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.[1] 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.[2] 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.   

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