Weapons that changed the world

Weapons that changed the world

Postby Lighthawk » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:05 pm

Caught this program on the military channel the other day, thought it was somewhat interesting. Discovery ran a poll for people to vote on the military innovations since WWII that they thought made the biggest impact to modern warfare (minus nukes, for being too obvious I guess). The top ten ended up being the following

10: RPG-7
9: Tomahawk cruise missile
8: JDAM
7: AK-47
6: Apache Longbow
5: R-7 ICBM
4: B-52 Stratofortress
3: BMP1 Infantry fighting vehicle
2: F-117 stealth fighter
1: Nimitz class supercarrier

Can't say I completely agree with the list, my own would be more

10: RPG-7
9: JDAM
8: SA-2 SAM
7: Huey
6: R-7 ICBM
5: USS Nautilus
4: Tomahawk cruise missile
3: AK-47
2: F-117
1: Nimitz

Thought this might be something fun for us to debate about argue over threaten each other discuss in a civilized manner.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby Mikey » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:57 pm

I caught that show way back when. I thought now as I did then: it almost boggles discussion, as the include small arms along with strategic bombers and nuclear subs.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby Lighthawk » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:15 pm

How exactly does it boggle discussion? It's a list of the most influential weapons/vehicles/systems on the battlefield, military planning, and related politics. It doesn't have to be massive powerful to have a notable impact on warfare.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby Mikey » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:26 pm

Lighthawk wrote:How exactly does it boggle discussion? It's a list of the most influential weapons/vehicles/systems on the battlefield, military planning, and related politics. It doesn't have to be massive powerful to have a notable impact on warfare.


Obviously the discussion isn't about relative power - but the discussion is about different types of power, or more properly the effects on different paradigms of war. The strategic effect of the Buff vs. the Kalashnikov is a completely different discussion than the tactical effect.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby Lighthawk » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:53 pm

I suppose. I know it's not the most neatly standardized comparison ever, but I hardly see it as being so utterly different as to be undiscussable. Especially since it is obviously more about opinion than trying to prove quantifiable facts.

An AK-47 and a Nimitz might be on complete opposite ends of just about any spectrum of comparison, but I don't see why one can't say that both have had a major impact on modern war, nor have an opinion on which has had the bigger overall effect on the way battles are fought or how armies plan their wars.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby BigJKU316 » Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:00 pm

Lighthawk wrote:
10: RPG-7
9: Tomahawk cruise missile
8: JDAM
7: AK-47
6: Apache Longbow
5: R-7 ICBM
4: B-52 Stratofortress
3: BMP1 Infantry fighting vehicle
2: F-117 stealth fighter
1: Nimitz class supercarrier



Of the other stuff on there I would substitute for the following.

JDAM gets removed for the Paveway series in my view. JDAM is more advanced but the first real practical precision guided free fall bomb was the Paveway, at least if we are talking systems built in large numbers. This was proven in the Gulf War when a much smaller amount of ordinance was able to hit all sorts of critical targets. JDAM was just an improved way of doing the same thing while Paveway was the first practical means to do something Air Forces had been attempting to do for a while.

Apache gets scrubbed for the AH-1 for largely the same reason. It was the first and Apache was just an evolutionary development. I don't feel as strongly about this one as the former but I still think it makes sense to take the innovator rather than what is mostly a linear improvement.

R-7 I would swap for Polaris. Early ICBM's were certainly important but were quite limited in practical utility. Polaris ushered in the era of true secure deterrence in the form of SSBN's, which helped stabilize the Cold War. If forced to pick an ICBM I would take one of the USSR or US in ground solid fuel rockets from the mid-60's I suppose but I think the SLBM was more important to stability in the nuclear situation.

I am lukewarm on the BMP-1. It was innovative but I just don't see it as ever really being earth shattering. In the concept it was designed for (fighting in a chemical/nuclear wasteland) it might have worked well I guess. Not sure what I would replace it with. Centurian/Chieftan possible as they were the first, in my view, highly modern MBT's of the Cold War, at least for the west. I honestly think that it would make more sense to go with any of a variety of wire-guided anti-tank weapons in this scenario as they redefined the armored battlefield quite a bit in the 60's and 70's.

I would swap the Nimitz for the USS Enterprise. That was the revolutionary combination of nuke power and huge carrier that sort of changed how business was done. The Nimitz was simply a much more efficient design to build in serial.

I would bump the RPG-7 for some type of submarine honestly, or for the Panzerfaust if you really must have a light-weight man portable thing in there.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby BigJKU316 » Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:14 pm

Lighthawk wrote:10: RPG-7
9: JDAM
8: SA-2 SAM
7: Huey
6: R-7 ICBM
5: USS Nautilus
4: Tomahawk cruise missile
3: AK-47
2: F-117
1: Nimitz


I like most of your changes. The Huey is a good addition I overlooked and we can agree on the Nautilus certainly.

I would dispute the SA-2 SAM here. It was not really the first of its kind, just the first used. It was probably outclassed by a number of Western systems. For example Nike Herc was in service pretty much at the same time the SA-2 was just entering service. Nike Ajax had been in service for more than 5 years when SA-2's came around. Not a big problem with it hitting the list just don't think it was either the first nor really an exceptional system for its time, just the most noted due to use.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby Lighthawk » Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:56 pm

BigJKU316 wrote:Of the other stuff on there I would substitute for the following.

JDAM gets removed for the Paveway series in my view. JDAM is more advanced but the first real practical precision guided free fall bomb was the Paveway, at least if we are talking systems built in large numbers. This was proven in the Gulf War when a much smaller amount of ordinance was able to hit all sorts of critical targets. JDAM was just an improved way of doing the same thing while Paveway was the first practical means to do something Air Forces had been attempting to do for a while.


I don't think I'd replace JDAM with the Paveway so much as add the Paveway in. JDAM wasn't important for being a precision bomb, the Paveway certainly deserves credit for leading the pack in that regard. JDAM was important for being a conversion kit to turn dumb bombs into smart bombs, thus allowing the US to fill up their stores with good smart weapons cheaply and without having to worry about disposing of all those dumb bombs. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't JDAM also the first widely used GPS smart weapon?

Apache gets scrubbed for the AH-1 for largely the same reason. It was the first and Apache was just an evolutionary development. I don't feel as strongly about this one as the former but I still think it makes sense to take the innovator rather than what is mostly a linear improvement.


I rather agree with that, though the show's rational for the Apache was that it was such a great tank killer. I still think the Huey deserves the spot more for showing just how useful helicopters in general could be in military operations.

R-7 I would swap for Polaris. Early ICBM's were certainly important but were quite limited in practical utility. Polaris ushered in the era of true secure deterrence in the form of SSBN's, which helped stabilize the Cold War. If forced to pick an ICBM I would take one of the USSR or US in ground solid fuel rockets from the mid-60's I suppose but I think the SLBM was more important to stability in the nuclear situation.

I am lukewarm on the BMP-1. It was innovative but I just don't see it as ever really being earth shattering. In the concept it was designed for (fighting in a chemical/nuclear wasteland) it might have worked well I guess.


Kind of how I feel about it. If it had gotten use for what it was designed for, moving troops into Europe if the cold war turned hot, it would probably rank higher in importance.

Not sure what I would replace it with. Centurian/Chieftan possible as they were the first, in my view, highly modern MBT's of the Cold War, at least for the west. I honestly think that it would make more sense to go with any of a variety of wire-guided anti-tank weapons in this scenario as they redefined the armored battlefield quite a bit in the 60's and 70's.

I would swap the Nimitz for the USS Enterprise. That was the revolutionary combination of nuke power and huge carrier that sort of changed how business was done. The Nimitz was simply a much more efficient design to build in serial.


Fair point, though I think that the way the Nimitz took the idea the Enterprise started and reached the true potential of it, and thus bumps the innovator aside by being that much better. I can't say I'd defend one over the other too strongly though, it'd be easy to claim one over the other depending on the view point.

I would bump the RPG-7 for some type of submarine honestly, or for the Panzerfaust if you really must have a light-weight man portable thing in there.


I think part of what makes the RPG-7 worthy of its spot isn't just its capability, but its simplicity and reliability. Its the AK-47 of anti-vehicle weapons, cheap, easy to obtain, and requires little training to use.

I like most of your changes. The Huey is a good addition I overlooked and we can agree on the Nautilus certainly.

I would dispute the SA-2 SAM here. It was not really the first of its kind, just the first used. It was probably outclassed by a number of Western systems. For example Nike Herc was in service pretty much at the same time the SA-2 was just entering service. Nike Ajax had been in service for more than 5 years when SA-2's came around. Not a big problem with it hitting the list just don't think it was either the first nor really an exceptional system for its time, just the most noted due to use.


Good points. I'll admit that SAMs are not an area I claim much knowledge in, I'd have to do some research to really respond to that. Could be a case of just going for what was more notable.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby BigJKU316 » Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:30 pm

Lighthawk wrote:I don't think I'd replace JDAM with the Paveway so much as add the Paveway in. JDAM wasn't important for being a precision bomb, the Paveway certainly deserves credit for leading the pack in that regard. JDAM was important for being a conversion kit to turn dumb bombs into smart bombs, thus allowing the US to fill up their stores with good smart weapons cheaply and without having to worry about disposing of all those dumb bombs. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't JDAM also the first widely used GPS smart weapon?


Paveway was/is a bolt-on kit as well. The primary limitations of it really was the number of aircraft capable of illuminating targets. JDAM and Paveway work on the same bombs really. The limitations on Paveway were largely overcome by the purchase of lots of targeting pods for non-laser designator equipped aircraft. Both really do different things. Really the two systems are basically combined in the Laser JDAM which uses GPS targeting but can seek on a laser if very high precision or hitting a moving target is necessary.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby Lighthawk » Fri Jul 08, 2011 11:18 pm

BigJKU316 wrote:Paveway was/is a bolt-on kit as well. The primary limitations of it really was the number of aircraft capable of illuminating targets. JDAM and Paveway work on the same bombs really. The limitations on Paveway were largely overcome by the purchase of lots of targeting pods for non-laser designator equipped aircraft. Both really do different things. Really the two systems are basically combined in the Laser JDAM which uses GPS targeting but can seek on a laser if very high precision or hitting a moving target is necessary.


My bad, I thought the Paveway series were factory direct LGB, not kits.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby Giuseppe » Fri Jul 08, 2011 11:48 pm

The integrated circuit aka the microchip. While not strictly a military innovation, much of its early development was for military applications.

And, yes, I know it doesn't fall into the weapons category, but I think it's worth mentioning in this context. Some of the things in that list wouldn't even exist (in their current form) without it.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby Mikey » Fri Jul 08, 2011 11:49 pm

I just think the list is arbitrarily anachronistic at some points, but not at others. If the JDAM is on the list, why not the daisycutter? Obviously the differentiating criterion isn't technological advancement, because the USS Nautilus is on there but not a modern boomer. It's not simple effectiveness, because then the Gato-class would supplant the Nautilus.

BTW, BMP-1 made it, IMHO, for the potential it represented rather than for the actual usage it served. What it meant in the terrified perception of the west was hordes of Russian soldiers running amok all through central Europe.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby colmquinn » Sat Jul 09, 2011 9:56 am

Giuseppe wrote:The integrated circuit aka the microchip. While not strictly a military innovation, much of its early development was for military applications.

And, yes, I know it doesn't fall into the weapons category, but I think it's worth mentioning in this context. Some of the things in that list wouldn't even exist (in their current form) without it.


Fair point, in the non weapon category (that we seen to have added :) ) I'd throw in the ceramic Chobham armour used on western MBT's. I don't think any M1's or Challenger 2's have been taken down by enemy fire in the gulf or Afghanistan because of it.

Purely as a weapon though I'd say the Ak has caused more deaths than all the rest put together so I'd say it should be higher up the list.

Also would the Hydrogen bomb be included under the ICBM section?
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby BigJKU316 » Sat Jul 09, 2011 1:44 pm

Mikey wrote:I just think the list is arbitrarily anachronistic at some points, but not at others. If the JDAM is on the list, why not the daisycutter?


Well that is pretty simple. The JDAM and Paveway represented fundamental changes in the way air warfare is conducted. For the first time it was possible to actually test the theories behind strategic bombing that fed into WWII without inflicting massive civilian casualties in the process. You never could tell with WWII bombing if the economic paralysis you were inflicting was because of the applied theory or just the massive dislocation and death of the surrounding civilians. Now with the PGM's one could inflict horrifying economic loss without killing all the squishy parts around it. Just pick a nation and even a moron can pick out vital targets that would leave it unable to operate as a modern nation. I mean hell, I can go on Wikipedia and Google earth and locate all the major power stations in the US or UK in about 5 minutes.

I would also add that they are vitally important to making stealth matter at all. Take away the PGM and all stealth planes are doing, unless they are dropping nukes, is sprinkling a handful of bombs around. The PGM combined with stealth is what is really dangerous and changed things. It vastly changed the stress placed on air defense systems as well, both with and without stealth being considered. Prior to their introduction you could play a game of attrition. If you downed enough attackers they might do some damage but they kept having to come back because chances were they did not destroy the target on their first strike, at least not completely. Now if a handful of aircraft get through they could gut your nation and/or air defense system from the inside out by hitting precise targets.

PGM's like the two listed above were game changes.

The daisycutter is just a big bomb. There is nothing special about it really.
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Re: Weapons that changed the world

Postby Captain Seafort » Sat Jul 09, 2011 2:58 pm

Lighthawk wrote:
Apache gets scrubbed for the AH-1 for largely the same reason. It was the first and Apache was just an evolutionary development. I don't feel as strongly about this one as the former but I still think it makes sense to take the innovator rather than what is mostly a linear improvement.


I rather agree with that, though the show's rational for the Apache was that it was such a great tank killer. I still think the Huey deserves the spot more for showing just how useful helicopters in general could be in military operations.


The AH-1 isn't the Huey, and I agree with swapping it in place of the Apache for exactly the reasons stated.

I would swap the Nimitz for the USS Enterprise. That was the revolutionary combination of nuke power and huge carrier that sort of changed how business was done. The Nimitz was simply a much more efficient design to build in serial.


Fair point, though I think that the way the Nimitz took the idea the Enterprise started and reached the true potential of it, and thus bumps the innovator aside by being that much better. I can't say I'd defend one over the other too strongly though, it'd be easy to claim one over the other depending on the view point.


I don't think either of them deserve to be on the list. Nautilus can represent nuclear power, but if any aircraft carrier deserves to be on the list it's Forrestal.
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