Encyclopedia of Military Technology and Innovation

Encyclopedia of Military Technology and Innovation

Encyclopedia of Military Technology and Innovation

Encyclopedia of Military Technology and Innovation


From the Abrams M1 tank to the zeppelin, this essential reference details the invention and evolution of nearly 600 of the most important advances in military technology from prehistory to the present. International in scope, it covers weapons, ammunition, defenses, land vehicles, aircraft, ships, detection, stealth, gear, supplies, weapons of mass destruction, and much more. Whether researching such cutting-edge technologies as the B-2 Stealth Bomber, Patriot Missile, and the Roborat project or such historical topics as forts, Molotov cocktails, or the U-2, Encyclopedia of Military Technology and Innovation is a must-have reference.


Few things have occasioned such human misery as military technology; it may reasonably be argued that all our lives would have been better, without, for example, the bayonet or Semtex. Yet this is but part of the story, for military technology has done much to shape all human history, and the human race and the arms race seem inextricably entwined. Catapults, swords, armor and arrows helped to define medieval Europe; sailing ships and gunpowder both reshaped European society and made European states masters of much of the world. The rifle in the hands of individuals was one factor that helped bring about American independence, leaving a constitutional legacy that is still debated today. The Civil War would have been totally different without the rifle, ironclad, field fortifications, and mortars.

World War I was first brought to a standstill by the technologies of artillery, machine guns, and barbed wire—then rekindled by tanks, aircraft, new shells, and new tactics. The early part of World War II was dominated by the existence of German tanks and dive bombers, the latter part by American and British aircraft, Russian tanks, code-breaking machinery, and finally the atomic bomb. “Mutually assured destruction” could not have brought the strange but lethal stability of the Cold War without the strategic bomber or the nuclear missile. Vietnam might have been a different war, or no war at all, without belief in military technology. More recently technology appears to have acquired the power to mollify the voters of the democracies in difficult situations. In the Gulf in 1991, “smart” bombs and cruise missiles were expended instead of coalition lives, leaving superior armored forces at an advantage.

At the time of writing the same has so far been largely true of Afghanistan, where unmanned surveillance, daisy-cutter bombs, and a very small number of special forces units have taken the place of the “big battalions” and plane loads of body bags. Sadly this may be less true of Iraq. Whether the development of artificially intelligent systems and unmanned craft will continue apace remains to be seen. If it does, the world of movie science fiction, in which men do battle with machines, never actually seeing a human adversary, may not be so far away. Whether such engagements could ever solve anything remains an open question. Fighting machines do not yet perform satisfactorily many of the tasks that are the province of infantry on the ground; still less are they capable of winning “hearts and minds.”

On a more hopeful note, the nightmare chemical and biological “weapons of mass destruction” have so far proved gratifyingly ineffective. Inept “anthrax by post” has killed fewer innocent bystanders than have misfits who rampage with conventional weapons. Gas has continued to be as difficult to target effectively as it was in 1915. So far, terrorist groups have also failed to master nuclear weaponry—but this is undoubtedly an area that demands continuous vigilance.

Even if we feel untouched by these great dramas of history, military technology has still had a major influence on all our lives. Early social organization was a product not only of tribe, survival, and genetics but the ability to provide warriors, weapons, horses, and other

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