WARNING: TREAT THIS ARTICLE WITH A PILLAR OF SALT. EVERY SUCCESSFUL PREDICTION WALKS ON THE BACKS OF FAILED ONES…IT IS FUN TO MAKE THEM THOUGH AND YOU CAN LEARN ALOT FROM THINKING ABOUT THEM.

It’s amazing what makes itself known years in advance of it happening. From economic crashes to technological miracles predicted long ago, if you pay attention, you will find things years in advance of others knowing about them.

The United States military is an excellent example of this as they are about to challenge, among other things, the very idea of utilizing gunpowder for most forms of warfare. The funny thing is that almost no one is talking about this, not even the military as a whole, and it isn’t because they want to keep the secret. They genuinely seem not to understand what they are about to do. Well, not as a whole. SOMEPEOPLE have to get it because it isn’t like they are just stumbling into coincidence after coincidence.

“What exactly are you talking about?”, Some of you are asking. Well, imagine if you will the ability to make ships without powder rooms, the ability to drastically increase the load soldiers can bring into battle and shift from place to place in areas where traditional heavy lifting vehicles can’t access. Imagine a world where the very logistics and weak points so traditionally associated with military conflict was changed so drastically that it would give the strategists and logisticians of the world technologically induced whiplashes to a degree not seen since, ironically, the invention of gunpowder.

Other militaries would be scrambling to get their hands on this new technology. They would bleed to build the infrastructure and platforms capable of utilizing the new advantages. They would pay a premium for express delivery of these new logistical chains and weapons platforms to get ahead of the others countries still behind. Meanwhile, the US military would have comfortably built up these foundations years in advance. It would have years of experience to learn how to deal with the repercussions of this technology and years more to practice their theories in reality while other militaries were playing catch up.

 

 Fusion Powered Military of the Future Catch me if you can.
by Dave Lindorff (Catch me if you can.)

 

Is your attention grabbed? Ready to hear what this incredible technology is? Drum roll please…it’s fusion.

DON’T LAUGH, LET ME EXPLAIN

For those of you not in the know, fusion is like the nuclear energy we have now but without the radiation and orders of magnitude more powerful (this is a VERY simplified explanation). We’ve been able to do it for decades but haven’t exactly mastered the art of getting more energy out of fusion than we put in, unlike fission (traditional nuclear energy).

Now for those of you in the know, yes, fusion has been “just thirty years away” every decade since the 20s, but it seems these days that a lot of projects are happening all at once and they are all saying they are “on the verge” to finally cracking the code. You know what they say, if you have enough monkeys on typewriters, eventually you get Shakespeare. These days, we have a lot of monkeys on typewriters.

Besides, this time around, the military is betting big. For example, lasers on planes are starting to make a comeback. This time, however, it doesn’t look like we’ll be using chemical lasers like in previous attempts but rather electrical ones that would be able to take advantage of fusion energy. Also, the F35 and F22 are designed in part with the idea that they will one day have laser systems on board. Though it should be noted that these platforms are too small for the predicted size of the first generation of fusion reactors, but that later designs will allow them to carry their own reactors.

 

Northrop Grumman NG Air Dominance NGAD Low Observable Stealth Multirole Supersonic Super Jet Fighter Aircraft with Laser Weapons Cannon 1 660x330 Fusion Powered Military of the Future pew pew!
Credit: Northrop Grumman (pew pew!)

 

It’s not just planes’ weapon platforms, however, that the military is updating. The Navy is also getting a bit boost with newfound railguns. Those guns are going to need a lot of power, and a small fusion reactor would sure make for a better source of energy than the multiple nuclear reactors on aircraft carriers. Oh, and smaller ships will be able to utilize these railguns without the need for big bulky radiation filled reactors that require a ton (in both senses of the word) of shielding to make them safe to run. As has been predicted for a few years now, smaller ships are going to become popular in certain roles in the Navy. Making sure they can carry the weapons they need and have the power sources that will support them will be crucial.

LOGISTICS, THE BOTTLENECK OF WAR

This particular benefit deserves its own section as the biggest limiting factor of war is what you can take in with you. Currently, if the military wants supplies on any given mission, so their soldiers have what they need to complete their task they either have to send a logistical platform (e.g. truck, jeep) to carry the soldiers’ supplies on the mission or the soldiers have to carry the supplies themselves. Sometimes, mechanized transportation isn’t an option because of the terrain or the lack of a bridge able to support the weight of a four-wheeled vehicle. This leaves you with only the weight that soldiers are capable of carrying which varies but is usually only about 70-100 pounds. While that might seem like a lot, it’s actually not enough. In fact, soldiers are already carrying more than is healthy, and still, complain that they can’t carry everything they need. They don’t even wear all the body armor they are given because mobility is considered a better protector than bullet-resistant plating in war.

Traditional solutions have always included making the equipment lighter with new materials and better multi-roll capable gear. More technologically cutting solutions include exoskeletons and robotic companions. Needless to say, the newer solutions are more promising as they provide the potential to increase the amount of weight taken into a mission by hundreds of pounds while the older solutions shave off a handful of pounds at best and ounces at worst.

 

MFC SMSS photo1 h Fusion Powered Military of the Future Roughly one of the smaller trucks available for the task.
Credit: Lockheed Martin (Roughly one of the smaller trucks available for the task.)

 

One problem exists, however, how do you power these things? The XO2 suit linked above was tethered due to power requirements being too much for the suit to hand on its own, and Boston Dynamics BigDog robot was running a loud engine and wouldn’t have lasted for very long. Fusion would make these platforms possible to take into the field for extended periods of time. It would allow them to untether themselves and operate for the entirety of a mission.

A BIT OF CRITIQUE ON THIS ARTICLE

The article itself isn’t intended to be taken too seriously. Some of the sources cited were from a few too many years back, and a lot of criticism can be laid down on the plausibility of some of the points presented. You shouldn’t have to look too deep to find several fundamental problems with some of the more specific scenarios presented and the article does come off a bit like an idealistic perspective from the atomic age when electricity would soon become “too cheap to meter.” The truth is that this article should be thought of as an entertaining thought experiment on the future of our military and the role that technology will play on it, as well as the future implications of specific technologies like fusion. It is crucial that we think about such things now so we understand how wacky the world is about to become and can deduce how wacky the world after that will be.

Discuss in the comments below, if you will.