Many have seen Bob Woodward's book about the great mis-steps taken by the Bush Administration and its dangerous shake-up of the Pentagon. Indeed, the number of officers who had been betting on the incremental next-gen of weapons found themselves out in the cold when President Bush decided to start an overhaul of the entire Armed Forces system of analyzing weapons, integrating them, testing them and procuring them. That cycle was once measured in something close to a decade as witness the F-14 or F-117 procurement cycle starting in the 1960's and not fully becoming fielded until the late 1970's or early 1980's. Unfortunately the microcomputer revolution was changing how good weapons could be and what integrating them into a weapon delivery platform meant. The increase of stealth technology, from using basic geometry to radar absorbing and sonar absorbing coatings meant that the 'old style' of Total War was being revolutionized and replaced.
By the early 1990's, while civilian life was becoming transformed by the much reduced cost of computing which was pushing *down* into lives to make things simpler, faster and cheaper, the Armed Forces were still dealing with a Cold War era model of fighting that was not anywhere near in touch with Moore's Law. That had to change and drastically as civilians were becoming much, much more productive per given hour and their military counterparts were *not*. Even a moderately backwards Nation could, if it wanted to, put money and time into defeating 1980-era systems and leave the US Armed Forces vulnerable. And that was in the early 1990's before the Internet Age. And that conception of cross-integrating capabilities *down* to individuals was something that no other Nation on the planet would trust their Armed Forces to do: it would make them, per man, extremely effective. Extremely deadly. Luckily the United States *trusts* its military and that is *exactly* what is wanted: a lean, deadly fighting force with low logistics overhead for supply and cross-integrated capability to flex across the entire sphere of battle from Grand Strategy to hunting individuals.
This was anathema to the old procurement system of the Pentagon. Careers had been invested in specifying every little bit that needed to be done, ensuring it was done, making sure the original design worked and then putting it on a multi-decade lifecycle of sustainment. But it was not the pointy-end of the military that would be transformed *first* it was the LOGISTICS side that would revolutionize warfare. The Defense Logistic Agency took point on that as it is the supply and delivery arm of the entire Armed Forces. What it did was create a complete and automated tracking and delivery system so that the materials that were needed would meet timely deadlines and get to their destination on the most efficient route given that timeline or inform those doing the ordering of necessary shipping and/or stockage delays. To do this DLA centralized its storage depots, put them under private contractors and instituted a 'best of breed' system for its delivery. That system is modeled on FedEx and UPS. The one important thing that we have *not* heard since the start of the conflicts in the Middle East are delivery problems. In every modern and pre-modern war the problem of actually getting the right supplies to the right troops at the right time has resulted in things like cases of toilet paper showing up instead of ammunition and food rotting on docks as trucking was not well integrated into supply systems. The only notable problem, to date, has been in HUMVEE armor and *that* is due to the manufacturing limitations of the company and arsenal involved. For the first time in recorded history in a non-losing situation, an entire suite of Armed Forces, top to bottom, gets what it needs when it needs it. And because of the highly mobile operational needs of the modern military one of the things that *did* need a good supply chain was the unexpected: batteries.
For that *alone* the entire military deployment and use system needed to be examined as all military vessels and delivery systems were predicated on pre-'just-in-time' sustainment. This new 'backbone' of the US Armed Forces now allowed for a revolutionary and deep restructuring not only of the military but its doctrine on how to fight battles. No longer would the long logistics train need the sort of attention it had previously required to ensure that supplies were transiting through it. That said, what was *not* planned for was actually defending this 'on-the-move' logistics supply train. The #1 greatest fault of OIF was not addressing getting this continuous supply-chain into the field and defending it properly. The old 'huge convoy' concept needed to be changed and drastically. Patently that was *not* done by the mid-tier management of the Pentagon. The people whoe *did* do this were those actually in the field and they used the next great asset of the modern Armed Forces: global communications. And the folks to do this would be TRANSCOM.
US Armed Forces Transportation Command is the vital link to getting all the necessary supplies to the field in a timely fashion. Doesn't do much good for the stuff to be delivered by the DLA to a TRANSCOM depot and sit there! And so they stood up to the problem and started training and re-training their people continuously. In 2003 this was seen as so vital that they had to set up an R&D segment to address new and evolving capabilities. They are looking at an entire integrated and secure method of moving cargo via multiple means and methods to get those wonderful DLA supplies to where they have to go. This is above and beyond anything ever envisioned in the 1990's. It will most likely be heavily automated. But to get the heavy training load done initially for delivery of goods, the in-theater logistics units used those new global links to contact the one organization that could do the necessary hard lifting to help: US Marine Corps 29 Palms training units. The heavy byplay between combat and training units meant that daily briefs were passed to training elements to analyze types of enemy attacks upon shipping and then play out possible defense methods against them. Those lessons learned were then sent *back* to the field and they analyzed and integrated insights and fed new reports on success/failure to 29 Palms. This cycle of wash/rinse/repeat meant that overall analysis of enemy capabilities were being performed by units that were *not* INTEL units, but Training units! Their insights were then passed to the INTEL units for integration. Now we have logistics directly impacting INTEL gathering and analysis and have not even *started* on the fun new weapons yet.
Don't worry, candy is to come.
So, this is now building up a new picture of military operations in which the modernization of *one* area requires a re-alignment and modernization of areas that were, previously, unaffiliated with those other areas. Logistics now *feeds* into INTEL. Beyond just equipment use, wear and attacks, enemy ops, capabilities, tempo and restrictions are now checked, cross-checked, verified and handed off as an operational reality. One could go directly to the INTEL area and then look at databases and language expertise necessary to gather HUMINT, and the hard training that then got added *on* to all the troops rotating into Iraq. Basically, everyone gets a hard and fast set of language lessons, with officers getting more in-depth training on language, customs and how to interact with the local population. Because that not only smooths operations but it provides INTEL. Again, units in the field interact with training units and the new units get 'spun up' quickly for deployment and easier transition. Thus, unit commanders now get to serve as Military Intelligence liaison for local operations. Get the idea that this is not the Cold War military? This is warfare where Shadow Warriors and Pointy End soldiers shake hands so they can fight together.
Ok, now to some of the fun technology at the pointy-end. Blowing things up and weapons are neat stuff and the entire system to create, test and deploy new equipment is compressing and *hard*. One of the key weapons that needed to be pressed from lab to field test in a few weeks was the BLU-118 thermobaric bomb. Unlike Fuel-Air Explosives munitions, like the BLU-82 'daisy cutter', the thermobaric bomb uses a penetrating slow-exploding capability to cause a rolling overpressure blast wave into tunnel complexes. This went from test facility to operational weapon in Afghanistan in *weeks*. While the FAE bombs are relatively good at causing a sudden pressure drop under them and then putting a pressure wave down, their explosive type is not that good for cave penetration. The much lighter thermobaric bomb has GPS guidance and is specifically made to penetrate tunnel entrances and put a pressure and heated shock wave *into* a tunnel complex. And it has the lovely side-benefit of blasting air *out* of all the other escape routes so that they can be identified. About the only effective way to seal off internal cave areas is with blast doors... an expensive proposition for small units.
The only way to make a nuclear device do something similar is to get it within initial cratering zone of the bomb itself or to deep-penetrate it and shake up the entire tunnel complex turning them into 'instacrypts'. But if you want to actually *investigate* the system later, that is no good at all and the thermobaric bomb does just the trick. If you want good INTEL, then you want thermobaric bombs to take out tunnel complexes.
Not the thing to wake up to in a tunnel!
Next up is something to handle armored and vehicular columns of more traditional forces. Here, again, bigger is not always better, but it was difficult to get something like cluster bombs to accurately go after armored vehicles. With a standard cluster bomb you have all sorts of nasty sub-munitions laying around waiting to go off and that is very difficult to clear. And so one man had a vision of tanks dancing from directed plasma way back in the 1980's. Of course, the Pentagon wanted nothing to do with that. So what does someone with a bright idea actually *do* when the Pentagon says NO? Why you go to your Congresscritters and get pork-barrel funding, of course! The Pentagon hated that and tried, repeatedly to kill this dream. It was derisively called the 'weapon of 1,000 miracles' because it would need that many to function in all of its Rube-Goldbergesque capabilities. Textron believed in this dream and so it came to pass, and be made: CBU-97.
By all accounts it did the impossible of being dropped over a large area and attacking up to 40 targets separately. It comes in at 1,000 lbs. which makes it amenable to all sorts of aerial vehicle delivery platforms and only some basic GPS to get it over the target AREA. It is an area effect weapon and that is all it needs. The final sub-sub-munitions do the rest... the 'skeets'.
This was first deployed against an armored column that Saddam was forming up as the Marines were heading towards Baghdad. It was going to be the start of his counter-attack, spearheaded by the Republican Guards. It met up with two CBU-97's and the front third of the column along with some rail rolling stock was destroyed in under 5 minutes. The Republican Guard left the hulks of their dead tanks and the entire counter-attack disappeared as morale broke, never to be seen again. The Marines had been preparing for a light infantry maneuver against armor... and could not believe what happened. A 'dumb bomb' but with very, very smart components. And the 'skeets' that do the dirty work shutdown or become non-operable if they cannot find a target. No explosive mess left behind to clean up. Truly only an American could think up such a complicated way of doing things and make it work.
But the US also makes big bombs, too! Consider the Massive Ordinance Air Burst which marries up big bomb capability with GPS to deliver a blast over an area of 9 city blocks. The designation of this is the GBU-38/B and comes in at 21,700 lbs. Like the 'daisy cutter' the MOAB is delivered by C-130 cargo jet and pushed out the back to find its way to its coordinates. But it is *not* a mere 'daisy cutter'.
This device uses a special cocktail of explosive slurry to spread its blast effect over a wide area. It is large enough that the DoD had to check and make sure that it really was a legitimate weapon via the Law of Armed Conflict. Not to worry: IT IS. In test form it is high visibility, but no doubt its operational brothers are a dull military coloration.
I like to think of it as the 'opium field destroyer'. Perhaps a few of those Afghani's that are supporting the Taliban via the drug trade should see their field of drugs on MOAB...
Now, many folks have complained inside and outside of the Pentagon about the death of the 'Crusader' self-propelled howitzer. It was a big and ungainly beast meant for the Cold War and the Clinton Administration asked 'what purpose would it serve that the Paladin does not?' So, thus ended many a career for pushing the Crusader to full functionality and the Paladin has received upgrades and become more of a mobile command post and first line aid station on treads, along with its other capabilities. Time, however, does not stand still and the need for something that will fit the modern force structure has yielded an automated mobile howitzer. BAE Systems has come up with the Non-Line Of Sight Cannon or NLOS-C.
The aim for the NLOS-C is to get it under 20 tons for transportation and 25 tons fully equipped and loaded. But there is much, much more to this weapon system. Firstly it incorporates its 155mm gun into a lightweight armored chassis that is powered by a diesel/electric hybrid system so that it can reach 55mph on regular paved surfaces, 35-40mph over rough terrain and nearly silent operation at 20mph with its electric motor. Instead of the heavy and noisy metal treads it uses a rubber composite that is durable, lightweight and easy to replace. When it is operating under electric only mode it is nearly silent on the battlefield... ask blind people about the Toyota Prius and its siblings that have this same capability and the danger they face from it in parking lots. Give it a nice dark matte camouflage and it will be effectively invisible at night, with only its small electric motor IR signature to show it up.
As a fully automated cannon it loads and unloads itself and removes any jams from the gun. Since no human interaction is required it can fire 6 rounds/minute sustained and up to 10 rounds/minute for a burst of firepower. As part of its capabilities is a multiple shell on-target simultaneous firing capability, so that it can fire 4 to 8 shells at different trajectories to all arrive within a half-second of each other.
On a normal deployment in multiples, these weapons communicate with each other and coordinate firepower so as to deliver multiple shells simultaneously from multiple guns. It also tracks each shell fired so as to make any adjustments for higher atmosphere wind speeds with follow-on rounds.
It has a pop-up defense system to fire accurately at targets and incoming rockets and rocket-propelled grenades so as to cut down on the need for armor. Individuals firing LAWs will be in for a surprise as the projectile is taken out and then rounds fired at the individual doing the firing. This may have an 'automatic' mode for incoming fire so as to cut down on the business of the workplace and let the vehicle take better care of itself.
Current configuration calls for a 3-man crew, which will operate the entire vehicle. One can expect to see future upgrades in commo and software to allow unmanned 'follow the leader' capability and, if any of the DARPA Grand Challengers comes up with a good overland route planning solution, to see a nearly autonomous capability for these weapons. This has already led to some semi-autonomous ground vehicles and more will be in the pipeline to help augment and supplement the warfighter.
The USAF already has such in its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and is seeking more of the same with a Just In Time Strike Ability from an 'armed drone swarm'. The current concept is to allow current USAF cargo planes to deploy lightweight, one-way drones that will have their own armament and sensor arrays so as to do short term interdiction and area denial. Use of low-cost and disposable equipment to give intense sensor coverage over an area and coordinated pin-point strike ability changes the equation of area utilization and infiltration. Although such small drones will have limited speed, they will offer a persistent surveillance capability that other UAVs may not have or offer such distributed strike capability that even the SFW cannot give.
For the 'boots on the ground' we are already hearing the first survivor's stories on the new combat armor known as Dragonskin. Front and back panels with full torso wrap come in at 20 lbs. and are less than one inch thick and fully flexible. Again, the move towards higher capability materials and finding those that meet the needs of protecting the warfighter at low weight are paramount, and giving flexibility and protection are a major goal for body armor. This is the first of a new generation of materials and is to replace the older, bulkier ceramic plate and vest system and the folks making it contend that it meets all standards put out by the Army for testing and are willing to have any third party do a test and evaluation of their system. When used in a placement panel system, individuals can reduce the amount of armor they need to protect only vital areas and get that 20 lbs down to nearly half that amount. Here the concept is to protect what needs protecting and let each mission and unit and individual decide what they require 'as-needed'. Other solution types and spaces are also being looked at with a hard determination to break the 10 lb barrier for full upper body protection and mobility equivalent to that of normal combat fatigues. This will be an ongoing piece of work to give the best protection for the lightest possible weight.
Now, with that should go a lightweight, higher accuracy and more capable weapon's system for the individual soldier. The Objective Individual Combat System was started to meet that need, so that a flexible weapons system covering a gamut of capabilities could be achieved with a modular add-on concept. What has bogged this down is a question of round-size, penetration and stopping power of the smaller cartridge of the OICS and the standard NATO rounds employed by the US. The program is thus on hold as keeping everyone supplied with their current weapons takes priority and a re-compete of the OICW may be held now that arms manufacturers realize that the DoD is *serious* about this. When things are down to a dull roar or when full unit implementation can be done, one can expect to see OICW return on a large scale.
This has not, however, stopped the Army from looking at a new weapon called the Corner Shot. In the 'things you always wanted' category of weapons is one that fires around corners, but lets one stay protected around said corner and the Corner Shot system of weapons do just that: they incorporate grenade launcher, 9mm cartridge and optical sensors to facilitate putting very little around a corner to get a very big bang. This is not the old 'bent barrel' from WWII but a fully functional corner firing weapon. Bend the system to your needs, even if it is *over* a corner and see what you are firing at and then fire. A thing of beauty and if 9mm doesn't get attention and respect, the 40mm grenade *will*.
A weapon that is *not* in question is the Barrett .50 Caliber Rifle, accepted by the US Army in 2003 and given the M-107 designation.
This weapon has been battle tested in Afghanistan and Iraq and has confirmed kills at up to 1.5 miles. It is a future-weapon of today and rumors have it that improvements on it by Mr. Barrett and his company are in store to help it become an integral part of any future combat system.
The US Navy is undergoing a quiet revolution in ship design based on stealth technology, and has already implemented much of this technology on the Arleigh Burke class of destroyers. Incorporating surfaces that deflect RADAR and changing the forms of simple things like railings and adding cooling ducts to cool exhaust, the Arleigh Burke destroyers have the first generation of stealth built into them. Their RADAR and IR profile is very low compared to pre-stealth designs, and that makes it an able combatant in the modern military arena. Added in are its Aegis capabilities for wide-area air defense and control and stand-off missile capability. First gen stealth capability look to be a major design consideration for the Littoral Combat Ship, of which the first one is now undergoing final fitting for delivery. The LCS-1 Freedom looks to be a larger implementation of those design conceptions.
That said the entire conception of what and how to make a naval vessel that fits in with the modern approach to warfare is changing based on a design testbed vessel IX-529 Sea Shadow. This vessel not only has a low RADAR profile, but a low SONAR profile and minimized wake due to the structure of the vessel itself. IR is heavily reduced and distributed and mixed in with the wake to mask the presence of the vessel in operations. When stationary it is very difficult to detect in anything except the visible spectrum. So while the Future Fleet for the 21st century is still undergoing basic design reviews, those designs will need to incorporate the 'lessons learned' of the Sea Shadow.
One of the major concerns is that modern missiles are relatively slow compared to necessary time-to-target, especially deep inland. Traditional naval guns have limited inland range capability and do not do well with non-line of sight targeting unless there is good coordination between spotters and the ship itself. Cruise missiles, at $1 million or more each, are expensive and should only be reserved for strategic targets, not tactical ones. Basically the Navy has an inland fire-support reach problem: missiles are too expensive, guns don't have range and UCAVs are limited for non-carrier vessels. And so the idea for the next generation is something truly from science fiction: the mass driver, aka the railgun. This has been looked at for some time but has not been a good concept with diesel powered Destroyers.
Enter the DDX 21st century design concepts with modern electrical power generation capabilities enough to get a goodly sized projectile up to a decent speed... say Mach 7. At such a speed even a piece of metal impacting would be a huge kinetic energy delivery system, and then add in armor-piercing, explosives and the such like and you start to see a multi-role, high speed delivery system for munitions and sub-munitions. A range of such a beast would be about 200 miles and such a system would integrate with such things as the Dominators, NLOS-C and the rest of the Battle Sphere.
And all of this without even getting into Lasers! Or trying to find a follow-on to the A-10, which has just been funded to get an upgrade for 300 aircraft. Actually, the basic design concept behind the A-10 is so sound that it may only require some stealth reworking on surface design... but this is one of the few aircraft that should *not* be invisible to *anyone*. We want you to know its coming and don't *care* if you can target it. Go ahead! Take your best shot! Just don't complain about the counter-attack.... and how about dirigibles to orbit for low cost, low priority material? One could probably put up an entire space station piecemeal, then add propellant and move it to a higher orbit... nope, too simple. No rockets and such, no fancy work...
The 21st century appears to be one of incredible high tech and overlooked low-tech that will both transform military operations into something that is only now taking shape. Something I synopsized as NetWar or internetworked, interconnected warfare across all realms of human activity. The Cold War and concepts like containment just do not apply in this transforming world of ours. And when small groups of individuals take up weapons of war without the benefit of a Nation behind them, then Nations thusly attacked should take up the old concept of being able to counter-attack on that same plane: groups warranted to fight illegal and illegitimate groups. For no matter how mighty the military can be against other National military organizations, it should not be able to fight those low battles that new enemies wish to fight. This 21st century offers new ways to fight, but old ways of war to which we must take up responsibility and arms. I want a mighty military that can keep any Nation at bay and reduce it to a whimpering mass. But for those things that are NOT Nations that *still* fight us... it is the recourse to deploy Citizens given Warrants and Letters of Marque and Reprisal to fight these scum for bounty and prizes.
We the People agreed to this back in 1787 and so it remains until this day.
Give the military the guns and bombs and hurtling masses to give voice to those under the iron fist of tyranny.
But let the People take the water from this non-National scum and slime and let it dry in the sunlight of liberty so that it may curl up and die for lack of sustenance. This is dirty work fit for the Repo Man of We the People, not Our fine Military. Cleansing those who wish to fight illegal war and dishonorable battles has always been a battle of the People to fight and only when the things necessary to fight too great for individuals does the Nation need step in. Fighting against distributed and dishonorable terrorists is nothing law enforcement can properly do, nor do these terrorists mass so that armies can fight them properly. Shadow warriors can strike here and there, but they do not have the tools and ability granted them by We the People to do the job that We agree to do by those things We have handed Congress to sign off upon. That is Our fight as a Nation in whole, not in part. And We must agree to it and pay that price of liberty... of freedom... and of justice to bring final rest to those dishonorably slaughtered by Our enemies. We agree to pay that price of freedom so that we may be free.
Unless supporting your own freedom is too heavy a burden for you.... I am sure that those seeking Empire will help you remove that yoke of painful freedom and enslave you so that you never need decide on anything ever again.
"Every good citizen makes his country's honor his own, and cherishes it not only as precious but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defense and its conscious that he gains protection while he gives it."