The Cold War was a time of great military competition between The United and Soviet Union, some of the weapon advancements were huge while others were slightly more subtle. Whats common of all of them is that they shaped the way wars were fought even up until modern times, here are a few of the most ground breaking inventions:


PGM-17 Thor: Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile

Research for the Thor began in 1954, It was develop rather quickly due to its use of preexisting technology such as the its Rocketdyne S-3D engine, which they took from the IRBM Jupiter and Guidance Systems from the Atlas. It's size was determined by it's means of transportation; in other words, it was made to fit the Globemaster transport aircraft. Aside from a few exo-atmospheric nuclear tests, the Thor was never used in combat and was retired in 1964. Later it was resurrected as an anti-satellite missile (re-dubbed the ASAT Thor), but was retired in December of 1975. Prior to that, the Air Defense Command had two of the ASAT Thor's on 24h alert. Eventually the PGM-17s were dissarmed and used as space launch vehicles by NASA.

external image moz-screenshot-2.pngpgm-17a-2.jpg

- The 1st operational IRBM developed by the US
- Powered by a single kerosene and liquid oxygen powered Rocketdyne engine
- Carried a 1.45 megaton thermonuclear warhead
- Maximum Range of 1500 mi. (2400 km)
- Its accuracy ranged from 1000 ft. - 3200 ft.
- Deployment Time: 10 minutes
- 64'x8'
-Also used by Great Britain (qty. 60)

Norden Bombsite

The Bombsight is smaller and less visually impressive than the huge Thor, mentioned above, but it is accredited with playing a huge role in the allied victory of WWII, second only to the Manhattan Project. It was used in conjunction with the Bomber's autopilot to drop a bomb with incredible accuracy (could hit a 30m target from an altitude of 6km). With a powerful asset such as the bombsight, Bombardiers would have to swear an oath never to divulge an information on the sight. The sight was the lasting thing loaded and the first thing taken out of the plane after landing (both activities were supervised by armed guard).


- Developed by Carl Norden during WWII
-Used through WWII, The Korean War and The Vietnam War
- Aided the bomber crew by determining the exact time when the bomb needed to be dropped to hit the target accurately
- Made up of a scope, gyros, and an analog computer
- Said to be able to hit a 100 foot circle from an altitude of 20,000 ft.

Nuclear / Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons

Probably the most iconic Cold War military advancement was the creation of nuclear weaponry. This advancement brought tension to a whole new level for the United States and Soviet Union. During the height of the Cold War everyone was certain nuclear annihilation could happen at any moment. The first two types of nuclear weaponry made were Plutonium and Fission Bombs.
There are two distict ways a nuclear warhead (Bomb, Missile, etc.) can Detonate: Either By Implosion or by the "Gun" method. The Implosion method is probably the most recognizable, the payload detonates when an explosive charge goes off from within its core, generating enough energy to cause the rest of the nuclear weapon to explode. Of the two meathods of detonation, the implosion style detonation is the most reliable and most orthodox. The "Gun" method was the method chosen for the "Little Boy" Nuclear bomb. In this method a charge explodes at the tail of the bomb acting as a hammer (like on a revolver), which shoots a slug (bullet) down the barrel and into the nuclear payload causing it to explode (much like shooting a gun). This particular method, while undoubtedly the more interesting of the two, is also the most unreliable, simply because there are alot more things that could go wrong ( The charge might not go off, the bullet could shatter before it reaches the nuclear material, the barrel might not be aligned properly,causing the slug to miss; etc). Unlike most conventional bombs a nuclear bomb does not detonate when it impacts the ground, but rather explodes high off the ground in order to acheive a wide blast radius and ultimately do the maximum amount of damage possible. To be able to do this, bombs are often put on delay timers, meaning that the bomb will explode a predetermined amount of seconds after it has been dropped.
Nuclear weapons stand in the unique position where they have two function which can work either idependantly or together. One function is, obviously the massive explosion it can generate, unleashing a huge conflagration. The other is a massive emp burst ( or pulse). EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) has the ability to instantaniously and irrepairably fry the circuits of any and all unprotected electronic systems in the vicinity of the blast. It was first discovered in the 1940's when the US detonated a nuclear warhead in the pacific and found that it blew out street lamps in Hawaii, 1000 miles away. That being said, engineers realized that Nuclear EMP could be used as an extremely powerful tool to cripple large, electronically dependant areas, even entire countries, in a single blast. The higher the altitude, the larger the EMP blast radius is. For example, a single well placed nuclear explosion, in the central US, miles above the ground, could nearly compeletly wipe out electronics for the entire US and a substantial portion of Canada and Mexico.

The significance of the technological overhaul during the cold war is that it pushed us into an era of high-technologic dependenant warfare. We are now irreversibly dependant on highly comprehensive and comparatively fragile software and computer systems to run most of the military systems we have now, from a red dot sight to a satelite phone and from thermal goggles to missile launch pads.

The impact technology has on our military is our systems are now more efficient, cheaper to make, and highly comprehensive. Technology allows for a easier training experience and a smoother acclaimation to whatever system a soldier is attempting to use.
Systems are now lighter, more portable and extremely accurate. Also from a humanitarian stand point, the technology boom of the Cold War set the stage for "unmanning the battlefield" meaning that there are more techs out there that do dangerous tasks that humans once had to do, such as reconaissance, airstrikes, bomb defusal and even targeting.

EMP Blast Simulation

Norden Bombsite

  1. J., Mark. Missiles in Cuba: Kennedy, Khrushchev, Castro, and the 1962 crisis. Chicago: Ivan R Dee, 1997. 69. Print.
  2. Hellemans, Alexander, and Bryan H. The timetables of science: a chronology of the most important people and events in the history of science. New York: Touchstone Books, 1991. 488. Print.
  3. "How Nuclear Bombs Work." How Stuff Works. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 May 2011.