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Warfare is changing—nations must invest accordingly

Which technologies will be decisive in future battles?

By Andrew Tyler  

This article was produced in association with Northrop Grumman

Throughout the ages, while training, discipline, strategy and tactics have been important and sometimes critical in battle, just as often it has been technological superiority that has been the difference between winning and losing. Even where battles have been won against the odds of technological superiority, they have required a surfeit of other factors to counter the advantage that comes with superior technology.

As our world has become ever more dominated by technology, the technological component of warfare has risen in importance. What has also been very clear is that technology that was once decisive can be equalled, and then exceeded by innovative and determined adversaries. Too often, nations have gone to war assuming that the future would be the same as the past only to find that their capabilities that were once key had become redundant. This constant state of evolution requires far-sighted nations constantly to reinvent their capability and inventory to meet different threats from new technologies.

Today, nations must have the capacity to detect air, land and sea targets along with the ability to strike these targets with long range, high precision, and increasingly cheap missiles. They must also take into account the new ability to disrupt space assets such as satellites, both electronically and physically, with tremendous impact on the communication, navigation capability and co-ordination of forces. As well as this, cyber and other electromagnetic forms of attack are becoming commonplace among our adversaries. Against this sort of threat environment, there is genuine doubt over the durability of many traditional capabilities designed for high-threat environments.

A nation examining its ability to counter today’s threat environment needs to consider deeply those enabling technologies that are going to be decisive in future battles. These need to be focused around two primary factors; survivability, and the ability to deliver decisive effect.

So this brings us to the question—where should the focus of attention and investment be?

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