Cutting-edge military tech that will scare you to death

Stay indoors and close the windows

You may not have noticed if you've been fixated on the yearly iPhone cycle, but technological advancements are affecting all areas of our lives - and that includes military operations. It's where a lot of the big government bucks are spent on research.

If you're not already privy to some of the advanced, cutting-edge tech now available on (or coming soon to) the battlefield, we're here to enlighten you: you'd just better hope that these bits of futuristic kit are fighting for your side and not against you in the future...

BigDog robot


Developed by a company called Boston Dynamics which is now owned by Google, BigDog is a lumbering, rather scary-looking quadruped that you wouldn't want chasing after you through the woods in the dead of night. In fact, it's not designed to do any hunting and chasing - well, not yet, anyway.

BigDog's party trick is being able to cross multiple types of terrain (sand, snow, desert, forest) without stumbling over. As a result it can deliver supplies and equipment to soldiers out in the field in places where helicopters can't reach, as well as enter areas where it would be dangerous to send humans.

LaWS Laser Weapon System


The US Navy has been using LaWS for a little over a year: a high-powered cannon that can blast boats, drones and other aircraft to bits from a mile away. There you are, casually looking to initiate a raid on a government warship, when suddenly BAM! You're sunk by a targeted ray of pure energy from LaWS.

You might compare it to the Death Stars from Star Wars but we couldn't possibly comment. It's controlled by a console vaguely resembling a gamepad, works through tough weather conditions and can bring about obliteration in just a matter of seconds. It might be best just to stay on land for the time being.

CornerShot gun


Quite literally a gun that can fire around corners, which means you're never going to see the person shooting at you before you're taken down. Okay, it looks odd and might be a little unwieldy to carry in practice, but this weapon has been in active service for the last few years and is available in several variations.

The frame of the gun is flexible so soldiers can configure it to look left, right, up or down using the integrated display screen: it certainly makes clearing out rooms and buildings a lot safer for the person behind it. If you're not already slightly unnerved by the gun, note this - it can be used as a grenade launcher too.

Self-steering bullets


While we're on the topic of guns that can shoot around corners, what about smart bullets that can change their path in the air to hit their targets? It certainly takes the pressure out of having to aim accurately, but means you stand less of a chance if you start running (or driving) off in the opposite direction.

The US military agency DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is being tight-lipped about the technology behind the bullets, but it's thought a combination of lasers and tiny fins are used to guide them home. Successful trials have already taken place and these bullets could see active service soon.

Active Denial System


This one won't kill you, but you'll certainly feel the effects. The Active Denial System (ADS) can be placed atop a tank, jeep or perimeter wall, blasting out directed bursts of energy that warm your skin (it's informally known as the heat ray). Think a water cannon but instead of water you're slowly getting burned up.

Another way of thinking about it is that you're temporarily placed inside a microwave oven, and that's going to inhibit your chances of making an attack or leaping over the prison walls. Apparently when you're back out of range, your skin returns to normal - but we'd rather not have to test those claims in person.

XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) System


You may think you're safe hiding behind a wall or inside a building, but you won't be once the XM25 arrives next year. It's an airburst grenade launcher designed to fire off grenades at high speed and with particular accuracy - and thanks to the laser rangefinder on board it can even spot enemy targets who are hidden.

It's one of the first 'smart' guns to be developed by the US military and the electronics packed into the gun help the grenades find their target unerringly - if the weapon needs to make adjustments for walls or terrain, then it can do that. Like self-steering bullets, it gives you much less chance of getting away.

High-speed tracking drones


Good luck trying to outrun one of DARPA's latest autonomous drones: they look like the kind of toys you might have got at Christmas but they can automatically swerve around obstacles and reach speeds of up to 45mph, which means you don't stand much chance of being able to escape from one of them.

For now these super-fast drones are just being tested, but the technology is getting smarter all the time. The Agency is also working on drones that can dissolve in air or water once they've completed their missions, and it's all part of the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program currently running at DARPA.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.