We contend here at New Wars that modern computer technology added to guided missiles has doomed the heavily armored, over-priced weaponry of the Cold War/WW 2 eras. With this in mind we could safely cut such complicated arms as the manned fighter, the heavy tank, and large surface warships. Their replacements would be unmanned aerial vehicles, light armored cars, plus submarines and light patrol ships.
The next major conflict in the air will not be a battle between jets, but of guided missiles and UAVs. The few costly stealth planes which might contend with the new generation of precision SAMs could conceivably weather such an aerial storm, yet be so few in numbers due to cost that their effectiveness will be minimal at best. UAVs which are increasing steadily in performance will perform all duties of their manned versions, from reconnaissance, to attack, and air superiority.
On land the anti-tank missile will rule all, and strategies will be designed around their capabilities. Modern battle tanks have become so huge, even if they could survive the new weapons, their defensive armament will be so great as to negate their mobility and effectiveness on the battlefield. Armored cars use much of the same defensive technology (slat armor, reactive armor) to defeat missile weapons, while still being mobile and affordable. Some also mount guns similar to the heavy tanks, with the ability to fire armor piercing shells.
At sea, the supersonic cruise missile will dictate the design and deployment of navies, and nothing is invulnerable to it save the stealthy submarine. Over the last century the U-boat has evolved to become cruiser, destroyer, and thanks to missiles, an aircraft carrier. There will no need for huge and overly-expensive surface warships which are bought in ever shrinking numbers (though patrol boats and small attack craft will still be vital), because such last-century warships only duplicate the submarine’s new missions, and not nearly as effectively.
Bottom line: The insurgency wars in the Third World will not only teach us how to defeat irregular forces, but thanks to the power of precision weapons, the same tactics can wean us off Industrial Age weaponry like manned planes, tanks, and large surface ships. Such weapons as these we can no longer afford and hardly even need.
About Mike Burleson
My full name is Michael Dewayne Burleson and I was born in 1965 just as the world was being turned upside down in Vietnam and on college campuses throughout the US. I was born in “Carter Country” in Americus, Georgia, raised in South Carolina and recently lived in downtown Charleston where I consider myself the “Holy City’s” longest residing tourist. I have worked for the Charleston Public Library and am currently taking time off to write and care for my aged parents in historic Branchville SC, home of the world’s oldest railroad junction. Last year I completed my first book also titled “New Wars-The Transformation of Armies, Navies, and Airpower in the Digital Age“, available for purchase from here. As a freelancer, my articles on military issues have appeared in The American Thinker, The Washington Post, Sea Classics Magazine, Townhall.com via Opeds.com, Buzzle.com, and Strategypage.com.