Home Contact Us  

China - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4144, 17 October 2013
Future Weapons, Future Wars: Looking Beyond Conventional Prompt Global Strike
Onkar Marwah
Distinguished Fellow, IPCS

A host of new esoteric weapons are in various stages of development among the major powers. Cumulatively, the latter weapons systems are destined to completely change the face and techniques of future warfare on land, at sea, in the air, and when and if so deployed, from space. Their template can be discerned in the US national project known as the Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS, or simply, PGS), combining the following: conventional precision-guided munitions; ‘unified-command’ structure for application; real-time computerised ‘concentric network and information-based’ command-and-control system; and robotic, kinetic, EMP, laser and hypersonic forms and means of delivery and destruction.

The overall ‘mission objective’ is formally proclaimed as the ability to inflict virtual pinpoint conventional-weapons-based physical devastation anywhere in the world within sixty minutes of a decision to that effect. As is entirely possible, some of these new-generation offensive platforms could also be adapted to deliver unconventional weapons – indeed, it would be impossible to assess before-hand whether a detected incoming hypersonic missile carries conventional or unconventional warheads. A significant number of these weapons systems are in early stages of development, some have been successfully tested in prototype configurations - and a few may be available for serial induction in advanced military forces by 2025.

Not only the US, but Russia, China, some European states, Israel, and unknown others are working on these new-age weapons-systems. Though there is little public information, India’s DRDO is reported to have embarked on experimental projects in similar areas - UAVs, hypersonic-speed systems, and in related research.
Barely a decade ago, unmanned offensive and spy ‘drones’ (famously or notoriously, the ‘Predator’, ‘Reaper’, ‘Global Hawk’ and ‘Phantom Eye’) were unknown stealthy-killer and eye-in-the-sky applications. Now the US has over 20,000 of them in its inventory – remotely controlled and spying on targets anywhere in the world.  Newer versions of UAVs the size of Boeing-747 airliners that can stay aloft 24x7 are in development and trial configurations. Further, a kinetically-fired ‘rail gun’ firing non-explosive projectiles that destroy with high-speed impact, airborne laser-weapons, and a Mach-7 hypersonic air-vehicle are in experimental prototype development – ‘Speed’, it is suggested, is the new form of ‘Stealth’. Additionally, there are plans afoot to develop and enable insect-sized robots to wreak havoc in battle fields with their ‘swarm’ numbers and invisibility. “We choose right, and we develop the 21st-century Blitzkrieg,” stresses Peter Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative of the Brookings Institution. “We choose wrong and we create the 21st-century Maginot Line,” i.e., France’s failed defensive fortifications during World War II.
Moore’s law suggests that technology can multiply on itself in an accelerated manner and synergistically combine with other compatible but independent developments leading to exponential outcomes. The ‘Convergent Application’ of these seemingly disparate developments could then prove entirely ‘disruptive and game-changing’. In a series of war-gaming exercises in the NeXTech Project, commissioned by the Rapid Reaction Technology Office of the US Department of Defense, the following emerging technologies were identified as having the potential to affect the future global strategic environment. Based on the premise that technological dominance is a strategic choice, war-futurists are exploring the following areas for ‘Strategic Convergence’ in the military field:

• Additive Manufacturing, commonly known as ‘3D-Printing’
• Autonomous Systems
• Directed Energy
• Cyber Capabilities, and
• Human Performance Modification
The ‘traditional’ Strategic Triad consists of ICBMs + Bombers + SLBMs. The ‘new’ Strategic Triad would envelope the latter within:
• Non-nuclear long range ultra-high-speed-and-precision missiles, offensive information networks and special operations forces,
• Active defenses against enemy missiles and aircraft (eg, BMDs) and adversarial information operations; passive defenses such as hardening, concealment, civil defense and allied tactics,
• A responsive national infrastructure that provides for research, development, testing, evaluation and production encompassing industrial and human capital to enable the continuous maintenance and modernisation of the strategic enterprise.

Many unforeseen problems have arisen, and presently remain unresolved and unanswered in relation to the possible employment and manufacture of the new weapons. Some may be difficult if not impossible to realise at present levels of humanitarian concerns, scientific knowledge and engineering skills. Analysts and strategists are grappling with the attendant issues, some of which are:

• Cultural/humanitarian/legal, eg, how many would one, or the adversary, be prepared to kill – and in what circumstances?
• Situational, eg, autonomous systems/robots gone rogue?
• The astronomical costs involved in developing and deploying the new-weapons-systems.
• Many of the new technical applications are untried and appear to be beyond presently-available production skills.
• What if some of the less expensive but extraordinarily lethal new-weapons technologies became available to proficient, small non-state non-traceable dissident/fanatic groups?

Despite the insurmountable and the unknowns, a brave and terrible new world can be imagined where global, all-azimuth, swift, accurate and massive destruction capabilities become operationally possible in the next 10-to-15 years. In such an approaching strategic environment, differentiating between friend and foe, attack from defense, or defeat from victory – indeed, a state of peace from the imminent likelihood of war – may also be rendered impossible.

Skeptics could keep in mind the words of the philosopher Eric Hoffer: “In times of change, learners inherit the world, while the learned find themselves equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.