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10 Horrible Weapons That Are Still in Use
By Adrian Chirila,
Toptenz, 16 December 2015.

Today we’re going to talk about weapons which have been developed over the years and can only be described as being invented by heartless maniacs, bent solely on human suffering. These weapons are of course very effective in what they do, and this is probably why they were designed in the first place. Nevertheless, the power some of these weapons have and the suffering they bring can’t even come close to justifying using them. Many are in the process of being banned or have active campaigns to outlaw them. Some have even become part of our everyday life and we don’t even notice them anymore. Here are just a few…

10. Barbed Wire


While the Pamela Anderson movie was indeed an affront to humanity, that’s not what we’re taking about here. Originally intended as a means to keep cows in their confinement, barbed wire was invented by Joseph Glidden, an American cattle rancher, in 1874. Soon after, some people saw the potential such an invention can have on the battlefield and began using it in wars as a means to protect certain strategic key points. But nowhere was barbwire used more intensively and with more devastating effects than WWI.

It is estimated that by the end of the war in 1918, at least one million miles of it were laid throughout Flanders alone. That’s enough to encircle the planet 40 times. The 400 mile long trench line between the Allies and the Central Powers was so heavily intertwined with the stuff that in some places barbed wire entanglements could extend as much as 300 feet into No Man’s Land. While barbed wire was primarily intended to stop the enemy troops from getting within grenade throwing distance from the trench, it was also used to funnel the enemy into pre-arranged machine-gun sites.

The exact number of people killed by barbwire is unknown, but a lot of reports came back from the front line talking about soldiers getting stuck in those entanglements and dying hours or even days later from their wounds or by the mercy of an enemy soldier. Since then barbed wire has become a symbol for oppression and is used by every military around the world. Not only that, but its uses extend well into civilian life and it’s safe to say that there is almost no person alive today who hasn’t seen barbwire at least once.

9. Hollow Point Bullets


The hollow point bullet is among the most controversial items on this list. The difference between it and a regular bullet is that this one, as its name suggests, has a pit or hollowed out shape in its tip, compared to a regular one which is rounded out.

This makes a tremendous difference when the bullet hits its target. Instead of “punching through,” make a hole and probably get out the other side, the hollow point ammunition and its more advanced variant, the Radically Invasive Projectile (RIP), splits off into nine different directions at the moment of impact. This will leave the victim with massive internal damage and bleeding, as shards of the bullet spread out throughout his entire body. Being hit by a bullet such as this can spell almost certain death, as it is extremely difficult for surgeons to stop the bleeding and remove all the pieces in time.

This type of ammunition is so deadly and downright evil that all major countries have agreed to ban it in warfare as early as 1899 at the Hague Convention. All countries with the exception on the United States. Even though it’s not standard issue to have hollow point bullets in the US Army, this type of ammo is used by the police in several states around the country and is heavily marketed to the general public in those states as “the safest ammunition for self-defense.” What’s even worse is that, not only doesn’t the hollow point get any closer to being banned from the street; it’s also considered by the US Army to be standard ammo in sidearms by 2018.

8. HEAT Ammunition


High-Explosive Anti-Tank Ammo or simply HEAT is a type of ammunition which has been in use since the second World War. Discovered by accident when testing the effects of explosives on concrete walls and steel plating, HEAT shells don’t use kinetic energy to penetrate armor, but rather their inside shape. By placing a hollow diamond shaped copper cone in front of an explosive charge, on impact the whole energy generated is funneled in just one small point, instead of dissipating in all directions.

This way a smaller charge can be used and the hot stream of particles, travelling at a speed 25 times greater than the speed of sound, can melt right through a tank’s armor plating, spraying the crew inside with molten metal. Not relying on the projectile’s velocity to do its job, HEAT ammo is mostly used by infantry. Bazookas, RPGs, Panzerfausts and all other rocket or grenade launchers, use this kind of ammo. Today tanks have an added protection against these rounds, but they are still very effective against light-armored personnel transporters.

7. Chlorine Gas


Chemical warfare has been banned since the atrocities that took place during WWI. That was the time when systematic chemical warfare came into being as well as when it stopped…theoretically. Since then the Nazis were the ones who used poisoned gas to kill off people in the Holocaust, as well as the Japanese against people from China. After WWII chemical weapons of different sorts have been used in some rare and isolated conflicts around the world.

More recently however different reports have surfaced showing that at least one side in this whole Syrian conflict has been using chlorine gas as a weapon on entire villages. Chemical compounds in chlorine gas are acid-forming and have a pronounced effect on the respiratory system, flooding it and often times resulting in suffocation. Moreover, survivors of such an attack will most likely suffer chronic breathing problems. What is frightening here is that in desperation and war, people will often times resort to horrible means of achieving their goals and it seems that chlorine gas and chemical warfare might even make a comeback.

6. Depleted Uranium


Depleted uranium (DU) is the waste that’s left behind after a process known as nuclear enrichment, creating fuel for a nuclear reactor. Depleted uranium is very dense, 68% more so than lead, and it just happens to be lying around after the enrichment process. It has several civilian uses such as shielding for radiography cameras, trimming weights in airplanes, colouring for dental porcelain, and as sampling calorimeters for use in particle physics.

Nevertheless, its main use is in manufacturing weapons. Its density makes it ideal for armor, armor piercing bullets and tank shells. All good so far, but when firing such a weapon, once it hits, the uranium fractures in several shards and a fine powder so hot, it burns in contact with air, forming a huge fire ball. This dust then flies into the atmosphere and then settles on the ground, becoming a huge health hazard. Even though depleted, DU has a weak radiation output which becomes highly dangerous in powder form. If ingested either by breathing it in or drinking it in water, it can have horrible effects.

Parts of the Balkans and Iraq, places where these weapons have been used extensively, have reported a steep rise in child leukemia and birth defects. Even though these types of weapons are still used on a wide scale, the UN has recommended that these weapons fall in the category of chemical weapons, thus making their use illegal.

5. Napalm Bombs


A napalm bomb is a firebomb fuel gel mixture, which has a gel-like consistency allowing it to stick to targets. Used in combination with gasoline or kerosene and incased in a thin aluminum shell, a napalm bomb burns at temperatures greater than 5,000 degrees F (2,760 C) when ignited. Making its debut in WWII, napalm was used by the US Air force over Tokyo in the later stages of the war, killing an estimated of 100,000 people and razing 15 square miles of the city to the ground. Allied forces also bombed Dresden with napalm in February, 1945, killing somewhere between 35,000 and 135,000 German civilians. But its most intensive use was during the Korea and Vietnam Wars.

Since they’re quite inaccurate, napalm bombs are classified as “dumb bombs” and are mainly effective against fortified positions like bunkers, caves and tunnels, as well as vehicles, convoys, small bases, structures or even entire forests. They’re also appreciated for the fear they instill in the enemy. Besides adhering to the skin and causing hard to treat second or third degree burns, napalm also produces toxic gases, fatal if inhaled. Also burning the oxygen around the blast area, it is very likely for people to die just from asphyxiation alone. There have even been reports of people jumping into rivers in order to escape the hellish fire, only to boil in the water because of the extremely high temperatures.

Protocol III of the 1980 United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons forbade the use of napalm or any other incendiary weapon on civilians, but the United States, even if it ratified the convention, isn’t part of Protocol III. Using this highly destructive weapon is controversial at best and many nations frowned upon the US for using it in both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars of the past decade.

4. White Phosphorus


White phosphorus (WP) is a chemical compound often used in warfare as artillery shells and grenades in order to create smoke so it can provide cover, or sometimes even used as a marker to illuminate certain targets. This sounds innocent enough and might as well save lives by using it in this manner, but unfortunately this is not the only use for white phosphorus in military operations. Willy Pete, as it is named in military jargon, when in contact with air, spontaneously ignites and burns at tremendously high temperatures.

The white smoke it produces is a result of phosphorus pentoxide coming in contact with moisture in the air or, let’s say, a person. When this happens, phosphoric acid is formed. WP continues to burn until it runs out of oxygen or the substance is depleted. Besides being toxic if inhaled, WP literally melts its way down to the bone when in contact with live tissue.

This weapon falls in the same category as napalm and is under fairly strict regulations of the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. What we mean by “fairly” is the fact that, even though white phosphorus is allowed in war, and only against military objectives, it can only kill with its burning properties, not its chemical ones. Though denying it at first, Israel admitted using WP on both military and civilian targets in their 2008-2009 offensives in Gaza.

3. Cluster Bombs

Among the most indiscriminate weapons out there, cluster bombs are very close to the top. Dropped out of an airplane flying by, a single bomb suddenly transforms into hundreds or even thousands smaller ones, covering an area the size of three football fields. Now, either intentional or by accident, 30 percent or higher of these don’t go off and can lie dormant for years or even decades, just waiting for an unfortunate someone to step on or pick them up.

They aren’t designed to destroy buildings, but rather to hit infantry, roads or airstrips. They can also lay down minefields and patiently wait for their target to come to them. Because of this, cluster bombs are a haphazard and collateral damage is an almost guarantee. Many countries around the world still suffer their plight, years after their conflicts have ended. It is estimated that between 2010 and 2014, 92 percent of all cluster bomb casualties were civilian, half of whom were children.

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq over 1,500 cluster bombs were detonated over Baghdad, some of which ended up in residential areas. US Air Force General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers declared that only one civilian was reported to being killed in the attack. What he was referring to were air-launched cluster bombs, but he did omit to talk about the surface-launched ones, which are believed to have caused many more civilian casualties.

In 2008 a UN convention banned the use of these weapons and more than 100 countries, including the UK have signed it. Other countries like the US, Russia, China, India and Pakistan have not. Moreover, recent evidence point out that Russia has used a new type of cluster bomb over Syria in an attack against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, plaguing the country for years to come.

2. Nuclear Missiles

Nuclear missiles are the most terrifying things we have ever built. Coming so close to wiping ourselves off the face of the planet during the Cold War, it would have made sense to us to rid ourselves of this horrific danger always looming in the background. Well, that didn’t happen and there is still enough nuclear arsenal in the world to wipe out all life as we know it, ten times over. Of the roughly 16,000 nuclear warheads in existence, more than 90 percent belong to Russia and the United States. Of these, 10,000 are in military service while the rest await dismantlement. Other countries with nuclear capabilities include France, China, the UK, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea.

Most of us know or have heard about the devastating effects a nuclear detonation can have, and pretty much anyone has seen at least one such explosion somewhere on TV or the internet, so it’s no point in giving you any more details. Even though nuclear weapons haven’t been used in active warfare since the end of WWII by the US against Japan, many test detonations have been performed all around the globe since then. These tests ended in 1998 with both India and Pakistan detonating such weapons for the first time. In 2006 however, North Korea detonated its own nuclear bomb. Though small in comparison with what’s out there, they have since performed two more tests in 2009 and 2013, with the former being 50 times more powerful than the one 7 years earlier.

Efforts are being made to reduce the number of these extremely dangerous warheads, and hopefully one day, eliminate them completely. However progress is slow at best and given the secretive nature with which most governments treat information about their nuclear arsenals, ridding ourselves of them will be a very long process.

Nuclear missiles may not have the Death Star’s capability to take out an entire planet, but they can certainly take out a sizable chunk of one.

1. MIRVs


What can be worse than a nuclear weapon, you may ask? Well, if you were to combine one with a cluster bomb you would end up with a MIRV (Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry Vehicle). As compared to an ordinary nuclear ballistic missile, where one bomb equals one nuclear mushroom, a MIRV flies off at the edge of space, breaks off into a dozen remotely guided bombs, which then fall back to the ground. Being smaller and accompanied by radar confusing flares, these nuclear ordnances are far more difficult to take down.

This technology has been around as early as the 1960’s and was one of the major reasons for the escalation of the nuclear arms race during the Cold War. They would be primarily used to take down fixed targets like missile silos or airstrips, but keeping in mind that these are still nuclear weapons, collateral damage is inevitable. Currently the US Minuteman missile system carries 3 nuclear bombs, while the Trident system, used by both the US and UK, carries twelve. Only one such weapon is enough to wipe most European capital cities off the map completely, killing millions of innocent people in the process.

Top image: Simulated napalm explosion is set off during a US Marine Air ground Task Force demonstration in 2003. Credit: LCpl Andrew Pendracki/US Marine Corps/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Toptenz. Edited. Top image added.]