Date:23 July 2014
In a world of shifting alliances and constantly evolving strategies, the US military has developed new war technologies for the fight… it’s the stuff of sci-fi.
They’re the future of war – that’s what the Pentagon believes, anyway. Military scientists are creating automated systems that are meant to augment or even replace American soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen.
China fielding dangerously quiet subs? Make an unmanned sub-hunting ship to track them relentlessly. Russia selling anti-aircraft radar and missile sets to hostile nations? Deploy aerial drones to jam them with electronic attacks. Roadside bombs severing supply lines? Send flocks of unmanned helicopters to deliver supplies.
The robot revolution is also regarded as the way to handle looming budget cuts. While automated systems are expensive to develop, they’re cheaper to support than humans – they don’t need training, healthcare or letters of condolence.
Not every military robot is a mobile war machine. Some are more subtle, like TrackingPoint’s automatic-aiming rifle scope. In the hands of a sniper, it reduces the size of a shooting team by half. But to replace humans entirely, robots must be freed from human control. “Future unmanned systems must be more autonomous, placing less demand on communications infrastructure and shortening decision-making cycles,” says US Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh III. The true value of a robot is not that it can be flown remotely but that it can make the kinds of snap decision pilots face.
Read more in PM’s August 2014 issue – on sale 21 July.