Last fall, the USS Gerald Ford, arguably the most advanced aircraft carrier on earth, set sail from its berth in Norfolk, Virginia to conduct training exercises in the Atlantic. The newest class of carrier is designated to replace over the time the previous pinnacle of American carrier engineering, the nation’s 10 Nimitz-class carriers. The first Nimitz was commissioned in 1975, making the ships some of the oldest pieces of U.S. military hardware still in service. (These are the oldest ships and submarines still operating in the U.S. Navy.)
Despite the size and expense of an aircraft carrier — the USS Gerald R. Ford cost $13.3 billion — 50 years is not a very long life cycle compared to other much smaller, much simpler pieces of American military hardware. Many of the U.S. military’s weapons from transport helicopters to rotary cannons to strategic bombers, have had longer life cycles.
To determine America’s oldest weapons that are still in use, 24/7 Wall St. consulted a range of sources, including Military Factory, to ascertain the year hardware and weapons were put into service. The weapons are ranked by the year they were first used by the U.S. military, from most to least recent. We also found information on weapon use and their original designer/manufacturer. Some weapons on this list are no longer used in combat but still used for military drills and ceremonial purposes. Some of the weapons on this list have been upgraded over the years, but if they maintained the name and the basic design, they were considered for the list.
The list includes the UH-1 Iroquois “Huey,” first used in 1959 and featured in so many Vietnam War films. It also includes the B-52 strategic bomber, which took to the skies in 1954 and has since changed from its initial role as a nuke-dropper. Two terrifying machine guns designed by legendary arms maker John Browning, also made the list. They were introduced to U.S. soldiers way back in 1919. (These are the 18 deadliest weapons of all time.)
Some utilitarian non-combatant pieces of hardware are also listed, like two military-grade Caterpillar earth movers and an armored frontline “tow truck,” the M88 Hercules, that began service in the early ‘60s and was used to extricate broken or stuck tanks and other armored vehicles under fire during the Vietnam War.
Here are America’s oldest military weapons still in service.
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