Nuclear weapons defined the closing days of World War II, and loomed over the next fifty years of combat, dominating both the military and psychological landscapes of world leaders and the people who lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Since the end of the Cold War, we’ve seen a paradigm shift in military thinking, and with the rise of terrorist groups around the world, we’ve moved from the traditional model of country vs country, to country vs group.
Because of this, we’ve also moved beyond conventional weapons. While the US still has ground troops deployed in over 150 countries, and drops over 20,000 bombs a year in the Middle East, other superpowers are looking to the next stage of warfare.
It takes the US roughly sixteen years to get an idea ready for deployment. China only takes seven, and that time is getting shorter all the time. China is working on several different technologies and weapon systems that could redefine how warfare works, leaving behind antiquated systems that we have relied on for decades.
The next twenty years will be far more unstable than the previous twenty, with technology moving faster than ever.
Hypersonic missiles can move five times faster than the speed of sound. Allegedly, China was studying America’s approach to conflict during the Gulf War. Having determined that they wouldn’t be able to match US air power for decades, they decided to focus on missile capabilities.
China has now developed precision-guided missiles that would only give America around six minutes to respond before it impacts with its target. To make things worse, traditional defences cannot do anything to intercept or destroy a hypersonic missile.
These missiles can do large amounts of targeted damage without the widespread destruction that would accompany a nuclear strike.
Robots can be used for reconnaissance or combat. Drones are already being used for recon missions around the world, able to slip into cities, or operate across large distances without drawing the attention of a plan or spy satellite.
Drones may soon even be able to operate as a swarm, guided by AI to attack en masse, overwhelming targets with superior numbers.
Autonomous robots armed with impressive AI systems will be able to make decisions in real-time, attacking and defending based on changes that would take a human commander much longer to appraise.
China intends to be the world leader in AI by 2030. If they are successful, they will have the upper-hand in every single conflict scenario.
Cyber warfare can target civilian infrastructure like hospitals, traffic systems, and financial networks.
Different governments have different ideas on what constitutes a cyber warfare attack. There is debate around whether actual human lives must be lost, or if significant damage or disruption to infrastructure would count as a cyber warfare attack.
But one thing is certain: cyber warfare will be part of the military landscape very soon. Russia has already demonstrated formidable capabilities in this arena, and will continue to invest in both national agencies and state-sponsored proxy groups.
Laser-based weaponry is becoming more and more feasible as we’re able to generate and store more energy.
Positioned over strategic locations, directed energy weapons could theoretically take out multiple missiles with a single blast.
Lasers will also be used to disable satellites, without causing physical damage to them which would result in debris raining down through the atmosphere.
With all world powers fully aware of the apocalyptic ramifications of nuclear warfare, any move away from it is surely good news.