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Technology Forecast 2012: Military utility of ten technologies: a report from seminars at the SNDC Department of Military Technology
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Military Studies, Military-Technology Division.
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Military Studies, Military-Technology Division.
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Military Studies, Military-Technology Division.
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Military Studies, Military-Technology Division.
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2012 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Ten technology forecast reports from the Fraunhofer Institute have been reviewed by staff at the Department of Military-Technology at the Swedish National Defence College (Note that there probably are other technology areas, equally interesting, but not included in this study). The task given by FMV was to assess the military utility of the chosen technologies in a time frame from 2025 to 2030, from a SwAF viewpoint.

The method used was first to make a summary of each forecast report. The technology was then put into one or more scenarios that are assessed to be the best in order to show possible utility as well as possibilities and drawbacks of the technology. Based on a SWOT-analysis, the contribution to SwAF capabilities and the cost in terms of acquisition, C2 footprint, logistic footprint, doctrine/TTP, training, facilities and R&D were assessed. Conclusions regarding the military utility of the technology were drawn.

We introduce our definition of military utility as being activities that efficiently and with the lowest cost in terms of lives and materiel lead to fulfilment of the mission objectives.

The technologies were grouped in three classes; technologies with a significant potential, with uncertain potential and with negligible potential.

The following technologies were assessed to have a significant potential for military utility;

  • Augmented Reality

  • Nano air vehicles
  • Solid State Laser weapons

In the scenarios studied, Augmented Reality (AR) is assessed to have a positive impact on several SwAF capabilities, especially for C2 and intelligence. AR is a relatively mature technology, applicable in many different branches. There are examples where AR is already applied with great success, e.g. Head-Up-Displays, HUD. The technology has proven its value. However, there are well known drawbacks to the technology such as weaknesses regarding models, increased weight for dismounted soldiers, power consumption etc. There is also a risk that personnel will have problems solving their tasks when AR systems fail, not being used to fighting without supporting systems.

Nano air vehicles (NAV’s) have been assessed to contribute to a large range of capabilities, primarily intelligence. Their lifecycle cost has been assessed to be low, since development in this area is commercially driven, bringing down acquisition costs. Also, FAA has decided to allow NAV’s in controlled air space from 2015, which is expected to lead to an increase in civilian use of NAV’s. The technology is relatively mature even though there are obstacles concerning suitable materials, energy efficient propulsion systems as well as miniaturized microprocessors and software to control them.

In the scenario studied, High Energy Solid State Lasers are assessed to have a positive impact on SwAF capabilities to engage targets on surface and in the air. The technology can be used to protect 

vessels on the surface and thereby increase survivability. The development of SSL in the given timeframe is expected to lower cost per shot and avoid the environmental problems with use of chemical lasers. Neighbouring military powers are expected to use laser weapons in the future, therefore SwAF should monitor the development of the laser weapons technology and develop and purchase adequate countermeasures.

The following technologies were assessed to have uncertain potential for military utility;

  • Metamaterial cloaking

  • Electromagnetic gun

  • Small satellites
  • Ultra-violet communication

Metamaterial cloaking, if realisable in the future, is assessed to be firstly implemented in the acoustic spectrum, since manufacturing of small structured cloaks for the shorter wavelengths in the optic and radar spectra is believed to be more difficult. Cloaking of submarines is primarily assessed to increase the survivability against torpedoes having active sonar. The use of cloaked mines could pose a deterring threat, even to advanced amphibious operations against Sweden. The technological development in this area should be closely monitored and compared to existing, maturing techniques for countermeasures and for the development of broad spectrum active torpedoes. The greatest concern is that cloaking will have negative impact on submarine manoeuvrability.

The electro-thermal chemical (ETC) gun seems to be a first step towards a fully electrical gun such as the rail-gun or the coil-gun. The fully electrical guns have been a work in progress for some decades and there are still remaining challenges both concerning electrical power supply and design materials. When or if, they will be operational is difficult to say.

The military utility of small satellites is disputed, despite an assessed contribution to several of the SwAF capabilities. The main reason for this is that there seems to be other alternatives which provide the desired capabilities, at a lower cost. Furthermore, the realisability and performance of small productionline manufactured nanosatellites is uncertain. However the scenario has shown that there are benefits to the military utility not met by other resources, e.g. the capability to perform surveillance and reconnaissance in operational areas globally without risking violation of the territorial integrity of other states or the lives of military personnel. Since there is a great interest in the technology area and several programmes are ongoing internationally the knowledgebase is assessed to be significantly better in a five year period. Also, the Swedish in depth study of space exploitation is soon to report.

Ultra-violet communication has uncertain potential for military utility within the period, but the technology is assessed to have a positive impact on SwAF capability to maintain communications. The theoretical understanding of the area is low It is therefore uncertain if systems can be realized in the time frame. However, if commercial applications are developed, the prospect of military applications might change. In that case UV-communication could be a complement to RF- communication but is not foreseen to replace it. 

The following technologies were assessed to have negligible potential for military utility;

  • Biomimetic unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV)

  • Automated behaviour Analysis
  • Evolutionary Robotics

Biomimetic UUV’s could be used for covert surveillance and inconspicuous naval reconnaissance missions at sea or in amphibious missions. Even though the report focuses on fishlike propulsion, the military utility of UUV’s is assessed to be mostly dependent on the development of advanced automation and learning systems. As of now, we assess other existing technologies as being preferable due to lower cost and less complexity. The performance of UUV’s needed for SwAF capabilities are assessed to be far off into the future. Simpler UUV systems could however be used by potential adversaries for monitoring our own base areas and hence the development should be monitored from a protection point of view.

Automated behaviour analysis may be of some relevance for increased security screening and surveillance. The primary military utility of the technology will however probably be for international activities and to a lesser extent for increased base security in Sweden. Generally the main applications for this kind of technology are assessed to be for civilian use in public spaces and close to high value areas like airports, important official buildings and other similar objects.

Evolutionary Robotics, here restricted to the sub domain Advanced Robotics, has uncertain potential for military utility within the period. In the scenarios studied the technology is assessed to have a positive impact on a broad range of SwAF capabilities. The area is large and inconsistent comprising sub areas that are assessed to have significant potential, but also those that are believed to have negligible potential or where technological obstacles might retard the development.

Our evaluation of the used method shows that there is a risk that the assessment is biased by the participating experts’ presumptions and experiences from their own field of research. The scenarios that were chosen do not cover all possible aspects of the technology and their possible contribution to operational capabilities. It should be stressed that we have assessed the ten technologies’ military utility in the presented scenarios, not the technology itself. The chosen definition of military utility clearly affects the result of the study. The definition is believed to be good enough for this report, but could be further elaborated in the future.

The greatest value of the method used is its simplicity, cost effectiveness and the trade off that it promotes learning within the working group. The composition of the working group and the methodology used is believed to provide for a broad and balanced coverage of the technologies under study. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. , 69 p.
Keyword [sv]
Militär nytta, teknisk prognos, omvärldsanalys
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Militärteknik
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-4531OAI: oai:DiVA.org:fhs-4531DiVA: diva2:708501
Available from: 2014-03-27 Created: 2014-03-27 Last updated: 2017-06-14Bibliographically approved

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