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Special Reports

Ranked: Most Powerful Weapons in the World, 2023

Boeing AH-64 Apache

Radical changes to the methods of warfare, including the use of highly advanced and sophisticated weaponry, have marked the 21st century. From the most up-to-date guns to complex drones, the array of destructive tools available to governments and non-state entities has drastically increased.

This article reviews some of the deadliest lethal weapons integral in transforming modern warfare. These powerful weapons of destruction not only possess tremendous destructive potential but also reflect the transforming nature of warfare in the current era.

CEOWORLD Magazine was influenced by the 1964 paper “Historical Trends Related to Weapon Lethality,” which thoroughly appraised weapons’ lethality across different periods in history. The alteration of warfare since the beginning of the 1900s demonstrates the power of modern technology in enabling precise and destructive military activities.

It is imperative to recognize that the legitimacy of certain armaments is uncertain, given that they are forbidden under various worldwide military treaties and accords. However, convincing proof implies that forbidden weapons are still present in worldwide military stashes.

We present this overview of some of the most formidable weapons in the arsenals of nations worldwide, ranging from the most destructive small arms used in close-quarters combat to devastating munitions able to wipe out entire cities. We approach this catalog of weapons with a deep respect for the power they represent.

  1. Nuclear Weapons
    >Type: Nuclear
    In the world today, nine countries currently possess nuclear weapons, including the five major countries that occupy the five permanent slots on the United Nations Security Council. Any discussion about which countries possess nuclear weapons should start by outlining what nuclear weapons are. At its most basic, a nuclear weapon is the most powerful form of explosive known to man. A single modern nuke carries the power of 100,000 (or more) tons of TNT and could kill more than half a million people if detonated in a densely populated area.
  2. Father of All Bombs
    >Type: Bomb
    Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power, nicknamed “Father of All Bombs” (FOAB), is a Russian-designed, bomber-delivered thermobaric weapon. This weapon was claimed to be the most powerful conventional (non-nuclear) weapon in the world, more powerful than GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, which is often unofficially called “Mother of All Bombs” or MOAB.
  3. GBU-43/B MOAB
    >Type: Bomb
    The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB”Mother of all bombs”) is a large-yield bomb, developed for the United States military. It was first tested in 2003. At the time of development, it was said to be the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the American arsenal.
  4. Lockheed AC-130
    This gunship specializes in close air support and armed reconnaissance, featuring side-firing weapons such as 40mm and 105mm cannons and 25mm Gatling guns. The AC-130 orbits battlefields, delivering powerful firepower to engage targets.
  5. AH-64 Apache
    >Type: Attack Helicopter
    According to Boeing, the Apache helicopter is the world’s most advanced attack helicopter, developed in 1984. It has seen extensive use in U.S. military operations worldwide, armed with 16 Hellfire missiles, 76 2.75-inch rockets, and a 30mm chain gun firing over 600 rounds per minute.
  6. AN/SEQ-3
    >Type: Laser weapons system (LaWS)
    Laser weapons, previously a common theme in science fiction, have transitioned into the realm of reality. Mounted on U.S. naval vessels, this system can unleash a concentrated 30,000-watt laser capable of shooting down fast-moving targets like UAVs at sea. It can also ignite and detonate enemy explosives and armaments on vessels, delivering devastating force.
  7. F-22 Raptor
    >Type: Fighter jet
    The F-22 Raptor, among the most technologically advanced fighter jets, offers versatile configurations for various missions, including air-to-air combat and air-to-ground attacks. It carries a range of weapons, including bombs and laser-guided missiles. The F-22’s engines provide unparalleled thrust, allowing supersonic cruising without afterburners.
  8. Fire Scout
    >Type: Helicopter drone
    The Fire Scout, a Northrop Grumman helicopter drone, carries the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, including Hydra 70 unguided rockets with a laser guidance kit. With over 10 hours of endurance and a range exceeding 1,000 nautical miles, it has seen extensive real-world use.
  9. M3E1
    >Type: Multi-purpose Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System (MAAWS)
    The M3E1 boasts of eliminating both lightly armored targets at ranges of up to 500 meters and soft targets at distances of up to 800 meters. Its explosive ammunition effectively targets various objectives, including vehicles and structures.
  10. MQ-9 Reaper
    >Type: Drone
    Drone warfare, led by the U.S., has grown significantly, with the MQ-9 Reaper being a standout. Part of a drone series, it has conducted strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond, armed with up to four Hellfire II anti-armor missiles and two laser-guided bombs, effectively eliminating global targets.
  11. Nimitz-class Aircraft Carrier
    >Type: Aircraft carrier
    The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is the crown jewel of the U.S. Navy and a globally unmatched water vessel. Operating as a floating city, it accommodates over 3,000 crew members and 1,500 aircraft personnel, including fighter jets, prepared for immediate action. With a focus on prolonged bombardment and 50-year service life, it’s giving way to the Ford class, with the USS Gerald R. Ford scheduled for deployment on October 3rd.
  12. Ohio-class Nuclear Submarine
    >Type: Nuclear Submarine
    Ohio-class nuclear submarines, armed with devastating missiles and nuclear bombs, including up to 154 Tomahawk missiles, Mk48 torpedoes, and nuclear missiles, provide the U.S. with a covert, globally capable strike platform. The Columbia class will replace them in the next decade.
  13. 3M22 Zircon
    >Type: Cruise missile
    3M22 Zircon (or 3M22 Tsirkon) is a scramjet powered maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile produced by Russia for the Russian Navy, with launch platforms on frigates and submarines.
  14. RS-28 Sarmat
    >Type: Intercontinental ballistic missile
    The RS-28, known as Satan II, is a Russian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of 18,000 kilometers. With a three-stage, liquid-fueled design, it offers versatile warhead options, including 10 large warheads, 16 smaller ones, a mix of warheads and countermeasures, or hypersonic boost-glide vehicles, as reported by Russia.
  15. S-400 Triumf
    >Type: Surface-to-air missile system
    The S-400 Triumf, a Russian mobile surface-to-air missile system, can engage aircraft, UAVs, and cruise missiles. It boasts a range of approximately 250 to 400 kilometers and employs high-explosive fragmentation warheads. These systems are in high demand, with China and India purchasing battalions from Russia.
  16. TOS-1
    >Type: Multiple Launch Rocket System
    The TOS-1, a Russian heavy flamethrower system in service since 2001, saw use in Chechnya, Crimea in 2014, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It provides direct fire support and clears buildings, fortifications, and bunkers, akin to multiple-launch rocket systems with various rockets.
  17. UGM-133 Trident II
    >Type: Submarine-launched ballistic missile
    The Trident II, a submarine-launched intercontinental-range ballistic missile, is housed in the Ohio-class submarines of the United States. The warheads have payloads ranging from 100 kilotons to 475 kilotons. In contrast, the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons, while Tridents are orders of magnitude larger.
  18. F-35 Lightning II
    >Type: Fighter jet
    he F-35 Lightning II is a single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft, fifth generation, with reduced visibility. It is intended for dominance in the airspace, the fight against targets on land and sea, as well as for performing reconnaissance tasks.
  19. BrahMos
    >Type: Cruise missile
    BrahMos (PJ-10) is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, fighter aircraft or TEL. The BrahMos is notably the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world. The high speed of the BrahMos likely gives it better target-penetration characteristics than lighter subsonic cruise-missiles, such as Tomahawk. Being twice as heavy and almost four times as fast as Tomahawk, the BrahMos has more than 32 times the on-cruise kinetic energy of a Tomahawk missile.

When we consider the destructive capacity of these tools of war, we must emphasize the importance of nations exercising restraint and advocating for a peaceful resolution. Let us reaffirm our commitment to creating a more secure and tranquil global environment.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Special Reports - Ranked: Most Powerful Weapons in the World, 2023
Alexandra Dimitropoulou

Alexandra Dimitropoulou

VP and News Editor
Alexandra Dimitropoulou is a VP and News Editor at CEOWORLD magazine, working to build and strengthen the brand’s popular, consumer-friendly content. In addition to running the company’s website, CEOWORLD magazine, which aims to help CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and other C-level executives get smarter about how they earn, save and spend their money, she also sits on the Board of Directors of the Global Business Policy Institute. She can be reached on email You can follow her on Twitter at @ceoworld.