Forecasting Military Technology 2020-2040

Michael Hanlon has an updated forecast which areas of military technology could have revolutionary change over the next 20 years.

Revolutionary change is defined as a type and pace of progress that renders obsolete old weapons, tactics and operational approaches while making new ones possible.

In reviewing the last 20 years (2000-2020), Hanlon believes only computers and robotics had revolutionary change. This would include drones.

Seven categories of military technology had high change—chemical sensors, biological sensors, radio communications, laser communications, radio-frequency weapons, nonlethal weapons, and biological weapons.

* Technological change of relevance to military innovation may be faster and more consequential in the next 20 years than it has proven to be over the last 20.
* Ongoing, rapid pace of computer innovation may make the next two decades more revolutionary than the last two.
* Robotics and in cybersecurity changes and impact will intensify. They may be more fully exploited by modern military organizations.
* artificial intelligence (AI) will have more impact
* Multiple countries (most notably China, but also Russia) are having the resources to compete with Western nations in military innovation.
* Directed energy systems, hypersonic missiles, and certain types of advanced materials, could play important supplemental roles in making the next two decades a true period of military revolution, or at least of very fast and ongoing rapid transformation.

Nextbigfuture notes that India will have the money and larger military budget from 2027-2040 for substantial impact.

Nextbigfuture sees more revolutionary Military Technology

Nextbigfuture finds a faster doubling rate for noisy qubits and the possibility of useful noisy qubit systems in 2-4 years instead of 10-12 years.

Nextbigfuture notes that IBM and others working on quantum computers have a faster doubling rate of 7 to 16 months.

From November 2017 to March 2018 there was the announcement of IBM 50 qubit prototype, Intel’s 49 qubit test chip and Google 72 qubit processor. These processors had 10% to as low as 1% error rates. In 2017, D-Wave systems had commercial availability of its 2000 qubit quantum annealing system.

Nextbigfuture’s Rough Timeline of noisy quantum computers from Google, Rigetti, IBM, Intel and others

100-150 qubit quantum computers in second half of 2018
200-300 qubit computers in first half of 2019
400-600 qubit computers late in 2019
800-1600 qubit computers in 2020
1600-4000 qubit computers in 2021
3000-10000 qubit computers in 2022

D-Wave Systems could get funding to convert their 5000 qubit quantum annealing system to low error rate qubits. They would try to get this working in 2020-2021 if the funding is provided.

The peak of this age of noisy quantum computers could be quantum computers with 1000 qubits and two-qubit errors rates less than 1 in 1000. This is Google’s near-term goal, which might be reached in 2020.

There could be utility in pushing to 10,000 qubits with two-qubit error rates less than 1 in 10000. These could arrive around 2022.

China is also spending billions to develop quantum radar. Quanutm radar will enable the long-range detection of stealth planes.

SpaceX should have the SpaceX BFR ready around 2023

SpaceX will have its fully reusable SpaceX BFR ready around 2023. They need $2 to 10 billion to develop it. There will be sufficient support from the US military to ensure that SpaceX BFR is developed.

DARPA Blackjack low-earth orbit satellite network

Mr. Paul “Rusty” Thomas, Program Manager, DARPA Tactical Technology Office presented at the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Telecon. He described the “DARPA Blackjack Demo Program – Pivot to LEO & Tactical Space Architecture”. This would be 90+ low-earth orbit spy satellites. DARPA plans a 20 satellite demo and then full deployment could start in 2022.

Many low-earth orbit spy satellites would be tougher for Russia and China to take out. A constellation of low-earth orbit spy satellites could be less expensive and more powerful than a single larger geosynchronous satellite.

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