Mike Martin

Many of today's battlefield systems will be rendered obsolete by 2020 by new weapons systems being developed now, says a report released at the show.

The developments pose questions for governments funding systems such as the Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche attack helicopter, the Boeing F-22 Raptor advanced tactical fighter and the Eurofighter Typhoon, says the report from Forecast International/DMS (Stand D151).

"In all probability, the development of such new and very expensive military platforms will move ahead cautiously, but much more attention will be given to stealth and survivability, as well as enhanced stand-off weapons capability," say the report's authors.

Smart weaponry, unmanned battle systems and high-energy weapons mean that many of today's systems would not be able to survive a major conflict, they add.

Each of the three technologies merits its own report in the company's programme of close study of the outlook for battlefield systems.

The Kosovo conflict demonstrated the power of precision-guided weapons. But, says the company, those technologies have already been significantly improved and further major advances are expected in the early years of the new century.

"But that is only a minor precursor of things to come," says the report.

"Not only will precision-guided weapons be far more accurate, they will be deployed from far greater ranges and, through the use of ever-more sophisticated sensors, be able to selectively and autonomously locate and destroy multiple targets."

Further down the line is a range of new, deadly, directed-energy weapons, notably laser and particle-beam systems, which can blind enemy troops and literally heat incoming aircraft, missiles and artillery shells to instant destruction. Such weapons will melt a hole in any tank whatever its armour.

"Such systems are already in testing and are capable of being adapted to provide the much-discussed anti-ballistic missile shield to protect the US against ballistic and other missiles launched by rogue elements, or by declared enemies in a major conflict."

Another dramatic shift will come from unmanned battlefield systems. Already used in reconnaissance and support functions, they will evolve into fighting systems.

"It is entirely possible that future combat operations could evolve into unmanned systems fighting each other... the advent of the so-called 'cybernetic battlefield.'"

The report's authors conclude that the revolution in military technology currently under way is equivalent to that caused by the invention of gunpowder.

Source: Flight Daily News