In a teleconference address delivered at the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper outlined the agency’s modernization priorities in the face of Russian and Chinese efforts to undermine US military and technological advantages.
The Changing Battlefield
In his address, Esper described the army’s recent sea-change in thinking about conflict: “Today, emerging technologies are expanding the geometry of the battlefield and transforming how we think about, prepare and plan for war.”
According to Esper, Russia and China have been steadily chipping away at American military dominance through a variety of cutting-edge technological innovations designed to wage asymmetric warfare to counter US strengths.
Among these novel tactics is that of “weaponizing space,” cyber warfare, anti-access denial systems (A2D2), and precision long-range fires as a means of undercutting American dominance in conventional warfare capabilities.
Countering Recent Threats
The Defense Department has rolled out a list of modernization initiatives to counter these threats. The first involves the development of hypersonic weapons such as the “hypersonic glide body,” a weapon which travels at speeds beyond Mach 5, making it difficult if not impossible to defend against.
Further projects include the interim maneuver, short-range air defense platform and the armored multi-purpose vehicle, as well as a platform to coordinate drones and satellites with ground artillery and artificial intelligence-enabled weapons systems.
Ground-breaking developments being fast-tracked are not limited to cutting-edge military hardware. They include dynamic new thinking about battlefield tactics and strategy, including Project Convergence 2021, the integration of many platforms across a variety of domains (land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace).
All of these initiatives are currently in development; many approach the futuristic in scope. A rapid and flexible response across a variety of battlefields is America’s most urgent priority. This includes close integration with allies to face the new threats of 21st-century warfare, mostly represented by recent Chinese and Russian technological advances.