Special Report

America's Oldest Weapons Still in Use by the Military

Source: Jesse Stephens / iStock via Getty Images

21. M109 Howitzer
> Year put into service: 1962
> Type: self-propelled artillery
> Designer/original manufacturer: United Defense

The 28-ton, 30-foot long M109 Paladin is a self-propelled artillery system that, as the name implies, does not require a tow vehicle like conventional artillery weapons. It is essentially a continuous track tank with a 155mm artillery gun as a turret. Operated by a six-person crew, the Paladin can lob six rounds per minute at targets up to 11 miles away. It is defended from close-range fire by a .50 caliber M2 heavy machine gun, another one of America’s oldest weapons that is still in service.

20. M88 Hercules
> Year put into service: 1961
> Type: Armored recovery vehicle
> Designer/original manufacturer: Bowen McLaughlin York

The Hercules series Armored Recovery Vehicle is one of the world’s most powerful tow trucks. This armored support vehicle is basically a tank without a turret whose primary role is to recover damaged or stuck armored vehicles, including tanks, under fire. The Hercules is protected by a mounted .50 caliber machine gun and smoke grenade dischargers that can hide the vehicle in a cloud of white smoke.

Source: U.S. Air Force / Public Domain

19. RC-135S Cobra Ball
> Year put into service: 1961
> Type: Reconnaissance aircraft
> Designer/original manufacturer: Boeing

The RC-135S Cobra Ball conducts missions under the direct order of the White House Joint Chiefs of Staff, collecting visual and electronic data on ballistic targets. The core task of this militarized Boeing 707 is to verify treaty compliance by collecting intelligence that is not acquirable by other means – intel that goes right to the president. A typical crew consists of two pilots and a navigator, plus a team of mission specialists, electronic warfare officers, and systems engineers.

18. M72 LAW
> Year put into service: 1961
> Type: Anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher
> Designer/original manufacturer: FA Spinale, CB Weeks and PV Choate

During World War II, the Germans were the first to introduce the bazooka into combat. By the Vietnam War, the United States had developed an effective shoulder-fired lightweight anti-tank weapon, or LAW. The M72 series of disposable, single-shot rocket launchers can fire different kinds of ordnance used against tanks and other mobile land vehicles. The weapon has a dangerous backblast of a least 45 feet from the open back end of the firing tube.

Source: mtcurado / iStock via Getty Images

17. M113 APC
> Year put into service: 1960
> Type: Armored personnel carrier
> Designer/original manufacturer: FMC Corporation

The Vietnam War-era M113 armored personnel carrier has played an important role in moving Ukrainian soldiers during their defense against Russian invaders. This 12-ton tracked APC can travel at speeds up to 42 miles per hour, carrying 11 soldiers and a driver. The APC is protected by a mounted M2 .50 caliber machine gun and a 7.62mm M6 machine gun fired from inside the cabin.

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