When I was a young science fiction fan, I was convinced that the future of warfare would be the domain of enormous, indestructible war-machines, space-based weaponry and super-soldiers.
After looking at the military’s proposed weapon systems for the next 25 years, it appears that I was on target for the latter two systems, yet completely wrong in regards to the former. The future of conventional warfare will be determined by high-tech solutions that seek to minimize the time and effort expended between a conflict’s beginning and its end.
This is nothing new, however, and has been a relatively constant theme since humans first began to war amongst themselves. The big question then is if war is becoming less costly to be waged, both in terms of economics and human life, will we see an increase in international warfare in the 21st century? That is a very difficult question to answer.
I believe that we will not see a rise in international conflicts as a result of new weapon technologies. The nature of this system, as previously stated, is to strike as quickly and with as much force as possible, that the enemy doesn’t even see what hit them.
Two contemporary examples both include Iraq. Look at the first Iraq war that lasted for about 1 month, and resulted in minimal United States casualties. Defense analysts are predicting that the second war in Iraq will take approximately one week to accomplish (minus the years of occupation to follow).
The interesting thing is that was all accomplished with our current military. The lineup for the next two decades reveals the replacement of the tank with fast close-combat vehicles, the inclusion of unmanned fighter/bombers, stealth destroyers, railguns, space-based lasers and something called the “future warrior” system which is a kind of super-soldier project.
Top that off with the Department of Defense’s goal of being able to deploy a combat-ready division anywhere in the world within 120 hours and you have an almost unstoppable strike force. If that were not deterrent enough, the future of strategic deterrence is not falling behind either. Airborne lasers, an idea concocted by Edward Teller who was the last of the mad-scientists, are on the verge of becoming a reality.
These are huge chemical oxygen-iodine lasers attached to planes or satellites used for the purpose of; a) Intercepting missiles; b) Devastating ground bombardment.
Also, the U.S. Navy has no intention of stopping their use of nuclear submarines, the best, most undetectable deterrent. Add to that the Chinese inclusion of submarines with nuclear weapons and you have the balance of power theory played out in explicit detail. What does this fast military do about non-governmental forces like terrorists and revolutionaries? The actions taken by the United States in the past year is a good indicator of how the balance between terrorists and governments will operate.
If a non-uniformed troop is careless enough to let their location become known, an unmanned fighter like the predator or X-45 will launch a missile at him/her terminating their short-lived career as an international terrorist. Exposure means certain death, and the only hope for survival is to stay in the shadows, or fight the troops from the “future warrior” project when they methodically eradicate your cell.
Nations have too much to lose by going to war (except when it is benefiting your corrupt vice-presidents company) and will most likely avoid it in the future. It looks like defense research actually does improve the lives of the population as a whole by decreasing their chances of dying in a huge, drawn out conventional war. Ahh, you have to love the irony of nuclear weapons.