Friday, May 07, 2010

Two new military technologies

Army Sending Precision Grenade Launcher to Afghanistan | Defense Tech

One of the historical powers of technology is to negate or reduce the effects of terrain. During the Nineteenth Century, the rail road and telegraph greatly reduced the frictional effects of major geological features like mountains, rivers, and ravines on commerce. The new XM25 grenade launcher promises to do something similar for infantry combat.

The XM25 gives soldiers the ability to accurately air-burst grenades over entrenched targets or inside enclosed spaces like rooms. Enemy in a foxhole or trench line? Detonate a round over him with none of the delay and variable accuracy associated with mortars, artillery, or air strikes. Are they inside a bunker or building? Pop an accurate rifle-launched grenade through an opening and it will go off at the room's midpoint instead of spending most of its blast energy and shrapnel detonating on the wall or floor.

Rather than trenches, bunkers, fighting positions, and buildings becoming strong points that infantry fights often crystallize around, a proliferation of air-bursting munition launchers may turn these into death traps. Imagine if a significant number of combatants had compact grenade launchers mounted on carbines or rifles like the US M4/M203 combination. Imagine if those launchers could range and air burst munitions like the new XM25.

Then there are thermobraic weapons that suck the oxygen from the air for use in an explosion that essentially flows throughout the enclosed spaces of a structure. These have already seen use in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The battlefield might soon be a very different place for an infantryman with regards to fixed positions.

On to sea combat.

Killer Drone Builder General Atomics Builds Killer Electromagnetic Rail Cannon | Defense Tech

One of the current topics of discussion in naval warfare is how the proliferation of precision-guided long-range missiles will likely push sea-based platforms like carriers and other large surface warships farther and father away from shore. Or that carriers will soon be obsolete altogether.

This sounds an awful lot like the 1970s predictions of the obsolescence tanks in the face of wire-guided munitions. The combination of large armor-piecing warheads mated to long-ranged precision missiles was supposed to remove the tank from the battlefield entirely. Yet here we are with heavy tracked vehicles still playing a key role in combat thanks to a generations of heavy composite armors that came into service during the early 80s.

The rail gun may well do the same for sea combat. Yes, the missiles are getting longer ranged and more precise, but, as the above article suggests, active defense systems may be about to dramatically increase their range and kill probability in the near future.

No comments: