Leadership: New Tech And The Big One


April 13, 2010: Two decades after the Cold War ended, senior military commanders are finally getting away from the Cold War mindset (big wars, big battles, big armies). This can be seen in the changed equipment priorities. Back in the 1980s, the United States was concentrating on the development, and modernization of armored vehicles (the M-1 tank and M-2 infantry fighting vehicle), helicopters (AH-64 gunship and UH-60 transport) and air defense (Stinger and Patriot missiles). Those weapons are all still around, but are considered old school (and still useful). However, development and modernization effort now goes into networking, robots (UAVs and ground droids) and new (and only vaguely defined) ground combat vehicles.

Because of September 11, 2001, development of these new systems has progressed a lot faster. You need actual fighting to accelerate thinking, building and testing of new systems. Thus we have seen several generations of the battlefield Internet, UAVs, ground robots and new ground combat vehicles (armored hummers and MRAPs, both with remote control turrets) in the last decade. UAVs are everywhere over the battlefield, streaming live video to a network below. We take all of this stuff for granted now, as do the troops (at least the younger ones). In many cases, soldiers don't start their vehicles, they boot them up, as even hummers have half a dozen electronic systems, that are often networked. The Stryker was one of the first vehicles to go this way, and prove that too much ain't enough when it comes to battlefield electronics.

What worries senior leaders the most is that, while there is battlefield experience with all these new technologies in combat against irregulars, it's still unknown what the exact impact will be when the big dogs have it out.





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