Top 10 Disruptive Technologies for a New Era of Global Instability

By Sandra I. Erwin

There is growing concern in the Pentagon that the U.S. military is in a technology rut. Even though American technology has been the gold standard for decades, countries like China intend to challenge that lead.

How the nation’s military will keep that edge in a rapidly changing and dangerous world is the proverbial 64-million-dollar question. The national security challenges are multiplying: From the crisis in Ukraine, unprecedented turmoil in the Middle East, uncertainty in Pakistan, the drawdown in Afghanistan, unnerving tensions in the South China Sea.

The U.S. military continues to rely on many technologies that, although still dominant, are several decades old. After 13 years of grinding warfare and large-scale counterinsurgency operations, “We’re seeing first-hand that the rest of the world has not stood still,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Disruptive technologies and destructive weapons used to be accessible only to advanced nations, but are now available to almost anyone, including terrorist groups. The Pentagon has observed that China and Russia have been trying to close the technology gap by developing anti-ship, anti-air, counter-space, cyber, electronic warfare and special operations capabilities that appear designed to circumvent traditional U.S. military advantages.

All this suggests that a new wave of innovation is long overdue. “If we don’t take these challenges seriously,” Hagel cautioned, “our military could arrive in a future combat theater facing an arsenal of advanced, disruptive technologies that thwart our technological advantages, limit our freedom of maneuver and put American lives at risk.”

One of the favorite catchphrases of U.S. generals and admirals is that they do not want to send their troops into a “fair fight.” The implication is that they want to overwhelm the enemy with revolutionary, game-changing new technologies. In this age of fiscal austerity, however, the military no longer is able to purchase the shiniest objects that money can buy. To their credit, the military services consistently have managed to use technology in new and creative ways, so the future is likely to be a mix of old and new. In that vein, Hagel has directed the Pentagon to “embrace a spirit of innovation and adaptability across our defense enterprise.”

Against this backdrop, the writers and editors at National Defense Magazine identified key technologies that will give military forces a decisive edge in future wars and stay ahead of the game in an uncertain and volatile world.

These are the Top 10:

- Truly Autonomous Weapon Systems

2 - Transformational 'Big Data' Tools

3 - Holograms for Training                            

4 - Super-Powered Soldiers                        

5 - Hypersonic Missiles and Space Planes       

6 - Drones Manufactured On Demand, 24/7     

7 - Hydra-Like, Invincible Vehicles                      

8  - Inexhaustible Power Sources                        

9 - Jam-Proof, Reliable Communications            

10 - Revolutionary, Stealthy Low-Cost Warships    

Topics: C4ISR, Energy, Power Sources, Robotics, Unmanned Air Vehicles, Unmanned Underwater Vehicles, Science and Engineering Technology, Shipbuilding, Land Forces

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