Predicting twenty years hence is fraught with risk, however as the NZDF is already placing dibbs on capital equipment for the future, it seems only sensible to examine some of the considerations for extending the view of this review further into the future.
The first difference between a Future NZDF and the current one will be the range of available technologies. This review maintains a general philosophy that civilian technology provides a minimum capability baseline for systems and that extra costs for military technology should be justified on the basis of protecting our service-people from credible threats.
Current robotics technology is still in its infancy but progress has been rapid. Perhaps the most well-known military robots are the unpiloted aerial vehicles.
Such the Predator and Mariner UAV series. These aircraft essentially fly themselves under programme but are remotely controlled by a pilot for operational purposes. Similar technology is used for submarine surveying.
The leading contender for robotic land warfare is the SWORDS programme. This programme has proved to be very sensitive to suggestions that robot soldiers are about to run amok massacring people. This is rather odd given that Predators have killed far more people than these little updated versions of the WW2 German Goliath.
Far more interesting is the progress being made in land transport systems, particularly autonomous vehicles. DARPA has progressed this field in recent years through its various challenges. But already robot land vehicles are being used for repetitive driving tasks around mines.
What is obvious is that robot control will become a feature of future military systems. This is anticipated as part of the review for the fisheries surveillance aircraft and Research vessels which are intended as mother craft for UAVs and USVs.
Another interesting New Zealand development is the Martin jetpack. This is the first jetpack which has a reasonable flight-time (30 minutes), potentially making it feasible for ship to shore operations without a helicopter. While nobody in their right mind would want to fight from a jetpack the technology could be very useful for insertion of troops, rescue or observation. It also has a "wow" factor.
The tilt-rotor design was pioneered by the MV-22 Osprey, which is quietly proving the naysayers wrong in operations in Iraq. The BA-609 - a smaller version, is due to enter commercial use next year. The tiltrotor is ideal for New Zealand where long range and poor access are often combined. There is talk of a larger four engine MV-44 with two sets of MV-22 wings. GIven the amount of time it took to get the two engine version I would not recommend holding one's breath for the quad version.
The Air cushion catermarran fast ship designs as used by the Skjold Corvette are a novel departure in ship design. Performance is pretty impressive over short ranges but the fuel bill is probably astronomical. In general New Zealand needs more cheaper-to-operate platforms particularly to support other craft.
The problem with future weapons technology is that it sounds like science-fiction. But you can buy it now. Development is almost outstripping our imagination.
Raytheon is already selling directed energy weapons including Masers and Lasers. This technology is also being explored by Australia, Israel and all the superpowers.
BAE Systems is already selling its new electro-magnetic railgun technology which will revolutionise naval and land warfare.
BAE is also boasting electro-magnetic defence systems against low velocity shaped-charge projectiles.
Improvements to bomb and missile accuracy are expected with warheads getting smaller and guidance getting more accurate.
The land vehicle and shipping markets have contracted significantly in recent years through acquisitions. The interesting thing is the emergence of new firms from South America, India and Asia. Manufacturers worth keeping an eye on include:
Embraer : The K/C-390 is still very much alive and would be a better replacement for the C-130H.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries: has been making aircraft for years but not been allowed to export them. The XC-2 has now flown and will soon be available, but not as a military aircraft. The XC-2 and XP-1 would be a perfect replacement for the Hercules and Orion aircraft.
Hindustan Aeronautics: is building helicopters and has teamed up with the Russians to build a Medium Transport Aircraft. This is an emerging company but reliability questions will remain.
Singapore Kinetics: Is rapidly emerging to take leadership positions in land forces systems. This company is especially dominant in 40mm grenade technology but has also built numerous land vehicles including the Terrex and Bronco.
The force proposed in the main review is largely designed with future developments in mind. This can scarcely said of the cold-war force we operate at the moment. However in looking forwards some important amendments need to be added.
Long range air transport
The Kawasaki Heavy Industries CX-2 is a better future solution than the IL-76. By the time the aircraft becomes available it will be stable and operating which is more than can be said for any of the others. Moreover it is bigger than all but the A400M.
Long range Patrol aircraft
The Kawasaki Heavy Industries P-1 is an alternative solution to the Dassault business jet. As with the C-X it will be flying well before the alternatives and cheaper than the P-8 Poesidon. The object of the aircraft would, however remain similar to that envisages for the Dassault although the potential for mounting air-to-air missiles (which was always unlikely) would be foregone.
Aerial EEZ Intervention
The BA609 tiltwing offers fast on-the-spot transit times (275 knots) and a reasonable operational radius (250nM). While more expensive than a helicopter its operational costs are less. For search and rescue, EEZ patrol and Customs support work the BA609 suits New Zealand conditions rather well.
A class of small multi-purpose expeditionary vessels (4) for long-range Pacific and Southern oceans operations, able to quickly load and unload containers, and vehicles (via side and rear). The ships would have a small crew (~30 including intelligence, medical and air) but be flexible to work in environmental protection, Pacific disaster recovery and military support operations. They could carry ~120 pax, 8 AEVs and 12 TEUs. The vessels would be ice-class B and have hospital facilities.
Armoured Expeditionary Vehicles (AEVs)
The Gibbs Riverine vehicle would be a far better vehicle for Pacific operations than the LAV-3 or the AMV. While not heavily armoured they are better suited to messy water/land environments like those found in the Pacific. The LAVs are likely to remain in excellent condition for a long time because they never get used, so by the time we have to replace them these babies should be available.
The rest of the recommendations in the review stand.