From lasers to attack drones, military warfare has entered a whole other realm of technological sophistication. Weapons are getting stealthier, have the potential to destroy targets located hundreds of miles away with incredible precision and with less risk to soldiers.
It’s a different kind of arms race that is as much about integrated ’smart technologies’ like GPS and real time streaming video as missiles and fighter jets. Here are some game-changing weapons that are being heralded as the future of defense.
1. Russia’s next generation air superiority stealth fighter. In August, Russia debuted the Sukhoi T-50, a fighter jet equipped with all the capabilities to challenge the U.S. military’s F-22 Raptor — otherwise known as the most advanced fighter jet on the planet — for supremacy of the skies.
2. “Punisher” super rifle. The XM-25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System is a semi-automatic airburst grenade launcher that can be programmed to explode at a set distance, such as right above or behind the enemy target. Terrorists take note, barricades or walls are no longer good hiding places.
3. Free Electron Laser. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have announced that they’ve successfully built and tested a device that can produce the type of electrons needed to generate weapons-grade megawatt laser beams. A Navy ship armed with such a laser would be able to zap a barrage of incoming missiles.
4. Stealth Cruise Missile. Norwegian-based Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace firm has developed the Naval Strike Missile, one of the most agile cruise missiles and soon-to-be weapon of choice for the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter. Equipped with GPS, inertial and terrain reference systems,the missile covertly maneuvers along all kinds of terrain such as the coastline, oceans and over land to take out targets up to 100 nautical miles away.
5. Hypersonic Railgun. The U.S. Navy tested a prototype railgun that can hit enemy targets located hundreds of miles away in less time than it takes to heat up a microwave dinner. Harnessing the projectile force of the electromagnetic field, rounds fired out of the gun traveled about 4,000 miles an hour at zero elevation.
6. High Energy Laser. As another indication that the Navy has fallen in love with laser weapons, they successfully tested a solid-state 15 kW by blasting a small boat located across a mile of open water.
7. Switchblade suicide drone. A kamikaze drone, developed by military contractor AeroVironment, fits easily into a backpack, can be guided via real-time video to hunt down enemies and explode on impact.