It’s been a rough year, and while this is Motherboard and we like to provide our readers with factual, analytical content, it’s worth noting that the world is getting some really scary and pretty insane new ways to kill that have been developed and tested in 2016. Here are some of the scariest.
In November, the Chinese military pushed the boundaries of air-to-air missile technology by test firing a brand new hypersonic missile, with reports of the atmospheric lance having a range of more than 300 miles.
The missile, spotted on the wing of a Chinese J-16 fighter, is estimated to be almost 20 feet long, and belongs in a missile category dubbed VLRAAM (very long range air-to-air missile).
As Popular Science noted, the missile has a longer range than any current US or NATO air to air missiles, and with speeds clocking Mach 6, this “aerial artillery” would be difficult to escape. Launched at altitudes of 40,000 feet or higher, a powerful rocket engine propels the missile up to heights approaching 100,000 feet, where it encounters less air resistance and reaches its dizzying speeds. The test firing was a success, according to scant, approved press leaks from China, and a drone was destroyed at long range over Chinese airspace.
The US Air Force’s ever-so-top-secret X-37B, or in Motherboard’s terms ‘scary space drone’, launched for its fourth mission on top of an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral on May 20 2015. The mission is designated OTV-4, and the X-37B is still to this day orbiting the Earth testing a type of ion-based propulsion engines called Hall thrusters, as well as carrying out long-term spaceflight tests for NASA.
Aside from these tests though, there’s not much information about some alleged ‘other’ secret experiments that might be happening on the uncrewed space vehicle, which is now hundreds of days past OTV-4’s initial 200 day length. Some suggest it’s a cutting-edge spy satellite, while others purport the Boeing X-37’s real mission is to test bombing from space. Whatever it’s really doing up there, you can track it right from here.
Depending on where you read it, Russia’s new SATAN 2 nuclear missile can wipe out Texas, France, or Great Britain. I suppose it doesn’t really matter exactly what it can wipe out though because if this terror ever gets launched we’ll all be dead anyway in the ensuing global thermonuclear retaliation. Cheery, huh!?
The SATAN 2, officially called the RS-28 Sarmat (SATAN is its NATO namesake) is a Russian super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) equipped with a thermonuclear warhead. Development began back in 2009, but in August of this year, Russia conducted a successful test of the SATAN’s first-stage motor, subsequently declassifying an image of the missile.
The weapon has a reported range of just over 6,000 miles, and can deliver a payload of 10,000kg at speeds approaching Mach 7. Speaking at a press conference in 2014, Russia’s General Colonel Yesin said the ICBM gives Russia the opportunity to “deliver warheads and strikes from different directions including shipping units via the South Pole.” Excellent.
Sometimes you just need to take technology back to basics. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so the saying goes. Which is presumably why Russian military unveiled a giant gun on the back of a truck this September, called Phlox.
Shown off at the annual Army forum in Russia, the Phlox is essentially a 120mm howitzer cannon mounted onto a Ural-4320 armored wagon. It’s specifically for taking down moving and stationery targets with high-explosive shells, according to Russian news service Sputnik. “We managed to install a powerful gun on wheels,” designer Denis Kirishev told Sputnik.
The medieval war machine can carry up to 80 rounds, and the turret can rotate through 360 degree. There’s also a bonus 12.7mm machine gun mounted on top of the truck, presumably to pick off any close-ranging infantry. The Phlox will likely see trials soon in Russia’s new proving grounds of the Crimea and Syria.
Yes, indeed, the Big [REDACTED] Gun. One of the best video game weapons ever made a comforting return this year with the release of Doom (2016).
“The first person shooter’s first and best super weapon,” Motherboard’s Emanuel Maiberg said. “Press nine and click to make all your problems go away.”
It’s true. I spent many hours literally shitting myself through the original Doom as a seven-year-old lusting after the BFG, knowing it could help make all my problems disappear back to hell with a click of my finger. To see it make a comeback in 2016 was a pure joy. In the original Doom, the BFG9000 shot huge globules of green plasma that had were one-shot kill ANY adversary, pretty much. It’s also super useful for wiping out groups of monsters as plasma energy arcs off the main shot. Rest assured, the world would be a disaster if such a handheld gun existed in real life.