As time goes by we’ll see some of the world’s armies become radically transformed. It’s already beginning — countries like China, Russia, India, Turkey, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Israel all use unmanned vehicles. But none come close to America’s arsenal of over 7500 UAVs, which makes up more than a third of the country’s air force. Other countries are committed to increasing their number of unmanned vehicles in the near future, and that’s just one of the technologies that will change the way we fight wars.
Historically speaking, Russia has always counted on cheap and reliable weapons. The T-34 tank of WWII is considered by many to be a perfect balance of firepower, armor and speed, making it the most mass produced tank of the war with more than 57,000 being built. There’s also, of course, the Russian designed AK-47 rifle, the most common gun in the world today.
With increasing tensions between Russia and the West, Russia has decided to boost the number of its unmanned vehicles significantly. The Wolf-2 is just one of many Russian prototypes — it’s the size of a small car and fitted with a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun. This unmanned vehicle can move all on its own, while the remote human operator can select up to 10 targets for the Wolf to fire on.
9. Insect Drones
If information is power, information gathered while the enemy is unaware is even greater power. The United States has been developing small scale drones in order to better survey areas. Ranging in size from as big as the palm of your hand to the size of your fingertip, these drones can take the inconspicuous shape of birds and insects.
Their main purpose will be to infiltrate hard to reach places, and in addition to military use they can be used by firefighters to assess the situation inside a burning building. These drones can reach speeds of up to 45 mph, and can navigate a maze of rooms and avoid detection without the need for remote human piloting or pre-planned GPS way points.
The main concern will be personal privacy, as these robots will be extremely hard to detect. And while the technology isn’t quite there yet, it’s speculated that these tiny drones will one day be able to retrieve DNA samples or leave behind RAFID tracking nanotechnology on someone’s skin.
8. The Eclipse
The Eclipse is a an unmanned surface vessel, a 36 foot craft capable of reaching speeds of up to 60 mph and loitering in water for up to 10 days without the need to refuel. The design of the Eclipse helps it remain undetected by enemy radar, and it’s controlled by a human operator via radio or satellite links. This vessel’s purpose is to survey the coastline, fight against piracy and rescue survivors, all while eliminating the need to put a human crew in harm’s way. Thanks to its infrared cameras it can see in the dark, but it can also detect chemical and radiological matter and underwater mines, and can even scan the seabed. The boat can be outfitted with a high-powered fire hose, a net firing cannon that tangles and stops propellers and, of course, a .50 caliber machine gun.
7. Autonomous Rotorcraft Sniper System
The ARSS is, as the name suggests, an unmanned sniper helicopter. At only 1100 pounds, the ARSS can travel at speeds of up to 135 mph for nine hours straight and at altitudes of up to 13,000 feet. It can also carry weights of about 380 pounds, which is fortunate since it’s usually fitted with a heavy duty rifle. The rifle can fire about 10 well placed shots per minute, and it can take out a car engine with a single bullet. The autopilot system can fly the helicopter to its destination and keep it stabilized while a human operator aims and shoots. All of this is done with a laptop and an Xbox 360 controller 20 miles away from the action. The ARSS can wield a variety of other weapons, including a xenon strobe light that causes nausea and disorientation.
6. Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance
A sniper has the advantage of being hundreds of yards away from the battle, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. A sniper must always take into account wind velocity, rain, dust and even the rotation of the Earth itself, not to mention the fact that the target is usually on the move. If he misses he risks discovery, and more often than not there’s no one out there to help them.
To cut down on missed shots, DARPA has come up with a special .50 caliber bullet capable of changing direction in mid-flight. They’re vague when it comes to explaining the exact technology in play, but we do know that it uses a real-time optical guidance system via a laser beam, making the EXACTO bullet home in on a target regardless of the weather or movement. Small fins are used to change the trajectory of the projectile up to 30 times a second, which will enable snipers to increase both their accuracy and effective distance. Just imagine the possibilities if combined with the ARSS (and the jokes that will be made about an EXACTO ARSS).
5. The Electromagnetic Railgun
The US Navy is about to add the Electromagnetic Railgun to its arsenal, which can launch projectiles towards targets on the mainland some 100 miles away. The difference between it and a regular cannon is that this gun doesn’t use any explosives to fire its payload. By harnessing a combination of electric and magnetic forces, the railgun can expel a round of ammunition with speeds exceeding Mach 6. That’s around 4500 mph! The round doesn’t have any explosives, because the force of the impact alone is enough to do the job. That means the price drops significantly — around $25,000 a pop compared to $500,000.
Like the mythological creature of ancient times, Hydra will be able to strike an enemy from several hidden locations at once. Waterproof containers that can hold several air and waterborne drones will be placed on the seabed, and they’ll be capable of waiting for further instructions for months at a time. This will allow for a highly coordinated operation, and they can also be called upon in case of unforeseen circumstances like piracy or surprise attacks. Hydra is intended to be deployed in international waters, and predictions say that by 2018 Hydra will be operational all around the planet.
The X-47B unmanned combat drone is an $813 million milestone in UAV development. Back in 2013 and 2014 a series of tests demonstrated that this was the first drone that could take off from and land on a carrier vessel. A simple miscalculation could have spelled disaster, resulting in the X-47B crashing onto the landing pad, into another jet, or a crew-member.
The first series of tests were done on a cleared deck, but in August 2014 the X-47B, accompanied by a F-18 jet, made a series of take offs and landings where all other jets were in their proper place, simulating normal conditions. The aim was to see if UAVs can accompany the Navy without disturbing the normal rhythm on-board the vessel. So far these tests have proven to be a success, and the next phase will be to test the drone’s refueling capabilities in mid-flight.
The drone itself is capable of flying at over 40,000 feet for a distance of 2100 nautical miles on a single tank of gas and at speeds close to the sound barrier. It can also carry up to 4500 pounds in its weapons bay, and its wings can fold upwards so it can fit into a tightly packed carrier hangar.
2. GXV-T Tank
Tanks, even modern ones, aren’t exactly known for their agility. All in all, they’re still armored metal boxes on tracks which fire a big cannon. DARPA is planning to change that with the GXV-T Tank. The aim is to make a tank faster and smarter rather than bulky and heavily armored. Normal armor can’t withstand more than a few shots anyways, so it’s no use trying to add more of it — especially if it slows the tank even further.
DARPA’s goal is for their new vehicle to avoid detection as much as possible and dodge incoming missiles by ducking or raising the entire tank through an advanced suspension system. Another option will be to have access to a sudden burst of acceleration to take the vehicle out of harm’s way. If all else fails, the GXV-T will also be equipped with a series of armored plates that can rapidly change position on the tank and take the blow. All of this will be done autonomously by the vehicle itself.
This type of tank will be far better suited for a larger variety of environments and scenarios. Being smaller than a standard tank, the GXV-T can sprint through city streets or heavily wooded areas, all the while avoiding detection from infrared, electromagnetic and acoustic detectors.
1. Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project
Boeing, in collaboration with the US Air Force Research Laboratory, have designed and successfully tested their CHAMP project. We don’t know much about how it’s deployed or what the missile looks like, but we do know that the device is capable of taking out any electronics it sets its sights on. It can disable several targets at once, and does no other damage beyond leaving you in the dark.
This will come in especially handy against passive radar technology that can, to some degree, detect stealth aircraft. CHAMP program manager Keith Coleman said, “This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare” and that “In the near future this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.”