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One of the greatest advantages an army can have over an adversary is technological superiority. Examples in history abound. Imagine how it was when the first sword of iron met one of bronze on the field of combat, or the first chariots ran down foot soldier, or the first airplane destroyed something on the ground. A historical study of technology is also one of warfare.

Currently, the West's best troops have small, powerful automatic weapons, night-vision capability, individual radios, and some of the best training on the planet. Our forces are enhanced (the military calls them "force multipliers") by devices ranging from battlefield artillery computers to radio jammers to tanks with computers that check windage, distance, and the relative motions of both the shooter and the target for a near-perfect shot.

The American military is currently researching next-generation weapons and infrastructure under programs with names like Land Warrior and the Joint Expeditionary Digital Information (JEDI) project. Tomorrow's soldier will have individual satellite location and communications, a wearable computer with a head-up monitor providing data on all his teammates. They would be able to link to a gun camera, enabling them to fire it around corners without exposing their body. (I believe that this is the primary reason the Iridium satellite system was rescued, because it is used for the JEDI program.)

The next-generation infantry weapon will also have a smart grenade launcher. It will initially be distributed at the squad level, but will eventually get into every soldier's hands, at least in the elite units (unless they choose another based on mission requirements.)

The smart grenade (also called a smart munition) will not only explode in the traditional manner, it will also be able to explode at a predetermined distance measured by the weapon's laser rangefinder. This will enable a soldier to engage (a fancy way of saying "trying to kill") a target hiding behind an obstruction. The soldier just sets the distance, aims to one side of the obstruction, and fires. Once it has travelled that distance, the grenade explodes next to the target.

Although the cartridge bullet is a design over 100 years old, we probably won't see caseless-ammo rifles anytime soon. The world's only functional combat weapon of that type, the Heckler & Koch G11, was shelved by the German military in the wake of the Cold War. Caseless-round automatic rifles rifles are only good in 3-round burst mode, as it turns out, those hot cartridge casings are an important heat-transfer mechanism. The spent brass flying out removes heat from the chamber, helping to keep the weapon cool.

Beyond this generation, active body armor with smart fabric made of piezoelectric polymers, adaptive camouflage able to display any pattern or color, and powered exoskeletons lie off in the not-too-distant future (maybe 10 years.)


54b says Force Multipliers: Don't forget special ops. Big FM there.

Good point, although special ops would fall under the rubric of strategy and tactics, Significant, but a field of endeavor to itself. I kept the wu to hardware for simplicity.

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