Friday, March 24, 2023
The Evolution of War
Thursday, March 23, 2023
Future Infantry Capabilities
Conversations surrounding the nature of “future war” have existed ever since wars have been fought. While the battles of yesterday echo into the battles of today, advancements in technology have had significant impacts on the capabilities of military units.
Once, an infantryman would carry cloth on his body, a rifle, some extra ammunition, and maybe tertiary equipment into battle such as knives, canteens, light medical equipment, etc. Today, the average infantryman carries around 68 pounds worth of gear, and this number can increase to as much as 120 pounds. To aid in this load, and to even increase it, exoskeletons are being pioneered across the military. Additionally, today’s warfighters are much more self-sufficient, protected by armor, more literate, and intelligent, meaning they are expected to master more skills and can be relied upon to learn more, faster and better. This is why robotics are now showcasing their utility in organic infantry units. This is why small arial drones are now being utilized by individual operator’s real time on the ground. And this is why currently, infantrymen are learning how to utilize digital technology which aids in land navigation, reconnaissance, and enemy acquisition, which helps in estimating ranges to targets for better effects downrange.
The U.S. Army’s Pathfinder Program is one such example of exoskeleton tech being used to alleviate stress and strain over moving heavy loads. It can aid in military logistical operations, all the way to helping artillerymen, and of course, the ground combat soldier. A good example of a move towards increased reliance on robotics, or robotics augmenting units through a human controller, is Boston Dynamics Big Dog (2004) gen, the LS3 (2010) gen, and the famous Atlas robot, which is being designed to act as a fully functioning human replacement robot.
These advancements will have serious mobility impacts in future war. Along with smaller more specialized units, currently being implemented with the U.S. Marines, utilizing robots or exoskeleton tech will allow for versatile fast paced combat on the ground. Terrain will become less of a hinderance, and tactically, commanders will need to re-evaluate when and how enemy troops will maneuver. Additionally, the components powering such technology will most likely become more of a center point for state level strategy pushing countries to compete in the economic forum vigorously in areas like AI and semiconductors. Cyber warfare will also become more important. As technology improves on the ground, so will the adversaries means of thwarting a more highly technical based military, one that relies increasingly on software, rather than flesh and bone.
The Accuracy of "Ghost Fleet"
While "Ghost Fleet" is a work of fiction and should not be taken as a definitive guide to the future of warfare, it does offer insights into the potential implications of emerging technologies and geopolitical tensions. Many of the technologies and scenarios described in the book are based on real-world developments and trends. For example, the book explores the use of unmanned vehicles and cyberattacks in modern warfare, both of which are areas of active development in militaries around the world. It also incorporates real-world geopolitical tensions and potential flashpoints, such as the disputed territories in the South China Sea.
The authors touch on the economic consequences of a major conflict, such as the impact on global trade, the collapse of the financial system, and the potential for economic recovery and rebuilding after the conflict, and provides insight into military strategy by including the use of deception, the importance of intelligence gathering, and the challenges of coordinating military operations across multiple domains. The book is unusual in its willingness to explore the economic and social consequences of a major conflict. The authors consider not only the military aspects of a hypothetical war between the US and China, but also the impact on global trade, the financial system, and the rebuilding effort that would be necessary in the aftermath of such a conflict. The book also explores the human aspect of warfare, particularly the experiences of soldiers and families caught up in the conflict.
Tuesday, March 14, 2023
The Weaponization of Everything (Future War)
Looking forward to the topic of "Future War" there appears to be a lot of speculation involving the exact nature of what a future war would look like. Our understanding of an accurate portrayal of future events are always skewed and manipulated by media such as the news, sci-fi, and even current events which do not have the luxury of hindsight. In the book The Weaponization of Everything by Mark Galeotti, he tackles this "new" idea of how, in our post-modern society, in wartime and peacetime we can use every facet of life and human civilization as a potential weapons. An example of this are soldiers who are being deployed more as a multifaceted tool than as a singular unit used to wage war. Soldiers have become killers, humanitarian workers, state-builders and so forth; they have become the Swiss Army knife of the state government. This is just one example out of dozens Galeotti writes about. Keeping this in mind, Galeotti draws connections and uses history to back his claims (going as far back as St. Augustine's just war rhetoric). Ultimately, while I did not agree with Galeotti's inferences and conclusions, I laud his approach to "predicting" the future of warfare by using historical analysis to examine trends and establishing conclusions. Therefore, what patterns in history (ancient to contemporary) do you see as indicative of how future war will manifest?
"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." ~George Santayana (1863-1952)
Monday, March 13, 2023
The Psychology of Using Robots in War
In my research about using robots in warfare, I came across an article detailing the psychology of using them. This relates to human nature and emotion which results in the formation of attachments - even in the case of inanimate objects. We get glimpses of this phenomenon through the media with movies such as Wall-E. There are real instances, however, that indicate that the connections we form with the machines that work with us and for us are real and strong. A famous example of this involves the "death" of the Mars Rover, Opportunity, referred to as "Oppy", in 2018. After multiple attempts to contact the rover, NASA "sang her to sleep" with "I'll Be Seeing You", a song about missing a loved one.
These connections extend into the battlefield. Soldiers have been known to assign names and genders to the robots they interact with, often naming them after human friends, family, and even spouses. Testimony has revealed that soldiers talk to these objects and protect them, often experiencing strong emotions of loss and anger when the robot is destroyed in war. In some cases, soldiers even held funerals for destroyed machines, posthumously awarding them medals and honors, making the effort to make badges and glue them on.
The psychology of human-robot connections is interesting as even those that love the robots and treat them as friends or pets are aware of the practicalities of sacrificing the machines if necessary. This does not, however, prevent them from forming bonds and experiencing loss. The strength of these relationships is much like human ones, enhanced by proximity and shared experiences such as combat. This means that soldiers do not feel as connected to drones or aerial weapons even if they are smarter or stronger; it is the ones on the ground that elicit these emotions.
The advantage to this phenomenon is that soldiers will protect these machines thereby reducing the chances of destruction and costs of repairs and/or replacement. The disadvantage is that with the rapidly evolving technology, it is possible that these machines become more life-like, thereby further strengthening the attachments felt by those that work alongside them. This means that in the event that the machines are destroyed, soldiers may feel emotions almost as strong as if a human were killed in battle, resulting in similar stress and trauma.
Friday, March 10, 2023
Crawl, Walk, Run, Robot.
Robots are fast advancing in military application. Leading research and development institutes like Boston Dynamics and DARPA have recently made considerable gains in robotic technology. Three types of robots fill a majority of the space of the robotics marketplace. Automatic robots, automated robots, and autonomous robots.
Automatic robots are robots that respond to external inputs and respond in a mechanical way. These types of robots require human input and only function with human oversight. These robots have no ability to discriminate and will follow any command its given by a human. These types of robots are already used by militaries. Think of EOD robots, drones, or compact load barring vehicles.
Automated robots carry out commands based on pre-programming and accomplish tasks in a sequential order. They do not need human input outside of the initiating command to complete tasks. They are limited in their ability to make decisions. Examples of pre-programmed robots are reconnaissance drones that can identify targets without human input.
Autonomous robots can be programmed to make independent decisions based on pre-programmed options. The freedom this entails is cause for much debate in militaries around the world. While they are still constrained by their programming they can exercise judgement calls, and any lethal capacity on a robot such as this calls into serious ethical questions and liability risks. An example of this type of robot is Boston Dynamics “Atlas” Robot. Currently able to traverse challenging terrain and perform acrobatic feats. Some believe this robot will make soldiers obsolete in the future.
See link to Boston Dynamics demo of the Atlas robot.
Thursday, March 09, 2023
Skunk Works, Project Carerra, and the Future of Aerial Warfare
Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works is developing a new loyal wingman program to assist F-35s during missions. Project Carrera aims to explore the human reaction to being paired with-controlled drones. Lockheed Martin invested $100 million into the development of Project Carerra. Although the completion of the project is far down the road, the possible capabilities of human-machine collaboration are exciting.
The secret Speed Racer drone is relatively small and air launched. After being launched, it has small pop-out wings and fins that make it highly mobile. It seems to be the beginning of an entirely new way of thinking about, designing, and making high-performance military aircraft and weapons systems. The Speed Racer drone uses StarDrive technology which is a digital engineering toolset that improves the ability to operate in a fully integrated digital work environment. The drone wingman will have reconnaissance or electronic warfare capabilities to assist the F-35 fighter jets during offensive or defensive missions. AI wingmen can significantly improve military capabilities and cut costs. Low-cost drones or cruise missiles can substantially enhance the U.S. military’s capabilities in regard to war fighting.
AI and human teamwork can boost the survivability of piloted platforms and enable data collection, fusion, and distribution that informs their judgments and achieves tactical execution. The overall goal of Project Carerra is to assess the interaction between humans and uncrewed systems and comprehend how those behaviors develop over time. The United States Air Force has continuously sought unmanned aircraft to assist in operations, and the Speed Racer drone developed by Skunk Works checks all the boxes.
Wednesday, March 08, 2023
Drones are the Future of Proxy Warfare
Proxy conflicts involve great powers sponsoring belligerents within a conflict to succeed against belligerents sponsored by rival great powers. The purpose of doing this for great powers is to subvert the threat of a larger or nuclear war by avoiding direct contact between their militaries. Instead, they compete through conflicts whose belligerents hold allegiances to rivaling great powers and thus the perception of their respective power is represented by proxy through the performance of the sponsored actors.
Birthed by Nikola Tesla in 1898, remote controlled robots have transformed from their limitations as decoys to tools of surveillance, assassination, and attrition in the century since. Throughout the Global War on Terror, drones were essential for the United States to target terrorists in the Middle East who hid among the general population and could not easily be segregated through conventional means. Assassination of these individuals has created dilemmas for the legality of the drone operators, because at times they were not controlled by military service members. This gray area could set the precedent for drones in proxy conflicts to be operated by great powers on behalf of their sponsored actors.
In the ongoing war in Ukraine, the use of small drones have become standard practice to effectively outmaneuver and ambush soft targets within a confined battlefield. Drones in Ukraine have also become the proxy for the United States, Turkey, Russia, and Iran to compete without risking greater war. This is not the first time where Turkey and Russia have competed in proxy drone conflict, as similar incidents have occurred within Syria, Libya, and the Nagorno-Karabakh. As such, drones are steadily becoming the standard for proxy conflicts between great powers as their robotic arsenals develop and clash. Although, unless the question is answered of who can operate them without repercussion, the possibility for great powers to conduct war via drone may be inevitable.