- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2002

The military gets less attention now than it did when the Soviet Union was around. Yet research continues. New technology comes and drives the military in new directions. In future wars, including with Iraq if it occurs, we will see some new things.

In the various journals focused on advanced weaponry, you find a heavy emphasis on autonomous weapons, stealthy weapons and weapons that are remotely controlled.

Some of this is driven by the belief that American wars must be fought with few casualties, and some by the shrinking of the military that occurred under President Clinton. If a target can be destroyed by one missile from long range, you can use smaller and cheaper forces.

An example is the Tomahawk Block 4, a new version of the Navy's long-range cruise missile now in development. (Raytheon makes it.) Controllers aboard ship will communicate with the missile in flight by ultra-high-frequency radio and by satellite link. This will allow retargeting in flight (if, for example, surveillance aircraft report that the first target has moved) and also will send back imagery of the target before it hits.

The Tomahawk carries a robust explosive charge that can destroy, say, anti-aircraft radars given a direct hit. The idea is that with information on its target provided by unmanned surveillance aircraft now in use or development (Global Hawk, Predator), it will be possible to destroy targets without risking American lives.

Moreover, in a televised world, avoiding collateral damage is important. The military knows this. The desire to avoid killing civilians, or killing anyone at all if it can be avoided, runs through the defense world.

Weapons that (one hopes) hit their targets very precisely are one approach.

So are UCAVs unmanned combat air vehicles. The military is serious about these in various forms, and they are moving quickly toward deployment.

In Jane's, a major publication of the defense world (jdw.janes.com), one sees that Boeing is working on flying them in formation in numbers.

Other nonlethal weapons are in the pipeline. One question about the expected war with Iraq is whether we will see high-power microwave weapons that produce intense bursts of energy that fry enemy electronics, rendering computers useless without killing anyone.

Another consequence of advancing technology is that wars are not going to be as private as they once were. Civilian surveillance satellites can provide detailed overhead photographs that would have been impossible a few years ago.

The Aug. 19 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology has remarkable photos of the new U.S. military installations in Qatar, taken by Space Imaging's Ikonos and Digital Globe's Quick Bird. Specific aircraft are readily identifiable. Hardened hangars are visible, and the magazine speculates on the curious faceted shapes of some of the structures.

Military commanders can't be happy about it.

The Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft,which costs something like $73 million a copy, is a serious bird. According to the Federation of American Scientists, it will "operate at ranges up to 3,000 nautical miles from its launch area, with loiter capability over the target area of up to 24 hours at altitudes greater than 60,000 feet."

The Pentagon sees it as a replacement for the U-2 spy plane. An unmanned airplane can stay over a particular point, whereas a satellite cannot. This means it can track moving vehicles, for example. And since data can be relayed to anywhere in the world by communications satellites, what it sees can be used to target, say, Tomahawks.

It ain't your father's military.

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