New technologies enable military applications that can drastically change warfare over the next ten to twenty years. From USA to China: laboratories are busy working on this.
1. Self-propelled bullets that always hit the target
Several projects are working with self-propelled bullets. It is researching, among others, the American organization for military innovation DARPA together with the ammunition manufacturer Orbital ATK. If bullets were to become self-propelled, even a soldier with poor shooting skills would turn into a hyper-efficient shooter. In addition, moving targets can no longer escape the bullet. The idea is not science fiction, assures Georges Heeren, defense specialist at the technology association Agoria. “The Americans have managed to do that with Tomahawk cruise missiles,” he says. “Although these are 5 to 6 meters long, they are essentially the same technology. It’s just a matter of miniaturization.” Precision weapons are a major focus of military innovation. “In World War II, there was carpet bombing: 25 aircraft each with a few tons of explosives that destroyed everything, “says Heeren. ‘That time has passed. The more precisely you work, the fewer stocks, the less logistics, the less damage. It has all become more important.’
2. Laser weapons to vaporize targets
Weapons that do not fire with ammunition, but with energy. We know them from ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’, but they are also effectively developed in military laboratories. ‘Laser weapons are on the way’, says Heeren. Imagine an installation that produces a laser beam – that is, a light beam – that can melt a target. The latest step is a technology with ultra-short, powerful laser pulses that fire so much energy at fractions of a second that a target simply ‘steams’. ‘Initially, laser weapons were intended as anti-aircraft guns,’ Heeren explains. »To make enough energy, an installation of a few tons is needed. You can put it on a naval ship, but you will not soon see such a thing in a plane or in the hands of a soldier. It could come in twenty or thirty years. ‘ There are also already experiments with disabling other satellites with energy weapons mounted on satellites. The advantages of the technology: Once developed, the weapons are very cheap to use and due to the enormous speed and precision, they are almost impossible to avoid.
3. The arrival of the unmanned fighter jet
Autonomous rigs are seen as a major game changer in future warfare. Robots appear not only at sea and on land, but also in the air. ‘For example, extensive testing is underway on so-called Loyal Wingman autonomous aircraft (such as the Boeing Ghost Bat) for fighter aircraft such as the F-35s,’ ‘says Heeren. “So you can have a fighter jet with a pilot carrying another four or five unmanned aircraft.” These vehicles are crammed with artificial intelligence and sensors, allowing them to operate very autonomously and can be used for all kinds of tasks. They can be sent forward for reconnaissance, but also provide fuel. Once armed, they can even execute attack commands. ‘I estimate that in ten to fifteen years we will see them appear everywhere on the site,’ says Heeren.
Soldiers with genetic upgrades
With new technology, soldiers can get a significant ‘upgrade’. The possibilities are endless. Start with things that can be done quickly, such as mounting a weapon on the arm, having a camera that shows the soldier through smart glasses so he can shoot very accurately without sticking his head around a corner (a project from the Royal Military) . Academy and Howest College). Eye implants that supplement vision with additional information about the environment may be in place by 2030. Brain stimulation is being researched, not only to directly operate machines, but also to get soldiers to perform better. By implanting a network of sensors in the body, neurons can be activated, which can be helpful for stronger muscles or faster recovery after injury. One step further into the future: genetic engineering. U.S. specialists say it should be possible to improve human vision, reduce the number of soldiers becoming ill, improve their endurance or allow them to deal with mountain areas with low oxygen levels.
5. Quantum sensors that see the invisible
Quantum technology will revolutionize cybersecurity and enable entirely new detection and navigation methods. Quantum technology looks at qubits instead of bits. Unlike bits, a qubit can be 0 and 1 at the same time, allowing for an incredible number of operations at once. Quantum sensors will be able to see what is now invisible. Stealth planes or submarines that are now invisible to radar will be detected, a GPS signal will no longer be needed to navigate. Quantum computers are becoming much more powerful than the computers we know today. As a result, information will be encrypted infinitely much better. All current encryption can then go in the trash: it is decrypted in a fraction of a second. It will be crucial for sharing and protecting large amounts of information and for controlling swarms of smart robots. NATO estimates that quantum technology can already trigger major revolutions in 10 to 20 years.