Military Weapons The World Didn’t Think Were Possible

The United States Navy is the largest and most powerful navy in the world. With a reputation like that, you can bet that they have some of the most intense weapons in their arsenal. Much of the Navy’s weaponry has been in development for years, and even the most sophisticated artillery is still improving.

From nuclear war deterring missiles that can be launched from covert submarines to laser-guided missiles that almost never miss their mark, these weapons were unthinkable only a few decades ago.

Wait until you see the missile that has the power to take out a small country.

TRIDENT II (D5) Missile


Getty Images

This is a Trident II D5 missile launching from an Ohio-class submarine. The Trident II is a ballistic missile capable of deterring nuclear warfare. Twelve independently-targeted nuclear warheads can fit into one missile. The warheads are called MIRV, which stands for multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles.

Trident missiles get launched from nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, which can carry up to 20 missiles. The missiles are powerful enough to take out an entire small country. Fourteen U.S. Navy Ohio-class submarines currently carry these missiles.

Which surface-to-air missile uses infrared technology to increase its precision? Keep reading to find out!

Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG)


U.S. Navy

Dubbed the “future of naval combat,” the Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG) was made to replace all powder guns on naval ships. This EMRG is so fast; this is a frame taken from a high-speed video camera. It fired at 10.64 megajoules with a muzzle velocity of 2520 meters per second.

With the power of kinetic energy, an EMRG uses electromagnetism to fire projectiles at speeds up to 5,600 mph. The Department of the Navy invested a lot into their EMRG program to help develop technologies that will aid the Navy and Marines out in combat.

Harpoon Missile


U.S. Navy

This Harpoon missile fires during a drill aboard the USS Fitzgerald near Guam in 2015. The Harpoon is an anti-ship missile system created in 1977 to serve as the Navy’s go-to anti-ship missile. These all-weather missiles go over the horizon with a range over 67 nautical miles. They can launch from coastal batteries, aircraft, surface ships, and submarines.

Manufacturing just one of these bad boys costs up to $1.2 million, and Boeing currently produces them. Though they were made as a primary missile launcher, they’ve since advanced into one of the most versatile weapons used in the Navy.

Tomahawk Missile


U.S. Navy via Getty Images

Tomahawk cruise missiles launch from ships and submarines for land attacks. These long-range missiles shoot at subsonic speeds up to 550 miles per hour to a range of up to 1,350 nautical miles away. Guided by GPS, these missiles can be controlled from halfway around the world.

In this photo, a Tomahawk missile launches from the destroyer USS Barry during Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011. The mission was a response to the Syrian regime’s alleged chemical weapons attack on its own people. Multiple U.S. ships set up position in the Mediterranean Sea for a possible land strike.

AIM-9 Sidewinder


U.S. Navy

AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles are the missile of choice when it comes to aerial “dogfights.” Developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s, these effective air-to-air missiles have since been added to the U.S. Air Force’s arsenal as well.

In this 2015 photo, an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile launches from the wing of an F/A-18F Super Hornet during a missile exercise above the Philippine Sea. According to reports, of the over 110,000 missiles that were made for the U.S. and 27 other nations, only one percent of them saw actual combat.



USAF via Getty Images

In this photo, an F-16 at Hill Aire Force Base in Utah launches the first AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAMM) in 1998. These versatile missiles can perform in any type of weather day or night and are used in modern warfare.

Fired from the air to hit other airborne targets, these AMRAMMs are considered “fire and forget” missiles by the U.S. Navy and Air Force, which implies that they are dispensable weapons. Around 35 U.S. allies also utilize these missiles in the aerial divisions of their respective militaries.

Phalanx CIWS


U.S. Navy

This is a Phalanx CIWS aboard the USS Ronald Reagan on patrol in the Philippine Sea in 2016. Pronounced “sea-whiz,” CIWS stands for “close-in weapon system” and serves at the U.S. Navy’s first line of defense against anti-ship missiles.

This Phalanx CIWS is equipped with a 20-mm Gatling-style gun on a swiveling base, although other close-in weapon systems use other artillery such as a 22-mm Vulcan Cannon. Designed and manufactured by General Dynamics, the U.S. Navy isn’t the only military to utilize the Phalanx CIWS. The U.S. Coast Guard and the British Royal Navy uses them as well.

Paveway Laser-Guided Bomb


U.S. Navy

Here you have an F-35B Lightning II dropping a 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided weapon during a test over the Patuxent River in 2013. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin competitively produce The Paveway series of laser-guided bombs (LGBs).

Paveway bombs, in particular, are converted from unguided missiles into precision-guided arsenals. Used frequently during the War in Iraq, they are launched from the air to hit land-based targets. Paveway LGBs have been used by the U.S. Air Force, as well as international allies such as the United Kingdom.

RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM)


U.S. Navy

This is a RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) in action during a live-fire exercise aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bataan. The RIM-116 is an infrared homing surface-to-air missile. Compact and lightweight, this guy helps defend against anti-ship cruise missiles and airborne threats that are up to ten miles away.

It’s called a rolling airframe missile for the way it rolls on a longitudinal axis, which helps stabilize the trajectory of the missile. Besides to the U.S., this weapon is widely used by other foreign navies including that of Germany, Saudi Arabia, Tukey, Egypt, and South Korea.

There’s even a missile system that’s so accurate, its speed and range are classified!

Mark 50 Lightweight Torpedo


U.S. Navy

The MK 50 Lightweight Torpedo was made to replace the U.S. Navy’s MK 46 torpedo. These nuclear missiles go underwater to destroy fast submarines at extreme depths. The MK 50 can launch from the air off anti-submarine aircraft or from the surface on combatant ships.

Nine-and-a-half feet in length, these lightweight torpedos can also dodge any counterfire that may come its way. Here, a MK 50 launches from the USS Bulkeley, a guided missile destroyer based in Norfolk, Virginia in 2004. It was tested to help fight the global war on terrorism.



U.S. Navy

In this photo, an AFM-84K SLAM-ER is loaded onto the wing of a P-8A Poseidon in preparation for Fleet Challenge 2014 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida. SLAM-ER is an acronym for Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response.

These cruise missiles get launched from the air, receiving guidance from GPS and infrared imaging to strike stationary or moving targets. Controlled in-flight, the payload can be redirected to a different target after launch. This makes the AGM-84 K SLAM-ER so precise that multiple branches of the U.S. military and their allies use them.



Jordon R. Beesley/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

This is a RIM7P NATO SEASPARROW Missiles launched from the USS Abraham Lincoln on August 13, 2007. The U.S. Navy tested four of these bad boys during a stream raid shoot exercise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They successfully engaged and destroyed two turbojet-powered drone aircraft and a remote-controlled Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat.

Meant to defend against enemy warship missiles, the exact speed and range of these missiles remain classified. Guided by radars, the RIM-7 SEASPARROW can make flight corrections through radar uplinks. Besides the U.S. Navy, at least 18 other foreign navies use this weapon.

The Navy even has an army of drones that can swarm its enemies, as you’ll soon see.

Laser Weapon System (LaWS)


U.S. Navy

The Navy’s Laser Weapon System (LaWS) is as cool as it sounds. The LaWS emits infrared beams toward an intended target. With a capability of adjusting the intensity of the beam, the Laser Weapon System can either warn, cripple, blind, or even fry an enemy target.

The LaWS was first utilized on the USS Ponce in 2014. This one you see here is installed on the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey in San Diego, California. These weapons are useful because the Navy can take on small enemy boats and aerial targets without using any bullets.



U.S. Navy

The AGM-154 JSOW (Joint Standoff Weapon) is a glide bomb created in a joint venture by the U.S. Navy and Air Force. The JSOW program replaces five older versions of air-to-ground weapons that were already in use. In this photo, aviation ordnance men move an AGM-154 JSOW onto the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in 2003.

Weighing 1,000 pounds, the AGM-154 JSOW attacks stationary land targets as well as moving sea targets. Using both a GPS and Inertial Navigation System for guidance, they’re intended to engage well-defended targets that are outside the range of enemy anti-aircraft defenses.



U.S. Navy

Here we have weapons handlers loading an AGM-88 HARM missile onto the wing of an F/A-18C Hornet on the USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2003. HARM stands for High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile and though they look small, can pack quite a punch.

With a range spanning over 80 miles and a speed of 760 mph, these supersonic air-to-ground missiles go to work by taking out enemy air defense systems equipped with radars. The weapons can deny enemy use of radar and communications by scanning the electromagnetic spectrum and were frequently used in Desert Storm and Iraq.



U.S. Navy

The Navy’s LOCUST (Low-cost UAV Swarming Technology) launchers are useful in overwhelming enemies in dangerous situations. These guys can jam enemy communications and also waste their resources by getting in their line of fire. How exactly do they do it?

These launchers cast a swarm of up to 30 drones in just 40 seconds and can operate autonomously. Most LOCUST’s will be ship-based but can also be used from the ground and air. The low-cost to make these launchers ($15,000 per unit) makes them expendable.

If you think that’s neat, wait until you see the AGS!

M61 Vulcan


U.S. Navy

The Navy’s aerial fleet is essential to our nation’s defense. That’s why many Navy jets are equipped with M61 Vulcans. These Gatling-style rotary cannons can fire 100 20-mm rounds per second — that’s 6,000 rounds per minute! General Dynamics currently produces these weapons.

A hydraulic drive motor rotates the gun rotor, barrel assembly, and ammunition feed system, while an electric priming system is what fires the rounds. This six-barrel weapon is fast and air-cooled, prolonging its life and minimizing its corrosion. M61 Vulcans were used prominently in the Vietnam, Gulf, and Iraq Wars.

Mark 60 CAPTOR


Staff Sgt. Russ Pollanen/Wikipedia

This is a Mark 60 CAPTOR, named so because it is an encapsulated torpedo. The CAPTOR is an anti-submarine naval mine that can submerge into deep waters. It is the only weapon of its kind that the U.S. military has in its arsenal.

Inside the CAPTOR is a Mark 46 torpedo surrounded by an aluminum shell that helps anchor the mine to the ocean floor. The aluminum casing ensures that the mine can survive for months on the ocean floor until it needs to be used. Before detonation, the torpedo emerges from the casing.

Advanced Gun System (AGS)


U.S. Navy/Wikipedia

In this photo, you see the test firing of an Advanced Gun System (AGS). The AGS is a naval artillery system meant to provide gunfire support for shore-based targets at long distances. Bound by a turret, each AGS is equipped with a 155-mm gun that uses ammunition specifically designed for the system.

BAE Systems Armaments Systems developed AGS for Zumwalt-class destroyers, which are stealth ships that focus on land attacks. The U.S. Navy has three of these destroyers, and each is equipped with two AGS systems.




No, we’re not talking about the small-bladed medical tool. The SCALPEL is a laser-guided bomb made by aerospace defense company Lockheed Martin. The name is an acronym for “small contained-area laser precision energetic load.” The technology for the SCALPEL is similar to that found in the Paveway series of bombs.

The SCALPEL uses lasers to pinpoint positions for small strikes and is designed with low-collateral in mind, which makes it useful in urban settings. In 2010, the Navy reportedly announced plans to purchase these weapons, but have yet to incorporate them into any of their arsenals.