44 Interesting Facts About Warfare & Military Technologies During The “Modern” Era

Warfare & Military Technologies Throughout The Ages: Part 5 – The “Modern” Era.

During the Modern Era, military leaders came to view continued advances in technology as the critical element for success in future wars. And, considering that the Modern Era was an era of constant war, it therefore became an era of constant tech innovation as well. Military funding fundamentally redirected science, physics especially, with the military technologies birthed in the Modern Era primarily the result of extensive collaboration between scientists and military planners.

  1. 1909: Hiram Stevens Maxim’s son, Hiram Percy Maxim, obtains a patent for a gun silencer.
  2. 1914: During the first world war, the British army introduces the first tanks.
  3. Aerial photographic reconnaissance came of age in World War I, thanks to higher-flying planes and better cameras. Baron Manfred von Richthofen—“the Red Baron”—said that one photo-reconnaissance plane was often more valuable than an entire fighter squadron.
  4. The era of the “dogfight” began during WW1—and with it the transformation of the airplane into a weapon of warfare.
  5. Chlorine: Historians generally agree that the first instance of modern chemical warfare occurred on April 22, 1915—when German soldiers opened 5,730 canisters of poisonous chlorine gas on the battlefield at Ypres, Belgium.
  6. In 1915, the first propeller plane that could safely fire a machine gun through the propeller blades was invented.
  7. The military science on which the model of German combat operations was built for the First World War remained largely unaltered from the Napoleonic model, but took into the consideration the vast improvements in the firepower and the ability to conduct “great battles of annihilation” through rapid concentration of force, strategic mobility, and the maintenance of the strategic offensive.
  8. World War I is often called “the chemists’ war”, both for the extensive use of poison gas and the importance of nitrates and advanced high explosives.
  9. World War I marked the first large-scale mobilization of science for military purposes.
  10. The Germans introduced gas as a weapon in part because naval blockades limited their supply of nitrate for explosives, while the massive German dye industry could easily produce chlorine and organic chemicals in large amounts.
  11. DDT: In the late 1930s, with war on the horizon, the U.S. military undertook preparations to defend soldiers against one of the most lethal enemies on the battlefield: insect-borne diseases. DDT proved to be so effective that some historians believe World War II was the first conflict where more soldiers died in combat than from disease.
  12. In 1936, the Nazis discovered tabun, the first nerve agent, through industrial insecticide research.
  13. The modern era of military technology emerged in the 1940s: nuclear weapons, radar, jet engines, proximity fuses, advanced submarines, aircraft carriers.
  14. 1942: The Manhattan Project, the United States’ attempt to build the first nuclear bomb, begins under the direction of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
  15. If World War I was the chemists’ war, World War II was the physicists’ war.
  16. World War II marked a massive increase in the military funding of science, particularly physics.
  17. Until the Second World War, military science was written in English starting with capital letters, and was thought of as an academic discipline alongside Physics, Philosophy and the Medical Science.
  18. 1945: The first successful test of a nuclear bomb is carried out in New Mexico, on 16 July. On 6 and 9 August, bombs are dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively ending the second world war and ushering in a new age of nuclear weaponry.
  19. 1952: The first fusion, or hydrogen, bomb is tested by the US in the Marshall Islands. They use X-rays from a nuclear fission explosion to trigger nuclear fusion reactions between atoms of the hydrogen isotope tritium, like those that take place inside the sun. A single warhead can be thousands of times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb.
  20. Founded in 1958, DARPA: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military.
  21. 1960: The laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is demonstrated for the first time.
  22. 1960: The Soviet Union begins developing a supercavitating torpedo in the 1960s. By exploiting the way water forms bubbles around fast-moving objects the Shkval can travel at 500 kilometres an hour. It is only completed in the early 1990s.
  23. 1974: The first Taser is built after five years of work by NASA researcher Jack Cover.
  24. Public interest in cyber terrorism began in the late 1980s, when the term was coined by Barry C. Collin.
  25. The Tomahawk missile is a type of long-range cruise missile designed to fly at extremely low altitudes at subsonic speeds, enabling the weapons to be used to attack various surface targets. These jet engine-powered missiles were first used operationally during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The missiles travel at speeds of approximately 550 miles per hour (880 km/h), and use GPS receivers to pinpoint their targets more accurately.
  26. Network-centric warfare, also called network-centric operations, or net-centric warfare, is a military doctrine or theory of war pioneered by the United States Department of Defense in the 1990s. It seeks to translate an information advantage, enabled in part by information technology, into a competitive advantage through the robust computer networking of well informed geographically dispersed forces.
  27. Network centric warfare can trace its immediate origins to 1996 when Admiral William Owens introduced the concept of a ‘system of systems’ in a paper published by the Institute for National Security Studies.
  28. The complex histories of computer science and computer engineering were shaped, in the first decades of digital computing, almost entirely by military funding.
  29. In 1996, the Joint Chiefs of Staff released Joint Vision 2010, which introduced the military concept of full-spectrum dominance. Full Spectrum Dominance described the ability of the US military to dominate the battlespace from peace operations through to the outright application of military power that stemmed from the advantages of information superiority.
  30. 1997: The US carries out its first test of an anti-satellite laser.
  31. The 21st century saw amazing advancements in weapondry: ballistic and guided missiles, radar, spy satellites, biological warfare, and cyber warfare.
  32. 2002: For the first time, a high-energy laser is used to shoot down artillery fire.
  33. 2002: The Pulsed Energy Projectile (PEP), a laser that can knock you off your feet, is developed.
  34. The concept of networked swarming warfare was first proposed by Huo Dajun in 2003. Networked swarming warfare (NSW) is the wide-scope maneuver warfare to attack dynamically the enemy in parallel by flexible utilization of “assembly” and “dispersion”, which integrates the multiple forces distributed widely into the operational network with obvious flowing feature in a multi-dimensional space.
  35. 2007: Australian weapons company Metal Storm files a key patent for its gun, which fires a million rounds a minute.
  36. 2007: The US starts working on carrying humans in a supercavitation craft.
  37. In the wake of the 2007 cyberwar waged against Estonia, NATO established the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD CoE) in Tallinn, Estonia, in order to enhance the organization’s cyber defence capability. The center was formally established on 14 May 2008, and it received full accreditation by NATO and attained the status of International Military Organization on 28 October 2008.
  38. 2008: In another milestone for high-energy lasers, the Airborne Laser is fired from an aircraft for the first time.
  39. 2008: Stellar Photonics begins testing of their experimental Plasma Acoustic Shield System, which generates a series of mid-air explosions by blasting balls of plasma with high-powered lasers.
  40. 2009: A US government report advocates using neuroscience to enhance soldiers’ abilities.
  41. Cyberspace: In 2011, the US Defense Department declared cyberspace a new domain of warfare; since then DARPA has begun a research project known as “Project X” with the goal of creating new technologies that will enable the government to better understand and map the cyber territory.
  42. In 2011, the United States spent more (in absolute numbers) on its military than the next 13 nations combined.
  43. In 2016, for the first time ever, the Department of Justice charged Ardit Ferizi with cyber terrorism.
  44. Apparently, Israel has the most technologically advanced military on Earth.

Thanks for reading!

Look forward to the next issues in this series: Warfare & Military Technologies Throughout The Ages: Part 6 – A Complete(ly Interesting) History