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What the military of the future will look like, from hypervelocity weapons to self-driving boats

MilitaryCpl. Andre Dakis/USMC

The Pentagon may win the next war because of cutting edge technology.

From using deep learning to strategize wars before they even begin to outfitting self-driving vehicles to move without human control, the US military is trying to master a number of exciting technologies. Some, like artificially-intelligent “killer robots” bring up ethical dilemmas.

The Brookings Institution recently interviewed Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and asked him about the trending technology of the military and what the force of the future might look like.

In a military context, mastering deep learning could help the Pentagon run an entire war in the digital realm -- before any shots are fired. Instead of war-gaming between generals, computers can help predict what the best way to win might be.

Columbia Pictures

Source: Foreign Policy

'Smart' machines can be used to help military leaders strategize out battles before they even begin, but having weapons like aerial drones use AI to target and kill enemy combatants brings up the 'terminator conundrum,' Selva said.

'That's a debate we need to have ... and answer whether as humans we want to cross that line,' he said.

Google Images
Open the door, Hal. Pretty please.

Mastering AI also lends itself to advanced robotics, a field where the military has already invested heavily.

Zhe Xu

While the last decade has seen a revolution in drone aircraft technology, the military has also been working on autonomous vehicles that operate underwater and on land.

The Pentagon has even tested robots that can carry gear for ground troops, 'and for the water, they've developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defence to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk,' Defence Secretary Ash Carter said this month.

Screenshot

Source: Breaking Defence

The Cold War may be over, but the nukes are still getting upgrades. 'I don't think you can exaggerate the importance of the nuclear enterprise in any measure,' Selva said.

Though treaties are reducing nuclear stocks around the world, the ageing nukes that are left are either being refurbished or getting slight modifications, though some experts warn this is fuelling a new arms race.

A test B61-12 nose assembly fired from Sandia National Laboratories' Davis gun splashes water from an 8-foot-deep pool as a 2,000-pound reaction mass sails into the air from the other end of the gun in a successful impact test at New Mexico Tech's Energetic Materials Research & Testing Center. The reaction mass eliminates the recoil load in the gun chassis during firing.

Source: TI

The US already has missile defence systems that basically launch a missile at an incoming missile to stop it. But Selva envisions better systems that might use lasers or hypervelocity rounds.

Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

The Navy is working on the hypervelocity weapon right now -- an electromagnetic rail gun that can fire a projectile at 7 times the speed of sound.

Screenshot/www.usatoday.com/videos/news/2014/04/08/7464129/

Source: Reuters

C&C means having solid communications systems and keeping hackers out of military networks. And perhaps most importantly, Selva says, is making sure that the president is 'in fact the only person that has the authority for the release of (nuclear weapons).'

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class H. Dwain Willis.
The Mediterranean Sea (Mar. 20, 2003) -- A Tactical Air Officer (TAO) on the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) keeps watch in the Combat Direction Center (CDC), where he monitors all air contacts in the ship's vicinity. Truman is currently deployed and is conducting missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Source: Brookings

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