The pilum, which played a vital role in the rise of the Roman Empire. The longbow, which made England a medieval superpower. The Minie ball, which revolutionized 19th century firearm capabilities. Three ranged weapons that transformed combat over the course of thousands of years. What was the secret to their lethal success? Through unique experiments with weapons experts, we reveal how they worked and how, over the centuries, ranged weapons evolved in accuracy and in the distances they can travel.
Warfare enters a new dimension with the attack from above, transporting war up in the air. Early on, archers besieged with devastating incendiary arrows, and long before airplanes were invented, smart medieval army commanders designed rockets. Bomb attacks have become a significant part of vicious war tactics since WWI, and as A.I. becomes increasingly independent, war drones could soon autonomously decide when to strike.
Hand-to-hand combat is warfare at its most visceral. Since ancient times, soldiers on the battlefield have relied on specialized weapons to survive this form of fighting. Military experts explore some of history's most effective weapons, from the Gladius, the short sword Roman legionaries relied on for centuries, to the medieval war hammer, to the bayonet, a firearm still being used today.
One weapon helped Alexander the Great lead the underdog Macedonians to defeat the once invincible Persian Empire. Another helped commoners take down experienced knights from their horses, revolutionizing European warfare in the Middle Ages. And another, used today by guerrilla fighters and terrorists, has claimed more victims than nuclear bombs. Examine three weapons that can cause immense damage with very little training: the pike, the crossbow, and the AK-47 rifle. Discover the secrets behind their effectiveness.
Since humans began fighting one another, quickness and mobility have been key factors in determining victory or defeat. Experts take a hands-on look at three weapons that were built for speed. Discover the history of the two-wheeled chariot, a weapons system developed by the Hyksos before the Egyptians and Romans perfected it. Examine and test how a simple range weapon--the sling--rocked its enemy at speeds of 116. And see how small handguns like the revolver changed warfare forever.
New weapons with devastating force shaped the wars of the 20th century. Weapons experts test the Maxim machine gun, explain its impact on modern warfare, and explore the psychological effects experienced by soldiers who faced them in battle. See how grenades were used to counteract trench warfare in World War I, and how the horrible injuries they caused led to one of the world's most important medications. And examine a war machine that is considered a symbol of power: the tank.
War at sea is a unique form of warfare requiring new tactics and arsenal. We look at three revolutionary weapons: Greek fire, developed by the Byzantine Empire to fight back Arab ships; the cannon, used by the British Royal Navy to defeat Spain; and the torpedo, which dominated the seas during the World Wars. Join an international team of experts as they reinvent ancient formulas and follow 17th century construction plans to recreate weapons used in past sea battles and put them to the test.
Ambushing the enemy with weapons that stay undetected until their very strike can be an insidious, but efficient, military strategy. A team of weapons experts takes a look at three such inventions: the ancient Roman's caltrop, iron spikes spread across battlefields to bring horses and soldiers to their knees; the Dreyse needle gun, which changed the tactics of future armies; and the landmine, an age-old weapon lethally improved by modern technology.
As technology evolved over the centuries, inventors and engineers upgraded weapons and influenced the course of global history. Join military and weapons experts as they examine three deadly inventions that heightened bloodshed in battle: the scorpio, an ancient missile launcher used by the Romans; the longsword, intrinsically tied to the medieval world of knights; and the Henry rifle, which influenced warfare thanks to its revolutionary reloading design.
Explore inventions that were used to recklessly attack civilian populations. Discover the trebuchet, a siege weapon that dominated medieval battlefields. Follow the evolution of biological and chemical weapons, from the hellebore roots of ancient Greece to anthrax following the 9/11 terror attacks. And examine the most lethal means of mass destruction, nuclear bombs, as experts speculate on the future impact of cyber warfare.