Technology of War

Modern warfare is a formidable display of technological expertise. These articles examine some of the weapons and defenses that play a prominent role in modern combat, as well as some pieces of technology that could play a role in the future.

Bombs, Missiles and Explosives


How Rail Guns Work

Using a magnetic field powered by electricity, a rail gun can hit a target 250 miles away in six minutes. Rail guns leave gunpowder-based weapons in the dust. So why isn't the military using them now? Find out how rail guns can be used and learn about the limitations of this technology.

How Rocket-Propelled Grenades Work

Rugged and simple, the rocket-propelled grenade is suitable for downing helicopters, disabling tanks or attacking buildings at close range. In the hands of a skilled operator, the RPG is a lethal and versatile weapon. Find out all about RPGs.

How Nuclear Bombs Work

Nuclear weapons are the most serious looming threat in just about any major conflict. This article explains the basic technology of nuclear bombs and details the sobering consequences of their use.

How Bunker Busters Work

Ordinary bombs can take out surface facilities; but when the target is underground or otherwise embedded, the job requires a bomb with penetrating power. That's where bunker busters come in.

How Cruise Missiles Work

Cruise missiles are a prominent example of the remote battle technology used in modern warfare. The missile is essentially an unmanned airplane, which can deliver a 1,000-pound bomb to a target 1,000 miles away.

How Smart Bombs Work

Smart bombs are a leading technology in the U.S. arsenal. The newest models can navigate their own way to specific ground targets with startling accuracy, even in poor weather conditions.


How E-Bombs Work

Electromagnetic weapons attack not by killing, but by destroying the electrical devices militaries and governments depend on. In the near future, these weapons could play a major role in U.S. operations. Low-tech versions might be used in devestating terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

How Dirty Bombs Work
A terrorist dirty bomb attack on the United States wouldn't approach the destruction to life and property of a nuclear blast, but it would certainly take a high psychological toll. The effects of this crude weapon can last for years, even decades.
How MOAB Works
The massive ordnance air burst bomb is one of the newest weapons in the U.S. arsenal, and one of the most powerful. It's among the largest and most deadly conventional bombs ever built.
How Sidewinder Missiles Work
Even after 50 years, the sidewinder still seems like something out of science fiction. This air-to-air combat missile can actually find its target by itself, allowing fighter pilots to fire on the enemy and get to safety.
How Stinger Missiles Work
Ground-to-air weapons play a major role in many modern conflicts. Armed with stinger missile launchers, ground forces can take out low-flying planes and helicopters. Like the sidewinder, the stinger can automatically zero in on a moving target.
How Patriot Missiles Work
Designed to detect, target and then hit an incoming missile, Patriot missile batteries have been activated several times in the current war. These SCUD busters are an effective form of defense against chemical and biological warheads.
How C-4 Works
C-4 pops up regularly in the news, because it is a favorite of explosive of both military forces and terrorist organizations. This article explains what makes C-4 so deadly and explores a few of its more common uses.




Technology of War On the Ground

How Strykers Work

The U.S. Army's Stryker is a lesson in flexibility: There are as many Stryker configurations as there are tasks to complete in today's military. Plus, it's easier to deploy than the mighty M1. Learn all about the Army's ambitious Stryker project.

How Bradley Fighting Vehicles Work

The U.S. military uses the Bradley Fighting Vehicle to scout enemy positions and transport troops into hostile territory. With land and sea capabilities, it's well-outfitted for the job.

How M1 Tanks Work

M1 tanks played a crucial role in the 1991 Gulf war, dominating the ground battle. According to the U.S. Army, these heavily armored, heavily armed land fighters are second to none.

How Military Robots Work

Soldiers face danger every day, but detecting landmines, deactivating unexploded bombs and scoping out hostile buildings are life-threatening tasks that don't always require a human presence. That's where the robots come in.

How Military Camouflage Works

Sometimes, the best offense really is a good defense. It's no wonder, then, that major militaries have devoted so much time and money to developing effective camouflage. The enemy can't hit what it can't see.

How Future Force Warriors Will Work

For the battlefield of the future, the U.S. Army is developing an infantry uniform that will provide superhuman strength, advanced communications and greater ballistic protection than any uniform to date. Learn how the Future Force Warrior will turn a soldier into an "F-16 on legs."

How Body Armor Works

Body armor can't work miracles, but it can greatly improve a soldier's chances on the battlefield. This article explains how modern body armor stops bullets in their tracks.

How Shotguns Work

Why a shotgun instead of, say, a rifle? Well, to do its job, a projectile must both make contact with the target and hit the target in a critical spot. With a wider stream of potentially deadly projectiles, a shotgun is like using a can of spray paint if a rifle is like using a felt-tip pen.

How Machine Guns Work

The machine gun is one of those weapons that completely changed the face of the war. With the advent of this technology, it was suddenly possible for a soldier to shoot dozens of people in a matter of seconds. It redefined ground combat.

How Flamethrowers Work

Flamethrowers are one of the most fascinating weapons of war, if not one of the most important. This article examines the inner workings of a conventional flamethrower design in detail.

How Grenades Work

Grenades have been part of the U.S. arsenal since World War I, and they're still a valuable weapon on the battlefield. This article examines the basics of time-delay hand grenades, as well as launchers and proximity grenades.

How Landmines Work

Landmines are one of the most horrific weapons of war because they continue to take casualties long after a conflict is resolved. Unfortunately, they're also one of the most widely used and most effective.

How LRAD Works

In November of 2005, pirates attacked a cruise ship off the coast of Somalia. The pirates had machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. But the cruise ship had a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), which was credited with driving the pirates away by firing a beam of sound. Learn what makes sound a weapon and explore other uses for the LRAD.

How Night Vision Works

Night vision is just a fun toy for most civilians, but on today's 24-hour battlefield, it's an absolutely essential tool. It allows the military to turn night into day.

How Biological and Chemical Warfare Works

Saddam Hussein's history with biological and chemical warfare is infamous, and U.S. troops have geared up for such an assault. This article explains the basics of these types of attack.

How Gas Masks Work

For ground forces, the primary defense against chemical attack is the gas mask. In the future, gas masks may be a common civilian defense as well.


Technology of War in the Air


How Apache Helicopters Work

The Apache is to helicopters what the M1 is to tanks -- it's arguably the most deadly rotor aircraft in the sky. Like M1s, Apaches make excellent use of advanced communications and targeting electronics.

How Black Hawk Helicopters Work

The Black Hawk helicopter is the aerial work horse of the U.S. military. With outstanding speed and maneuverability, this helicopter is used to transport troops and supplies to and from active battlefields where the combination of power and quick response time is crucial to survival.

How F/A-22 Raptors Work

As the newest fighter in the U.S. Air Force's aerial arsenal, the F/A-22 Raptor incorporates the latest stealth technology along with a mind-boggling array of weapons and computer systems. Learn about this dual-purpose fighter jet and attack aircraft and see what sets it apart from the F-15.

How F-15s Work

Fighter jets are a major component of most major military arsenals, and this particular model is a classic. This article explains how fighter pilots hit their targets and pull off incredible evasive maneuvers to get to safety.

How Stealth Bombers Work

This unique bomber was tailor-made for a specific, extremely difficult mission. It's initial function was to carry nuclear bombs across the globe, take out key targets and escape to safety, evading any enemy sensors the entire time. Its wartime function today is to drop smart bombs, which find their way to specific enemy targets.

How U.S. Spy Planes Work

Military success often comes down to military intelligence. You have a much better chance of prevailing on the battlefield if you know what your enemy is up to. Surveillance planes, also known as spy planes, play a major role in the U.S. military's intelligence-gathering activities.

How The Predator UAV Works

The Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle exemplifies the military trend toward high-tech, low-risk equipment. This remotely operated spy plane offers the most bang for the human-safety buck. Learn about the components, features and wartime activities of the Predator UAV.

How Ejection Seats Work

When a military aircraft is in trouble, the pilot may have to eject to save his life. The technology that makes mid-air ejections possible is pretty incredible. Find out how this crucial escape system separates pilot from plane.


Technology of War at Sea

How Aircraft Carriers Work

Aircraft carriers are certainly the largest piece of technology in the U.S. arsenal, and they're also one of the most important. A modern supercarrier allows the Navy to easily set up a fully equipped airfield on the other side of the world.

How Submarines Work

Submarines are truly unique watercraft, and as such, they're an essential part of the U.S. arsenal. This article explains the basics of how submarines submerge, surface, and support life deep underwater.

How the FSF-1 Sea Fighter Works

These days, there aren't too many grand battles fought in the open sea between massive naval warships. Nations are facing a more guerilla-style warfare, and the equipment must evolve to meet new demands. Enter the Sea Fighter. Learn about this experimental, high-speed, "invisible" ship.