Weapons’ Not Bright Future
Danger Room reveals sizable cuts in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) budget of many millions. DARPA has for decades been a source of US military’s advanced weapons, many of which helped us win the Cold War and is seeing us to victory in this new world war on terrorism. Also we learn that the excessive cost of the US Navy’s high tech Zumwalt class stealth destroyers will likely force continued production a previous class of warships, the Arleigh Burkes, nearly 60 vessels in the works since 1991.
It becomes incresingly evident these are all signs that the military is unable to produce new technology and release it into the hands of our fighting forces in time for the wars we are fighting now. Almost none of the major defense projects underway before the start of the War on Terror has had any bearing on the conflict at all, some 7 years later. Other than the Navy’s fine F-18 Super Hornet, itself a retread of the 1970’s Hornet light fighter, none have even seen combat, including the USAF’s much touted F-22 Raptor.
The attitude in the military seems to be to try and deter wars with daunting and high tech weaponry. When such a wishful strategy fails, as it often does, the boots on the ground are often left with antiquated weapons left over from the last war (the A-10 Warthog), or the rare low tech platform rushed into the service (like Stryker armored cars and MRAP vehicles) just in time to make a difference.
The more technical services like the Air Force and Navy seem to look on the insurgency wars we frequently find ourselves involved in with casual boredom. They are eager to end such conflicts so they can return to “real” warfighting. This also includes periodic changes in strategies ( though little change in weapon’s procurement), endless excesses to prepare for the really Big Wars, and frequent bartering with Congress for the latest pet project which the admirals or generals have taken a liking to.
These days, the third rate powers which the Pentagon refuses to take serious are arming themselves with first world weaponry. Cruise missile armed submarines are on the market for whoever posseses enough oil wealth to afford them. Non-states like Hezbollah can arm themselves with the latest SAMs through their sponsors in Syria. Even African Warlords can shoot down our helicopters with the masses of RPG weapons available on the arms market. Terrorists like Al Qaeda can hijack entire nations with a few home-made bombs strategically placed.
The arms market is becoming less about heavy tanks, air superiority fighters, or guided missile battleships. These weapons, unlike their low tech brethren, can no longer be massed produced quickly. They have become magnificent works of art which only a few master craftsmen (whose numbers are also shrinking) can produce in dwindling numbers.
The future then belongs to tiny computer gadgets, which are bought off the shelf and obsolete in a few years. Such weapon will include robots for use in the air, on land and under the sea. Older type weapon may include light armored vehicles, light fighters, and light missiles boats; all of which will be slightly updated versions or existing copies of older designs.