Ash Carter, the Pentagon chief, said the US has ambitious plans for military spending on sophisticated weaponry for fiscal year 2017. These were partly designed with China in mind.
“We’re making all these investments that you see in our defense budget that are specifically oriented towards checking the development of the Chinese military,” Carter said.
To stave off China’s increasing military power, including its ship killing missiles and electronic warfare, the $582.7 billion defense budget request calls for major spending on cyber security, more firepower for submarines, new robotic boats and underwater vessels as well as new missile interceptors to be installed on American warships.
In his speech, Carter said both Russia and China were “developing weapons and ways of war that seek to achieve their objectives rapidly, before — they hope — we can respond.” The military spending was aimed at placing a higher priority on the threats posed by both powers, he said.
$71.4 billion will be spent on military research and development in 2017.
The Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) is doing a lot of the weapons research.
First is a project focused on advanced navigation. What the SCO’s doing is taking the same kinds of micro-cameras, sensors, MEMS [microelectromechanical systems], and so forth that are littered throughout our smartphones and everything today, and putting them on our small diameter bombs to augment the existing target capabilities on the SDB. This will eventually be a modular kit that will work with many other payloads, enabling off network targeting through commercial components, small enough to hold in your hand like your phone, and cheap enough to own like your phone.
Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains. In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant. They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert. And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk. Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology. For example, the microdrones use a lot of commercial components and are actually 3-D printed and the boats build on some of the same artificial intelligence algorithms that long-ago and in a much more primitive form were on the Mars lander.
There is a project for gun-based missile defense, where we’re taking some of the same hypervelocity smart projectiles that we developed for the electromagnetic gun. That’s the railgun. And using it for point defense. By firing it with artillery, we already have in our inventory, including the five-inch guns on the front of every Navy destroyer and also the hundreds of Army Paladin self-propelled howitzers. In this way, instead of spending more money on more expensive interceptors or on new platforms, we can turn past offense into future defense – defeating incoming missile raids at a much lower cost per round and thereby imposing higher costs on an attacker. In fact, we tested the first shots of the hypervelocity projectile out of a Paladin a little over a month ago, and we also found that it significantly increases the Paladin’s range.
And the last project I want to highlight is one that we’re calling the arsenal plane, which takes one of our oldest aircraft platform and turns it into a flying launchpad for all sorts of different conventional payloads. In practice, the arsenal plane will function as a very large airborne magazine, network to fifth generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes, essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create holy new capabilities.
The defense budget invests over $8.1 billion in 2017 and more than $40 billion over the next five years to give us the most lethal undersea and any submarine force in the world. It buys more advanced maritime control aircraft. And it not only buys nine of our most advanced Virginia-class attack submarines over the next five years; it also equips –more of them with the versatile Virginia Payload Module, which triples each submarine platform’s strike capacity from 12 Tomahawk missiles to 40.
The US is investing more in cyber, totaling nearly $7 billion in 2017, and almost $35 billion over the next five years. Among other things, this will help to further DOD’s network defenses, which is critical; build more training ranges for our cyber warriors; and also develop cyber tools and infrastructure needed to provide offensive cyber options.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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