The US military has a storied history, and a start as one of the weakest militaries in the world. Nothing more than groups of farmers fighting for the right to dictate their own fate, the US military was largely a backwater force that couldn’t hope to stand against the world’s superpowers. It was only fate and thousands of miles of ocean that ensured American independence, the distance too large for Europe to send more than token forces to put America in its place from time to time.
After the Civil War however, the US began to field a military large enough to at last challenge the world’s great powers, and after proving its worth in two world wars, the US, at last, rose to the status of superpower alongside the Soviet Union. Today the US stands as the lone superpower, and while others may challenge its current status, nobody can challenge the American military and win, and these military weapons are the reasons why.
There’s few things America’s enemies fear more than the B-52 bomber. Known as the ‘flying warehouse’ for the incredible quantity of bombs it can carry, or more affectionately as the BUF- or Big Ugly F’er- the B-52 is almost seventy years old today, and still flying strong for the US military.
Originally designed in the years after WWII, and first flying in 1952, the B-52 is the longest serving aircraft in the US military, and the Air Force, which operates a fleet of 58 active B-52s, with 18 in reserve and 12 more in long-term storage ready to respond to a global emergency. Don’t let its age fool you though, the B-52 is still highly relevant even in today’s information age combat environment.
Eight turbofan engines power this massive beast, with a multi-billion dollar overhaul scheduled to replace the current engines with 20% more fuel efficient engines. This will significantly improve the aircraft’s incredible range of over 10,000 miles (16,000 km), and a combat radius of 4,480 miles (7,210 km).
Its huge bomb bays and plentiful wing pylon stations allow the plane to fly with 70,000 lbs (31,500 kg) of bombs, cruise missiles, and mines. Compare that with the approximately 8,000 lbs that World War II bombers used to carry, and each B-52 can carry as much firepower as a squadron of WWII bombers.
Just lugging that much firepower is impressive enough, but what makes the B-52 so lethal is the sheer variety of ordinance that it can carry, and how far. The B-52 can be equipped with sea mines which can be air-launched and deny entire stretches of the ocean to enemy ships.
In 2018, a B-52 demonstrated to America’s enemies the capability to deploy an entire minefield from 50 miles away, using Quickstrike-ER sea mines. This was a clear show of force and a deterrent to the Chinese military, which has long threatened to invade Taiwan and reunite it with the mainland by force.
With its ability to carry air-launched cruise missiles, the B-52’s effective range is increased by hundreds of miles, and keeps the big plane well out of the range of most air defense systems. During strikes in Syria, B-52s were able to effectively service targets without ever entering Syrian air space. With each cruise missile carrying thousands of pounds of explosives, a B-52 could threaten large swathes of territory from a distance.
In the nuclear mission, a B-52 can carry up to twenty air-launched nuclear tipped cruise missiles, giving a single plane the ability to wipe out twenty cities from the face of the earth. If this doesn’t make the B-52 a weapon to fear, then we simply don’t know what does.
B-2 Spirit Bomber
There’s no single more iconic shape in the world than that of the American B-2 bomber. Its revolutionary flying wing design is so advanced that it wasn’t even feasible until Northrop Grumman, its creator, developed specialized flight computers to help the pilot keep the airplane stable in flight. With no vertical features whatsoever, the B-2 is a miracle of engineering, and one of the stealthiest aircraft in the world.
At its conception, the B-2 had one single mission: penetrate into the heart of the Soviet Union and deliver nuclear payloads to the most well-defended targets. Using ICBMs would also get the job done, but the B-2 sent a very clear message to the Soviets: we can hit you anytime, anywhere, with any weapon of our choosing, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
Today the B-2 is still nuclear-capable, but is primarily used for high risk conventional bombing. Despite advancements in radar and sensing technology, the B-2’s flying wing design and advanced radar absorbent materials still make it stealthy enough to penetrate any air defense network in the world. With the ability to bring 20 tons of military weapons to bear on any target, anywhere, no other aircraft in the world gives hostile world leaders the nighttime Hershey squirts quite like the B-2.
All that capability comes at a steep cost though, with each plane having a whopping $1 billion price tag. Factor in additional costs to get a B-2 ready for modern information age war and you’re looking at a plane with a price tag of $2.1 billion. That’s what made the tragic loss of a B-2 bomber in 2008 all the more financially devastating to the US military. These aircraft are so sophisticated, that when one was severely damaged in a fire in 2010, it took a whopping 3 years before it was combat-capable again.
Any US Air Force official will tell you however, that the B-2 is well worth the cost and difficulty in maintenance. It is the single most survivable air platform in the world, able to penetrate and survive any air space, and return the next day to do the job all over again.
Amphibious Combat Vehicle – ACV
In any future conflict odds are that amphibious landings are going to be a requirement for major American military operations. Whether they are in response to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and US Marines are on their way to liberate the island nation, or to neutralize Iranian coastal facilities in a future conflict, amphibious landings are going to be how the US kicks the door open for follow-on forces. The mightiest tanks and best equipped soldiers in the world after all, are all useless if they can’t even get in-country in the first place.
Enter the US Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle. A replacement of the 40-year-old amphibious assault vehicle more has changed than just one word. Modern amphibious landings are going to be the most dangerous ever undertaken by any military power thanks to the proliferation of smart weapons, modern anti-tank weapons, and all matter of mines.
The Amphibious Combat Vehicle will offer up to three times the survivability of its predecessor, and with a range of 370 miles, will be able to push deep into enemy territory before requiring refueling.
For defense the ACV will come equipped with a variety of military weapons, including up to a 30mm cannon, anti-tank missiles, .50 caliber and 7.62 mm machine guns. A suite of cameras will give their drivers 360-degree awareness, and thick armor plating makes the ACV as resistant to mines and IEDs as the MRAP currently in use in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Perhaps nothing the vehicle is equipped with however is more deadly than the 13 fully equipped Marines that a single ACV will be able to deliver amphibiously from ship-to-shore on any beach in the world.
Ford Class Aircraft Carrier
With a displacement of over 100,000 tons, the Ford Class Aircraft Carrier is the largest warship to ever cruise the world’s oceans. She’s also the deadliest by far, fully capable of taking on entire enemy fleets all by her lonesome. This one American ship can fight entire nations to a standstill, and the fact that the US is planning on arming itself with 10 of them over the next two decades should make America’s enemies tremble in fear.
These are not just the deadliest ships of war ever built, they’re also some of the most advanced. Automation technology has slashed the number of personnel required to man each, down to 2,600 from around 6,000 on a typical Nimitz carrier. Its advanced electromagnetic launch system reduces the maintenance required on each airplane, meaning more aircraft are available to fly more missions.
Two next-generation nuclear reactors not only provide more than enough power for the entire ship, but are designed to be fully capable of powering future additions to the carrier, such as electromagnetic rail guns and high energy lasers. The Ford is a carrier built with the future in mind.
To protect itself, each Ford is equipped with advanced RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles, capable of taking on both incoming enemy fighters and anti-ship missiles. Dual Rolling Airframe missiles provide point defense against incoming missiles, and their heat-seeking warheads are capable of tracking even hypersonic weapons that regular radar-guided missiles have difficulty tracking.
As a last measure, 3 Phalanx CIWS (see-whiz) gun emplacements are capable of spitting out tungsten rounds at a rate of thousands per minute to shred any missiles that penetrated the fleet’s air defenses. More than anything though, Ford’s sheer size makes it extremely difficult to kill, and the big ship is capable of taking at least half a dozen anti-ship missile strikes before going down.
The Ford’s air wing however is what makes it the most feared ship in the world. With the ability to field up to 90 aircraft, each Ford can put into the air power comparable to most nation’s entire air forces. This will very soon include the 5th generation F-35, whose stealth, advanced sensors, and ability to network across an entire surface and air fleet makes it itself one of the deadliest aircraft in the world.
However, the Ford packs more than just the world’s best fighter aircraft. Its complement of anti-submarine warfare helicopters will allow it to keep local seas safe for surface vessels by tracking, identifying, and ultimately destroying enemy submarines.
Its electronic attack squadron will help keep friendly aircraft and even surface ships safe from enemy sensors by confusing or degrading enemy capabilities, and its early warning E-2C Hawkeyes will give the aircraft carrier an effective situational awareness range of several hundred miles, making it impossible for an enemy to sneak up on one via the ocean or the air.
With so much firepower in one area, some have shown serious concerns that aircraft carriers are increasingly vulnerable to advanced hypersonic and ballistic missiles, both of which can be fired from very far outside the carrier’s combat air patrol’s range.
However, US officials remain confident that Ford Class carriers can not just meet, but survive these threats, and a new hypersonic missile defense program is already in the works to defeat these lethal threats. Due to the critical need to keep these high-value assets safe from enemy attacks, however, US officials are completely tight lipped about how exactly they plan on defeating these threats, and these programs remain highly classified to this day.
These were just some of the military weapons that America’s enemies fear the most, but with the world’s largest defense budget, there are plenty more in the American arsenal- including secret capabilities that an enemy won’t learn about until it’s far too late for them…
Featured image: Boeing B-52 dropping bombs, USAF, Public domain