***This is not strictly small wars-related, but I consider this forum as the best one for high level discussions on topics like this that I found so far.***

We all (should?) know that the greater a technological advantage by innovation is, the more urgent and more predictable is the reaction to it that nullifies much of the advantage.

The armour/penetration arms race is one example, air power vs. air defense another and so on. Mr. Luttwak based an entire theory on the seemingly paradox situation that great innovations aren't as useful as largely ignored innovations in the long term simply because the high signature advances provoke quick and effective countermeasures.

Our greatest advances and therefore some of our greatest advantages ("our" = NATO) are
  1. Digital wireless communications
  2. Satellite-based precision real-time navigation
  3. Accurate airstrikes based on precision guided munitions (even stand-off) and all-conditions air-to-ground sensors

This pretty much sums up on what our new styles of conventional warfare are based imho.

I'll focus on one example - I want to start a debate here whether we should better prepare for a situation in which our advantages don't work because of technological reactions and whether we should ourselves prepare to defeat the threats that we invented ... because they're so simple to produce.

This example shall be guided munitions. It may be anything - guided 120mm mortar bombs, aerial ordnance (glide bombs), ATGMs, guided artilelry rounds (including GMLRS), SAMs, torpedoes and AAMs.

Navies are able to hard-kill missiles since decades - they invented CIWS like Vulcan Phalanx (the most famous one) to intercept even missiles with difficult flight profiles (Seawolf CIWS demonstrated the intercept of a 114mm projectile a long time ago).
Armies developed ADS (active defense suites) for tanks - first some crude Russian models, now many other models with greater capabilities.

Four examples have alerted me:
  1. THEL laser shooting down artillery rockets as demonstration
  2. Vulcan Phalanx intercepting mortar bombs as base defense
  3. A German report about the newest ADS being able to intercept with a millisecond sequence even hypervelocity long rods
  4. Claims of SAM producers that their system (like RBS-23) could even intercept anti-radiation missiles

If applied on a broad scale, such technologies could render much of our arsenals obsolescent within a couple of years. Enemies need only to develop and test such technologies, deployment and quantity production in preparation for a large conventional conflict would take less than three years. No possibility to react in time for us.


  • Our air forces' fighters don't shoot down enemy planes because AMRAAM, Mica, Sidewinder, IRIS-T, Magic2 get shot down by some hard kill close-in defense missile.
  • Our air forces don't succeed in SEAD/DEAD anymore because their ARM's are intercepted by short-range SAMs.
  • Our air forces don't destroy enemy columns and deployed forces anymore because gatling-equipped force air protection vehicles intercept every SDB, JSOW, LGW, JDAM, Brimstone ... whatever - with cheap FAPDS dumb rounds
  • Our ATGM-equipped tank hunter units and atatck helicopters don't destroy many tanks anymore because their missiles are intercepted too often.
  • Our MBTs have huge problems with upgraded 70's vintage MBTs because they got upgraded with heavy ERA, ADS and new APFSDS (think T-34 shock).
  • Our artillery needs to shoot lots of rounds again to overwhelm enemy anti-artillery defenses by saturation fire ... probably using huge salvoes again instead of just a tiny precision guided munition here and there as some futurists claim.

Technology drives the offensive capabilities as much as the defensive capabilities, and our offensive strength is destined to be countered by new means of defense - and this defense is unlikely limited to the no-tech methods of dispersion, camouflage and human shields. That's what's experienced today - projecting that into the future seems ignorant to me. We''ll see technological countermeasures. The Chinese and Indians actually can put together (and export) some electronics as well, not just our alliance.

I believe it's dangerous to design forces for the future based on the assumption that our present strengths can be interpolated into the future.

By the way; I made this topic also a story in my blog ("Diminishing technological advantages").