5 Extraordinary and Terrible Weapons That Could Change Conflict Forever.
Predicting which five weapons will have the greatest impact on the future of combat is a problematic endeavor, as the nature of warfare itself is fluid and constantly changing. A system that could be a game-changer in a major confrontation between two conventional forces—say, China and the United States—could be of little utility in an asymmetrical scenario pitting forces in an urban theater (e.g., Israeli forces confronting Palestinian guerrillas in Gaza or Lebanese Hezbollah in the suburbs of Beirut).
The world’s best fifth-generation stealth combat aircraft might be a game-changer in some contexts, but its tremendous speed and inability to linger makes it unsuitable to detect and target small units of freedom fighters operating in a city, not to mention that using such platforms to kill a few irregular soldiers carrying AK-47s is hardly cost-effective. Special forces equipped with hyper stealth armor and light assault rifles firing “intelligent” small-caliber ammunition would be much more effective, and presumably much cheaper.
Another challenging aspect is choosing how we define revolution in the context of weapons development. Do we quantify impact using the yardstick of destructiveness and casualty rates alone? Or conversely, by a weapon’s ability to achieve a belligerent’s objectives while minimizing the cost in human lives? What of a “weapon” that obviates kinetic warfare altogether, perhaps by preemptively disabling an opponent’s ability to conduct military operations?
Keeping in mind the scenario-contingent nature of warfare, we can nevertheless try to establish a list of weapons systems, most of which are already in the development stage, that will if only for a brief instant, change the nature of warfare. By trying to strike a balance between conventional warfare and irregular operations, our list is inherently incomplete but shows trends in the forms of warfare that are likely to affect our world for decades to come.
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