The US Army has begun to develop and field next-generation weapon systems – like autonomous killer robots, fifth-generation fighters, hypersonic technologies, laser cannons, rail guns, new squad automatic rifles, and quantum computers – in order to contend with its top rivals [Russia and China] on the modern battlefield across multiple domains—space, cyberspace, air, land, maritime, before the next round of hybrid wars break out around 2025 to 2040 timeframe.
During the Aspen Security Forum, which took place from July 18 to 21, Army Secretary Mark Esper spoke about the new Austin-based “Futures Command” as “the biggest organizational change since 1973” when the Army established Force Command and Training and Doctrine Command to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Almost half a century later, the purpose of adding a new command [Futures Command] is to maintain America’s empire of 800 military bases around the globe, along with countering new economic systems [Belt and Road Initiative and Maritime Silk Road] that Russia and China are attempting to bring online.
.@SecArmy Mark Esper describes the need for speed as the @USArmy moves systems from concept to delivery. He introduces Lt. Gen. John Murray, recently nominated to lead Futures Command. #AspenSecurity pic.twitter.com/Sas794LmqB— Aspen Security Forum (@AspenSecurity) July 21, 2018
“It is important to note that the National Defense Strategy released earlier this year tells us that we need to be prepared for a high-intensity conflict and that we should consider strategic competitors such as China and Russia as those against us”, said Esper, emphasizing that the military is “ready for any kind of threat today”.
“In the meantime, as we implement our vision, we want to make sure that in a number of areas we can ensure that we are superior in different areas to ensure that we are able to deal with Russia, and eventually with China over this longer period,” he added.
Since the September 11 attacks, the Army has concentrated on fighting insurgents across the Middle East. To pay for the warfighting, military planners cut funding for next-generation weapon programs to fund the trillions of dollars needed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But with the Pentagon withdrawing forces from Afghanistan, the Army is pivoting back to another Cold-War style era against Russia, and now China.
Esper said the Army plans on replacing weapons that have been in service since the 1980s, with replacements sought for aircraft, tanks, Paladin artillery systems, and M4 carbine/ M249 light machine guns.
Esper told the audience to expect next-generation weapons deployed in the near term, including semi-autonomous robots that can scout the battlefield for soldiers, killing enemies without risking American lives.
“As we think about future challenges and future threats we see an immediate near-term, what’s right in front of us, of course, is North Korea, over the five to 15-year period, we see Russia as our pacing threat, if you will, so we look to them in terms of their formations, their tactics, their equipment, those things that they would bring to bear against us, but the long-term threat is clearly China,” Esper said.
“This is the strategic competitor we aim for, because the country’s economic power, size, ambitions, all these things are our focus, and why the National Defense Strategy calls us to focus on the People’s Republic as a longer-term, bigger threat,” he added.
To counteract this, Esper said the Army is accelerating the development and acquisition of new emerging technologies. With Futures Command, he said the Army’s modernization efforts have been centralized and focuses on priorities such as long-range hypersonic missiles, laser weapon systems, robots, artificial intelligence, and new light machine guns.
The @USArmy is developing weapons, including hypersonics, with the ability to engage enemy forces at hundreds of miles - maybe even a thousand miles. @SecArmy Mark Esper tells Catherine Herridge of @FoxNews. #AspenSecurity pic.twitter.com/pGbJZZBc1t— The Aspen Institute (@AspenInstitute) July 21, 2018
Esper also talks about multi-domain warfare, which he describes as air, land, sea, cyber, outer space, and across the electronic warfare spectrum. He said the Army needs to have “capabilities” across all those domains for future battle.
Esper concluded and said it is a race America cannot afford to lose.
“Whoever gets there first will have unmatched lethality on the battlefield for years to come,” Esper said.
Considering Russia and China are, in fact, years ahead of the US hypersonic program, one can only hope that this time around – America is not the loser.