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Old 07-03-2007   #1
Lastdingo
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Default Technological reaction

***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.

.

Imagine:
  • 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").
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Old 07-04-2007   #2
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Long time lurker, here. But this is the type of topic (at least for me) to salivate over. Not military, but into technology. Applications software designer, all web based software applications.

"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."

This is scary, not because of the weaponry advancement as much as the base technology advancement required to get there. To me, this would be the equal of jumping in a single step from an mid range 80486 based processor up to a mid-range Intel Celeron / early AMD Athlon processor.

That means that not only has an opposing entity jumped multiple generations in processing capabilities, their entire chipmaking environment has moved a number of generations in a single step, and their embedded software development for the chipsets has also made a corresponding leap of giant proportions.

That's when things get really out of hand, because an opponent's technology has just "jumped" a number of generations, not just in one area, but in all the related areas.

If that's indeed the case, and we have to figure out counters, well, if it was up to me, I'd try 3 fairly immediate alternatives. First off, "faster" and "more powerful" are probably not going to work well. "Faster" = larger in size = bigger target. Betting that you can make a missile "faster" than an already effective point-blank interceptor strikes me as being a fools bet. Same rules apply with "more powerful". Just a bigger target that gets there a little quicker.

My alternatives would be: 01 "Smaller, with reduced warhead size"; 02 "Smaller, with No Explosive warhead (kinetic charge)"; and 03 "Smaller/Multiple Heads", so a launch of a missile actually works more like a MIRV with independent seekers, with at least one acting more as a decoy.

Logic:

01 Smaller, with reduced warhead size. Kills are great, but damaged/crippled is just about as good. If I can't kill them, at least let me be able to knock them out of the fight.

02 Smaller, with No Explosive warhead (kinetic charge). See 01. Also, we would probably be assuming that their point-blank defense system was guidance based. What if it's not? What if it's a sensor based system that identifies/locks onto incoming explosive warheads? Unlikely, but "What If?"

03 "Smaller/Multiple Heads", so a launch of a missile actually works more like a MIRV with independent seekers, with at least one acting more as a decoy. This is where it gets interesting. If you have to fight like this, the over-the-horizon era goes out the window. I don't want to be carrying a dozen large missiles highly subject to countermeasures, I want to carry 28/36 missiles, shorter range, where 3-4 can be launched at a time, with at least one missile set to be "hotter" then the others. Increase your chances of success.

I'd throw one other thought out there. If there's a point-blank defense system that is this effective, they are probably using a totally new chip technology, and not just an extension of existing technology. Optical chips would be a possibility. How can you spoof optical chips? I'm sure it's possible.

I hope you don't mind the intrusion. Great topic, my complements.
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Old 07-04-2007   #3
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Some principles from Rogers "Diffusion of technologies" would bear on this topic. Are the other populations or cultures ready for a change or adaption of technology, can they support it, does have some relative advantage over current technologies. All of these factors bear on the strategic imperative of the technologies diffusion.
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Old 07-04-2007   #4
Dominique R. Poirier
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Probably shall you think that the way I reason is simplistic about this subject, but I know about an unchallengeable weapon I name: money.

If you have it and your opponent doesn’t you’ll win, no matter how astute are the enemy’s countermeasures and how strong are its will and courage. For, strength and courage is something you’ll have it too. About wit, money buys it too.

Example: the GPS. Some angry ones on the “East bank,” if I may say so, crave to challenge the GPS and to create their own GPS system because GPS jamming is not a panacea. Jamming doesn’t solve all problems. But they cannot have their own GPS system despite a strong will to do so, just because it is too expensive for them. And even though there would be a way to get it, at last, then their mind would be overwhelmed by doubt proportional to the exhausting investment.
It’s Kind of Star Wars, a ground on which the United States has the enormous advantage to feel at ease both materially and ethically; and it just happens that these opponents I am making allusion too have a problem with money; both materially and ethically!
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Old 07-04-2007   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Watcher In The Middle View Post
"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."

This is scary, not because of the weaponry advancement as much as the base technology advancement required to get there.
Actually not.
The Russians already demonstrated the capability to shoot a missile forward which turns within a couple meters and locks on to a target in the rear. So 360x360° coverage is feasible today (at least when the plane that launches the missile does not maneuver).

Next requirement would be the ability to detect the incoming missile. Warning is already done with in-production IR and UV sysstems, radar warning reeivers would help against AMRAAM as well. Add some all-round radar coverage for more accurate information (remember the Su-30 rear radar) - such small radars should easily track the missile, as both IR and radar seekers aren't stealthy at all.

Then you'd need a couple of small intercept missiles with thrust vectoring - they could be much smaller than normal AAM due to smaller warhead, smaller rocket engine and probably no seeker. The size of a RIM-116 RAM would be the maximum, four of them could be carried in a small container at a single pylon.

Fuzing isn't particularly difficult - just some math and tests and installation of off-the-shelf proximity fuzes.

The missile itself doesn't need to be fast, intercept at 200-1000m away and after turning despite transsonic launch speed is all that's required.

The counter-countermeasure would imho be that both equip that and try to shoot the other one down by saturation fire, similar to what navies did when their missiles became interceptable. Another possibility would be to have the AAMs undetecet till impact or indeed MIRV weapons like Starstreak.

But the particular technologial reaction isn't what I wanted to point out at first. It's the inevitability of a technological reaction to present western offensive strengths. The lack of public anticipation of such a truly predictable reaction is what bothers me.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dominique R. Poirier View Post
Probably shall you think that the way I reason is simplistic about this subject, but I know about an unchallengeable weapon I name: money.

If you have it and your opponent doesn’t you’ll win, no matter how astute are the enemy’s countermeasures and how strong are its will and courage. For, strength and courage is something you’ll have it too. About wit, money buys it too.

Example: the GPS. Some angry ones on the “East bank,” if I may say so, crave to challenge the GPS and to create their own GPS system because GPS jamming is not a panacea. Jamming doesn’t solve all problems. But they cannot have their own GPS system despite a strong will to do so, just because it is too expensive for them. And even though there would be a way to get it, at last, then their mind would be overwhelmed by doubt proportional to the exhausting investment.
It’s Kind of Star Wars, a ground on which the United States has the enormous advantage to feel at ease both materially and ethically; and it just happens that these opponents I am making allusion too have a problem with money; both materially and ethically!
Financially weak adversaries might find supporters in financially mroe powerful adversaries.
Think of China and India - they are poor, but they don't need to spend much on manpower and the purchasing power parity corrects them from a poor but big country to a big player. Furthermore, the USA are wasting incredible amunts of money in the military-industrial complex. Other nations need to invest just a fraction as much money to counter that, especially if they exploit key vulnerabilities and have shorter logistical connections.
Finally, there'll be some financial crash in the next 20 years. The international system so far is not sustainable, even without the bad consequences of a crash, the USA would have almost no money left for its military if it had to balance the trade balance deficit to zero (I mean goods and services balance).

Now who's got so much money? So far, it's the one who's still able to borrow what he needs.


The situation of today should not be extrapolated into the future. Our situation is not sustainable and reactions will occur.

Last edited by Lastdingo; 07-04-2007 at 11:32 AM.
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Old 07-04-2007   #6
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Though it is very sublime the technological innovations should not be expected to require other societies to adapt or innovate too. Often cutting edge technologies can be wiped out or destroyed with very low brow technologies when drawing on intellectual capital. For example DVD or CD copy protection can be made useless by drawing a circle on the outer edge of the media (CD) with a sharpie pen. Bombers can be kept off targets with the use of upper atmosphere balloons and cables. Fighters can be denied air superiority with the use of passive sensing high performance missile systems.
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Old 07-04-2007   #7
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Originally posted by Lastdingo:
Quote:
But the particular technological reaction isn't what I wanted to point out at first. It's the inevitability of a technological reaction to present western offensive strengths. The lack of public anticipation of such a truly predictable reaction is what bothers me.
Few thoughts, on the above, as I'm still struggling with the complexity presented by the above.

First, this is as much both (a) a political issue, and (b) a social issue within western societies. We get to a certain point (and this applies very well to technology), and we get complacent ("FDH" = "Fat, Dumb, and Happy"), because we just know that "Nobody can do this better than we can". Another, more elegant term thrown around to describe the above situation is "Installed Base". Got to protect that installed base of technology, because that's what pays the bills, if you will.

Second, there's priorities. It's not that individuals are blind to the possibility of a superior technological reaction to western technologies, it's just that it doesn't fit within their plans, so they tend to downplay the likelyhood of such an event. Any number of examples out there.

Actually had (a long time ago) a PDM (Product Development Manager) tell a group of us on an AAR for a failed product that "The damned marketplace for the product didn't do what it was supposed to do", when looking at the now-failed product. He's been promoted at least twice since then.

As an example, if I'm sitting in a research lab today, looking at such areas as energy, materials sciences, etc., I may have more than a passing interest in "Quantum Dots". Interesting area, not well understood & certainly out on the edge, has some fascinating qualities. Expensive to work in, may all turn out to be nothing more theoretical science, nothing may come of it. Or I can work on new formulations for printer cartridge ink, giving Marketing another "New and Improved" product to flog in the marketplace. Bets?

Third, the part I find most interesting is the "inevitability of a technological reaction" part. Sometimes that which is most deadly to us is what we do best. As an illustration, look at this wonderful tool we are using right now, called the Internet. As wondrous as it is, groups loosely affiliated with AQ and any number of other terror oriented groups have quickly adopted to using it, even though their (at least in the case of Islamic extremists) end goal of returning back to the 12th century (maybe the 14 century, what's a couple hundred years between friends), seems to be at odds with one's ability to keep using the Internet. But let's not con ourselves, they've done well with it.

One last thought out of the jumble. If I wanted to create a technology revolution within the US military starting effective 07.01.2012, with said technology revolution spreading into the non-military sector, here's what I would pitch. (1) Buy 1 less V-22/M-22 (whatever they designate it these days) for each of the next five (5) years. (2) Invest in battery technology by setting four goals: (a) Increase power capacity by a factor of 300% over current; (b) 30% weight reduction; (c) size does not change; and (d) Standardize battery interface/connectivity.

Now, one might say, what would this last thought have to do with any of the above. Well, if you are going to deal with the brave new world that is the future, and you know that you are going to face technological responses to your technology, well, you not only have to "think outside the box", but you've got to toss the box all together. And you have to start somewhere, if only to train yourself and others on what is going to be involved with preparing for the future.

And yes, I realize that there are tomes written out there on how none of the above goals can ever be achieved, but "What If"?

And, No, it will never happen, because the political environment here will not allow for it to occur.

I better chill on this one, because otherwise I'll probably start to get radical after I start thinking on how poorly we as a society prepare for the future.
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Old 05-10-2012   #8
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A new update to Quantum Dots.

Vanderbilt University Research

This is really promising, particularly in the lighting business. If they can successfully encapsulate the enhanced quantum dots (or even at a higher level of fluorescent efficiency), then we're really in business on a whole range of items.

A big topic of discussion is battery weight. What if the size/weight reduction comes instead in the lighting element, with the potential for considerably lower power consumption as a bonus?

Applications toward the development of optical computing using light pulses?

Just something to pay attention to down the road.....
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