Category Archives: Future of War

The more things change the more they remain same or the Future of Warfare

While in the future the war will be different and yet it will remain the same. The basic ingredient of successful campaign will be achievable strategic goals and tactical excellence.

There is no doubt that the technology will change and there will be a push to make warfare more automated. This I believe will be successful on one level and completely fail on the other. The machines in the fluid and dynamic environment are only as effective as the person controlling them. Anyone who has played any video games knows the big difference between paying a game against computer controlled opponents versus human opponents.

Warfare is no different, until the science can come up with a viable self aware artificial intelligence (AI) to control the machines. While that may happen, the AIs will not be fighting our wars. The reason for that, if you think about it, is that the computer that is as smart as a person is probably a person. How are we going to make the AI obey our orders to fight? Will we make something that can think for itself fight for us?  My guess is no, unless we make the self aware AIs the modern day equivalent of the Mameluke, the Egyptian slave soldiers of the past.  Even if we did get over the moral objections and make the AIs fight our wars, what would prevent them from trying to find a way to circumvent whatever controls we impose.  Something that has the intelligence of a human can find a way around any rules humans can create.

Now the other possibility is remote control.  The technology certainly exists right now to do so and is widely used in remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), such as the Predator and the Reaper.  So the question can come up, why the machines couldn’t be remotely piloted in the future for all conflicts?  Some probably even believe that this will be the future of warfare. However there is a major drawback.  The Achilles heel is the communication link between the operator and the machine.

While there has been no real concern with the RPA use in the counterinsurgency, I believe the results would be completely different during major combat operations. The insurgents do not have the capability to disrupt the communications, they can neither jam nor destroy communications satellites.  Does anyone believe that a country such as China or Russia or some future power will not have that capability?  So in order to insure combat effectiveness, the machines would have to be able to operate autonomously, which takes as back to the point about the self aware AI.

Therefore I believe the fighting will be left to people as it has been since the beginning of time. What the technology will bring is the reduction in the number of enlisted members or those involved in tasks that do not require creative thinking. For example, once the technology exists that make a robot that can do all the things an infantryman can do such as run, hide, and shoot then the infantry squad will consist of robots and one human squad leader to make the decisions. If battle tanks can be made completely automated including driving and loading the gun, then all you need is the tank commander to make the decisions of how to employ the weapon.

In the air the robots could replace all the wingmen in the flight, leaving only a human flight lead to direct the flight.

On the navy the ships, the automation on board will leave only the combat information center crew in place to fight the ship. If the weapons can operate without people and the robots can repair the ship automatically, then the only people needed on board are the decisions makers. So instead of hundreds of crewmen, a ship might have ten to fifteen personnel on board.

That is where the technology will make the difference. The orders will be carried out by machines, while the OODA loop will still be run by the people.