Although human history spans thousands of years, in a little over 300 years we have moved from bows and arrows, swords and shields to weapons capable of destroying the entire planet.
5300 BC – Horses are first domesticated, on the steppes of Kazakhstan. As well as revolutionising transport in general, horses are instrumental in the history of warfare. Only in the 20th century, with the appearance of rapid-fire weapons such as machine guns, do armies turn away from a reliance on horses.
5000 BC – The Bronze Ageen ables the development of the first metal daggers, and later swords.
500 BC – The traction trebuchet is thought to have been developed in China around this time. Powered by teams of about a dozen people, it could sling balls of rock as far as 125 metres.
800 to 1300 AD – Gunpowder is invented in China. This leads rapidly to a primitive firearm, the “fire lance”, the first rocket and known as the “fire arrow”, and primitive bombs under the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279).
1200 to 1600 – Firearms technology develops rapidly and Egyptian soldiers are the first to use hand cannons and other small arms at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. The Battle of Agincourt marks the zenith of mediaeval longbow technology. An English army with a high proportion of archers decimates a French army five to 10 times larger.
1368 to 1644 – China’s Ming Dynasty drives firearms technology forwards. Developments include the matchlock, which eliminates the need to fire a gun with a hand-held match; the musket; and the naval mine.
1750 to 1800s – Rockets become a permanent fixture on the battlefield, having gone in and out of fashion over the centuries.
1775 – The first submarine used in battle, Turtle, is created by American David Bushnell. The technology remains crude and unsafe for many decades, though several subs are used in the American Civil War (1861 to 1865).
1803 – The British army begins using shrapnel shells (invented earlier by the Chinese), named after their inventor Henry Shrapnel. They contain a large number of bullets released at high velocities on detonation. They are eventually replaced by high-explosive shells during the first world war.
1836 – American inventor Samuel Colt patents a “revolving gun”, which improves on several previous designs. Soon renamed the revolver, it is faster to reload than any other firearm, and remains popular today.
1851 to 1861 – The first machine guns appear. The Belgian army’s multiple-barrelled mitrailleuseis soon followed by the Gatling gun – the first gun that can be continuously fired.
1862 – The USS Monitor, the first iron-clad warship, launches from New York.
1884 – Hiram Stevens Maxim produces the first fully automatic machine gun: the Maxim gun.
1914 – During the first world war, the British army introduces the first tanks and aerial warfare develops.
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.
1952 – The first fusion, or hydrogen, bomb is tested by the US in the Marshall Islands. A single warhead can be thousands of times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb.
1960 – The laser is demonstrated for the first time. Lasers find a myriad of uses in society, and in warfare are used for targeting of missiles and other weapons, and as an alternative to radar.
1960 to 2000 – 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. The US develop their own in 1997 and 10 years later start working on carrying humans in a supercavitation craft.
1997 – The US carries out its first test of an anti-satellite laser.
2002 – For the first time, a high-energy laser is used to shoot down artillery fire. The Pulsed Energy Projectile (PEP), a laser that can knock you off your feet, is developed.
2007 – Australian weapons company Metal Storm files a key patent for its gun, which fires a million rounds a minute.
2008 – In another milestone for high-energy lasers, the Airborne Laser is fired from an aircraft for the first time. Also, Stellar Photonics begins testing of their experimental Plasma Acoustic Shield System, which generates a dazzling series of mid-air explosions by blasting balls of plasma with high-powered lasers.
The Drone Wars
Robotics and artificial intelligence are poised to propel the next stage of military technology development. Unmanned aerial vehicles were initially developed for anti-aircraft training during World War I, and began to be used for reconnaissance in the 1960s. Today at least 30 countries have or are developing armed drones. As military technology continues to advance, robotics and Artificial Intelligence look likely to play an increasingly central role in future warfare.
State Weapons Stockpiles
Government-owned small arms inventories are a major small arms category, covering some 133 million military small arms and about 22.7 million among law enforcement agencies. These also form the largest category stored in coherent stockpiles.
Civilian Weapons Inventories
Most of the world’s 1,013,000 small arms are firearms in civilian hands, which total approximately 857,000. Civilian ownership is the fastest-growing category, as consumers buy more guns and as former military and law enforcement weapons gradually shift into civilian hands.
Lethal violence claimed 560,000 lives in 2016—more than one person every minute of every day of the year.
GENEVA (13 September 2017) — The global authorized small arms trade amounted to at least USD 6 billion in 2014, up from USD 5.8 billion in 2013, according to the Small Arms Survey’s Trade Update 2017: Out of the Shadows.
What does this mean?
This massive global obsession with weapons development and build-up was foretold nearly 3,000 years ago.
Joel 3:10 – Beat your ploughshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, “I am strong!”
What does the Bible tell us about?– The Future
What does this mean for you?– Good News
New Scientist – 7thJuly 2009
TechnologyOrg – 30thJanuary 2018
Small Arms Survey 2017