We may soon see the end of gunpowder-based warfare and it's replacement is terrifying
Recently, the United States Navy unveiled one of the newest weapons in its arsenal, the rail gun. It utilizes electromagnetism to slingshot explosive projectile shells for miles. As the device stands now, it is slotted for use in anti-projectile warfare at sea, but any number of simple stretches of the imagination reveal an oasis of opportunity.
Researchers have been steadily working to shrink the device. This possibility should be most intriguing to those curious about the nature of warfare in the future. In a world that is constantly changing, military systems are struggling to adapt.
Going forward, it seems likely that the most competitive armed forces will have sought to make themselves smaller, faster, and smarter. An essential part of this may mean overturning some long-held assumptions about gunpowder-based warfare. Not only do so-called “kinetic projectiles” greatly enhance the distance from which attacks can be carried out, but they also reduce the sheer amount of extra energy wasted through the expenditure of shells and/or cartridges from the mechanisms in use.
Those in charge of technological development contracts at the Pentagon will likely be seeking new alternatives to the lingering inefficiencies of modern warfare. Part of this, no doubt, will be the implementation of vastly improved designs in many areas. Looking forward, hypothetically, several decades, the prospects for the use of mechanically enhanced infantry, artificially intelligent infantry, and intercontinental guided projectile cannons are certainly intriguing.
If one is looking for any indication of the direction that the Department of Defense is headed, one need look no further than the new Secretary of Defense. On December 5, 2014, president Obama nominated Ashton Carter, a physicist, who was sworn in by vice president Joe Biden on February 17 of this year.
In the far off realm of many decades from now, possible technologies most definitely include laser weapons, powered combat suits, electromagnetic shielding, sound weapons, and nano-warfare. Some might even say the possibilities are a tad frightening.
It is clear that the future of military development depends heavily upon the variables that we are currently confronted with in this “modern” world. Over time it is likely that the pace of economic change will act to shift the fundamental orientation of the global geo-political power balance.
The drive toward creating a smaller, more efficient armed forces, which seeks to better utilize available technology, will inevitably also change many key aspects of the avenues by which military forces proceed to war. In a century’s time, the human role in combat may, possibly, be reduced to staring at a monitor and playing with a joystick.