No. 36




What kind of impact will emerging technologies have on the armed forces over the next 10 years? *

07 December 2017


RiTo No. 36, 2017

  • Enno Mõts

    Colonel, Commandant of Estonian National Defence College, Rector

The article proceeds from the observance that technology is developing ever more rapidly, and applied science has an unquestionable impact on the processes in society and the lives of individuals, bringing along notable changes in the perspective of a decade, not a century. The focal research question discussed is in which sectors the emerging technologies will find military application and how much it will influence warfighting over the next 10 years.

On the basis of the examples from recent history, the author summarises that the development cycle for taking into use of innovated military technologies and the exploitation period following it last more than thirty years. Analysing the characteristics of modern combat vehicles validated for serving the armies, the author concludes that their traditional capabilities have remarkably increased; however, this is not accompanied by a drastic change in tactics.

The development tendencies are automation, extensive integration of high-tech widgets to tactical level combat elements, and the increase in the range and energy efficiency of both ammunition and moving platforms, reducing the running costs of warfighting.

Combining of the robotics achievements of emerging technologies with artificial intelligence has created lethal unmanned vehicles that follow voice commands and perform their tasks (semi)autonomously. In ten year perspective, the main combat element is still a human, but as experimental tactics, animal robots interconnected to drone technology are being tested, which are able to run also in severely restricted undergrowth and take flight if necessary, creating an extremely aggressive “insect tactics”. The author is of the firm opinion that the arsenal of cyber and electronic warfare will grow significantly, which in its turn requires an increase of relevant support staff in military service.

The author finds that “boots on the ground” will continue to be of key importance for the success of warfighting, and the need for cooperation between services will extend to the subunits of the army. However, the emerging technologies will not be able to remove surprise, lack of knowledge and unforeseen impediments from warfighting – the fog of war and friction will remain the essential factors of war.