Technology and the Future of Warfare

Technology and the Future of Warfare

Abu Dhabi, 25 February 2021

After the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Rabdan Academy and Trends Research and Consulting Center, Dr. John Hardy participated in the E- discussion entitled: “Emerging Military Technologies and the Future of Global Security”. A number of experts specializing in modern technologies for contemporary and future warfare and threats participated in the discussion.

During the presentation, Dr. John Hardy, Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies at the College of Readiness at Rabdan Academy, highlighted the following themes:

Throughout human history, technology has shaped the evolution of warfare. From the bow and arrow to the portable radio, to long-range standoff weapons, technological advancement and the diffusion of military technology has influenced training and doctrine, the tactics on battlefields, and the design of military operations.

Since the end of World War 2, four key technological trends distinguish contemporary warfare from the past. The first trend is the increasing precision of munitions, enabling military forces to find, fix, and finish targets with greater discrimination. The second trend is the increasing lethality and destructive capability of weapons technology used on the battlefield, making military units more combat effective. The third trend is the increasing use of communications and battlespace data systems in tactical force elements, improving coordination between and effectiveness of force elements. The fourth trend is the decreasing mortality of combatants, enhancing survivability of deployed military units through medical technologies and rapid airlift.

In the twenty-first century, four emerging drivers in military technology are likely to influence the next generation of warfare. The first driver is Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and the fourth industrial revolution. Advances in data communication will continue to shape the cognitive domain and decision-making at all levels of command. The second driver is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and autonomous or semi-autonomous systems. Advances in AI and autonomous systems will continue to expand and automate data collection, collection and analysis, and improve the utility of computer aided decision-support systems. The third driver is hypersonic weapons and countermeasures. Advances in hypersonic technologies will continue to improve the deterrent and first strike effectiveness of offensive weapons while simultaneously increasing pressure on defensive systems and decision cycles. The fourth driver is biotechnology with military applications. Advances in biotechnology will continue to enhance the combat effectiveness and survivability of military personnel and potentially augment existing individual warfighter capabilities.

The relationship between technology and warfare will continue to evolve throughout the twenty-first century. Closer integration between warfighters and technological systems will bolster combat effectiveness in professional militaries. Meanwhile, technological diffusion will empower actors with the budget and initiative to adopt and deploy emerging technologies on future battlefields.