The arms industry is worth an almost incomprehensible amount of money, with $1.686 trillion being spent worldwide on weapons and military equipment in 2016. The United States is top of the tree when it comes to arms deals, spending $611 billion in 2016; three times the amount spent by second place China, which spent a measly $215 billion on bombs, guns, tanks, and fighter planes.
Countries aren’t just spending money on military hardware these days. Even the defense research industry, those government agencies and private companies which are developing the weapons of the future, spend a lot of money to come up with creative ways to kill the enemy.
In 2016, $1.4 billion of the USA’s total $611 was on spent on defense research sciences, and additional funding was also provided for university projects relating to defense and independent research. It is not incomprehensible why countries are willing to spend so much on defense research because whoever comes up with the best technology is going to win any conflict they take part in.
The weapons below may look like something out of a science fiction movie, but they are very real and some have even been used in the field of battle. Which do you think is the craziest?
15. Set PHASR To Stun
Any Star Trek fan will know the words “Set phasers to stun,” but they probably didn’t think they would ever see the day when the Starfleet standard issue weapon became a reality. Turns out, the PHASR or Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response rifle, to give it its full name, comes pretty close. The device is a non-lethal laser rifle, which could be used to temporarily blind enemy combatants or suspects who drive through military roadblocks. There is no permanent damage, but the device does leave the enemy incapacitated for several seconds—more than enough time for those wielding the weapon to properly assess the threat.
14. Golf Ball Grenade
This one is from history books, but nevertheless a crazy concept that was actually used by the Canadian and US Military between 1960 and 1980. The device’s proper name was the V-40 fragmentation grenade, but it soon became nicknamed the golf ball grenade because of its particularly small size. Shockingly, these tiny devices, which could easily be stuffed in soldiers’ pockets, packed a powerful punch. They were lethal within five meters of the explosion and could wound anyone within a 300-meter radius. Unfortunately, they were withdrawn from use because their small size, especially the very small and fiddly pin, led to a number of accidents.
13. Corner Shot Rifle
Put yourself in the position of a soldier tracking an enemy combatant through the streets of a city. Imagine that you come to the corner house, knowing that your prey is somewhere around the corner. Do you risk exposing yourself by peering around the building? Or do you get out your corner shot rifle and shoot him without stepping out from behind your cover? The corner shot rifle may seem impossible, but it really works. In fact, it has even been used by the Israel Defense Force. The gun hinges in the middle and uses an LED screen to allow the shooter to see around the corner safely.
12. Active Denial System
The Active Denial System sounds more like a security measure than a weapon, yet this unusual piece of military hardware has already been used in Afghanistan, and it is likely that it will be used as a method of crowd control in the US itself before long. The weapon, which looks more like a satellite truck, fires a non-lethal beam of electromagnetic radiation at its targets, raising their temperature to above 50 degrees Celsius, consequently causing extreme pain and discomfort. This idea is based on the theory that targets want to get away from the area as soon as possible, removing them as an effective threat.
11. Digital Revolver
If you’ve always dreamed of being the star of your own futuristic dystopian sci-fi movie, then the digital revolver is the weapon for you. Made by German weapons manufacturer Armatix, the digital revolver uses technology to ensure that one person, and one person only, can fire it—great for those gun owners who really are concerned about gun safety! The first model used a microchip sensor, but the second version, launched in 2017, reads your fingerprint before allowing you to fire your gun, making the weapon ideal for gun owners who want to be sure that their kids never fire the weapon accidentally.
The US military’s railgun is one of the most powerful weapons on the planet, capable of shooting a projectile at 4,600 mph and able to hit a target sitting 100 nautical miles away. Designed and built by BAE Systems, the weapon is designed for use at sea and uses an electromagnetic pulse to shoot its projectiles over astonishing distances. As of 2016, initial tests of the railgun hadn’t proven to be terribly successful–the energy needed for the futuristic cannon to work also tore the weapon apart–but tests are continuing to develop the technology into a usable device.
9. Quantum Stealth
This is definitely not a weapon which allows the user to go back in time and “put right what once went wrong.” Instead, the Quantum Stealth is a lot more sinister. It is a camouflage system which can be used on vehicles, weapons, and even people, rendering them completely invisible. This defensive weapon works by bending light waves around the user, which means that you can’t even see their shadow and that they are even invisible to night vision goggles. Both the Canadian and the US military are currently looking into the effectiveness of this cloaking device and investigating whether it can be used in combat situations.
TALOS is an experimental exoskeleton, a kind of Iron Man suit for the crème de la crème of the US military. TALOS stands for Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, and it is designed to protect soldiers involved in hostage rescues and other missions where instant communication of data is essential. Soldiers wearing the suits will not only be able to communicate much more easily with their comrades and with those in charge of the operation, but they can instantly share data relating to their surroundings and their own physical condition in the event that they sustain an injury. TALOS is expected to be ready for testing in 2018.
7. Sentient Drones
Drones are now commonplace in the military, used to bomb targets and obtain intelligence. However, the military have decided that having drones which respond to orders isn’t enough for them, and they are now developing sentient drones which can take their own decisions about which targets to attack—the recipe for nightmares for anyone who thinks that the Terminator movies were a prediction for our future and not a sci-fi fantasy. While some people will find this idea terrifying, there are others who argue that a machine will actually launch fewer attacks, as you have taken human error and human fear out of the equation.
6. Vomit Gun
Yes, believe it or not, a weapons manufacturer has gone to the trouble of developing a vomit gun. This weapon does exactly what it says on the tin—it makes the target feel nauseous, disoriented, and can, in many cases, make you puke all over the battlefield. How embarrassing. The weapon uses soundwaves to induce these unpleasant sensations. Although to be fair, they will only occur if the targets aren’t forced out of the area by the initial loud siren. If you hang around after that ear blasting, then you only have yourself to blame if you start puking.
5. Multiple Grenade Launcher
The first machine gun, capable of firing 600 rounds per minute, was the Maxim Gun, invented all the way back in 1884. So, why on earth did it take so long for someone to come up with the idea of a multiple grenade launcher? The first multiple grenade launcher didn’t see action until 1983. And even then, there were lots of problems. In 2017, US Marine units began testing a new model, the M32 multiple grenade launcher. This device has a revolving cylinder which can be loaded with up to six grenades and which can then fire its weapons up to a distance of 400 yards.
4. Long Range Acoustic Device
Another sound-based weapon designed to be used to incapacitate attackers or control unruly crowds. Nicknamed the “sound cannon,” it has already been used by the Ferguson PD during riots in 2014 after an officer shot an unarmed black teenager dead. The sound cannon can blast an ear-splitting siren over a distance of over five miles, although only those within a 100-meter radius will feel the full effects. Soldiers or police officers can also use the device to transmit voice commands or instructions over a wide area, making it useful both in crowd control and in a combat situation.
3. Corkscrew Tank
Here’s another one from the archives, specifically from the Cold War period, when the Russians were constantly trying to come up with creative ways to get one up on those pesky Americans. The corkscrew tank was one such scheme, and it was an unmitigated disaster. Unlike ordinary tanks, which work on caterpillar tracks, the corkscrew tank traveled about on two giant well corkscrews. This was fine for traveling over the frozen tundra and great for moving sideways, but completely ineffective on normal ground. Unsurprisingly, after a few test outings, the unusual corkscrew tank was never seen again, and the technology has not reared its head since.
2. Taser Shockwave
Tasers are now standard issue for most police officers. They are an effective and (in theory) non-lethal way to quickly incapacitate a suspect who isn’t following your commands. Imagine not just one Taser, however, but 36 of the little devices, arranged in two rows. That is the Taser Shockwave. It is designed to stop an approaching group, rather than an individual, and is designed for police to use in crowd control, rather than in a military setting. Nevertheless, it can deliver an incapacitating electric shock from 100 meters away, allowing officers to create a virtual wall and preventing unruly crowds from getting too close.
1. Laser Avenger
While this may sound like the title of a superhero movie, it is in fact a Boeing-designed weapon, designed to bring down enemy drones or even enemy planes. The laser avenger, which uses an infrared laser, was first used in 2009 when it successfully shot down an unmanned drone in a test in New Mexico. Although the weapon can only current manage power levels in the tens of kilowatts–not enough to bring down a fighter plane or a bomber–there are plans to continue developing the technology in order to ensure that it has more power and therefore more operational capabilities.
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