People often ask me about what keeps me awake at night after a long career in the military. What is the country that worries me the most? Russia? China? Iran? Pakistan? All are good candidates; but the most dangerous and unpredictable is North Korea.
After more than 13 years of continuous war, the U.S. military is entering a new era with a smaller force that faces new and expanding roles and challenges. As with all the services, the Navy’s and Marine Corps’ challenges are complicated by budget tightening amid an evolving and broadening security environment.
The unmanned version of the K-MAX medium-lift helicopter, used in the war zone to ferry cargo, might find a new mission in the United States—fighting wildfires under the purview of the federal agency tasked with protecting the country’s natural resources.
U.S. Army officials envision a future in which robots are integral members of the team performing a range of missions, whether hunting for roadside bombs, searching for threats inside buildings, lugging heavy equipment or packing heat in the form of a light machine gun or missile launcher for troop protection.
While infocentric nations and military forces focus on the threat to their systems from malware-wielding cyber attackers, a significant danger to cyberspace may come from outer space in the form of kinetic weapons that attack vital satellites.
When deployed in tens, hundreds or even thousands, robotic systems may change the very nature of warfare, providing greater standoff, increased lethality and enhanced survivability while driving up the costs of war for potential enemies.
The technology behind development of unmanned and autonomous systems makes the platforms more precise, meticulous and exacting than the legacy systems they will replace, but the migration theoretically could make some governments hungrier for war.
The U.S. Coast Guard is engaged in a major overhaul of airborne reconnaissance capabilities, which will allow the service to shed aging platforms, add unmanned systems, enhance interoperability, improve efficiency and perform its missions more effectively.
While the Navy is working with the other services and the U.S. Cyber Command to protect and defend its networks, it also is shaping its own cyberforce to deal with digital challenges outside of its normal purview.