Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


A Presentation at the Submarine Technology Symposium May 12, 1999

Technological Developments

Mankind is currently entering a third major Technological Revolution, equivalent in impact to the previous Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. This Revolution involves IT (Information Technology) and includes tremendous advances in communications, computing, sensors and electronics. This technology enables, increasingly, automatics and Robotics-in-the-large and pervasive 3-D immersive multisensory communications, as well as ubiquitous miniaturized multi-spectral sensors. There are major improvements in the offing compared to the current state~f-the-art including bio, optical, quantum and carbon nanotube computing and the band-width/speed to do virtual reality well. Farther term but synergistic to this is a potential Nano Revolution, the first manifestation of which is carbon nanotube technology, offering a factor of 600 increase in strength-to-weight compared to steel, the conductivity of copper and a ten-to-the-fourth reduction in computing electrical power requirement.

The importance of IT is manifest in the level of U.S. private industrial research investment in the areas of telecom, computers, electronics, software and semiconductors-on the order of 100 billion dollars per year. The emerging impacts of this IT Revolution upon human society are tremendous and wide-ranging. At home telecommuting now involves some 18 million Americans, with this number expected to climb to the order of 50 million in some 15 to 20 years. Teleshopping from home is also a growth industry, 32 million Americans utilized the web for their Christmas shopping last year. Tele-entertainment is becoming increasingly multi-sensory and immersive, and the same technology is promoting te/e-travel. At-home tele-education which is asynchronous, web based and constructed on the basis of motivational/learner precepts could preempt conventional education at huge savings to society. Tele-commerce is even today increasingly endemic across the board and the field of tele-medicine is in a phase of rapid development. Tele-politics has been increasing since the ’60s.

The electronic/IT frontiers are altering, in real time; distance/ boundaries, time, memory, economics/employment, medicine, shopping, societal/human interactions, education, governance, entertainment, commerce and travel. The IT revolution is expected to cause employment shifts into software [creation/-maintenance/security/safety/etc.] intelligent systems/agents, the design end of designer materials/life forms etc., quality of life enhancements and the virtual exploration/simulation/understanding and control of natural and artificial systems and systems of systems from subatomic to galactic scales.

The economic position of the U.S. vis-a-vis the Rest Of the World has eroded since the ·sos when the U.S. produced over 40 percent of the world’s GDP and conducted over two-thirds of the planet’s research. Today the U.S. contribution is on the order of 20 percent of GDP and between one-fourth and one-third of the research. This erosion is expected to continue into the IT Revolution due to the nature of Information Econometrics. The emerging age of tele-everything and ubiquitous [satellite] communications no longer requires many of the tremendous capitol investments of the obsolescent Industrial Age, most notably in the educational arena. Therefore, nations can literally leapfrog the Industrial Age development process and move directly to Infomatics. In the 2025 time frame several entities will have economies of the same order as the U.S. [e.g. the European Union and China and perhaps even India] and IT technology will be even more endemic worldwide.

The major influences of the IT Revolution upon future warfare include ubiquitous/miniaturized/networked multi-spectral sensors, robotics/ automatics, inexpensive long-range precision strike, information/net warfare and micro-to-nano satellites. The concurrent bio-Revolution will provide inexpensive bio weaponry of a particular insidious variety-binary weaponry the parts of which are broadcast separately and therefore only detectable when combined within the body. The purpose of the present paper is to indicate how these emerging technologies influence warfare at the strategic level (then year) and to posit some potentially war-winning and affordable approaches to Future Warfare (aka projections).

Nature of Future Warfare

Most of the numerous studies of future warfare tend to agree on the following set of assumptions:

1] Proliferation [via a combination of civilian and military activities] of tactical ballistic and cruise missiles, IT, precision strike/targeting, multi-spectral sensors, space reconnaissance, camouflage/spoofing technology, robotics and bio/chem munitions.
2] Information, economic and sensor-anti-sensor warfare are major issues.
3] Targets defined by distributed/robotic multi-spectral sensors.
4] The Killing Ground is exceedingly deadly, potential demise of visual range combat.
5] Beam weapons are increasingly prevalent, speed is no longer equated to survivability.
6) Logistics assets are highly vulnerable in or out of theater.
7] In and near theater ports and airfields are too vulnerable/unusable

This set of assumptions, if largely correct [which is a high probability] drastically changes warfare across the board compared to today’s conventional wisdom and inventory. As an example, long· range, precision strike, low observable, radiation hardened cruise missiles are expected to be exceedingly affordable to the point where the U.S. could be faced with clouds of these during a forced entry. Cruise missiles are already in the inventory of some 73 countries and have a range and payload similar to a TBM at a fraction of the cost, with a potential witches brew of warheads [CBN, info, smart mines, non-lethals/non-functionals etc.]. Also, civilian space budgets, worldwide, are expected to be in the $1708/yr range by 2008, malting space access and platforms readily available. Civilian overhead remote sensing systems will be capable, in three to four years of less than one meter resolution with a one day repeat, a 110 Km swath and multi-spectral information. In addition, there is a major worldwide scientific effort to track global change via sufficient overhead and other sensors to establish a digital earth data base. This effort has an increasingly impressive collection of assets with rapidly improving resolution. This scientific data is made available to the International public on a series of web sites.

Therefore the ability to wage very capable warfare will be widely available and relatively inexpensive [which contributes to the ubiquity of the capabilities]. Then-year Warfare On The Cheap includes info/net warfare, bio weaponry including the binary option mentioned previously, non-lethals, miniature smart mines, small U AV’ s, and inexpensive cruise missiles, giving rise to a large number of potential peer competitors [in the context of then-year warfare and destructive/kill capability] as opposed to today’s peer competitor concept involving large tonnage of Industrial-era hardware. A Defense Science Board study concluded that the Enemy After Next could have offensive info warfare capabilities, CBN [the N could be simply dirty radiation munitions}, RSTA, AIP submarines with advanced torps, precision strike, underground facilities, camo/concealment/deception, and large numbers of inexpensive cruise missiles. An OSD/Office of Net Assessment study [Future Warfare 20xx-V 3] suggests that potential adversaries could have area denial capabilities out to 1OOOKm from shore, and an offensive capability that could reach to our points of embarkation. A very fundamental issue/difficulty is a potential inability survivably to transport in-theater sufficient weaponry to protect surface and air assets from the large number of inexpensive and very capable weapons available to a then-year adversary, e.g. a country-sized magazine. We simply run out of bullets first. Beam weapons for self defense may tum this around and make surface assets viable, but this hinges upon the extent to which cruise and other incoming can be rad-hardened/beam hardened.

A significant additional complication is the then-year target set for future warfare. Projections indicate about 70 percent of the world’s population [and associated infrastructure/wealth] will collect in urban areas/urban canyons. Target characteristics for MOUT[military operations in urban terrain] include relocate[ing], buried, highly distributed, well defended and, in general, really tough to identify. This situation is further obfuscated by the simultaneous presence of an endemic civilian population. The classical MOUT experience is on the order of 70 percent casualties, largely mollifying conventional warfare approaches to MOUT in the CNN age.

These urban areas are usually, for historical/trade reasons, on or near littoral waters and therefore submerged assets are obvious candidates for at least a can-opener role for then-year forced entry. Here again, the ubiquitous multi-spectral sensors suites pose a problem. Submarines in shallow water have a large number of potentially exploitable signatures, e.g. visual, bio-lum., lidar off the hull, IR, turbidity, passage pressure perturbations upon the water column chemistry, salinity scars, chemical releases, internal and surface waves/surface surfactant layer modifications, in-situ turbulence/wakes, magnetics, corns, periscope, etc. All in addition to low frequency active multi-static sonar. Although each sensor would have a large false alarm rate, when operated collectively on a take-a-vote principle a large detection probability exists, large enough that submerged platforms should probably stay offshore in deep[ er] water and send in various flavors of UUVs.

Asymmetric Warfare is another issue which is agreed upon to the extent that we need to worry about it but not yet agreed as to its nature/ manifestations. At the zeroth order the U.S. has a very long, essentially undefendable coastline [unless we totally reconfigure our military in the sense of real homeland defense], some 80 percent of our population and assets are located 50 miles or less from a sea coast. We also have an increasingly vulnerable logistics chain [in and out of theater], a tremendous sensitivity to the CNN syndrome, are essentially open to the entire spectrum of terrorism and place increasing reliance upon overhead systems which are increasingly vulnerable [as are Kennedy, Vandenberg and Wallops, which are located right on the seacoast[s]). Inshore SS and offshore (civilian) surface ships could deliver a very nasty wakeup call to the U.S. CONUS has not been seriously threatened since the war of 1812. The U.S. is an Island Nation, the surrounding Oceans have long been our defense bulwark and our Department of Defense has evolved into a Department of Offence with inadequate consideration, at least thus far, to then-year in-shore threats to CO NUS.

Some Alternative Approaches to Future Warfare

MOUT The conventional approach to MOUT is to bomb, bombard/ blow up the area [rearrange rocks] and follow this up with a manned invasion/attack during which we bleed/take a high number of casualties. An alternative back to the future approach is to utilize advanced broad-spectrum precision strike and volumetric weaponry to lay siege to/quarantine the area and cut off water, food, electrons, photons, reinforcements and medicine. This could be carried out by a combination of -very survivable and relatively inexpensive [but differen1] systems. The first of these is a 60 to 100 foot long barrel [actually a battery of these] situated in CONUS with refurbishable bands of sequentially detonated explosives distributed along the barrel, with the barrel initially evacuated. Such a device [where the explosive bands focus to exert maximum pressure on the back center region of the projectile and not on the barrel itself] can, for about $50/Lb of projectile, accelerate a 1 K Lb. projectile to Mach 20 to 25. Such a projectile could provide, via· off-board corns with GPS backup, GLOBAL PRECISION STRIKE -relatively inexpensively and without tanking B·2s or steaming [increasingly vulnerable] carriers. The flight path is hypersonic boost-g1ide, not ballistic, with terminal phase maneuverability. This class of weapon has excellent launch stealth, affordability, flexibility, ferocity, reaction time, survivability and recallability. Also it is far superior on all counts [cost, capability etc.] to light gas guns, railguns or ram accelerators.

Another major system useful in such a siege appr9ach [or other power projection/forced entry situations] is a submersible which lurks in deep[er] water and deploys autonomous/tele-operated systems/vehicles in-shore, e.g. lays eggs. These in-shore adjuncts would uniquely provide especially short time-of-flight for time-critical targets. The submerged platform suggested is fundamentally spherically shaped with a fully integrated propulsion system to provide both flow separation control and improved propulsion efficiency. Th is approach synergistically combines a nearly optimum hydrodynamic overall configuration with excellent volumetric efficiency [large loadout/number of deployed weapons] and structural efficiency for the pressure loading at depth.

The warhead options for this weaponry includes, then-year [along with the usual HE] Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP), lnfowar [anti-sensors/corns/operability/ commerce], miniaturized smart mines, fuel-air and dust explosives, RF, chem/bio anti-function.als, acoustics and a Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) mechanical analog to chem/bio which could burrow into the body. Most of this can be termed volumetric weaponry/munitions in the sense of influencing a sizable volume of space as opposed to the usual poi111 impact explosives. Such munitions are essential for MOUT due to the innate characteristics of the terrain and the target set. Another, wholly different type of system for MOUT is Autonomous Urban Flying Ordnance. These are mini lethal UAVs with electrical propulsion [via energy storage in the structure], armed with flachettes with nano-tube armor/structure and equipped with sensors to discriminate the odors given off by Warriors versus frightened citizenry for target discrimination.These flying weapons could.have a cooperative engagement conops [among themselves] and be capable of blowing doorways/windows and moving with facility in the innately 3-D MOUT environment.

Volumetric Munitions Many of the following are already being pursued and were mentioned briefly in the previous section. Some are included under the rubric of non-lethals or Dial-a-Pain. The fundamental requirement is to develop work-arounds to the innate limitations of conventional HE warheads-effects are essentially localized and therefore a large number are required with the attendant logistic and affordability/operational downsides. Precision strike technology has helped this for open country warfare but MOUT /other difficult terrain still presents problems in this regard. NBC munitions are obviously volumetric in effect/exceedingly efficient but are off the table, at least for most U.S. operations [unless allowed by the NCA].

There are some munitions in the inventory which have volumetric influences and others are under consideration/development. These include fuel-air explosives [in inventory] and the related dust-air approach. Beam weapons are also volumetric in effect in the space-time continuum and due to their speed/slewing capability. Those being worked/considered include info-war munitions [anti-sensors/comms/operability/commerce etc. including EMP], and chem/bio anti-functionals which attack equipment as opposed to humans. Another whole set is based upon targeting the innate resonances [to reduce required power levels] of the human body from a structural-mechanical or electro-chemical point of view. These include acoustic weaponry at the frequencies of the human chest cavity and the colon. The requisite acoustic power [greater than 150 db] is [recently] readily available from open cycle pulse detonation wave engines, which could be used to propel the munition and the device/effect is aimable. Another resonance is use of RF weaponry at brain wave frequencies as opposed to simple heating.

Another whole class of volumetric weaponry is miniature smart mines. These are based upon the Sandia chemical analysis on a chip technology. Micro multispectral sensors are implanted on a miniature device along with a flechette which is aimed by a MEMS device. These are camouflaged and distributed throughout the battle space and networked. The multiple physics nature of the sensor suite, combined with a take-a-vote approach precludes spoofing and provides detailed intel regarding the battlespace and capability to take-out/target what appears to be hostile.

Breakthroueh Technologies Several technologies currently on the horizon have the potential to significantly change things. These include a recent observation that composites could be configured as ultra-capacitors. That is, electrical energy could be stored in the platform/weapon STRUCTURE [non-chemical battery]. Depending upon how much energy etc. this could have a tremendous impact upon LO, range, affordability etc. of much of future weaponry. As examples, tank armor could be used to store energy for multiple EM gun shots and advanced solar panels could, combined with structural storage, completely change much of the fuel independence problem. Energy storage is also a major issue with autonomous systems. For submarine AIP a related break-through is C-nanotubes. Energy storage is again a possibility. In addition, the c-nanotubes have about 600 times the strength-to-weight of steel and the conductivity of copper. Obviously excellent candidates for simultaneous Armor and LO functionality. Applied to computing, C-nanotubes potentially offer a ten-to-the-fourth reduction in power requirement and petaflop speeds. The applications to just about every system for various metrics are obvious.

Concluding Remarks

Warfare into the 2,000’s [2025+] should prove quite different, Info/net warfare and volumetric weaponry as opposed to the current HE on the pointy end. Much of this will be “warfare on the cheap” and therefore the number of peer competitors who will be capable of inflicting significant damage to the U.S. (or anyone else) could be quite large. Also, the emerging chem/bio threats, particularly of the binary variety and their excellent affordability, along with potential micro-mechanical analogs, and the CNN Syndrome is making Robotic Warfare look better and better. All the services, especially the Army, are actively studying unattended munitions/semors and platforms for logistics, spoofing, RST A and active defemive and offemive operations. To a major extent, our current legacy platforms(which we are still building/plan to build variants of) will be, then-year, TARGETS.

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (SSBN 602) October 8-10, 1999 in Groton, CT. Contact: W. T … Doc” Mccance, 16 Chapman Lane, Gales Ferry, CT 06335. Phone: (860) 464-6758; e-mail:

USS DIABLO (SS 479) November 3, 1999 in St. Marys, GA. Contact: Norbert Ayers, 900-G Executive Lame, Kennesaw, GA 30144-4525. Phone: (770) 794-8740).

USS JACK (SS 259/SSN 605) October 15-17, 1999 in New London, CT. Contact: Richard Moore, 9177 Daven-port Road, Gloucester, VA 23061. Phone: (804) 693-5284; e-mail:

USS PICUDA (SS 382) October 10-12, 1999 in New London, CT. Contact: Mike Wingeier, 1646 Akins Road, Atoka, TN 38004. Phone: (901) 837-8610; e-mail:

USS TECUMSEH (SSN 628) September 22-26, 1999 in Reno, NV. Contact: John J. Ayon, 94

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League