Skip to comments.Predicting the Nature of War in 2034
Posted on 07/27/2004 6:39:27 PM PDT by Cannoneer No. 4
How will warfare change in the next 30 years? Military leaders, and the people they protect, are always trying to figure this out. Theres an easy way to get a good insight on answering this question. Simply go back to 1884 and note the state of warfare and military technology at the time, then advance, 30 years at a time, until you reach 2004. At that point, making an educated guess at what 2004 will be like will like will be, if not easy, at least a lot less daunting..
In 1884, most infantry were using single shot, black powder rifles. The United States did not adopt the newfangled smokeless powder until 1892, a few years after it became widely available. The modern machine-gun had been invented in 1883, but armies did not start adopting for several years. Artillery was still short ranged, not very accurate, and could only fire at targets the crew could see. Horses pulled or carried stuff, and the infantry marched a lot. Communications still relied on the telegraph, a recent invention that had revolutionized, in only forty years, the way commanders could talk to each other over long distances. They could now do it in minutes. This was a big change for warfare. Very big.. At this time telephones were all local, and not portable. Cavalry was still important for scouting, although less useful for charging infantry (a trend that began when infantry got muskets with bayonets two centuries earlier.)
By 1914, 30 years of unprecedented changes had an enormous impact on warfare. This was largely because the industrial revolution had unleashed so much new technology. This is a process that continues, at an increasing rate. By 1914, all the troops had smokeless powder rifles. This made the infantry much more lethal, and made the modern sniper possible. The new rifles (millions of which are still in use) fired faster, more accurately, without a cloud of smoke, and were far more effective than the 1884 models. The modern machine-gun had arrived, and every infantry battalion had a at least a few of them. Artillery was much more accurate, and capable (due to hydraulic recoil systems). Armies were beginning to use trucks to replace horses, a process that would take another four decades to complete. There were aircraft available now, which proved to be the perfect scouts, able to see what distant enemy troops were up to. Now there was a wireless telegraph (radio), which revolutionized naval warfare. No longer were ships out of touch with their governments for long periods. On the ground, armies were now rapidly laying temporary telephone lines in the field. The critical problem with all this is that the major armies had not figured out exactly what to do with all this new technology. This produced years of stalemate and millions of casualties in World War I.
By 1944, the enormous changes of 1914 had been overtaken by even more dramatic technological advances. Nearly all the major military technologies of the 20th century were present by 1944. This included electronic warfare, smart bombs, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, wire guided missiles, antibiotics (greatly reduced the death rate), assault rifles, radar, aircraft carriers, sonar, portable radios, body armor, armored vehicles, jet aircraft, portable anti-tank rocket launchers, commandoes, operations research, heavy bombers, computers, self guided torpedoes, bottom mines, land mines, chemical warfare, and much more. The transformation was more dramatic than any in history. In less than a century, warfare had become unrecognizable to any pre-20th century soldiers. While the 19th century soldier would be recognizable to someone from the 16th century (when firearms were introduced), change had been relatively show for that three centuries. Military, and political, leaders now had to deal with the speed of change, as well as the changes themselves. It was an entirely new situation in human history.
1974 was, compared to 1944 and 1914, witness to less dramatic change. This was due to one new technology, nuclear weapons (which discouraged wars between the major powers), and the lack of a major war (which always speeded up the development of military technologies.) What had happened by 1974 was that many of the new technologies of 1944 had been perfected, or at least made cheaper and more reliable. There were some new developments. Guided missiles, nuclear weapons, night vision devices, spy satellites, laser range finders and weapons guidance systems, UAVs, remote sensors, ICBMs, SLBMs, composite armor, nuclear submarines, all weather aircraft navigation systems, miniaturized electronics (transistors), heat sensors, and more. Basically, all the neat new stuff from 1944 was now smaller, cheaper, deadlier and more reliable. But the biggest change had not been noted until the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. During that conflict, the speed with which modern weapons and other systems could destroy the enemy, and speed up combat, shocked generals everywhere. At this point, everyone began to ponder the impact of this transformation in the way wars were fought.
In 2004 there were a handful of radical new technologies, like GPS, the Internet, bullet proof body armor, personal (and extremely portable) computers, that transformed warfare more than anyone expected. The 1944 technologies continued to mature, especially when combined with later technologies like miniature computers. The improvements in communications and night vision sensors had made it possible to operate around the clock, and attack with more accuracy and deadly effect. Speed had always been a powerful weapon, but now speed included the ability to quickly move anywhere on the planet and attack with enormous firepower. That was seen with dramatic effect in Afghanistan in late 2001. The maturing technologies of 1994 had become a form of warfare possessing unheard of speed and destructive power.
While a 2004 infantryman would have looked like one from 1914, the changes in weapons and equipment were enormous.
So what does this portend for 2034? Faster and deadlier, for sure. Information war will be more than a buzzword by then, because better sensors and data processing technology will make situational awareness (knowing where you, and your enemy are, knowing it first, and acting on it before the other guy does) more decisive than ever.
If the expected breakthrough in batteries (fuel cells) evolves as reliably and cheaply as expected, the 2030s infantryman will be something of a cyborg. In addition to carrying several computers and sensor systems, he will wear body armor that also provides air conditioning. Satellite communications, of course, and two way video. Exoskeletons are already in the works, and may mature by then. But the big new development will be the continued evolution of robotic weapons. The World War II acoustic torpedo (used by the Germans and the allies, from subs as well as the air) was the first truly robotic weapon. You turned it lose, and it would hunt down its prey and terminate it. There may be a lot of public uproar over land based systems that have sensors, can use them to hunt, and have weapons that can be used without human intervention. But those systems will be easy and cheap to build by 2034, and as soon as one nation builds them, others will have to follow. By 2034, machines will be fighting other machines more often than they will be looking for the stray human on the battlefield.
But there will be other developments that are more difficult to anticipate. In 1884, most of the 1914 technologies were already known in a theoretical sense. Same with the 1944 technologies in 1914, and so on. What is most difficult to predict is exactly how new tech will be employed. There will be imagination and ingenuity involved there, and that sort of thing is, by its very nature, resistant to prediction.
Unless we take out that reactor in Iran, the cruise missile of the future is a muslim with a nuke in his suitcase.
2 words: Powered armor.
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Yes, the army needs to evolve to respond to terrorists as well as near-peer foes enemies.
A 'networked army' is very vulnerable to terrorists.
I predict that the 1911A1 pistol will be entering its 123rd year of use.
(Yes, I'm a 1911 nut.)
I also think there will be some type of warfare in space also....
The author did not factor in nanotech, which could produce whole range of smart (robotic) weapons in tiny size, the size of small insects. It will also bring in new powerful chemical sensors, in addition to visual, aural(sonars), thermal(infrared), and radio wave(radars) sensors.
In such a world, the citizen soldier will simply provide target practice. Warfare could well be conducted by Renaissance-style mercenary units, condotierri like Executive Outcomes.
As a consequence, the political balance of power will veer sharply back towards the state and state power as amateur resistance to Terminators becomes inconcievable. On a practical level, the military power of the developed world vis a vis even the most powerful developing countries (India, Egypt, Indonesia, Argentina, etc) will become as dominant as it was in the day of the dreadnought and the Maxim gun.
There will be no war in 2034. We will be doing radiactive containment/clean up through much of the mid-east using robotic technology. The EU will be in economic ruins and the Republicans will win back the Whitehouse
I wonder... will they have Star Furies as well? Or maybe we should content ourselves with some older NX-class starships...
in 2034 we will face a Europe dominated by muslims. While its economy would be hobbled by euro-socialism, it will still be larger than typical muslim strongholds such as Iran and Iraq.
I guess this whole topic breaks down into two separate categories: superpower warfare and low-intensity warfare. The most interesting is the low-intensity warfare because it's topical now and will be then. What I'd like to see in 2034:
1) Directed electromagnetic weapons that can detonate in-place enemy arms. We need to get our eggheads on the stick to develop these weapons. Characterize RPG warheads and exploit their shapes.
2) Laser sniper rifles. Melt the enemy's head, burn off his skin, burn a hole through his head ... I don't care, just put him out of action.
3) Widespread use of remote detection of enemy personnel and their weapons. We need to be able to remotely detect people and whether they are carrying weapons, then tube them.
4) Armed UAV escort aircraft. Ditch the Apache, it's been a disaster in real use. Pour the money into armed UAVs for infantry escort. Fill the sky with them linked to a larger, manned, sensor aircraft. We detect a mortar launch and respond with a Hellfire on the location within seconds.
Yeah, I know, wishful thinking. However, it's way past time that we use our technological advance to help our grunts on the ground. IMHO, it's immoral to *not* do it.
1. Somebody will still have to clean the latrines.
2. Young privates will still think their NCOs fools, who will still think their junior officers fools, who will still think their senior officers fools. They will all be correct.
3. The peacetime armed forces will still be clogged at the top with political climbers and desk jockeys.
4. Chow will be scientifically balanced, perfectly nutritious, filled with vitamins, minerals, and whatever else promotes health in those days, and still taste like reconstituted elephant droppings.
5. Some poor sumbitch is still going to have to grab a shoulder arm and hold ground somewhere he doesn't really want to be.
6. NCOs will still be the backbone of the armed forces and will still tell you so at the drop of a hat.
7. Harsh language will still be used at every opportunity.
8. The Marines will still dress like sea-goin' bellhops and fight like lions.
We have very little idea what the world will be like in 2034.
What we do know is what it won't be like - it won't be like what we expected in 2004.
You could put money on that.
I'm hoping for particle beam laser direct fire from space to help our grunts.
"Unless we take out that reactor in Iran, the cruise missile of the future is a muslim with a nuke in his suitcase."
U already have one such state( Pakistan ,"frontline" US ally)-which has made strenous efforts to spread the good word of it's Chinese acquired tech to Iran,Syria,North Korea
&oh 2 years ago-they took a Saudi Prince to visit their nuke facilities.
U cannot defeat terror,if u try to separate the wheat from the chaff &as in the case of lunatic Islam -they are one&the same.Everyone know's that America's Arab allies in the middle east(Egypt,UAE,Saudi Arabia,Morocco ) all have more formidable militaries than the Iranians-Iran has never really got state of the art Russian stuff(like the SU-27/30 fighter/strike jets,Yakhont anti ship missile,T-90 tanks)-it's more the second rung stuff(Mig-29 fighers,BMP-2 IFV,T-72)&lots of Chinese stuff.
At the heart of every hydraulics system is an actuator. It is the key component. Buy 'actuator' compny stock.
The F-15, B-52 will still be in service for sure. Even the Abrams in some form might still be needed on the battlefield.
Oh yeah, and nobody will remember the beretta. pos...
Roger that. Good points all.
I wonder what kind of celebration is planned in 2011 (just seven years away) for the M1911? How much more can the rose be gilded than some of the racy M1911s that are out there now?
In these 30-year jumps, a few were revolutionary, while most were evolutionary. The weapons of WW1 are still respectable, and collectible, in the 21st century. It wouldn't be my first choice, but I know a Springfield or BAR could still get the job done today. We've had evolutionary changes in small arms.
The biggest revolutionary changes come when technology allows enhanced situational awareness at both the tactical and strategic levels. Troops and their commanders then have a better grasp of the situation, and how to exploit it quickly. The telegraph, radio, and now battlefield internet, provided the revolutions that allowed bigger forces to be controlled effectively over larger distances. This had more impact than improved weaponry.
The Army's Blue Force Tracker system, rushed into service for the invasion of Iraq, drew rave reviews from crusty old tankers and mech infantry. Essentially, it broadcast each vehicle's GPS location over a secure wireless net back to data collection systems, which then broadcast everything back to the vehicles, as well as back to the Pentagon. In the old days, the info only went up the chain of command. Now the same info was going down the chain, too.
Even at the platoon level, commanders could get a picture of their own deployment, as well as units around them. They could zoom in or out, just like the SecDef could. Some staff puke could spot something nobody else did, and get someone to take action on it.
What was discovered was that 60% of all radio traffic was "where are you guys?". Now everybody could see each other, and knew that everyone had the same picture. The same God's-eye view was available to the vehicle commander, all the way up to Rumsfield. And they found out there was less micromanagement from higher up the chain, because everyone shared a common "collective intelligence".
Medical advances and body armor have been revolutionized between 1991 and now, but that may just be a lucky spurt of development. Autonomous weapons need more evolution, a revolution can't be anticipated. So the real thing to watch out for in the next 30 years is "situational awareness", which holds the promise of big payoffs, even with current weapons.
How so, please give details [ie supporting data] and not hyperbole.
As if today's military is invulnerable to terrorists.
If John eFing wins in November, it will be stick and stones...
Ok, I will venture a guess. Mass infantry attacks on horseback with kevalar body armor for the horsemen and the horses. All ceramic and plastic weapons and no electronics.
Tatics such as dispatch a calvary unit to a given target by dispersal and regroup on point for the attack, a form of blitzkrieg to the Nth power. Little if any defined lines, civilian slaughter valued for its shock value.
Horsemen without any metallic objects dispersed over a wide area are virtualy impossible to stop with present weapons. You cannot see them well with any modern sensors, anti tank weapons will become smaller and lighter giving the firepower of a tank to an infantry man.
With good electronics you can pinpoint a wrist watch's location from a couple of miles due to its electronic emissions, so nobody can carry detectable junk or they will be auto targeted.
The way past smart bombs is to become-un targetable. The way to do that is to become non emmisive and non detectable. Kevalar not only stops balistic fragments, But also reduces heat emissions.
Horses do not need fuel, they eat bushes, and a herd of horses look like a herd of deer to infra-red sensors.
Yep, things will change, always has, always will.
That is about as strange as I can push it, any other wild ideas out there?
Horse mounted infantry almost never fought mounted.
They show up just fine on thermal sights.
they have a different breed of bacteria in their intestines, which allows them to digest browse, like a deer, instead of needing good quality grass. Simply put, they can live and prosper where a larger horse would starve.
In order to be able to live on forage, the animal has to be raised from weaning to adulthood on rough forage.
Interesting claim, considering that the US Army has been networked for some time now.
Yes, armored infantrymen like Knights of the Crusades and the Enemy is still the same.
Eventually the infantryman will be removed from his armor, the tanker will be removed from his tank, the pilot will be removed from the cockpit and the fighting will be done by human assisted remote controlled computerized robots.
One human life is not worth 100,000 muslim lives.
Agreed. Terrorism and Islam are inseperable. Mohammad, after all, was the original terrorist.
Muslims aren't human?
That picture just goes to show how inhuman our enemies are, forcing a cutie like that to wear all those baggy concealing cloths. ;)
Do you think that modern weapon systems would be in reach of private outfits? Remember the US Arm was looking at a personal weapons that cost $10K a pop... Imagine EO trying to afford a super tank, or the previously mentioned powered armor.