Most Deadly US Military Weapon Right Now
The United States of America fields the most powerful fighting force in history- and these are its deadliest weapons. M-4 Assault Rifle A boring old assault rifle may seem like a strange place to start a list of deadliest weapons, but this weapon has been in the hands of US soldiers across a vaiety of conflicts, and carried the fight in each one. This weapon has been effective at dispatching enemies of the US, and has only recently has a sucessor been named. Maybe. The US military has a pretty bad track record about comitting to replacing its standard battle rifles. The M4 carbine is a gas-operated, magazine fed assault rifle chambered for the 5.56 NATO-standard round, and been in active service with the US military since 1994, during which it has undergone over 90 modifications to improve its performance. Replacing the venerated M16, the M-4 is basically
a modern version of the Vietnam era assault rifle, only smaller, lighter, and with the ability to become much more compact. Its collapsible buttstock doesn't sacrifice accuracy while giving its user the ability to modify the length of the rifle to their personal preference, and being able to fully collapse the buttstock gives its user an advantange in tight close quarters combat. Whereas the M16 could be an unwieldy rifle in tight quarters, the M4 remains flexible and agile- especially important for American servicemen going into door-to-door combat across the middle east. In 1982, the US government put in a request with Colt firearms for a carbine version of the M16A2 rifle, and that request was accelerated the next year when the 9th Infantry Division requested the rapid development of a 5.56mm carbine to replace their M1s and M3 submachine guns. It would take until 1985 when the Picatinny Arsenal was awarded a contract to produce 40 prototypes of what would eventually become the M4. The Marines and Army initially went in together on development of
the M4, but when the Marines requested the new rifle taste like crayons the Army pulled out. In 1991 the US military faced its first significant modern test in a war predicted to be the “mother of all battles” by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. While ground action was very limited, lessons learned from ground combat helped shape ongoing development of the M4. In 1993, the Army jumped back on the M4 bandwagon and issued its first production contract for the M4, and a year later issued another contract for M4A1 rifles specifically for special operations command.
In 1993 the United States faced its first true urban battle with the Battle of Mogadishu. In that infamous engagement, American special forces and Rangers became trapped in the city of Mogadishu, Somalia when an operation went wrong. The Rangers were equipped with older M16 rifles, while Delta Force operators had their shiny new CAR-15s. After the battle, the Rangers would complain that their M16s were simply too unwieldly in street and door-to-door combat, and the US Army became convinced that it was time to push a carbine rifle into the hands of all of its troops. The M4 would officially start its career giving bad guys extra holes in 1999, as the US military deployed to Kosovo in support of NATO's Kosovo Force. There the rifle would perform admirably,
and just a few years later it was in wide use as American troops launched the global war on terror. By 2005, most of the Army had already replaced its M16s with M4s, and also replaced a large number of submachine guns and handguns carried specifically for close quarters combat as the M4 offers greater stopping power and penetrability versus body armor. The Marines, apparently still upset the M4 did not in fact taste like crayons, only offered the M4 to its officers starting in 2007. Rank and file troops were forced to continue using the M16A4 as the standard infantry rifle. Marines can be famously superstitious about new technology, and only the Marines that could be trusted to operate vehicles or other positions which required greater mobility were allowed to use the M4. Alternatively, the Marines may simply have been allowing the Army to field test the M4 rifle rather than suffer casualties themselves- and it wasn't until 2015 that the USMC was finally convinced that the M4 was a suitable replacement for the M16. This was just in time
for the search for a replacement to the M4 to be announced, and two years later the Marine Corps decided that every single Marine in an infantry squad should instead be equipped with the M27, which is basically the Kim Kardashian to the M4's Chloe Kardashian. You know, the same, but slightly better. Even if it still doesn't taste like crayons. Other rifles may get more glory, and there's plenty of disinformation floating around about the M4 rifle- but make no mistake, this is one of the deadliest assault rifles ever created. While the AK family of rifles enjoys a healthy does of legendaryism, the M4 has actually proven its worth in conflicts around the world. As long as you
keep it clean and properly lubricated, the M4 will perforate your target with extreme precision and prejudice in any weather from subzero temperatures to boiling hot deserts. The only significant weakness of the M4 compared to its AK family counterparts- and the rifles it was designed to meet on the battlefield and defeat- is its smaller caliber round. This wasn't helped by the use of steel penetrator rounds early in the war on terror, during which M4 operators complained of less-than-lethal hits on targets as the rounds designed to punch through armor were instead punching clean holes through bad guys. However, when it comes to precision and range- and more importantly: precision at range- the M4 beats the pants off any AK model in the world. F-22 Raptor Going from the Army to the US Air Force, the F-22 is the deadliest production fighter aircraft to ever take to the sky- period. We say “production fighter aircraft” because the US Air Force has
confirmed that its 6th generation Next Generation Air Dominance fighter has already flown multiple test flights, and we can only guess that it's lethality is even greater than the F-22. However, as far as what's currently flying and capable of going to war, nothing beats the F-22. The concept of the F-22 started out in 1981, when the US Air Force got tired of meeting Soviet threats years after they were fielded and decided to just leapfrog the Soviet Union technologically. At the time, the US Air Force was facing
a significant threat to its F-15s and F-16s from rapidly improving Soviet air defenses, as well as a growing fleet of SU-27 Flankers and Mig-29 Fulcrums. But this would be a fighter like no other, a truly next generation aircraft which would exploit newly developed technologies and everything that the US Air Force had been secretly learning about stealth in as-yet unrevealed aircraft such as the B2 bomber and the F-117 Nighthawk. The thought of a truly stealthy air dominance fighter was enough to make the Pentagon wet its pants in excitement, but development would take significant pioneering efforts. Stealth and a fighter aircraft don't really go together well, as a fighter must be maneuverable and thus require structural designs that run directly contrary to what stealth demands. Tail fins for example
allow a fighter aircraft to be very manueverable, but are dead giveaways for a stealth aircraft trying to limit its radar cross section. Nonetheless, under code name Senior Sky, the USAF put out a request to the aerospace industry for a next generation fighter, and by 1985 the request had evolved to identify stealth and supercruise as two of the highest priorities in the new fighter's design. Just a few months later as new intelligence about Soviet air defenses came to light, the USAF dramatically increased its requirement for stealth, officially taking the aircraft from low-observable to truly stealthy. Aerospace engineers everywhere pulled their hair out of their heads and set to work on this impossible conundrum- how to make a fighter that is both very maneuverable, but also stealthy.
A year later, the USAF announced that it wanted to see some prototypes flying very soon, and the US Navy announced that it would use a derivative of the US Air Force program to replace its F-14s. The quest to develop the F-22 would be so difficult, that defense contractors would end up pooling their resources together in one of the biggest brain merges in defense acquisitions history. This would really highlight the difficulty in developing 5th generation aircraft, and despite China and Russia fielding imposters, neither of their entries into stealth are truly 5th generation.
By 1992 it became clear that the F-22 would have to be heavier than originally intended, and this, along with the difficulties in building an F-22 variant which could fly off carrier decks, prompted the Navy to drop out of the program. The F-22 would undergo a suite of testing and refinement, with the Air Force so determined to create the best fighter possible that it even made minute changes to the design such as moving the engine inlets 14 inches and the entire canopy forward 7 inches to improve pilot visibility. But the brains of the F-22 were proving just as formidable as its stealth characteristics, with 1.7 million lines of code driving the plane's computer and allowing it to achieve true sensor fusion. The F-22 wouldn't just be lethal, it would be smarter than anything else in the sky. By 1991 however, the Soviet Union cried Uncle and the Cold War ended, leaving the US Air Force with an incredibly lethal aircraft and no threats for it to counter.
The F-22 was a heavyweight prize fighter, the greatest the world had ever seen, but there was nobody to step into the ring with. As a result, development dramatically slowed, and acquisition dropped dramatically from fully replacing the US Air Force's fleet to just under 200. Today the F-22 has been adapted from an air superiority fighter to a multirole platform so it could do something more than just watch its F-15 and F-16 cousins do real world missions while it sat in a hangar wasting taxpayers money. The Air Force was so desperate to give their thoroughbred steed anything to do that it even deployed it to the Middle East where it undertook operations in support of Syrian rebels. That's like using a multimillion dollar Ferrari for a grocery run. However, the F-22 would finally get a chance to do the mission it was created for- defending the United States homeland- by scoring its first ever air to air kill in 2023- against a weather balloon.
Killing a weather balloon with an F-22 is not like using a Ferrari to run for groceries, it's like hurling a Ferrari at a weather balloon to destroy it. To no one's surprise, the F-22 came out on top against the best weather balloon technology China could muster, proving that its $200 million price tag was worth every penny. However, as competition with China heats up and it become obvious that in a real war China will be using more than weather balloons, the US Air Force is once more set to absolutely destroy the American budget deficit with its NGAD 6th generation fighter program.
For now though, nothing in the sky touches the F-22, though its smaller brother does come in close second. F-35 Every second child in the world knows what it's like to be the F-35. While the F-22 was out there stealing the show and wowing people with its incredible performance, the F-35 was struggling to get off the ground and quickly became the most controversial weapons program in world history. While everyone was freaking out over its estimated $1.7 trillion cost, nobody was paying attention to the fact that the individual unit cost is well under half of that of the F-22. But then again, the F-35 really is a little brother to the F-22, but that doesn't make it anything less than the second most lethal aircraft in the sky. The F-22 is the Air Force's darling, an absolutely lethal assassin that browns the pants of any enemy pilot who's been briefed to expect American F-22s in their area of operations. However,
assassins don't win wars, and not even the United States is rich enough to equip an entire air fleet of 1500 fighters with F-22s. This is where the F-35 comes in. With weapons costs ballooning out of control due to the US' addiction for wielding literal sci-fi weapons, the F-35 attempted to make building a future air fleet cheaper. A product of the Joint Strike Fighter program, the F-35 was designed to be a single platform which could be used by the Air Force, the Navy's carrier forces, and the Marines- whom incredibly are allowed to fly their own planes. We know, we checked. But each service has its own specific requirements, and this quickly ballooned the cost of the Joint Strike Fighter program. The Air Force demanded the deadliest thing to ever be put into
the sky, but was told to sit down, calm down, and accept compromises for the sake of not literally breaking the US budget. The Navy required a short take off variant with a much more ruggedized structure to fly off its carriers. The Marines demanded their aircraft taste like crayons and also needed a short take off variant that could take off vertically like the British Harrier.
Such diverse needs quickly led to an explosion in cost, when the US had originally hoped that a homogenized air fleet across its various services would instead be cheaper to procure, maintain, and supply. In October of 2000, the X-35A would have its first flight, undergoing testing at both subsonic and supersonic speeds. After 28 successful flights, the test aircraft was converted for STOVL testing, and rebranded as the X-35B. This would prove to be a tricky conversion, but would successfully
conduct stable hover, vertical landing, and short take off with less than 500 feet of runway. A few months later, the carrier variant, the X-35C would undergo practice carrier landings. The next year, Lockheed Martin was declared the winner of the JSF contract, and the entire program moved into System Development and Demonstration phase. Various tweaks and changes to the design led to the F-35B becoming the biggest of the bunch, as its weapons bay was enlarged in order to ensure commonality and thus ease of operation between variants. However, this caused the aircraft to miss key requirements for STOVL performance, forcing redesign to decrease weight- the F-35's diet would cost the US government $6.2 billion
dollars and an 18 month delay. At the end, the weapons bay would have to be shrunk once again. As the aircraft underwent operational testing across the services, the controversy began to pile on. The most expensive fighter program in history, hell the most expensive thing to ever be made, was running into a slew of critical problems. The F-35B's airframe was prone to premature cracking from STOVL operations. The F-35C's arrestor hook sometimes didn't want to do its job and instead
did its best to force its pilot to go for a swim. Fuel tanks on all models were vulnerable to lighting strikes, the helmet display had serious issues, and its main cannon would either not fire, or was hopelessly inaccurate. By 2009, the F-35 was 30 months behind schedule, and the entire program was pushed from achieving initial operational capability in 2010 to 2015. Most baffling of all though was the government's decision to simultaneously conduct ongoing tests, fix defects, and begin production, which is a real Russian way of doing things. A program originally meant to lower costs by interoperability between the services was discovered to have only 25% of the plane's parts in common with each variant, down from an estimated 70%.
Unlike the F-22, the F-35 has yet to be tested on air-to-air balloon battle. But with most of the speed bumps smoothed out of the world's most expensive weapons program, the F-35 is at last being procured in large numbers. While it's not as stealthy as the F-22, the F-35 is cheap enough to allow the US military to buy it in huge numbers, presenting a potential foe with a serious complication as it faces an entirely 5th generation air fleet. But what makes the F-35 an extreme threat to any enemy is its ability to coordinate with other aircraft in the sky. The F-22 can't communicate with other aircraft- not because it's an elitist snob, as one may suspect, but because its avionics are simply too old and expensive to replace. The F-35 meanwhile is a chatterbox, which makes the aircraft not just lethal on its own, but extends that lethality to older platforms still in the US and allied arsenal. An F-35
for example can loiter deep in hostile air space where air defenses would blast other aircraft out of the sky, and guide weapons fired by legacy platforms to their targets. The F-35 is so brainy, it can even act as a miniature AWACS platform for friendly forces. Soon the F-35 will be armed with the two-stage AIM 260 missile, greatly increasing the range at which it can threaten targets while they struggle to acquire a firing solution. While details remain classified, it's believed that current Russian and Chinese aircraft cannot engage an F-35 until within two dozen or so miles, by which time the F-35 will have long ago unloaded its complement of air to air missiles.
LRASM While we're in the sky, it's time to point out one of America's deadliest weapons- the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile. The best part about this weapon is most of us will get to see it in action as the US and China are currently locked in a fatal cycle leading to inevitable war! The LRASM was born out of the need for a solution for a simple problem- China. In 1996, West Taiwan threw a tantrum when East Taiwan's president attended his alma matter in the US to deliver a speech. West Taiwan viewed it as a violation of the US' one-China policy which technically didn't recognize Taiwan as an independent nation. Like any nation with an insecure and unstable leader, China threw an absolute fit and lobbed a bunch of missiles over Taiwan in a show of force.
The United States responded with its own show of force as a warning and sailed a carrier battle group straight through the Taiwan Strait, utterly humiliating China who was completely powerless to stop it. For some weird reason, the Chinese took this personally and decided that would never happen again. Since then, China has focused on what it calls Anti-Access, Area Denial, or A2D2- a strategy that seeks to keep the US from interfering with China's plans to reunify Taiwan with the mainland at gunpoint. With thousands of long-range ballistic missiles and a huge compliment of anti-ship missiles, China has turned the entire western Pacific into a serious threat to the US Navy. If the US was
going to prevent an invasion of Taiwan which would leave China in control of nearly the world's entire supply of semiconductors, it would need a new type of weapon. In 1965 the US Navy failed to appreciate the power of anti-ship missiles, instead believing most surface actions would be largely decided by guns. However, what it did need was a weapon to specifically target surfaced submarines, and thus the Harpoon was put into development. Then in 1967 the sinking of the Israeli destroyer Eilat by an anti-ship
missile rocked the Navy, who immediately changed the purpose of Harpoon to become a general anti-ship weapon. By 1977, the first operational Harpoon was delivered to the Navy, and 7500 more would be built and sold to navies and air forces all over the world. But the Harpoon has serious limitations. Block upgrades have kept it in pace with modern threats
throughout the decades, but modern air defense weapons and China's ability to strike far away from its coast has made the Harpoon all but obsolete. As ships get larger and larger, the 488 pound (221 kg) warhead is also no longer considered sufficient for the task- especially when one considers that only a few of an entire volley of anti-ship missiles may actually punch through enemy air defenses to reach their targets. The Navy needed a new weapon that could more than double the impact on a successful hit, and deliver more successful hits by evading enemy defenses.
Enter the LRASM, itself a derivative of the JASSM-ER, because it's federal law that American weapons have cool sounding acronyms. The JASSM-ER, or joint air-to-surface standoff missile was developed to offer US air power a way of penetrating dense and sophisticated air defenses to deliver 1,000 pounds of high explosive freedom right where it hurts the most.With a range of 575 miles (925 km), and an improved variant with twice the range, the navy saw what the Air Force was doing and said yes, please. Russian Granit anti-ship missiles have been the terror of the US Navy since they were introduced in 1985, packing a whopping 1653 pound (750 kg) warhead that can fly as fast as Mach 2.5. These things are big, dumb, and pack a massive punch- perfect for the Russian military. But with a range of only 388 miles (625 km) and the radar cross-section of a small jet, there's little chance of a Granit actually penetrating US air defenses unless they're launched in volleys so big that it would cripple the Russian economy. And even if
they could launch that many missiles, we know that half of them would probably be packed with turnips because some Russian colonel stole the money for the explosives. The LRASM packs just over half the explosives of a Granit, but is an order of magnitude or two more deadly. Specifically designed to penetrate sophisticated air defenses, the LRASM incorporates stealth technology into its design, dramatically reducing its radar cross section thus reducing the range at which it can be intercepted, as well as complicating firing solutions. Its max speed is classified, but it's believed the LRASM is by design a subsonic missile so as to enjoy better fuel efficiency and to help it evade detection via thermal means. Its operational range is likewise classified, but estimated to be over 230 miles (370km), with new variants substantially adding to that range. In the age of hypersonic missiles, the LRASM is a purposeful step away from this design, trading extreme speed for extreme stealth. But it's also a very smart missile,
using advanced artificial intelligence to automatically evade enemy air defenses, a capability known as counter-countermeasures. It can use GPS or if denied, inertial navigation to find its way to a target zone, where its electronic brain can scan for its own targets. Using an onboard library of different enemy ships, it can automatically designate a target for itself and avoid striking civilian shipping. When launched in a swarm, each LRASM can deconflict from the others, to ensure that one or two picket ships don't end up taking the brunt of an LRASM volley, and maximizing damage to an enemy fleet. But the LRASM can do so much more, it's basically a flying AWACS platform as its sensors allow it to work together with other LRASMs or US assets to create a live picture of the battlespace. To
ensure it cannot be detected early, the LRASM also does not put out any emissions of its own except microsecond, low power data-link transmissions. This is in contrast with most modern anti-ship missiles which use active radar in the terminal phase to find their targets. Instead, LRASM uses a variety of passive sensors to locate a target, making it impossible to degrade via electronic attack and very difficult to spoof with physical countermeasures. The missile can be fired from US ships or a number of aircraft, including carrier borne F-18s and F-35s. However, given its size, the LRASM cannot be carried in the F-35's internal
weapons bay, forcing it to carry the missile on wing pylons and reducing the F-35 from a stealth aircraft to a low-observable platform. With its huge range though, this is more than enough to get close to enemy fleets and launch for a successful strike. But the brainy missiles have only been in production for a few years, and thus the Navy only has about 250 while the Air Force has less than 100. With the probability of war with China
looming on the imminent horizon, production has been ramped up- but that hasn't stopped the navy from already looking for the LRASM's replacement as the US seeks to restore the massive technological offset that has traditionally made it the world's premier fighting force. Link 16 Our final deadliest weapon in the US arsenal isn't a weapon at all- but without it most of the US military's fancy capabilities would be no more. Link 16 is a military tactical data link in use by the US and its NATO allies. It uses Time Division Multiple Access, allowing multiple simultaneous communications and thus increasing the amount of communication between operators or weapons. The world's most robust military communications network, details about Link 16 remain very classified, but the US Air Force has flatly stated that the system has saved countless US servicemember's lives across various conflicts. Practically every networked platform in the US
arsenal uses Link 16 to relay data back and forth, and the system is the very reason why the US military is so incredibly lethal. With Link 16 capabilities, shooters can connect with observers in an instant to strike at targets they can't see or detect themselves. On its own, Link 16 allows for only line of sight communications, but integrated into the vast US military communications network, Link 16 allows for global tactical data networks that provide near-real time data sharing between any two US units in the world. With the ability for shooters, observers, and weapons to all talk to each other and share information, Link 16 remains the key to US lethality.
Now go watch What If A Single F-22 Time Traveled To Germany During WWI, or click this other video instead!