Photo: Wikipedia Commons
American ingenuity is an incredible force, and nowhere more so than on the battlefield.Weapons like the M16 rifle have been battle tested and refined to near-perfection. Others like the atomic bomb are so powerful they changed the world.
While there’s no scientific way to compare these weapons, we took what we saw in service, what we’ve read, and what we’ve heard from troops to rank the most effective.
These weapons are trusted by the U.S. military to defeat the enemy and save lives.
Range: 5 miles from plane to target
Depth: 20 feet, reinforced concrete
Weight: 4,700 lbs
Payload: 630 lbs high explosives
Analysis: Nicknamed 'Deep Throat' this bunker buster is integral to digging out a well-entrenched enemy and is the largest such bomb in the Israeli arsenal.
There's a certain comfort in the ability to disable well-fortified enemy positions allowed by the GBU-28 and after the US sold Israel 100 of the bombs in 2005, it sold a batch to South Korea in 2009. The South received them just months after the North's successful nuclear test in May of that year.
Service record: Exemplary.
Name: After the large two handed Scottish sword.
Method: A shaped direction charge, either victim operated or command detonated, flings several hundred high-velocity steel ball bearings into the face of the enemy.
Round: 700 1/8 inch steel balls travelling 4,000 feet per second.
Analysis: Not just deadly, but deadly reliable, it's got 60 years of active service. The claymore mine can be used for area denial and alarm systems, as well as for coordinated ambush -- and at $110 a unit, America could line it's borders with Claymores.
calibre: 66 mm
Max Effective Range, Stationary Target: 600 feet
Warheads: fragmentary, anti tank, and a heat and high-pressure thermobaric, capable of killing everyone in a room or bunker with air pressure and heat alone.
Analysis: Practicality and Spread are key here. Marines can each carry two of these instead of one AT-4 rocket, at approximately the same cost. It's small size and minimal backblast make it perfect for urban warfare -- a favourite of ground troops who know the enemy is behind a wall, or hunkered inside an enclosure.
Weight: 9000 lbs
Crew: 7 - 8
Munitions: 155 mm explosive rounds; precision guided rounds; white phosphorous; illumination -- many others.
Analysis: Combined with the precision guided round, this weapon can level a building and leave its neighbours rather unscathed.
The variety of rounds and their lethality make the M777 a 21st century force to reckon with.
Weight: 27 tons.
Travel Range: 216 miles at 35 mph.
Firing Range: 11 to 19 miles.
Ordnance: 155 mm shell.
Analysis: Even deadlier than a stationary howitzer, the Paladin self-propelled howitzer can support the initial invasion of one city, move, and support the invasion of another, with little maintenance or delay.
Equipped also with 50 calibre machine guns and thick armour, it's survivability is better than any other version before it or after.
Weight: 67 Tons.
Range: 250 miles.
Land Speed: 25 - 35 miles per hour.
Armament: 105 mm and 120 mm canons, one 50 calibre machine gun, and two 7.62 calibre machine guns.
Analysis: Though largely unused since the invasion of Iraq and the second battle for Fallujah, there is simply no replacement for armoured 'cavalry' in potential ground operations.
It's not very practical, and it's the source of major controversy regarding upgrades and costs. Still, it's a Main Battle Tank and for shock and awe on the ground, up close and personal there's no replacing it.
Weight: 32 tons.
Combat Range: About 500 out and 500 and change for the trip back.
Analysis: Though plagued with problems and sporting an epic price tag, the stealth, lethality, and survivability make this bird one of the deadliest in the flock.
Unfortunately it's not seen a day of combat despite several years of active service and continues to fall out of the sky.
Crew: 2, pilot and gunner
Range: 315 miles.
Speed: 175 mph
Armament: Three Gatling canons, Hydra missiles, and TOW missiles.
Analysis: A favourite of the U.S. Marine Corps for its ability to act as a guard for helicopter flights as well as for its success in close air support.
The Cobra has outstanding manoeuvrability under fire, and can coordinate fire to a 10-digit grid on the ground. Its pilots are notoriously cocky and more than willing to jump into the fight.
Range: 15 nautical miles.
Accuracy: 7 to 13 meters.
Use: Fixed, moving targets, precision strikes.
Analysis: Remember all the talk of bombs flying through windows and down chimneys during Gulf War I? Not without a JDAM Kit.
Shortly after Desert Storm in the early 90s, the Air Force started R&D on guided bombs, what they came up with was the JDAM Kit, which essentially took existing 'dumb' bombs and turned them into guided munitions.
Now, they've become a favourite of troops on the ground engaging in combined arms battles. A JDAM can be guided in via a simple map, or 'lased' by a troop on the ground.
Weight: 25 tons.
Combat Radius: About 600 miles out 600 and change for the way back.
Analysis: Again, many problems and costs, but claims it's worth the price -- the F-35 is simply the best fighter jet on the planet, much less the American military. Furthermore, it can carry a B61 nuclear weapon, while flying stealth.
Its manoeuvrability has been called into question, but experts agree the 5th Generation fighter can duke it out in the air as well.
Weight: 15 tons.
Combat Radius: 500 miles.
Armament: The legendary 30mm canon with an impressive 1,200 rounds, as well as a laundry list of missiles, bombs and rockets.
Analysis: The 'Warthog' is an absolute favourite of ground troops pinned down by moderate to heavy resistance, or well entrenched enemy troops.
It can do antipersonnel, anti-armour, as well as anti-fortification bombing runs and combined with well coordinated ground intel, the warthog is more than a headache for the enemy -- it's their worst nightmare.
Effective Range: 2000 yards.
Round: 50 calibre BMG.
Power: Open bolt, belt fed, air cooled, short recoil.
Analysis: What started off as an anti-aircraft gun on U.S. Naval ships has become the ultimate anti-personnel, anti-armour, anti-fortification intimidation factor on the battlefield.
Not terribly different than its original 1918 design, just the sound of the 50 can send enemies scattering.
Range: 1400 meters.
Round: 40 to 53mm.
Weight: Any grunt who has carried it will say: 'Heavy as hell.' They're right -- about 73 pounds.
Analysis: Great for general mayhem and destruction. The Mk-19 Automatic Grenade Launcher is by far the most specialised crew-served weapon in the infantry.
It's also one of the most deadly, which is why it was banned from the battlefield in the final years of the Iraq War.
Weight: 91 lbs.
Range: 6000 meters.
Armament: High Explosive, Smoke, Illumination, IR Illumination, Training Dummy.
Analysis: After the Howitzer, an 81mm mortar is the straight-leg infantryman's best friend.
A mortar-man's entire array of military training comes down to centering a level on his 81mm's tripod and dropping those shells exactly where he wants them.
Capable of striking the enemy from a distance, mortars can be deadly accurate. Just drop in the tube and cover your ears.
Weight: 22 lbs.
Range: 550 meters on a human target.
Magazine: From 20 to 100 round drum, 5.56 NATO ball.
Analysis: The SAW is being phased out with the Infantry Automatic Weapon, which looks a lot like a fully automatic M16 (which America had in Vietnam, but discontinued).
The replacement is not well received by many troops.
The SAW is gas operated, open bolt, and with a hundred round drum, the sheer amount of lead that can be dumped on the enemy has made it a favourite among small-unit leaders worldwide.
Weight: 27 lbs.
Range: Point target 800 meters with tripod. 600 with bi-pod.
Analysis: Capable of turning enemy armour into Swiss cheese with its ferocious muzzle velocity, U.S. grunts adore the more than 40 year old weapon.
Easy to manufacture, but difficult to maintain, it isn't the most practical gun, but one trigger squeeze can drop a group of enemies or disable a vehicle.
Range: 1,150 miles.
Payload: almost 2 tons.
Operational Altitude: 25,000 feet.
Endurance: 14 hours fully loaded.
Analysis: The Reaper and others like it have been the go-to weapon for high level counter-insurgency operations nearly 10 years running.
Though its general legal and moral use is still up for debate, the Reaper requires minimal exposure of American troops and delivers the greatest return.
This works to boost US morale while equally gutting the enemy's.
Round: 50 mm BMG.
Muzzle Velocity: 2,800 fps.
Range: 1,800 meters.
Analysis: The weapon was developed as 'antimateriel,' to be used on military equipment not people. Times change.
Now it's best known for use by snipers during small arms support of ground assault elements: in other words anti-personnel.
Weight: 14 oz.
Kill Radius: 5 m
Casualty Radius: 15 m
Analysis: Far more powerful than portrayed in Hollywood, the hand grenade is lethal in close quarters combat.
Easy to produce, to deploy, and to employ -- they're scarily simple and one of the deadliest battlefield weapons.
Weight: 168 tons.
Range: 7,000 miles.
Armament: A hugely capable, stealth bomber capable of carrying 30,000 pound bunker busters as well as nuclear weapons.
Analysis: The B2 Bomber is designed primarily do perform penetration nuclear bombings, but can also run reconnaissance missions and targeted bombings. Aside from ordnance mentioned above it can dump 80 500 lb. JDAM missiles on top of the enemy.
Weight: Between 6 and 10 lbs.
Range: Effective against human targets up to 550 meters.
Rounds: 5.56 mm
Analysis: Sleek, light, accurate, and in later versions as reliable as an AK. It can even be equipped with an upper receiver that fires larger 7.62 mm rounds, if the shooter desires.
The M16 has been standard issue military for decades and doesn't look like it's going anyplace soon.
Weight: 61 tons.
Range: 2,500 miles.
Arms: 40mm, 105mm and two 25mm canons.
Analysis: The Spectre is a legend, adopting mythical proportions with every mission.
With quality ground intelligence the Spectre is an Army unto itself, capable of disrupting the movement and supply of thousands of enemy troops -- and it can do it all under cover of darkness with a highly sensitive IR targeting system.
Displacement: 16 - 19 thousand tons.
Combat Radius: Limited only by onboard stores for personnel.
Armament: Torpedoes, Tomahawk missiles, and a bevy of Nuclear Bombs.
Analysis: Still said to be key to U.S. defence the Ohio class has global range and remains undeterred by above ground attacks.
That independence is key, because without offshore nuclear strike ability a gutsy enemy might think a land-based strike could take out American nuclear abilities.
The USS EISENHOWER hosted us in style during our IMCMEX 2012 visit to the Persian Gulf in September and we use her as our example here.
Weight: 101,600 long tons.
Power: Two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors.
Analysis: The standard by which forward military projection is defined. The nuclear powered carrier has possibly done more for peace than for war. Its nuclear reactors offer unlimited distance and 25 years of service.
The carrier delivers about 70 aircraft atop 4 acres of sovereign U.S. territory any place on the globe.
Given that most of the planet's large cities are near the coasts means American military might is everywhere it really wants to be. And it even has a Starbucks to serve its crew of more than 5,000.
There's not much that needs to be said here.
America's nuclear arsenal is unmatched, plain and simple. The technology is also unmatched, but some say we've shared with the Brits. The most explosive bomb the U.S. designed (and admits to having), the MK-41, is a 25 megaton whopper -- making it 1000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Fat Man.
The MK-41's stats:
Length: 12.4 Feet
Weight: 10,670 lb.
Yield: 25 Megatons.
Analysis: The scope, spread, and practicality of this weapon make it the ultimate peace keeper and ultimate death dealer all in a single trigger pull.
Weight: 30,000 pounds
Penetration: 200 feet of reinforced concrete
Warhead: 5,300 pounds of high explosives
Analysis: The GBU-57A/B Penetrator is the largest bomb of its kind in the world and can be carried by only a couple of planes in the American fleet.
The MOP is why it's believed Israel will require U.S. assistance if it ever attacks Iranian nuclear facilities.
No other bomb will come close to passing through Iran's renowned quartz infused concrete; some of the strongest man-made material on earth refined from necessity by a country that's one big earthquake zone.
Height: 6 feet.
Weight: 185 lbs.
Range: 25 miles.
Armament: A big brain and 2,000 years of finely honed military training.
Analysis: America's all volunteer armed forces are as skilled as they are immense.
The U.S. has taken the best of its ingenuity and enterprise and wrapped it up into the most sought after military training in the world.
Countries from across the globe look to the U.S. for help training their most elite and specialised forces. Driven by the largest economy in the world, there is little U.S. troops can't do.
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