Chapter 5
Investigation Recommendations

We know from even the most casual study of military history how fallible man is in matters concerning war and how difficult it has been for him, mostly because of the discontinuity of wars, to adjust to new weapons. Yet compared to the changes we consider now, those of the past, when measured from one war to the next, were almost trivial. And almost always in the past there was time even after hostilities began for the significance of technological changes to be learned and appreciated.

-Bernard Brodie143

The concepts discussed in this paper directly address the needs of the military's most forward-thinking senior planners. Volume four (Future Capabilities) of Joint Planning Document FY 98-03 states that, to achieve joint war fighting objectives, we must develop the "capability to destroy selected targets with precision while limiting collateral damage. Includes precision guided munitions, surveillance and targeting capabilities. Requires advances in sensors, guidance and control, and lethality."144 Joint Vision 2010 calls for

"long range precision capability, combined with a wide range of delivery systems . . . the ability to generate a broader range of potential weapons effects, from nonlethal to hard target kill . . . these improvements will result in increasingly discrete and precise capabilities, selected to achieve optimum results and applicable to both combat and other operations."145

The New World Vistas team predicts "space-control and projection of force from space technologies will become as important [as global observation and global situational awareness] in the twenty-first century as global technology for utilization of space becomes more available to many countries of the world."146 Achieving these desirable capabilities will not be easy and it will not happen overnight. We must begin work now if we wish to be ready for the world of 2025.

Directed-Energy Weapons

Directed-energy weapons operating at or near the speed of light offer the greatest opportunity for sudden, precise attacks across the spectrum of force against a wide range of targets. Reliable, effective directed-energy weapons will not be possible without compact, high-capacity power supplies. Today's solar power technology is insufficient-too much time would be required between shots to regenerate the system's energy reserves. Large, light-weight space structures of particular kinds are also critical. Laser space-strike systems require large, light-weight, optically smooth adaptive mirrors capable of correcting beam aberrations.

Current sources of directed energy also require further research. Highpower, solid-state, and diode lasers must be investigated because of their inherent efficiency advantages, their ability to operate without bulky chemical fuels, their potential for operation at shorter wavelengths, and because diode lasers can operate in phased arrays (obvious advantages in pointing and beam combining).

Finally, further work is required in directed-energy beam propagation. The impressive success of modern low-power adaptive optics techniques must be extended to high-power beams if laser space-strike systems are to reach their full potential.

Projectile Weapons

The approaches mentioned in this paper involving long-range ballistic missiles are already possible-the only thing lacking is the will to proceed. Two technologies are desirable to enhance the effectiveness of such weapons: high-speed (submicrosecond) fusing and high-speed dispersal techniques for submunitions in the terminal phase.

The destructive interaction of hypervelocity projectiles with targets has been investigated by the US military and NASA. These investigations must continue, particularly with regard to hydrodynamic penetrators, if we are to understand how to configure and direct hypervelocity projectiles to achieve optimum effect. Terminal guidance techniques must be improved to enable the use of kinetic-energy weapons as true precision-guided weapons.

Space Sortie

The main challenges here lie in propulsion technology (both air breathing and for space) and aerodynamic design for reliable hypersonic flight. Light-weight, high-endurance propulsion systems are needed to operate transatmospheric vehicles (TAVs) for long-range sorties. Light-weight, high temperature materials and high-capacity cooling systems must be developed to form the "skin and bones" of the TAV.

General Considerations

Space-strike weapon systems will not be possible without reliable, affordable access to space. The investigation recommendations of the AF 2025 Space Lift white paper are therefore seconded without reservation in this paper. All the space operations missions-space control, force enhancement, force application, and space support-depend on access to space.147

A blind marksman is a contradiction in terms. The space-strike weapon systems of 2025 will depend heavily on America's global information network.(see appendix B). In this regard, the following areas of study are as critical for this white paper as they are for the surveillance and reconnaissance and information operations white papers: advanced sensors; data fusion techniques; miniaturization (nanotechnologies and MEMS); secure, reliable, wideband communications; reliable distributed networks (particularly distributed networks of small satellites); advanced, high-speed, high-capacity computers; and the combination of hardware and software technologies which will enable true "artificial intelligence."

The areas recommended for further investigation in this paper must be pursued in full cooperation with industry wherever possible. The days of "fat" defense budgets are long gone-they will not come again in our time. Civilian (domestic and foreign) research dollars will determine the main areas where technology will advance in the twenty-first century. The US military must keep its collective eye on the "main chance," directing its precious and limited research funds where they will have the greatest effect. Anything less would be irresponsible.

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Last updated: 11 December 1996

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