Groundbreaking war technology




The Manila Times


MILITARY weapons and equipment magazines and exhibition brochures summarize the latest trends in the preparation for a defensive war as follows: maximizing the military potential of artificial intelligence and the move toward weapons with multimission capabilities; advances in robotic and autonomous systems from solely explosive ordnance disposal to wider capabilities such as chemical, biological, radiological nuclear and explosive detection; unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned amphibious systems to more flexible counter unmanned systems and how humans can interact with unmanned vehicles. The trends actually relate to: 1) wearable rugged military devices such as laptops and tablets which combine endurance and security; 2) evolving drones/swarms-related technology; 3) hypersonic weapons; 4) cyber and signals intelligence operations, to mention a few. Rugged hardware and software. Rugged computers are vital tools for soldiers. A rugged laptop with a detachable screen that functions as a tablet and handheld devices could perfectly be available by 2026. They operate in extreme conditions like high vibration or in extremes of hot or cold temperatures. Innovations that are still being pursued include how to provide connectivity to the devices through GPS or cellular broadband or private networks; how to make batteries endure over longer periods of time as well as wireless charging. Advances in wearable technology match the very light material of military uniforms nowadays, increasing focus on harnesses and straps that provide the ability to carry normally handheld tablets and laptops, a big boost in endurance and security for military operations of personnel. Drones. A weapons manufacturer advertises: “A sky full of drones .... The future has arrived for better or worse.” Drones have assumed a leading role in conventional, counterterrorism or counterinsurgency operations. With the increase in complexities and threat levels at the war front, the integration of drones is aimed at simplifying the military’s engagement during sensitive operations. It can have more accuracy from a greater distance thus reducing collateral damage to civilians and infrastructures. Lethal drones Be that as it may, drones are as lethal to enemy combatants as regular airplanes. Ukraine’s killer drones are known to have struck Russian troops with high precision. Developing technologies to counter the threat posed by drones need progression in detecting, tracking, identifying and engaging the threat. This requires a system approach starting with sensors that are needed to detect incoming objects and radars that are able to see them at a distance to effectively react with a high level of accuracy to pinpoint and identify incoming drones. While today’s sensors and radars are incredibly advanced, weapons industries are looking for ways to further enhance them as the drone threat evolves. It is a threat that is constantly changing and advancing. Sensors and radars need to stay ahead. Like drones, the swarm constitutes the next generation in autonomous warfare. The ability to conduct unmanned swarming operations from air, land and sea continues to gather pace as armed forces seek advanced autonomous technologies to overcome adversaries. Such technologies are still in development especially because it demands a critical operating and funding requirement and for now mainly favors aerial swarms and are unlikely to have an immediate impact on the battlefield. As an example, the UK Ministry of Defense has been tasked with developing “swarm squadrons of network-enabled drones capable of confusing and overwhelming enemy air defenses.” Hypersonic defense program. Hypersonics relate to weapons with a speed five or more times than that of the sound of air. It also means utilizing air currents that move at hypersonic speed. Hypersonic weapons have the potential to alter the future of strike, air combat and air defense. Hypersonic flight is not new. The vast majority of ballistic missiles achieve hypersonic speeds, but they have set trajectories or limited maneuverability. Historically, the US has been a world leader in hypersonic research. It developed the Hypersonic Air Breathing Weapons Concept. The goal is to enable innovative acquisition approaches that deliver war-fighting capability set at the relevant speed. The contract to develop a prototype was awarded to Raytheon Missile Defense System at a cost of $174 million. The US is thought to have found the secret to killing enemy hypersonic missiles. New technologies for cyber. Industry input for a new generation of intelligence collection and processing technologies, specifically for operations in the realm of cyber and signals intelligence, is well on the way. The objective is to maintain technologies, existing systems and or platforms with an improved ability to automatically detect, identify, sort, track and prioritize and reliably classify and more importantly, geolocate signals of interest. It indicates the increasing dependence of armed forces on secure and encrypted data on wireless or broadband-based networks. Likewise, cloud computing platforms in which the user does not know where computing resources are located are becoming popular in use. Cyber, by the way, is a rare military area in which defense companies are active participants rather than solely suppliers of products and services. Thus, they have developed methodologies intended to maintain the necessary level of security of their products and services. Unmanned advantage: Autonomous systems in logistics. Many armed forces are pursuing the use of unmanned systems in handling the details of military operation in aerial and ground applications of the technology. With unmanned systems, there are particular advantages in effective independent handling of military operations. An example is the delivery of combat supplies from the forwardmost location, such as a physical base or an infantry vehicle to personnel engaged in combat operations using focused unmanned air and ground load-carrying platforms. Unmanned systems Unmanned systems give aircrews, in particular, the maximum offset distance to protect the location of ground troops. It also allows response time needed to keep crews safe and maintain operational readiness every day, irrespective of the weather, terrain and convoy position. Another unmanned advantage is it could automatically task an unmanned vehicle to bring food and water supplies to a group if they have not received any for a certain time period. In short, the edge of an unmanned system is it removes personnel from danger, boosting their ability to perform in diverse conditions. This could be a force multiplier that enables soldiers to work in other areas. In this connection, robotic combat vehicles are now testing how humans can interact with unmanned vehicles and defining how they will be used in future missions. With developments coming on at a fast pace, it is safe to assume that future warfare will incorporate a hyperactive and cyber environment. In that regard, robotic vehicles could increasingly include anti-access/ area denial just as their manned counterparts would. Be it noted that the US Army is developing technologies meant to anticipate the behavior and decisions of individuals as part of an effort to enhance manned-unmanned teaming that could one day enable the autonomous system to “auto-complete” tasks for soldiers. The speed and efficiency of such teaming can be enhanced if the artificial intelligence associated with autonomous systems can anticipate the decisions or behavior of their human partners. Threat of war Will war break out soon? Judging from war and peace-related news headlines, it would seem that countries are preparing for a 21stcentury war. Figure out “gray warfare” and nuclear proliferation. “Gray zone warfare” feeds on the lack of information surrounding a mission. Such denial is fundamental to success until the objective is secured as the maneuver aims to confuse, distract or deceive an adversary without revealing the initial source of an enemy move. In Ukraine in 2014, Russia mounted what is now seen as a hybrid operation, sending soldiers into Crimea without recognition of badges, covering their faces and declining to speak to locals. It was Russia’s first move to secure Crimea. No one was killed in the initial operation, although intense fighting broke out when it became clear that Russia had annexed the peninsula. The operation incorporates electronic and cyber warfare, deception and disinformation to allow enemy forces to paralyze their target. Similar future operation was pursued with extensive use of drones. As to nuclear risk, the US and Russia have historically managed nuclear proliferation in a series of arms control initiatives. But the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (1987) is no more. It banned ground-launched nuclear missiles, which resulted in nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles being eliminated. Claiming Russia had broken the agreement, then-President Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal from the treaty. The absence of arms control agreements could pave the way for a new arms race and for increased use of nuclear weapons. With the risk of nuclear weapons use greater now, “If you want peace, prepare for war” bannered weapons industry ads. In the light of innovations in war technology, is it still possible not only to deter armed conflict but to focus more on preventing it?