.
Alongside that, this artillery could also unleash 5-ton shells, packed with over 1,500 pounds of explosives some 30 miles into the air. Although this mega machine blew Sevastopol to pieces, the Germans ended up destroying the Schwerer Gustav just a few years later, to prevent its seizure by the Allies.
Surprising as it sounds, there’s one piece of mobile artillery that comes close to rivaling the Schwerer Gustav in terms of sheer size. It's the Paris Gun. It may look like a half-completed bridge, but it's a long-range siege weapon that was used in 1918, at the end of World War One.
In total, this colossal canon was over 110 feet long, with a barrel length close to 70 feet. For reference, the barrel alone was over twice the length of a standard school bus! Despite the name, France didn’t have the honor of owning this gun; it was a German weapon. The Paris Gun got its pretty apt nickname when the Germans used it to bombard the city of Paris.
The artillery’s projectile was a 3-foot-long shell, composed of thick steel. Each shell was packed with around 15 pounds of TNT, that would explode when they crash-landed. When the gun was first deployed, Parisians believed they were being bombed by a high-altitude Zeppelin plane, as the sound of neither a plane nor a gun could be heard.
That’s because the shells were coming from Crépy; the site where the Paris Gun was based, some 80 miles north of Paris. Around 350 shells were fired in total, and they caused some serious carnage! However, in 1918 when Germany lost, the gun was destroyed to prevent the Allies from getting their hands on it.
130 years before the Paris Gun’s invention, another piece of awesome artillery munition was created. Henry Shrapnel is the British Lieutenant responsible for devising the shrapnel shell way back in 1784; an artillery munition packed with individual bullets inside its casing.
When fired, a timed fuse inside the shell ignites an explosive charge, causing the case to burst open in mid-air. With that, metal bullets spray outwards, creating an arrow of deadly shrapnel that descends toward the enemy.
During World War One, shrapnel shells were fired against troops in the open, as the fragments could cover a wide area, inflicting casualties on a large number of soldiers. The gunner set the shell’s fuse time so that it would burst as it was angling back towards the ground, around 450 feet before it reached the enemy.
A trained gun team could fire 20 shrapnel shells every minute. And, with each shell containing around 300 lead pellets, that’d result in the enemy being sprayed by 6,000 individual shrapnel balls per minute!
Terrifying as endless waves of shrapnel bullets sound, they weren’t a constant in the war. New weapons and tactics were quickly deployed, minimizing the effect of these terrors, which were eventually phased out in favor of more explosive shells!
The S-550, as it’s known, is an air defense missile completed in Russia in 2021, capable of hitting spacecraft, with a maximum altitude estimated to be in the thousands of miles. As the projectile is still in its testing stage, not too much is known about its full capabilities.
However, by looking at its predecessor, the S-500, we can get an insight into the potential power of this projectile. Essentially, the S-500 is a grizzly guard dog of a defensive missile. This thing can intercept and destroy ICBMs.
On top of that, it can intercept and destroy missiles as far as 370 miles away, and destroy aerial targets traveling at speeds higher than Mach 5, more than 3,800 mph!
Considering that the S-550 has been described as a more specialized derivative of the S-500, chances are that this shiny new toy will be able to intercept and destroy even faster missiles at an even greater range than its ancestor.
Archer Artillery System
Hailing from Sweden, the Archer Artillery System is totally badass! Today, the Swedish Army owns 26 Archers, first developed by BAE systems in 1995 and it’s not a bad weapon to have in your arsenal.
The Archer, costing around $4.5 million per unit, is designed for high strategic, operational, and tactical mobility. So, it helps that the system’s fully automated 155mm gun howitzer and weapon station are mounted on a 6x6 chassis that can travel at speeds up to 56 mph.
But the Archer’s super speed doesn’t end there. This gun system is capable of firing 8 rounds per minute, making it the fastest-firing artillery system of its caliber. If that wasn’t enough, just 20 seconds after the final shot is fired, this artillery system can be on the move again.
On top of that, the howitzer can be loaded with M982 Excalibur rounds, giving the gun a roomy range of 31 miles. The Excalibur shells are also corrected in flight towards a pre-programmed target by using a GPS guidance system, allowing the Archer to accurately hit targets at long ranges!
Across the Atlantic, in the U.S., Lockheed Martin began developing their own awesome artillery system in the late 1990s. They developed the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, better known as the M142 HIMARS.
The $4 million artillery system consists of a light multiple rocket launcher that’s mounted onto a 5-ton truck chassis. Sounds impressive, but what actually makes this such a formidable artillery system?
The HIMARS only carries one pod, which is capable of fitting two different missile configurations: six Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, known as GMLRS, or one Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS.
Firstly, the GMLRS rockets have an extended range, hitting targets up to 93 miles away. Yet, despite the distance, these rockets hit their targets with accuracy, thanks to their GPS-based guidance system.
The ATACMS, on the other hand, is a 13 feet long, 2-ton mega missile. Yet, even with its chunky size, this thing can be launched some 190 miles more than twice as far as GMLRS. Like the GMLRS, the ATACMS system is also GPS-aided, allowing it to strike precisely where it’s needed.
Not all artillery systems have made it off the production line. Take the mind-blowing military concept conceived by the futuristic concept design company Dahir Insaat as an example. Known only as Item 1, the strange-looking devices would be dropped onto the battlefield by a cargo plane flying overhead.
In mid-air, a parachute opens up, allowing the devices to safely touch down on the ground. After the devices make their landing, they become camouflaged by a grass-like screen, blending perfectly into their surroundings. You might be wondering what these things need to hide from. Well, turns out these devices are, in fact, anti-tank artillery systems.
So, when an unsuspecting tank approaches, each system is triggered into action by a watching drone. At this point, the device activates, spraying enemy tanks with what looks to be one anti-tank missile every second, with a double-ended arm able to fire and reload their munition simultaneously!
Being a concept design, nothing else is known about the firing rate or force of the munition but would you really want to cross that thing? Yet, cool as it looks, the concept’s far from flawless. With the amount of time, money, and planning that go into modern-day wars, there’s virtually no chance that a huge cargo plane will get a free ride over the top of battle-prone airspace.
So, none of these devices would ever get the chance to be dropped onto the battlefield in the first place. But who knows, maybe we’ll soon see a tweaked version of Dahir Insaat’s invention in the coming years?
One munition that’s more than just a concept is the SMArt 155, otherwise known as the Sensor Fused Munition for Artillery. This 155mm artillery round was first developed in 1989 by German company Diehl BGT Defense, before starting full-rate production for the German Army in 1998.
The 104lb heavy artillery projectile is designed to be fired from the Panzerhaubitze 2000; a self-propelled German howitzer. When fired, you’d think the weight alone of the SMArt 155 shell could do some damage. However, the true power of this weapon doesn’t come from its weight.
In mid-flight, a timer fuse inside the shell ignites an ejector in the weapon, dragging two submunitions out of the shell. Once they’ve escaped the shell casing, the submunitions drop downwards, falling towards whatever target they were fired at.
Here’s when the SMArt 155 comes into a league of its own! As the submunitions descend, they open a parachute. Then, while slowly descending, the submunitions rotate, scanning the area below with an infrared sensor and a millimeter wave radar. Each submunition’s internal electronics use a multi-mode sensor system, allowing them to detect targets and reject false threats.
Then, once they’ve detected a target beneath them, the submunitions detonate their explosive payload in close proximity to the target. This creates a high-velocity explosion, striking the target vehicle from above where the armor is typically much weaker. Fair to say the SMArt 155 certainly lives up to its name!
20 years before the SMArt 155 was developed, American company General Dynamics designed, what is now, one of the most fearsome defense systems the world’s ever seen.
The Phalanx CIWS is a $5.6 million defensive weapon system used to protect military vessels against aircraft, missile, and naval threats. The defense system consists of a Vulcan cannon fitted onto a swiveling base.
Not only does this defense system look intimidating, but it’s also capable of firing up to 4,500 rounds per minute. And to make it even more metal, the Phalanx CIWS has a muzzle velocity close to 2,500 mph, making this killer’s firing speed over three times the speed of sound.
If that wasn’t enough, the Vulcan cannon is radar guided, allowing the gun to move at rapid speeds and take down targets with pinpoint precision. In all, it’s believed that it takes just two seconds for the Phalanx’s gun to react to any threat detection. By 2007, around 900 Phalanx systems were built, and 22 countries had these defense systems deployed in their navies.
Badass as the Phalanx CIWS sounds, it’d have its work cut out if it were to come up against this next missile. Introducing the 3M22 Zircon, an anti-ship hypersonic missile produced in 2021 for the Russian Navy.
But what is a hypersonic missile? First off, these things travel at hypersonic speeds, flying between speeds of Mach 5-10, or 4,000 and 7,600 mph. In comparison, supersonic missiles, like the HD1, can reach speeds up to Mach 3.5, or 2,700 mph. But the Zircon can travel at speeds up to 6,900 mph, allowing it to reach Mach 9!
Unsurprisingly, this superspeed makes the Zircon extremely difficult to intercept and defend against, even for IG 11. The high velocity that the missile travels at also causes air pressure to form a plasma cloud in front of the Zircon as it moves. This cloud absorbs radio waves, making the missile practically invisible to enemy radar systems.
Startling as that is, you probably won’t be surprised to know that this missile doesn’t come cheap. While currently classified information, experts believe the Zircon may cost an eye-watering $210 million per missile! At such a steep price, this hypersonic missile needs more than speed to justify its price; and rest assured, it’s worth it!
The Zircon also has a lengthy range, capable of hitting targets 625 miles away. That means this projectile could almost reach Oslo from St. Petersburg and the trip would take just 5 minutes!
Hypersonic missiles are not the only weapons with a fast and furious reputation; railguns are also known for their super speed! It's a linear motor device that uses electromagnetic force to help it fire projectiles faster than any other weapon on the planet.
It's a munition monster consisting of two parallel metal rails, along which an electric current is passed. The current creates a strong magnetic field that propels a metal slug projectile along the rails at superspeed!
Recently, a U.S. Navy prototype railgun launched a projectile at Mach 6 at around 4,600 mph. Considering that explosive-powered military guns can’t achieve a muzzle velocity greater than Mach 5.9, railguns are believed to be the fastest-firing weapon on Earth. And if brisk bullets weren’t enough, railguns with Mach 6 capabilities are also believed to be capable of firing projectiles close to 110 nautical miles!
Recent reports indicate that China is in the process of developing its own fully-fledged electrical destruction machine. Their prototype was said to have launched a projectile well past Mach 7, a speed close to 5,500 mph. The projectile was also said to hit a target 155 miles away.
Despite the capabilities of this weapon, the railgun isn’t flawless. The powerful electric currents generate significant heat, damaging the rails and other components of the weapon, making the railgun useless after a few rounds. On top of that, railguns require significant power to operate.
A 1947 report theorized these beasts used enough energy upon firing a single shot to light up half of Chicago. Unsurprisingly, so much power isn’t cheap, with the estimated cost of the U.S. Navy’s prototype railgun hitting $500 million! Who knows if we’ll see a breakthrough in the railgun world soon?
If you were amazed at these unbelievable missiles and artillery systems used by the most powerful militaries, you might want to read our article about the weirdest weapons ever created. Thanks for reading.