Over the past 100 years of conflict, the winners of a High Intensity War (HIW) scenario have often been determined on the basis of quantitative or technological overshoot in the air, land and sea. Given significant technological advances and broader shifts in socio-economic norms since the end of the Cold War, strategists must contend with a new operating environment that is more populated, urbanized, digitalized and interconnected than ever.
Below are the top technology trends impacting the topic of high-intensity warfare, as identified by GlobalData.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
Although the current state of this technology remains fundamentally too underdeveloped to drastically affect the conduct of DIDs, AI/ML is widely considered to be one of the most promising and important disruptive technologies that could be used in future armed conflicts. It can be expected that AI/ML capabilities will most likely be used by geopolitical powers such as the United States, China, and Russia, increasing the likelihood that they will be included in any development plan. HIW operations.
The US military is currently pursuing 685 separate AI projects, many of which are tied to existing platforms such as the MQ-9 Reaper UAS and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle as part of a larger effort to integrate the capabilities in all theaters and branches of service, while the Chinese military has reportedly focused its AI/ML development efforts on intelligence analysis and information warfare as well as threat reconnaissance. targets and fire control for lethal autonomous weapons systems.
Directed Energy (DE) and Laser Weapon Systems (LWS)
One of the most important factors to consider in HIW is the prohibitive cost of many of today’s high-end A2/AD systems like Israel’s Iron Dome, American Patriot missiles and other interceptors designed to protect against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear threats. In sustained high-intensity conflict (HIC), success can be determined by a faction’s ability to economically maintain its defensive capabilities and outlast its opponents’ ability to maintain its offensive capabilities.
This is currently a point of contention in military circles, as the prohibitive cost and time to manufacture current interceptors compared to the relatively wasted cost and ease of production that larger powers like Russia or China would face when developing inferior offensive capabilities means that long-term missile defense in its current state would be unsustainable for DID. Consequently, DE/Laser weapons are increasingly gaining attention in defense circles, as they have the potential to provide equivalent A2/AD capabilities at a fraction of the cost, allowing defenders to outlast offensive capabilities. and ultimately succeed.
While less complex than AI development, manufacturing a reliable DE/laser based weapons system is still prohibitively expensive, again limiting the ease of access to these technologies.
Electronic Warfare (EW)
One of the major emerging technological trends in the field of DID is the development of electronic warfare capabilities and technologies. Indeed, on the increasingly digitized battlefield, a heavy reliance on electronics could prove a devastating vulnerability against an adversary with advanced EW capabilities, such as communications, unmanned systems, and security networks. data sharing could all be targeted or disrupted to cause disarray among military forces in all fields.
Government and industry have been preparing for the possibility of conflict in electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) challenged environments for several years, with EW resiliency now a key component of many emerging military communications and data transfer technologies. Offensive EW capabilities are also growing in popularity, as exemplified by the US Army’s decision in 2021 to triple its EW personnel and distribute joint EW/cyber capabilities at the brigade level to facilitate the exploitation of GE vulnerabilities in hostile forces.
Multi-role systems and platforms in DID
Another defining technology trend in DID is the development of dual-use or multi-role systems and platforms as militaries around the world continue to adapt their equipment to operate effectively in a multi-domain conflict scenario. This can be seen at all levels and domains, from the F-35 JSF; A2/AD systems; drones; and personal protective equipment (PPE).
These types of technologies will be critical in a DID scenario, as the high material losses and interconnected threat environment dictate that many systems and platforms will need to be modular and adaptable to changing circumstances and mission parameters. Multi-role platforms would also mitigate the strategic impact caused by losses of very specific equipment and capabilities, as capability gaps could more easily be filled with a similar platform or systems capable of fulfilling this role.
Over the past three decades, major military forces such as Russia and the United States have relied heavily on space technologies to support military operations around the world. Military forces have relied on satellites to provide vital services, including GPS navigation and positioning data, real-time satellite imagery, communication relays for SATCOM devices, early warning systems for threats ICBM and signals intelligence (SIGINT), among others.
As satellite technology becomes more affordable, military strategists will increasingly rely on space-based technologies to support battlefield situational awareness, creating momentum for the development of anti-satellite systems and associated capacities.
Several countries, including the United States, China, India and Russia, have developed anti-satellite capabilities over the years, with the most recent demonstration occurring when the Russian Federation destroyed one of its own satellites during a missile test in late 2021. International condemnation of this The test illustrated how kinetic activities in space pose a threat to military and civilian infrastructure, with astronauts on the International Space Station having to temporarily put themselves sheltered due to fallout from the Russian missile test.
DID and unmanned systems
Arguably one of the most important technologies to emerge in recent years has been unmanned systems technologies. The advantages they offer in the military domain are numerous, whether it is improving the survivability of forces, providing scalable ISR and precision strike capabilities, or even the potential for “in swarm” to provide an overshoot to existing kinetic systems through overwhelming numbers.
The viability of using such systems on a large scale was questioned for many years due to the extremely prohibitive life-cycle acquisition and maintenance costs involved in operating advanced unmanned systems, which which consequently led only the great military and economic powers to choose to adopt such systems.
However, rapidly falling costs and increased availability of commercial and military unmanned technologies mean that the unmanned platform market is likely to experience significant growth over the next few decades.
This is an edited excerpt from High Intensity War (HIW) / High Intensity Conflict (HIC) – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.