Towards 2020‎ > ‎

Emerging technology

Where is military technology headed?

Technology, and especially military technology, does not stand still. There are periods of research and development, refinement and then operationalising. Different nations do better at different approaches to this, I will therefore peruse the current directions of the different manufacturing nations individually.

United States of America

The US is the world's greatest military power. It specialises in making huge technological leaps, which it does very well. Small incremental improvements (Kaizen) it is remarkably bad at. This is largely due to the way its acquisition process operates and not due to a deficiency in engineering ability. Some programmes like the UH-60 Blackhawk have evolved very well over the decades, but in general there is a terrible tendency to keep going back to a clean sheet of paper rather than evolve. That said the technology advances the US is making in some fields are truly jaw-dropping. Here are some of the main ones.

Naval Rail gun


YouTube Video


This is an electromagnetic gun under development. The railgun achieves longer ranges and higher kinetic energy than missiles. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railgun

Advanced Tactical Laser


YouTube Video

laser destroys unpiloted aerial vehicle

This is a laser beam, usually mounted in a ship or an aircraft, capable of killing soft targets like people or unarmoured vehicles or aircraft. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Tactical_Laser. This weapon has reportedly been used from an AC-130 aircraft in Afghanistan.

Active Denial System


YouTube Video


This is a non-lethal pain ray. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_Denial_System

Remote control lethal weapons (land)


YouTube Video


We've all see the Predator but there is a land based equivalent, The Talon Swords robots are now widely deployed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foster-Miller_TALON

Semi-autonomous support vehicles


YouTube Video


The Lockheed Martin Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) is a mechanical donkey.  http://www.lockheedmartin.com/products/smss/

Load-bearing Exo-skeleton

Lockheed-Martin's HULC exo-skeleton system for soldiers in difficult terrain. The system weighs 22kg but increases load carrying capacity over distance. The obvious problem with the extra weight is soft-terrain (mud, snow,sand) performance as feet sink deeper.

Autonomous vehicles


YouTube Video


The DARPA Challenge has now moved on to the urban environment

YouTube Video

Repeatedly delayed the civil tiltrotor the AW609 has now been transferred to European firm AgustaWestland.For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AgustaWestland_AW609

Israel & Russia

Israel has a range of powerful military technologies drawing as it does on the best of American and Russian technology.

Ironfist APS


This Russian developed technology fires a shotgun at incoming missiles to stop them hitting vehicles. The Russians point out a spoof first attack closely followed by a second real attack can defeat the defence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_protection_system

YouTube Video


The AN-94 rifle fires two rounds very quickly so that the second bullet hits pretty close to the first allowing it to defeat body armour.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AN-94

Australia

Australia is actually not to be under-estimated as a source of military innovation either.

YouTube Video


Australia is re-defining naval surface combatants through its catamaran technology. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Littoral_combat_ship

This report by Bloomberg however says the ships have had cracks and corrosions, while the cost per ship has "declined from a peak of more than $700 million a ship to less than $360 million". The US military sure knows how to rip the US taxpayer!
Good on the Aussies for scoring some.

YouTube Video

Metalstorm is a rather nasty system for firing a lot of rounds at once. Of course technology for thoughtlessly massacring people has proved politically more trouble than its worth.

Sweden & Norway

Sweden, despite its neutral stance, develops some serious arms technology.

YouTube Video

Swedish stealth submarine 

YouTube Video

Visby stealth corvettes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visby_class_corvette

YouTube Video

Skjold class high speed attack craft http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skjold_class_patrol_boat

Singapore


YouTube Video


See Through-wall tactical radar devices