Weapons: April 1, 2005

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Which weapon will dominate the battlefield in the near future? With all the new gadgets showing up, is there anything that will make a radical difference? Well, most important "weapon" is still well-trained personnel. Well-trained soldiers hold things together when the chaos of battle breaks out. Everything else is secondary to this. This is often why American forces have often defeated opposing forces who have them vastly outnumbered with few, if any casualties (see Mogadishu, Midway, and Bastogne for examples). This also extends to quality leadership as well. Good commanders, like Raymond Spruance (Midway) or Hal Moore (Ia Drang) will often find ways to get the most out of the forces and troops at hand. Lesser commanders, like Frank Jack Fletcher (Wake Relief Expedition and just prior to the battle of Savo Island) and George McClellan (who often would not take his force into battle at all), will probably lose a battle.

But what tools and weapons will dominate? Well, that topic is where the debate will get interesting. The one thing a commander needs to have in a battle is information. Not only does he need to know where he is, he need to know where the heck the enemy is. Preferably while denying the same knowledge to his counterpart on the other side. So, systems like JTIDS (Joint Tactical Information Distribution System), IVIS (Inter-Vehicle Information System), IT-21 (Information Technology for the 21st Century) and CEC (Cooperative Engagement Capability) will become more dominant. This is about getting information to everyone, and getting the information TO subordinates and others, as well as receiving the information FROM them will matter a great deal. On the flip side, more emphasis will be placed on jamming such links on the other side. Denying the enemy accurate information is just as important as getting accurate information and distributing it to friendly forces.

Another weapon that will dominate is the aircraft carrier. This type of vessel is the most powerful afloat in terms of reach, versatility, and the first line of response in any crisis. Its major weapon can handle virtually any mission, and can reliably hit targets in any environment. It is very well protected not only by its primary weapon and escorting vessels, but by virtue of the fact that it cam move (its top speed is at least 55 kilometers per hour). Its major weapon is second only to a well-trained trooper in dominating the battlefield. Its major weapon is the airplane.

Other than well-trained troops, the aircraft is what will continue to dominate the battlefields. Aircraft have been an essential part of warfare since 1914. For well-trained troopers on the ground to have a chance at victory, control of the air is needed. Aircraft can fight other aircraft, engage missiles, destroy targets on the ground, attack ships, carry out reconnaissance missions, jam radars, detect air and surface targets at long range, sink submarines, and even attack satellites. Perhaps the only things aircraft cant do yet are destroy ballistic missiles and the taking and holding of a position on the ground but the former is being worked on. As for the latter, aircraft make it easier for the ground troops to do. If you cannot prevent enemy aircraft from attacking your supply convoys, bombing your well-trained troops, and taking out infrastructure, you will probably lose the battle. Even with all aircraft can do, they still require well-trained personnel to reach their maximum potential.

The well-trained soldier, pilot, or sailor is really the dominant force in any battle. While communications systems will get information to aircraft, ships, tanks, and other weapons of war, while an aircraft carrier can move and deliver 70 or more aircraft for various missions, and while aircraft can devastate ground targets, they cannot do so unless the personnel using them are well-trained and highly motivated. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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