Special Report

The 18 Deadliest Weapons of All Time

As weapons have evolved over time, they have becoming increasingly more destructive and deadly. From bows and arrows in the 14th century, to the introduction of guns shortly after, to ships, planes, and the atomic bomb.

To identify history’s deadliest weapon, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the “Quantification Related to Weapon Lethality” section from the report “HIstorical Trends Related to Weapon Lethality,” issued in 1964 by the Historical Evaluation and Research Organization for the U.S. Army Combat Developments Command. The report rates the lethal potential of various weapons by quantifiable measures such as the number of potential targets per strike, relative effect, effective range, accuracy, reliability, and mobility.

The evolution in the lethality of weapons point to the rapid advancements in technology since the Industrial Revolution. The sword, for example, was used for thousands of years in numerous different forms and cultures, and it still has a ceremonial place in military life. On the other hand, many of the weapons used in World War I were already obsolete by the start of World War II.

Many military advancements have come from scientific breakthroughs in other areas. For example, the airplane, initially conceived simply as a means of rapid transportation, was quickly adapted for use in warfare. (These warplanes fly faster than the speed of sound.)

The deadliest weapon of all time was the 25-megaton hydrogen bomb. Its lethality index score is an astonishing 210,000,000,000. For context, the sword has a lethality score of 20.
Created in the manic arms race of the Cold War, the B-41 hydrogen bomb is the deadliest weapon on the list. The bomb is capable of destruction on a colossal scale. Its 25-megaton payload is equivalent to 25 million tons of TNT, and significantly more powerful than Fat Man’s 20 kilotons of destructive power dropped on Nagasaki in WWII. The bomb entered U.S. military service in 1961 and was retired in 1976. It is important to note that around that time Russia tested the Tsar Bomba – a 50 megatons hydrogen bomb. It is considered the most powerful nuclear weapon ever built.

Click here to see history’s deadliest weapons

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